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November 29 2007

Thanksgiving? So over. A look at Buffy 3X10, Amends. It's that time of year again. Bring on the holiday episodes! writer, Jason Chamberlain, reviews A Very Special Buffy Christmas. Discuss.

I really love the episode, but certain parts of that final, big exchange between Buffy and Angel have always turned me off - it has always seemed just slightly overcooked. Specifically, I'm thinking of the lines "And ever shall be" and "Am I a righteous man". Don't know if it was the writing or the delivery for those two, but they just have never gone down easy for me.

Of course, this is just my view of the episode.
Well, I just photoshopped a wreath for my website featuring Buffy and Angel in the center.
And yes, Angel did become a righteous man, and this episode showed him he could.
I actually loved that particular moment, adam_tvs. Obviously, different people's mileage may vary.

Was this the episode Joss wanted to shoot in Ireland?
I'm fine with everything but the snow.

impalergeneral how did this episode show him that he could?
I'm of the camp that thinks the episode was overdone, and not totally successful. The final exchange was, for me, also kinda hoaky.

I think my biggest problem was David Boreanaz carrying most of the scenes. I don't think he could really do this until he had his own show. And now I'm going to duck and cover from all the DB fans.
As far as the "overcooked" lines, remember that Angel may have the veneer of a twentieth century man, but he's not. He's still got a little of the religious outlook that he would have grown up with in Ireland. You can even see it in Angelus. Look at his obsession with killing nuns.
I've said this before (since we discuss this episode every year at this time, it's almost like putting up a tree), but my favorite aspect of "Amends" is how it inverts "It's a Wonderful Life":
Clarence is the First Evil and the idea is to convince George Bailey/Angel to commit suicide instead of not. The world is shown to be a horrible place because he was there, not because he wasn't. And instead of earning wings, the first evil gets to turn into an ugly crab thingy... Maybe the last part doesn't fit quite so well.

That makes the final message of the episode all the nicer: instead the value of your life consisting of what you've done in the past as the movie would have it, the value of a life lies in what you do and what you will do.
And yes, the snow is hokey, but if "Amends" is an inversion of the holiday movie genre, it needs to adopt certain elements of that genre and hokey is where that particular kind of movie lives.
By my lights, "Amends" is a top ten all-time Buffy episode.

The language that's been impugned here is, for me, utterly perfect. The exchange between Buffy and Angel where she fairly screams at him is pretty much identical to how I felt when first viewing that episode. And the miracle is so beautiful, even if the snow is hokey...yes, I cry, pretty much every time I see it.

And the Barry, that was awesome, too.

Seriously, a transcendent, brilliant episode.
Ditto on the transcendent for me.

[ edited by shambleau on 2007-11-30 03:07 ]
I like Biff Turkle's take on this, and I wanted to clarify that Buffy wanted to show Angel that he was worth saving. How he was saved may have led to his eventual decision to head to L-A to help the helpless, a job that can require some righteousness.
Besides, seeing Buffy and Angel walking in the snow is one of the best TV holiday images ever.
"I don't need the strength. I just need the sun to rise."

This will always be one my favorite lines of the show, ever. Something about it just hits me right in the gut. Beautifully done.
I was one of the unlucky many who never had the chance to watch this episode until it came out on DVD, although I read both the transcript and the shooting script for it in the meantime. At first, I thought that the episode worked a LOT better on paper than on screen because, like some people mentioned, some of the lines sounded hokey when spoken out loud, even though in its written form, the dialogue is among the most powerful I've ever read.

Since then, I've warmed up to it because even though individual lines might have an element of cheese to them, I think Biff nailed it straight on in saying the overall message of the episode is powerful.
I watched Amends again for the umpteenth time after seeing this thread. What struck me after watching it so many times was how beautifully put together the story was, as a film. All the cuts to different parts, different characters, work perfectly. And there's no cheese as far as I'm concerned. If you don't like the snow you don't like the episode. Joss said so. The snow was the show. I still cried a little bit at the end, like I didn't have that scene memorized.
Hands down, Amends sits close to the top of fave eps. I LOVELOVELOVE the Buffy/Angel exchange at the end. It's SO powerful and so right. I cry everytime I watch it. It's just so appropriate.
I'm firmly in the hokey camp (sorry, Joss), I think the ending is seriously overwrought. That being said, the episode in it's entirety is beautifully put together. But still a long way from Joss's finest moments as a director. And Amends is certainly one of the best examples of foreshadowing in a long-arc storyline on a TV series ever, when you skip ahead to the final season (re. The First).

I'm no DB fan, I think he's easily the weakest major actor ever on BtS. I think he improved over time, but I always thought the best thing he ever did on BtS was Passion, by a mile. And that he didn't realize his full potential until he had his own show.
When I'm watching the DVD's, this is an ep I usually skip.
If you don't like the snow you don't like the episode. Joss said so. The snow was the show.

It's not that I dislike the idea of the snow, that's lovely IMO, it's the actual "snow" that's a problem. Obviously though, some things are just hard to do in southern California (and it needed to be a blazing hot day that became snowy so even filming it elsewhere would've been tough).

The episode is hokey, some of the lines are delivered a bit heavy and the "outside" scenes look more like an indoor set than at almost any time in all of Buffy and Angel.

And yet, it's beautiful. Go figure ;).
I also think the dialogue is a little much, and the snow looks like soap suds, and I do not care. I love Buffy's(Joss's) definition of Strong... that's a thread that continues to the last episode of AtS.
Hey, I'm from LA and I've seen the snow fall at Disneyland after the parade, and I thought the snow on Amends looked just fine. (OK, maybe I'm not a snow expert.)

I guess I'm in the same camp as Saje and gingeriffic. I think the Buffy/Angel exchange is over-the-top hokey, and yet I find it moving. How can it be?
What I find annoying about "Amends," even after all this time, is that it represents one of Joss' few failings as a writer: he wrote himself into a corner, and couldn't find a satisfactory way out.

The reason the snow comes off as hokey to me is that the miracle isn't earned. I know, I know: miracles aren't SUPPOSED to be earned--they're God's grace. But when you talk about a Joss Whedon show, you aren't talking about God's grace. There are supernatural forces, yes, but when it comes down to people living in this world, it's always the hard choices, without the word from higher up if it has any meaning whatsoever. "If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do." That's a Joss Whedon show.

The whole Buffy/Angel exchange on the hilltop is magnificent, and then Joss completely contradicts it with the miracle snow. Angel never gets to find a reason for HIMSELF to go on (un)living, relying on the crumbs thrown at him from TPTB to give him purpose. (To a lesser extent, this would be a problem in his own series, too.)

Look, I'm not a Scrooge. I think even an atheist like Joss can occasionally come out with, "Sometimes, the universe gives you a break." But the miracle snow doesn't feel organic to the series--and (um) it does presage later moments in the series when Joss would just pull something out of his hat when backed into a narrative corner. (Xander. OMWF. 'Nuff said.)

Yes, the snow on the downtown Sunnydale street was bad, because snow falls evenly, and for some reason that looked like an artificial snow-like substance that had been blown out of a hose in big ruffles. But the rest of the snow, in the air and on the roofs, looked good. The ruffles are not bad enough to cancel my sniffles.
For me cjl, the point is he earns it afterwards. TPTB show him that he's worth enough to be given a second chance and he then goes on to put it to rather spiffy, apocalypse averting use in "Angel".

And I think maybe especially atheists want to see that in fiction, primarily of course because we don't believe it actually happens in real life ;).

(TPTB are kind of like the Buffyverse's Superman. You can't bank on them and it makes sense to take care of yourself as much as possible, but every now and then, when all hope is lost and death seems certain, you might just look out a crashing aeroplane's window and see a red and blue streak come to catch you as you fall ;)
Yeah, he does earn it afterwards. But I never had the feeling that Angel truly had a reason to go on, one that satisfied me was organic to his character, until Connor came along. And even then, it took until the latter stages of ANGEL S5 until it all crystallized for me: "I fight evil because I want to make a better world for my son and all the children like him. And I can kick evil's ass better than anybody." Now THAT, kids, is motivation.

So I've never viewed the miracle at the heart of Amends as a triumph for Angel's character. It was a stopgap (at best), until he found a reason to exist on this Earth for himself, five years later.

[ edited by cjl on 2007-11-30 17:09 ]
Yeah, I don't disagree with that cjl. It wasn't a triumph, just another shot at (un)life - all the romance was in the miracle itself, not what it said about Angel.

It's pure wish fulfilment basically. There's a plan (of sorts) and sometimes, someone or thing is looking out for us enough to give out second chances. Who doesn't want to believe that ?

(even if the flip side - i.e. who/whatever it is can also squash you like a bug as arbitrarily as they hand out those chances - is a bit less comforting to contemplate ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2007-11-30 18:14 ]
The language is over the top?! Folks, we're talking about a vampire filled with remorse for horrific past actions, killed by the girl he loves, sent to Hell for some unknown period (his time), then brought back but forever barred from finding complete love with that girl again or he'll lose his soul, in the process of being driven insane by an evil force he knows nothing about; and the girl who's life is spent killing vampires and demons, who had to stick a sword through the man she loves sending him to Hell for eternity (she thought) while he was looking at her with total love and trust, who found her love has somehow come back to and is now trying to talk him into not committing suicide.

These are characters whose *lives* are over the top! Given the level of emotion here, the language is perfectly suited to it.

For the record, I hate sappy Christmas stories. But to me "Amends" is one of the most powerful Buffy/Angel relationship episodes. I put the ending up there with the moment in "I Only Have Eyes for You" when in the middle of the embrace they come to their own identities. Buffy's disbelieving "Angel?" is so heart-wrenching. (Yes, both those episodes still make me cry). That's also one of the reasons I so strongly dislike the Angel/Buffy interaction in Buffy season 7, when they talk about getting back together so casually, since Wes has told Angel he can just stop worrying about ever feeling a moment of complete happiness. To me that just undermines all the meaning of the emotion and pain the characters went through in these episodes.

As for the miracle snow, it's not a reward, it's not there because Angel deserved it. It's there because something powerful needs Angel to stay undead, and it's pretty clear that its the PTB that need him as a champion. Case closed.
My one issue with this episode is the clothing - the fact that it's supposed to be one of the hottest Christmas's on record, and everyone's going around in long sleeves and jackets. I always find that a little jarring. I wish they could find some way to CGI the long sleeves off people.
Give it 20 years, Joss can do that at the same time he CGs all the stakes into walkie-talkies and has Giles carefully wipe Ben's nose with his hanky before calling an ambulance and making sure he gets the best damn care in the whole state.
Ha! I was quite pleased when Giles killed Ben. And not just because I think Ben is horrible, but because it was so damn interesting to see what Giles is capable of. I still hope they come back to that in the comic...

On subject, do we know this is a miracle from the PTB? Maybe it was W&H!! I mean, they're pretty much deities, right? They want/need Angel to live...Hmmmmmmmm
"If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do." That's a Joss Whedon show.... The whole Buffy/Angel exchange on the hilltop is magnificent, and then Joss completely contradicts it with the miracle snow. Angel never gets to find a reason for HIMSELF to go on (un)living....

Here's Angel in Gingerbread, the very next episode, talking to Buffy, who's been told by Joyce that what she does is pointless:

"Buffy, you know, I'm still figuring things out. There's a lot I don't understand. But I do know it's important to keep fighting. I learned that from you."

Buffy: "But we never..."

Angel: "We never win."

Buffy: "Not completely."

Angel: "We never will. That's not why we fight. We do it 'cause there's things worth fighting for. Those kids. Their parents."

There's the "If nothing we do matters" speech in embryonic form right there, along with a pre-Connor appreciation of how they can help children to have better lives. To me those lines show Angel picked up more than enough reasons to go on for himself from what happened in Amends. The snow gave him time to recover from the First-induced despair, to let Buffy's words sink in, and, not incidentally, to re-bond with Buffy. You see the effects in Gingerbread. He's still a work-in-progress, true, but if he didn't stumble, have relapses, and keep trudging forward, it wouldn't be life-like and there wouldn't be a show.
Amends seems like an example of when Buffy ignores Faith's needs to deal with her own life. And, I can't blame her for going to deal with Angel, but it IS an example of Buffy and Faith failing to connect - Faith made a tremendous gesture in coming to the Summers family Christmas eve dinner, and then Buffy bailed. Am I the only one who feels terrible for Faith here?
Sorry guys, but I'd like to point out something out: as much as Amends is Angel's show, as much it isn't. What I always liked better than the Angel-part, was the Xander, Buffy and Giles needing to forgive part.

The snow (as little as it looks like actual snow (and I'm a snow expert!) isn't a sign for Angel, it's much more a sign for the people around him... and just being able to move on and going in the next round isn't exactly relieving either.

And about Faith being left out: I got the impression that she wasn't because she maybe didn't have a friend slayer on Christmas Eve, but at least a non-drunk Slayer-Mum, who cared about her, and only her, and she had a mission, Buffy trusted her to keep Joyce safe. That's something she was clearly appreciating...
While I can see how some could find some of the hilltop exchange in "Amends" OTT (but honestly, it wouldn't exactly be the only time that Buffy and Angel got OTT dramatic with each other), I personally really like Angel's anguished "Am I a thing worth saving [iirc]? Am I a righteous man?!", as delivered by Mr. Boreanaz.

And I'm also inclined to think that the snow was caused by the PTB. After all, they seem to be the ones who brought him back from Hell-dimension; and they, too, needed him... particularly the one eventually to be known as Jasmine....

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