Parting Gifts
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Lonely Hearts
In the Dark
I Fall to Pieces
Rm w/a Vu
Sense and Sensitivity
Bachelor Party
I Will Remember You
Parting Gifts
I Got You Under My Skin
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Five by Five
War Zone
Blind Date
To Shanshu in LA




Written by: David Fury and Jeannine Renshaw

Directed by: James A. Contner



As ANGEL is, for the moment at least, essentially an anthology series with a series of free-standing stories, it depends principally upon continuity of character to give it some sort of unity.  The fact that it has been so successful at this sort of continuity represents one of the series’ strengths.  We should not, therefore, be too surprised that the episode which follows Doyle’s death concentrates heavily upon the aftermath of that event, acting as a sort of bridge between the Doyle and post-Doyle eras.

I know there are still many who hope for a return for the little half-demon but the very first scene was a clue to the writers’ intentions in this respect.  The most obvious way to bring Doyle back was to pull another IWRY time stunt.  So Angel’s trip to the Oracles was fairly clearly intended to close that option off right away.  That was actually the “door closing” that the Oracles were referring to.  And indeed for the purposes of “Parting Gifts” it was a very necessary prelude.  I mean the whole point of an episode about Doyle’s passing would have been compromised if the audience spent most of its time thinking that maybe he wasn’t gone at all.

At this point I would just like to add that scene like this make very good use of the Oracles.  I know that a lot of people don’t like them (principally I suppose because of the way they look).  Still they seem to me to strike precisely the right note of moral ambiguity to leave open all sorts of interesting possibilities.  They are after all supposed to be on the side of good but they come across as arrogant, emotionless and manipulative.  For them the friendship between Angel and Doyle was “of no consequence”.   The important point was the war and Doyle’s part in that was now ended.  That part was in atonement for what were deemed to be his sins, even though as I observed in Hero his failure hardly merited the sort of atonement the Oracles were talking about.  In any event we were left with the distinct impression that the Oracles could care less about the “lower beings” they used in their war and this, for me, created an uncomfortable feeling that perhaps TPTB had some agenda of their own and were not quite as benign as they might have earlier appeared.


The Missing Colleague

One technique, which Angel has used to very good effect, is to give us a scene at or near the beginning of an episode and then have another scene at the end which echoes it.  So here we first see Cordelia looking for “Doyle’s special coffee mug”, only to be told he didn’t have one.  It is a regret to her that he didn’t leave anything behind.  It was almost as if he never existed.  Then, at the end, she is framing a picture of the “ugly, gray, blobby thing” as a reminder that something of Doyle’s is still in the office – her visions.   In this contrast the writers give us the theme of the episode: that Doyle had left behind him a legacy, a “parting gift”.  But that “parting gift” to Angel and Cordelia was more than just the visions.  His departure affected them both and helped shape the way they related not only to one another but to Wesley also.  In that sense there was great symbolic meaning in the title of the episode and in the legacy of the visions themselves.

It was the interventions of Barney the empathy demon, and to a lesser extent Wesley, that was the nexus between these the opening and closing scenes.  The effect of these interventions was to bring about very significant changes in attitude on the part of both Cordelia and especially Angel, not so much towards Doyle but towards their futures without him.  And it is here that we find the real story of “Parting Gifts”.



At the beginning Cordelia, at least at first sight, was dealing with Doyle’s death.  Her regret was evident and heartfelt, as witnessed by her statement about the lack of even a coffee mug as a reminder of him:

“I don’t know, I guess I thought it would make me feel better if I could hold something tangible that he left behind.  Some evidence he was here?  But there is nothing.

 Equally, her concern for Angel is real.  But she was always a very practical and self-possessed person.  And she always remembers that if you didn’t look after yourself no one else would do it for you.  So, in spite of her suspicion that Angel was withdrawing into himself she can’t quite forget about her commercial on the grounds that it was a national.

That was why, when she had her first vision and realized its source, her regret at Doyle’s loss was entirely forgotten in her annoyance at what he had done to her:

Cordelia: “Damn, I can’t believe he did this to me!”

Angel:  “Who did what?”

Cordelia:  “Doyle!  I thought our kiss meant something, and instead he - he used that moment to pass it on to me! Why couldn’t it have been mono or herpes!”

Equally her first reaction was to try to get rid of her unwanted gift. 

“I want it out of me!  And if kissing is the only way to get rid of it I will smooch every damn frog in this kingdom!”

All she could see was the inconvenience and the burden of the visions.  It was Barney who, in his kinder, gentler manifestation, pointed out that the visions may have been the only thing of value Doyle had to pass on.  The nice thing here is that in many ways this is a faithful reflection of Cordelia’s attitude to Doyle.  She was so concerned with considerations of what was, from a practical point of view, best for her that she did give Doyle the consideration he was due.  And this is what is knowing away at her.  As Barney later points out to her very forcefully:

Barney:  “Mixed in with all the pain and the grief, oh, a healthy dollop of guilt. A nagging thought that...that maybe some how you could have saved him. If             only you’d have been nicer to him. If only you’d let your walls down. If only for ONE freaking second you gave a damn about anyone besides yourself.”

Barney is, of course, exaggerating but there is evidently truth in what he is saying.  After all an outright lie on his part would not have resonated with Cordelia at all.  What he was saying had enough truth in it to hurt her.  And what Barney said (together with the fact that her vision actually saved her own life as well as putting it in jeopardy in the fist place) seems to have made her think differently about her newly found “gift”.  Certainly by the end of the episode she has accepted it, albeit grudgingly and is busily framing the drawing of what she saw in her vision.  Certainly the symbolism seems to me to be fairly plain.  By accepting Doyle’s gift with fairly good grace she was accepting that her personal convenience was not the be all and end of everything and that she did owe some form of obligation to others.  At the beginning she said she had nothing to atone for.  Perhaps her new attitude to the gift was in part acceptance that she did have something to atone for.  In effect she was accepting that she had been wrong in the way she had treated Doyle and this was the way of making up for this.



At the beginning of “Parting Gifts”, Angel is more obviously suffering.  He pushes Cordelia away because if he did otherwise he would be forced to share his feelings.  And the closer the two of them become the greater risk of him suffering yet more emotional pain.  But there is far more involved here than a mere sense of loss.  There are also feelings of guilt.  These are most clearly manifested in Angel’s reluctance to take Wesley with him when he looked for the Kungai demon:

Angel: “I work alone, Wesley.”

Wesley:  “The hell you say.  This demon is mine!  Angel.  I know how to track him.  You’re not catch him without me by your side.”

Angel turns to look at him:  “I had someone by my side.  He’s dead now.  I won’t let that happen again.  I work alone.”

The interesting thing here is that Wesley was not especially important to him.  He did not particularly care if he lived or died. Rather his reluctance to have him along was a reflection of his feelings of responsibility for allowing Doyle’s death.   And those feelings of responsibility must have been very real.   After all, Doyle died in place of Angel and because Angel allowed himself to be taken by surprise and knocked down. 

Both of these reactions could not survive the shock of Cordelia’s kidnapping.  That brought Angel  face to face with the reality that he could not loose Cordelia as well.  It was too late to protect himself through emotional isolation.   Furthermore he also realized that he couldn’t do everything on his own.  He needed Wesley’s help to rescue her.  

Angel:  “*We* can go rescue her.  I need your help, Wesley.  The Kungai said Barney wanted the horn for something.”

Wesley:  “Klu(click)ka.”

Angel:  “You’re the only one in this room who could translate that.  Are you with me?”

So, for Angel just as much as Cordelia the events triggered by Barney marked a turning point.  First of all he was forced to accept that his attempt to cut himself off from human contact and retreat back into his shell was now doomed to failure.  Secondly, and just as importantly, Angel also begins to come to terms with his feelings of guilt.  These were built on the idea that he should have prevented Doyle’s death.  But in accepting help from Wesley Angel is implicitly accepting that he cannot do everything on his own.  And that tacit acceptance of his limits  is itself recognition that Doyle’s death too was beyond his power to control. Above all, in the rescue of Cordelia, her trust in Angel (“I never doubted for a minute that you would find me”), Angel’s working relationship with Wesley and the little breakfast scene at the end we see a deliberate effort to rebuilt what had been shattered – the “family” unit.  Only this time the dynamic is different.  Instead of having Doyle as the connection between Angel and Cordelia, the relationship between those two now seems destined to become central to the series.  So, Angel and Cordelia learn to deal with the implications of  Doyle’s death, both in terms of their own personal response and in terms of their relationships with each other and Wesley.



I have said relatively little about Wesley to date.   There was some good use of him in this episode.  I think that our realization that Wesley was the relentless demon hunter Barney described was supposed to be funny, although I didn’t find it especially so.  He was more effective as the point around which Angel’s feelings of guilt turned.  He first refused to work with Wesley for fear of getting him killed.  But Wesley does have genuine “Watcher skills” and Angel’s realization that he needed help to save Cordelia convinced him that he did after all need to work with someone.  Finally, although Wesley was never intended as a direct replacement for Doyle (the characters are too  dissimilar) he did physically fill an empty chair at the breakfast table thus helping in the symbolic reformation of Angel’s little group.   The really good thing about this scene is that it was not just an afterthought.  I think that the writers were drawing parallels between Angel and Wesley.  Angel held himself accountable for his failure to save Doyle.  Wesley held himself accountable for his own more profound failings and as a result had lost all self-respect.  The help he was able to give Angel made the latter realize he couldn’t do everything himself but it also enabled him to regain some of that self-respect and Angel’s gesture in acknowledging that help and accepting him at his table were very important  in that respect.


Treatment of Character

For a story which is about personal relationships in several different senses what I liked most in all of this was the way things were underplayed.  This was typified by the first scene between Angel and Cordelia when the latter came out as the slightly bossy elder sister.  Then there was Angel’s stunned disbelief on learning that Cordelia was his link to the Powers and his exasperation at her attitude to her gift. You could almost see him saying to himself “Cordelia, of all people…”.  Even the breakfast scene at the end, which could have been very mawkish, was played principally for the humor and was all the better for it.  Because of this approach the grief and vulnerability of both main characters is hinted at rather than openly displayed.  This makes the contrast between the surface control both main characters try to display and their inner turmoil both more real and believable.  In this the writers are greatly added by some more fine performances from both DB and CC.


The Plot

The thing I liked most about the plot was the way we, as viewers, were constantly trying to keep up with it as it developed and changed.   First of all we had Barney as a victim hunted by a relentless demon hunter.  The mystery seemed to be who was the demon hunter and why was he after Barney.  His early protestations of innocence are quite believable principally because he looks shady but  insignificant (actually a little Doyle-esque).  And so we tend to assume that the black leather clad motor cyclist is in fact the vllain, only to discover – its Wesley!  From him we get information about a particularly nasty demon he has been after:

Wesley:  “He’s left a trail of corpses, human and demon, all mutilated.”

Angel:  “Mutilated?”

Wesley:  “Each of the victims possessed some unique power – telepathy, poison tongues, healing hands.  Whatever the physical source of their power it was ripped, gouged, torn from their corpses.”

Angel:  “He’s collecting powers.”

The description of this villain doesn’t match Barney at all.  It then turns out that Wesley has in fact been following a Kungai demon and suspicion is even more firmly pointed at him as villain of the piece when he ambushes Angel and Wesley.  This leads quite naturally to the conclusion Angel and Barney reach:

Barney:  “So what you’re telling me is that all this time your friend wasn’t hunting me, he was hunting something else that was hunting me?”

Angel:  “That’s about the size of it.”

Barney:  “And that something else was after me because…”

Angel:  “It wants to steal your empathic ability.”

The task then becomes one of finding the demon and stopping it.  But then just as Barney seems to confirm his basic decency by helping Cordelia to see her inheritance from Doyle in a positive way he is revealed to be the demon stealing powers and the Kungai is his victim. 

This was all a bit like pealing away the skin of an onion.   Just when we thought we understood what was going on another layer was removed and we were forced to re-evaluate everything that had gone on before on the light of this earlier revelation.   These are the sort of plot twists that Angel has made a specialty of.  Of course the seeming innocent who turns out to be the real villain is something of a cliché in SF and fantasy but I think that it still works well here principally because of Barney.  There is no jarring discontinuity in character before and after the “switch” in personality.  He is the same shady “wheeler-dealer” type. But despite this he makes a very credible change from hunted to hunter because his seeming insignificance allows him to insinuate his way into a position of trust and betray it.  Heck, we saw him do this and we fell for it just like everyone else did.

There was a degree of contrivance in the way that Angel tracked down the place where Cordelia was being held but I didn’t really mind that.  First of all I liked the irony of Cordelia having a vision and complaining about it when it was in fact to help save her life.  More importantly, however, the auction itself was an inspired idea.  In it we were presented with a spectacle that was both humorous and deadly serious at the same time.  The progress of the auction intercut with scene of Wesley and Angel trying to find it gave a very effective sense of a race against time and Cordelia’s effort to stave off the inevitable in the form of trying to drive up her own price added both humor and considerable tension.  There was, I think, only one thing that diminished it as a climax to the episode.  As I have already said Barney made a very interesting and believable villain but, once unmasked, he carried no real  threat.  The very face of Angel’s arrival at the auction effectively ended proceedings and it would have added to things if the outcome of the battle had been in even a little doubt.



7.5/10.  “Parting Gifts” is a very good example of how to use a story as a  vehicle in character study.  There is believable progression and change which is the outgrowth of the story itself but which has a far more general significance for our characters.  The problem is that in character terms “Angel and Cordelia adjust after Doyle’s death” was never going to deliver an especially powerful punch.  So, the character developments, while interesting and believable in context, are fairly limited in terms of impact.   Nor is  the plot very innovative.  Even with the twists, it quickly resolves itself into a standard “rescue”.  But the episode, while failing to reach any great heights, was a very entertaining hour complete with humor, drama and action which also managed to create some interesting and believable character developments which are obviously intended to set the dynamics of the show up for the post-Doyle era. The one thing I did not like at all was the slapstick element to the way Wesley’s character was handled.  I thought that the knife taped to the ankle was a particularly clumsy device intended to elicit humor.  Buster Keaton does slapstick.  I do not see it working on “Angel”.