Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Air Date: January 20, 1998

The major difference between BtVS and the “Twilight” book series, in my opinion, is that BtVS is well-written as far as its portrayal of main female characters. When Kristen Stewart loses the vampire of her dreams for whatever the hell reason she does, my understanding is that she goes into a near-comatose state of utter depression until she tries to bring herself such danger that she’ll hear “Fivehead” Cullen’s voice in her mind. When Buffy loses the vampire of her dreams, she cries it out, then gets a fucking rocket launcher to blow up his ass (more accurately the Judge’s ass, since he can’t be killed by any weapon forged but sure can be blown the hell up I guess). Bella Swan demands sex and says “fuck the repercussions I guess” and ultimately becomes nothing less than a vain, uninteresting blob. Buffy waits for sex naturally and – surprise! – deals with the repercussions like a boss. It is all about the message of the writing, I suppose. BtVS is known for its episodes being metaphors or allusions to other things, in this instance namely the changes young girls go through when they become sexually active. I guess “Twilight” books are just about Stephanie Meyers wanting to fuck vampires all day or something*

ANYhow. Buffy. Right.

So after sexing Angel up but good, he loses his soul and is now Angelus, the evil dude Giles and co. read about back in “Angel” and the dude that made Drusilla what she is, today. And he’s a bad dude. I’m sure Whedon had a great time writing his lines and creating his cruelty, just as I’m certain David Boreanaz has a great time hamming it up, The Master-style, and being a bad, bad dude. The way he comments on his sex with Buffy is priceless, gut-wrenching, and purely vile for the sake of being vile. Its a great shift in the character we’ve seen up to this point and Boreanaz and the writers know how to portray this side of Angel. His interactions with every character in this episode are great and interesting, depth-providing stuff. Of particular note, his scenes with Spike and Dru are wonderful, charming, and hilarious.

While I could go on and on and on about the quality of production as far as Angel’s involvement with the episode is concerned (I will note, one more time here, on that: The fight sequence at the end of the episode between Angel and Buffy is so damned good, I forgive previous lame fights in the show a bit), my favorite moment(s) are when Willow discovers Cordy and Xander — and the subsequent aftermath of that event. Its heartbreaking to know Willow loves Xander like more than a brother and watching him suck face with Charisma Carpenter (who is smoking hot now. All the damned time). Her line about Xander being able to like someone they hate and not her is touching and painful, and Hannigan’s acting here is spot-on. Likewise, her scenes with Oz are equally charming, as is – once again – Seth Green’s portrayal of the character as both funny and very, very wise.

The big action set-piece is in the mall where The Judge is about to kill a ton of people. The top picture shows Buffy about to fire a fucking bazooka and boy does she. This is the episode that changes everything, in my opinion, and for the better. It mixes and blends all the elements the show does well for the first time. Its got laughs aplenty, great acting, wonderful action sequences, drama coming out ever orifice, and just the right spark of charm. The “bang” that is the end of The Judge is representational, now, of how well this show can put these things together. After this, its a completely different game and one the creators seem intent on playing for many seasons to come. The way they handle tragedy is now different and less joke-y. They cover it appropriately. Watch the interaction between Giles and Buffy when he drops her off. Its mature and an adult-like conversation, no longer Buffy quipping and Giles furrowing his brow. They are the Slayer and the Watcher, two people in two very different yet interconnected roles. But they are people at their core. Not characters.

The final scene of the episode is, in my opinion, the best though. Its between Buffy and her mom, the latter of whom noticed immediately there was something different about her daughter, and not just that she was now 17. Its a touching reminder that there is still a huge human element in Buffy’s life; her mother. She doesn’t know about her Slayer duties, yet (she will soon enough, though!) and just loves her daughter. For all of her friendships and relationships within the Scooby gang, and for all the love and understanding she was getting from Angel, Buffy still holds on – dearly – to the one thing she wants the most: a normal life. Her mother represents that beautifully, even if she doesn’t have the foggiest idea that the love and care she provides goes far beyond her mother/daughter relationship. Its bittersweet, what these two characters share in these moments, but necessary all the same.

“Innocence” – especially right afterSurprise” – is a great episode, and maybe one of the best the series ever had. I firmly believe this is when the Buffy Machine started, when Joss settle down and tried to make this his baby. There are bumps along the way, but it seems like out of this gate, the series ran full-steam and never really stopped until it ended. The rest of this season (with one notable exception to come) is now so good, its transcended a bit because of this episode to “great” status. Things are going to be hard for Buffy and co. from here on out, but as we’ve seen here with all the excellent production values they can clearly muster these days, its going to be an entertaining ride nonetheless.

Episode Rating: 96

Additional Notes:
-I love-love-love that Xander retains the memory of his army day back in “Halloween” and that he uses it so well
-Spike is starting, immediately, to not like Angel being so involved in his affairs. This thread only continues to develop
-Kicked right in the goddamned balls
-I side with Jenny and feel that, even though they are hurt, Giles and Buffy are being a little unfair
-Angel blows smoke after biting a smoking hooker. Nice touch
-Can I just say again that the writing is so cruel. Well done, team!