An Episode Of A Teen Television Show That Still Gives Me Nightmares

When I was a kid, I was way more afraid of being afraid than of any sort of actual fear, and behaved accordingly: I avoided every kind of horror movie or scary story, and if I ever let my guard down and one did manage to sneak into my consciousness I obsessed over it for years, turning every detail over in my mind and feeling my heart beat creep up at the same rate as my anxiety. I would lie awake at night and think about home intruders, or murderers, or monsters, and just wait for the inevitable worst-case scenario.

As you can imagine, this made me really popular at slumber parties and other gatherings where screaming is a socially-sanctioned activity. I think I was trying to avoid, more than anything else, the physiological effects of fear: I hated the sweaty palms and panicked inhales and rapid heartbeats and thought the ideal state of being was totally level, you know what I mean? That changed pretty quickly when I became an actual teenager and started to love ~the thrill of the chase~, so to speak. It turns out the physiological effects of watching a scary movie are pretty similar to the physiological effects of sneaking out of a friend’s house to meet boys at a nearby park, or shoplifting a Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker from the mall, or ineptly puffing a barely inhaled drag off an older girl’s cigarette, and I had that hormone brain that wants ALL THE FEELINGS ALL THE TIME.

So, I mean, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show based on scary thrills mixed with heavy-handed metaphors for adolescence (puberty is just like becoming a werewolf! Experimenting with witchcraft is just like experimenting with your sexuality! Don’t fuck your boyfriend, he’ll revert to his original primal asshole state!) was one of my many obsessions throughout high school, even if I sometimes regressed and had to watch it through my fingers. And despite the fact that I can now watch millions of horror movies without lying awake at night listening for every bump (I know, I know, “quit bragging”) there’s one episode that has stuck with me and buried into my subconscious so deeply that I actually dream about it, probably once a year, and wake up terrified but also like, “huh I should re-watch that episode.”

So!! A brief recap!! This episode is part of the whole story arc where Buffy fucks Angel (nice) and he turns evil (not nice) because of a spell, or something, where he loses his soul if he’s happy. And so he lost his soul and now he’s kind of stalking Buffy and her friends, toying with her, trying to make her feel crazy that she ever thought he was a good guy, SOUNDS LIKE MY EX-BOYFRIENDS AM I RIGHT LADIES?! Jkjkjkjk. But also so serious.

Buffy’s computer science teacher (lol), Ms. Calendar, turns out to be a descendant of the people who first put the spell on Angel, and her tenure as a computer science teacher (again, lol) is a total sham designed to let her keep an eye on the two of them. But it was such a convincing sham!! Look at that bulletin board!!

“Cyber Space.” Lol forever.

Anyway, Angel is evil, and Ms. Calendar wants to make him good again, partially because everyone is mad at her for some weird convoluted reason. Like I think they wanted her to be honest about why she came to this high school, and she was sort of dating the resident Hot Adult of the show (get @ me Giles), but he’s mad at her, so she’s like, listen, I know how to make this all better, I’m going to turn Angel into a nice guy again, using a SPELL made with COMPUTERS!! She loves computers.

Angel finds out about the plan and — in the chase scene I dream about, in great detail, always waking up right at the moment he catches her by that big window — he kills her. It’s brutal, and vicious, and when I re-watched it I flinched and gasped, loudly, which made my super (currently here patching up a hole in my wall) say “Bless you,” which I appreciated for several reasons.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this episode has another, more important ~moral~ than the overarching one that appears in so many episodes of Buffy and other similar nighttime teen soaps of the era: namely, “don’t fuck anyone, and if you do you’ll be sorry.” But the preceding episodes, with Evil Angel stalking and emotionally torturing Buffy, are kind of…romantic, in a gross sense. In this episode, Willow even kind of references the romance of having a boy be totally obsessed with you: she says, “You’re still the only thing he thinks about.” It’s that classic adolescent trap of not caring about the difference between good attention or bad attention, or the good kind of arousal or the bad kind of arousal, the difference between being wanted in a nice, healthy way or being wanted in the boundary-crossing, emotionally-unstable kind of way. I was totally roped in to this episode because of how high the stakes were, but I wonder if it’s stuck with me for so long because it was the first time I received the subtle message that maybe my friends and I were chasing the wrong kinds of thrills.

Probably going to watch the episode where Angel gets sucked into hell next and think about the kinds of revenge fantasies teenage girls are encouraged to tolerate w/r/t bad ex-boyfriends. Bye!!!