Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.
For every forward motion Buffy and Angel make, they trip over themselves backpedaling by the next episode. In retrospect, far removed from the first blush of watching those two spar at each other, it seems like an obvious indication that they weren’t meant for each other. Whedon disagrees with me, since he’s firmly on Team Angel Is Her True Love, so I’ll settle for saying that their issues are a nasty foreshadowing of the major development in season two. Last week, the events of Halloween cumulated in a make-up make-out session in Buffy’s bedroom. A couple of days later, Buffy gets all tweaked over seeing Angel talking to a pretty girl.
The pretty girl, of course, is our lovely and disturbing Drusilla, out for a late-night child-nabbing. Apparently Dru is not noted in the Watcher Diaries, which Buffy and Willow boosted from Giles’s office last week. So Buffy mopes around the hallways of Sunnydale, moaning to Willow that she doesn’t like Angel talking to strange women, and she certainly won’t ask him about her, since that would circumvent the drama that these kinds of relationships thrive on. If Buffy really wanted simple and direct, she would just date Xander already.
Her cloud of gloom, doom, and self-absorption is abruptly punctured by the arrival of her friend, Ford, from LA. He’s recently transferred to Sunnydale High after being lured by its high morbidity to graduation rate and looked up his good friend Buffy immediately upon stepping on campus. Since there’s now yet another guy who Buffy has affection for, Xander sprays worried testosterone all over the school while Buffy and Willow politely pretend not to notice.
TNAB (that night at the Bronze), the Scoobies plus one play a game of pool and gossip about Buffy’s past until Angel shows up. He’s an immediate buzzkill, since he doesn’t get why Buffy is being cool to him and hanging out with some new guy, and why does dating have to be so hard anyway? The Slayer and Ford take off to get some air (read: make Angel jealous) and walk right into the Bronze’s hunting zone. Despite her best attempts to explain why she was beating some guy into a pile of dust in an alley, Ford isn’t buying it. He knows she’s the Slayer. So cool, right?
He may know all of Buffy’s secrets, but she doesn’t know any of his; after they split up, Ford heads over to the local vampire wannabe club. There is ominous conversation. There are terrible outfits. There is an old Hammer film on the TV screens that Ford mouths along to. There’s talk of impending immortality. Aside from the music selection, I’m pretty sure I went dancing here in the ’90s. Hell, I danced with a guy dressed like this just a couple of months ago at a goth club.
It’s unfortunate that Angel just didn’t stalk Buffy and Ford when they left the Bronze, but apparently he’s too “mature” for stalking. So instead of finding out for himself that Ford hangs out with goth kids, he goes to Willow’s house and asks her to run a background check on Buffy’s pal. Not cause he’s jealous or anything. Or maybe he’s a bit jealous, but it doesn’t matter, because he knows Ford is up to no good! Willow is just as much of a sucker for this star-crossed lover business as the rest of us, so she agrees to do some sleuthing:
Willow: Uh, Angel? If I say something you really don’t wanna hear, do you promise not to bite me?
Angel: Are you gonna tell me that I’m jealous?
Willow: Well, you do sometimes get that way.
Angel: You know, I never used to. Things used to be pretty simple. A hundred years, just hanging out, feelin’ guilty… I really honed my brooding skills. Then she comes along. Yeah, I get jealous. But I know people. And my gut tells me this is a wrong guy.
His gut is right! On a night-time stroll across campus, Ford and Buffy tackle a pair of Spike’s minions. Ford claims that he dusted the one he tangled with – and even fakes a cough – but Buffy isn’t quite convinced. Her bullshit meter is pretty sensitive. She sends him “home” while she goes to consult with Giles about vampires hanging around the high school. This is important enough that Giles cuts short his date with Ms. Calendar – vampires take precedence over monster trucks every time. Buffy gets two important pieces of information from their time in the library: 1) she discovers that Drusilla is Angel’s childe and was supposedly killed by a mob in Prague (which explains Dru’s weakness), and 2) that Ford lied to her, since the vampire he killed just broke into the library and stole one of Giles’s books.
Across town, Angel, Willow, and Xander pay a visit to Ford’s vampire club. Angel is offended to see his culture being appropriated by a bunch of privileged white kids and maybe even a bit miffed that no one recognizes him as one of The Lonely Ones. Vampires are really deep, you see, and they feel things, and they’re so alone. I don’t even know what this scene would look like shot today. Maybe a bunch of the extras would be slathered in glitter or something.
While they’re getting miffed, Ford is breaking into Spike’s unprotected warehouse (“Do I have anyone on watch here? It’s called security, people. Are you all asleep?”) to make him a proposition: he’ll trade the Slayer for being turned into a vampire. But not unless Spike first utters some movie bad-guy lines. Ford is really pushing his luck with Spike, but our Blondie Bear knows an opportunity when he smells it.
TNMAS, Buffy knows Ford is building up to something. This is one of her oldest friends, and you can see how it hurts her when she agrees to the date Ford wants to take her on. He’s betraying her, and she has to play along. Well, somewhat along. Instead of meeting him at night, she tracks him to the vampire club where all the wannabes are already in attendance. She thinks she’s blowing his trap, but Ford was two steps ahead of her. He expected her to figure it all out, so he locks everyone inside the club. There’s no handle on the inside of the industrial-grade door. At sunset, the vampires will show up and let themselves in.
You don’t have to be a Slayer to get the incredible insaneness of this idea. Demons aren’t really known for their trustworthiness; Buffy rightly points out that they’ll kill everyone in the club. Ford doesn’t care. All of this was about him all along – he’s dying of brain cancer. This was his screwed up shot at staying alive. It’s too bad that Buffy and all those other sheep have to die to save him, but you know, thems the breaks when you think you’re an evil genius.
The plan proceeds apace. At sunset, the door opens and Spike, Dru, and the rest of the baddies let themselves in. It takes a second or two for the rest of the wannabes to figure out what a bad idea this was – the vampires fall on them like a pack of wolves. There are too many for Buffy to fight, but it takes her all of a second to figure out where the vamps’ weakness is. Buffy grabs Dru and puts a stake to her heart, demanding that Spike let everyone go or she puts Drusilla in an ashtray. On her way out, she shoves Dru down the stairs and locks the door behind her:
Buffy: You guys are just in time.
Willow: Are there vampires?
Buffy: They’re contained. They’ll get out eventually, though. We should probably go. We can come back when they’re gone.
Xander: Come back for what?
Buffy: For the body.
On patrol a couple of nights later, Buffy tries to sort out what happened with Giles. Men she thought she knew had dark sides she never imagined, and she was forced to sacrifice someone she cared for to save some innocents. It’s hard being the Slayer. It’s hard growing up. “Lie to me,” she begs Giles. Tell her a story. Tell her everything is going to be all right. Ford crawls out of his grave, a vampire. Spike kept his promise, which will be important later on. Spike always keeps his word.
Buffy stakes him before he can even draw a breath. She’s the Slayer. She’ll do what needs to be done.
WOW: What is going on with this shirt?! It’s like a bunch of little faces that want to tell you the future if only you’ll come close enough to listen to their whispery voices and then they eat your face. And then you’ll become one with the shirt and the cycle starts over again.
Bonus: Voltaire’s topical song, The Vampire Club