June 18, 2022

Buffy 3.10, Amends: Ghosts of Christmases Past

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:13 pm by Jenn

“Santa says you’re on the naughty list. Sorry, buddy”

Summary: In Dublin in 1838, a man named Daniel is trying to flee from Angelus. He owes Angelus money from a card game but can’t pay it. Angelus is willing to accept Daniel’s blood instead. Daniel’s scared, but Angelus thinks he should be more cheerful since it’s Christmas. Angel wakes up from a dream about this, shaken by the memory. He goes downtown and runs into Buffy, who’s doing some Christmas shopping. They both say they’re doing well, but Angelus spots Daniel nearby, so he’s obviously lying.

Buffy tells Xander and Willow about this encounter at school, worrying that something’s going on with Angel. Willow encourages her to talk to Giles, but Buffy knows he won’t want to hear about Angel. Willow thinks Angel’s feeling down about spending the holidays alone. Buffy’s frustrated because she’s trying to stay away from him. She just wants a quiet Christmas break.

The friends discuss their holiday plans: Buffy will be celebrating with Joyce, Xander will be camping in his yard, and Willow will be being Jewish. Cordelia boasts that she’s going skiing in Aspen and won’t miss the Scoobies. Buffy notes that she’s back to her old self. Willow thinks they should cut her some slack after what happened to her. Also, Willow’s really into forgiveness right now.

Oz approaches hesitantly and takes Willow to a classroom for a private talk. He tells her that it was horrible to see her with Xander, but he can’t ignore the friends’ history. He’s not sure the two of them will ever be totally over. That said, Oz misses her so much that he feels like he’s lost a part of himself. He’s willing to try to move past her cheating and get back together. Aww, it’s a Christmas Hanukkah miracle!

That night, Buffy and Joyce go to a Christmas tree lot. Joyce suggests inviting Faith to spend Christmas with them. Buffy isn’t really close to the other Slayer, but Joyce guilts her into not letting Faith spend the holidays alone in a motel room. Buffy asks about inviting Giles over, too, but Joyce quickly shuts down that idea. Buffy comes across some dead trees, which an employee says died without warning.

Some demons with symbols carved over their eyes chant somewhere. That’s two nights in a row where Angel wakes up from a disturbing dream. Buffy goes to Faith’s motel to invite her over for Christmas Eve dinner, but Faith claims to be going to a party that night. Giles is surprised to get a visit from Angel, their first in-person encounter since Giles’ abduction. Angel humbly asks for help, not sure where else to turn. Giles grabs a crossbow just in case before inviting Angel into his home.

Angel reveals that he’s been dreaming about the past, dreams that are so vivid that he feels like he’s reliving his memories. He thinks they’re connected to his sudden, inexplicable return from a demon dimension. He might get some peace if he found out why he was sent back. As Giles asks if Angel believes he deserves peace, Angel sees Jenny standing behind him. Giles doesn’t think Angel should become complacent, since the last time he did, bad things happened. Angel is shaken by the sight of Jenny, whom Giles can’t see, and runs out.

He goes home and goes back to sleep, dreaming this time of another past Christmas. Angelus pulls a maid named Margaret away from a party as she protests that she can’t risk getting fired for not doing her job. She has a son she needs to support. Angelus threatens to make a scene to get her to shut up. When he vamps out, Margaret again brings up her son in an attempt to get his sympathy. Angelus just says he’ll kill her son, too. He feeds on her, then looks up to see Buffy nearby. This time, Angel’s not the only one having the dream.

Jenny comes to the mansion, telling Angel that she can’t leave him alone because he won’t let her. He apologizes for killing her, but she’s not there for that. She turns into Daniel, who says he doesn’t want to make Angel feel bad. He wants to show Angel who he is.

Buffy tells Giles about the dream, which she knows was Angel’s since there were things in it she didn’t know about. Giles tells her that Angel came to see him because he wants to know why he’s back. Giles has been looking into that. Buffy wants to help, but only so she can fully separate herself from her ex. She promises they’re not seeing each other anymore. Giles agrees to help, and Xander, who was eavesdropping from right outside Giles’ office, also offers to lend a hand. He chalks it up to Willow’s Hanukkah spirit. Besides, he doesn’t have anything planned for the Christmas break.

Willow doesn’t, either, so she ends up joining the others for a research session. She tells Buffy that Oz is going to come over on Christmas Eve, while her parents are away. She’s nervous about how to make Oz trust her again. Buffy says that Xander has a piece of Willow that Oz can’t touch. Willow just needs to show Oz that he’s more important to her than Xander.

Angel is now dealing with a visit from a guy whose family he killed. That guy turns into Margaret, who reminds Angel that he took more pleasure in killing than most regular beasts would. When Angel tries to escape her, he runs into Daniel, who says he was supposed to get married the week he died. Angel tries to argue that the demon inside him was responsible for his crimes. Jenny’s back, and she doesn’t buy that excuse. It’s not like he was a great person when he was human. As Margaret puts it, he was “a drunken, whoring layabout” and a disappointment to his parents.

Angel says he was young and didn’t have a chance to mature. Margaret taunts that he was worthless even before he became a demon. Angel tearfully begs the ghosts to stop, but Jenny says he needs to remember that cruelty is the only thing he was ever good at. It’s not a curse – it’s his destiny. She’ll show him what she means.

The Scoobies fall asleep at the library, and Buffy and Angel share another dream. This one is of them having sex, but it ends differently than it did the last time. There’s an eyeless demon in the room, and instead of losing his soul, Angel bites Buffy. When he wakes up, Jenny’s with him. She knows he wants Buffy and encourages him to take what he wants. He should put all his frustration and guilt on her – he’ll be free again. He can’t live forever with all his pain. This is why he came back. If he takes Buffy, he’ll be ready to kill her.

Giles has found some information on the First Evil, a power older than humans and demons that could have brought Angel back. Buffy recognizes some drawings of eyeless demons from her most recent dream. (Understandably, she doesn’t want to go into details about this one.) Giles IDs them as Bringers, AKA Harbingers, who serve the First Evil. They can conjure manifestations of the dead and send them to haunt people. Buffy guesses that’s what Angel’s been dealing with.

The problem is that the First Evil isn’t a physical being, so Buffy can’t fight it. She can, however, fight the Bringers. She and Xander visit Willy the Snitch, who greets her by yelling out who she is so any demons in his bar who don’t want to be killed will leave. Xander tries to be intimidating but falls way short of his goal. Willy claims not to be familiar with the Bringers, but he’s heard some rumors about beings that live underground fleeing town. Maybe the Bringers have pushed them out. As Buffy and Xander leave, Willy compliments Xander’s intimidation tactics.

Back outside, Buffy complains that there are way too many underground locations to search. Xander thinks they should take a break to celebrate Christmas, then go back to Scoobying. Willow seems to agree with this idea, since she’s fully invested in having a nice night alone with Oz. But she thinks they should have sex to confirm their recommitment, and he doesn’t want to rush into that. When they have sex for the first time, it should be because they both want it for the same reason. He doesn’t want Willow to feel like she has to prove anything to him.

Buffy teases Joyce for building a fire in the fireplace, since they’re in Southern California and it’s hot out. “Angel’s on top again?” Joyce asks, referring to what they should put on the top of the tree. Faith shows up after all, and Buffy seems genuinely happy that she’s there. She goes upstairs to get some presents and finds Angel waiting for her. He’s tempted to have sex with her, and Jenny tries to talk him into it, but Angel ends up telling Buffy to stay away from him. She urges him to control whatever’s messing with him, but he gets overwhelmed by Jenny’s words and ends up jumping out the window.

Buffy asks Faith to stay with Joyce while she goes looking for Angel. She heads to Giles’ place and asks him to help her figure out where the Bringers are. She knows Angel won’t last much longer, and if he loses his soul again, she might have to kill him. Back at the mansion, Jenny continues trying to convince Angel to sleep with Buffy. She doesn’t think Angel is strong enough to fight temptation. Angel would rather die than hurt Buffy, but Jenny doesn’t think he has the strength to kill himself. He says he doesn’t need strength, just the sun. He ignores her as she says this isn’t the plan (though she’s fine with it).

With no leads on the Bringers’ location, Buffy and Giles turn to research again. He reads that the Bringers live in a place where nothing grows above or below them. Buffy remembers the dead trees in the lot and heads over there. She digs a hole in the ground and finds the Bringers’ lair. From there, it’s just a matter of simple slaying (not too hard when the creatures you’re slaying don’t have eyes). But Jenny shows up and taunts that Buffy can’t fight the First Evil. It’s beyond sin and death: “I am the thing that darkness fears.” It’s everywhere and in every evil thing. “All right, I get it, you’re evil. Do we have to chat about it all day?” Buffy asks.

Jenny tells her that Angel will be dead by sunrise. Buffy refuses to let that happen, but Jenny says she has no idea what she’s dealing with. “Let me guess: Is it…evil?” Buffy replies. She races to the mansion but Angel isn’t there. She eventually finds him standing on a hilltop, waiting for the sun to come up. She begs him to go inside but Angel has seen what he is and will always be. He knows now that he was brought back to be evil.

Buffy tells him he can’t give up just because the First Evil says it was responsible for bringing him back. Angel’s desperate not to become a killer again, but he doesn’t have the strength to fight it. He knows she shared his dream and is aware of what the First Evil wants. He wants her so badly that he can’t fight temptation, even knowing he’ll lose his soul again. He’s weak and always has been. The demon in him doesn’t need killing – the man does.

Buffy tells him everyone’s weak and fails at some point. Even if the First Evil brought Angel back, it’s because it needs him, and Angel can hurt it. He has the power to do good and make amends. If he dies now, he’ll only be remembered by his horrible deeds. Angel tells her to go since she can never understand what he’s done. Buffy refuses to leave him, even hitting him to try to knock some sense into him.

He hits her back, then realizes he’s acting like the monster he doesn’t want to be. He tearfully asks if he’s “a thing worth saving” or “a righteous man.” He thinks the world wants him gone. “What about me?” Buffy asks. She loves him and tried to make him go away, but even killing him didn’t help. She hates how hard this is and how much he can hurt her. She knows everything he did because he did it to her.

Buffy wishes that she wanted Angel to die, but she doesn’t. She can’t feel that way. He asks her again to leave so he can be strong. “Strong is fighting,” she tells him. “It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do.” They can do it together, but he’ll have to be brave. If he’s a coward, he can burn. If Buffy can’t convince Angel to live, then she doesn’t know what will. But she won’t stick around and watch him give up, and he can’t expect her to mourn.

Suddenly snow starts falling on them. Around town, the Scoobies notice and are a mixture of stunned and happy. Thanks to the sudden cold front, Sunnydale has a white Christmas…with no sun. Buffy and Angel walk downtown, hand in hand, and enjoy their peaceful Christmas together.

Thoughts: David Boreanaz is really good in this episode, and I say that as someone who isn’t really impressed with his acting in the first two seasons (at least when he’s not Angelus).

Buffy has short bangs in this episode and they make me feel homicidal. Fortunately, they’re gone by the next episode.

Aw, Faith hung up some Christmas lights in her motel room. She’s not as hard as she wants everyone to believe.

We’re going to pretend that the First Evil/Jenny being able to touch Angel didn’t really happen, since we find out later in the series that that’s not possible. Everyone on board for that? Great.

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