2) Passion (Season 2, Episode 17; Aired 2/24/98)
I knew I had to include this episode almost more than any other, because of one thing. Those stairs are seared into my brain.
I have a notoriously horrible memory. To be honest, although I’ve seen every episode, I hardly remembered any actual details about Buffy before I started re-watching some of it for this article, while my fiancée can recite entire episodes. Shameful, I know. But for some reason, more than any other scene in the entire series, I can always remember Jenny Calendar slamming into Angel on that flight of stairs beneath that creepy window and bam — like that, it being over.
Guns don’t kill people. Joss Whedon kills people. And this was the first time Joss killed somebody that viewers really cared about, the first death that shocked and devastated. There were obviously many more to come, but as Cat Stevens says, the first cut is the deepest. And can you cut any deeper than hurting Giles? No. The answer is no, no you can’t.
And to be killed when she was trying so hard to right her wrongs, to make it all up to Buffy and Giles, to make it all better! Gah! What a perfectly horrible, gut-wrenching death! The look on Giles’s face when he gets to his house and thinks he’s going to have, finally, a Night of Looooove with his love which is so adorable because he’s Giles, and your heart pounds because the whole time you’re like NO NO NO NO! Ugh! AND WILLOW CRIES!!!
The voiceover narrative by Angel throughout is also so dramatic and so good, full of ridiculous lines written in such a wonderfully Joss way. Which is funny, since Joss actually didn’t write this episode; it was written by Ty King. But the truth is anything related to Buffy is infused with Joss, so it still counts.
Passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? … Passion is the source of our finest moments: the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief … It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank … without passion, we’d be truly dead.
In any other show crafted by any other person, such lines might ring out as painfully cheesy. But yet with Joss they are always perfect, and I can’t exactly explain why, other than just because it’s Joss, and that’s just the way it is.
Of course, the other important plot point of this episode is that Jenny Calendar’s death is the final cog in the wheel of Buffy’s brain, the one that smashes reality over her heart as she realizes that she truly must now kill Angel. Sigh, this storyline. So much tragedy. It is so effing wonderful. Billy Shakespeare would be so proud.
And LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Has there ever, ever, EVER been a more perfect “OH SNAP!” ending shot (and there are SO MANY “Oh snap!” ending shots in this series) than a FLOPPY DISK CLATTERING TO THE FLOOR IN SLOW-MO?
1998, I love you so.