GUISE WILL BE GUISE
Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: Krishna Rao
end of "Dear Boy" was dominated by the confrontation between Angel and
a now human Darla. In the course of
that conversation the two characters laid bare their very different conceptions
of who Angel really is. For Darla
he is an immensely powerful Vampire who, instead of indulging that power, has
been neutered by a soul. For Angel
himself, however, the soul is fundamentally who he is.
It doesn’t just stop him from doing evil things.
It makes him a different person. The
question is who is right or are they both in some senses right?
is the question that “Guise Will be Guise” begins to look at.
In this context the central idea of this episode may be found in the
"I don't have a reflection so..."
Magev: "Sure you do."
"You're reflected in the people around you. The way *they* see you. What do
you think they see?"
then cut to Wesley impersonating Angel. The
important thing about this is the way that the writers use Wesley’s
impersonation of Angel to examine not only the way he (and indeed the rest of
the world) see Angel but to reveal that there is more to our hero than this
image. Key to this process is the
relationship between the A and B stories in this episode.
Most of our time is taken up with Wesley and his attempts to impersonate
Angel. In doing so he attempts to
hide his own fears and insecurities under the cover of the persona of the cool,
self-controlled, fearless and powerful vampire figure we see each week.
This, I think, has to be the A plot.
But it is the B plot which gives this it’s meaning in terms of the
development of the arc. Here we see
that the exterior Angel that Wesley has tried to copy is itself a manufactured
image that is used to mask the real Angel.
The parallels between the A and B plots together with the various hints
dropped in the confrontations between Angel and the Tish Magev, therefore, are
used to suggest very strongly that Angel himself uses his exterior image as a
means of concealing his own internal anxieties and uncertainties.
this context it is, I think, convenient to look at Wesley's part in the episode
first. At the beginning of
"Guise Will be Guise" we see him at his bumbling idiot worst.
He tries to open the top drawer of the file cabinet and, when it sticks,
he pulls it completely out, scattering papers on the floor. And when he crouches
down to retrieve the papers a stranger calls out to him and he straightens up
and bangs his head on the file drawer. This
is all a very disappointing and somewhat jarring reversion to a previous
incarnation of the character that had seemed left behind.
But I think the writers can be allowed a little leeway here because the
purpose of this scene is to help counterpoint the change that comes over Wesley
when he dons the black coat to impersonate Angel.
When he does so the transformation is remarkable.
As a result of his clumsiness, the slightly sinister stranger will not
take him seriously:
"Might want to tell the boss, he wants to run a business he shouldn't be
foisting clients off on his secretary."
simply reinforces the low opinion Wesley has of himself. He describes his own actions to Cordelia in the following
the most significant words here are - "the usual".
He doesn't put his chapter of accidents down to a bad day or anything
like that. This is the way Wesley
sees himself generally. But once necessity forces him to adopt the guise of Angel all
of that starts to change. At first
he is still a little tentative. When
confronted by a hoodlum called Benny pointing a gun at him he stutters:
that… that won't kill me."
the fact that Benny accepts this at face value seems to settle Wesley a little
and he is noticeably more assured.
"You just expect me to follow you. I don't see why I should. Ah, you know
the gun won't kill me."
is only induced to follow Benny because Cordelia is threatened and even then he
makes it clear that he is not intimidated:
Alright. But, ah, I shan't be
Bryce's house there is a good deal of fun to be had at Wesley's expense as he
tries to remember a Vampire needs an invitation to enter a home and to cope with
drinking blood. But the interesting
part comes when he is brought to Virginia's room and sees himself in a mirror.
To cover himself he gives an order
"Cover that mirror!"
"Why? We know you're a vampire."
is the sort of peremptory command that Angel himself might issue:
"Do it because I say so.".
Indeed he only gives an explanation as to why he wants the mirror covered
after it has been done. And perhaps
even more interestingly by now he has quite reconciled himself to the idea of
acting as Virginia's bodyguard:
"Virginia, we're both stuck here. So it seems to me I might as well do what
he wants me to do and do my best to protect you."
"You think you're the vampire for the job?"
"Well, I wanna try. You gonna fight me?"
man who not very long previously had been blaming his clumsiness for loosing a
client had now enough confidence in himself to willingly accept a major
responsibility, that of saving a life. This
is a task he handles with some
aplomb, as demonstrated by the two kidnap attempts.
First in the shop after Virginia has been grabbed:
Kidnapper: "Virginia, we're gonna go now."
Kidnapper: "Say good bye to the pretty guy."
Kidnapper: "You're Angel? The vampire?"
"Yes I am. I'm...Angel the vampire with a soul, fighting for my redemption
with...with...with killing evil demons. That's right. Scourge of the demon
world. Don't worry, boys, I don't
kill humans - unless I'm angry!"
Kidnapper: "We're just doing what he told us."
"Who, Lanier? Fine. You're
going to leave now. Then you're gonna to tell Lanier - forget about the girl.
mere mention of Angel's name is sufficiently intimidating to give Wesley the
upper hand. We had already seen how
the fact that Benny thought he was a vampire was enough to protect him from the
threat of a gun. Now the possession
of Angel's name was enough to ward off the kidnap attempt. But the next challenge Wesley faced wouldn’t be so easy.
Outside Virginia’s bedroom he had to fight two more would be
kidnappers, one of whom tried to use magic. His performance here evokes
"You were amazing."
with a smile: "I was a bit."
we see evidence not only that Wesley is a brave and capable fighter.
Much more important we see the self-confidence that he has now achieved.
Even after he has been found out and thrown off Bryce’s estate that
self-confidence isn’t dented. Instead
even after Angel returns and they decide to return to the estate to rescue
Virginia he almost unconsciously assumes a leadership role:
"We have to go. Angel you take Gunn, go to the front of the house.
Cordelia, we'll to take the back."
is only when he is physically reminded of Angel’s presence that he remembers
he isn’t in charge and once again defers to his boss.
And that I think is the clue to the nature of Wesley transformation from
klutz to hero. All this time
wearing Angel’s coat, feeling the respect paid to Angel, acting as if he were
Angel Wesley was getting an unaccustomed feeling of power. He began to like it. He
began to use it. He began in short
to behave as if it were natural for him to do so. And it was only when he was
reminded that he wasn’t Angel after all that he realized that this wasn’t
the person he had been all along.
on the other hand, was used to power and authority.
Now he suddenly found himself playing the unaccustomed role of second
fiddle and did not like it. On his
return from the Tish Magev, almost the first thing he does is ask:
is Wesley wearing my coat?"
mentions the coat twice more, only to be ignored on each occasion.
When Wesley tries to organize the raid on Bryce’s party he has to put
out a hand to restrain him but even then his only contribution is to suggest
(rather lamely) a reversal of the arrangements Wesley had suggested:
well, Gunn and I could …take the back?"
when they do burst in Wesley again seems to be in the lead and he is the one who
"Release her or die."
this a somewhat peeved Angel can only add:
I say that?"
implication here is clear. Just as
we saw how Wesley found the image
of power he inherited from Angel was itself empowering we learn that the image
Angel projects is an indication of just how much the realities of power do mean
to him. And here we come to the B plot – Angel’s visit to the Tish Magev and
what we learn about him there.
basic thesis behind the Magev’s analysis of Angel is contained in the
"There are *two* you’s."
"The image you work so hard to create and the real you."
"Well, maybe my persona *is* a little - affected."
"A little affected? Come on. How many warriors slated for the coming
apocalypse do you think are gonna be using that hair gel? Don't get me wrong -
you're out there fighting the ultimate evil
you're gonna want something with hold. But how do you expect to triumph
over the soldiers of darkness when you're still fighting yourself?"
"You think I'm fighting myself?"
image Angel creates is, of course, a striking one. It’s not only about the
hair gel. There is also the
1960’s black convertible and the dark clothes, especially the duster:
"That car is your problem, pal. Says everything about you."
"Yes, the car. You live in L.A. It's all about the car you drive."
"I really don't think..."
"Vampire, living in a city known for its sun - driving a convertible. Why
do you hate yourself?"
"I don't. I mean, I got a deal."
"You got a deal. - Why not a personalized license plate that says
"Top goes up."
"Appearances. Very important to you."
"That's not true."
"Sure it is. So important that you're willing to put your eternal life at
risk every time you hop into that thing. Top up or not."
"It's just a car."
"Oh. So why all the layers, all the black? You know it's been about 80
degrees in the shade lately."
"No reason. I…I don't have a body temperature so..."
"So it's for the look."
we have already seen, Angel’s image projects power.
In this episode Wesley is in fact the living reflection of that power.
But all the accoutrements – the car, the clothes, even the hair gel –
they also create an image for the way that power is used.
They say: here is a cool, relaxed, self confident guy who is always in
control of himself and the situation. This
is not the self-indulgent, joyful almost flamboyant exercise of power for the
sake of power that was typical of Angelus.
In Wesley’s own words it is an image of power to fit:
is, without doubt, the concept of himself that Angel wants to identify with and
that is why he reinforces it with the carefully constructed image he projects to
the world, almost in an effort to convince himself that this is who he really
is. But, as we have also seen, the
power and authority inherent in that image is something he not only uses for
good. It is something that is
actually very important to him for its own sake. Dare we say that it is something he actually enjoys.
And this, I think, is the important territory that “Guise Will be
Guise” gets into. When Angel and Magev are staff fighting on a covered bridge
their discussion turns around this very question of Angel’s attitude to his
"You're holding back. What are you afraid off?"
"You're wimping. This isn't Riverdance. Fight!"
"I am fighting!"
Magev: "Yourself. You're fighting yourself. Fight me! Why are you holding back? Why can't you let go?"
"If I let it, it'll kill you."
"Ha! But the demon is you!"
"Yes! That's the thing you spend so much energy trying to conceal!"
shakes his head: "No, I just - I can't let it control me."
nods: "Ah. I see. You *don't* think it controls you?"
do not think that the Magev’s statement that the demon is Angel is intended to
suggest that Angel and Angelus are one in the same.
Rather the implication of this whole scene is much more interesting than
that. In the staff fight Angel is
exercising precisely the same sort of discipline on his power that his image
would suggest. What the Magev is
saying is that no matter how much the image Angel projects or his own
self-discipline might deny the fact, an attraction to power (and because of the
physical nature of that power he really means violence) is part of the
inescapable inheritance from the demon within.
He cannot avoid that fact no matter how hard he tries.
That is what he means when he continually refers to Angel fighting
himself. Angel’s image is part of
his struggle to convince himself that he is using his power for the right
reasons and not because he likes it.
of which brings us back to Darla. At
the beginning of this episode we do not see an Angel who is romantically
interested in Darla. Still less do
we see someone who wants to help her come to terms with the burden of a soul.
Rather we see someone who is himself almost out of control when against
all reason he launches a suicide assault on the Wolfram and Hart building:
"No, no. I need to do this. I have to find her... where they have
pushes open: "Still with the Darla of it?"
to Gunn: "Did you encourage this?"
"I'm just going along for the ride."
"Gonna be a pretty short ride. They have vampire detectors!"
"We know. It's cool. He's got a plan."
"Yeah. I get to the offices before they stop me."
"See? What? *That's* the plan?
Walking real quick was the "plan"?"
"Angel, this is crazy. Listen to yourself. You're all insane and angry and
insane! You need help!"
"I'm not insane and I'm not angry"
this point they are interrupted by a security guard with the stake concealed in
his nightstick. Angel grabs a hold of it and stabs him through the foot with it.
"Man, that's nasty."
"Maybe I'm a little angry."
later he describes his state of mind to the Caritas MC:
"I guess I'm a little, ah, uhm rocky."
“You're Rocky and Rocky II and half of the one with Mister T. Tell me about
"I just... I…I feel this... like …I have to do something …and if I
don't let it out I'll explode, and then …when I do something…it feels,
ah…I…I think, maybe … this…this is it. I... I'll sing if I have
Wolfram and Hart brought Darla back, she challenged his own conception of
himself and his role in the world. As she revealed in “Dear Boy” deep down she believes he
is the same Angelus that she knew and loved (at least loved insofar as a vampire
is capable of love):
her Liam and Angel and Angelus were all fundamentally the same person.
The viciousness and cruelty that were the hallmarks of the demon were
always there. The only difference
between them was that the human soul "neutered" them by preventing
them from fulfilling their dark potential.
For Angel on the other hand the possession of a soul did make him a
fundamentally different person. “Guise Will be Guise” certainly doesn’t
support the proposition that Darla advanced in the last quote.
What it does, however, is begin to establish that there were aspects of
the vampire lifestyle that Angel was attracted to but which he did not want to
acknowledge, in particular the strength and power of the vampire. Also while we are at it we should also mention the eternal
life part. In particularly clever
touches in both AYNOHYEB and in “Dear Boy”, Angel proved himself very
sensitive indeed about his age. This
is another indicator perhaps of a degree of vanity.
just when things had been going so well for him, when he was comfortable in his
new found sense of purpose and when he had in his own mind settled who he was
and what he wanted, she now opened up all the old issues. Because
Wolfram and Hart brought her back things were no longer as clear as he had
"This Darla girl; why'd they do that?"
"I don't know. But seeing her again... it's just..."
"It started the inner struggle."
"She's not even the one that did this to you."
"No. It…it's still her, it's still Darla. It's - kinda hard to
"What hard? You're obsessed."
"I guess I am, a little, yeah."
"You blame her."
"I suppose I do."
"You want to punish her."
"At the same time you want to thank her."
"For the gift she's given you."
"You're deeply ambivalent."
"Yeah, well, I am and I'm not."
effect, therefore, it was Darla who re-ignited the struggle within Angel that is
the subject of this episode; that was why he was so rocky at the beginning of it
and that was why he needed help in addressing his problem.
“Guise Will be Guise” establishes quite clearly and convincingly that here
is a character that is conflicted, moreover it also enables us to see what the
nature of the conflict is – the fact that he is not quite as able as we had
previously assumed to come to terms with his vampire past and that certainly his
feelings about that past were not confined to guilt.
This was the ambiguity he hid under his carefully constructed image with
its emphasis on his struggle for redemption., as witnessed by Cordelia's take on
the fact that this struggle was brought on by Darla’s return gives us the most
powerful indication yet that the coming struggle will not be about reawakening
the demon within Angel but rather about how robust the will of the human soul is
to continue on its chosen path of redemption or whether that soul can be
detoured. In this sense “Guise
Will be Guise” makes a major contribution to the development of the arc rather
than being a disposable stand alone episode. And it is all the better for that.
there is only one major problem with the whole concept. We have to believe that the insights the Tish Magev had into
Angel were valid. They are
certainly treated by the writers as if they were.
But, as the person that Angel had his heart to heart with wasn’t the
Tish Magev but someone who had been sent to kill him, that does take a little
swallowing. On what basis are we
supposed to believe that someone who had never seen Angel before and obviously
didn’t have a lot of detailed knowledge about him (he didn’t know about the
curse) gained the sort of intuitive understanding that even the Caritas MC
if we can overlook this then the scene between the swami and Angel really do
work beautifully, especially the way the former’s insights into Angel’s
inner character are revealed – by exposing the funny side of his situation.
We have often seen how humor at Angel’s expense has been used to good
effect. So we had the batman jokes,
the gay jokes, the references to his social ineptitude etc.
All of these were very important in that they helped to humanize an
otherwise dark and distant figure. But
here the humor is used to even better effect to make significant points about
Angel and what he wants. Because of
this the revelations have a sharpness and an edge that an attempt to make the
same points straight would have lacked. We
see the absurdity of the human condition – the futile attempt to hide the
truth or change reality that is doomed to fail.
And of course there is the simple fact that all of the jokes actually
worked. They were funny. And not the least clever part here was the
subject matter of the jokes were issues that had been old chestnuts
around discussion groups for ages. One
common theme here was how could the writers be so stupid as to bring a Vampire
to LA or give him a convertible. Another
was – doesn’t Angel look gorgeous in black and what about the hair?
By picking up these old issues and giving them a twist the writers were,
at the same time as making some very serious points, also gently sending up the
character and his premise (and perhaps even the fans).
It’s a great trick if you can pull it off.
And I think they did. And in
this they were superbly assisted by a terrific performance from DB who has now a
very wide range of beautifully judged facial expression and vocal tones to
convey irritation, exasperation, injured dignity and a multitude of other
feelings. I loved in particular the different ways he reacted to being
called a Eunuch – surprise, annoyance, petulance and finally (after Virginia
hits her father) with just a hint of triumph.
is something of an exaggeration to say that there was a B plot as such in
“Guise Will be Guise”. Rather
there were a series of scenes between Angel and the Tish Magev that
systematically explored some character related themes and which were loosely
related to the main plot. So here I
will simply concentrate on the way in which Wesley was press ganged into
protecting Virginia. Of
course, a plot like this should depend on the threat to Virginia and the
level of tension that such a scenario can generate. Normally we would judge it effectiveness by how involved we
became with the fate of the character and how much doubt we were in as to
whether or not Wesley would be successful.
And by those standards “Guise Will be Guise” would be pretty much of
a failure. I thought the
characterization of Virginia was a case in point.
The writers seemed to be inviting our sympathy for her because of the
“bird in a gilded cage” life she led. She
describes her own life in the following terms:
yet Virginia herself never seemed the sort of person who would meekly put up
with this sort of treatment, especially judged by her reaction to the faux
Bryce: "Honey, we have a guest."
"Oh, look. The vampire's here."
Wesley: "Uh, yes. Hello."
sits up: "Well, daddy knows how to send out for just about
"Virginia, play nice. Angel's gone out of his way to help us."
"No he hasn't. You probably brought him here at gun point."
to mention the fact that she seemed to be very good at getting what she wanted.
Vulnerability wasn’t exactly the first thing that came into your mind
when you saw her in action. Then there were the threats themselves. Without wanting to detract from Wesley’s performance as
bodyguard the attempts to kidnap Virginia were not that menacing and they
certainly were not pressed home with any degree of determination. As a piece of dramatic writing this whole aspect of the
episode would be accounted a failure. But
“Guise Will be Guise” wasn’t a dramatic episode. Its real merits lay elsewhere.
of all the plotting was full of delightful little touches. For example, in an episode
whose main theme was the difference between image a person projects and
the reality behind that image, Magnus Bryce’s calling was highly appropriate:
Bryce: "You've heard about the software, the cable network: that's all a front. The money comes from wizardry. My great-grandfather created our first spell in his garage a simple - tallness illusion. Now it's all custom designed work for people with the right money."
"You see someone in this town with looks and talent chances are we provided
one of them.”
I love the idea of cut-throat competition between magic conglomerates who
promise illusions, wishes and curses.
importantly, however, is the highly amusing spin the writers manage to put on a
rather tired premise. At the
beginning this appears to be a standard kidnapping scenario complete with
conventional suspects lacking a strong motive.
This might have persuaded us to look elsewhere for possible culprits but
for the fact that Lanier’s involvement is quickly and fairly conclusively
demonstrated by the confessions of his own men and by the fact that he had
plotted to keep Angel out of the way. This
seemed to leave the plot fairly threadbare.
Fortunately, however, up to this point
the main interest in “Guise Will be Guise” lay in Wesley’s attempts to avoid discovery.
Despite the forcible way his help was commandeered there was never a
feeling of physical danger attendant ion his discovery.
Rather we were only too well aware of
the awful embarrassment that would have attended such an eventuality.
So we were willing him not to be discovered and that it what created the
sense of tension as he just managed to avid successive pitfalls over
the house without an invitation;
given blood to drink and trying to hide it in a glass vase;
his reflection in a mirror;
to accompany Virginia to the shops during the day;
his hand on a cross.
of these were slightly overdone. How
Virginia’s suspicions were not aroused when she saw a vampire hold a cross
without seeming to be aware of it I do not know.
But for the most part the writers did not overplay the attempts to be
funny and the best thing was that the audience became aware of the danger a
split second after Wesley so it was only when he took corrective action that we
realized the trap he had nearly fallen into.
This heightened the surprise and the relief.
And AD plays all of these moment quite beautifully with just the right
combination of “aren’t I cool” and “OMG what have I done now” moments
in both facial expression and body language.
course after his deception is discovered there are more than enough
twists and turns to keep our attention.
In rapid succession we discover the fact that the Tish Magev isn’t real
but a Lanier plant, the real reason why Lanier wanted to kidnap Virginia, why
Bryce wanted to hire Angel, the fact that the real danger to Virginia came not
from him but from her father and the fact that she was never in any danger at
all. Things just keep moving along
at a furious pace and no scene is wasted. This
is good, tight plotting. Importantly
each successive twist leads quite
naturally and believably on to the revelation of the next and each is also
entirely consistent with the story as it had developed to that stage.
In this context for example the fact that Lanier had been trying to
kidnap Virginia actually made more sense after the revelation of Bryce’s
intentions for her than it made beforehand. Equally important was the way that
the denouement was so carefully written. A
plot centering around a father sacrificing his daughter is a fairly grim theme.
And certainly, as with “Rm w/a Vu”, the option was there to make
“Guise Will be Guise” suddenly take a very dark turn.
Personally speaking I think that would have given it more of an edge and
frankly made it a better episode for that.
But for whatever reason the writers opted to keep the fairly light tone
throughout, perhaps in an effort to keep some sort of balance with the very dark
tone of the rest of the series. But
once that decision was made the introduction of Virginia’s sexual history
(nice choice of name in the context) and the irony of Bryce trying to hire Angel
and getting Wesley instead worked wonderfully well to give us a surprising and
satisfying ending without very much in the way of drama.
Not least of the merits of the writing here is that the feisty way the
character was written (and not least the way she took the initiative with
Wesley) gave a great deal of credibility to the revelation about her sexual past
and fitted the ending we got perfectly.
On a personal note though I have to say though that I think it would have worked much better if Virginia had lost her virginity to Wesley. He had tried so hard to be like Angel throughout this episode and yet if he had really been Angel Virginia might not have been saved from the sacrifice. That would have been a nice touch.
(8.5/10) This is a fine episode.
It benefits first of all from the lightness of tone which is in marked
contrast to so much else of the season. In
a sentence it is simply fun. The
jokes are well written and the comic performances excellent.
This adds up to an episode which is funny. But
it is more than that. The humor is
character based. It actually tells
us things, especially about Angel but also about Wesley too. They are important things.
We learn more about the conflict going on inside Angel and how that
conflict has been brought to the surface by Darla. The significance of this internal struggle has not yet been
revealed but already it seems certain that it will be of some significance in
the developing arc. And in
Wesley’s case we see yet a further stage in his struggle to overcome a legacy
of self-doubt and insecurity. Equally
importantly, while the humor is used to explore their various insecurities and
conceits it is never bought at anyone’s expense. After an hour of sitting through various trials and
tribulations both Angel and Wesley remain true to the characters we have already
come to know. Indeed if anything
are more sympathetic, perhaps even more likeable characters than before.
Anyone can make a fool of a character.
This takes skill. Nor should we forget a pleasant if undemanding story full of
unexpected twists and turns and compromised by really only one major plot hole
(admittedly a serious one). If I
were to make any criticism it would be that the plot was perhaps too light
weight. I still believe that ANGEL
at its best needs an edge, it needs threat and it needs darkness, things that
were substantially missing from “Guise Will be Guise”.