Written by: Ty King
Directed by: Michael Gershman
Air Date: February 24, 1998

Innocence” is the episode where “shit gets real”, but “Passion” is the episode where “shit gets real dark” — and I mean it. Up to this point we’ve only really heard about Angel being a dick as a vampire, but all of his pranks, while painful and evil, have been just that: pranks. Here, he makes every attempt to fuck around with the Slayer’s emotions and those of her friends. And in every sense of the word, he succeeds.

The strength of this episode comes from the writing and the directing. In fact, its so good on both fronts that I kind of can’t believe Joss Whedon didn’t do one, the other, or both. All of the nasty things Angel comes up with are increasingly horrible and awful. They may start as playful (killing Willow’s fish is just a nasty taunt, and drawing pictures – which shows up as a talent of his frequently on his own spinoff show, later – is just a lame way of showing he has some power over Buffy and co. But once he makes an attempt to mess with Buffy’s mom and, of course, mess with Giles by offing Jenny before she could impart any wisdom about her plans? That’s when his character goes from kinda-goofy to kinda-nasty.

Its a sad state of affairs for these characters, none more than Buffy and her two parental figures: Joyce and Giles. I’ve said it many, many times, but I love Buffy’s mom. She’s a great lady doing the best she can with a daughter that is beyond her understanding or rationale. The scene she has with her after finding out Buffy boinked Angel is touching and sweet. She cares about her daughter, but she’s losing any grip she had on being able to deal with her. There is a great shot of them on Buffy’s bed, both in profile. Their relationship is so strained, now, but it isn’t even half as strained as its going to be. By the end of this season, Buffy’s mom will learn about vampires, Slayers, and the things that go on in her daughter’s life. For now, this scenario seems tragic, but once everything is on the table, this will seem like nothing.

Giles has the best moments, though, both by himself and with Buffy. Some of them are heart-wrenching, but perfectly played. I love Anthony Stewart Head, and here he earns that love. His facial expressions upon returning home to find a romantic setup shifts beautifully between boyish joy and gut-turning horror upon seeing a dead Jenny on his bed. His blank stare when the police remove her body is equally powerful. But, obviously, the two moments that mean the  most for me are when Giles turns a normal baseball bat into a fucking flaming baseball bat and proceeds to beat upon Angel with zero prejudice (which Spike is all too happy to let happen, at this point). He gets his ass handed to him in the end, or he would have if Buffy hadn’t shown up. She saves his life, much to his dismay, but she punches him, they cry, and its all OK.

That’s what I like about these two characters, though. She needs them both, like any kid needs her mom and dad. She might resent that her mother is so demanding and disappointed in her, and she might not like that Giles comes down on her and lectures her… but she needs them. Without them she wouldn’t know what to do, she wouldn’t know how to hold together. Xander, Willow… Cordelia… these people are important to her because they are understanding to some degree. But they don’t fill that need any teenager has for parents, or guardian figures. Even Angel (when he was good) didn’t supply this need. The level of irresponsibility that Buffy had been showcasing is finally coming to an end, and soon she’ll come to terms with everything she’s supposed to do.

This episode is a damn fine example of how to portray these characters in trying times. While “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” showcased how funny and cute these characters could be in an appropriate situation for such things, “Passion” showcases how dark things can get, and how these characters do in fact survive even the shittiest of weeks (well, aside from Jenny). I could talk about this episode for hours, but there really isn’t any point. This season, above all else, is about getting Buffy to a point of understanding, both who she is as the Slayer and who she is within her group of friends and family. Between “Innocence” and “Passion”, she’s on the road to self discovery. And its going to be a bumpy as hell ride.

Episode Rating: 95

Additional Notes:
Buffy’s mom’s conversation with Angel outside their house is chilling, even though I knew nothing happened to her from multiple viewings of the episode. I just want her to move for the front door faster every time
-Cordelia wanting the de-invite spell for her car is hilarious and true to character
-I love how you only get to see it for a split second, but every time Cordy is near Xander when he makes a dumb joke, she gives him such an expression
-The shop owner dropping the accent when he realizes Jenny is a real customer is damned funny and a great touch
-Drusilla is amping up both the creepiness and the craziness at the same time
-That poor dog!