In the eighth episode of the first season of Angel, oh, fuck you, Joss Whedon. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
You know, I made a conscious decision to bring up how weird I felt about “Pangs” being an alleged crossover episode. I considered not saying anything on the odds that it was premature, but I ultimately thought that this is what I do: whatever thoughts I have, I commit them to this site, and then I deal with them later. That’s a big part of why I like fiction. The discovery process is only improved when our expectations and guesses are proved wrong. (Well, not always, obviously.) So, I figured I’d rather be wrong than to not say anything at all.
I regret nothing.
In a way, I feel like “I Will Remember You” is purely an exercise in showing us how much this show can torment us. It’s a twenty-five minute set-up to making us feel awful for the remainder of the story. Goddamn it, I just started entertaining Buffy/Riley as a real thing that could happen, and then Buffy is in Angel’s office, and my feelings are all confused everywhere, and then they are kissing and hanging out, and damn it, IT FEELS STRANGELY NICE. I watched this episode refusing to accept that there was any way I feel good about Buffy and Angel being back together, and then Angel has to give me a scene with these two lovebirds sitting in bed EATING CHOCOLATE WITH CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER. YOU ARE FUCKING EVIL. EVIL. I FUCKING LOVE CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER. Why? Why would you do this to me? Don’t you care about my feelings? Aren’t you at all concerned about how Angel’s mortality might affect me?
No, this story is all about feeling awkward and uncomfortable. There is a bit of joy, and I think it’s kind of hilarious that Angel actually shows some depth of emotion only when he’s human. There will be few things on Angel that will entertain me more than Angel re-discovering food after hundreds of years without it. Especially since chocolate is wonderful, as are Pop Tarts, and yogurt can totally be gross if you eat the wrong kind. Why am I so emotional about food? Fuck, I just love food more than most things.
Back to the actual episode. I’m glad that Angel’s mortal transformation happens so early into the story because it gives the writers a chance to expand on his exploration of his humanity. We get to see him walk out into the sun; we see him notice his reflection (WHICH MUST BE SO FUCKING WEIRD); we get to watch him experience a mortal body for the first time in ages. Before Buffy is even a part of all of this, I’m glad Angel is in the spotlight first. That also means we get to meet The Oracles.
OH GOD THE ORACLES. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH ALREADY. I love that the show just went straight to EXTREMELY STRANGE AND NONSENSICAL right off the bat. I fully expected crotch bulge David Bowie to prance by in the background, muttering about the power of the babe. Can they make this happen, by the way? Point being, I never considered Doyle’s references to The Powers That Be to be anything more than some disposable, flippant explanation for why he was there. Now, however, this seems to be a major plot point that will have to come up later in the season. I mean, there are more Mohra coming, right? Or is it some other sort of darkness? what the fuck is going on. Also, oh my god, I love the colors of The Oracles. They’re just so fabulous.
But they’re not more fabulous than Cordelia. They’re just not. God, she is on fire in this episode, full of that potent, truthful rage of hers. When she gets angry, all that obliviousness we’ve come to love disappears and she cuts right to the bone. UGH I JUST LOVE CORDELIA, OKAY.
Let’s just get to the real shit, though. Buffy. BUFFY. This episode was really Sarah Michelle Gellar’s time to shine, and some of my favorite acting of hers is here in “I Will Remember.” She goes through such a full range in the course of forty-five minutes: anger, confusion, awkward attraction, desire, utter joy, pained terror, and then ABJECT SADNESS. I think I would have liked this episode less had it not been so Buffy-centric. Yes, this is a story about how Angel deals with mortality, and how he’s not terribly good at it. (Lord, he got his ass kicked by that Mohra demon at the salt refinery.) But the writers give Buffy two very crucial chances to put forth her perspective. First of all, they allow her to call out Angel for being immature about coming to Sunnydale and treating her like she can’t handle seeing him. I love that this happens because it really was a shitty thing to do to her. Angel needed to be told that while their predicament was awkward, it’s not fair for him to presume he knows what’s best for her.
It’s why I was immensely uncomfortable with Angel for going to The Oracles to request his vampirism back in order to protect Buffy. In his mind, it’s noble, and the show makes it clear that he thinks this way. He is doing what he believe is best for Buffy, and he’ll hurt her in the immediate future to guarantee a better life later on. But how can he possibly know what is best for her without asking her?
Buffy’s reaction, then, is the necessary response to Angel’s decision. As you all know, I’m not the biggest fan of stories that don’t matter, where events and developments are erased and forgotten. While the writers give Angel the memory of that 24 hours, they do something else I liked: they made Angel and me feel the full force of Buffy’s emotions. What Angel chose for her crushes her because he did it without asking her. Sure, she might ultimately understand why he did it, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. He took away 24 hours of her happiness. That is so fucked up. And I know it’s weird to start the next statement with “I’m glad,” but I have to: I am glad this decision is not presented lightly. It’s awful. I feel awful. Everything is awful. Goddamn this fucking show.
Also, how do actors and actresses cry like that? Sarah Michelle Gellar, you are unbelievable.
Also, I swear to Gandalf, I don’t understand how people come up with one idea after another to break all our hearts. Damn it.
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Ohhh I was just waiting for us to get here. These writers don’t understand the term heartbreak; they go for heart-ripped-out-of-your-chest-hahahaha. Angel’s dawning comprehension of his mortality is wonderful, and he’s so happy and he gets it all taken away. 🙁
AND THEIR FINAL CONVERSATION, OH GOD, AND SHE STARTS CRYING AND SHE WANTS MORE TIME AND AAAUUUUUUGHHHHHHH. GLASS CASE OF EMOTION.
This remains my all time favorite episode of Angel because it shows us what Buffy and Angel could have had if they were not both champions in the eternal fight against evil. It’s a brief snapshot, but that’s what makes it so effective. Angel knows what could have been and will never forget – which gives him an entirely new perspective on humanity and even his “mission” to atone for all of the atrocities he committed as Angelus.
I do think it’s important to note that Angel did not ask the Oracles to change him back so he could protect Buffy, but rather so he could help her. He realized that he was useless in the fight against evil as a mortal. And it’s not just helping Buffy. Buffy is one champion in the fight against evil – she fights on the Sunnydale front. There are other champions that fight on other fronts – Angel was the champion for LA. That’s why Doyle was sent to Angel. Angel has been chosen by The Powers That Be to be a champion. The Mohra demon was sent to take a champion away from the fight and Angel becoming mortal did just that – he couldn’t be a champion as a mortal.
Knowing that there is more coming – more fighting to be done – Angel cannot in good conscience stay mortal just because it means that he and Buffy can be together because it would be selfish. It would be putting what he wants ahead of the greater good – ahead of all those defenseless innocents he has been trying to protect. He has to be a vampire with a soul to be an effective champion for The Powers That Be. That was a noble choice for him to make because he has to give up his own happiness – not to protect Buffy, but to protect all those innocents who have no one else.
Buffy knows Angel is right. It’s heartbreaking and tragic, but it has to be this way. They’re champions and they’re needed. They were chosen for a reason. That doesn’t make it hurt any less – and my God that was such a brilliant performance by SMG – but it has to be that way.
To this day no one can cry on screen like SMG, you feel it…each and everytime.