About Christmas TV History

Thursday, July 7, 2011

1990s Christmas: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

How's your Christmas in July treating you?  So far, it has been pretty hot around here.  If you've been following along on the blog, it's been pretty hot here too with all our amazing guest bloggers!  Everyone has eagerly joined in the fun and has been providing us with some fantastic reads from 1990s Christmas entertainments.  Today's guest blogger is Lance Vaughan.  He comes to us courtesy of Kindertrauma, one of my favorite sites on the internet. Yeah.  Proving how cool he is, he's writing about one of the coolest shows on TV: Buffy the Vampire SlayerClick this link to check out Kindertrauma and while you're there, make sure to follow the site.  This 1998 episode of Buffy is available for viewing on DVD and it is currently streaming on Netflix as well.  Even more timely, it airs on Teen Nick, tomorrow night, Friday July 8th at 11pm (EST).  Merry Christmas in July!

Merry Christmas, Buffy!
 I’d never be able to pick my favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but I do know that the season three Christmas offering “Amends” would be a major contender. It can’t be easy getting into the spirit of the season in Buffy’s stomping grounds, Sunnydale, California. First of all, there’s little chance for snow and second of all, it’s located on a doorway to hell (or a “Hellmouth” as it is referred to on the show.) The whole town is a magnet for demonic activities, which tends to make the hanging of tinsel and holly seem like a futile gesture. Making matters worse is that, at the point of the storyline in which “Amends” takes place, recent events have left our principal characters feeling disconnected and discombobulated. Just like in the “real” world some folks are having a harder holiday season than others. Buff’s vampire heartthrob Angel in particular, has been handed the sticky end of the candy cane as he is currently being harassed by an evil entity known as “The First” who proudly describes itself as something that even darkness cowers from.

Angel is tortured by his past and the memory of Jenny Calendar

Before meeting Buffy, vampire Angel led a long life filled with debauchery and sadistic mutilations until he was zapped with a gypsy curse that left him with a soul. As we all know having a soul means sometimes feeling like crap and that’s just the type of leverage “The First” uses to its advantage. Presenting itself as an assortment of Angel’s dead victims, “The First” gnaws at Angel’s sense of self worth and brings new meaning to the term guilt trip. The baddies’ most effective guise is that of Jenny Calendar, a beloved Sunnydale resident (and love interest to father figure Giles) who Angel murdered while possessed by his previous vicious self. The constant barrage of torment leaves Angel splitting at the seams and ultimately concerned that, in his present state, he will harm Buffy. Feeling that the world, and Buffy especially, would be better off if he did not exist, Angel climbs atop a hill to await the sunrise, certain suicide for his kind.

Can Buffy convince Angel to avoid the dawn on Christmas morning?

Having figured out Angel’s intentions, Buffy confronts him on the hilltop as the clock clicks closer to daybreak. She attempts to convince him not to go through with his plan and begs him to fight against what he is feeling. Angel, fueled by abject shame and his intense desire to protect Buffy, will not budge. It’s hard to convey the emotional power of the exchange as Angel’s self-condemnation collides with Buffy’s call to arms and both reveal the depths of their affection for each other despite the suffering they have both endured. Finally after tears and even a brief scuffle have failed, Buffy throws in the towel exclaiming, “If I can't convince you that you belong in this world, then I don't know what can.” And then it begins to snow. Yes, the town of Sunnydale which has been experiencing record highs of late will not be seeing the sun at all that day as it is playing hooky under a blanket of white. Talk about divine intervention.

Snow in Sunnydale?

If Halloween is a time when the wall between this world and the world of darkness blurs then maybe Christmas (regardless of anybody’s religious beliefs) is a time when the wall between this world and the world of light becomes equally smudged. Makes sense to me and why not? Christmas miracles are hardly new to holiday programming but Joss Whedon (Buffy’s creator and writer/director of this episode) subtly spins an extra level of meaning to the trope. We are all familiar with the idea that Christmas is a time for forgiving others but isn’t it just as good of a time to forgive ourselves? The miraculous snowfall in “Amends” seems to suggest so.

Walking the snowy streets after a long, emotional night together (sniff, sniff--where's my box of tissues?)

Angel is unlikely to forget his savage past but as we’ll come to learn later (both on Buffy & his own spin off series) great good will come from his desire to rectify previous deeds and make “amends.” Angel’s Christmas gift ultimately is more than a day without sunlight, he has been granted the knowledge that although the past cannot be changed, it can be used as a compass when seeking directions towards the future. The episode closes with Buffy and Angel walking hand in hand on a clean white road provided by the snow as a traffic light above them glows green, perhaps a quieter message from the powers that be that the time has come to move ahead.

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Christmas promotional ad


  1. Not going to read this post yet, since I haven't reached this far in my (very, very late Buffy viewing) but glad this show is included! I have been finally watching via Netflix and am in Season Two now. :)

  2. As Lance points out, this Christmas episode has serious plot points that effect the characters for the rest of the series -- and into 'Angel' as well. It's not just a GREAT Christmas ep, it's a GREAT episode within the series. It's very emotional too.