"Innocence" is episode 14 of season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was written by Joss Whedon and first broadcast on January 20, 1998. It is part two of a two-part story. Part one, "Surprise". was broadcast the day before.
"Innocence" is one of the most critically acclaimed and highest rated episodes in the series, attracting 8.2 million viewers as the series moved from its Monday timeslot to Tuesday.
After making love with Buffy, Angel is racked with pain as his soul is ripped from him. In the street, he kills a passer-by when she offers to help him. He goes to the factory to join Spike and Drusilla, but the Judge attacks him. It is unable to burn him because Angel has fully reverted to the evil Angelus. Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus are clearly pleased to be reunited. Angelus vows to destroy Buffy for how she made him feel when he was Angel.
While researching a way to defeat the Judge, a demon with the power to destroy the world whom "no weapon forged" can harm, Xander and Cordelia are caught kissing in the library by a jealous Willow. Buffy finds Angel in his apartment, not knowing that he is now Angelus, and he blows her off, laughing at her as she weeps. Jenny is castigated by her uncle Enyos, who tells her that if Angel has one moment of true happiness, the curse placed on him will be broken and his new soul taken from him. Angelus terrorizes Willow and the Gang at school, emotionally tormenting Buffy. Later, as they discuss Angel's transformation in the library, Buffy realises that having sex with Angel is what caused him to turn evil.
Buffy has a dream in which Angel indicates that Jenny knows more than she is letting on. The next morning Buffy confronts Jenny who tells her that Angelus was cursed with a soul in vengeance for what he did to her people, and that Enyos had tasked her with keeping Buffy and Angel apart. When Buffy, Jenny, and Giles arrive at Enyos' home, they find that Angelus has brutally killed him, leaving Buffy a message written in blood on the wall. Buffy begins to accept that she has to kill Angelus.
Xander, using memories from being a soldier on Halloween, hatches a plan to kill the Judge. He and Cordelia break into an army base and steal a shoulder-launched rocket. Oz declines Willow's offer to make out, as he suspects that she only wants to make Xander jealous.
Tracking down the Judge, who is slaughtering people at a crowded mall, Buffy blows him to bits with the anti-tank weapon. Buffy stalks Angelus through the fleeing crowd and, when he ambushes her, they battle ferociously. Reaching a stand-off, Buffy is still unwilling to kill Angelus and settles for kicking him in the crotch.
Buffy blames herself for everything that has happened, but Giles reassures her that, although she did act rashly, it is obvious that she and Angel loved each other and that Giles still supports and respects her. Later, Joyce lights the candle on Buffy's birthday cake and tells her to make a wish, but Buffy decides to let it burn.
In the commentary, when Joss Whedon is asked about his decision to turn Angel evil, he said that he feels it was necessary to keep the story fresh as viewers would quickly become bored with Angel and Buffy's relationship. Although the fan base wanted Buffy and Angel to be together romantically, Whedon says, "What people want is not what they need."
In the DVD commentary, Whedon says the interaction between Buffy and Angel following their night of passion was supposed to have taken place outside of Buffy's house. However, he comments that the scene was simply not working as it was lacking intimacy and was thus later shot in Angel's house.This is the first instance where Xander reveals he has retained military knowledge after the events of the Halloween episode.
Willow learns of Xander's and Cordelia's relationship.
"Innocence" was the highest rated episode ever for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, scoring a 5.2 Nielsen rating and a 6.7 overnight rating, with each ratings point representing 980,000 households. It was watched by 8.2 million viewers. The two-part story won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Makeup for a Series, one of only two Emmys the series would win.
In Entertainment Weekly's list of the 25 best Whedonverse episodes—including episodes from Buffy, as well as Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse—"Innocence" placed at No. 2, with the magazine saying, "It's as primal a metaphor for the terrors of sex as one could imagine, and it showed the audience, the cast, and Whedon himself just how high his little show about dusting vampires could climb." Kristine Sutherland told the BBC that this is her favorite episode as a fan. Joss Whedon listed "Innocence" as his favorite episode of the series.