Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon
Air Date: Dec. 15, 1998

A lot of people don’t like the seventh season of “Buffy” but I don’t understand that hate. I’m not going to say its the best seasons of the show, far from it. But I don’t hate it. Part of my enjoyment of that season come from the final season’s “Big Bad”, The First. The First Evil, that is. And here, we get a taste of what is in store for us, with The First getting its debut in a wonderful episode that celebrates Christmas, as well as all of the things that make “BtVS” great; characters, interactions, and deep mythology. Introducing The First in an episode dedicated to furthering Angel’s back story (and, of course, complicating it) is a smart move on the part of Whedon, because it does two things: it brings forth a deeper sense of what is out there for these characters and it also gives Buffy an intangible monster to fight, so she can fight that intangible monster inside her, the one Spike mentioned in “Lover’s Walk” – love.

Angel and Buffy have sex in a dream sequence, and I want to stress that this isn’t Buffy dreaming about it, or Angel dreaming about it. I mean what I said: while both parties sleep in different locations, they meet in a dream and bone. And it drives Angel crazy. That’s The First’s goal, here. As we’ll see in season seven, The First wants Buffy dead for a variety of reasons. What better way to accomplish this goal that by driving Angel to do the deed for it? This situations leads Buffy to the conclusion mentioned above, by Spike: she loves Angel and, of course, Angel loves her, still. Friends? Yeah, right. They’re meant to bone. Its in their blood. Spike nailed it. Their snowy moment of guiltless admission is a beautiful moment for the characters, as they now have the opportunity to open up to each other about what they are to each other, and what they are together.

The technical side of this episode is equally wonderful. The flashbacks, something I love the Buffyverse for when they utilize the old chestnut storytelling device, seem fairly legit for a show of this caliber and, I assume, budget. Going back to see some of Angel’s solo career is a nice addition to his character’s history, even if the goofy wigs and facial hair add a touch of comedy that I’m certain they didn’t intend at the time. And the split-second CG effect of The First revealing itself as some kind of spectral, bat-winged demon? Pair that with Buffy’s expression upon seeing that form of the bad guy and you have a spine-chilling moment of pure awesome that I can’t sneeze at if I tried. Even the snow effects seem pretty OK, with the exception being how fast it accumulated on the ground, compared to the amount of snowfall we actually see. Its a nice way for Buffy and Angel to spend the next hours together, and a nice way to end the episode, and its all made possible by decent use of money and effects, liberally – I assume in regards to the former rather than the latter.

One of the other things I really like about this episode is that the bad guys seem like an afterthought. Most of the episode strays away from them, so much so that the “fight” at the end between Buffy and some Bringers is so short and anticlimactic that it goes without saying its the most lackluster fight in the season thus far. And Buffy’s conversation with The First, the last time these two will “share a space” (I put that in quotes because The First doesn’t take up space. Its kinda incorporeal) is succinct and to the point. No, the episode isn’t really about the monsters or “Big Bads”, but instead about developing relationships and bringing solace during a holiday season. Oz and Willow make up (not as much as Willow wanted, that cute little minx!), Xander comes to terms that Buffy will always want to help Angel, and even Giles and Buffy come to greater understanding over the whole “Angel” thing. Oh, and Faith finally shows up, has little to do, but is present enough to have a bit of development and realization that being alone on Christmas, even for a loner Slayer, sucks balls.

This lets the episode flow better than it would have if it had simply been about the monster-of-the-week. It just feels like an episode of some other show that happens to feature our characters from “BtVS”. Its nice. It is a breath of fresh air, having come off two back-to-back episodes featuring magic spells, loads of vampires, and evil monsters. And it lets the episode take a nice walk around the park, marinating in its own juices, rather than letting it become a weak filler episode. I respect the hell out of Whedon for this move, simply because it gives the episode added depth, meaning, and allows for the changes and motions this episode brings about to stick through the show from here on in. Its a thing of simple excellence, but one that Whedon is always prepared to bring to the table.

“Amends” begins the last arc for Angel and Buffy, the last time the two will really have on-screen romance. I’ve become a fan of Angel+Buffy during this run-through, and as such I’m trilled to see – mostly investigate – the believability of the relationship and the feelings expressed mostly by the actors. Its been an interesting ride thus far, through the first two seasons, and I’ve been made to change my mind based on the writing, the episode-to-episode interactions, and the portrayal of these characters. I never used to give either Boreanaz or SMG that much credit, but here they are showcasing chops I didn’t think they had. Kudos to the team for making a simple filler episode continue to challenge my views on the show, years upon years after the fact.

Episode Rating: 93

Additional Notes:
-Seriously, those Bringers didn’t really do much of anything other than toss bones across a table and then get beat
-Faith saying her gifts were crap to Buffy and and her mom
is funny
-Joyce vetoing Giles joining the Summers’ Christmas Eve dinner is telling of their crazy cop-car sex from “Band Candy
The First showing up here is part of Joss Whedon’s legacy-inducing far-in-advance foreshadowing. The same thing will happen with Dawn, I think, at the end of the next season
-Xander really did camp outside with cookies and a tent. What a loser. I thought
my high school experience was awful. Jesus.