Synopsis: It is Christmastime in Sunnydale, and the heat is unbearable. Angel's guilt is also becoming unbearable. He prepares to end it all by killing himself.
Review: I have extremely mixed feelings about this episode. The episode begins slow, but I never bore of it. I am getting tired of all the characters moping about because of heart break. At first, it was dramatic. Now I just want everyone to get over it.
On the surface, this episode presents an intriguing Christmas whodunit: Who is torturing Angel? And why did Angel return from Hell in the first place. Unfortunately, we are not given a satisfactory answer for Angel's return. It might/might not have been the doing of some incorporeal First Evil trying to do Buffy in.
Like an iceberg, you have to go beneath the surface for the theme in most of this episode. Angel has committed horrible crimes. Will Giles or anyone else he has hurt be able to forgive him? Does Angel deserve redemption? Yes, God extends redemption to all people, but Angel is not really a person. He is (un)dead. It is not possible to have a satisfactory storyline about redemption centering on Angel.
The pivotal moment of this episode is when Angel makes the decision to sacrifice himself rather than harm Buffy. He is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and wait outside in the open for the sunrise that will bring his doom. Angel's sacrifice would have prevented the spin-off Angel which was already in the making at this point. Whedon muddles the whole sacrifice theme by bringing Buffy in at the last moment saying sacrificing himself would just be giving up.
We have no framework to make the sacrifice significant. We see our share of evil on Buffy, but rarely do we see good make a guest appearance. Sacrifice must be done for a greater good. The one--if you can call it that--stirring up trouble in this episode is called the First Evil. The First Evil is not our monster-of-the-week. It is a concept. A greater evil exists. Evil exists in people and in our world. It is a constant struggle to overcome this evil.
As a Christian, I know that a greater evil really does exist, but I also know a greater good exists. God loves us and extends redemption. These facts are self-evident in our universe. Even Amends recognizes the existence of a greater good. Something other than coincidence must be at work that is greater than the First Evil that caused the snow and no sunrise--the Christmas miracle--in Sunnydale at the end of Amends.
As in the case of the sacrifice, there is no framework for this Christmas miracle. In Buffy, vampires and werewolves are real. Santa Claus might as well be real also. Maybe he caused the snow. I half-expected the camera to zoom out at the end of the episode to reveal a sleigh flying through the air.Amends started slow, but like every other theme in this episode, there was a flipside. It had a solid ending that made me feel connected to the characters I have come to love, but in the end, my mixed feelings land this episode right in the middle of the scale with 5 out of 10. This episode has provided me more to think about than any other episode of Buffy. Although I did not rank it near as high as many other episodes, I would list this episode among my favorites.
Objectionable Content: In a dream sequence, Buffy and Angel are seen undressing each other in bed and having sex. Willow awkwardly offers her virginity to Oz (who is not a virgin). He seems to turn her down, but a scene at the end shows Willow and Oz laying beside each other in bed making this unclear for me.
Spiritual Content: It has been pointed out in previous episodes that Willow is Jewish. As such, she does not celebrate Christmas like the rest of the Scoobies. Willow comments to Xander and Buffy, "Being Jewish, Remember. Not everyone worships Santa." This is an astute observation. There is hardly anything Christian about Christmas for many people. As I pointed out in my review of this episode, it could just as well have been Santa Claus that caused the Christmas miracle at the end of this episode.
This episode featured what was referred to as the First Evil. In the form of Jenny Calendar, the First Evil claimed to be beyond sin and death. The First Evil should not be confused with Satan. Satan is not merely an evil force, nor is God merely a good force.
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)