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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' fan recap: Beginning of the end

Season 2 | Episode 21 | “Becoming (Part 1)” | Aired May 12, 1998 on The WB

The first installment of this two-part Buffy the Vampire Slayer season finale has everything: origin stories, old friends, and Willow exploring her witchy ways.

The episode starts with a flashback, narrated by the demon Whistler, whom we’ll meet a little later: “Here’s the thing. There’s moments in your life that make you. That set the course of who you’re gonna be. Sometimes they’re little, subtle moments. Sometimes they’re not.”

In Angel’s case, this moment happened on a night in 1753, in his hometown in Ireland. Stumbling out of the local tavern, he sees a fair lady in the alley and decides to flirt. The lady is Darla, and she turns the vulnerable young man into a monster, setting in motion 200-plus years of violence and bloodshed. This leads us to present day, at the Sunnydale cemetery.

Buffy slays more vamps to send a message to Angelus: She wants to fight. Xander, bruised from the fight, frets about exams. Look on the bright side, she tells him: It’ll all be over soon.

“Yes, my love. It will,” says Angelus to no one in particular, lurking nearby.

A museum curator invites Giles—the Sunnydale expert in obscure relics (to say the least)—to check out an ancient tomb found outside town. Giles requests that they wait to open the box until he can translate the writing, not really wanting to be surprised by what’s inside.

At lunch, Xander reenacts the cemetery fight with fish sticks, and Willow offers to help Buffy survive finals. Principal Snyder, whom Cordelia describes as a tiny, impotent Nazi with a bug up his butt the size of an emu, scolds the couples about PDAs and threatens Buffy with expulsion, for no reason, as usual.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer London 1860: A young, human Drusilla makes a confession at church. She’s spilling to Angelus, of course, who just fed on the priest. “I don’t want to be an evil thing,” she cries, something her mother says of her daughter’s premonitions. She’s bewildered when Angel encourages her to just give in. It’s the beginning of their long and tortured relationship.

Today: Dru and Angelus can’t wait to see what sorts of horrible things might be waiting to get out of that tomb.

Willow and Buffy study chemistry in the computer science room. In a heart-stopping moment, Buffy drops her pencil into the same crack where the disc containing Ms. Calendar’s restoration spell for Angel’s soul has been collecting dust … and misses it by centimeters. Thankfully, some sort of supernatural force triggers her to follow the pencil’s path again, and she finds the disc. The girls have a “holy crap” moment when they realize what’s on it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rumanian Woods, 1898: Angel runs, panicked, into a gypsy camp where an old witch has just restored his soul as punishment for him killing one of their own. Memories of all the people he killed will flood back, the dead girl’s father promises, and he’ll know true suffering.

Today: Buffy and Willow show Giles the spell. There’s mixed reaction among the Scooby Gang, which leads to a heated shouting match. Buffy, Willow, and Giles want to perform the spell, in part to honor Jenny’s wishes. Cordelia and Xander think Angel should die for killing Ms. Calendar, and hundreds of others.

Packing up her gear for patrol, Buffy is startled to find her Claddagh ring. Their love theme plays. (What’s the debate? Perform the spell and bring him back!)

Surprise guest star! Kendra’s watcher sent her to investigate a dark power about to rise in Sunnydale.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Drusilla and Angelus kill the curator and steal the tomb. Angelus shares the legend of Acathla, a demon who came forth to swallow the world (exactly the sort of mayhem these vampires love), but was taken down by a virtuous knight, who stabbed him with a sword and buried him in stone.

As Giles explains further to Buffy, Willow, and Kendra: Acathla can create a vortex, pulling the human world into a demon dimension—literally, hell on earth.

Willow has been studying the black arts and might be the only person who can pull off the spell. Buffy wants her to try. “I’ll fight him,” Buffy vows of Angel. “I’ll kill him if I have to.” But in case she can’t, or worse, he kills her, Willow could be their only hope.

Manhattan, 1996: A dirty, miserable Angel is living on the streets, hunting rats for food. He meets Whistler, who knows Angel’s backstory, and wants him to get back in the game and be “someone to be counted.” In Los Angeles, Angel spots Buffy Summers for the first time—a bubbly blond teen with nothing on her mind but shopping and boys.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy’s first watcher approaches her with an ominous speech about danger and destiny (the worst new employee orientation ever). That night, she slays her first vampire, and gets scolded for breaking curfew by her arguing parents. (Horrible wig, great cry face.)

Angel wants to protect Buffy and help her through this. Whistler will teach Angel to fight and rebuild his life.

Today: Angelus, jumping at the chance to destroy the world, and his humanity, performs the ritual to free Acathla, but it doesn’t work. He’s furious. Drusilla is distraught. Spike is amused.

Angelus sends a vampire to school with a message for Buffy: Meet at the cemetery that night, or more will die.

New plan: While Buffy distracts Angelus, Willow will try her spell. Kendra lends Buffy “Mr. Pointy,” her lucky stake.

Buffy finds Angelus at the cemetery, and they fight until she realizes this was just a distraction.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Drusilla and her minions interrupt the spell at the library. Willow ends up trapped under a bookshelf. A vampire breaks Xander’s arm. Most tragic of all, Dru hypnotizes Kendra into submission, then slashes the Slayer’s throat with a flick of her fingernail, before dragging an unconscious Giles away to help with Acathla.

Buffy sprints through town as fast as she can, but finds only Kendra’s body. As she holds her fallen friend’s hand, in shock, Whistler narrates:

Even if you see them coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless puppets? … No, the big moments are going to come. We can’t help that. It’s what you do afterward that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.

Buffy’s mourning is interrupted by the cocking of a gun and a man yelling, “Freeze!”

To be continued …

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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