For nearly 2 1/2 years, Joss Whedon and his team at Mutant Enemy
have told two separate, albeit linked, stories in Buffy and
Angel. With the exception of a handful of 'crossover' episodes,
many of which remained essentially self-contained and had little
effect on the seasonal story arcs, it has clearly been established
that the two shows are separate, self-contained entities.
It is almost a truism these days that the eerie Hush (Buffy
4.10), an episode with almost no dialogue, was Whedon's perverse
reaction to praise for great dialogue, and the semi-pornographic
(and less successful) Where the Wild Things Are (Buffy 4.18)
his reaction to network censorship of the show's level of violence.
With the move of Buffy to the UPN, and the insistence by
the WB that there be no crossover episodes, it seemed that they
would have to end. Yet once again, Mutant Enemy have surprised us.
In the current seasons of Buffy and Angel, we see
Whedon's rebellion against network dictates, with closer ties than
ever between the shows.
Perhaps the most apparent instance of this is the Angel
episode Carpe Noctem, in which the elderly Marcus, afraid
of his own mortality, swaps bodies with the ensouled vampire Angel.
While Angel struggles to escape the old people's home in which he
is essentially imprisoned in a failing body, the discovery that
he has the body of a vampire sends Marcus on a killing spree across
LA. Here is a human who revels in the bloodlust and super strength
of his vampire nature.
FAKE ANGEL (to Angel-in-Marcus's-body): Vampires don't help people,
you moron, they kill them. Here let me show you.
The overt message of this episode can then be contrasted with Buffy's
Spike, the vampire with no soul who is reconciling himself to a
life among the "stalwart and true" good guys [Giles in
Buffy 2.07 Lie to Me]. In Buffy 6.08 Tabula
Rasa, we see Spike (as "Randy") stripped of all self-knowledge
and awareness of himself as a vampire. On discovery of his vampire
self, he intuitively identifies himself as on the side of good -
"I must be a noble vampire. A good guy. On a mission of redemption"
- leaping to the conclusion that he is, essentially, Angel.
"I help the helpless," he proclaims with pride, unconsciously
echoing the motto of Angel Investigations. Contrast this with Marcus's
behaviour: each man discovers that he inhabits the body of a vampire,
but where Marcus's reaction is to embrace the evil, "Randy's"
instinct is to reject it. It is significant that he does this without
knowledge of his love for Buffy, or even of the chip that prevents
him from hurting humans and proved the catalyst for these changes.
It seems likely that this question of the nature of the vampire
(or demon within) will be critical in future episodes of both Buffy
and Angel this season. Buffy's Willow story arc are
further evidence that good people may at times do bad things.
It is of note that these revelations, so integral to the major
Buffy plot of Spike's reinvention, are not (at least at this
stage) critical to the ongoing plot development in Angel.
We need no convincing that Angel is a good guy - but how, when we
contrast Carpe Noctem Marcus with Tabula Rasa Spike,
can we fail to recognise that Spike is much more than the Serial
killer in prison analogy drawn by Mutant Enemy's David Fury during
Season 5 of Buffy.
If a soul is - as Whedon has suggested - an "inner moral compass"
or guiding star [see http://www.cityofangel.com/behindTheScenes/bts/paley4.html]
then Spike truly has no guiding light, except, it has been suggested
on numerous message boards, for his love for Buffy, the superhero
of the fight for good. [Note however that it has been proven many
times over that Spike does good out of more than a simple desire
to show Buffy that he can - most notably from Buffy 5.18
Intervention through the current season]. Yet somehow he
still manages to do good, to transcend the vampire, just as Marcus
lived down to the vampire in Angel's body.
When something changes, or a new situation is imposed on an old
character, we must suppose it has meaning in the Buffyverse. Angel's
training Cordelia to fight after all these years, with the attending
observation (every week) that she may one day have to fight - and
stake - his vampire self, parallels Buffy and Spike's very physical
relationship. Indeed, in Smashed, we see Buffy and Spike
fighting one another, with the ironic twist that it is Buffy that
is apparently not right.
In the developing relationships of the shows' leading characters,
we see another parallel theme. It is ironic that the final death-knell
to Buffy and Angel's "eternal love" was dealt not by a
staged meeting between them but by an off-camera rendezvous, dismissed
afterwards by both as unimportant. Each of them returned to their
own homes, to friends the other had never met, and to budding relationships
only the most farsighted, imaginative and enthusiastic audience
members could have foreseen when Angel left Buffy at the end of
Buffy Season 3. ANGEL: "I've been thinking. About the
future. And the more I do, the more I feel like us - you and me
being together - is unfair to you." (from Buffy 3.20:
Angel and Buffy have moved on from their first love, both to relationships
where one partner (in both cases the male) is more ready to admit
his feelings, at least to himself. Each relationship is built on
friendship and camaraderie, on physical and verbal sparring, and
characterised by trust and honesty; we have already seen Cordelia's
reaction when she feels Angel has not been honest with her, in her
immediate transfer of sympathies to Darla. Presumably there will
be a parallel in Buffy.
"Kye-rumption," explains Fred, to Angel (but really to
the viewers) is a Pylean word describing the moment "when two
great heroes meet on the field of battle and recognise their mutual
fate". The word is applicable to both shows: if Cordelia and
Angel have it, Buffy and Spike ooze it, even as early as season
SPIKE: I can't fight them alone and
neither can you.
BUFFY: I hate you.
SPIKE: And I'm all you've got.
[from Buffy 2.22: Becoming, Part 2]].
Spoilers, rumours and publicity clips for future episodes also
point to a further string of thematic crossovers. The lessons of
Angel's Billy - that an innocent may be possessed by a demon
- and the guilt that we see Wesley experience as a result of this
- seem certain to be explored. These may also tie in with the persistent
question on Buffy of what is "real", itself a more
than ample subject for an essay.
Buffy 5.5 Crush XANDER (of Spike's feelings for Buffy):
No, not creepy. 'Cus it's not real.
Buffy 5.18 Intervention: BUFFY: That thing [the
Buffybot]... it's not even real. What you did for me, and Dawn,
that was real. And I'll never forget it.
Buffy 6.01 Bargaining, Part 1 TARA (repeated by the
BuffyBot): The only really real Buffy is really ... Buffy
Buffy 6.07 Once More with Feeling BUFFY: Nothing
here is real, nothing here is right
So far, the themes have all been introduced on Angel and
explored on Buffy. This suits the more episodic nature of
Angel, and may also have been influenced by more pragmatic
concerns. While the Angel "Fang Gang" is portrayed
as a (for the most part) tightly knit group, the Scoobies in Buffy
are being torn apart. The nature of the strong Buffy arc
- and the need to follow the Scoobs as their lives are heading in
different directions - leaves less time to introduce and explore
these more complex issues. By running such a strong parallel between
the two series, Mutant Enemy open the way for a more detailed and
meaningful analysis of the characters' journey toward adulthood
During Angel Season 2, we saw the disintegration and then
rebuilding of the Fang Gang, as Angel questioned his identity and
mission and the Gang their loyalty to him. Their re-formed relationships
are stronger but different, and characterised by greater equality
between the core characters - their investigations are no longer
all about Angel.
Just as Angel's identity crisis led his friends to their own emotional
coming of age, Giles's leaving will push the Scooby gang to redefine
themselves. Giles believes that he is "standing in the way"
of Buffy's maturity and ability to stand strong. His reasons for
leaving are genuine, but his reasoning and attempt to resolve this
by leaving leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps Giles too has some
growing up to do.
Buffy season 6 has echoed the Fang Gang's journey. As the
Scoobies slowly pull apart, the Fang Gang pull together, with the
ironic result that we may soon see Angel with a larger core group
of friends than Buffy. The Fang Gang have already reached their
emotional maturity, have deconstructed their relationships and found
something that is worth nurturing, with recognition that each of
them has a special place in the team. In Fredless (3.05),
Fred explains to her parents that "Wesley is the brains, Cordelia
is the heart, Gunn is the passion and Angel is the Champion."
The Scoobies are still bound by their high school friendships and
shared experiences, but have little in common with one another these
Whedon has said repeatedly that this season of Buffy is
about "growing up". Now devoid of their parent figures,
the Scoobies' journey to emotional maturity and adulthood will not
be easy, but if it follows the Angel arc it will lead to
a stronger bond between the characters. Perhaps more importantly,
it will be real.