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IOHEFY - what does it even mean?

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  • IOHEFY - what does it even mean?

    I have recently (partly) re-watched IOHFY while re-watching POTN's Buffy episode guides.

    I have never been a huge fan of this episode. Or, to be quite honest the episode has always made me feel uncomfortable but I didn't know why.

    Pondering this once again I realized that I actually feel betrayed by how the writers pull wool over our eyes with the gender-swapping and role-swapping.

    At the core, we have a middle-aged teacher who has a sexual affair with a teenage high school kid. The boinking goes on for a while, then the teacher dumps the kid - allegedly for the kid's own good. The kid has a mental meltdown, murders the teacher, and commits suicide afterward.

    Look at it like this: A guy in his thirties or forties who is a teacher at a high school starts a sexual relationship with a girl about sixteen or seventeen who is one of his pupils. After a short affair, he dumps her, telling her it's the best for her. She has a mental breakdown and commits suicide, taking the teacher with her to the grave.

    That's what basically happens between Grace and James. However, the gender roles are being swapped and Grace, the teacher, is presented to us as the female victim of a male aggressor.

    In the end, Grace will also become a victim. But right now she isn't yet. She is the abuser.

    Abuse is not always about male vs. female. In this case, it's about the power dynamic. It's about a teacher who seduces a pupil. Which is wrong in each and every circumstance no matter how huge or small the age difference is.

    I am not even sure if we are supposed to see Angel in the role of the teacher and Buffy in the role of the pupil. Those are the roles they take on when possessed by the ghosts of Grace and James. However, what was wrong about Grace's and James' relationship was not (mainly) the age difference (which is significantly higher than the age gap between Buffy's and Angel's human years) but the fact that she was his teacher. There was a power dynamic that should have put an end to any kind of relationship long before it began. This power dynamic is lacking in Buffy's and Angel's relationship. You could even argue that it is Angel who comes to Buffy to learn from her how to fight for the good side.

    There is yet another thing that rubs me the wrong way. Obviously, Grace has decided to dump James for his own good without bothering to ask his opinion on the matter. It's not even that she is telling him "I am scared of losing my job and ending up in jail.". That would something he might have understood and accepted. No, she tells him "I did it for you, so you could have a better life." It's really a bit of gaslighting if you ask me. "I am hurting you but I justify it by doing it in your own best interest".

    Well, we all know that something similar happens in season 3 between Buffy and Angel but not yet. Angel has not dumped Buffy for her own good. He has lost his soul for reasons that were entirely out of his (and Buffy's) control. What happened between the two couples is completely different and cannot be compared.

    But the story doesn't end with Grace's wrongdoings. James (and I wonder if Grace knew he was mentally unstable) kills her and then commits suicide. Buffy takes his role but once again I see no common ground at all. James is a murderer. Buffy clearly is not. She might feel guilty because Angel lost his soul. But that was not her fault. She doesn't have to forgive herself and she doesn't need Angel to forgive her. She needs to accept that she is not the culprit here. James on the other hand is the culprit.

    Finally, after James/Buffy has killed Grace/Angel the latter turns out to be still undead, walks up the stairs, and tells James/Buffy that the fact he just got shot in cold blood by James/Buffy was an accident and not James'/Buffy's fault.

    Suddenly Angel is presented as the victim although he is evil. Evil, not because he slept with Buffy but because he has killed (after losing his soul). Buffy suddenly is the attacker although she was the one who has been mistreated by Angel the morning after their fateful night together.

    But Grace's death was indeed James' fault and it was a premeditated murder, not a friggin accident. I hate that the murder of a woman gets sugarcoated as an accident. But it gets even worse than that. All of this role swapping doesn't lead to anything. One kiss makes all the heartache and the wrongdoing go away and Grace and James - one of them an abuser, the other one a murderer - are being sent to heaven together. The victim even tells the murderer that she should be the one who should be sorry. But that's wrong. It's wrong that a woman murdered by her ex-lover should forgive him, take the blame and end up having to spent eternity with her killer.

    What were the writers thinking? What am I supposed to think of that? Am I supposed to be happy for Grace and James because they are now in heaven and together? Is there a lesson to be learnt for Buffy and/or Angel from this episode and if so what is it?

    flow
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  • #2
    I don't think it means anything. The episode is an externalization of Buffy's guilt over what happened with Angel. Through the ghosts, Buffy is able to gain closure and accept that what happened wasn't her fault. Or at least vocalize it.

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    • #3
      But I don't get why she can accept what happened to Angel through the ghosts of an abuser and a killer.

      flow
      Last edited by flow; 15-09-20, 11:10 AM.
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      • #4
        It's not really about whether Grace or James deserve forgiveness. Giles makes that point in the episode;

        "To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's-it's... it's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it."​​​​​​

        Whether James deserved Grace's forgiveness is debatable but it's not really the point of their story.

        In terms of whether it's wrong for Grace to forgive her killer and spend eternity with him, I don't think the story is asking anymore of us here than it is throughout the series. Is it anymore wrong than Buffy forgiving Faith after she nearly tortured her to death? For forgiving Angel after his atrocities in S2? Spike for his atrocities or the AR? Or Dawn forgiving Willow after she nearly killed her in S6? etc. James killed Grace in a moment of blind passion and it absolutely was wrong and horrific but I don't think it's any worse than what the other characters will forgive each other for. In hindsight, the episode would be downright hypocritical to portray James/Grace as a step too far in light of what it expects from us not just in terms of Buffy's romantic relationships but the actions of most of the characters as well. Ultimately, I think it's better that both spirits were able to forgive one another for the pain that they caused then stay trapped in an eternal loop of misery and pain as they relieve the moment over and over again.

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        • #5
          vampmogs
          It's not really about whether Grace or James deserve forgiveness. Giles makes that point in the episode;

          "To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's-it's... it's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it."​​​​​​

          Whether James deserved Grace's forgiveness is debatable but it's not really the point of their story.
          I actually think this is Giles' best line in the whole series and I totally agree with him there. However, I also think that Angel - soulless at the moment - doesn't need Buffy's forgiveness and actually gives a damn about it. Buffy does forgive him later when he gets his soul back but that's not the point here. That's not what she is struggling within this episode.

          Yes, she forgives Angel, Faith, Spike, and Willow. But all of them change, repent, and turn their lives around. Angel devotes his unlife to helping the helpless. Faith accepts that she has to serve jail time. Spike sacrifices himself to close the Hellmouth. Willow goes to rehab and only comes back to Sunnydale because her help is needed there.

          James on the other hand continues to kill. What about all of those victims he shot as a ghost? Although I agree that he might need forgiveness for Grace's murder, this is not what is happening. Grace doesn't forgive him. She says it was an accident and not his fault. That's a totally different thing. It's whitewashing what he did instead of forgiving him for it. That's why I think the episode is twisted and makes me uncomfortable.

          Buffy on the other hand doesn't need forgiveness. What she needs is to accept that Angel's victims are indeed not her fault. Like I said above that's something else than forgiving or forgiveness. It's putting the blame where it belongs. In a way, Buffy's situation is similar to Grace's situation, not to James'. And you could say that while Grace draws the wrong conclusion - she takes the blame - Buffy doesn't in the end. But that's not how the story is presented to us. We don't see how Buffy is learning from Grace's mistake. We see Grace and James ascending to heaven together in a most romantic kiss.

          I agree that it is the best solution for everyone that James and Grace can both finally find peace. If for no other reason than to prevent James from shooting even more people. But that doesn't necessarily mean James and Grace have to spend eternity together. They could each have found their own peace. And I do find it hard to accept that someone needs forgiveness who has not admitted his guilt, does not regret it, and has done nothing to repent. James still has a lesson to learn. But a kiss and a shining light from above made it all better.

          flow



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          • #6
            My interpretation of both the killings and James' behaviour is quite different to yours which is probably why we're coming at this from very different angles.

            I never got the sense that James is deliberately killing people. When he places Buffy under his thrall Giles says;

            GILES
            James needs her to re-enact everything that happened on the night that he, he killed Ms. Newman. He wants to change things, make, make a happy ending.


            To me it reads if James himself is stuck in this endless, confusing loop that he can't break free from. He's trying to change things by reliving the moment over and over again and hoping for a different outcome. It doesn't come across to me as if James seeks any kind of pleasure out of hurting people and he comes across as angry, in pain and confused. My understanding is that Grace is also stuck in this endless loop as it can't be James possessing Angelus/Ms French etc and there's no reason to believe Graces' spirit is deliberately leading people to their death either.

            I also very much think James does feel remorse and regret what he has done. I think even before his death he regretted it within seconds of firing the gun and that's why he goes to the music room and shoots himself, after all. The plot of the episode revolves around James trying to bring about a happier ending because he's filled with so much regret for what he did. And when James/Grace do enthral Buffy/Angel and reunite in the meeting room he weeps "I killed you" which shows clear guilt IMO. He seems very sorry to me for his actions and very self-hating.

            As for Grace calling it an "accident", I've always been a little undecided on this. I noticed that line on my recent rewatch as well and I actually went back and rewatched the scene at the time. I think SMG plays it as an "accident" of sorts. He's busy yelling at Grace and says "Don't do that dammit! Don't talk to me like I'm some stupid ki-" before the gun fires. The way he fires the gun mid sentence and the instant look of horror on his face as she's hit, IMO, comes across as if he pulled the trigger by accident. If it were on purpose, I would think he would fire it *after* he yells her at her and not *during*. He's surprised by his own actions here and the way he cuts himself off mid-sentence, so it reads to me as if it was unintentional. That isn't an excuse as it doesn't negate the fact he was threatening her or pointing the gun at the first place, but I feel like he pulled the trigger by mistake when waving the gun at her.

            I also don't think the episode is saying that Buffy needs to repent for her part in Angel losing his soul or that she needs his or anybody else's forgiveness. The only person she needs to forgive is herself, whether it's justifiable or not. By this point the season has already established two things; that Buffy blames herself for turning Angel and that Giles has already told her it's not her fault;

            (Innocence)

            BUFFY
            This is all my fault
            GILES
            I don't believe it is


            This episode expands further on Buffy's guilt and makes it evident that she doesn't just feel responsible for setting loose a demon on everybody but she also feels responsible for destroying "Angel" as well. Her self-identification with James is that she "destroyed the person she loved in a blind passion." I think Giles words about people needing forgiveness whether they deserve it or not applies to Buffy herself and not that forgiveness is something she deservingly should seek but rather that she "needs it." Nobody in the episode is accusing Buffy for being at fault for destroying Angel. It goes without saying they'd all tell her it wasn't her fault and she has nothing to be sorry for. But Buffy feels it and letting her forgive herself, regardless of whether it's irrational or not, is ultimately what she needed to get past it.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by flow View Post
              vampmogs

              I actually think this is Giles' best line in the whole series and I totally agree with him there. However, I also think that Angel - soulless at the moment - doesn't need Buffy's forgiveness and actually gives a damn about it. Buffy does forgive him later when he gets his soul back but that's not the point here. That's not what she is struggling within this episode.

              Yes, she forgives Angel, Faith, Spike, and Willow. But all of them change, repent, and turn their lives around. Angel devotes his unlife to helping the helpless. Faith accepts that she has to serve jail time. Spike sacrifices himself to close the Hellmouth. Willow goes to rehab and only comes back to Sunnydale because her help is needed there.

              James on the other hand continues to kill. What about all of those victims he shot as a ghost? Although I agree that he might need forgiveness for Grace's murder, this is not what is happening. Grace doesn't forgive him. She says it was an accident and not his fault. That's a totally different thing. It's whitewashing what he did instead of forgiving him for it. That's why I think the episode is twisted and makes me uncomfortable.

              Buffy on the other hand doesn't need forgiveness. What she needs is to accept that Angel's victims are indeed not her fault. Like I said above that's something else than forgiving or forgiveness. It's putting the blame where it belongs. In a way, Buffy's situation is similar to Grace's situation, not to James'. And you could say that while Grace draws the wrong conclusion - she takes the blame - Buffy doesn't in the end. But that's not how the story is presented to us. We don't see how Buffy is learning from Grace's mistake. We see Grace and James ascending to heaven together in a most romantic kiss.

              I agree that it is the best solution for everyone that James and Grace can both finally find peace. If for no other reason than to prevent James from shooting even more people. But that doesn't necessarily mean James and Grace have to spend eternity together. They could each have found their own peace. And I do find it hard to accept that someone needs forgiveness who has not admitted his guilt, does not regret it, and has done nothing to repent. James still has a lesson to learn. But a kiss and a shining light from above made it all better.

              flow


              Buffy feels guilty and responsible for what happened to Angel, no matter how irrational that may seem. Buffy forgives everyone else, but rarely herself. The episode isn't about forgiving Angel or the teacher or James, it's about Angel forgiving her. I know that doesn't make sense given your perspective on it, but that's the point of the episode. James chose her because he connected with her guilt. The "happy" ending is there to serve as a visual representation that Buffy perhaps is more at peace too.

              I find the whole episode on the surreal side because even though the episode makes plays that it wasn't her fault, the rest of the season says otherwise. They are always trying to play both sides. She didn't know and couldn't have known, but because she acted on her emotion, it's still all her fault. Even in Giles little pick-me-up talk, he still lays it on her. I've never cared for this aspect of S2 for a lot of these reasons. It's why I prefer the MOTW stuff from that series, I think.

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              • #8

                I agree with you, flow, that in this particular story it looks like we are being led up the garden path. The reference on the blackboard to Ernest Hemingway in Grace’s classroom is of course meant to draw the comparison between his situation and that of Grace and James. I suppose we’re meant to see them as star-crossed lovers. To parallel Angel and Buffy.

                But is that really what they are, either couple?

                Flow said:

                “Abuse is not always about male vs. female. In this case, it's about the power dynamic. It's about a teacher who seduces a pupil. Which is wrong in each and every circumstance no matter how huge or small the age difference is.

                I am not even sure if we are supposed to see Angel in the role of the teacher and Buffy in the role of the pupil. Those are the roles they take on when possessed by the ghosts of Grace and James. However, what was wrong about Grace's and James' relationship was not (mainly) the age difference (which is significantly higher than the age gap between Buffy's and Angel's human years) but the fact that she was his teacher. There was a power dynamic that should have put an end to any kind of relationship long before it began. This power dynamic is lacking in Buffy's and Angel's relationship. You could even argue that it is Angel who comes to Buffy to learn from her how to fight for the good side.”


                I always regard the Bangel relationship as a constant shift in power dynamics. In the end Buffy is forced to wrest back control on a moral level when she sends Angel to Hell, but emotionally she faces what she believes at that time is the final loss of her love. I think the scene between Angel and Buffy, preceding Grace and James’ release, covers every aspect of their dynamic, including that which is yet to come in the following season.

                Also, at the very start of the show, Angel behaves aloofly and mysteriously. Half the time he acts as though he’s doing Buffy a huge favour by imparting snippets of intel (ie he maintains a veneer of holding the power) but this is revealed as not quite true when you see Becoming 1. It is he who needs to pull himself up by his bootstraps but he shows little of that until he’s forced to.

                Yes, Buffy’s self-recrimination in this episode is wholly unjustified. As HT says, she assumes too much, in fact all the guilt of Angel’s change onto herself. I think I see your point, HT, about Giles’ little “forgiveness isn’t given because it’s deserved” speech. He comes across as more the Watcher than the father figure, unlike in Passion. But I suppose he can’t really help lecturing Buffy!

                Buffy was manoeuvred into her initial guilt over giving in to her passion by Angel himself, who mocked her after their night together. He was the one who told her her boyfriend was dead, and she wrongly took on the guilt, as HardlyThere said, for that “death”. And I do scratch my head, flow, over how we are supposed to think Buffy should be forgiven by Angel. I mean, really?

                But I can’t help but wonder if, as HT says, this is an extreme instance of how deeply we are in Buffy’s POV. She’s taken on board Angel’s mockery so deeply that she’s internalised singlehandedly the blame for the whole episode. It’s wrong, it’s horrible. But it’s true nonetheless. Angel is part of her being. Perhaps being instrumental in leading to his losing his soul means she feels she’s somehow lost part of herself. I don’t know, maybe that’s too much cod psychology!

                Buffy needs “her” Angel back – what she regards as the real Angel - so badly she’ll have him on any terms, including completely losing sight of his murderous nature in all this. And this is I think what we see for a great deal of S3. The only time she ever explicitly articulates what he’s done is in Amends when she tries to persuade him to stay and says that if he gives up and destroys himself all he’ll ever have been is a monster.

                Remember what she says at the start of IOHEFY, that the demon who has taken Angel’s place is wearing the face of her boyfriend and killing her friends. I could put up an argument as to whether or not Jenny was ever her friend – Buffy was pretty harsh towards her, especially as Jenny had lost her uncle to Angel. That aside, I think Buffy’s got it the wrong way round. Or confused herself. Angel is the demon, with or without a soul. She tries to forget that. She’s been trying to forget or overlook it since she ran into him. The possession scene brings that all home very painfully.

                So, yes, lots and lots of questions, such as but not limited to: what is the nature of forgiveness? Is it as easy as kiss and forgive? You could, I suppose, also argue that any analogy breaks down if you examine it too long or take it too far.

                I agree that the whole business of Grace’s murder at the hands of her briefly unhinged younger lover is glossed over. In fact, I’ve never been able to decide whether any of the re-enactments we see before Buffy and Angel get involved result in actual deaths. The gun vanishes in the one such incident Giles witnesses. But I always feel we’re supposed to think James actually does replay the whole thing, so that innocent people die before he can achieve peace. That actually parallels him with Angel, but also because Buffy has choked at staking Angel once already, resulting in avoidable deaths, it could also be her.

                Maybe I’m taking things too far. I’m happy if someone can tell me I’m missing a trick and that’s not what happens, ie the janitor doesn’t murder that teacher.

                The person Buffy has to forgive is herself. And boy, is there a lot of anger there. If the wasps are supposed to represent James’ rage and perpetual self-recriminations (a lot like Angel, now I think of it, who’s had as he says many years to hone his brooding skills) and if Buffy is the one he relates to, then her fury is venomous and pent-up. There’s also that business of the snakes, not to mention the vortex Willow nearly gets sucked into. I see that as foreshadowing Acathla, but also I have a vague memory of something similar in S8?

                I think it’s a very atmospheric episode and an interesting character study.

                I love Giles’ reaction to the swarm. One of the best ever reactions in the whole series. But as flow says, I think there are too many elements in it that are difficult to reconcile.

                Vampmogs said:
                “It's not really about whether Grace or James deserve forgiveness. Giles makes that point in the episode;

                "To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's-it's... it's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it."​​​​​​

                Whether James deserved Grace's forgiveness is debatable but it's not really the point of their story.”



                Yes, I think the bigger picture logically would be the huge question of forgiveness- an irrational act of mercy - within the show as an entirety. But I can’t tell if the writers agree with Buffy that she’s at fault and needs to ask Angel’s forgiveness for loving him (?), or if they feel she’s being too hard on herself and is blinded by her need for Angel to be the man she thought he was. Maybe the clue is in the song, after all?

                I personally think this episode isn’t about forgiveness in the wider sense, but focuses on Buffy and her predicament. And I think that whilst superficially it’s sentimental and could be regarded as “romantic” (strictly in the hearts and flowers sense), once you probe beneath the surface there are all those icky currents that flow has discussed.

                You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

                "There's a lot of comedy to be gotten from the world's doom spiral right now." Tracey Ullman, June 2018

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                • #9
                  I don't think Giles is being recriminatory in this episode. I'm referring to Innocence. The exchange in the car sums up the issue, I think.

                  I think in order to get the point of the episode, you have to acknowledge the steady stream of responsibility shifting that goes on throughout the season. The season and show itself tries to play both sides of the fence regarding Angelus and the soul loss. Giles tells Buffy he doesn't blame her, it isn't her fault, but when you look at the words used, it's clear she's still to blame for it, they're just not saying out loud. Her actions were "rash", she was impulsive, etc. These aren't words you use if you think someone is blameless. I think if you have trouble seeing that angle, it's kind of hard to see how Buffy, who is innocent in all of it, has any connection to James or Grace.

                  All that aside, whether it's rational or not, Buffy feels responsible and guilty. The ghosts let that play out.

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                  • #10
                    Regards IOHEFY I felt bad for the Teacher and cleaner. One was murdered and the other is now going to jail for that murder amd its neither of there faults.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BtVS fan View Post
                      Regards IOHEFY I felt bad for the Teacher and cleaner. One was murdered and the other is now going to jail for that murder amd its neither of there faults.
                      I couldn’t agree more. Innocent parties. And we all know the Sunnydale PD is deeply stupid.

                      You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

                      "There's a lot of comedy to be gotten from the world's doom spiral right now." Tracey Ullman, June 2018

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                      • #12
                        She was in her 20s, that's hardly "middle-aged". The actress was the same age as Nick Brendon and Charisma Carpenter.

                        But James was a teenager, so obviously the age difference becomes more important.
                        Just like Buffy was a teenager and Angel was an adult... only the age difference was much, much bigger.
                        You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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                        • #13
                          vampmogs
                          As for Grace calling it an "accident", I've always been a little undecided on this. I noticed that line on my recent rewatch as well and I actually went back and rewatched the scene at the time. I think SMG plays it as an "accident" of sorts. He's busy yelling at Grace and says "Don't do that dammit! Don't talk to me like I'm some stupid ki-" before the gun fires. The way he fires the gun mid sentence and the instant look of horror on his face as she's hit, IMO, comes across as if he pulled the trigger by accident. I
                          I went back to look at the scene and you are right about James clearly not intending to fire and not even aiming at Grace. He is more or less waving his hand while he is holding the gun at the same time. It is less noticable when Buffy takes his role though. She actually seems to fire although she is very upset. I then went to look at the shooting script and ist says - in capital letters, no less - that the shot is clearly an accident. And considering it was an accident the epsiode makes more sense. Now I am mad though they muddled that up, especially since he is clearly still to blame because pointing a loaded gun at people isn't okay either. Still, he hasnt murdered Grace and that makes it more understandable for me that she could forgive him. I think what I am alos struggeling with is that romantic vibe at the end between james and Grace that seems to imply everything is okay now because they have kissed. Which is there for a second for Angel and Buffy too until he breaks the kiss and comes to his senses.

                          HardlyThere :
                          er actions were "rash", she was impulsive, etc. These aren't words you use if you think someone is blameless. I think if you have trouble seeing that angle, it's kind of hard to see how Buffy, who is innocent in all of it, has any connection to James or Grace.
                          But that's my point. Buffy is innocent in all of this but still blames herself and maybe feels the others, like Giles, blame her as well. I am not sure if I agree that Giles does blame her. I mean, she did act impulsive, It's usually the case when you have sex. Most people don't plan it beforehand. However, there is still a dsitinctive difference to Grace and James. Both of them are guilty. Grace because she started a sexual affair with one of her pupils and James because he threatened Grace with a loaded gun. Buffy is innocent. At least she is innocent when it comes to Angel losing his soul. When it comes to not killing Angel at the end of Innocence, that might be another question. It's not that I blame her for letting him get away, but Buffy wouldn't be Buffy if she wouldn't blame herself for that. But then again, if she blames herself for the deaths he caused after she let him live in Innocence it isn't really presented to us as such. It's presented as two lovers who had a misunderstanding and make up with a kiss.

                          And that's the same thing that still bothers me about Grace and James. If they both can finally find forgiveness and thus leave their ghostly existence and go wherever it's fine. But their final scene is not about forgiveness, it's about romance.

                          debbicles
                          But I can’t help but wonder if, as HT says, this is an extreme instance of how deeply we are in Buffy’s POV. She’s taken on board Angel’s mockery so deeply that she’s internalised singlehandedly the blame for the whole episode. It’s wrong, it’s horrible. But it’s true nonetheless.
                          That's of course also a good point. Buffy thinks - as she said the morning after - Angel's cold attitude towards her was her fault because she wasn't "good". And she still blames herself for that. However, I don't see her dealing with that particular guilt or shame or blame through Grace and James.

                          Maybe this episode is more complex than I thought and I will have to go back and re-watch it.

                          flow

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