The theme of season two has been 'growing up', forced to deal with adult circumstances whether you like it or not. Here, in part one of the finale, we see an elaborate contrast between the vacuous 1996 Buffy fumbling around trying to stake her first vampire, and the wounded 1998 Slayer who is faced off against her first love and loses her friends in the process. Like Buffy, we also see Angel's history played out in front of us. His journey from drunken, sleazy Irishman to murderous vampire to a homeless man crippled with regret and pain, and finally back to the murderous vampire once again. Watching this exploration of both character's histories is pretty darn epic, another indication that Buffy as a series is stepping into adult and somehow legitimate territory. Compare Becoming to one of the earlier season two episodes (or even Go Fish last week), and it's pretty astounding to see how far the show has come in so short an amount of time.
Most of the 'juice' is saved for part two, but part one does a great job of setting the scene. We have Angelus stealing an ancient obelisk containing an ancient demon who can send the earth into hell, Giles kidnapped, Buffy preparing for a final battle with Angelus, and Spike becoming more antsy in his wheelchair. The attack on the library is particularly effective, and while Kendra is pretty much cannon fodder, her death is still shocking (and Dru gets a fight scene! Hah!)
I liked Kendra a lot this season. She had great chemistry with Buffy, and I liked the gradual evolution of a girl who has had such a sheltered and by-the-book Slayer education. She was pretty sad in a lot of ways with a tragic history of parental abandonment and obsessive levels of servitude. Aww. She made an impression, and in only three episodes that's definitely a compliment to Bianca Lawson.
Part one succeeds in creating a previously unheralded 'scope' for the series. We are thrust into a rich visual mythology which helps in underlying the themes of both the season and the series as a whole. Badass. A
Guest stars Max Perlich (Whistler); Seth Green (Oz); Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers); Julie Benz (Darla); Bianca Lawson (Kendra); Jack McGee (Doug Perrin); Richard Riehle (Merrick); James Marsters (Spike); Juliet Landau (Drusilla); Armin Shimerman (Principal Snyder)
Writer Joss Whedon Director Joss Whedon