Written by: Tim Minear
Directed by: Thomas J. Wright
I have generally speaking always been very
cautious about the concept of an epiphany in drama.
The idea that a character suddenly comes to a sudden realization that he
or she is heading in the wrong direction and then turns around 180 degrees can
be both lazy and unrealistic. More
importantly, where it is used to effect a complete break with the past,
it is hard to get away from the idea that the audience is being
implicitly invited to disregard what has gone before.
And where the past is discarded in such a cheap and easy fashion its
importance is almost inevitably diminished.
This was the danger in Angel’s epiphany in this episode.
The writers had very carefully and intelligently painted a convincing
picture of a hero who changed because of a
combination of his own internal conflicts and the machination of others.
If they had simply hit the reset button that whole process would cease to
have any meaning and the whole first half of the season would thereby be greatly
diminished. What happened in
“Reunion” could indeed be dismissed as just a temper tantrum.
But where I think “Epiphany” works is that it doesn’t ask us to disregard Angel’s flirtation with darkness. Rather what it does is to provide Angel (and the viewer) with a change of perspective through which the events of “Reunion” and especially “Reprise” can be understood. In doing so it actually adds to the significance of the events on question rather than diminishing them.
And here I return to “To Shanshu in
LA”. For Angel that episode
seemed to set up an optimistic future. As
Wesley observed in “Blind Date” when he first told him about the prophecies
a design, Angel. Hidden in the chaos as it may be, but it's there - and you have your place in it."
The prophecy he spoke of concerned
Angel’s Shanshu, his becoming human. This was the symbol of his redemption.
All he had to do in order to earn it was to play his appointed role in
helping to prevent to apocalypse in the
forthcoming war between the forces of good and evil.
Again as Wesley noted:
“He has to
survive the coming darkness, the apocalyptic battles, a few plagues, and
some…uh, several, - not that many
- fiends that will be unleashed."
This idea of a grand scheme of things
which specifically contemplated Angel’s
own future redemption conditioned Angel’s actions and motives throughout
the whole Darla arc. We
can see this by the extent to which he identified with the human Darla.
Here was someone who had literally made him a monster and who had been
closely involved with him in his destruction and killing. But, just like him, she too had been given back her
soul and now had a chance for redemption. She
also had an opportunity to make something of her life as a mortal, an
opportunity she had wasted once before. The
parallels between her and Angel were so strong that it would be hard to believe
that he didn’t identify with her.
And then, just when she seemed to have
achieved a redemption of sorts, it was taken away from her; right in front of
Angel and with him helpless to prevent it happening.
Having been a symbol of Angel’s own journey of redemption so now she
became a symbol that that journey would end in failure.
That was when he lost all hope for himself.
But he still had something to hold on to.
He had the idea that, regardless of his own personal future, he could
still gain some satisfaction from destroying evil, the very evil that had
pursued him so relentlessly since arriving in LA:
highly intelligent law-school graduates working fulltime driving me crazy. “
But his little trip in the elevator with
Holland near the end of “Reprise” destroyed that notion as well. When Angel asked him why Wolfram and Hart were fighting he
"That's really the question you should be asking yourself, isn't it?
See, for us, there is no fight. Which is why winning doesn't enter into
it. We - go on - no matter what. Our firm has always been here.
In one form or another. The Inquisition. The Khmer Rouge. We
were there when the very first cave man clubbed his neighbor. See, we're
in the hearts and minds of every single living being. And *that*, friend, is what's making things so difficult for you.
See, the world doesn't work in spite of evil, Angel.
It works with us. It works
because of us."
As I said in my review of “Reprise”,
this undermined the idea that Angel could achieve anything by fighting a war.
In particular his prophesized role in the coming apocalypse, which he had
set such store by, now ceased to be that significant at all.
In other words what we saw in “Reunion” and “Reprise” was the
destruction of the foundations set up by “To Shanshu in LA” for Angel’s
whole sense of mission. Gone was
the idea of a great war for the salvation of humanity and gone was the idea of
redemption through his role in that war. It
is no wonder that the end of the latter episode saw Angel in such a state of
In showing Angel’s recovery from that
despair the writers could have tried to hit the reset button.
They could have rebuilt the whole idea of his Shanshu: his redemption
through making a decisive contribution to the victory of good over evil.
With that could have come a new found belief in his mission.
But that would have implied that the whole of the Darla arc had no
significance for Angel as a character or for the direction and philosophy of the
series. They would have in effect
cheapened if not entirely negated their own work.
They didn’t do so. Instead of a revelation that his whole experience with Darla had been meaningless or that
Holland’s whole speech to him in the elevator had been entirely without any
significance what we saw was Angel taking a second look at those experiences and
at Holland’s words. Only this
time he saw them in a new light.
Previously he had looked at things
essentially from the first person singular perspective.
He was the special one. He
had sinned uniquely; he had a special destiny.
In this scheme of things everything assumed a significance because of the
way it related to him and his destiny. This
was Angel’s Achilles heel because, if you destroy the idea of a unique
destiny, you destroy the very foundations of Angel’s world, or rather what he
thought were those foundations. The
epiphany in this case was that they weren’t.
The epiphany in this case was that it wasn’t all about Angel.
It was about everyone else:
“I feel like such an idiot.”
“Lotta that going around.”
“Mean anything. In the greater scheme, the big picture, nothing we do
matters. There's no grand plan, no big win.”
“You seem kind of chipper about that.”
”Well, I guess I kind of worked it out. If there's no great glorious end to
all this, if nothing we do matters... then all that matters is what we do.
'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for
redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy. I never got
“And now you do?”
“Not all of it. But now I just wanna help. I wanna help because people
shouldn't suffer as they do. Because, if there isn't any bigger meaning, then
the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.”
It is implicit from Angel’s statements
here about his new-found determination just to help that he realizes that the
previous approach to his mission was misconceived.
That is why he cannot go back to it.
What we have instead of a return to the old inward looking ways is
something much more outgoing, more open to the world. Where this new concept leads us is anyone’s guess at this
stage. But I really do like the way
the writers have used arc in this context.
As I have already suggested, it is greatly to the benefit of the
conclusion of the Darla arc that the writers have not just hit the reset button
but have instead chosen to use the experiences of that arc as a catalyst to set
the series and its lead character off into another direction.
Secondly, in doing this they have achieved a seamless and natural
First and foremost their analysis of Angel and his preoccupations rings so very true. It is not my intention here to overstate the case by appearing to suggest that Angel’s interest in his redemption was entirely self-serving. As a statement, that would lack any fairness. However, Angel was always an inward looking creature. He had a constant preoccupation with his sins and his redemption. His brooding was the outward and visible sign of that. Then there was the failure to connect properly with the world. He had a very small coterie of friends. But, outside these, the only ones he really connected with were those with whom he shared common ground – Faith, Bethany and Judy for example. What struck a chord with Angel was not so much them as individuals but rather their problems. And these problems – the need for redemption, to control a dangerous and unpredictable power or the sense of being neither one thing nor the other – were all reflections of Angel’s own most personal concerns. Even Darla only assumed the importance she did because of the way it came to symbolize those same concerns. And in his pursuit of those concerns in the Darla arc he did have a tendency to forget about everyone else. There is undeniably a degree of self-indulgence here.
Secondly the writers used this analysis
and those preoccupations as an integral aspect of Angel’s descent into the
darkness. I have analyzed this
process to death (actually to several deaths) so I do not propose to go over old
ground here. But it was because
that descent did have real lessons for Angel and did change his perceptions of
himself and his role in the world that ultimately made sense of his decision to
stop obsessing about his own sins and what they mean for him and to look
And this is perhaps what I like most of
all about the way in which the writers have approached this episode. They have used it to delve deeper still into Angel’s
psyche. In doing so they have not
been unsympathetic. But they have
been unsentimental. Whereas
previously the tendency has been to portray Angel’s quest for his own
redemption in a positive light here we see the negative side of it.
It would probably be going to far to say that it was to blame for his
wrong turning but certainly the fact that it was so central to his view of the
world is now being portrayed, very convincingly I think, as crucial in the way
that the whole Darla arc played out.
And, by now distancing Angel from this
concern for his own redemption, the writers are opening up all sorts of
questions. I think quite
deliberately so. For example, the
mere fact that Angel has been persuaded to concentrate on individual acts of
kindness for others rather than his own place in the great scheme of things does
not mean that the writers have turned their back on the idea that he does have
such a place. Quite the opposite.
There were several hints that Angel’s fight continues to take place in
the context of a greater struggle. For
example, take the slaughter of the lawyers:
was slated to happen with or without you. The Powers were just trying to work it
so it'd be without you, that's all. You just...well…You weren't much help in that department, were ya,
“I wasn't much help? If they wanted me to stay away, why didn't they just tell
you have listened? Besides, what makes you think they didn't?
Over and over and, as for example, over.”
This confirms the call to help the would
be suicide in “Reunion” was intended to keep Angel to the path someone had
marked out for him. But even more
importantly there was the fact that Angel was able to rescue Kate without an
invitation. At first this seemed
merely a piece of carelessness on the part of the writers.
But it wasn’t:
grateful. I never thought you'd come for me.
“Because I never invited you in.”
At one level this can seem a mere plot
contrivance. But it does make sense
as an expression of an interest of a higher power in Angel and what he does.
Angel had previously abandoned Kate to her fate.
If he had been unable to save her because of the delay (ie she was
unconscious and therefore unable to invite him in) would he have reacted to his
epiphany in as positive a manner as he did or would he have descended back into
brooding about his sins? That was a
very real danger because I think Kate really does mean something to Angel.
I don’t myself see any romance there but
each strikes a chord within the other. Both
are essentially solitary individuals whose sense of identity is founded on the
idea of fighting evil and who do not have much outside that.
The way both crumpled when they thought that the very reason for their
continued existence had been taken away is proof of that.
For both of them their choice of career was not made willingly but
because it was the only way they could respond to the emotional baggage of their
past. For Angel it was his life as
a vampire. For
Kate it was the emotional torment of a father who could not or would not
let her into his heart. And in
their careers they found the only solace they would know.
And in pursuit of their careers they are tough, strong minded and
convinced they know the answers for every problem.
Of course the answers that each came to
were informed by very different backgrounds – Angel as supernatural
vigilante, Kate as the upholder of law and order.
It was because of this that the conflict between them arose.
But when Kate in particular came to see Angel’s point of view (in both
“Shroud of Rahmon” and “Thin Dead Line”) she did begin to trust him and
once that happened the rapport between them was very natural.
How they relate to one another from here
on is a very interesting question. Kate
is no longer part of the LAPD. The
most obvious source of contact between them now disappears.
It is unlikely she will join Angel Investigations full time.
But I have a feeling this is not the last we have seen of former
The Night with Darla
Ultimately, of course, the effectiveness
of this story comes down to the extent to which it is believable that Angel
suddenly undergoes the change of perspective I have just been discussing.
And fundamental to this is the idea that sleeping with Darla represented
for him rock bottom. When she
realizes that he still has his soul she is confused:
understand... Was I... was it... not good?
Well, I don't accept this. You cannot tell me that wasn't perfect. Not
only have I been around for four hundred years, I used to do this professionally
and that was perfect!”
Angel’s reply was:
it was perfect, Darla. It was
Despair was the only reason Angel did sleep with her. It certainly wasn’t because she meant anything to him. And when he woke up he realized that.
As the Host later said:
to understand? You think you're the first guy who ever rolled over, saw what was
lyin' next to him, and went ‘Gueeeyah!’”.
It focused his attention on whom and what
he had become – someone who would have thrown away his very soul and
endangered who knows how many people.
“ Yes. But I was going to kill you tonight. Take you out of this world, the
same way I brought you into it. But
then I didn't have to... you gave yourself over so completely, Angelus. I felt
gave you everything I had left...”
Darla was herself going to release
Angel’s soul but in the end she didn’t even have to try.
He would have given it up voluntarily.
Again to quote the Host:
a moment of clarity, my lamb. And you've just had one.
Sort of appalling, ain't it? To see just exactly where you've gotten
But more than that he saw why he had become like that:
“You were the reason. You've always been the reason. You're the thing that
made me what I am. I thought... I thought if I could save you, I'd somehow be
saving myself. But I was wrong. And when I failed...”
“...when I failed, you saved me. And I have to thank you for that.
There’s nothing I can do for you now Darla, I can’t even hate you.”
His preoccupation with his own redemption as symbolized by his preoccupation with her had led him to this pass and it was this that he decided to change.
To me this does indeed seem to be a
credible picture of an epiphany. It
brings together the two essential elements needed.
First was Angel’s realization that he had taken a wrong turning.
The slaughter of the lawyers in “Reunion”, the way he had treated
everyone in “Blood Money”, the heart to heart with the host in “Happy
Anniversary” none of that had been sufficient.
It needed something of a qualitatively different nature
to waken Angel up and the risk of losing his soul seems to me to
constitute just such an event. But
the second element was also important. He
had to understand why he had gone wrong. The
events post “Reunion” were, I think, intended to be seen as the result of
powerful forces at play deep within Angel’s psyche so no change in his
behavior which failed to recognize and deal with these forces would have been
This aspect of the episode is not without
its faults. And the most serious problem concerns the possible loss of Angel’s
soul. This was the consequence of
“perfect happiness”, when the soul no longer plagues the vampire with its
guilt. And yet psychologically we
had the exact opposite – perfect despair.
The soul (and therefore the demon) could hardly be more tortured.
So, where did the risk lie? In
other words why was Angel so appalled by his actions?
It seems to me that this introduces yet more confusion to the question of
whether sex alone can be responsible for lifting the curse.
And I have to add that in this context I did not find the opening shots,
which repeated the beginning of “Innocence”, especially helpful. I can
understand why they were included. They
reminded us all of the danger of Angel losing his soul.
And it was this rather than the dialogue that is intended to inform the
viewer of what lay at the heart of Angel’s epiphany.
But I found that problematic. It
suggests that Angel was at least having to fight to retain his soul and may have
only just succeeded. If that were
the case then it would greatly strengthen the central idea of this episode.
If Angel had narrowly avoided losing his soul through his own stupidity
that would certainly qualify as such a life-changing event that it would justify
an epiphany. But how exactly would
that work? Are we now to suppose
that Angel, through will power, can in some circumstances affect the operation
of the curse? If that was intended
it clearly wasn’t thought through. The
more likely explanation is that it was no more than a tease.
But if so, to me it rang false.
And so too did Angel’s decision not to
kill Darla. He had already made up his mind to do it in “Reunion” and the
reason he gave for not being able to kill her up close and personal in
“Redefinition” no longer held good. In this episode he had explicitly
recognized who she was and what she was capable of.
He may have felt sorry for his failure to effect her redemption as a
human but there is nothing to suggest he had any human sympathy left for her.
In fact quite the opposite.
Apart from that, however, I really did
like the treatment of sex in this episode.
It happened apparently three times between Angel and Darla. Physically it was perfect but it was empty.
In the end Angel was simply using her.
First he tried to use her as a means of ridding himself of the pains and
torments of this life. As it turned
out she performed a quite different service for him, albeit
unintentionally. But it came down
to the same thing. For her part
Darla probably found sex with Angel repugnant.
This was not, after all, Angelus but a human soul that still disgusts
her. Having sex with Angel was just
a way of getting rid of it.
So, for neither was the sex
an expression of love. It
was in fact an act of prostitution. There
was a hint of this in Darla’s reminder to him of her former profession.
But much more explicitly we find it in her bitter little comment in
Lindsey’s apartment. When he sees
her with the ring Angel had taken from the senior partner and which she
evidently rescued from where he had thrown it she says of it:
“It was my payment.”
This subverts the whole Buffy/Angel
dynamic in “Innocence”. There,
genuine love was responsible for the loss of Angel’s soul.
Here, cold empty sex saved it. The
irony is perfect. Yet like all the
best irony there was a very simple logic to it.
In “Innocence” sex with Buffy was the means to Angel becoming happy
with himself for the first time since his soul was restored.
That was the reason why it had such a devastating effect. In “Epiphany” Angel realized that he didn’t respect
himself and had good reason not to. That
was what caused the reaction there.
But the counterpoint is even more telling.
Darla meant a great deal to him. He
had risked his career, his very life for her.
She had already betrayed him once by her attempt to kill the senior
partner and steal his ring. And yet
he doesn’t rebuke her for it. He
is in fact remarkably understanding:
You should have
told me what you planned to do. I would have talked you out of it... or... or
helped you. I don't know...”
And yet, despite the obvious attraction,
they had never had sex. I
think we can assume this fact from Lindsey when, in an effort to protect her
from Wolfram and Hart’s retribution he says:
probably clear your stuff out of here. We can move it into my bedroom...”
It seems to me that Lindsey had built up a little fantasy in his head about Darla and how she looked upon him as something special. When he woke up after the massacre he seemed almost pleased when he thought he was the only survivor and believed Darla spared him because he meant something special to her. He therefore treated the prospect of sex between them as itself something special and important. That is why the revelation that sex had been treated as some sort of commodity between Angel and Darla produced in him the reaction that it did. He obsessively demanded to know from both of them the details of what went on. And when he goes after Angel something has changed. This isn’t the cool, calm and calculating lawyer who is in control. It is now something raw and visceral; something that even the loss of his hand (a fact that we were specifically reminded of) couldn’t bring out of him. Of the three involved in the triangle, Lindsey was the only one to give his heart. He was also the only one to end up really hurt. Perhaps the real message from this is a better one than the traditional “sex is bad” line from ME. Perhaps what the writers are really saying is that the real problem comes not from the sex itself but from whom you give you heart to. Angel had sex with Darla but recognized what sort of a creature she was and because he did he was set back on the right path. Lindsey clearly did not understand about Darla and, despite the fact that his love for her remained unconsummated, as a result ended up not only with a broken heart but a broken hand and body, a broken truck and an empty apartment. The real question here, however, remains what effect this will have on the future direction he takes. Has this episode given him yet further reason to hate Angel and thereby cemented his loyalty to Wolfram and Hart? We shall have to see.
For me, there was a further major point about this episode. As Angel himself admitted to the Host he has done things to feel guilty about.
don't know how to get back.”
that's the thing. You don't.
You go to the new place. Wherever that is.”
“I don't know if I can. I've done...things... questionable things.”
As I have already suggested ANGEL as a
series is about redemption. Whatever
Angel does redemption is always possible. But
it is also a key message of the series that it isn’t easy.
This was the message he gave to Faith in “Sanctuary”.
An apology is a good start. Again
That is why it was good to see Angel
apologize not only to Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn but also to Darla and indeed to
Lindsey for the past mistakes he made with them.
But it is only a start. For
his transgressions there have to be consequences; and ideally they should not be
arbitrary ones either. There is a
crude justice about a punishment fitting the crime that I find very appealing
and that is certainly what we got here. As
we have already seen, at the heart of Angel’s fall from grace lay his
preoccupation with his own problems and a sense of his own uniqueness. And both of these traits find expression in his pride, the
slightly arrogant way he assumes and imposes leadership and a marked tendency to
trample objections underfoot. For
someone like that there is nothing more salutary than to defer to others.
When you have been used to exercising unquestioned power, when your whole
sense of identity is built around that power it is hard to accept a subordinate
role. As Wesley observed in
“Shroud of Rahmon”
tell *him* what to do. He's the boss."
But as I have already said the lesson in
this is that it is not about Angel. It is about helping others and the outward
and visible sign that Angel is now going to place others first is his
willingness to accept a subordinate’s role.
That is the real importance of the final scene:
“Understood. However, before you say anything more, I should tell you...we've
all discussed it and none of us feels we're ready just yet to...
It's okay, Wesley. I don't want you to come back to work for me.
“Oh. I see.”
“I want to work for you.”
“ You wanna work for us?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“I think I can help.”
“How do we know we can trust you?”
”Guess I'll just have to earn that.”
I think this is an extremely well thought
out and very satisfying solution to the problem of how Angel is going to earn
redemption for his transgressions. And
I for one do not underestimate just how difficult a task it will be for him.
Not only will it be hard; the discipline needed to continue to focus on
simply helping others rather than being continually preoccupied with his own
redemption will actually be good for him. It
is what he needs to live in “the new place” the host referred to.
And above all it is entirely consistent with Angel as a character.
He is not perfect, for all the reasons I have just discussed.
But his is a trier and he does want to do what is right.
It’s just that sometimes his judgment as to what is right is a little
flawed. But once he does see what
needs to be done he will do it, regardless of the cost to himself.
It also serves to give Wesley and the
others due credit for their achievements in maintaining “the good fight” in
Angel’s absence. The writers have
gone to some pains in the course of this episode to assert their importance. They stressed the fact that Cordelia in particular was
Angel’s link with the Powers that Be. Despite
his physical handicap Wesley was able to make very successful efforts to defend
himself and we saw his depth of knowledge about the supernatural in his
encyclopedic knowledge about the Skilosh demons:
“Skilosh, a notoriously violent, a- sexual, self-replicating species of demon,
has the distasteful habit of implanting its demon spawn into the cranium of a
human host.. One of the key
diagnostic symptoms being, of course, the tell-tale third eye on the back of the
host's head. If the condition is not arrested in time, a newborn Skilosh will
erupt,full-grown, from the skull of its human host. This is, of course, fatal.
For the human host. Not the Skilosh. Obviously.”
We see their comradeship and care for one
another and indeed their self-confidence even without Angel.
When they see Cordelia with the third eye they decide not to wait for
Gunn: “That's gotta hurt.”
“It'll hurt more when the thing that's gestating inside of her hatches, I can
“Try not to use the word "gestate" again and how long we gonna wait
“Well, why should we?”
In short the writers are suggesting that
“Angel Investigations” is not now simply a one man band. And this is of course a very important consideration in view
of the new dynamic we have been introduced to.
That, however, is about all I have to say
about it that is positive about this aspect of the episode because there are
major problems with it. The first
thing I disliked was the way in which the Host tried to play down Angel’s part
on the death of Holland and the others. Certainly
it is entirely true what he says:
slated to happen with or without you. The Powers were just trying to work it so
it'd be without you, that's all. You just...well. You weren't much help in that
department, were ya, Sparky?”
If Angel had helped the would be suicide
Darla and Drusilla would still have shown up at Holland’s wine tasting and a
massacre would still have taken place. But
the point is that he was there and he did lock the door thus helping them.
If the series really is about redemption it should be about embracing
facts like that and dealing with the consequences rather than trying to sidle
But that is not my main complaint. I am afraid that I cannot buy the idea of Wesley, Cordelia
and Gunn being the injured parties entitled thereby to the moral high ground in
their dealing with Angel. First of
all though, as prime mover in the whole Darla arc, Angel must shoulder most of
the responsibility for what went wrong. Cordelia
and Wesley in particular failed in their responsibility to a friend.
If, as they clearly did, they could see the dangers he was running it was
their duty as such to warn him in clear and explicit terms.
If he refused to listen that was his own look out.
But time and time again they chickened out, essentially through moral
cowardice. The classic example of
this was the exchange between Cordelia and Wesley at the start of “The
Cordelia: "Don't say Darla! I'm sick and tired hearing about Darla. If I hear the name Darla one more time! And he is not distraught, he is obsessed! And I thought you were gonna be a man and talk to him about this!"
Wesley: "I was a man! I said … things."
Cordelia: "Like what?"
"Like … did he prefer milk or sugar in his tea. It's how men talk
about things in England."
Wesley and Gunn as good as admitted their
failings at the end of “Reunion”:
Wesley: "We've all been worried about you, and I guess it's fair to say we all share some of the blame. We should have spoken up sooner."
Gunn: "And louder."
visions, you see. The visions that were meant to guide you. You could turn away
from them. She didn't have that luxury. She knows and experiences the pain in
this city and, because of who she is, she feels compelled to do something about
it. It's left her little time for anything else.
She didn’t exactly go out of her way to help Angel. But then when she does confront our fallen hero, his failure to help others wasn’t exactly top of her list of priorities either:
“No. You really hurt my feelings.”
This is what continues to ring completely false about Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn’s reaction to Angel’s “dark period”. On a couple of occasions, as indicated above, Wesley expresses disgust at Angel’s abandonment of the “good fight”. But there is no attempt to show he had any understanding of what Angel was doing. Did any of Angel’s former colleagues try to understand the difference between fighting the good fight in the sense of helping others and fighting a war? When they last had contract with him he had just actively participated in the deaths of the Wolfram and Hart lawyers and had fired them when they tried to convince him he needed to change. This was more than simply walking away from his duty. This was dangerous. But the problems do not end there. The quote from Cordelia suggests that what really annoyed her and the others was being fired and then abandoned by a friend. A reaction like that amounted to an expression of personal betrayal. I cannot help but feel that the concentration on this trivializes what had happened. But more importantly there is an obvious difference between the two reactions just discussed. But there is really no attempt on the part of the writers to distinguish between them. Rather the dialogue seems to switch between the two randomly.
The basic plot can be fairly readily
summed up. The Skilosh lured
Cordelia to the Sharp’s house as part of their attempt to gain revenge for the
killing of one of their unborn offspring. They
later found Wesley and tried to kill him in his apartment.
Angel was told about this by the Host and by helping save his friends he
began to be re-integrated with them in “the good fight”.
There were a few problems with the set up
of the basic plot. I haven’t been
able to work out the time line for the night and if someone had the patience to
do it, it might make very interesting reading.
But certainly Cordelia took an awfully long time to get to the Sharp’s
home. The Host was in bed and he
ran a karaoke bar. Did she really
expect the Sharp’s to be awake that late?
And then why did she come by taxi and pay it off instead of having it
wait for her? Finally, in the
middle of the night she finds an unlocked front door in a darkened family home
and just walks in. I mean short of
pinning a “Watch out it’s a trap” notice to the front door what else could
the demons have done to warn her. Besides
we had already seen the trap being set up so it came as absolutely no surprise
at all when it was sprung.
The raid on Wesley’s apartment was also
more than a little obvious and it begged the question why lure Cordelia to the
Sharp’s instead of attacking her either at the office or her own place.
But, on the whole, the writers were able
to inject enough tension into these pretty standard scenarios to keep out
attention. For example, in the
attack on Wesley’s apartment I really did enjoy his frantic efforts to arm
himself as the Skilosh closed in. And the confusion between himself and Angel
first over the latter’s entrance and then the way to kill the demon were also
very entertaining. Less enjoyable
as such but nevertheless important was the impregnation of Cordelia with the
Skilsoh spawn. This not only gave
the Skilosh a believable reason for keeping her alive but also added to the
creepiness factor. Even though we
realized that Cordelia would be rescued the fact that she was treated like this
made it feel as though she was under threat and that is always important.
But the best part of the plot was the way
it was interrupted by the sub-plot. When
Wesley spotted a truck driving around Angel Investigations Offices I thought it
might be the Skilosh or even perhaps someone from Wolfram and Hart.
But when Angel was so unexpectedly run over by the truck I had no idea at
all that it would be Lindsey. And
the fury of the attack was something else that made it very difficult to catch
my breath. In fact, while this was going on I basically lost interest in
the main plot and was more than a little annoyed when it interrupted the
Angel/Lindsey confrontation. Not
that the outcome was in any doubt, although I very much liked the fact that the
inevitable Angel fight back was delayed as long as it was.
That was what kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering just when he
would get up and finish Lindsey off. But
apart from that, and the suddenness and sheer brutality of the attack, the thing
I liked best about this scene was the way that Angel apologized to Lindsey very
simply and very sincerely (and without any hint of irony) while he was beating
him up. Angel had reserved a
special venom for Lindsey up until now. Implicitly
I think he was judging him for what he was.
Here to we saw a marked change in Angel’s attitude.
And this brings me to the most important
point about the plot. In the main
it must be said that it merely served as an opportunity to reintroduce the four
main characters to one another. And
in this respect it worked reasonably well.
The down side of this was that in parts the episode was a little slow
moving with individual scenes with high drama such as the raid on Wesley’s
apartment and the impregnation of Cordelia separated by lengthy scenes in which
nothing actually happens to propel the narrative forward.
But the point here is that in these scenes we were given ample
opportunity to see the resentment that Wesley in particular feels towards Angel
and the latter’s very awkward attempts to ingratiate himself with his former
subordinate were highly amusing. The
scenes between the two of them helped illustrate Angel’s new found resolve to
be a “team player” and as such made a solid contribution towards
establishing the basic premise of the episode.
But there was a lightness of touch about them that worked very well.
Angel’s clumsiness both served both to take him down a peg or two and
simultaneously made him a more sympathetic character than he had been for a
while. As such it was an important
part in the re-humanization of the character.
I am bound to say though that the dialogue between Angel and Gunn did not
work at all well. Basically Gunn’s response to Angel was sarcasm.
Wesley’s cold, deliberate refusal to give Angel an inch was very
effective in communicating the thought that he would have to do rather more than
that to make his peace with his friends without appearing to be overly
aggressive. But sarcasm only works
where the other is behaving in an overbearing fashion.
When the other person is already showing humility and contrition it’s
the response of the bully. The best
that can be said for it is that it isn’t terribly attractive.
A- (8.5/10) There were some parts of this episode that I loved. As I have already mentioned I started out with significant reservations about the prospect of an epiphany. But this part of the episode was handled very well indeed. I liked in particular the fact that it did not try to pretend the Angel goes dark period didn’t happen. Rather they used it to get Angel to look at what his mission should really be about and to admit to himself some failings in his whole attitude. In that sense it preserves the continuity of the arc. It remains recognizably a single story where changes and developments that take place are naturally seen to affect what follows rather than being arbitrarily discarded. And the writers have not neglected the consequences of Angel’s actions but have instead provided us with a very satisfying sense of him paying his proper dues. Moreover, in charting Angel’s psychological evolution through the arc the writers have again delved deeper to add further to out knowledge of the vampire and his motivation. Remarkably what they seem to be saying about him is not only consistent with the character as he appeared before but also forms the basis for what appears to be some very interesting change and growth for the character. And this psychological understanding also raises some important issues for the philosophy of the series, in particular what is the nature of Angel’s path towards redemption. I look forward to yet more exploration here. Having said that, however, if the second half of the Darla arc was bedeviled by one consistent failing it was in the treatment of Angel’s former employees. In their attitude to Angel and to his turning dark little for me rang true and there was almost nothing which went beyond the superficial. The fact that we saw little or no appreciation from them of the meaning of “the good fight” in opposition to Angel’s concept of fighting a war was especially disappointing. In retrospect, by treating as they did Angel’s actions as a personal betrayal of them, they afforded the writers the opportunity to set up the ending of this episode where Angel has to swallow his pride and work for his former employees. That was certainly a very natural development of their offended pride. But for my money it was purchased at too high a price in terms of the overall credibility to be given to the actions of Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn. This is one of the main reasons why I have marked it down. The other difficulty lies with some of the plot problems I have mentioned, especially the decision not to stake Darla which was in terms of the story as told wholly inexplicable.