This episode is really going to be a problem for me to talk about. The episodes that have been the simplest and most entertaining to review are the bad ones. But being pretty new to this process, when I deeply love the episode as I do Becoming Part 2, easily in my top five for the series, I end up sounding effusive or redundant. I mean, my favorite scene in this episode…is this episode.

“Oh this scenes great. This scene is GREAT. OMG her performance in this scene is great.”

Becoming Part 2 is a Whedon episode and it is a masterpiece front to back. The show has become comfortable enough that it can play with its own rules and structure and the results are so much fun to watch. And then soul destroying. Lets get into this one. Its great. DAMN IT

Occasionally Buffy’s powers seems to lapse for the convenience of the story.

As in a cop being able to shove an impassioned Buffy toward the door. Snyder shows up and tells the cops Buffy is behind whatever happened.

Buffy breaks free escapes. She shows up at the hospital in an outfit utterly conspicious for how hard it is trying to be inconspicuous. Xander finds her and brings her to a coma’d Willow. There’s a nice little exchange here between Xander and Cordelia. Its the most genuine affection I can remember them sharing. And Cordelia’s self labeling herself cowardly and seeming to CARE about it is another subtle but significant highlight of her true character.

“I didn’t see Giles…you mean he’s not in the hospital?”

Giles is with Angelus at the mansion. Angelus’ threat to torture Giles is so depraved and perverse. His mannerism and intimate disclosure of his terrible desires almost make him sound horny at the opportunity to inflict pain. I love it. Its a tense and frightning performance that is hard to look away from. I’m not sure where this Angelus has been the whole season but he’s working at another level of evil with Joss Whedon feeding him lines.

Buffy’s mom is being interviewed by the cops from Ted, who were there when Buffy knocked John Ritter.

Buffy goes to see Giles and stumbles on Whistler. Whistler utters a few odd lines…

“It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. Nobody saw you coming..”

Wait what? Because…in just the last episode you were pushing Angel to go see Buffy.

“You two made with the smoochies…and now he’s a creep again..” implying then that you KNEW about the curse and didn’t expect a broody lone vampire who has been hard up for 70 years to get with an underage..oh ok. I guess. Well I guess I can’t fault you there. Perhaps this scene then is the closest the writers come to acknowledging the slightly statutory side of Angel and Buffy’s relationship. That and the parallels between James’ relationship with his teacher in I Only Have Eyes for You.

“What are you then…an immortal demon sent down…”

So wait…if he was sent…down…isn’t he technically an Angel then? Other than using it as the name of one of its significant characters, Buffy always seems to shy away from being too biblical with how it’s universe work. This is one of the RARE times it feels a bit awkwardly handled to me. I can think of one more off the top of my head.

THIS is the Spike. This is the game changed hilarious, feels good to be bad Spike we all love. And really, this is the first glimpse of the Spike we’ll see the rest of the series. He isn’t brooding about some scheme or how he’s going to end the slayer. He proposes to Buffy a deal. He’ll help her kill Angel so he can get his girlfriend back.;

Well except for certain vampires then. As I mentioned in Innocence I think that Spike’s words here highlight a discrepancy between vampire personalities that lacks an explanation. Assuming equal evilness for the demons that takeover a sired, what then explains the dramatic difference between say the hedonist, and the psychopathic sadist? My thoughts on that are in the Innocence review. They agree to work together…

“Just let me kill this guy first…”

Oh man. THIS…THIS is the show I love. At Willow’s bedside Xander seems to have a moment of realization when it comes to Willow.

Whether it’s platonic confession of love or not is unclear. But Xander’s confession brings Willow back and she calls for Oz who comes to her side.
Joyce finds Buffy and Spike wandering the neighborhood.

This episode just feels like Whedon is getting to play and it’s one of the things that makes the series so special. In another show, this moment would only ever occur as fan fiction. But in Buffy, now that the rules of the universe have been so firmly established the creator of the series figures what if we take one of the big bads and have him sit in the living room with Buffy’s mom making awkward conversation about how she once hit him in the head with an axe? Sure why not. And all of that occurs against the backdrop of a sickening torture sequence where Buffy’s father figure is being tortured by her ex boyfriend. None of this should work, and yet it is a virtuoso performance.

Remember too the mirror theme I mentioned in School Hard? Buffy and Spike’s fates have roughly coincided this entire season. In What’s My Line, Spike is badly injured and loses Drusilla to Angelus. Shortly after Buffy loses Angel to Angelus as well. As Spike is stuck in a wheelchair Buffy is unable to do what is necessary to destroy Angelus. As Buffy goes through the process of preparing to do what must be done Spike begins to heal. And now here they are, allied at the season and ready for the final battle.

Buffy’s secret is finally revealed:

“Mom, I’m a vampire slayer.”

Buffy tells everyone the plan is to hit the mansion at daybreak. She tells Spike if Giles dies Drusilla does as well and Spike goes to protect Giles. Joyce gets all Joycey about this newfound information and Buffy reveals a similar darker side about Slayer life that kind of reminded a bit of her plea in Prophecy Girl.

It’s a powerful monologue but remember too that the Slayer role is the shows metaphor for adulthood. And everything Buffy just said could relate similarly to just becoming an adult. The loss of childhood innocence and the burden of responsibility is in its own way tragic.

“No this is insane Buffy you need help” – “I’m not crazy.”

I love the small reference to Joyce’s wanting to qualify this as insanity…and how she might have handled this information in the past. Joyce tells Buffy don’t come back. Perhaps just a tactic that she thought would prevent her from leaving rather than an actual ultimatum. But still a demonstration of the Joyce McGuffin in its total lack of empathy.

Angel is still torturing Giles but Giles refuses to break and even taunts him. Spike talks Angel out of using a chainsaw and calls Drusilla over.

The Universe building continues as Buffy is confronted by Snyder in the library who expels her.

“You know I didn’t do it. The police will figure it out.”

His response indicates he has never cared about right or wrong, justice or anything. His constantly berating Buffy then has likely been an act of collusion then with some hidden bureaucracy?

“Tell the mayor I have good news.”

Giles sits, emotionally depleted. Barred behind the door of some safe place in his mind to prevent him from succumbing to the pain or revealing anything to Angel. Drusilla searches the corridors for a way in and finds….Jenny. Ordinarily so stoic, we can see Giles’ grief in the form of weight lifted as he sees Jenny. He tells Jenny everything.

Whistler tells Buffy that if the gate to hell opens the only thing that can close it again is Angel’s blood.

Xander finds Buffy and Buffy tells him to get Giles and get out.

This is the Lie, a source of much contention. I spent some time googling around fan sites reading various takes from people on this scene and it’s shocking how much this scene is still being debated. You can probably conclude my reaction to the lie already so I’m not going to dwell on it. Simply, Willow has made her own decision that she wants to try the spell again. She has asked Xander to tell Buffy. Buffy trusts Xander and always expects the truth from him, especially given information that might affect her tactics in a battle. And Xander decides that he knows better than either of them. Nobody knew how the battle would play out and Xander’s decision actually limited Buffy’s options. Whatever his motivations for that decision, that is very simply wrong. He cannot elect himself commander.

Most of the arguments I found pro-lie centered around his motivations. User Kaggzz defense in the Whedon subreddit was pretty compelling:

“First of all, Buffy is conflicted enough about this fight. She’s not sure if she can fight Angel, and if she can, if she can beat him. She’s got enough going on in her mind to not have to think about “oh hey maybe WIllow will do the thing and I don’t have to kill Angel?” The fight’s going to be hard enough without Buffy holding back. What would she do if she thought Willow could recurse Angel? Xander’s lie saved the world.

Secondly, Willow herself is shaky on if she can do the spell. She failed before and there is no reason to think she will succeed this time. Why should Xander risk Buffy’s life, let alone risk the world turning into a hell dimension on the slim chance that Willow can do the spell? To date, resouling Angel is the biggest thing Willow has done with her magics.

Third, Xander has a very compelling case at this point to keep Buffy and Angel apart. And that case involves a body count and torture. This was a sound tactical decision on Xander’s part, not some misogynistic attempt to put his man parts above Buffy’s reuniting with Angel. It was about saving the world and making sure Buffy gets out safely. Xander does make a lot of bonehead decisions in the show, but this is not one of them.

Buffy attacks. Xander gets Giles out. Spike chokes out Drusilla, another odd contraction to the “No breath no heartbeat” part of vampires. Angel pulls the sword free of Acathla. He and Buffy duel. As Willow chants the words of the curse we see the spell suddenly begin to flow through her, as though the magic is casting itself.

The door is now open.

Angel knocks Buffy’s sword away.

Buffy battles Angelus back to Acathla, she disarms him. Knocks him to the ground. And then…

This is the moment the entire season has lead to…

Buffy has been torn all season between her consuming relationship with Angel and her path to adulthood as the slayer.

“As the slayer…you don’t have the luxury of being a slave to your passions.”

“I’d like a little responsibility.”

I don’t think the show is saying that we can’t have love and be adults. Rather that adult love doesn’t require us to be someone other than who we are. Adult love maintains our authenticity and integrity. In Halloween each character was consumed by a specific trait. But Giles retained his ability to choose and was who he needed to be to save everyone. In Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered Xander cast a love spell that removed the freedom of choice from every woman in Sunnydale.

“I know it’s not love. It’s obsession.”

Our choices define who we are and when we act as though we don’t have any our lives become meaningless.

“Angel when I look into the future, all I see is you.”

Consider Whistler’s warning in Giles apartment when Buffy said she had nothing more to lose.

“I don’t have anything left to lose.”

“Wrong kid. You’ve got one more thing.”

Certainly he could mean her life but I think the statement foreshadows the final goodbye between Angel and Buffy when she is faced with an impossible choice. He is imploring her to act authentically, as her true self. As Buffy once implored Ford in Lie to Me.

“I don’t have a choice. You have a choice. You don’t have a good choice but you have a choice.”

While some of this is the result of Buffy and Angel’s actions, much of it is simply an indifferent universe. Buffy didn’t make Angel a vampire. She never asked to be the Slayer. She never wanted this responsibility. But that is life.

“There’s moments in your life that make you, that set the course of who you’re gonna be. Sometimes they’re little, subtle moments. Sometimes they’re not. Bottom line is, even if you see them coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? Nah. The big moments are gonna come, you can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.”