Blood Money
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Written by:  Shawn Ryan and Mere Smith 

Directed by: R.D. Price


Past, Present and Future

As has been clear for some time now, Angel’s flirtation with “the dark side” has nothing to do with a sudden conversion to the ideals of evil.  Indeed he remains convinced that he is fighting evil.  Rather his fall consists of :

(a)   abandoning his mission to help people (as illustrated by the way he treated the would be suicide in “Reunion” and the fact that he ignored the summons to help the victim of the demon in “Redefinition”);

(b)   his willingness to embrace any methods, no matter how questionable, in the pursuit of his goal;

(c)   severing the connection he had with humanity, not only in the form of his once close relationship with Wesley and Cordelia but in his deliberate suppression of his own feelings, especially his capacity for empathy with others.

In “Redefinition” the writers exploration of these issues was pretty limited.    A central theme in that episode was the use of violence against evil creatures.  In itself this did not tell us very much.  After all violence is a necessary part of combating evil in the Whedonverse.  Ambushing a group of vampires back from a hunt or killing a dozen demons about to embark on a killing spree doesn’t say that much about where Angel is now psychologically, except possibly in terms of the sheer vindictiveness of the killing.  Much more significant was his pursuit of Darla and Drusilla and the way he tried to separate himself from any human feeling for what they once were.  This was important in that it showed first of all that what we were watching was a process in which Angel’s descent into darkness was continuing.   Secondly it showed that he was now making a deliberate choice, thus reinforcing the idea of his own responsibility for what now happens.  But most chillingly of all “Redefinition”  showed that his abandonment of his mission to help people was only one side of the coin.  Freeing himself of friends and an empathy for human beings also freed him of the very constraints that controlled the way he used his power in the world.

 “Blood Money” takes up and develops all of these themes in a much more interesting way.  In particular it puts the exploration of them in a context,, namely the fact that the struggle between Angel and Wolfram and Hart has now become a very personal one.   By developing the episode in this way the writers  are almost giving us an overview of the whole arc.  Not only are we shown Angel’s present state of mind.   We can also see how and why he came to be in that state of mind and we are given more than a few hints as to where that state of mind may lead him.


Angel’s Obsession

At the end of “Redefinition” Angel said:

“Someone has to fight the war."

And certainly he sees himself as fighting a war against evil in general.  In “Redefinition” his first victims were a group of anonymous vampires.  In “Reunion” he showed he was well aware of the importance of destroying Darla and Drusilla:

"Drusilla's insane, deadly, not in a good mood.  Darla - she needs to feed soon, okay? And once she does she's gonna be that much stronger.  Now we got two options: either we go back to the people who brought them both here in the first place, or we sit around, waiting for the bodies to start piling up.”

Indeed, in “Redefinition” they are his principal target.  But what the end of “Reunion” proved was that, in the pantheon of evil, Wolfram and Hart had in Angel’s  mind achieved a pre-eminent position.  He had sought Darla and Drusilla throughout the episode.  Now he had them in a place from which escape would not be easy.  Killing them would be difficult and dangerous but he had never let that stop him before.  Instead he turned his back on them.  The following exchange was telling:

Darla: "Come on, love.  I never did get that good-bye kiss."

Angel:  "You will. But not tonight."

Angel may still conceive of killing Darla and Drusilla as a part of his duty.  But seeing death and destruction rain down on Wolfram and Hart was more important than any other consideration. 

And the highly personal nature of Angel's vendetta against the lawyers is what “Blood Money” emphasized.  One of the essential characteristics of his mission to help people was that it was in essence largely reactive.  It was only when evil threatened to do something that Angel came to the rescue.  This is no longer about preventing evil.  It is about pursuing it, punishing it and destroying it. But the important point her is not only that Angel has now defined his purpose as going after Wolfram and Hart.  It is the way he does so.And here we come to perhaps the greatest strength of the episode.  Nothing that Angel did in “Blood Money” was by itself  that egregious.  Certainly there was nothing to compare to the wine cellar incident.  Instead the writers took a number of individual strands of behavior and drew them together to form a big neon sign saying “watch out, potential loony here”.

And in this context the most startling thing about “Blood Money” is the whole purpose of Angel’s scheme.  The essential part of it was to embarrass Wolfram and Hart in general and our two favorite lawyers in particular.  It wasn’t even to deny the firm the money they would have raised, although $2.5 million would be little enough to them.  Angel could have stolen the money without any problem at all if he had simply taken Wolfram and Hart by surprise.  Yet he deliberately aroused Lindsey and Lilah’s suspicions that he would raid the Fund Raiser, thus making it more difficult for himself.  The only reason for him doing so was because he wanted them to act in a paranoid fashion once he did make his appearance.

“Looks to me like you two are acting like a couple of crazy people.  On camera too. Ouch!”

As he says himself to “Anne”:

  “I just wanted to shake them up a bit; it’s not much but it’s   a start."

The gain here is so negligible that by any rational standard it just wasn’t worth two minutes of Angel’s time, let alone the thought and planning that must have gone into it and the actual physical pain involved in fighting Boone.

Then there is the covert surveillance, albeit substantially carried out by proxy.  There was considerable care and attention to detail involved in amassing the number of photographs we saw, in elaborately staging  the accidental meeting between Angel and “Anne” and his subsequent introduction of himself into her affairs.  And all of this was carried out without a concrete reason.  The most he could say was that, if Wolfram and Hart were involved with the shelter pro bono, there had to be an angle.  It was only as a result of Angel’s surveillance operation that  he discovered what that angle was.  This seems to me to be  classic obsessional behavior.  You watch and you watch and you watch – just to see what turns up.  And this ties in very well with another aspect of Angel’s behavior – the scene with Lilah in the car.  Angelus’ stalking behavior was the result of various obsessions of his and this scene seems to me to be a sign that the other stalker characteristics of Angelus are reasserting themselves.  In particular there is the taunting of the victim to frighten her:

Angel: “Lilah, I just had to drop by and congratulate you on your big promotion.  Co-Vice President of Special projects.  Wow…that’s super.  You deserve it.  Yeah.  That and so much more.”

Lilah:  “Angel”

Angel: “But you know what the real special part is.  To think that maybe in my small way I helped make it happen for you.  Makes me feel all good inside.”

The threat here is unmistakable.  It couples a reminder of what happened to Holland with a promise of more of the same to come.  And all of this is delivered with a light, pleasant tone that is a world removed from Angel ‘s usual intense seriousness.  And most reminiscent of Angelus is the delivery of the last line:

“No…begging.  That comes later.”

As I have said before it is clearly not the intention of the writers to suggest that we are seeing a return of Angelus, a creature who is himself dedicated to evil.  Rather in the fight against evil one of the characteristics of Angelus seems to be coming out in Angel – his obsessiveness in pursuit of a victim.  No detail is too small to be overlooked, nothing that hurts him or her is too much trouble and above all there is no point in setting out to destroy an enemy unless you let him know what is coming for him or her.

And it is this obsessiveness that is the clue to Angel’s whole mindset.  Such behavior goes beyond the rational or the objectively justifiable.  That is why it is always an indicator of a motivation that has nothing to do with principle or pragmatism but is deeply personal.  Why it should be deeply personal is too obvious to need restated here.  But there is a clear and explicit recognition of this aspect of Angel’s behavior in the conversation between him and Lilah in her car:

“It’s actually kinda fun when you know the rules.  I mean when you know that there aren’t any.  You screw with me and you screw with me…and you screw with me.   And now…I get to screw with you.”

Note the emphasis on the “screw with me”.  If anything makes it clear that this is a personal crusade aimed at extracting revenge for Wolfram and Hart’s behavior towards him as an individual then this is it.

And here we again see the importance of the way in which episodes like “Darla” and “The Trial” explored what it meant to be a vampire and the attraction that that still had for Angel.  His attitude towards evil  is  very ego-centric.  He is now pursuing a deeply personal agenda for deeply personal reasons and every other consideration is jettisoned.  He is even prepared to ignore his own long term best interests – his redemption and promise of eventual humanity – for the sake of the immediate gratification he gets from striking back at Wolfram and Hart.

And here too we have both an interesting parallel and counterpoint.  The parallel is Lindsey.  Angel has been an object of personal hatred for Lindsey for some time now.  Indeed in “Reunion” he seems to have disregarded Holland’s intention of releasing Angel to the streets by delivering him into the custody of the police with the words:

"Yeah, go do your little champion of justice thing and then come back and see me, if you make bail.  Give him a nice holding cell, officers.  With a window - southern exposure preferred. The firm may not want you dead, but I'm cool with it."

This is an attitude that has not been mellowed by his near death experience as his reaction to Boone’s offer to kill Angel demonstrates:

Lilah:  Aren’t you forgetting something.  The senior partners want Angel alive."

Lindsey:  "So?"

Lilah: "So, what if this guy’s actually as good as he says and actually kills Angel."

Lindsey:  Boo-hoo!  Let me wipe away the tears with my plastic hand.”

Lilah:  Hey Napoleon.  We’re Co-Vice Presidents.  This plan of yours explodes and we both end up in tiny pieces.”

Lindsey took an absurd risk just to kill Angel.  It was virtually inconceivable that a firm which had access to mind readers would fail to find out what his role in that death was.  But Lindsey was prepared to take the risk anyway.  Contrast this to the attitude of the senior partners themselves, as exemplified by Nathan Reed who is perhaps even one of them. In discussing Angel’s role in the coming Apocalypse he says:

“Until then his growing obsession with the two of you, the increasing possibility that to scratch that itch he’ll go as far as to kill you, well that could actually play in the firm’s favor.  It would be a sign that Angel was on the path to joining our team.  And as hard as it is to loose good attorneys…well, the truth is you’re both expendable.  Angel isn’t.”

If anything was impersonal, this is it.  He didn’t actually say “this is just business, nothing personal” but that is what he meant.  Even after all Wolfram and Hart had suffered in their turn at Angel’s hands they were prepared to welcome him in with open arms, because it was good for business. 

And here we do see the difference between the controlled, rational pursuit of an objective on the one hand and the pursuit of a personal agenda on the other.  In the former case, your actions are dictated by their predicted consequences and how those consequences serve your end game.  In the latter case, depending on how strong your agenda is, you can be led disregard the long term.   The need to gratify your immediate impulse, if you will to “scratch the itch” (whether that itch is Lindsey or Angel), can become overwhelming.  And it is in this fact that Angel’s behavior seems so ominous.  Even though his basic view is that he is fighting on behalf of good against evil the deeply personal nature of the agenda he is following means that he will not make choices based on clear moral principles or a clear understanding of where the long term interest of the forces of good lies.  Rather he will make decisions based on the short term considerations which mean the most to him personally – what hurts Wolfram and Hart most.


The End Justifies the Means

And this is where we see the most obvious results of Angel’s obsessiveness – his willingness to do whatever it takes to hurt Wolfram and Hart.  His treatment of Merle is of course neither very new nor particularly surprising.  Angel has always been prepared to use violence and the threat of violence.  But his treatment of “Anne” reached a surprising and disturbing level of cynicism.  Initially at least he can be forgiven for suspecting her when he hears of her connection with Wolfram and Hart.  But Merle confirms she is clean:

Merle: “I checked out the girl.  She’s clean.  Changed her name a couple of times but no record.”

Angel: ”What’s her connection to Wolfram and Hart?”

Merle “Easy.  She ruins a shelter over on Crenshaw.  A couple of months ago they almost lost the lease on the place.  Wolfram and Hart step in clear it all up pro bono and there you go.”

Even if that were not enough to convince Angel a visit to the shelter must have served to convince him that “Anne” was in fact the intended victim of the lawyers rather than an accomplice.  “Anne” not only talks quite freely about their role in the shelter but volunteers that they had come up with the idea of a hold up:

Anne: “It’s a fund raiser for the center.  Big TV celebrities go around pretending to rob the guests of their donations.  Wild West theme.  It’s going to be big.”

Angel “And Wolfram and Hart’s picking up the tab.

Anne: “ They’re donating everything from the music to the food.  Plus they have connections to all the TV stars.”

Clearly from this conversation Angel figured out exactly what the game plan was and from that point onwards he had no longer any reason to suspect “Anne”.

Certainly if he had encountered a similar situation before the events at the end of “The Trial” his principal concern would have been to help her protect the interests of the shelter.  She herself described the sort of people she helped:

“I’ve seen a 14 year old girl sitting in her own blood after a rough trick and dozens of people walking right by.  So, no.  Vampires, demons even lawyers pretty much don’t impress me.”

If that couldn’t convince Angel of the importance of the work that “Anne” was doing and the need to help her I cannot imagine what would.

And indeed he had started off by admitting that he was stalking her and that he had stolen her wallet.  He then makes a big show of regret:

Angel: “Wait, I’m not gonna hurt you.  I just couldn’t stand lying to you any more.”

But as it subsequently transpires he is lying.  More to the point his little speech here is just a prelude to more lies.

Anne: “I care about the shelter.  If an evil law firm is gonna help me raise $2 million…”

Angel: “Which you’ll probably see only five per cent of…”

Anne: “Yeah, well I did the math.  Five per cent of $2 million is $100,000.  That’s more money than the shelter could raise in two years.”

Angel: “What about the other 95 per cent?  You don’t care where that’s going?  Who that could be hurting?”

Anne: “I can’t.”

Angel: “There’s blood on that money Anne.  Are you the person who could ignore that?  Have you become that yet?  I don’t think you have?

Anne: “You don’t know what it takes to run a shelter.”

Angel: “Help me. Get me into the party.  I put this on, the world sees a whole new side of Wolfram and Hart.”

Anne:  “Why should I?”

Angel: “Because it’s right.  In the long run, it’s better.”

His whole pitch here was that he was going to do considerable damage to Wolfram and Hart and that this was more important than the money she would get from them.  In effect therefore he was also saying that it was more important than children like the 14 year old she had just spoken about.  And as he was saying that he knew that he was lying.  He wasn’t interested in getting her to do the right thing.  He wasn’t interested in the fact that the money was tainted.  After all when there was real blood on it – Boone’s blood – he handed it over to her without a thought.  Everything he said about the money having blood on it was a cynical ploy intended to manipulate Anne into co-operating with his plan.  As “Anne” later says:

            “I risked everything for you.  I risked my kids”

Sadly,  the fate of her charges were of no interest to Angel at all. 

Nor is that the end of his cynicism.  He makes contact with “Anne” in the first place by giving her Cordelia’s clothes.  And the tape he used at the Fund Raiser was quite gratuitously embarrassing to those who had been his friends.  Many of the people at the event would have been connected to show business and that video could have done enormous damage to any hopes Cordelia had of getting work.  And in case we missed the point about Wesley, just as he was making a complete fool of himself he was identified as the man who was dating Virginia Bryce, probably by someone who moved in the same social circles as she did. 

And perhaps most seriously of all there was Boone, because surely he was used too.  At some stage Angel offered him a deal.  At the very least that deal included an offer of Wolfram and Hart’s $2.5 million.  And here I note in passing that Angel was being far less generous to “Anne” than the so-called evil law firm.  They at least would have given her $125,000 of that money.  He would have been quite happy for Boone to keep it all.  But when he made that deal Angel knew that there would be a further price to pay for Boone’s co-operation.

Angel: “I thought you’d be half way to Brazil by now.”

Boone: “No you didn’t.”

Angel: “No I didn’t.”

Whether Angel could have continued to avoid a fight to the death with Boone under any circumstances is an open question.  But once he accepted Boone’s help he knew that he would end up having to kill Boone.  For all we know he even agreed to the fight as the price of Boone’s co-operation.  It was just one more price he was prepared to pay to strike back at Wolfram and Hart.

As I have already said, none of this is in the same league as co-operating with Darla and Drusilla in a massacre.  But this is what makes the state of mind Angel has got into both realistic and interesting.  The people adversely affected by his behavior here – “Anne”, her kids, Wesley and Cordelia – were innocent bystanders in his war.  Yet in the name of this “war” Angel betrayed their trust.   But he of course would not see it this way.  To paraphrase “Anne” his attitude would be “you’ve got to do whatever it takes.”  And he can certainly minimize the culpability of his conduct  by saying that he didn’t actually hurt any of the people I have just mentioned very seriously.  But a betrayal like that is not trivial.  It might involve no physical harm; but does produce other consequences.  And it is in this consideration that I come to one of the things I liked most about the writers' treatment of Angel here.   It would have been frankly unbelievable for Angel  to have started to behave in a truly evil manner right from the beginning.  It is much more credible to have him slide down a slippery slope.  And when we start down such a slope we can tell ourselves that what we are doing isn’t that wrong.  The first few wrong steps are never that serious.  It’s what they lead to.

 And here the fate that befell Boone is perhaps the important one.  Although Boone was in many ways the author of his own misfortune, Angel cannot escape his share of  responsibility.  The demon was to some extent a tragic figure, not unlike the Prio Motu in “Judgment”.  He was a warrior who fought in accordance with a code of honor that drove him to test his strength against others but forbade him to take an advantage he hadn’t earned.   He was more interested in upholding that code than in money or even revenge.  Angel took advantage of this in winning him over to his side and ultimately that cost him his life.  Indeed it seems that even Angel felt guilt about this.  He was perfectly prepared to see Boone take off with the shelter’s money but once Boone’s blood was literally on that money he seemed to feel the need for some form of expiation.  That is why I think he handed it over to Anne rather than any feeling he had cheated the shelter.   But the important point about this scene was not the offer Angel made but the fact that it was accepted.  Here we find a startling illustration of the effect that Angel’s betrayal had. Throughout this episode “Anne” was faced with a dilemma.  If she co-operated with Wolfram and Hart she was guaranteed at least $100,000.  That was money that was very badly needed.  But it came at a price.  Getting that money for her kids meant standing by as Wolfram and Hart made money that would be used to kill people.  That is why her $100,000 would have blood on it.  That is why Angel stressed that notwithstanding the fact that she would be depriving her kids of badly needed resources the right thing to do was help his stop the Fund Raiser.  Clearly she eventually decided that he was right.  Angel may not have been sincere but that did not mean his arguments were not entirely valid.  So, she made the sacrifice.  She in effect turned down the $100,000 because she could not accept it with that price tag attached.  It was the right thing to do.

Then she discovered Angel had been lying to her and all that talk about blood money and doing the right thing was  (for him) just words.  The effect of this discovery can be seen when Angel came to her with the $2.5 million.  It did have blood on it - Boone's.  I took that to mean it had been obtained at the cost of Boone's life.  Yet Anne accepted it saying that the blood would wash.  She made a different choice to the one she made previously.  I think the intention here was to show that just as Angel had previously saved souls by showing that he cared, that there was love and hope in the world now he had shown Anne that for him there was only cynicism and manipulation.  If he had no faith in the arguments he was putting forward why should she.  Why not just take the money?  So Angel had in fact corrupted her soul in a perversion of what his mission was intended to be.

And this is the real strength of the storyline.  Through Angel’s behavior in “Blood money” we have been able to trace the source of his behavior in the personal vendetta he has against Wolfram and Hart.  We can also see how that vendetta has so warped his moral sense that he is justifying behavior that would have appalled him only a short time ago.  And these together give us the strongest sense yet that Angel is not on a plateau but is rather continuing to sink and that we can expect the darkness to get deeper and deeper.  Boone’s fate in particular gives us a sense that not even the taking of innocent  life itself is now beyond Angel’s grasp.

And the writers have been more explicit than ever before in relating this behavior to the Wolfram and Hart plan.  From the mouth of Nathan Reed we have confirmation of the broad thrust of the Wolfram and Hart vision for Angel.  And in giving us this sense the writers have very neatly tied Angel’s fall from grace into the narrative of  the whole Darla arc and in turn tied that arc into the overarching myth arc of the series – Angel’s predicted participation in the final battle.  Not only does this add to the coherence of the series as a whole it also represents a heightening of the stakes for all concerned.  Not least Angel’s final destiny, including his promised humanity is now expressly at issue.

Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn

If the writers’ treatment of Angel continues to be subtle, realistic and interesting their treatment of the former members of the Fang gang continues to be unrealistic and out of character.  I think that I can understand what they are trying to do.  The Fang gang’s time with Angel had created a very particular dynamic.  Firstly Cordelia and Wesley conceived of their mission in terms of being Angel’s auxiliaries rather than carrying on the fight in their own right.  And in “Redefinition” we saw the discovery of a new sense of mission which did not depend on Angel.

But the external sense of mission was only one part of the new dynamic that need to be established if the Angel-less agency was to flourish.  Before the break-up, each member of the former Fang Gang  related principally to Angel rather than to the other.  Indeed their tendency was to compete with each other for Angel's attention. This created friction between then and in their turn they turned to the authority figure in the group - Angel - to arbitrate between them.  The dynamics were therefore very like a family centered around him.  In the new environment where they were finding a sense of mission of their own it was necessary to establish an entirely new internal dynamic

Both "Redefinition" and to a lesser extent "Blood Money" showed them doing each of these.  In "Redefinition" they started out arguing and blaming one another for what had happened.  But once they found an enemy they worked together as a team.  Especially in the aftermath of killing the fire breathing monster in  "Blood Money" there is a stronger sense of trust and confidence between them.   For example when describing the way they worked as a team to kill the fire breathing monster Wesley and Gunn tell the story as a team:

Wesley: “It’s the biggest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Gunn: “Me and English here are just getting stomped here, just ducking flames.”

Wesley: “It hurls me into the outflow drain….

Gunn: “Only you come crawling back stinking, screaming curses…the mouth on this boy.

Wesley: “And Gunn hits it from behind yelling “look at us when we kill you”.  The both of its heads turned…".

Gunn: "Then sheeooom, Wes buries his axe in head number 1.”

Wesley: “And Gunn is running him through pulling out intestines the size of your leg.

Gunn: “We turned him inside out.”

And even when disagreements persist they no longer need to turn to Angel to act as arbitrator.  We, therefore, see a greater sense of mutual trust and confidence  between them.

I still do not think that Gunn fits naturally into this picture.  In my review of “Redefinition” I have already argued that he should have a separate sense of mission to Wesley and Cordelia.  More than that he has proved that he is no “team player”. He is a driven man.   His sense of mission comes from the tragic events of his past, the loss of family and friends, especially his sister.  Because of that past he has a feeling of responsibility for others.  He looks after them because they cannot look after themselves.  He is also very proud and can be short tempered.  He is unforgiving of mistakes.  He also likes being in charge and dislikes being contradicted or being told what to do.  He is in short a leader in the mould of Angel 

But even if we leave these problems with Gunn aside, the picture I have just painted it is bought at a price.  The cost of this view of a united and coherent Agency is a suspension of disbelief that I find impossible.  The creature that Wesley and Gunn killed could not have been reasonably and realistically killed by humans.  I have already observed that the writers are becoming too free in attributing to humans an effectiveness against supernatural creatures that threatens to undermine  the basic mythology of the Whedonverse (especially that bit about there being one girl in all the world yada yada yada).  But this is carrying things to ridiculous and unjustifiable levels.  If two ordinary humans can kill a 20 foot tall fire breathing monster with two heads by simple brute force and determination then why do we need a slayer or a vampire with a soul?  Train up a dozen or so stalwarts like these and they will prevent the apocalypse on their own.

Apart from this I return, reluctantly, to a complaint that I have already made in my review of “Redefinition” – the fang Gang’s complete lack of concern for what is happening to Angel.  They do not have the excuse that they did not understand what was happening.  The end of “Reunion” established otherwise conclusively.  And yet the following is the strongest show of concern they can manage:

Cordelia: “ I though we weren’t going to say the “A” word.”

Gunn: “Yeah, lets not say the “A” word.  Let’s just spend our lives sitting around waiting for him to call.”

 Wesley: “We’re not waiting for him to call.  The man fired us.  We’re on our own now.  A separate unit, fighting the good fight.”

Let us for a moment forget that this lack of personal concern for Angel is entirely out of character for both Cordelia and Wesley.  If they really believed Angel was in danger of going truly dark then it would become their responsibility to do something about him.  Isn’t that what the good fight means?  You might think this would merit a passing interest perhaps.

But even in terms of the structure of the story, the real focus of this episode as with the rest of the arc is on Angel.  It seems faintly bizarre therefore that the “B” plot should be so utterly divorced from this central preoccupation.


The Plot

In discussing plot I am simply going to forget about the fire breathing monster storyline which was too short and too slight even to be dignified with the term.  Instead I will concentrate on Angel’s little trap for Lindsey and Lilah.  There were a number of very strong elements to the plotting here.  Perhaps the greatest of its strengths was the way in which we only discovered Angel’s true cynicism right at the end.  When he went to Anne and confessed, quite voluntarily, that he had been stalking her and now regretted it, this seemed a very typical Angel thing to do.  And when he tried to convince her that she should sacrifice the short term interests of her kids  in favor of doing the right thing this again seemed an example of the sort of integrity we had come to expect from him.  So it was again our own expectations informed by the character of Angel as we had known it that led us astray.  I thought that this was not only a strong plot point in itself but it also served to reinforce just how much Angel had changed because it juxtaposed the old character of Angel with the new one.

And I also think the bluff involving the tape “proving” Wolfram and Hart were stealing from the shelter worked very well.  The episode laid little foundation for Angel having such proof and that was a weakness.  It would have been better if we had been given adequate grounds for suspecting that the proof might exist.  That would have made the surprise more complete.  As it was I was half expecting the tape to be a bluff.  But I wasn’t sure principally because Angel had told “Anne” about it as part of his efforts to convince her to co-operate with him.   For the reasons I have already given I too was suckered by that performance and that lent Angel’s claims an air of credibility.  In any event whether we expected the tape to exist or not it made perfect sense that  Lindsey and Lilah would believe that it did.  It thought it was actually a very confident piece of writing for the writers to rehearse all the reasons why the tape could not exist in the following scene between Lindsey an Lilah:

Lindsey:  “If he’s got proof it came from you.”

Lilah: “Me!”

Lindsey: “Yeah, you.  You opened your mouth to someone and now he’s got it on tape probably.”

Lilah:  “You’re the one with the sporadic professional death wish.  How do I know that you’re not on one of your kamikaze missions with me as your co-pilot.”

Lindsey: “Because the only person I talked to about it Lilah was you, always in my office which is swept for bugs three times a day.  I never discussed stealing the money in public.”

In terms of the question “does the tape exists or not?”  this scene is an interesting tease.  In terms of character we can see just how paranoid both Lindsey and Lilah are and from this point of view it makes perfect sense that they should believe the tape exists and behave accordingly.

I am afraid, however, that in the end the fact that the tape did turn out to be a bluff worked against the episode.  Notwithstanding the character implications of Angel’s willingness to sacrifice so much for so little (as discussed above) in terms of plot we were left with a feeling of anti-climax, almost of nothing significant having happened when that is so very far from the truth.

And another failing of the plot was that in a number of respects it was less than coherent.  First of all Angel’s approach to “Anne” seemed intended to persuade her to get him into the Fund Raiser so that he could play the tape.  However it was actually Boone who got him in, presumably by neutralizing the Vampire detector, and then helped him stage the distraction while Anne played the tape.  This was being too clever by half.  The mere fact that Boone’s double cross was hidden so completely and without anything to give the audience a clue about his real agenda was bad enough.  That’s not really playing fair.  It takes no real skill to pull a plot twist like that because any previous inconsistent behavior can be explained away in terms of the need to fool the enemy.  Instead of being delighted by the surprise I find it annoying.   Worse still though, in the light of the way these events actually turned out, the terms in which Angel approached “Anne” for help become in hindsight transparently a plot device to make it look as though Boone really was working for Wolfram and Hart and reinforce the surprise when it was revealed he wasn’t.  There was surprise certainly but once a plot device becomes that transparent the hand of the writers become visible and you are suddenly conscious you are watching something constructed in the mind of man rather than organically developing events.   That is too high a price to pay for any surprise.  In my eyes it is a far worse sin than the fact that “Anne’s” agreement to help Angel took place off-screen.  True her last response was negative but there was nothing to indicate that this was her final word.  All that meant was that the last part of the conversation wasn’t shown to us and we were left in a state of uncertainty as to what she eventually decided to do.  I have no problem with that.

This brings us to the character of Boone himself.  It is stretching credibility a little far that after more than 70 years Boone turns up in LA at this particular moment.  But leaving that coincidence aside for a moment, it seems to me that the effectiveness with which he was used here depended upon the credibility of his motivation in helping Angel.  The writers just about squeezed home on this one and not much more.  The key conversation is this:

Boone: “I haven’t seen Angel since Juarez in the 20’s.  We had a little disagreement over a senorita.  I called him out.  We fought for three and a half hours.

Lindsey: “Obviously both of you survived.”

Boone: “Well, I’d been working on a three day drunk at the time.  I wasn’t at my peek.”

Lilah: “How did it end?”

Boone: “The sun came up.  I let him go.”

Lilah: “You let him go? Why?”

Boone: “The sun came up.  Would have been too easy.  You people know anything about honor?

From this conversation we can at least see a basis for Angel and Boone to co-operate together.  All Boone was interested in was a fair fight and that was something he was not going to get working for Wolfram and Hart who care for winning much more than they care for honor.  If Angel had simply turned up at the Fund raiser Boone would have had competition whether he wanted it or not.  From his point of view it was far better to remove Wolfram and Hart from the picture.   This however leaves open a number of other questions.  Why did Boone approach Wolfram and Hart in the first place.  Had he already been contacted by Angel?  If not when? 


B (8/10):  This is another curate’s egg.  On the positive side I continue to be pleased and impressed by the way that Angel’s drift into darkness was handled.  This episode gave us a more complete and interesting picture of the nature of that descent then “Redefinition”   It did this partly because it involved adverse consequences for innocents.  We therefore see the way in which Angel’s fight against evil might itself lead to him actually committing evil acts against innocents himself.  But another part of the success of the story was the way it related Angel’s actions so clearly to his personal obsession with Wolfram and Hart.  These aspects of the episode alone deserve a relatively high mark.  The problems with the episode, however, are serious enough.  I am still having problems with the direction of the sub-plots dealing with Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn.  The fact that they are so divorced from what is happening to Angel I find inexplicable both from a character point of view and thematically.  And just as bad the character and purpose of Gunn at present bears little more than a passing resemblance to the individual we saw in “First Impressions” and “Shroud of Rahmon” and there has been no effort at all to explain the change.  I account this one of the few character-writing failures in the whole history of the series.  It is a pity it should be such a serious one.  And I hate the cavalier approach that the writers seem to be taking with Wesley and Gunn’s ability to fight supernatural monsters.  If you are not going to take your basic mythology seriously there is no point in having it. Finally I am bound to add that the plot was flawed.  The basic idea to make us think Angel actually did want to help but was secretly pursuing his own agenda was an excellent one.  But in the detailed working out of this plot things just started to come apart at the seams.  The parallel lines of action involving “Anne” and “Boone” were never properly integrated and the role of Boone never clearly defined.  This produced a feeling that we were not watching a coherent story.  But perhaps the worst failing of all was the sense of anti-climax produced not so much by the failure to do any damage to Wolfram and Hart but the revelation that Angel never planned to do much damage to them.  This almost inevitably left us asking well then what was this all about?  In view of the fact that there was such strong and coherent character exposition  in the episode this was really a pity.