No Place Like Plrtz Glrb
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Dear Boy
Guise Will Be Guise
The Shroud of Rahmon
The Trial
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Thin Dead Line
Dead End
Over the Rainbow
Through the Looking Glass
No Place Like Plrtz Glrb




Written by: David Greenwalt

Directed by: David Greenwalt


The Coda

As I observed in my review of “Through the Looking Glass”, the whole Pylea arc seems to have been the coda for all the major developments of season 2.  The year was of course dominated by Angel and his struggles with the vampire inside him.  But we also saw a good deal of Wesley and his insecurities.  And towards the end of the season the writers also began to deal with Cordelia and her visions and the effect they were having on her.  It was never going to be a particularly easy task to examine in turn all of these different developments in the context of a single storyline.  So rather cleverly the writers didn’t try.  Instead in “Through the Looking Glass” they split the various characters up and gave them each a separate storyline to follow with individually tailored obstacles to overcome.  In this way the writers completed the set up for the season finale.  It was the way in which each of the individuals in turn dealt with the obstacles placed in their paths in “No Place like “Plrtz Glrb”  that allowed the writers to bring that person’s own character arc for the season to a conclusion.



For Angel, the “Pylea” arc began with two closely related themes.  The first was his difficulty in becoming part of this world; the second was his yearning for simplicity – a life in which everything was straightforward.  To quote Giles in “Lie to Me”:

“The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.”

The suggestion here is that, in part at least, Angel’s distance from human society is caused by the fact that he felt that as a vampire he didn’t really belong in human society…physically or emotionally.  Physically he was separated from humans by his lifespan and his aversion to sunlight.  And as a vampire he just didn’t think like humans.  He has difficulty in coming to terms with the complexities and ambiguities of life in this world.  He was far more comfortable in a world of clarity where evil was evil and good was good.  So, for example, when the Wolfram and Hart lawyers turned up at the Hotel with their subtle threats of indirect and perfectly legal retaliation against him, he couldn’t wait to get out of Los Angeles.  There right (at least in the legal sense) was not always at in the service of truth and justice.  But in Pylea he finds a world that he is not only physically comfortable in, but a world which conforms to his straightforward outlook.  Here he can play the part of a human hero who kills evil things without regard to moral ambiguities and then is admired for it.  But there is always a catch.  Within Angel there is not only the hero; there is also the demon monster.   Because Pylea is a world of black and white, that demon monster is correspondingly far worse than it is on earth.  As Angel says to Fred:

“You saw what I turn into. Back in L.A. it's bad, but here it's... it wants to kill everything and everyone, even my friends...”.

Or as he later says to Wesley:

“When I fired you guys, the reason I... the darkness was coming out in me, I didn't want you near it. The thing that comes out here is ten times worse.”

And just as Angel feels very comfortable indeed with the human hero he is terrified to his very core of the demon within.  We get an idea of just how terrified he is by his dreams:

Angel: “What? Did I snore?”

Fred: “Um, I don't remember any snoring.”

Angel: “Good.”

  Fred: “I remember caterwauling…and screaming; oh and moaning, lots of moaning; you must be all drained out.”

What has him frightened is not just the realization of how vicious and powerful the demon is; it is the thought that he might not be able to control it.  Hence, even when faced with the Guard captain who stabs him twice in the chest with a wooden spear he resists the urge to morph into the demon.  And more especially when asked by Wesley to face the Groosalugg:

“Wes, you understand, I do this, I won't come back from it.”

Here we see in a very clear and powerful way the dilemma at the heart of Angel the character.  Angel is both man and demon.  As we have seen throughout the early part of the season, the attitudes and impulses of the demon are now a part of Angel’s psyche, to the extent that he cannot truly say that Liam the human and Angelus the demon are two completely separate individuals.  But on earth the interplay between them is subtle and full of ambiguity.  Angel has never been confronted by the same sort of stark choice that he has now.  Even at his darkest when the vampire impulse to exact a conscience and consequence free revenge on those he hated was at its strongest he never had to face the possibility of him becoming the engine of pure malevolent destructiveness that he had here.  On the other hand on Earth the strength and power of the vampire were always available to him without paying the price of losing control.   When he morphed into his game face he was tapping into that power without becoming a true monster.  Here he was terribly handicapped because he was unable to tap into that power.  Hence his near- death experience at the hands of the guard captain and his handling as a human by the Groosalugg.  And this is where the whole idea of Pylea as a black and while world works so very well.  It allows the writers to isolate the essential characteristics in Angel’s personality that they are interested in and exaggerate them so as to set out more clearly the nature of the dilemmas facing him.  And in turn it also allows them to draw lessons from the way he handles these exaggerated dilemmas. 

And the key here lies in the way that he was eventually forced to confront the beast within him and control it.  And here I would like to go back to the confrontation between Angel and the faux Tish Magev in “Guise will be Guise”.  I have already quoted this conversation in my review of “Through the Looking Glass”.  I replicate the whole of the conversation here because it is important:

Angel:  "If I let it, it'll kill you."

Magev:  "It?"

Angel:  "The demon."

Magev:  "Ha!  But the demon is you!"

Angel:  "No."

Magev:  "Yes!  That's the thing you spend so much energy trying to conceal!"

Angel:  "No, I just … I can't let it control me."

Magev :  "Ah.  I see. You *don't* think it controls you?"

Here we see two things.  First there was Angel conceit that he was different from the demon and that he was in control of it.  Secondly there was the fear in Angel that the demon could escape from his control and cause someone harm.  In Pylea it was brought home to Angel in a particularly brutal fashion that the man and demon within him were actually inseparable.  For him that was where the real horror came from; the idea that this was a darkness inside him, not just inside a demon that shared his body.  Worse still was the idea that it could actually control him; that it could destroy his friends and that there would be nothing he could do to prevent that.  That was why he could not bring himself to morph, even to save his own life. But unless he did morph he was powerless to help anyone.  The implication was that it was only by tapping into his own darkness that he was able to fulfill the mission that TPTB had given him.  Ironically, therefore, by coming to this world of black and white and by seeing the extremities of his own personality the ambiguity of his own situation is actually emphasized.  Angel is neither just a hero nor just a monster.  There is something of both within him.  And not only is that an inescapable truth it is actually necessary for him.  And when he accepts that he must fight the Groosalugg and that to do so means becoming the Angelbeast again he accepts that basic proposition. 

This degree of self-awareness is, it seems to me, a necessary pre-condition for self-control.  If you do not understand yourself and your own basic impulses then you have no reference point by which to judge your own actions.  I think this is why Angel could have drifted into darkness while at the same time firmly believing he was acting in the interests of good.  And here is where I find the final confrontation between Angelbeast and the Groosalugg so very interesting.  As far as Angel knew the Groosalugg was simply the tool of the Covenant of Trombli – and instrument for evil in much the same way as the lawyers in the wine cellar were an instrument for the evil of Wolfram and Hart.  And in this context the connection between the Covenant and Wolfram and Hart looks quite deliberate and very significant.  Moreover the Groosalugg wasn’t even human, as far as Angel was concerned it was just a soulless demon of which he had killed more than a few.  And it was a powerful killer.  So then when he had to morph into the Angelbeast and had it literally by the throat why stop?  If defeating the Covenant was a just cause and if to do so it was necessary to kill the Groosalugg why not just do it.  It was what Wesley wanted him to do:

“Go to the village, call out the Groosalugg and kill him.”

The answer lies in the following lines:

Angel: “We're not going to do this... we're going to find another way. I'm not an animal.”

It is because he has a realization that there must be “another way” that Angel regains control from the Angelbeast.  Here the counterpoint is between fighting and killing whatever stands in your way or whatever you see as the enemy (the animal) and trying to understand that your opponent may not be completely evil (the human).  Here I am reminded by the Hosts words in “Belonging”:

Landok:  "Your cowardice even extended to the sacred joust."

Host: "For the last time: not a coward.  I just saw both sides of the joust. How you're supposed to joust someone when you partially agree with their point of view?"

In effect in this particular sacred joust Angel was willing to see more than one point of view. Here surely we find a repudiation of his mindset when he simply wanted to torture and kill all the Wolfram and Hart lawyers he could get his hands on. It hardly need saying that this is not the Angelbeast’s doing. In repudiating the beast within him Angel not only demonstrated physical control but more importantly embraced the ambiguities of humanity – the idea of accepting differences and trying to accommodate them instead of taking the simple and straightforward approach of cutting a swath through anything that gets in your way. 

And the new settlement arrived at in Pylea is in this context a very interesting reflection of the moral ambiguities and uncertainties of this approach.  As Gunn says accommodating the differences on Pylea is going to cause problems:

“ sayin' people are free don't make 'em free. You got races that hate each other, you got some folks gettin' work they don't want, others losin' the little they had. You're lookin' at social confusion, economic depression and probably some riots.”

Sound familiar?  Perhaps Pylea is going to be rather more like Los Angeles now than anyone might have thought.

And here we come to another very important element in Angel’s journey.  The fact that he was able to embrace the ambiguities of human life rather than the simplicities of the vampire is proof that, as Fred keeps on reminding him, he is “a good man”.  But what also helps is the faith that everyone shows in him.  Not only Fred but even more importantly Wesley.  When Angel says that if he turns into the Angelbeast he might not comer back, Wesley lies:

“Yes you will. I know you.  We know you. We know you are a  man with a demon inside and not the  other way around. We know you  have the strength to do what needs  to be done. And we know you will  come back to us.”

Time and time again the writers have stressed the idea of being what others see us as.  As the Host said in “Through the Looking Glass” when Angel is regarded by Landok and the others as a hero:

"They see you a certain way.  You start to see yourself that way.  You become that image.  I get it.  I do.  Because I know how they see me!”

Here Angel sees himself through the eyes of others.  When he first saw himself as the Angelbeast his reaction was:

"The monster... They…they saw what I really am.  I can't go back.  Not now.  I can never go back. No..."

He saw himself through his friends’ eyes (or what he took to be their eyes) and that is why he began to see himself as a monster and to doubt his ability to control it once it surfaced.  But now he realized his friends saw him differently and this appears to have been the decisive factor in his ability to control that monster.

So here you have a very satisfying wrap up thematically.  The duality in Angel’s nature is exaggerated and Angel is placed in a position where he must confront it and deal with it.  What helps him do so is his connection to his friends.  They helped him realize the human within him rather than the vampire and that in turn helped him to embrace a system of values that was quintessentially human.  And because he now feels more secure in the connection to his friends and better able to understand and deal with a messy world where there are too often no clear lines of choice he is much more at home in the world than before he left it.  That is why at the very end, as he enters the lobby of the Hyperion his attitude contrast so sharply to his earlier desire to leave the world behind him:

Angel: “Can I say it? I'm going to say it.”

  Wesley: “Say what?”

  Angel: “There's no place like ...”

And as such I think that it is a very successful conclusion to the year-long arc.  The main themes of this arc were Angel’s preoccupation with his own redemption; the way he was still subject to the influence of the demon within, especially in the way he yearned for a world of clarity and simplicity where you simply thought about yourself.  This and the consequent disconnection from humanity was what caused his descent into darkness.  In Pylea we see the working out of these themes.  Here he had to confront the idea that he was both demon and human in his make-up and impulses and it was the very starkness of the duality of his nature that eventually led him to reject the vampire impulse to kill without thought of consequence and embrace the human impulse to deal with the ambiguities of the situation he found himself in.  And it was his ability to make the connection with his friends that was decisive in this respect.



The characterization for Wesley lacked the depth and complexity of that for Angel but was in its own more limited way just as successful.  The key to the sort of character development we have here is the nature of the catalyst.  All too often where writers want a particular character to overcome some deep seated problem they simply create a crisis in which something dreadful will happen if he or she doesn’t do it.  This is a lazy approach to characterization, not least because the nature of the problem may be wholly inappropriate for this kind of treatment.  In Wesley’s case for example the root of his problem lay in his insecurity.  He had no confidence in his ability to help.  When someone faces a demon of that nature piling on the pressure and making his contribution even more vital is far more likely to send him spinning out of control than to bring him round.  In this context his reaction when Cordelia disappeared through the portal was entirely believable:

Angel:  "We're gonna open up another portal and we're going in after her."

Wesley:  "Angel, I don't think that's a good idea."

Angel:  "Wesley, I don't think I care."

  Wesley:  "But we're completely unprepared.  We should go back to the hotel, do some research."

The importance of the task ahead made him cautious, unwilling to risk mistakes or acting precipitately.  So simply giving Wesley something important to do wasn’t going to make him a natural leader.  And indeed the writers also get high marks for not taking a simplistic view and showing us Wesley with the complete range of leadership characteristics.  Indeed they reminded us very forcefully at the end of “Through the Looking Glass” of some of his more obvious weaknesses.  He isn’t perhaps particularly practical.  He and Gunn get lost because he forgets that there are two suns in the Pylean sky.  And even more importantly he is still not very good at understanding what makes people tick.  He completely misreads the likely reaction of the rebels to news that he is personal friends with the princess:

Wesley:  "Well, we just happen to be close personal friends with the princess."
Rebel:  "They know the princess."

Leader:  "Close personal friends, huh?"

Wesley:  "I can prove it. In my wallet... uh, ah, the leather holder in the back of my leg coverings."

Wesley:  "That's it."
Leader (looking at photograph):  "It's true.  They know the princess."

Wesley:  "Now, if your organization would just draw up some sort of list of demands we would be more than happy to present it directly to her majesty."

 Leader:  "Lets do it.  Have Sasha write up a list of demands."

Wesley:  "There, you see?"

Leader:  "Shove the list in their mouths, put their severed heads on sticks and display them outside the princess' window.”

Gunn, who is far more streetwise about these matters, knew what the result would be if people already suspected of being “reconnaissance cows” were to admit to knowing the Princess.  Wesley was much more naïve.  It’s no wonder that Gunn now looks somewhat askance at him:

Gunn: “I've got a plan.”

  Wesley: “Oh thank God! What is it?”

Gunn: “We die horribly and painfully, you go to hell and I spend eternity in the arms of Baby Jesus.”

But what made the difference in Wesley case, what transformed him from well intentioned failure to mastermind of success was that he was able to develop a plan to attack the Covenant.  He was able to put all that study (which naturally would have included a lot of military history) to useful effect.  And it was this that very naturally and very simply made him a leader.  When the rebels were planning a frontal attack it was Wesley who pointed out the flaw:

Wesley: “If you do, they'll cut you down... you cannot wage a frontal attack against a stronger opponent. This kind of battle can only be won through Guerilla warfare. By being sneaky. You create a diversion, then strike at several different points at  once. They never know how many or how few you are. While they're looking  in front, you come from behind.

Rebel No.1: “And kill their leader.”

  Wesley: “Yes.”

  Rebel No.2: “Silas. The Head Priest. It is a good plan.”

  Rebel  No.1: “I agree. (to Wesley ) You shall lead us”

And this is where the other strength of the characterization comes out.  Having a plan is one thing – implementing it is another.  And here I thought the self-doubt that Wesley showed was a very realistic touch.  At the beginning of “Belonging” when discussing how to kill the Hacklar demon Wesley was completely indecisive:

Gunn:  "You think we should get a flame thrower?"

Wesley:  "For the Haklar?  I hadn't thought of that."

 Gunn:  "Of course if we wound up in a tight space we could burn each other."

Wesley:  "Right.  Right."

Gunn:  "Well, you're the boss.  You'll decide."

Wesley:  "A flame thrower is big and loud.  Might call attention where we don't want it.  Stealth, you know being a large part of..."

It’s no wonder when the rebels first want to make him their leader he is unenthusiastic:

Wesley: “Why do people keep putting me in charge of things?”

Gunn: “I have no idea.”

And when Angel arrives he is only too willing to pass the buck to him.  However Angel is too preoccupied with his own problems and he is stuck with the leadership.  But the remarkable thing is that in the implementation of the plan  he is not only decisive, he is ruthlessly so:

Gunn: “I'm only gonna say this once. The guys you send to create the diversions here and here... are going to die.”

  Wesley: “Yes they are.  You try not to get anybody killed,
you wind up getting everybody killed. Get ready to move out.”

This not only shows extraordinary cold bloodedness but great self-confidence in his judgment about the plan.  The cold-bloodedness is certainly not unexpected.  It is an inherent part of the self-possessed rationality that Wesley has shown from very early on and indeed echoes the very intense exchanges he had with Buffy over the fate of Willow and Angel in respectively “Choices” and “Graduation Day 1.”  It is the lack of doubt over what is the right thing to do that is new.  But it is believable and what makes it so is that there Wesley is dealing with an area that he can have confidence in himself – his intellect and his study.  Here is where he feels most at home and here there is no-one to contradict or second guess him.  As was made clear in “Over the Rainbow” and “Through the Looking Glass” this is the world where Wesley is king.  If he had a sudden burst of self-confidence about almost anything else you could say that this was suspect characterization.  But here it seems to me to be perfectly conceived and very well executed.


For Charles Gunn there was little if anything here in the way of actual character development.  This isn’t too surprising since the real problem with him all season is that we have been lacking a baseline from which to take any development.  But here the writers seem to have a handle on him; an angle which not only makes sense for his as a character but which is actually interesting and which marks him out as a unique personality with a distinctive point of view.

In “Belonging”, Gunn has a choice to make.  Does he help Angel and Wesley go after the Hacklar demon or does he help his gang face the threat of the vampire gang in McKenzie park?  Faced with this choice Gunn does the obvious but wrong thing – he tries to do both.  As he leaves he says to Rondell and George:

"I got to take this.  Wait for me though.  I'm through, I hook up with you guys at base camp, we head out together.”

In the event they go without him and Rondell dies.  It is this death (and the blame heaped upon him because of it) that convinces Gunn that he has let people down:

“Last night... I lost one of my crew.  I shoulda been there, but... I'm sorry. Wes said the trip might be one way and... I just can't. I know that makes me... I don't know what it makes me. I just figured I owed it to you to tell you face to face. I wish you luck. I hope you find her.”

Gunn feels each individual death keenly and because he does so he has to be there to try to stop it.  That is why he feels he cannot accompany Angel and the others to Pylea.  This was a decision based not on reason, on an analysis of whom he could help most.  It was based on guilt.  But equally when Angel telephones him he gives him a message that Gunn himself describes in the following terms:

“Sounded like the captain of the Titanic gettin' ready to go down with the ship.”

This was in its own way also laying a guilt trip on Gunn.  He was caught bang in the middle and in the end his personal connection with Angel, Wesley and Cordelia won out.  But I think we can only truly appreciate the significance of  his attitude here in the light of his attitude towards the Pylean rebels:

Gunn: “I'm thinkin' these a cause worth fighting for.
Isn't that what we do?

Wesley: “What about Cordelia?”

Gunn: “If we're going to be gettin' her out of that castle we're gonna need a whole lot of muscle.”

Wesley: “Muscle which could come in handy if we have to incapacitate Angel.”

Gunn: “Yeah. Also look at 'em.  They won a skirmish today, but
they're no match for the Covenant.  I don't want to leave 'em to get themselves killed... I do that enough.”

Gunn was responding to the need of the underdog.  He was, if you like, identifying the plight of these rebels with the similar struggle against the odds of his abandoned friends in LA.  It was the human connection again.  This was what motivated Gunn and what conditioned his response.  The counterpoint between himself and Wesley told us a great deal about the way that Charles Gunn thought and felt.  For Gunn each life was unique and irreplaceable and had a worth accordingly.  I do not think that he would or could have organized an assault that deliberately contemplated the casualties of Wesley’s plan.  I do not say that Wesley disregarded human life but for him it did not have the same absolute value as it seems to have for Gunn.  His approach was essentially utilitarian; if some must die that more might live and the plan succeed that was a regrettable but necessary price to pay.  He looks one of the rebels straight in the eyes and orders him to charge to his death.  It seems to me that this was a step too far for Gunn.  The impression I got was not that he admired and respected Wesley for taking an action he could not; I do not think he could understand Wesley’s thinking. 

In “First Impressions” we were given a picture of someone who felt keenly the responsibility of those with whom he fought and who looked to him.  “No Place Like Pltz Glrb” is clearly and unambiguously a return to the Charles Gunn we saw there.  To that extent is emphasizes the continuity of the character.  Unfortunately by the same token it emphasizes the discontinuity of the intervening episodes.  The problem arises because his actions, especially in episodes like “Redefinition”, are very difficult to reconcile with this picture.  I still do not pretend to understand why he would apparently abandon tired and trusted friendships for new ones.  But I think we must now simply overlook that difficulty.  Instead we now see a return to the Gunn who is the social and political conscience of the group, the friend of the underdog and the one who remembers the victims.  That is why it is entirely appropriate that it was Gunn who was elected to explain the difficulties of re-ordering life in Pylea.  In creating this role for Gunn I think the writers have not only carved out a distinctive voice for him but have potentially created a significant source of conflict.  Wesley, as I have previously observed, is the voice of calm rationality.  This is not going to be an attitude Gunn will find easy to accept.

Ever since “Blood Money” Gunn was Wesley best friend.  Their closeness was demonstrated in, for example, “Epiphany”:

Wesley: "Gunn!  What are you doing here?"

Gunn:  "I was passing by.  Saw the lights was on.  Besides, I work here."

Wesley:  "But - I thought you'd gone."

Gunn:  "Gone?  Well, yeah, gone, but that don't mean I wasn't coming back! What, you didn't think I was gonna abandon you like this guy, did you?"
Wesley, smiling:  "No.  Certainly not."
Gunn:  "Come on, English!  You know you my man!"

The beginning of this episode opened up a rift between them when Gunn was understandably upset when Wesley’s stupidity (nearly) got them both killed.  That was likely to be a temporary phenomenon.  But in the preparations for the attack on the Castle I got the distinct impression that there was now a gulf of understanding between these two.  It will be very interesting to see where this goes.


Of the four principals, the writing for Cordelia here was by far the least satisfactory.  In “Through the Looking Glass” she seems to have the life she always wanted – wealth and power beyond the dreams of avarice and a handsome prince to share it with.  What more could she ask for?  And the irony was that she only got all of this because of her visions – her link with TPTB.  Here they were not the ruination of her ambition but their fulfillment.  But then what she also discovered was that none of this was real.  As Silas reminded her so brutally at the end of “Through the Looking Glass” it is the priests who are really in charge:

Silas:  "The princess, like the Groosalug, is a tool of the Covenant, nothing more. You will do what we tell you to do.  If we tell you to mate, then you shall mate."

Cordelia:  "You can't force us to..."

  Silas:  "And if we tell you 'silent' you shut your cow mouth!"

And to dive home the point he had Lorne executed just to show her how worthless her pardons were.  She was in fact precisely the same sort of puppet that she was as an actress appearing in a sleazy commercial in LA.

As I said in my review of “Through the Looking Glass”, this made perfect sense from a thematic point of view.  Pylea was not home and nothing that happened there to her or the others was real.  At some point they would be faced with the prospect of going home and having to deal with the realities of life there.  For Cordelia in particular it would mean not being a princess.  It would also mean not having two arms full of valuables to sell.  Instead she would have her life as vision girl.  And given the fact that Cordelia is someone who has made a virtue out of facing reality in all its forms and never hiding from it, I thought this was excellent use of her character.

But then she made her dream a reality.  She inspired the Groosalugg to stand up to Silas and to become the real champion he never thought he was:

Groosalugg: “It is not my duty to question authority.”

Cordelia: “Well hold on now, you're the Groosalugg, the brave and undefeated Champion. If fighting evil isn't your duty, I don't know what is.”

Groosalugg: “I fight who I'm told. I'm not a real Champion.”

  Cordelia: “Then maybe it's time you stopped working for monk-boy and became one. And what you did for me and my friend? That was pure whiz bang Champ all the way.”

Then when Silas was about to kill all the slaves in Pylea she actually killed him herself:

Wesley: “You don’t have to do this.”

  Silas: I don't have to, but I'm going to. And you and your filthy cow princess can all go to…

  (Cordelia cuts his head off)

Cordelia: “Your cow Princess is tired of hearing you yak, Padre. "

With that there is actually nothing to prevent Cordelia from staying a princess, com-shuking with the Groosalugg and losing her visions for good.  Nothing that is except that she wants to keep them.

Groosalugg: “It was foretold in the ancient prophecies, one will come who is cursed with the visions; she shall mate with the Groosalugg whose demon blood shall absorb them.”

             Cordelia: “Absorb them?”

Groosalugg: “Your visions will pass to me.”

Cordelia: “I knew there had to be a catch! You can't take my visions, I need them, I use them to help my friends fight evil back home.”

Groosalugg: “And I will use them to fight evil here, just as you have done.”

Cordelia: “Groo... I can't give up my visions. I like them. Okay I don't like the searing pain and agony which seems to be getting steadily worse. And lately, until the vision gets solved anxiety overdrive.”

Groosalugg: “You are pure human, you are not meant
to carry such a burden.”

Cordelia: “Maybe not, but I'm not ready to give 'em up, either. They're a part of who I am now. They're an honor. And you know they only last for …”

This is terribly noble and self-sacrificing of her; and also intensely dull.  Just look at the dialogue – my visions are a part of who I am?  An honor? There isn’t a spark of original or interesting characterization there.  Been there seen that I do not know how many times.  It is writing by the numbers.  And this is a problem I am finding more and more with Cordelia.  The late season 2 Cordelia who embraces her visions and is pumped up by the prospect of helping people is a shadow of the character who, for example, in “Sanctuary” blithely nodded agreement when Angel was going on about saving Faith’s soul while at the same time making sure he signed a few pay checks for her and then calmly exited the scene with a warning against sugar overload.  That was an individual.  That was an interesting character who made every scene she was in entertaining because she had a new and different perspective from anyone else. One of the great things about  “Through the Looking Glass” was that it avoided the leaden “lets help people” lines in favor of a more interesting characterization.  Here we saw Cordelia who really did love the idea of being a princess and who hated the idea of giving it up but who at the end of the day was prepared to face reality head on.  If the writers had constructed a scenario where to com-shuk with the Groosalugg would have meant certain death for her they might have had an interesting scenario along the lines of Cordelia trapped by the hidden hand of fate but making the best of it.  True nobility is often found in the way we deal with the life Fate has left us.  And this would indeed have made an interesting coda for the struggles Cordelia had been having with her visions.   But noble self-sacrifice of this sort simply leaves me cold.  She is not giving of herself to save a particular individual.  That would be understandable.  And as the Groosalugg pointed out the visions would still be going to a good home.  Rationally she has no reason to keep them except that she wants them.  Her attitude here just seems very self-indulgent.



As I noted in my review of “Through the Looking Glass” the structure of the plot here was a very interesting one.  The story can be broken down into three basic lines of action – Angel and his struggle with himself;  Wesley and Gunn and Wesley’s assumption of the leadership of the outlaws and Cordelia in her travails inside the palace.  Each are self-contained and proceed independently of one another.  Yet at the same time they all contribute towards a single overall goal – the overthrow of the Covenant of Trombli.  And to symbolize this they intersect with one another at various points.  The fate of the host (with Landok’s appearance carrying his head) is a tangible connection between Cordelia and the events outside the palace.  Angel meets up with Wesley and Gunn and only goes into battle with the Groosalugg at Wesley’s suggestion.  Indeed, in many ways the central focus of the plot is Wesley because it is through his planning and organization that things come together at the end – the assault on the Castle, the battle between Angel and the Groosalugg and Cordelia’s final confrontation with Silas.  This helps give the story a unity and a sense of a single direction.

Equally, although inevitably there is a sense of build up to the final confrontation there always seems to be something happening.  So, for example Wesley and Gunn start off on the point of being executed, move straight into a fight for their survival with the Covenant guards and then face off against one another over the planning of the battle.  Similarly Angel just doesn’t stay in his cave brooding about the Angelbeast he has become.  Instead the writers engineer a pretty tense confrontation between him and the Guard captain in which his resolve not to become the Angelbeast again is sorely tested.  And although I am one of those who does think that beheading the host and then allowing him to live was a cheat it had the advantage of giving Cordelia something to actually do this week.  Having to go to the Mutilation Room to rescue his body, then finding it all cut up only to discover that the Groosalugg had rescued it anyway was a nice sequence of events which kept the interest far better than two talking heads.  In some of this action there was a degree of coincidence and a suspension of disbelief.  The rebels being attacked just when they were about to execute Wesley and Gunn is something of a cliché.  Angel was looking for the palace, not the rebels.  Why did he find his way to them?  And worst of all Cordelia had already tried to escape so why wasn’t she more carefully watched?  But most of this is simply nit-picking and doesn’t really diminish the flow of the plot.

Indeed in its basic structure I think the storyline hangs together really very well.  As I have already said the focus is Wesley’s plan.  His diversionary tactics do seem a logical approach to take and are certainly much better than a frontal assault on a heavily defended castle so it makes sense for the rebels to adopt it and the originator of it as leader.  Equally it is easy to understand the merit of having Angel take on the Covenant’s champion.  So, from that point of view the story just keeps on moving forward in a logical direction and we actually feel as though we are getting somewhere.

And the place we are getting is, of course the final defeat of the Covenant of Trombli.  And it is more than satisfying that this final defeat is the result of all the members of Angel Investigations overcoming their individual challenges and by doing so each contributing to the end of Silas.  So Angel overcame the Angelbeast rather than the Groosalugg;  Wesley overcame his own sense of insecurity and Cordelia actually made herself a princess.  As for Gunn well he did what he was best at leading the charge from the front. I have to say there was a degree of predictability about it.  In particular it was clear from the start that Angel would at some stage have to turn back into the Angelbeast but that he would succeed in controlling it.  That this would happen in his battle with the Groosalugg was obvious from the moment we knew there would be such a fight.  And there was really no attempt to surprise us in any other aspect of the plot development.  But overall the only part of the plot that really didn’t work for me was the device for blowing cows heads off.  First of all I am not sure that it was needed.  Silas’ regime was certainly bad enough to warrant tearing down just on general principle and I don’t think that adding the extra threat really helped anything.  Secondly something like that is by now a cliché and unless you are going to put a clever spin on it is probably better to avoid too many of those.  But mainly there was the inevitable problem of how you were to stop Silas from carrying out his threat.  He seemed to have plenty of time to get to the room where the device in question was kept and activate it long before anyone could stop him. But of course he committed the fatal error that all villains commit – he stopped to gloat, forgetting completely Cordelia was right behind him with a big sharp pointy thing.

My final thought  is that, if you were being churlish, you might suggest that the storyline had higher ambitions than the budget could cope with.  The attack on the castle lacked scale both in terms of the numbers of attackers and in  terms of the seriousness of the defenses.  But then you have to be realistic and appreciate the limitations under which everyone was working.  Considering these I thought the design worked very well indeed. 



B+ (8.5/10)  The first thing to say here is that “No Place like Plrz Glrb” was a highly entertaining romp.  If it was a little predictable, it crammed a lot of things into the hour and it moved along at a smart pace and in a logical direction towards a rather satisfying conclusion.  In the course of the story our heroes did indeed confront some personal demons and emerge stronger and more united than before.   For Angel in particular it does give a sense of closure on a very troubling period.   In Pylea the writers allowed Angel to take another look, from a  completely different perspective, at the issues that he confronted in the course of this period.  In particular this included the true nature of the relationship between himself and the beast inside.   And by actually getting something highly positive out of this process they have created a sense of the character having now gone through a real turning point.  And that is, I think, very important.  If the Angel goes dark period had simply been forgotten then their power and significance would have been critically undermined.  But make it the catalyst for change and you reinforce its importance.  Similarly both Wesley and Cordelia have been firmly set on new courses.  As I have indicated I am not a fan of the self-conscious nobility of Cordelia’s conversion to being the mother of mercy but we can hope the writers do something a bit more interesting with her next year.  Certainly now I am  more optimistic that we will see better use being made of Charles Gunn.   The one element that did disappoint a little was the quality of the humor. This is something that ANGEL as a series has done very well during the course of the season.  But not here and that is odd.  This was I think intended to be an upbeat episode with things turning out well for everyone.  As such it seemed perfectly for a light humorous tone.  In the main we certainly got a light tone but for some reason the humor just didn’t spark.  I can think of a couple of examples of this.  First when Fred was rambling about oatmeal and berries and tacos and bark enchiladas that needed more work.  Secondly when Cordelia was fussing over the Groosalugg and ignoring poor old Angel.  In both cases I think the writers were trying to force the comedy into a situation where it did not naturally belong.  Indeed the only comic scene that worked successfully for me was where the Host took his leave of his mother.  There the writers created the expectation of a heart-warming final farewell and just as I was about to gag reversed the expectation and gave us a very sharp and funny exit, complete with Numfar doing the dance of shame off-screen.  But overall, while neither the humor  nor the drama carried that much of a punch, this episode has a sort of classic feel good ending for any season (or at least it would have been but for that final scene) and I am well satisfied with that.