‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Only Christmas Episode Is One of the Show’s Most Important
This episode shines as a pivotal chapter that pushes each character’s arc forward.
THE BIG PICTURE
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Christmas episode “Amends” pushes the narrative forward and plants seeds for future storylines
- The episode explores Angel’s redemption and his struggle to find his place in Buffy’s life
- “Amends” also introduces the First Evil, setting the stage for its return as the ultimate enemy in Buffy‘s final season.
Supernatural drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s early days focused on Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) high school years while coming to terms with her fate as the Chosen One to battle the forces of evil. With Buffy and the Scooby Gang nearing graduation, the show’s third season was coming to a crossroads where seeds of further storylines needed to be planted to guarantee the show’s future. “Amends”, the tenth episode of Season 3, shines as a pivotal chapter that pushes each character’s arc forward, while also being the show’s single holiday-themed episode. Whereas the show had several fun Halloween episodes, its single Christmas episode focused on moral dilemmas that shone a light on the roads Buffy and company would take.
Christmas episodes or specials tend to be fun outings with little to no impact in a show’s overall storyline. With “Amends,” creator Joss Whedon found the key to making a successful holiday episode for a more horror-leaning series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer: relevancy to the plot. Instead of relying on spectacle or over-the-top tropes, the episode fully tackled what each character was going through to push the narrative forward. From “Amends,” we got the seeds of the eventual spin-off Angel, a raw look at the show’s couples and their rocky roads ahead, and the introduction of the First Evil – a villain who would become Buffy’s ultimate enemy in the final season.
Angel’s Redemption Stars in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Amends”
Angel (David Boreanaz), Buffy’s vampire sweetheart who’s damned with having a soul, has a rough time during the Season 2 finale. After having sex with Buffy and losing his soul because of it, he goes on a killing spree that forces Buffy to end his life. Following his being inexplicably brought back from Hell, Season 3 sees an aimless Angel trying to understand where (or if, at all) he fits into Buffy’s life. In “Amends,” Angel is being haunted by several ghosts of Christmas past. While torturing his thoughts, they try to get him to kill Buffy. Buffy in turn, somehow gets intertwined with his guilt visions. This makes them cross paths yet again and sets her on a mission to save him.
Angel tries to prove himself and his torturer that he’s a changed man. Thus, instead of falling into harming Buffy, he tries to expose himself to the sunlight of Christmas Day and finish his never-ending torment. Buffy tries – and fails – to talk him out of it, but an out-of-nowhere snowstorm ends up preventing Angel’s death. The inexplicability of the event proves once again Angel was sent back with a purpose. It also gives Buffy and Angel a chance at a last date. It’s bittersweet for those of us who were rooting for them to stay together, but it remains as proof of their everlasting bond. “Amends” explores the complexity of Angel, whose past prove he wasn’t good, not even as a human being, but also shows his present is what matters, for as imperfect as it may be.
The Scooby Gang’s Couples Face a Crossroads in “Amends”
In “Lovers Walk,” two episodes before “Amends,” Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow’s (Alyson Hannigan) very palpable tension culminates in a kiss. Sure, it was provoked by their belief that they were about to die – which they obviously didn’t – but it came with a price, as they were seen by their respective partners: Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Oz (Seth Green.) The former chooses the path of violence, while the latter tries his best to – ahem – amend things.
The episode shows Cordelia reverting to being a bully towards the gang again, and bragging about her leaving for Aspen (which has real snow) at the beginning of the episode. It stands as a signal for what’s to come, with her departing after graduation, from Sunnydale to Los Angeles to form part of Angel’s crime-solving enterprise. Willow being Willow, tries too hard to mend things with Oz. She goes all the way to push herself into losing her virginity with him, but Oz notices she isn’t entirely convinced of it, and lets her know there’s no pressure at all. It’s one of the first glimpses we get of Willow coming to terms with her sexuality, as well as the eventual break-up of the couple.
Buffy’s Ultimate Villain Is Introduced in ‘Amends’
Halfway through the episode, Giles, (Anthony Stewart Head) discovers that Angel’s visions are not only that, but the embodiment of the First Evil – the darkest of forces that shapeshifts and predates humans and demons – thus explaining it taking the form of several of his past victims, particularly Giles’s former lover Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte). Although it might have sounded a bit generic at the time, and with it not having relevance in the following seasons, the First Evil made its triumphant comeback in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seventh and final season.
Give its incorporeal nature, the First Evil’s dangerousness relies on its ability to manipulate its victims into doing its bidding. Thus, his actions have to be done through others, like his attempt in “Amends” to have Angel kill Buffy and his eventual manipulation of Andrew Wells (Tom Lenk) into opening the Hellmouth under Sunnydale. Instead of having the First Evil remain as a forgettable Christmas baddie, the episode lays the groundwork for him to return as the final and most powerful Big Bad of the series.
Though having a show set in high school represents a challenge when its characters graduate, Buffy the Vampire Slayer started to dip into what lay ahead halfway through their senior season (which is also the show’s best), and it worked. Given how Whedon tends to make his characters suffer, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to have Angel’s arc end in “Amends.” Thankfully this wasn’t the case, and Angel’s crisis led to the critically-acclaimed spin-off Angel. Although “Amends” focuses mainly on Angel and his past, it was pivotal for the future of the whole Buffyverse, while also marking the one time the show dabbled in holiday cheer.
Original article at Collider.
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