The best way to describe this episode is 'gut-wrenching'. Joss Whedon writes pain like nobody else around, creating an hour filled with some of the most heartbreaking moments I've ever seen on television. Here, Buffy experiences what so many young people feel at various points in their teenage years: sudden betrayal. Somebody she loves and cares about is suddenly acting differently, treating her in as hurtful and cruel a manner as possible. She's also experiencing one of the worst nightmares of teenage love: abandonment straight after sex. Angelus' treatment of Buffy is horrible to watch, Sarah Michelle Gellar beautifully conveying how destroyed she feels as her entire lovelife crumbles to pieces out of nowhere. When she isn't crying, she looks like she's on the verge of tears. When she isn't collapsed on the ground, she looks like she's aching to physically fall apart.
The issue of betrayal echoes throughout most of the cast. Giles is devastated at what he perceives to be Jenny's betrayal of the Scoobies, while Willow discovers that Xander and Cordelia are an item. In regards to Jenny, I don't know if it's just my enjoyment of the character, but I feel bad for her here. She's screwed up in a couple of ways, but she's not the total hag that everybody paints her as. Her involvement in the last two episodes have been incredibly well-written, especially that intense moment where Buffy storms into her classroom and pins her to her desk.
Willow's sadness over Xander and Cordelia is completely understandable. She's angry because the guy she loves more than anyone in the world is suddenly making out with the bitchy popular girl they've hated for so long. That's gotta hurt. But at least she has Oz, right? Their moment in his van at the army base was beautiful. We can practically feel the moment where Willow completely falls in love with him, as he treats her with respect and tenderness and honesty.
Away from the beautiful character work, we also have wonderful action sequences. The casual dismissal of the Judge is a genius plot twist, the rocket launcher inspired, and Buffy's fight with Angelus under the water is stunning.
What makes Innocence so powerful is everything we see is a side-effect of the character's emotions. Even the climactic battle speaks volumes about where Buffy's mind is at right now. Every single character has their moment to shine here (the scene with Giles and Buffy in his car is so painfully real and beautiful), creating an hour that forces you to experience an array of complex emotions. We go through Buffy's pain as her romance becomes cracked and tarnished, we're appalled by Angelus' cruelty, and cheer when Buffy saves the day. But, like Giles says, the pain Angelus is causing will last for a long while. Innocence is the moment when Buffy the Vampire Slayer became more than a good TV show. It became iconic. A+
Guest stars Seth Green (Oz); Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers); Robia LaMorte (Jenny Calendar); Brian Thompson (The Judge); Ryan Francis (Soldier); Vincent Schiavelli (Uncle Enyos); James Marsters (Spike); Juliet Landau (Drusilla)
Writer Joss Whedon Director Joss Whedon