Written By: Marti Noxon
Directed By: Michael Lange
Broadcast Date: 19 January 1998
To give Buffy a surprise on her seventeenth birthday, Drusilla and Spike bring together the body parts of a dismembered demon who cannot be killed.
The rise of Drusilla and a particularly nasty surprise for the Slayer means that this first part of a two-part story was a well executed one, with a cliffhanger that could change everything for Buffy and Angel.
The narrative of this episode may seem like a slow burner, but in reality there is a lot to break down. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has a bad dream, similar to her premonition that The Master would rise again, where Drusilla (Juliet Landau) kills Angel (David Boreanaz). Parts of the dream start to come true, such as her mother Joyce dropping a plate (let’s completely ignore Buffy’s grounding from ‘Bad Eggs’ apparently being retconned, though it is good to see Joyce appearing more regularly again). As a result, Buffy is incredibly concerned for Angel’s life, leading the two of them to get much closer over the space of the episode, with Angel eventually admitting that in spite of trying to resist, he is in love with the Slayer. It is later revealed that it was a dream that Drusilla had and that she was able to send it over to Buffy, which begs the question of just how powerful she is, as she potentially can predict the future and control dreams. Drusilla’s ‘birthday’ surprise is also a very ambitious one, sourcing the dismembered body parts of an incredibly powerful and immortal demon to finally vanquish the slayer; the demon’s power shown on screen suggests that this could be one of the most difficult battles Buffy has yet to face.
Drusilla is at the forefront of this episode, following her powers being restored in the second part of “What’s My Line”. It is great to see Juliet Landau being able to show the full range of this dangerous adversary for the Scooby Gang; her meltdown at the sight of an incorrect flower arrangement and her gleeful smile when deciding whether to gouge out the eyes of a fellow vampire were brilliant scenes in themselves. It is very much her episode though, and the actress takes her opportunity with open arms. In contrast, Spike (James Marsters) is now in a wheelchair after being trapped under rubble. Though he has his dry sense of humour, viewers can tell that he is incredibly frustrated to not be running the show anymore and that though he loves Drusilla, he wishes that the positions of power reverted to him being in control again.
‘Surprise’ also sees Jenny Calendar getting some major character development. Viewers know that she is a techno-pagan (whatever that entails) but do not know why she is in the Hellmouth. The answer is revealed by way of a visit from her furious uncle. Jenny is part of a gypsy order but no ordinary one; this order has sworn to make the vampire Angelus pay for killing many of their people by giving him an eternity of misery. I think this will be a slow burner of a narrative, as the only action that directly showed this was her begging of Angel to run away from Buffy and Sunnydale with the demon’s arm so it can’t be reassembled. Even her suggested kidnapping of Buffy turned out to be a red herring. This narrative does intrigue me and I hope that we see this order making a powerful appearance in the future.
This episode also sees the development of other relationships involving the members of the Scooby Gang. Willow (Alyson Hannigan), after being encouraged by Buffy, finally asks Oz (Seth Green) out, and it is one of the sweetest scenes on the show to date. He also inadvertently uncovers the existence of vampires and his hilarious response of “that explains a lot” was a lighter moment in this episode. I think this character has a lot of potential and think he is being prodded towards being a bigger presence on the show in the future, similar to Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) throughout Season 1. Speaking of Cordelia, her tiff with Xander (Nicholas Brendon) continues, resorting now to their class differences, and I am over this pairing to be honest. This may also be down to the fact that Xander is becoming more annoying with each episode that passes; his cocky attack on the way Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) spoke was cringeworthy rather than funny.
‘Surprise’ is true to its title, with a cliffhanger to the second part that is so striking and powerful. After trying to part ways on the harbour, Angel and Buffy are ambushed by vampires and lose the demon’s arm. Returning to Angel’s place (or is it crypt?) soaking wet and freezing cold, they admit some home truths and make love for the first time; the fade to white did make this scene feel slightly corny but it was the 90s. As they sleep in his bed following this, Angel has what appears to be a heart attack and stumbles into the pouring rain in agony, shouting Buffy’s name, as the unaware Slayer is asleep. What is happening to Angel, and does this have something to do with Jenny and her Gypsy Order?
Verdict: The first part of this episode, though feeling like a slow burner, kick-starts a lot of potentially powerful narratives. It is great to see Drusilla restored to full power and the cliffhanger was a particularly powerful one. With the aftermath of Angel’s attack and the unstoppable demon now free to destroy the planet, the next part of this story, ‘Innocence’, looks set to be a brilliant one.
Star Rating: 8/10
My review of the second part of this story, ‘Innocence’, will be published in a week’s time.
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