Season 1, Episode 7
Date of airing: April 14, 1997 (WB)
Nielsen ratings information: 3.4 million viewers, 2.3/4 in Households
In a way, this was a fascinating episode. For once it was not just an hour about a random supernatural villain Buffy needed to defeat, and instead it became an hour that focused on her emotions only. Going personal with the character seven episodes into the show is almost a miracle, but when that same show managed to incapacitate the titular hero in its third hour, then this episode cannot be described as a miracle any longer. After all, BUFFY THE VAMPIE SLAYER is already breaking some established television rules here, and even if the first season happened to be extremely aged and sometimes really silly and theatric, there are moments that still shine through and make these twelve episodes memorable.
That Angel would turn out to be a vampire brings a nice little twist into the premise. Like her friends and Giles told her, she is the vampire slayer, and slayers kill vampires. Her relationship with Angel is now defined by her fate, and by the uniqueness that is Angel’s back story, which has nicely turned into a metaphor on alcoholism. No one will know how the two love birds will react towards each other’s jobs and duties, and everyone is going to expect that Angel will turn bad at some point, giving Buffy one hell of a physical and emotional fight when it comes to that (and be sure that it will come to that, as it is a premise the writers just gifted to themselves). And bringing all that into the show midway through the already shortened season, it would have given the writers an opportunity to do something else with the show than just going into randomized supernatural entities who needed a fresh and hard beating by a sixteen-year-old blond high school wannabe cheerleader. Also, with Angel having been given the back story of a curse (which is like finding God and Jesus right before you decide to never touch a drop of alcohol again and live a sober life, follow the Twelve Steps, and so on), he becomes the only character arc in the show having been given additional and meaningful, useful character depth that could make the rest of the season less bad and silly, since Buffy and Angel will have to deal with each other’s emotions and affection now, all while fearing each other at the same time.
The reveal of Angel’s back story and status was generally fantastic and intriguing. The Three were hunting the two, and Buffy, almost subconsciously, screams at Angel to get into her house, overriding the supernatural rule that vampires cannot enter unless invited in. One might not even think about Angel being anything less than the sexy hot hunk Buffy craves straight into her bed, but after Angel’s true face showed itself, thinking back to the beginning of the episode, and Angel being invited into the house, I would almost have to show all kinds of respect to the writers for pulling off that surprise stunt. Even more, who knows if there was garlic in the plateless dinner Buffy brought Angel, but because it was in a zip-locked bag, the garlic did not affect Angel at all. This is how you write television, y’all.
Darla was also an interesting villain here, and her relationship with Angel brought nice fire into the story, even if I would have expected a lot more than just Darla trying to groom Angel to come back again and work behind the curtains with the Master. If Darla and Angel really had this affection for each other in the past, I would have expected more emotion and drama coming from the two — okay, maybe more from Angel because he has the soul, and less from Darla because she is just the villain, but I got the feeling that the writers did not know back then whether to give Angel and Darla that back story and overcomplicate his relationship with Buffy with Darla in existence, or to just leave it at that and have Darla get killed off. I am almost sure it was too easy for the writers to not care about Darla, since she was slated to be slayed during the climax of this episode anyway.
Meanwhile, this episode also showed that the first season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER feels rather aged. Yes, the morph effect of Angel’s face was typical for cheap 1990s television (especially for a show with an extremely low budget), but that thing with Darla and her Lara Croft-esque shooting style in the Bronze was too funny to be considered serious and tense, especially since she had two guns aimed at Buffy, who was directly in front of her, but she could not hit her. Darla was not just a 90s TV villain here, but also a Stormtrooper with guns that did not need reloading. Well, at least it was unintentionally funny, giving the show the unintended charm it developed two decades after the fact. But missing Darla I will not after the funny exit she got. After all, she never came over as a serious villain in all the screentime she got before she was dusted by Angel.
Sunnydale Mortality Rate: No human has died in this episode. I am a little shocked myself. The total remains at 15, and the rate goes down a little, and is now at 2.14.
Hellmouth Mortality Rate: Five vampires said goodnight before and during this episode, with one of them killed by Buffy, three by Darla, and one by Angel. The lone Buffy kill happened before this episode began, since it started with the Master’s words “Zachary didn’t return from the hunt last night.” Darla killed the three warrior vampires, and Angel got rid of Darla. And because Buffy killed her vampire before the events of this episode, this must be one of the rare BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER episodes without an on-screen kill by Buffy when they were in fact kills during the episode. This is also the second episode since “Witch,” in which Buffy did not kill a monster on-screen (one would assume she also did not kill anyone in “The Pack,” but she was quite guilty of the zookeeper getting eaten by hyenas, even if I would not count it towards her kill count). 18 monsters and vampires have been slayed so far, the rate is at 2.57.