I Will Remember You
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In the Dark
I Fall to Pieces
Rm w/a Vu
Sense and Sensitivity
Bachelor Party
I Will Remember You
Parting Gifts
I Got You Under My Skin
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Five by Five
War Zone
Blind Date
To Shanshu in LA




Written by: David Greenwalt and Jeannine Renshaw

Directed by: David Grosman


The Background of the B/A Relationship

I once referred to IWRY as a sweeps stunt.  This was, on reflection, a little unfair.  The B/A relationship was the emotional heart of “Buffy”.  I know that it did not appeal to many, especially on the ABTVS News Group but it had a very big constituency.  Moreover even many, like myself, who did not go in for the more “soap opera” qualities of the relationship did like the slayer/vampire dynamic.  These were natural enemies drawn together in spite of themselves and ultimately torn apart by forces beyond their control.  That was why I found the way that the writers handled the B/A reunion in season 3 of BUFFY completely baffling.  Buffy and Angel had consummated their relationship and as a direct result he had gone bad, stalked her, killed her friends, nearly destroyed the world and she had been forced to send him to a dimension where he endured horrible torture for who knows how long.  There is some recognition of this in the form of a continual “lets just be friends/no we can’t really be friends” yo-yo.  Otherwise there was no credible attempt to come to terms with their past and from there try to define what their relationship should now be.

So it should hardly be a surprise that instead of Angel’s departure for LA coming as the logical culmination of well-planned character development, it arises as something of an afterthought with minimal foreshadowing.  Then the BUFFY writers made a complete hash of it.  In “the Prom” they opt for the logical, rational “I can’t take you for Sunday afternoon picnics” approach.  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.  So, in “GD2”, they rewrite 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.  In effect Joss Whedon is saying:   “Just let’s pretend ‘the Prom’ never happened, ok?”   It seems to me that if anyone is going to complain about a Giant Reset Button (GRB) this is the one they should be targeting. 

But the real point is that, by now, we are in the last episode of the series and we have to concentrate on the Mayor’s ascension.  There is no time to give to the B/A break up.  That is why it was handled in such a low-key fashion.  But this approach itself brought problems.  In particular it meant that there was no opportunity to define the terms of the break-up.  Where did Buffy and Angel now stand in relation to one another?  Was their separation to be forever or only temporary?  In what circumstances could they get together?  Would there be other romantic entanglements for them?  There were many for whom the drama and the emotion of the B/A relationship meant a great deal.  GD2 left them in limbo.

For ANGEL the series and Angel the character this was not really a problem.  There was no hint of romance on the horizon.  For BUFFY the series and Buffy the character this was a very big problem because the launch of the Buffy/Riley relationship was, by the following Thanksgiving, now imminent.  The writers were investing a huge amount in the character of Riley and in the Initiative so the decks had to be cleared.  In particular-

They had to make it clear that B/A was now of the past.
They had to do so before Riley stated seriously “courting” Buffy.   Riley had to be Mr. Nice Guy.  So, any suggestion that Riley was responsible for the B/A break-up had to be avoided. 
In all of this they had to tread warily.  For the sake of the die-hard B/A ‘shippers (and there were many of them) they could not be seen to devalue in any way the B/A past or the character of Angel in particular.  In fact one of the ways of getting B/A shippers to accept Riley was to make the end of the relationship an act of voluntary self-sacrifice by Angel while at the same time hinting that there was a way for Buffy and Angel to be together in the end.

IWRY was the writers’ solution to this problem.  Given the purpose it was intended to serve I think that it was a very successful solution, despite its flaws (which I do not intend to minimize).  That is why I think that it was a “good episode”. 

Of course all of this may be retcon on my part but if I am right the various major elements in IWRY become not only explicable but also perhaps even inevitable.   We have a change of circumstances that allows Buffy and Angel the prospect of a normal relationship.  By this device the writers are simultaneously re-affirming the authenticity of the B/A relationship while at the same time preparing to ditch it (at least for the time being).  The door is closed by a voluntary act undertaken by Angel, specifically for Buffy’s benefit. Their parting is therefore his responsibility but because he has acted in a noble and self-sacrificing manner there is no fault involved.  Buffy’s hands are completely clean.  Moreover as she will have no memory of their interlude together, she will be free to start a new relationship with someone else.  Who could that be?  Finally, there is a hint that TPTB can restore Angel’s humanity by other means and this opens up the prospect for B/A ‘shippers of a golden future together.  But that is, of course, only when Angel has earned redemption.  Translation: when both series have ended.   And in case I forget there is always the  “Oh the humanity” factor.  For those who have a commitment to the B/A relationship nothing could have the impact of seeing these two pulled apart again just when they have been given a tantalizing glimpse of possible happiness with one another.

Of course the problem with putting together an episode in these terms is that many of the elements make a difficult fit with some of the established norms of the Angelverse in general and the character of Angel in particular.   In addition there are fairly blatant inconsistencies as between some of the things they are trying to achieve.  Finally such was the limited room that the writers left themselves in walking this tightrope they left no real room for something as basic as a plot.  And herein lie some of the weaknesses of IWRY.


The Problems

A plot is usually defined as a series of inter-related actions or developments consciously chosen by the author to propel a narrative.  Here we have two events that, each in different ways, precipitate change.  But there is no sense of an organized series of steps connecting them.  Yes, in both cases the event in question is Angel facing the same Mohra demon.  But logically there is no reason why that should be the case the second time around.  Substitute any “big bad” and you would have the same result. 

But even leaving aside the sparsity of plot there are problems enough here to be going on with.  The first “precipitating” event occurs when, just as Buffy and Angel are in the middle of a brief conversation, they are attacked by a demon who just happens to have a characteristic that will allow Angel to become human.  This is (putting it as kindly as I can) very convenient.

The second problem is with the change itself.  It essentially requires the writers to jettison the whole premise for the ANGEL series and one of the basic pillars of the Angel’s character.   The premise is that Angel must take responsibility for the crimes that the demon Angelus committed and in doing so must make amends.   That has nothing to do with the demon inside Angel who is not going to take such responsibility and is certainly not going to make amends.  It is a voluntary act undertaken by the human soul.  Of course, once Angel turn back into a human being the demon is driven out but how does that change the question of this responsibility?  The Oracles saying that he is released from his fealty is nonsense because it was a choice he made, not an obligation laid on him by someone outside.  And he made that choice because he retained the memories and felt the guilt of the demon’s crimes.  Whatever happened to this?

Next we come to the event that precipitated the change back – Angel getting his backside kicked by the rejuvenated Mohra demon.  His actions here were (again putting it as kindly as I can) grotesquely and unbelievably stupid.  Worse still they were completely out of character.  Yes, Angel does get a little cocky from time to time.  But there is a difference between a powerful warrior vampire being properly confident of his abilities and a human being buying a one-way suicide ticket.  And it is not even as if he needed to go after the demon in the first place.  There was nothing to suggest the demon was going on the rampage.   Logic suggested that its next move would have been to seek out Buffy and Angel again – that was its mission after all.

This scene and the following one with the Oracles both suggest a certain confusion in the minds of the writers over the rational for Angel’s decision.  Angel’s decision to face the Mohra was prompted by his desire not to be a burden to the slayer.  The fact that he was easy prey for the Mohra and that Buffy was almost killed while rescuing him was, presumably intended to prove that, as a human, he was.  However, when Buffy was fighting the Mohra it taunted her and Angel in the following terms:

"Together you were powerful.  Alone, you are dead.”

Then, when Angel went to face the Oracles for the second time the subject of the conversation was whether the slayer needed Angel’s active help.  And this surely was important point to get across.  Whether, as a human, Angel was now a liability to Buffy was surely irrelevant.  And if the real rationale for Angel changing back was that he needed to be able to join the fight against the Apocalypse, then what was the point of the writers having him go up against the Mohra demon as a human?  The emphasis here was on the fact that Angel needed Buffy.  It was not the most obvious way to illustrate the fact that in some circumstances Buffy needed Angel’s help. This aspect of the episode is just careless.

Finally we have the GRB.  Here I will freely confess to a change of mind prompted by the arguments put forward by a number of people on ATA Newsgroup.  When I first saw IWRY I didn’t mind the GRB at all.  ANGEL is a fantasy series and the manipulation of time is well within the compass of this genre.   I am now convinced, however, that by using the GRB in this way the writers have threatens to undermine the whole Buffy/Angelverse.  In “Parting Gifts” we saw the Oracles being asked to use the same method to bring back Doyle.  But that is only the start of it.  If we assume that the Oracles or TPTB have such powers then they can use it for any purpose at any stage.  For example when Angelus was threatening the world with destruction in Becoming 2 what was to stop them turning back time to the evening of Buffy’s 17th Birthday.  Then, forewarned about the dangers of what she was about to do with Angel, she could have had a headache.

The Strengths of the Episode

So, basically I have talked myself out of liking IWRY, right?  Well, actually no.  I think that I have acknowledged some of its basic flaws, particularly in its lack of plot and its inconsistencies both internal and with other parts of the BUFFY/ANGEL cannon.  Nevertheless the underlying concept for the episode is a good one and in its basics the execution is excellent.  As I have already said the relationship between Buffy and Angel is something that really did need resolving and, despite the flaws, IWRY’s attempt to do just that is far more successful than I would have thought possible in advance.  Its success stemmed from the fact that the writers gave us in microcosm the whole B/A experience, but provided it at the same time a twist which adds a whole new dimension to it.

They started out in the obvious way by acknowledging where Buffy and Angel were in their relationship.  The whole scene in the sewers just after the Mohra demon attacked was intended to explore the status quo ante for the two of them.  Here the writers were, importantly, faithful to the rationale set out for the break-up of the pair in GD2, namely that Angel’s vampiric nature meant that it was too dangerous for them to be together. The other notable feature of the scene is that, although the dialogue contained a lot of exposition, it didn’t sound like a narrator filling in background.  Rather the necessary information emerged from a quite natural conversation between Buffy and Angel.  It begins with a quite definite undercurrent of tension between the two with barbs about smelling blood, stakes and axes, crack staff and keeping score flying.  The reason for this is not long in emerging.  The fact that Buffy assumes Angel’s “I feel weird” comment was about seeing her again shows just how close to the surface her own confusion about Angel is.  This leads them both to confess their feelings.  Angel perhaps puts it best:

"No, it…it… is confusing.  And I… when we're apart…it’s easier.  It hurts, every day.  But I live with it.   And now you're…you're right here and I can actually reach out and…it's more then confusing; it's unbearable."

But as Buffy confirms:

"If we let something happen here we'd want more.   And nothing's changed.  We'd only end up having to leave each other again."

This was important not only for the benefit of new viewers but also for reference purposes.  Once the writers have established the starting position for the B/A relationship it became easier to follow the significance of the fundamental change in the ground rules around which the episode turns.  When Angel becomes human everything keeping him apart from Buffy no longer applies.  The implications of their new situation are dealt with in another pivotal scene as Buffy and Angel share tea and crackers.  There are two striking things about this scene.  The first is that the past is not forgotten as they still hesitate.  Or rather Angel still hesitates; thus showing just how deeply the events since "Surprise/Innocence" have marked him. 

Angel:  I just…I…I think, maybe we'd be asking for trouble rushing back into things.  Not that I don't want to…rush.  Believe me, I do."
Buffy:  "Right.  You spoke to the Oracles and they said you were cured for good.  But how do we know that they really speak for the Powers?  I mean they could be…pranksters."
Angel:  "Or there could be another loophole."
Buffy:  "Exactly.  And then the two of us would be in even deeper and it’s 'grr' all over again."
Angel:  "It would be smart to wait a while.  See if this mortal thing takes."

This is not only true to character but is also very important in keeping the new ground rules of the Buffy/Angel relationship in the context of everything the pair of them have endured.  It is therefore almost against Angel’s will that they give in to nature.

Equally significantly, even before the second encounter with the Mohra, Angel shows a keen awareness what his newfound status as a human means:

"You're still the Slayer.  And I'm not sure what I am now.  I don't know what my purpose is.  I can't just wedge myself into your life back in Sunnydale.  It wouldn't be good for either of us.  Not to mention the fact that you just started college.  And what about slaying?  I mean, if you had me to worry about, you might not be as focused."

Thus Buffy and Angel are able to consummate their love but at the same time are not baggage free.  Their past continues to haunt them.  In other words Angel becoming human does not break the continuity of the B/A myth arc but becomes a part of it.  Moreover Angel’s initial uncertainty over being with Buffy and his uncertainty about how his being human will affect her not only look back to the past but also foreshadow the painful choice to come and the reason for it.  And this is a choice made more painful by the inability of the pair of them to stick to tea and crackers rather than go with the chocolate and peanut butter.  Because the events in IWRY do form part of the historical continuity of the B/A story we can appreciate the full significance of their resolution.  The choice that Angel makes does not just end a temporary though happy interlude in life for Buffy and Angel.  It simultaneously precipitates a fundamental change in the relationship as a whole while at the same time reinforcing its overall authenticity.  When Angel chooses to return to being a vampire he puts a much more credible end to the relationship than was possible in GD2.  This is because he had the choice and deliberately turns his back on the relationship.  He does so simultaneously for the love of Buffy and to play his part in the fight against evil.  The two are inseparable in the sense that in order to save Buffy he must help her fight the forces of Darkness.  Yet the two are also in conflict because he can only fight evil as a vampire and as such he cannot be with Buffy.  So, Angel had to sacrifice what he valued most in all this world in order to preserve it. 

Because only Angel retains a memory of the lost day the relationship is ended in a way that allows Buffy, if not Angel, to move on.  Yet, because we see what was possible between them, at the same time the strength of the myth arc and its sense that there is some indefinable bond between these two is further strengthened.  For those, like me, with a taste for paradox this is heady stuff.  We get a renewed sense of two people trapped by forces beyond their control yet, especially in Angel's case, behaving almost heroically even when tested to the limits.  I have never been a B/A 'shipper but I find it easy to understand why a lot of people regard B/R as insipid stuff after they get a taste for this.

Cordelia’s Commentary

There is one other aspect of the way the B/A relationship was handled that I very much like.  There has always been more than an element of melodrama about B/A.  It has always been that little bit larger than life.  The emotion has been that little bit stronger, the tragedy that little bit more powerful.  This episode was intended to epitomize those very elements in the B/A relationship.  And as such the drama was played out, for the most part, with the utmost seriousness.  But, there are many people who take a somewhat jaundiced view of the B/A romance.  And in any event it is always possible to see something of the absurd in the way love can, for humans, assume (at least arguably) a disproportionate importance when compared with real matters of life and death.

So, as a counterpoint to the gravity of the story, we have Cordelia’s biting commentary on the B/A relationship throughout the episode.   This not only acquaints newcomers with the history of that relationship in a genuinely entertaining way but continually pokes a little fun at the whole myth arc without in any way undermining the essential seriousness of the piece.  There is some absolutely wonderful dialogue here.  I am not going to quote it all but one exchange in particular between Cordelia and Doyle exemplifies the note struck:

Doyle:  "So that's the Slayer."
Cordelia:  "That's our Buffy."
Doyle:  "Well, she seemed a little.."
Cordelia:  "Bulgarian in that outfit?"
Doyle:  "No, I was going to say hurt."
Cordelia:  "Yeah, there's a lot of that when they're together.  Come on."
Doyle:  "Where are we going?"
Cordelia:  "Oh, they'll be into this for a while.  We still have time for a cappuccino and probably the director's cut of 'Titanic'."

In classical Greek tragedy it was the role of the chorus to deliver a detached, objective commentary on the participants as they struggle with fate.  It seems to me that this is a role that Cordelia performs to perfection here. 


The  Oracles

Finally I would just like to add a word or two on the Oracles.  I think that they were one of the better things to come from this episode and entirely in keeping with the new direction Angel seems to be going in when compared with Buffy.  Angel, as befits the sort of character he is, lives in a much more morally ambiguous world where “demon” and “deserves to die” don’t automatically go together.  The Oracles (and by extension TPTB) serve as a very interesting backdrop to this world.  Their refusal to give a straight answer to a straight question and their arrogance and contempt for humanity suggest they are manipulating events and not for entirely altruistic reasons.  For example once Angel became human why was Doyle sent that vision of the Mohra demon?  Did TPTB try to provoke the reaction they got from Angel?  All of this might lead to the suspicion that the very clear black and white distinctions formerly drawn between good an evil are now not quite so clear.  In particular Angel may have to be a little more skeptical about those on whose behalf he acts.  It even opens up the possibility of him being maneuvered into actions he might not want to take.  In short this opens up all sorts of possibilities for the writers to explore as they examine the nature of good and evil.


8/10.  I found this episode very difficult to grade because it is such a curate’s egg.  Its flaws are substantial but so too are its merits.  In the final analysis, though, I think that an episode much be judged on whether or not is achieves what it set out to.  If, as I believe, this the writers drawing a line in the sand for B/A (at least temporarily) then I have difficulty in conceiving any better way of them doing so.   Instead of just forgetting about the past, they are trying to explain Buffy moving on to Riley in terms which  reconcile past and future.  As I have already said, in order to do this the writers had to play fast and loose with some elements of the story.  But I for one am glad that they took this approach.  It is in my view far better than adopting a “lets just forget B/A ever happened” approach which is an all too common one in modern TV writing.


  Review Revised Sunday, August 06 2000