Monday, February 08, 2021

Lost Soul Intersection

One of the best early season episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is "I Only Have Eyes for You." This second season episode succeeds on several layers--horror, drama, and pure cleverness.

A ghost manifests at Sunnydale High in the days leading up to the Sadie Hopkins dance. It forces two random people to reenact a lover's quarrel between a teacher and student that became violent. The Scooby Gang thinks they find a solution by chanting with candles in separate parts of the school but, instead, it just leads to each person facing a surprisingly effective bit of horror.

Even the bad cgi pit that starts to pull Willow through the floor is effective. Maybe it's just because it's part of a sudden, unrelenting barrage of scares, maybe it's the sense that Willow can hardly be expected to take measures against sudden holes opening beneath her feet. But it's really disturbing.

Meanwhile, Buffy glimpses one of the ghosts as a rotting corpse. He's not a zombie or anything so the shock comes without any warning.

The premise is good and the scares are good but on top of this writer Marti Noxon finds a very clever way to use this for the main season story arc between Buffy and Angel. This moment of spectral violence is, in the context of Buffy and Angel, a moment of unusual tenderness now that he's lost his soul.

And it gets even cleverer from there in the way it proves to lead to a solution to the problem.

It's also an appropriate narrative turn after Buffy had expressed a complete lack of sympathy for the guy who killed his girlfriend. Suddenly she's made to see similarities between herself and the boy. But Buffy potentially killing Angel surely can't be compared to the boy murdering his lover because she wanted to break it off. Could it?

Angel lost his soul and has been actively tormenting Buffy and her friends while the boy's lover was also his teacher and was breaking off the relationship for his own good. But arguably, from the boy's imperfect perspective, it amounts to the same thing. His repeated line about how someone doesn't just wake up and stop loving someone makes as much sense for Buffy to say to Angel. It might seem, from a child's perspective, that his lover, in making a mature decision, had lost her soul. And then we might consider again the age difference between Buffy and Angel.

It's a provoking juxtaposition and a nice cap to an already great episode.

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