Angel isn't ready to give up his ghosts of Christmas pasts.
On Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 10, a future powerful foe (possibly THE Biggest Bad the Scoobies will face) makes their presence known to torment our favorite vampire with a soul. Their attack goes to show that the biggest damage can be done with just words. The First nearly succeeded simply by telling Angel the truth.
Was it a powerful tactic? Let's find out by rewatching "Amends."
Firstly, the ghosts of Christmas pasts offered the perfect dark interpretation of classic holiday stories, like "A Christmas Carol" or "It's A Wonderful Life."
We've seen the trope of ghosts used plenty of times in the past on other TV shows. The main character is shown how they affected lives, how things would be different if they were not around, and why they needed to change/stay alive. During Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 10, that theme was flipped on its head.
Angel being haunted by his former victims pushed the narrative that he needed to embrace his true self... the real monster inside. If not, his life amounted to nothing and he deserved to die.
Angel: It told me to kill you. You were in the dream. You know. It told me to lose my soul in you and become a monster again.
Buffy: I know what it told you. What does it matter?
Angel: Because I wanted to! Because I want you so badly. I wanna take comfort in you, and I know it'll cost me my soul, and a part of me doesn't care.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't typically stick to the conventional format with its plots. If there was a way to start a discussion or further the development of its characters through inner/outer conflict, the character would explore the topic. "Amends" offered Angel the therapy session he truly needed to tackle the issues that haunted him for years.
And the use of his victims, like Daniel and the maid, were constant reminders of his hidden guilt.
There's nothing worse than our own inner thoughts bringing us down. But, when the manifestations of those negative thoughts are shared back at us and hitting every nerve, there's no way to pull ourselves up from it. Angel got hit hard with HIS own truth.
Cordelia dropped a big piece of Xander's character history in a nasty retort against him.
Before Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 10, we knew bits and pieces about Xander's family history, but her comment revealed the truth of his situation. In reality, his home life wasn't the most ideal since the parents fought a lot, and his family didn't make as much as either Buffy's or Willow's families.
His tendency to deflect with humor made a lot of sense since laughter was his coping mechanism.
Cordelia didn't need to share that with his friends, but we can excuse it since he did cheat on her. She has no obligation to keep any of his secrets going forward. (All is fair in love and war.)
We'll need to remember this tidbit as his home life does play a major part in his future development. His fears manifest in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4 Episode 22, and the past affects his wedding with Anya.
The entire plot goes full-circle.
For Willow's relationship woes, she overcompensated a lot for her part in the betrayal.
She didn't need to rush things with Oz after he gave her another chance; time would be the best medicine to get them back to normal. Dialing things up to catch up on their relationship would only ruin things since it forced them to a position that they weren't ready yet.
Oz's responses to Willow perfectly captured the state of their relationship mindset. Clearly, they missed each other and felt incomplete without the other around; we saw the pained expressions whenever they interacted.
Their reunion in the classroom might be one of their most tender relationship moments ever. The scene when they allowed themselves to hug and reunite is so tender and heartbreaking. Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green did an amazing job to take their time and capture the joy of Oz and Willow's hesitation/happiness.
In the case of Willow's seduction, Oz made the right choice to not do it.
Even though they did care about each other, the reason for their first time would've stemmed from a bad place. Sex wasn't going to fix the damage that had been done, and if they had slept together at that moment, they'd look back at it with some regret. Oz took the mature path to analyze the situation and make a decision that was better for the both of them.
Oz and Willow might not have been endgame, but they were great friends enough to respect each other and do what was best.
Even in Sunnydale, the holidays weren't a wonderful time for the city. It's not surprising that they weren't going to get snow, especially since they're in Southern California. Still, it's great that everyone tried to celebrate with what they knew.
Joyce always had a soft spot for Faith in the beginning. (You know before Faith went psychotic and tried to hurt her.) I don't think it had anything to do with her hopes that Faith would take over for Buffy, but her maternal instincts kicked in and she wanted to protect Faith.
In some way, if Faith had opened up and reached out for help, Joyce would've acted like a mother to her.
Joyce wanting Faith to join them for the holidays supported this theory. Though, her immediate dismissal of inviting Giles, even though he's a father-figure to Buffy, was so hilarious to watch. Her response came across as almost instinctual.
The impact of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 7 were already being teased for a future episode.
You know that Angel's descent into madness had reached dangerous territory when he was desperate enough for Giles' help. The librarian HATES Angel for everything that he had done to him. (RIP Jenny Calendar!)
Angel's soul may have returned, but the stigma of Angelus hung over them. Wielding a crossbow as a defense mechanism seemed tame in comparison to what Giles could've done to Angel if he truly wanted revenge. Though, Giles was a rational man who was willing to listen.
Angel: I need to know why I'm here.
Giles: Here? Back on Earth?
Angel: I should be in a demon dimension suffering an eternity of torture.
Giles: I don't feel particularly inclined to argue with that.
The First knew exactly how to torment Angel.
Seeing the return of his dead victims was the constant reminder of what Angelus had done. And bringing back Jenny, who the Scoobies knew personally had been affected by Angelus, served as a twist of the knife. With all things considered, Jenny was a friend and ally to Angel before he killed her.
The First's words to Angel preyed on all his insecurities and his fears. Every word tore away at him until he became the vampire who considered committing suicide at sunrise. The First came across as the personification of Angel's own anxieties.
Jenny/The First could hurt Angel more than the others since she got closer than the rest. The same could be said of when Jenny/The First revealed themselves to Buffy; the image could connect more to Buffy than a random victim she never knew.
The First: I'm not a demon, little girl. I am something that you can't even conceive. The first evil. Beyond sin, beyond death... I am the thing the darkness fears. You'll never see me, but I am everywhere. Every being, every thought, every drop of hate...
Buffy: All right. I get it, you're evil. Do we have to chat about it all day?
Let's take a moment to talk about The First and the Bringers. Are you a fan of the future Big Bad?
In the ongoing debate regarding Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7, The First turned out to be a good enemy to battle against the Scoobies.
Mental manipulation and systematic eradication were its secret weapons toward fighting the slayer. No other Big Bad came close to nearly wiping out the slayer, except for The Master (who killed Buffy) and Glory (who caused Buffy to sacrifice herself).
Here, The First acted like a typical Monster of the Week villain, but their true motivation sparked some debates for their involvement with trying to kill Buffy. Like, why did The First think Angel would be the one to kill her? And, what other purpose did The First have for Angel?
Angel: I'm sorry.
Jenny Calendar: You're sorry. For me? Don't bother. I'm dead. I'm over it.
Who else was happy to see the return of Buffy's dream power?
As mentioned in past rewatches, Buffy's premonitions and dreams were seriously underrated as one of her iconic slayer abilities. Entering the dream world helped Buffy in a few missions by providing key details, and it gave her the warning that something was amiss in Sunnydale. Here, it opened her eyes to Angel's inner turmoil.
It's a shame we didn't get more of this valuable skill in later seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Though, we can't forget the sheer shock of when Buffy and Angel saw each other in the dream. Usually, Buffy's power was kept separate from the others, but this time the world opened up to her to view into someone else's subconscious.
Someone wanted her to see the truth.
It warmed my heart when Faith arrived at Buffy's home for Christmas dinner. She took a big step toward opening herself up and connecting with the Summers. If only she had kept with that theme later on.
Faith clearly didn't have a party to attend and had planned to stay home alone. After all the isolation she forced on herself, this visit showed that she wanted human connection and a family. And the joy on Joyce's face proved that she was welcomed with open arms.
Shame that Angel ruined things with The First's manipulation by trying to kill Buffy. Faith would've had her first normal Christmas in years.
Buffy: What about me? I love you so much, and I tried to make you go away. I killed you and it didn't help. And I hate it! I hate that it's so hard... and that you can hurt me so much. I know everything that you did, because you did it to me. Oh, God! I wish that I wished you dead. I don't.
Buffy: I can't.
Angel: Buffy, please. Just this once, let me be strong.
Buffy: Strong is fighting! It's hard, and it's painful, and it's every day. It's what we have to do. And we can do it together. But if you're too much of a coward for that, then burn. If I can't convince you that you belong in this world, then I don't know what can. But do not expect me to watch.
Buffy and Angel's heart-to-heart on top of the Sunnydale hill served full soap opera-level drama. Sarah Michelle Gellar proved why she won her Daytime Emmy Award during this emotional climax. No one could overthrow this soap opera queen!
The pair unloaded all of the pain they kept bottled up inside of them for one of the most intense moments on Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever.
For so long, Buffy and Angel hid in a romantic bubble avoiding the realities and troubles of the real world they'd face once she left high school. Eventually, Buffy would grow up and grow old as an adult, but Angel would stay forever the same as a vampire. Plus, they would never be able to experience intimacy again without fear of unleashing the beast.
Their romance had an expiration date, in additions to all the reasons why their true love didn't work.
The First may have toyed with his mind to push him into wanting to kill her, but its words helped them discuss their heartbreak. Things could never go back to normal, and they had no future together. However, they could have a happy future knowing that the other was alive and well.
Angel didn't need to die to make amends for everything he did. Luckily, he realized that and didn't burn up in the sun/snow.
What did you think of "Amends"? Did you like the first appearance of The First? Were there any other dead characters you wanted to see return? What gifts do you think Faith bought for Buffy and Joyce?
Want to join us in rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer? We will be posting new rewatch posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Come back here and share your thoughts of the episode in the comments.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.