Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Amends (A Buffy Christmas)

Summary

Angel is having nightmares. He's dreaming of people he killed in the past when he was in his evil vampire mode. Pretty soon, the dreams become a waking reality as the ghosts of past victims, including Jenny, come to haunt him. He goes to Giles for help. Giles, who remembers being tortured by Angel not to mention having Angel kill his girlfriend, is a little reluctant. But Buffy convinces him that they should help.

Meanwhile, everyone else is getting on with their Christmas plans. Cordelia is going skiing. Xander will spend the night in his sleeping bag on the lawn to get away from the drunken arguments that punctuate his family Christmas. Buffy will spend the holiday with her mother. Her mom suggests inviting Faith. When Buffy suggests inviting Giles, she immediately says no. Willow's parents are out of town for Hanukkah. She had planned to see Oz, but that seems off now.

Things seem to be progressing reasonably well. Buffy and her mom shop for a tree. Buffy notes that in a section of the lot all the trees are dead. The salesman says he doesn't know why that is happening. Oz confronts Willow, telling her he doesn't know if things are really over between her and Xander but that he misses her and wants to be with her. Buffy tells Willow that Xander has a place in her heart Oz cannot reach. That she must convince Oz he comes first, even if Xander will always be there as well.

Willow and Oz are going to watch videos at her place. When Oz arrives, Willow is on the sofa in a sexy red dress. A Barry White CD is playing. It's seduction a la the Playboy Adviser. Oz realizes that Willow wants to have sex with him (her first time) to let him know how much she cares for him. In an incredible act of maturity for a teenager, he says no. He wants to wait until they are doing it for the right reasons, not to prove something.

Angel is being driven mad by the apparitions. They tell him he must kill Buffy. He goes to her house Christmas eve. Buffy and her mother are planning a quiet celebration and Faith, who had said she wouldn't come, does show up. When Buffy goes upstairs to get Faith's present, she finds Angel waiting for her. He seems torn between killing her or having her kill him. He flees. Buffy goes to Giles' leaving Faith to watch her house and her mom.

Giles has discovered that a group named the Bringers or Harbingers are priests for a phenomenon called the First Evil. This is an evil that predates demons and humanity. It would have had the power to bring Angel to this world from the demon dimension. And now it wants to use him. Earlier Buffy and Xander had tried to get information about this from Willy, the human who runs a bar that caters to vampires. But he knows nothing except that a lot of very scary creatures are leaving town because they are scared of the First Evil.

When Buffy sees Giles after Angel's strange appearance at her house, she learns that one legend says that Evil dwells underground and that nothing can live above or below it. She remembers the dead Christmas trees and goes to the lot. She digs down and finds a cave. Jumping in she quickly beats up the priests, who flee. She is then confronted by the ghost of Jenny who is really an avatar of the Evil. They have an interesting discussion in which Jenny reveals she has driven Angel to suicide, he would rather kill himself than Buffy. Buffy runs off to find Angel.

She locates him standing outside waiting for the sun to rise. He has only moments to get under cover. She tries to convince him to flee. He tells her that he has finally realized that it is not the demon inside him that is the problem, but the weak man that he is. He was a poor excuse for a human being before the demon took him. He is weak and not able to resist. Buffy tells him that if he kills himself, then all he will have ever been will be the demon. But that if he chooses to live and fight, then maybe he can be something more. Maybe he can make up for what he has done. She tells him that despite all the pain he has caused her, she cannot wish him dead. As she speaks to him, it starts snowing. A very strange occurrance in southern California. We cut to a weather forecast telling us that it is warm and sunny everywhere except Sunnydale where freak weather conditions have brought snow and temperatures in the low 30s. The weatherman says Sunnydale residents won't see the sun today.

The episode ends with Buffy and Angels walking through the snow covered streets and the other characters coming out to look at the snow fall. For a moment, at least, evil is defeated.

Analysis

Last week, The Wish, we had It's A Wonderful Life. This week, we have A Christmas Carol. You can always rely on the classics. The resemblance is pretty clear. Scrooge was visited by four ghosts: Marley, Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future. Angel is is visited by four ghosts: Daniel, Jenny, Margaret, and the unnamed father whose children he killed and artfully arranged. In Carol, the ghosts want to save Scrooge from damnation. Angel's ghosts want to ensure his damnation. In both cases, the ghosts recreate images of the past and threaten a dire future. But there is a difference. Scrooge reforms of his own will. Angel is ready to kill himself, to give in to the evil which is tempting him. It takes Buffy, and a small Christmas miracle, to stop him.

Buffy becomes more and more desperate to stop Angel. She tells him that ultimately victory comes from fighting every day, not from a single great triumph. That the hard part is continuing knowing there is no clear end. It's interesting that Angel was brought to Sunnydale to help Buffy (and in the past he has seemed a tower of strength), but actually it is she who is helping him. Or at least trying. She says if she cannot convince him to live she doesn't know what can. That's when it starts snowing. Maybe this is an appeal to a power beyond herself and beyond any of the magic that permeates the show. Buffy has just encountered an evil darker and more terrifying than any demon. Now she may have touched a greater good.

In season one, we had the Master. Finally killed by Buffy. In season two, we had Spike. Finally driven out by Buffy. This season we have the First Evil. The earlier demons Buffy faced were physical, creatures she could pummel into submission. This time she faces a spiritual evil. Physical strength isn't enough to win. Although she easily defeats the priests, the evil itself is clearly not afraid. And Buffy barely saves Angel. It takes outside interference, perhaps from a First Good, to stop him from killing himself. And it is interesting that the sign of good is a day without sunshine. Good seems to have a sense of humour.

In fact, I think that a sense of humour is a key ingredient here. Back in Anne, Willow pointed out that Buffy always makes a pun or some kind of witty statement when confronting vampires. She thinks it confuses and scares them. When Buffy confronts Jenny in this episode, she makes jokes, mocking her. And it's a big joke, snow and darkness in SUNNYdale, that saves the day. Evil does not enjoy and cannot understand humour. The fact that despite living on a Hellmouth Buffy and her friends can still kid around is their real victory. Evil cannot triumph as long as people can still have fun.

There are a lot of smaller points worth looking at this week. Cordelia is back in form and her comment about Xander, his dysfunctional family and his flight from it, was really cruel. Which suggests there is hope for their relationship. You don't hurt people unless you have strong feelings for them. At least she isn't ignoring him.

On the relationship front, we also have Oz and Willow. Oz has finally thought things through and has decided that Willow is an intrinsic part of his existence, like a body part. He cannot live without her. And Willow is desperate to convince him that she does truly love him, that her relationship with Xander doesn't preclude a deeper love for Oz.

In the final scenes, we see Angel and Buffy walking through the streets together and Oz and Willow staring out the window at the snow. We have the old couple - exlovers who have betrayed and hurt each other and finally established a relationship that transcends that - and the new couple - not quite yet lovers who have faced betrayal and are taking the first steps in overcoming it. Love seems to be a pretty hopeful and enduring thing in the Buffy verse. Something the First Evil probably really doesn't like.

We also see Xander (abandoned by Cordelia) and Giles (still trying to get over the death of Jenny) alone. And Faith and Buffy's mom together. Now, ever since Band Candy (where I'm sure Giles and Mrs. Summers do it), I've expected Giles and Mrs. Summers to get together. Her quick refusal to invite Giles for Christmas suggests some strong feelings, not unlike Cordelia's hurtful comments to Xander. But is it possible Faith and Xander will get together? Will Cordelia really bail and will Xander finally get together with a slayer, only not the one he always yearned for?

Finally. I've got to say something about the movie titles we see on the marquee of the Sunnydale cinema. But I should first point out that the word SUN is clearly highlighted in the sign when the camera pans over it. It's a vampire safe sun that rises in Sunnydale. Now, I don't know if the titles were truncated everywhere or if this is a result of the 14 inch box I call a tv. I only saw the words Abilene and Pray For. I'm guessing these refer to the films Gunfight in Abilene and Pray for Death. Gunfight in Abilene is a 1967 film starring Bobby Darin, Leslie Nielsen, and Michael Sarrazin. It's about a sheriff, who doesn't like guns, facing down an outlaw gang. Pray for Death is a 1985 ninja film starring Sho Kosugi. He comes to America only to be terrorized by a gang which he combats with his ninja skills. Both of these seem to have some relevance to the Buffyverse. They deal with individuals forced to confront evil. The individuals are essentially peace loving, but when pushed to the edge they are capable of using force in the defense of good.

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