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Seasons 1 and 2: The Tragedy

Perhaps the first thing to say about the Buffy/Angel relationship is that, at least until the end of the second season of BUFFY, the writers had a very clear concept for it.  It was to be a tragedy in the classic tradition of Western literature.  It was a story about a love between two protagonists: vampire and slayer. One had a duty to protect the world; the other had a force within him that could and would destroy it.  The slayer inadvertently released that force and was then forced to destroy the person she loved most to fulfill her duty.  In doing so she confronted both her responsibility for unleashing the force and the consequences of the choice she had to make in remedying her mistake. 

The way this story unfolded was entirely faithful to the purpose of classical tragedy.   That is to say that it looked seriously at some of the great questions about the role of human beings in the universe. In this respect a number of themes can be easily distinguished in the Buffy/Angel relationship.  The most important of these are as follows:

First, there is the perversity of fate in bringing together such a very different pair. 
Then we have inexorable workings of the same fate that seeks to drive them apart.  We may even see in this the great question of what constitutes an exercise in free will as against the workings of a determinist universe.  In the classic tradition there was usually a turning point in a plot where the hero or heroine's fortune turns from good to bad.   After this point, the plot moves steadily but inexorably to its denouement.  The turning point in BUFFY may be seen as the revelation of Angel’s true nature in “Angel”.  From that point onwards (from a determinist perspective) events moved through the logic of the situation the characters find themselves in to the events of the second half of Season 2, climaxing in Becoming II.  On this view Buffy and Angel were doomed from the very beginning and there was no escape.
Alternatively from the free will point of view (which would be my own preference) we can see the turning point as Buffy's choice to make the relationship with Angel a physical one. In this context the crucial theme becomes the fatal effect of ignorance (about the "true happiness clause") and the making of choices based on that ignorance, especially as someone was in a position to warn them but did not.
Finally and most dramatically we also see the necessity of making intolerable choices between love and duty and the effect that such choices can have in our belief in ourselves and what we thought was our place in the world.

These are timeless themes of immense power and account for much of the impact that the second half of Season 2 undeniably had.   It meant that the Buffy/Angel relationship wasn’t just a romance for the sake of a romance.  It was about something.  It had a sense of direction and a coherence.  However, for the story to live up to its potential to move an audience and make it think the relationship at its heart had to be both credible and sympathetic.  A viewer had first of all to believe that this seemingly ill-matched couple really did love one another. And secondly there must be genuine sadness at the final disaster, a feeling that the central characters’ punishment was undeserved.  Indeed tragedy at its best is an uplifting and not a dispiriting experience precisely because the central characters are sympathetic, because they are in many ways innocent victims of a malign universe and because they maintain a dignity and an integrity in the face of all that is thrown at them.


The “Ick” Factor

And here we come to the central problem of the Buffy/Angel relationship.  He is a 250+ year old vampire. She is a mortal schoolgirl who was 15 years old when he first saw her and who had only just turned 17 when they consummated their relationship.   A relationship like that could not hope to be “normal” in two senses.  Firstly, there was the vast disparity in their age and experience.  Secondly there were their “lifestyles”.  Mayor Wilkins perhaps put this best in “Choices”:

“You're immortal, she's not. It's not. I married my Edna May in ought-three and I was with her right until the end. Not a pretty picture: wrinkled and senile and cursing me for my youth.  Wasn't our happiest time. And let's not forget the fact that any moment of true happiness will turn you evil. I mean, come on. What kind of a life can you offer her? I don't see a lot of Sunday picnics in the offing. I see skulking in the shadows, hiding from the sun. She's a blossoming young girl and you want to keep her from the life she should have until it has passed her by.”

To me it is very interesting to look at the way the writers portrayed the relationship between Buffy and Angel in the light of these concerns.

First of all I find the writers’ emphasis on the nature of the relationship worthy of note.  Physical attraction was there at the beginning of course.   For example Buffy first described Angel in WttHM as:

            This…guy.  Dark, gorgeous in an annoying sort of way.”

In addition to his physical attraction Angel is a man of mystery with a dark tragic past that haunts him and gives him an air of vulnerability with just a hint of danger.    But of course these characteristics do not provide a very sound basis for a meaningful relationship.  So, up to and including the episode “Angel” (with Buffy’s unnecessary disclosure of the comments about Angel she entrusted to her diary) the slayer’s attraction to cryptic lurker guy could have been dismissed as a schoolgirl infatuation. But from “Prophecy Girl” on it became obvious that there was something far more serious than that between them.  From then until “What’s My Line” the writers seem to be making an effort to portray the relationship that gradually unfolds before us as a very normal and traditional romantic love.  In fact it is an almost idealized love.  There is no mention of sex at all (at least until “Surprise”).  Instead in WSWB Angel was the person who was there for Buffy even when she was behaving at her worst – a source of both help and comfort.  For her part, in “Halloween” Buffy longs to be a normal girl who goes out on normal dates.  In similar vein, at the end of SAR, Angel regrets not being a bigger part of Buffy’s life in the way Xander can be:

“Yeah, but he's in your life. He gets to be there when I can't;  take your classes, eat your meals, hear your jokes and complaints. He gets to see you in the sunlight.”

This is the attraction of ordinary domesticity – the sharing of two ordinary lives. 

But, as we have seen, these are not two ordinary lives.   And while SAR set the seal on the attraction between Buffy and Angel it left unresolved their future as a couple.  Here the writers approach set the tone for the whole Buffy/Angel saga and was of crucial importance in the development of their respective characters.  Given the whole premise for BUFFY it shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise that the normal dynamic of an older man/younger woman relationship is completely reversed.  Instead of showing Angel in control through his greater age and experience it is Buffy who takes the lead in the development of the relationship.  She controls the pace at which it advances.  A crucial episode here is “Reptile Boy”.  At the beginning he is the cautious one, trying to restrain her:

Angel:  “You're sixteen years old. I'm two hundred and forty-one.”

Buffy:  “I've done the math.”

Angel:  “You don't know what you're doing; you don't know what you want.”

Buffy:  “Oh no?   I think I do. I want out of this conversation.”

Angel:  “Listen, if we date you and I both know one thing's gonna lead to another.”

Buffy:  “One thing already has led to another. You think it's a little late to be reading me a warning label?”

Angel:  “I'm just trying to protect you. This could get out of control.”

Neither the age difference nor the fact that Angel is a vampire seem to matter to Buffy. They do to him and he is reluctant to let things go further because of them.   And yet in the end he is the one who gives in to her:

Angel:  “I hear this place, uh, serves coffee. I thought maybe you and I should get some. Sometime. If you want.”

Buffy:  “Yeah, sometime. I'll let you know.”

He thus tacitly accepts that she is in control of the relationship and she isn’t slow to exploit that acceptance. 

All of this seems to me to be used to minimize as far as possible the “ick” factor  in a relationship between two people of such vastly disparate ages and experiences.  The love between them is presented as romantic and (because she is in control of it) the relationship is almost seen as the empowerment of the younger female character This is clearly intended to reinforce the sympathy of the audience for the characters by emphasizing those aspects of the relationship that are idealistic rather than are a result of baser human appetites thus counteracting ordinary cultural objections to relationships between people of such different ages and experiences.


Character Development for Buffy and Angel in Season 2

But, as a series, BUFFY puts a high premium on realistic character development.  So, while there are aspects of Angel, in particular, that may be said to conform to a romantic archetype it is important that both his character and that of Buffy are shown to be very far from ideals.  They have their fair share of human flaws.  And it is also important that this is reflected in the relationship itself and to show the effect that that relationship has on their progress as characters.  Moreover it is often an inherent part of any tragedy that disaster is precipitated by flaws in the protagonists themselves or, in this case, in their relationship.

In this context let us look at Angel first.  It is clear almost beyond argument that his relationship with Buffy was central to his personal development as he struggled towards some sort of redemption. From the start of their relationship Angel is clearly very sensitive about his vampirism, indeed perhaps ashamed of it.  It’s not only the defensiveness with which he reacts when Xander refers to him as “dead boy”. In WSWB, Buffy taunts him by saying “I’ve moved on…to the living”. And in SAR we see how much this nettled him when he said

“See, whenever we fight you always bring up the vampire thing.” 

But perhaps more tellingly in “What’s My Line I” we see the hurt that his nature causes him both in his remark  “I’ll never be a kid” and in the fact that he didn’t want Buffy to touch him while he had on his “game face”.  This is all part of his feeling of unworthiness. He was on earth only to suffer, and to make the demon inside him suffer vicariously, for what he had done.  When he first met Buffy in WttHM had no concept that there was any positive role for him to play in un-life. His vampirism was, therefore, simply a burden to him, a constant reminder of what he had once done.

It was through Buffy that he gradually began to come to terms with this past.  In “Becoming I” it is Whistler who first approaches him as “crazy homeless guy”.  But Whistler says little to make Angel change.  Instead he brings him to LA where he shows him Buffy being called and making her first kill.  In  “Helpless” Angel explains the effect she had on him when he saw her:

Angel:  “ I saw you before you became the Slayer.”

Buffy:  “What?”

Angel:  “I watched you, and I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon out in front of your school. You walked down the steps and...    and… I loved you.”

Buffy:  “Why?”

Angel:  “'Cause I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see. And I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more   than anything in my life I wanted to keep it safe; to warm it with my own.”

Angel’s basic motivation in coming to Sunnydale was not, therefore, to help humanity or to atone for his sins.  It was to help Buffy.   And at the start he helped her the only way he felt able, by doing what he did best – lurking.  Perhaps he didn’t yet have the strength to do more.  When Whistler found him he couldn’t go three rounds with a fruit fly.  More likely he didn’t have the self-belief in himself to be more active.  This changed in “Prophecy Girl”.  When approached by Xander to help save Buffy, Angel at first could only see the dangers.  Unlike Xander, Angel had difficulty even admitting to himself his true feelings for Buffy.  But Xander’s challenge to him "Don't you [love Buffy]?" acted as a catalyst.   It forced him to admit to his real feelings.  When compared to Buffy’s life his own doubts about himself suddenly became unimportant.   He had to do something.  From that point onwards his relationship with Buffy was central to Angel’s personal development.

Throughout the early part of season 2 we see his ever-greater involvement with her work.  At first he continues to help her in episodes such as “The Dark Ages” as a sort of auxiliary.  That is until the next crucial stage that came in “What’s My Line I” where for the first time he acts on his own by trying to force Willy to reveal Spike’s part in hiring the Taraka.  But everything he did was for Buffy.  There is no suggestion that he was fighting evil independently from her.  To the extent therefore that this involvement marked his path to self-respect it was due to his relationship with her.  In this context the fact that she touched his “game face” in “What’s My Line I” and didn’t notice had great symbolic significance. 

And just as importantly, in “Lie to Me” Buffy had to confront the most unpleasant truth possible about Angel but in the end her sad words – “well I asked for the truth” – mark a stage in the further development in the relationship because they betoken a deeper understanding and acceptance of his dark past.  And the fact that she knew the worst about him and still accepted him was what helped angel the most.  Is it any wonder then that in “Somnambulist” Kate’s (thinly disguised) profile of Angel refers to his relationship with Buffy in the following terms?

            “He would have regarded it as a lifeline, his salvation”

But the connection with Angel also showed us something about the character of Buffy and, in particular, had implications for her relationship with the members of the Scooby gang.  Angel was clearly never a member of that gang, although linked to it through Buffy. Even before he “turned” he is rarely included in meetings of the gang.   If she patrols, it is either with Giles or Angel, never both. In “What’s My Line I” she doesn't tell Giles about her date at the ice rink.   Angel himself didn’t appear to have any problem dealing with Giles directly (at least before “Innocence”).  This does, therefore, appear to be very much Buffy’s choice.  It seems to me that she had deliberately excluded the members of the Scooby gang, including Giles, from that part of her life with him.  There was no obvious reason for this.  In NKABOTFD there was clearly a conflict between her wish to have a normal boyfriend and her duty as a slayer. But, unlike Owen, Angel fitted very naturally into the world of the slayer.  Then there is the fact that she keeps Angel well away from her mother.  Apparently before the events in “Passion” Joyce had no idea that Buffy was even seeing him.  Her only memory was of the college boy who was tutoring her daughter.  Perhaps it simply suited Buffy to be completely in control of who it was in her circle that Angel did or did not have contact with.  That way there was no risk of anyone reawakening the doubts about the relationship that Angel might have harbored, thus interfering with arrangements that suited her

This was never exactly a mature attitude.  Indeed one could characterize it as both immature and self-centered.  Buffy could really only see as far as what she wanted.  There is never any real evidence of her asking herself: what is best for him.  It is always about how she feels.  When she wants him she bulldozes his objections (as in “Reptile Boy”).  But when things become too painful for her (“Lover’s Walk” and “Enemies”) she drops him.  But most disturbing of all was her attitude towards re-cursing him in both “Innocence” and “Becoming I”.  She knew the pain that he felt over the crimes of Angelus.  That was the whole point of the curse.  But it doesn’t appear to have occurred to her for a second to question whether cursing him again might not be in his best interests.  She seemed more concerned by what having her boyfriend back would mean to her.  And you can even detect the same attitude in her inability to kill Angelus in “Innocence”.  At that time, as far as she knew, Angel was gone for good.  Killing the thing that wore her boyfriend’s face couldn’t harm him.  But despite the fact that failing to do so would cost lives, she couldn’t because it would have been too painful for her.

 It seems to me that what we had here was a dangerous imbalance in the relationship.  It was Buffy who is in control of the relationship, but she was the one who was self-centered and immature in her concept of the relationship and headstrong in her determination to take it where it suited her.  Angel on the other hand appears to have been the more selfless one.  The relationship meant if anything more to him as an individual.  But he was the one who wanted to slow things down because of what he fears it might mean for Buffy.  And yet he is too weak to act as a check on her.

And of course this imbalance crystallized in the moment that led to disaster – Buffy decision to sleep with Angel in “Surprise”.  Her motivation seems clear and was well ventilated in her talk with Willow beforehand:

Buffy:  “I don't know. I... I mean,  'want' isn't always the right thing *to* do.  To act on want can be wrong.”

Willow:  “True.”

Buffy:  “But... to *not* act on want... What if I never feel this way again?”

Willow:  “Carpe diem. You told me that once.”

Buffy:  “Fish of the day?”

Willow:  “Not carp…carpe. It means 'seize the day.'”

Buffy:  “Right. I... I think we're going to. Seize it. Once you get to certain point, then seizing is sort of inevitable.”

Her reasoning here is neither very mature nor terribly well thought out.  It amounts to no more than “if we don’t do it now we never will”.  In “IOHEFY” we see how she comes to realize this when she identifies her actions with those of James:

“James destroyed the one person he loved the most in a moment of blind passion. And that's not something you forgive. No matter why he did what he did. And no matter if he knows now that it was wrong and selfish and stupid, it is just something he's gonna have to live with.”

But there is one other thing I find it very interesting in Buffy’s talk with Willow.   Once she made up her mind to do something she took Angel’s acquiescence completely for granted.  And here she was right.  Left to himself Angel would not have made love to Buffy.  But as usual he gave into what she wanted.

And so in the best tradition of tragedy the fate of our two protagonists works itself out through the medium of their own weaknesses and failings.  These don’t show them to be ill-intentioned or mean spirited.  Buffy, for example, just sees things from her own point of view and can't see them from anyone else's.  She looks at how things affect her rather than how they affect anyone else.  That is, of course, a fault.  But it's not the worst fault a person can suffer from.  Moreover it is not untypical in someone so young and it is something she will probably grow out of as she gets older.  Angel’s lack of moral courage when faced with Buffy is equally something that can be easily understood given what he had to cope with.  The truth is that both tried to act for the best and while their weaknesses got in the way it was because they are human.  That particular failing is shared by us all and because of that we can identify and sympathize with them.  That is after all the whole point of tragedy.


Season 3 and Beyond: The Aftermath

With “Anne” and the decision by the slayer to reclaim her identity the themes of the Buffy/Angel tragedy had worked themselves to their natural conclusion.  When Angel returned to earth and was discovered by Buffy the writers were, therefore, left to decide how the Buffy/Angel storyline was to be continued, Given that Angel was shortly to leave Buffy for LA, his former dependence on her could not be sustained. The writers had to set up a believable plotline that would split these two apart and at the same time establish Angel as an independent champion in his own right.  This was something he still wasn’t. In particular Angel’s motivation (and the basis for his development as a character so far) was his desire to help Buffy.  If he was to leave for LA this is something he would have to grow out of.   In this context a fundamental issue thrown up by season 2 was that Angel found himself being drawn in a relationship whose consequences for both himself and Buffy were unpredictable. He had done so against his better judgment but had allowed his doubts to be bulldozed away by Buffy.  The result was a catastrophe for both of them.  The lesson for him was the danger in not asserting himself and being too dependent on the uncertain judgment of a teenager. 

Everything, therefore, argued in favor of a continuing development of Angel’s character to show him finding a role for himself apart from Buffy and to make him more self-confident and self-assertive.  Given that the central dynamic for his character development to date was his relationship with Buffy this suggested a need for fairly radical thinking about how the relationship was to be handled for the rest of season 3.  And yet what the writers handed us was essentially more of the same.  In “Beauty and the Beasts” Giles theorizes about what Angel experienced in Hell:


Giles:  It would take someone of extraordinary... will and character to survive that and, uh, retain any semblance of self. Most likely, he'd be, be a monster.

Buffy:  A lost cause.

Giles:  Maybe;  maybe not. In my experience, there are... two types of monster.   The first, uh, can be redeemed, or more importantly, wants to be redeemed.

Buffy:  And the second type?

Giles:  The second is void of humanity, cannot respond to reason... or love.

It is slightly disconcerting to see Giles of all people misuse the term  “redemption” here. Nevertheless this exchange shows the intention of the episode.  Angel’s stay in Hell was a brutal and brutalizing experience but deep down there was a corner of Angel’s soul which held on to his love for Buffy.  When he saw her in danger that part of him came to the fore and allowed him to reclaim his humanity.  There could be no clearer indication than this episode that their feelings for one another had not fundamentally changed because of the events of late season 2.  Unfortunately the writers seemed to have few ideas for either taking the relationship forward from this point or ending it in a coherent manner.

And when writers do not have an overall concept within which to fit something like the Buffy/Angel relationship the result is often a series of inconsistent or unbelievable developments as the individuals concerned respond to short term requirements of plot or character.  This is essentially what happened to Buffy and Angel is season 3 of BUFFY. 

In “Homecoming” Buffy tells Angel about her new boyfriend – Scott Hope.  Angel for his part seems reconciled that she move in a new direction.  Scott, of course, immediately disappears and by “Revelations” the Buffy/Angel attraction has reasserted itself.  At the beginning of “Lover’s Walk” Angel suggests Buffy pursues the avenues of Higher Education that now seem open to her, even if that means leaving him.  Buffy is disappointed by this reaction.  At the end of the same episode Buffy decides that she and Angel cannot just be friends and that the only way to protect herself from a repeat of “Innocence” is to leave him.  He, confusingly, is unwilling to accept this.  In “Amends”, almost in a throw away line, she offers to help Angel work through his problems.   By “Helpless” everything is as it was before and at the beginning of “Enemies” they seem quite happy to live within the limitations of their relationship.  At the end of “Enemies” Buffy leaves Angel again – for one episode.  Then in “The Prom” he decides to leave her and she is devastated.  But that isn’t all.  In “the Prom” the writers opt for the logical, rational “I can’t take you for Sunday afternoon picnics” approach to explaining Angel’s decision to leave her.  The same argument could have been made at any point in the previous two years, so why now?  Besides the validity of the argument is at best too debatable to now become the received wisdom Willow, for example, treats it as.  Even if we are resolutely practical about it, Buffy is just as much a freak as Angel (and I mean that in the nicest possible way).  If the previous three years proved nothing else it was that she will never have a normal life.  Who else is there who would be better able to adjust to the demands of having a relationship with a slayer? Perhaps realizing this in “GD2”, the writers rewrote the script.  Angel on his deathbed abandons the whole “Prom” rationale only to be given the writers’ revised explanation as to why he and Buffy cannot be together – his vampiric nature means they are too much of a danger to one another.

It is however possible to make some sense out of this mess.  As I have already pointed out, as far back as SAR and "Reptile Boy" Angel had his doubts about his future with Buffy.   But Buffy had decided that they were to be together and, as always, Buffy won in the end.  Equally, in "Homecoming" and "Lover's Walk" it was Buffy who decided to end things.  She gave Angel no choice.  The final triumphant example of her dominance in the relationship was in "Amends" when she almost literally fought Angel for his life.  He was determined to die but she was the one who forced him to think again.  His last effort in the argument - "Just this once let me be strong" - was almost asking her permission to do what he wanted.  It was a clear indication that he had lost the argument to her and then she proceeded to finish the last of his resistance with her final sally.  It was, in my view, only when Angel had accepted her argument that the snow began.  Ironically, though, with "Amends" we see Angel beginning to find a purpose in life for himself, outside merely helping Buffy.    With that the dynamics of the relationship changed and, for the first time, he began to assert himself.  We saw something of this in "Bad Girls" when Buffy was a little out of control in the Bronze.  He took her away from the dance floor, sat away from her and talked business.  The when he was leaving said "be careful....I mean it" in an authoritative manner, quite unlike the slightly pleading tone he had used when he asked her to be careful in "Revelations".

Top of Angel’s agenda has always been what is best for Buffy.  And he has always had his doubts about whether a relationship with himself was best for her.  He had those doubts as long ago as in SAR.  The nature of those doubts probably has changed.  In season 2 his doubts were essentially the product of his own feelings of worthlessness.  By the end of season 3 the intention of the writers (botched though the execution was in “the Prom”) was to show a more sober and rational assessment of the problems a relationship with him would cause for Buffy.   Those doubts were really only convincingly articulated in GD2.  There, Angel lost control of himself and fed from Buffy. This was the nightmare he had so steadfastly resisted in “Amends”.   There are a number of different explanations for his actions here.  The first was that biting her was a physical reaction of the vampire body; the other was that the demon inside forced its way to the surface.  It does not matter which explanation you prefer.  In either case the human soul was too weakened by the poison to control the feeding from Buffy until it had been cured.  This demonstration of the limits of his control over the demon that the danger he thereby posed to all around him was what convinced Angel that he should part from Buffy. 

But more importantly what had really changed was Angel’s willingness to assert himself against Buffy.  Before he didn’t even have enough confidence in himself to make that judgment stick in the face of Buffy.  Now, for the first time he does.  In “the Prom” he has an argument with her and refuses to give into her.  In GD2 such is the determination with which he announces his intentions to Buffy that she doesn’t even try to argue him out of it.  This is an indication of a greater determination and belief in himself than we have ever seen before.  In doing so he finally proved that he had finally his independence and maturity. 

There is, however, no comparable development for Buffy.  She is now, of course, aware of the unpleasant side effects of her “moment of passion” with Angel.  She will not repeat that error but otherwise her basic attitudes remain unaltered.  When Angel returns almost the first decision she takes is to conceal the fact from the Scooby gang.  Why?  She cannot have believed it was necessary to protect him physically from Giles or Willow at least.  It seems to me that this was Buffy the control freak at work again.  She was going to decide what was best for all concerned and didn’t want to have to explain herself in the face of any awkward questions.  She was as willing as ever to entertain alternative points of view.  That is to say not at all.  This is also the Buffy who in her “me” centered view of the universe didn’t stop to think how she would hurt others, namely Giles, by her subterfuge.

Equally there is no evidence that she is any less self-centered in the perception of her relationship with Angel.  On three separate occasions in season 3 of BUFFY she was willing to break off the relationship because of how she felt without really considering how it might affect Angel.  Afterwards when she had changed her mind she seemed to have assumed a right to walk back into the relationship as if nothing had happened.  Contrast this to her attitude to Angel in GD1 after he had broken up with her.  She seems intent on making things as hard for him as she can, even going so far as to suggest he was taking their break up lightly and that she was the only one who really cared.

Perhaps even more strikingly in GD2 she risked her own life to save him.  At first sight this might have looked an unselfish action.  But how would Angel have been able to live with himself if he had been the cause of Buffy’s death?  If she had any regard for what he would have wanted she could not have acted in the way that she did?  Moreover, GD2 was the second of two occasions (the other being “Amends”) in season 3 of BUFFY where the slayer faced with resistance from Angel resorted to violence to make him change his mind.  Persuasion is one thing but using force against a person in such circumstances is to deny him the right to choose his own fate. 

So, whatever the writing inconsistencies in relation to the Buffy/Angel relationship in season 3, I think that we do come away from that season with a fairly clear idea of where the two protagonists stand in relation to one another.  It seems to me that the basic dynamic between the two was in the process of undergoing a major change, but from one side only.  Angel loved Buffy but he had a clearer view than she of the dangers posed by their relationship.   Now that he was able to stand on his own two feet he acted on those doubts and proved he was a truly independent person.  He also proved how much he loved her by putting her interests first.  Buffy, on the other hand, did not grow in her rational appreciation of the dangers in their relationship or her willingness to put anyone else before what she wanted.

And if anything the season 1 ANGEL episode “Sanctuary” tended to confirm this.  First of all the same tendency to put the personal side of her life (meaning her relationship with Angel) above all other considerations persisted.  As it was with the failure to kill Angelus in “Innocence” and with  forcing Angel to feed off her in GD2, so it was with her inability to see past Faith’s impact on her relationship with Angel.  And when Angel was more concerned with Faith’s redemption than her hurt she regarded that as a personal betrayal.  That is why she could not put her own doubts aside and trust Angel to deal with Faith on his own terms.  There is only one right way to do so and that is Buffy’s.   And if there is no other way to establish this she willingly resorts to violence to get her own way.  But instead of seeing her take control of a situation her actions only led to Angel proving once and for all that he would not be controlled any more.  Instead his reaction was to hit her back.  So, not only was there a clear gap in understanding between them but she had lost the ability she once took for granted to resolve their differences in her favor.  He had indeed truly become independent of her, a fact that was reinforced when he somewhat peremptorily ordered her out of LA, leaving him to continue his mission as he saw fit.  The point about "Sanctuary" was not, therefore, that Buffy and Angel had stopped caring about one another.  Essentially it was about how much Angel had developed from the character Buffy had known and also about the difficulty Buffy had in adjusting to this new character.  That is what led to her angry reaction to him and, in particular, to her casting Riley into face.  In fact the bitterness that passed between them was an indication of just how much they still cared about one another.  Otherwise there would have been no reason to fight.



At this point it seems to me we have Angel whose feeling for Buffy remain unchanged but who is, in every other respect, an entirely different person to the one Buffy first took under her wing in BUFFY season 2.  Likewise Buffy’s love for Angel remains unchanged.  Emotionally, however, Buffy herself has moved on very little if at all.  This does not mean that she and Angel can never be together again.  But it does mean that they can never be together as the couple they once were – slayer and boyfriend.  If they are ever to get together again it will only be as equals and in order for them to be equals it is Buffy who must do the growing.  There is a remarkable inversion of the BUFFY season 1 to 3 dynamic between them.