\m/15-Minute Hellmouth\m/: Buffy the Vampire Slayer DeepWatch: Season 1, Episode 7: “Angel” (airdate: Monday, April 14, 1997): Part 1 of 3

00:00 – 15:00

Before this episode begins, we get a “Previously on Buffy…” segment. I believe this was the first, but I could be mistaken. The title of this episode is “Angel,” and this “Previously on…” segment seems to be about Angel, in part. Go figure.

The rest is about the Master and the Anointed One, which means we’re getting back into the meat of the seasonal mytharc in this episode.

On this day in history, the song “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” by Puff Daddy featuring Mase, is holding on to the #1 spot in the US. “I Believe I Can Fly,” by R. Kelly, is #1 in the UK.

Need for Speed II was the most-rented Playstation game this week, according to Blockbuster Video stats. Mario Kart 64 held that place of honor for the Nintendo 64 console system. There have been over two dozen entries in the NFS franchise since then, and at least eight different Mario Karts.

The movies Anaconda and Grosse Point Blank released the previous Friday, April 11, 1997. I remember watching both of these movies in the theater. I don’t think either motion picture would fall into the category American Classics, but they were both okay.

The teaser to today’s tale begins in the Master’s underground lair, which—it occurs to me now—used to look more like an underground church. Now, it looks like part of the Sunnydale sewer system. Television series with supernatural elements seem to love old brick sewer systems with their groined arches and certain Old World charm.

Collin—the Anointed One, a key vampire in the Order of Aurelius who is destined to lead the Slayer to Hell, and who is also just a child—is tossing pebbles into the murky pool in front of the Master’s throne-like chair. The Master is holding pebbles in his hand for Collin to choose from.

There’s very much a father-and-son dynamic presented here. Not quite a Norman Rockwell moment, but maybe a representation of what Rockwell would have painted if he had been a soulless demon.

Everyone’s favorite female vampire, Darla, enters the scene from a slimy-looking tunnel. She’s wearing a blue cardigan over a spotless white shirt with a huge collar that might have been popular in 1997, over a dangerously short miniskirt. Even with the skirt, she appears more wholesome than she is.

The Master tells Darla that Zachary didn’t return from the hunt last night. To which Darla hisses: “The Slayer.” Zachary was strong and careful, according to the Master. He bemoans the fact that the Slayer has taken so many of his “family.”

When the Master asks Collin what he would do about it, the vampire child says, “I’d annihilate her.”

Darla wants the opportunity to kill the Slayer for her Master. But, instead, he has decided to send the The Three. Darla seems to be in the dark as to the identity of the mysterious Three, just like we are.

We cut to an exterior shot of an alley at night. Three tough-looking skinhead types are loitering in the alley, doing tough guy stuff like smoking. These aren’t The Three. Three vampires, in full vamp face, enter the alley, approaching the skinheads. The vampires are wearing bits and pieces of armor, like extras in a Mad Max movie.

Surely, these must be The Three, because this series doesn’t make a habit out of subverting expectations.

Then, we’re inside the Bronze. We get a quick sequence of a nameless female character chasing a cockroach across the floor, picking it up and giving it to a bartender wearing a lamé short-sleeved shirt and a well-manicured Freddie Mercury mustache.

Exactly what kind of club is this?

That’s not an easy question to answer. However, in addition to being the only club in Sunnydale, by all appearances, it also allows underage patrons entry and seems to hand out free drinks in exchange for cockroaches.

As the scene shifts to Buffy and Willow, we get an explanation for what we just witnessed. A banner hanging on a wall says this is the Fumigation Party. Willow explains, to a distracted Buffy, that this is an annual tradition. A big blowout just before the Bronze closes for a few days to nuke the cockroaches.

I can only imagine that there would be a huge cockroach and rat infestation problem in the proximity of a Hellmouth.

Buffy isn’t really listening, and Willow calls her on it. She asks Buffy if she’s thinking about a guy. Buffy says that there would have to be a guy in order to be thinking of him.

“What about Angel?” Willow asks.

Buffy says he’s not around much, which seems to be true so far. But, Buffy says, dreamily, that when Angel is around it’s like the lights dim everywhere. She asks Willow if she knows how it’s like that with some guys.

Willow knows how it is. She looks over at Xander, who is busy being a spaz on the dancefloor. We’re still hitting the unrequited love triangle (perhaps parallelogram) notes very fortissimo. Willow is crushing on Xander, who’s crushing on Buffy, who’s crushing on Angel. We still don’t know what Angel’s angle may be, but he likes Buffy enough to give her a leather jacket.

On the dance floor, Xander accidentally bumps into Cordelia, who was absent from school the day the students ate Principal Flutie. Cordelia is mean to Xander, who is mean back to her, saying that her dress doesn’t make her look like a hooker, no matter what everyone is saying. You know. Repartee.

It’s good to have Cordelia back. She’s a thousand times meaner than Kyle, Rhonda, Tor and Heidi, and they are the ones who ate the principal.

Xander joins Willow and Buffy at their table. He notices the downer vibe. Buffy announces that she’s going to call it a night, since her mood seems to be affecting her friends.

As Buffy is leaving, the camera stops a moment to show that Angel is lurking in the shadows, watching the Slayer. Angel gave off heavy stalker vibes in the early goings-on. Buffy senses his presence, but he’s no longer there when she turns to look.

They can’t fool me. Angel is Batman.

Then we’re outside on the mean, night streets of Sunnydale. The ambient noise is very urban. Lots of sirens and street sounds. It feels like danger as Buffy walks down the sidewalk, alone.

She walks past an alley and senses something. She says, “It’s late, I’m tired, and I don’t want to play games. Show yourself.”

The three armored vampires we saw earlier—presumably The Three—attack Buffy and seem to have the upper hand as the teaser ends and the credits flow, along with the Buffy theme that begins with horror-movie organ notes and then slides into a pop punk electric guitar riff.

This may be the first time a Buffy teaser ended on a cliffhanger. I don’t recall commenting on this before now.

The teaser for this episode tells us that the Master has summoned some special warrior vampires to deal with the Slayer, so we expect the episode to be about this, at least in part. Also, the title of the episode is “Angel,” and it seems logical to expect the episode to also be about Buffy’s mysterious stalker.

Act I begins right back where we started with Buffy being attacked on her walk home from the Bronze.

When one of the armored vampires leans in to bite Buffy’s neck, Angel suddenly appears behind him, grabbing him by the hair. He also says, “Good dogs don’t bite,” which was unnecessary, sounding too quippy, like something Spider-Man would say before trouncing a foe. Batman is more stoic.

Buffy isn’t some helpless damsel-in-distress, though. She joins the fight. One of the vampires pulls an iron bar from a window, and Angel manages to get slashed with it. Buffy ends up saving Angel as he is about to get stabbed again. She impressively kicks Angel’s attacker in the face, then wisely advises, “Run!”

Buffy and Angel end up running all the way to Buffy’s house, with the three vampires close on their heels.

As Buffy unlocks the front door, she says—to Angel—”Get in! Come on!” I’m watching this on my home computer in my office—on Amazon Prime Video—and had to back it up twice to actually hear this. There’s something muted in the dialogue sound quality at this exact moment. I suspect that it was something added later using ADR.

ADR stands for Automated (or Additional) Dialogue Replacement. It is when filmmakers re-record dialogue to improve sound quality, or—in many cases—change previously recorded dialogue or add dialogue to reflect changes in the story. Happens all the time.

The line was important because it was an invitation—actually, an order—for Angel to get inside the house. More on that in a bit.

Buffy shuts a vampire hand in the door. When he pulls it out, she slams the door and locks it. As the vampires are looking through the windows (one of whom looks a lot like Danny Trejo, but isn’t), Angel tells her not to worry, because vampires can’t enter a house without an invitation.

VAMPIRE RULE #6: Vampires cannot enter a house or apartment without an invitation. The invitation doesn’t have to come from the owner of the place, and the rule doesn’t seem to apply to public locations, such as schools, shopping malls or sewer systems.

Buffy’s heard that before, of course. We all have. Vampire lore contains a lot of such “rules,” and the writers of this show seem to pick and choose which ones they want to use as if they were ordering from a Chinese menu. But, since Angel says it, it is now canon in the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A vampire cannot enter someone’s house unless they receive an invitation.

Now you understand why it was important that Buffy say that line “Get in! Come on!” to Angel. I’d write Spoiler Alert, but how can you not already know that Angel is a vampire? Even so, I think he was already partially over the threshold before I heard the line.

I think I recall that this particular vampire rule is explored further, later in the series (or maybe on Angel). Today, I find myself wondering about the extent of its power over vampires. Forget for a moment that Angel may or may not have been already past the threshold when he was ordered to get inside, because, for a fact, the lead attacking vampire’s hand was past the doorway as Buffy was trying to shut it. Since Buffy didn’t invite the hand inside, it seems this rule has loopholes.

Buffy tells Angel to take off his shirt and jacket while she gets bandages. They go into the kitchen and Angel does as instructed. This is the seventh episode of the season: We knew these two would eventually be undressing for each other.

Angel is wearing a very long gold necklace. Something is probably hanging on it, but I haven’t seen it yet. I doubt it’s a crucifix.

He also has a tattoo on his right upper back. The internet insists that it depicts a griffin atop a stylized letter A, but I can’t swear to that. It looked like a large snail with long legs to me. Buffy says it’s “nice,” though. It’s not.

As Buffy is patching Angel up, she asks him how he happened to come along right when she needed his help. Was he following her? Angel says he lives nearby; he was just out for a walk. Buffy presses her interrogation, saying that if he is intentionally hanging around her, she’d like to know why.

“Maybe I like you,” Angel says.

“Maybe?” says Buffy.

Right on cue, they are interrupted as Joyce Summers—Buffy’s mother—is unlocking the front door. Buffy pulls her mom inside, saying that there’s a lot of weird people outside tonight. She’s worried about The Three, of course, but she’s also trying to rush her mom upstairs before she meets Angel.

Angel ruins Buffy’s attempts at subterfuge by stepping out from the kitchen directly into Joyce’s line of sight. He has, however, put his t-shirt and jacket back on. I never saw what was hanging from the necklace.

Buffy introduces her mom to Angel. She says he’s a first-year community college student who is tutoring her in history. Joyce says it’s a little late for tutoring, and that she’s going on up to bed. Buffy, recognizing her mom’s tone of voice, says that she’s going to say goodnight and do the same.

At the front door, after Joyce goes upstairs, Buffy says, loudly: “Good night! We’ll hook up soon and do that study thing.”

Which has me wondering if “hook up” still hadn’t achieved its current meaning before the turn of the century.

In any case, Angel is still inside the house after Buffy shuts the door again. More subterfuge. Oh, Buffy—

Then, Buffy leads Angel upstairs to her bedroom. I don’t want to sound like a relic of a different age here, but doesn’t that seem to be a bit forward? Angel, who is a relic of a different age (more on that later), seems to think so, because he says he doesn’t want to get her in more trouble. Buffy, for her part, seems to be more worried for Angel’s safety out on the mean streets of Sunnydale. You know, what with him being wounded and all.

So, it’s settled. Buffy’s having a sleepover.

Buffy seems more confused about the one bed/two people problem than could possibly be genuine. She offers to take the floor, since he’s wounded, but chivalry is undead, apparently. Angel will sleep on the floor, of course.

Buffy wants Angel to turn around while she changes into her nightclothes. You can’t blame her for wanting to get out of her sweaty nightclub garb, which I can only imagine smell like clove cigarettes and Red Bull.

Is that an anachronistic reference? You tell me.

Angel obediently looks out the window through slats in the blinds, and reports that he doesn’t see any sign of the vampires. Meanwhile, Buffy changes.

She tells Angel that, as the Chosen One, it’s her job to fight “guys like that.” Why does Angel do it?

He gives a lame response. “Uh, somebody has to.”

She immediately fishes for information about his family. He says they’re all dead. She wants to know if it was vampires (you know, writing her own backstory for Angel), and he says that it was as he turns to face her.

This is a big character moment here. Buffy is trying to solve the puzzle that is Angel and she, too, has determined that he is Batman, forever trying to get vengeance for the death of his parents. We’ll find out soon that Angel’s character arc is one more of redemption than revenge, but he’s still Batman whenever David Greenwalt writes him.

Angel manages to deflect any of the further probing questions, and then the two tell each other goodnight and then chastely sleep together, in the same room, for the first time.

We cut immediately to the school library in our next scene. Buffy has just told Willow and Xander that Angel spent the night in her bedroom, and we get to hear the feedback to that news from her best friends. Then, Rupert Giles comes along and drops a huge exposition bomb on the Scoobies about The Three, including the fact that they are probably being killed for failing to kill Buffy last night.

The scene immediately cuts to The Three offering up their lives to the Master for failing in their mission. We are in the Master’s underground church or sewer or whatever, with the master using the fate of The Three as an object lesson for Collin the Anointed One. He leads Collin into believing he’s going to spare the lives of The Three, until Darla—bless her heart—begins killing them anyway.

Wasn’t Darla the name of that little girl in those Little Rascals films? You know, the girl Alfalfa and Spanky were always mooning over?

We’ve done our obligatory check-in with our seasonal story arc, the Master and Collin Show (with Darla!). Just to remind everyone.

I also have an admission to make. Even though I have watched this episode before, I still thought that this time we’d find out that The Three weren’t the three vampires in armor who attacked Buffy. Just like the militia guy wasn’t the Anointed One in that other episode. In my memory, this series made an art out of subverting expectations and I thought it was doing it again. Instead, I did it to myself because The Three were exactly who we were led to believe they were. I was obviously thinking about a different episode.

Then, we’re back at the Sunnydale High School library, where Giles has decided to do some weapons training with the Chosen One while the library is closed for filing. Buffy would rather be training with crossbows than quarterstaffs, and she manages to get in a good Friar Tuck reference. She proves to be the superior warrior against her Watcher with the quarterstaffs and Giles announces that she is ready to begin her crossbow training. We reach the 15-minute mark right around the place where Giles hits the floor.

Which means we’ve also reached the end of Part 1 of our dissection of the Buffy episode “Angel.” Join me next time, when we’ll discuss the next fifteen-minute block of this story. We’re close to the end of Act I.

It also seems to me that one of the main tasks in a library would be filing. Why would it have to close to do it?


4 thoughts on “\m/15-Minute Hellmouth\m/: Buffy the Vampire Slayer DeepWatch: Season 1, Episode 7: “Angel” (airdate: Monday, April 14, 1997): Part 1 of 3

  1. Funny how reading a random article can spark epiphanies. April 14th, 1997, this episode of Buffy reveals that Angel is a vampire, setting off a romance between a high school girl and a drop-dead gorgeous vampire over 200 years old that will go on for a couple of seasons, spawning an ongoing series of graphic novels and reams of fanfiction.

    October 5th, 2005, Twilight is released, opening the door to a romance between a high school girl and a (allegedly) handsome 200-year-old vampire that will spawn a book series, movies, and reams of fanfiction. Makes me wonder if Stephanie was a Buffy fan…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was fun (just jumped into an older post, sorry😁 ) One comment, you may know already, in Season 5 the rule about who can invite a vamp into their houses changes when one of the characters mentions it has to be someone who lives there.

    Liked by 1 person

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