I WILL REMEMBER YOU
Written by: David Greenwalt and Jeannine Renshaw
Directed by: David Grosman
Background of the B/A Relationship
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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:
you were powerful. Alone, you are dead.”
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
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
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.
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."
as Buffy confirms:
we let something happen here we'd want more.
And nothing's changed. We'd only end up having to leave each other
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.
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."
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.
significantly, even before the second encounter with the Mohra, Angel shows a
keen awareness what his newfound status as a human means:
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.
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.
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:
"So that's the Slayer."
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.
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.
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.