In The Dark
Written by: Doug Petrie
Directed by: Bruce Seth Green
The First Crossover Event
BUFFY Episode "The Harsh Light of Day" (THLOD) and the ANGEL episode
"In the Dark" were given the combined billing of the first
"BUFFY/ANGEL" crossover event. Indeed
much of the prior publicity gave the impression that this crossover would
involve Buffy and Angel themselves. This was misleading. Yet,
paradoxically, there was a far more meaningful crossover between THLOD and
"In the Dark" than there was in later crossover events.
The one thing that linked "Pangs" and IWRY on the one hand or
"Sanctuary" and "The Yoko factor" on the other was the fact
that Buffy and Angel were present together in those episodes.
Otherwise the connection between the respective BUFFY and ANGEL episodes
was tenuous at best. In particular,
the inclusion of Angel in both BUFFY episodes feels forced.
He is artificially inserted into plots in which he has no real part.
Perhaps the fact that the two principals would not be seen together on
either THLOD or "In the Dark" meant that, in order to justify using
the term "crossover" in relation to those two episodes, there had to
be a much more significant connection between them.
Certainly, one way of creating this connection was to have a single
problem that carried over quite naturally from the BUFFY episode to the ANGEL
one. And, indeed, through the
simple expedient of having a single principal villain, Spike, begin his quest
for the gem of Amarra in Sunnydale and finish it in LA did seem to give the two
episodes a sense of unity.
Building the Theme
this fact posed a very interesting challenge for the writers of “In the
Dark”. From the beginning it was
clear that there were significant differences between Buffy's world and the one
that Angel now inhabited. These
arise not only from the obviously diverse natures of the experiences of students
on a University Campus in a small town on the one hand and the lives of young
adults in a big city like LA on the other.
They also derive from the contrasts between the principal characters
themselves. They are the ones who
form the focus of each show and shape their themes accordingly.
There was, therefore, an obvious difficulty in finding a theme or an idea
in the sequel to the BUFFY story that would be a natural fit in Angel’s very
different world. It is greatly to
the credit of the writers that they did so very successfully.
The key to this was exploiting the properties of the gem of Amarra
itself. For Buffy, no less than for
Spike, the ring was no more and no less the mean of keeping its wearer safe.
That is why she wanted Angel to have it.
But the theme of the ANGEL episode was built around what the ring meant
in a much wider sense. It is, perhaps, Doyle who puts things most graphically:
“Angel has the ring, right?”
is Angel’s chance if not to become human then essentially to live like one,
free from the restrictions of a vampire. He
can come into the sun. And yet from
the very beginning he hesitates. Despite
the obvious advantages of the ring for someone engaged in fighting evil he
hesitates to accept it from Oz, refuses to put it on and is even quite harsh
with Doyle for going on about it. Why?
are several quite graphic torture scenes in “In the Dark”.
Ostensibly these are about Spike and his accomplice Marcus trying to
force Angel to disclose the whereabouts of the ring.
But that is only on the surface. There
was never much prospect that Angel would reveal this information, even under
extreme torture. And indeed in plot
terms Spike’s principal focus is on forcing Doyle and Cordelia to get the ring
and hand it over to him as a way of saving Angel.
So what are the torture scenes about?
Classically such scenes can be used to force someone to admit to
something about himself that he wants to keep hidden.
Where the torturer is depicted not simply as a brute but someone who is
both intelligent and insightful and who enjoys the intellectual challenge of
breaking a victim's will to resist it can be interesting and effective way of
exploring the deepest secrets of an individual (and yes I know how sick that
sounds). In Marcus we have such an
individual. He is fascinated by his
victim, he intuitively knows he has a soul and has known love. In marked contrast to Spike’s whose impatience for
the ring is palpable Marcus never directly asks where it is. Instead he takes the indirect approach:
this is the question he insistently return to: “What do you want Angel?”.
As he does so he gradually he gets to the truth:
“You did terrible things when you were bad, didn’t you? And now you
are trying so hard to do good. But Angel, there is nothing either bad or
good, but thinking makes it so. Now I can make the pain go away, and as
you know, I can bring it back again.) What do you want, Angel? I
think I know, but I’d like to hear it from you. The truth. I’ll
know if you’re lying.”
is the truth and it answers the question why Angel was so dubious about
the ring. Marcus was right when he
surmised that what Angel wants and what the ring represents are two different
things. What Angel wants is
redemption and redemption must be earned. It
must be bought through helping the weak and the vulnerable. Angel himself later explains to Doyle how the ring is
incompatible with this purpose when he reveals to him his decision to destroy
“Care to explain? - I mean this ring is your redemption.
It’s what you’ve been waiting for.”
is something Angel probably always realized.
The real question was whether he would have the moral courage to act on
that belief. That is why, at the
beginning of the episode, he didn’t put on the ring but he didn’t destroy it
either. He hid it because he
couldn’t make up his mind what to do.
it is here that we come to the importance of the “B” plot.
It is a very small one. It
consists of basically three scenes. On
the surface it seems almost insignificant compared to Angel’s other concerns
in this episode. But it is crucial to our understanding of Angel’s decision
to destroy the ring. Rachel is a
woman abused by her “druggy stalker boyfriend”.
He even tries to kill her. But
she can never escape from him because she thinks she needs him:
I…. I just start to jones for him. The way he joneses for rock.
And I call, or I find him in some dive, and I drag him home, - and it’s good
for a while.”
response is to try to persuade her to believe in herself.
“You’re at a crossroads, I know. It’s either go for the easy fix and
wait for the consequences, or take the hard road and go with faith.”
as it turns out, Angel was delivering a message to himself.
Keeping the ring would be the easy fix.
But the consequence would be that the quest for his own redemption would
be compromised. Destroying the ring
was the hard option but doing so would lead to the redemption he desired.
What he needed therefore was belief in himself.
And he found that belief most of all in his strength of character in
standing up to the torture.
Angel: “You never cracked me, Marcus. - You tried,
and you failed.
story therefore crystallizes the importance for Angel of his own redemption by
demonstrating just what it is that he is prepared to give up for it.
But the important point is that we actually see Angel grow in his
understanding of what is required of him in the course of this episode.
He makes the sacrifice at the end of “In the Dark” because of his
experiences in it. It can thus be
said to be a true turning point in his development as a hero
we are left in no doubt about the nature of the sacrifice that Angel made.
When, after killing Marcus, Angel walks out into direct sunlight for the
first time in nearly 250 years there is a lyrical quality about the sight that
greets him: the sea, the sky, the children playing on the beach in the warm,
welcoming sunshine. The
associations in our own heads are obvious enough.
It creates emotionally for us an understanding of just what it is that
Angel is giving up.
Developing the plot
plot itself is a fairly standard one. Angel
is captured by the principal villain of the piece, Spike, because the latter wants the gem of Amarra
from him. Doyle and Cordelia then
have to rescue Angel while somehow ensuring that Spike does not get what he
wants. This, or something
similar, has been done many times before. Yet
it remains an effective formula because, like any really good strategy game,
while the basics elements remain the same, there is enough room for variation to
allow the writers to create a new and interesting scenario each time.
Here, for example, unlike many of the later ANGEL plots, there is little
attempt to create a mystery in this episode.
Spike, for example, announces
his intentions in pretty unambiguous terms from the outset and it isn’t too
long before he blows his cover by trying an abortive ambush on Angel.
But this is a clever and effective device because it allows the story to
change and develop as it goes along. At
the start Spike doesn’t seem that dangerous, at least to Angel.
He is easily seen off and then Angel goes after him while Doyle and
Cordelia remain safely in hiding. Then
suddenly just when Spike seems cornered the writers surprise us.
Marcus appears out of nowhere and Angel is captured.
We go from plain sailing to possible disaster in an instant.
this brings me to another one of the undoubted strengths of the episode, namely
the combination of villain. Spike
and Marcus counterpoint one another very well.
Spike is impetuous, almost to the point of recklessness. He jeopardizes his whole plan because he can't muster the
patience to wait a little longer. And
then when Angel is captured he rails ineffectively about wanting the ring. Marcus, on the other hand, is calm, cool and relaxed.
The contrast to Spike makes him look and sound purposeful.
This quiet remorselessness is, therefore, far more disturbing and
dangerous than Spike’s bluster.
Look, I want my ring back! If
I don’t get it pretty soon, I’m going to stake me old Sire right here and
Spike himself is also a very dangerous individual. His aggressive nature and his capacity for violence are
stressed several times. But nowhere
do we get a stronger feeling of just how dangerous an individual he is than when
he confronts Cordelia and Doyle in Angel’s apartment. Despite being threatened by a crossbow he is so at ease that
we take seriously his statement that Cordelia would be “dead before the arrow
leaves the bow.” He and Marcus
make a formidable combination and with Angel chained up helplessly (his one
escape attempt ending in a very painful failure) we get a very strong sense of
just how dangerous a situation they are all in.
Moreover, there is the complicating factor of the ring.
Here the writers were being a little more clear headed than they were
with the Box of Gavrox in the BUFFY episode “Choices”.
Spike’s overriding purpose was to get the ring of Amarra.
While he offered to trade Angel for the ring there was little discussion
between Doyle and Cordelia about the morality of making such a trade.
Implicit in this was an acceptance that trading the ring for Angel was
unjustifiable and that, therefore, any scenario which saw Spike, or any other
vampire, keeping the ring represented a defeat. The task was, therefore, to rescue Angel without
loosing the ring. This would not be
an easy matter, not least because neither Cordelia nor Doyle knew where it was.
Rescue of Angel
solution to these problems was not one of the most imaginative parts of the
episode. The way Doyle sniffed out
the ring did smack a little of a deus ex machina device and Oz bursting into the
warehouse to distract Spike while Angel was rescued was itself pretty formulaic.
But it did lead to a terrific ending.
The writers clearly (and I think rightly) decided that freeing Angel was
not going to be a sufficient climax for the episode and that something more was
required. Spike, for obvious
reasons, couldn’t be killed so they left him fuming helplessly and set up a
final showdown between Angel and Marcus. This
was the ideal finish. First of all,
there was the element of surprise in Marcus getting the ring rather than
Spike. Ironically this was after
Angel had warned Spike about Marcus but the latter had not listened.
More importantly, however, throughout the torture scenes, Angel’s
principal opponent was not Spike but Marcus.
It was, therefore, fitting that the final confrontation should be between
these two. Then the writers had added a little spice to the mix by suggesting he
liked to do nasty things to children. And
to make things even more interesting the fight took place in broad daylight,
with Marcus wearing a ring that would make him unkillable and Angel in a badly
weakened state. The last part in
particular might have been to going just a little over the top.
Controlling arms and legs shortly after they have had red hot pokers
stuck though them wouldn’t have been easy.
But there can be no denying the power of the sequence that began with a
flaming Angel charging across the pier and taking Marcus with him into the sea
I would like to mention one other highlight to this episode: its
characterization. There were some
small lapses. For example on a
couple of occasions when facing Spike and Marcus Angel fell into Buffy-like
quips. For example:
“Might as well go home, Spike. The gem of Amarra stays with me.”
“Why? Because you are vampire detective now? What’s next?
Vampire cowboy? Vampire fireman? Oh, Vampire ballerina.
isn’t Angel’s style. But such
small problems can be overlooked when compared to the strengths of the episode
in this respect. In “In the
Dark” for the first time we begin to get a very real sense of the rapport
building up between the various members of Angel’s little group, especially
between Doyle and Cordelia on the one hand and Angel and Doyle on the other.
There is a great deal of time devoted to the interplay between Doyle and
Cordelia in particular. They come from different worlds.
Doyle is very much the realist. He
understands and accepts the harsher facts of life whether these come in the form
of unpaid invoices, less than ideal living conditions or the various ways
someone like Spike can get you out of your home.
Cordelia is still not willing to admit the truth, hence her insistence on
being an actress and her denial of how grim her own apartment is. But despite this it is noticeable just how easy and
relaxed they are in each other’s company.
It’s almost as if they have known each other for years. They do not feel obliged to side step each others
sensibilities out of an excess of politeness but at the same time their tone is
light and friendly so no offence is caused or taken.
And crucially when called on to do so they work together very effectively,
as when organizing Angel’s release. And
as for Angel and Doyle I am struck forcefully by how relaxed Angel was in his
company on the roof. The contrast
to his usual awkwardness with people demonstrates just how close they were
becoming even by that stage.
perhaps the single finest piece of characterization was Spike.
Here the writers got virtually everything right - his impatience, (very
reminiscent of “School Hard”), the difficulty in controlling his temper, his
taste for violence and his uncertain judgment.
And, as we have seen, a lot of this was actually built into the plot
itself. But in the final analysis
perhaps the best contribution Spike makes to this episode comes from his
trademark wit. At its best this is
cruel and accurate as well as clever. That
is the fun of it. And we do get a
lot of that here. The classic
example lies in his withering contempt for Angel in that classic piece of mocker
in the teaser but there was a good deal more in this vein (“slutty the vampire
slayer” for example).
This could have been a straight forward piece of action adventure and it
would have worked very well at that level.
There were strong and cruel villains; the hero got himself into a bad
corner and could only be extricated with difficulty and as well as his life
there was something very important at stake.
As this story progressed we had our fair share of unexpected twists and
turns. And all of this was greatly
enlivened by some sharp humorous banter between Doyle and Cordelia and by
Spike’s rather more biting wit. But
above all there is real weight to the episode.
We do now begin to get a sense not of someone who starts off
self-sacrificing and noble but who grows into that role through his own
suffering and moral courage. I
appreciate that willingness to allow a character to develop.
I also like the implication of the ending for the sort of a figure Angel
will be, not just a warrior fighting physical battles but someone who will take
a stand on principle.