Written by: Tim Minear
Directed by: James Whitmore Jr.
Angel and His Humanity
my review of the season 1 finale of ANGEL,
“To Shanshu in LA”, I said that this episode was not really about a
defining battle against a great evil as the culmination of the past season.
Rather it served as the set up for the next one.
But as I wrote those words I could not possibly have foreseen the way in
which the writers in season 2 would pick up and develop the themes they so
carefully introduce there.
the key theme was Angel’s desire to be human.
This was the subject of some adverse comment at the time.
Some, I think, rather suspected the writers of going for cheap
sentimentality. But the further we
have delved into the Darla arc the more central this issue has become.
in “Sanctuary” when Angel said to Faith:
truth is no matter how much you suffer, no matter how many good deeds you do to
try to make up for the past you may
never balance out the cosmic scale. The
only thing I can promise you is that you'll probably be haunted
and may be for the rest of your life."
I said in my review of that episode, here he was referring to himself and in
those words we do get a sense of the bleak hopelessness he must feel.
He is describing a struggle without an end.
In the same episode redemption is defined as a process or a journey.
But any journey must have an ultimate goal, otherwise it is pointless.
Equally the significance of redemption cannot be just the process.
In the final analysis Angel must seek redemption for his own benefit.
What “To Shanshu in LA” did, therefore, was to identify Angel’s
quest for his own redemption with his quest to be human.
the important point here is that there is more to being human than taking the
physical form. It means being part of the world. There are a few significant passages in “To Shanshu in
LA” dealing with this very issue.
Cordelia: "Angel's kinda human.
He's got a soul."
"What connects us to life is the simple truth that we're a part of it.
We live, we grow, we change. But
"..can't do any of those things. Well
what are you saying, Wesley, that Angel has nothing to look forward to? That he is going to going to go on forever, the same, in the
world but always cut off from it?"
cannot change and he cannot grow because he is not part of life. He needs
nothing. He hopes for nothing.
This has been a theme that has been integral to the character from the
beginning, and not only on ANGEL. Certainly
his isolation from humanity was something stressed both in “City of..” and
“Lonely Hearts”. But
here the writers have taken this concept to the next level.
It becomes not a character quirk but an inherent aspect of his nature.
But the dynamic that was set up in “To Shanshu” seemed therefore to
point the way to a future in which he was part of the world.
In the prophecies of Aberjian Angel finally saw the promise of redemption.
All he had to do was
survive the coming darkness, the apocalyptic battles, a few plagues, and some -
uh, several, - not that many - fiends that will be unleashed."
if he managed to do that he would attain not only redemption but his humanity.
As he said himself of this prophecy:
saw the light at the end of the tunnel that some day I might become human."
would one day become a real live boy. But
as it turned out the writers were being far from sentimental here.
They were making a very important statement about Angel’s quest for
this statement concerned what it meant for Angel to be human.
When “To Shanshu in LA” first there was much discussion about that
being his “reward” for fighting against evil and some questioned whether
such a reward simply made him a mercenary.
But this begged the question: why should humanity be deemed a reward. After all what advantages did it bring that outweighed
immortality and freedom from pain and disease?
Certainly its advantages were by no means obvious to Darla.
in episodes like “Dear Boy”, “Guise will be Guise” and above all
“Darla” the writers showed the ambivalence within Angel himself about being
human. Being a vampire meant power;
it meant freedom from moral constraints, freedom above all to take pleasure as
you wanted it. It was simple and
pure. Being human was the
counterpoint. It meant being
burdened by a moral sense. It meant
not being able to think only of what you want and need but also of what is
right. But above all it meant
paying attention to what the other person wants and needs. It meant to have a connection with the rest of the world.
Instead of existing only for your own needs, It was to feel that others are important simply because of their humanity
and that some individuals are especially important
because of a personal connection. By defining Angel’s quest
for redemption so closely in terms of his desire to be human and by showing us
what humanity meant to Angel, the writers were establishing why it was so
important for Angel to be human. It
was that connection with humanity that was his redemption.
It was the feeling of belonging. It
was not being intent only on living for what you could get for yourself, with
all the pain and misery for others that meant.
And here again I turn to Doyle’s words in “City of…”.
I have quoted them before. I
make no apologies for doing so now because they are so prescient:
about letting them into your heart. It’s not about saving lives; it’s about
saving souls. Hey, possibly your own in the process."
is why letting other people into his heart is the way Angel saves his soul, a
soul that is burdened and damaged not so much by the actual evil a vampire named
Angelus caused but by the century or more of retreat from humanity that was the
legacy of those crimes.
And it is
at this level that we can see the effect of what happened to Darla.
In “The Trial” Angel showed that he had a connection with her.
He understood her; he identified with her as a human soul struggling with
a vampire past. It is what
eventually led to his downfall because the fact that he was so close to Darla
was used to undermine his own quest for redemption. Without hope of redemption
Angel continues to see himself as fundamentally different to humans. He is in
short right back to where he was for example when he was staying at the hotel
Hyperion in 1950’s LA – in the world but separate from it and without any
interest in helping human beings. Hence his decision to turn his back on helping humans such as
the would be suicide in “Reunion”. Hence
his abandonment of his friends and his cynical and exploitative behavior in
“Blood Money”. Above all the deliberate separation of himself from human
feelings was the defining characteristic of his state of mind as we see it
explored in “Redefinition”. When
stalking Darla he said:
not ready for her. I can still feel
her, her pain, her need, her hope. I’m
too close, too close to fight her.”
here we see Angel’s concept of humanity as a state in which each person does
reach out and feel the pain, need and hope of others.
Although Angel sees himself now as irretrievably cut off from humanity
and unable to achieve his own redemption by becoming part of it, his internal
struggle in the first part of the Darla arc (culminating in his self-sacrifice
in “The Trial”) demonstrates clearly what he perceives to be the difference
between being human and being a demon; between having a soul and not.
He regards humans (and by extension human society) as essentially
“good” because they do not just live for themselves and do care about
others. Of course he recognizes the
existence of evil humans. But he
necessarily believes in their capacity for redemption.
This applied to Faith. It
also applied to Lindsey. It seems
to me that at the heart of the personal animosity he so clearly feels for
Lindsey was the feeling that (unlike a vampire) he could be “good” if only
he wanted to. This is clearly what
gives purpose to Angel’s war. And
it is this assumption that comes under devastating attack in “Reprise”.
first, in order to make sense of the direction in which this episode was moving,
it was necessary to remind ourselves of Angel’s present state of mind.
And here the writers seemed intent on highlighting the dark gray in
Angel. Our first picture is of him
is interrupting a ritual sacrifice. The
participants are human and aren’t really engaged in anything very evil (except
from the point of view of the Goats I suppose). This seems to be one of the blood rituals performed at the
behest of the members of Wolfram and Hart who feel under threat from the Review.
The Host describes the lawyers and their efforts in these terms:
children. Trying to score as many brownie points as they can before daddy
gets home. I got news. Daddy? Not impressed. Anyhow, stopping
them won't prevent 'it' from passing into our world on Friday."
might have taken the time to try and understand what was going on here.
If he had he might have drawn the same conclusions. After all he was half-way there when he spoke to Kate:
"Blood sacrifices, black masses, totems... I don't know what it means, but
it's happening all over town. I mean, it could be a raising, but, you
know... I…I really don't know. I mean the prayers, the rituals, I
think they're too generic for that, you know, boilerplate. They could be
preparing the way for something."
he is too intent on striking back at Wolfram and Hart in any way that he can to
make the effort. Instead of taking
the time and trouble to study the goat sacrifice he lashed out against it in
anger. At least in “Blood
Money” there was a plan, a purpose behind what he was doing.
Here there was none. It’s
no wonder that the Host tells him:
"What you need more of is tether. Because you're about at the end of
if there was little logic behind Angel’s attacks on the lawyers here, at least
he thought he knew what he was doing. He
had a clear concept of good and evil. When
the Host clarified who “daddy” was his attention was immediately caught:
"Well, every seventy-five years your friends over at Wolfram and Hart have
this review. I think the general angst isn't so much about the review, but
more about the reviewer. And let's just say it ain't Rex Reed."
"What is it?"
"It's evil. It's dark. It's
merciless. Actually, now that I say it out loud it sounds an awful lot
like Rex, doesn't it?"
"Maybe you could just tell me in one word what it is."
"Not likely. But I *can* tell you in two. Senior
that moment onwards, Angel had one goal. And
in his single minded pursuit of this goal all the worst traits of dark gray
Angel came to the surface. We had already been reminded of his
participation in the slaughter of Holland Manners and the others…and not in a
gentle way either.
"Hmm, so it's funny how these dead people were threatened by an intruder at
their offices. An intruder *I* picked up and released on the street three
hours before the complainants were found massacred."
"You know who's responsible for that."
"Yeah. But I can't figure out though is why forensics is now telling
me that it looks like the suspect or suspects *didn't* break in. - They had to
brake out. The victims were locked in that wine cellar with their attackers and
I think I am *done* helping you now."
anger in Kate’s voice was enough to bring home the fact that, apart from
anything else, this was a betrayal
of her trust. But then, in his
single minded desire to get at Wolfram and Hart Angel really stepped over the
boundaries with his former friends. When
he walks into their office he says not a word and doesn’t even look at them.
It was as if they were not there. Then
when Cordelia intervenes his only reaction is a cold:
make me move you."
when Wesley tries to defuse a nasty
situation he doesn’t even thank him but takes the book and walks out neither
looking to the right nor to the left. Cordelia
may not have been blameless in the confrontation but would it have hurt Angel to
explain why he needed the book or even ask for it nicely?
we come to Denver. He was the book
store owner who was so impressed enough by the Angel’s desire to help Judy and
the others in the Hyperion Hotel in the 1950’s:
"You know you changed my life that day. I mean, a vampire comes into
my place looking to kill a demon to save human beings? I figured if
something like *that* could happen there really must be good in the world."
was a soul Angel had saved. But
he didn’t care. He was so intent
on getting to the “Home Office” that he is completely disinterested not only
in the fate of the residents of the Hotel but in Denver’s reaction to his
efforts to help them:
"Hey, how'd that go anyway? It was a Thesulac, paranoia demon, if I
"Yeah. I don't know. I think he killed everyone."
"Oh. - Well, point is, you tried."
"Actually, I pretty much walked out and let the demon have the place and
everyone in it
showed neither shame nor remorse. He
couldn’t even be bothered to lie about it to preserve Denver’s illusions.
Nothing else mattered but to get to the Home Office.
was a careful and intelligent preparation for what was to come.
It was important for three reasons.
First of all it emphasized the continuity of Angel as the character we
saw in “Reunion”, “Redefinition” and “Blood Ties”.
It placed his actions in the context in which they made sense.
Having given up on the idea of personal redemption he was now fighting a
very personal war. He had lost something precious to him (his hope for the
future) because of the works of the forces of evil and now he was going to make
them pay a price for that. Even the
“beige” Angel of “happy Anniversary” or the Angel who now regretted the
treatment of his friends wasn’t inconsistent because it emphasized the trap
that Angel had fallen into. He felt
he was screwed personally but even his efforts to strike back at Wolfram and
Hart had been less than effective. All of this helps highlight the second
important point about Angel, namely just how close to the edge he was. As the
start of the episode showed he was almost striking out at random without any
sense that it was doing any good. And
then, finally, we can see clearly just why the chance to destroy the senior
partners and “Home Office” was so important to him, so important indeed that
he was prepared to do more than risk his life.
He was prepared voluntarily to condemn himself to a demon dimension he
had perhaps very personal reasons to fear. But there seems more to this than
revenge. Angel might have effectively abandoned any hope of his own
redemption when he gave up the idea of saving souls. But he still fought what he clearly considered a just war, a
war for the benefit of good against the forces of evil. He had no future, no hope.
But humanity had. And, as we
have seen, Angel still believed that humanity was fundamentally different to
the world of demons and for that reason was worth saving.
So, he was perfectly prepared to trade his lack of a future for humanity,
to help protect them. That was why
he decided to risk everything on this one throw of the dice to kill the Senior
Partners. He may even have
identified his efforts in this respect with his prophesied part in averting the
threatened apocalypse. That is why
he was so interested in the Senior Partners and in getting information about
them from the Host:
"Look, I get how this works. I'm not asking you to rat out their
destinies. I don't care about that. But getting to the Senior
Partners, that's *my* destiny."
the focus on this to the exclusion of any other consideration.
Whatever personal demons haunted him, however warped his judgment about
what was right and wrong had become, in this respect at least Angel remained a
hero in the classical sense. He was
a larger than life figure willing to sacrifice everything against impossible
odds for what he believed in, not for what he could earn by doing so.
then he saw this one last thing that was left to him destroyed before his very
it was entirely fitting that Holland Manners should be the one to achieve this
feat. And the way he did so was so wonderfully written that it
needs no addition and little by way of analysis:
"Well, this is exciting, isn't it? Going straight to the source. So, what's
the big plan, Angel? Destroy the Senior Partners, smash Wolfram and Hart
once and for all?"
"Something like that."
"Hmm, now tell me just what do you think that would accomplish?
"It'll be - the end."
"Well, the end of you, certainly. But I meant in the larger
"In the larger sense I really don't give a crap."
"Now I don't think that's true. - Be honest. - You got the
tiniest bit of 'give a crap' left. Otherwise you wouldn't be going on this
Kamikaze mission. Now let me see, there was something - in a sacred
prophecy, some oblique reference to you. Something you're supposed to
prevent. Now what was that?"
"Yes, the apocalypse, of course. - Another one of those. Well, it's
true. We do have one scheduled. And I imagine if you were to prevent
it you would save a great many people. Well, you should do that then.
Absolutely. I wasn't thinking. - Of course all those people you save from
that apocalypse would then have the next one to look forward to, but, hey, it's
always something, isn't it?"
"You're not gonna win."
"Well - *no*. Of course we aren't. We have no intention of
doing anything so prosaic as 'winning.'"
"Hmm? I'm sorry? Why what?"
"That's really the question you should be asking yourself, isn't it?
See, for us, there is no fight. Which is why winning doesn't enter into
it. We - go on - no matter what. Our firm has always been here.
In one form or another. The Inquisition. The Khmer Rouge. We
were there when the very first cave man clubbed his neighbor. See, we're
in the hearts and minds of every single living being. And *that*, friend,
is what's making things so difficult for you.
See, the world doesn't work in spite of evil, Angel.
It works with us. It works because of us."
was not only undermining the idea that Angel could achieve anything by fighting
a war. It actually undermined any idea that Angel’s most basic
notions about humanity had any validity at all.
If the evil really was in humanity all along then you must not only ask
how can you protect humanity from that evil.
You must actually ask why bother in the first place.
Angel was being sold the idea that there was no fundamental difference
between the demon world and humanity. And
this was the view that he bought into, just as he was intended to.
He could not see the obvious lie that Holland Manners was telling him for
what it was. Partly he could not do
so because he realized just how far ahead of the game Wolfram and Hart were.
When the elevator to Hell stopped and Angel found himself back in LA, it
was visual proof that the lawyers understood him and what he was doing far
better than he understood himself. And
when you are faced with that sort of demonstration you have to believe that they
know what they are talking about. But
most of all he could not recognize the lie in what he was being told because he
himself had abandoned the good fight. He
had cut himself off from the very experience of humanity that would have told
him the truth about the struggle between good and evil.
The good fight was first and foremost about helping people fight their
internal demons. Angel was intended
to connect with humanity not because people were all good but because he could
connect with the instinct for good within and help them overcome those demons.
And if Angel had still believed in the good fight, if he had still
believed in the possibility of his own redemption he would have known that.
After all who was more damaged than he?
This was how you fight Holland Manners’ view of evil; not be locking a
bunch of evil lawyers in a wine cellar with a couple of angry vampires and not
by trying to kill evil demons. And
what was so fitting about Holland’s presence is that he demonstrates the
futility of the “Dark Angel” line of thinking.
He showed Angel (and the audience) that he had accomplished nothing in
the wine cellar. Holland might be
dead but he was still an asset to evil.
what also helped Holland’s case was that there was just enough of a ring of
truth about it to be convincing. And
it is here that we see the significance of the montage as Angel walked away from
the elevator. He may have known
nothing about what happened to Kate, Wesley or Cordelia; but none of it would
have surprised him. Here we see
three people who were doing their best to help others.
Kate had been trying to defend the rule of law and order against
Kate: "You remember Atkinson? The captain at
the two-three? He's blaming me for granting access to some lunatic who
broke into his office and beat the ever holy crap out of him. He's filed a
"He was raising zombie cops and setting them loose on the streets."
laughs: "And I'm sure once I explain that to Internal Affairs this
will all just go away. -And they've just been *looking* for an excuse... And you
know what they say about *me*. I am a cop. That is all I've ever...
I can't take a suspension... I would just.…”
and Cordelia had helped remove a third eye from the back of the head of a 14
year old girl and then are cheated out of their due reward:
"No, I mean, we *can't* thank you and we can't pay you either.
This bill is ridiculous."
"What do you mean? We didn't even charge you for the mandrake."
"My husband says it's outrageous."
"Does he? And just what would your husband consider to be a fair price for
the removal of the third eye from the back of your child's head, Mrs.
"Well … nothing. Steve says
that since it's impossible to be bitten by a demon and have a third eye grow in
the back of one's head, that obviously you people are running some sort of scam,
and you won't squeeze one red cent out of us.”
Kate is fired, in marked contrast to the fate of Atkionson the LAPD
captain who raise the zombies. He not only remained on the Force was was
instrumental in her downfall. Equally, Francine Sharp is used to set up an
ambush for Cordelia and Wesley is dumped by Virginia.
In all of these cases the best of intentions, courage, determination and
a desire to help others is met with stupidity, ignorance, greed and fear.
This is not evil in the moustache-twirling sense of that word.
But it is evil in the more prosaic sense – people preoccupied with
their own little concerns, their own narrow view of the world and utterly
indifferent to fellow human beings. It’s
no wonder that Wesley and Cordelia are reduced to the following pathetic
"Things are gonna get better Cordelia... for all of us. You'll
"I'll call you tomorrow. See how you're feeling."
for Kate, there is even worse as she first hits the bottle and then the pills
before she phones Angel one last time:
made me trust you. You made me
believe. No, it wasn't you.
It was me, right? I couldn't take the heat.
That's what they're gonna say. Then you're gonna feel all bad - or
you won't care. But then, then I won't care either. I won't feel a
then Angel doesn’t care. Upon
hearing this his only reaction is to turn off the answering machine and go
upstairs to his bedroom. And it is
here that the reason for that reaction, and the nature of his state of mind,
becomes clear. When he sees Darla
instead of trying to kill her he is only interested in replaying the violent
sexual encounters they had in the same bedroom such a long time ago.
Perhaps in doing so he was merely reaching out for some comfort.
More likely he was himself truly suicidal at least in the metaphysical
sense. His soul had had enough.
There was now truly nothing left for him:
"Don't you feel the cold?"
"What're you doing?"
"It doesn't matter. None of it matters."
and Cordelia at least still have hope. But
the parallels between Kate and Angel here are very strong.
Neither knows very much outside the fight against evil. But both cared deeply about that fight, albeit in different
ways. And then it was taken away
from them. Is it any wonder that
neither felt able to continue. What
makes Kate’s situation so poignant was that, if she had maintained the
distrust we had seen in “To Shanshu in LA”, things would have been very
different. That attitude made
her look a nutcase to some. But she
abandoned it and began to trust Angel, as she later discovered, at exactly the
wrong moment. Her story was that of
a fatal choice made in ignorance and of a betrayal made carelessly rather than
maliciously. Looking back on it
there was never the same sense of inevitability as there is with Angel.
But perhaps the thought that haunted her was the sense that if only she
had acted differently thing would not have turned out so badly.
And that itself brings its own sense of pain and loss.
Kate embracing the end meant suicide. For
Angel it was giving up his soul. An
irresponsible act? Certainly, given
that it would release Angelus upon a suspecting world.
But then again he would not have seen that eventuality in quite the same
black and white terms as he once did. After
all when you come down to it what is the difference between a vampire and any
other denizen of the sort of world he had seen through Holland Manners’ eyes.
From this point of view there were no innocents.
It was all just a matter of where you happened to be sitting in the food
chain. Vampires were a little higher than humans but that was all.
And as for Kate, well like his soul he would have thought she was better
off out of the world.
1 of ANGEL the series saw the vampire with a soul find a sense of mission and
with it hope for himself and I have tried to describe the dynamic of this.
In “Reunion” we saw the partial unraveling of this.
That was more than I had expected since even that episode flatly
contradicted the ordinary canons of the heroic narrative as they are understood
on modern television. And it
seemed from the intervening episodes that there was almost a deliberate attempt
to row back on the idea of a truly dark Angel.
Hence the somewhat teasing references to him being “beige”.
But really we were being lulled into a false sense of security.
Because in this episode nothing escaped the swath of destruction the
writers cut. We witnessed tragedy
in the classical sense – the destruction of an essentially good man, cut down
partly by fate, partly by the machinations of others and partly by his own
mistakes. True Angel still lives.
But he has been morally and spiritually laid waste.
And, for a series like ANGEL which is essentially about moral and
spiritual issues that is perhaps an even more devastating blow.
And it is all the more devastating because we had seen how, slowly and
with difficulty, Angel’s sense of mission had been built up.
This state of affairs will not be permanent; it may not even last long.
But it is real for all that. And this is what lends the episode its
power, the sense that something important has happened and that nothing can
quite be the same from now on.
although what we saw was unexpected it was entirely believable largely because
it was consistent with the development of the arc and the character of Angel to
date. As I have tried to show, the
way in which Angel might lose faith in his own personal redemption and in “the
good fight” yet still care enough to continue the war, not simply for revenge
but for a higher reason has been carefully, consistently and clearly set out.
But so too has the very fragile nature of his self-control.
What the writers had done here was to create an Achilles heel.
So, as with all the best tragedies it was the good in him that eventually
proved his downfall. But the way
they had Wolfram and Hart strike at Angel’s weakness was especially effective.
They were able to make Angel and the audience look at the familiar with
new eyes, to see things we had not seen before and to admit, if not the truth,
at least the logic of what they were saying.
By doing so they took away what had seemed firm and unshakable.
This is what helped create the surprise.
But another wonderful quality here is that, with the benefit of
hindsight, this denouement comes as no surprise.
Instead it appears the inevitable outcome for Angel of the situation in
which he finds himself, where each apparent choice turns out to be no choice at
all and each warning falls on deaf ears because that is the way fate intended
in all of this the writers do not spare the character of Angel at all.
He is nasty to Cordelia, ignore an obvious plead for help from Kate and
is grossly irresponsible with Darla. What
then do the writers intend us to make of such a person? Can there be understanding or forgiveness for his actions?
It would of course be entirely possible to adopt a morally censorious
view of these developments, especially towards Angel’s reactions towards the
end. This is where the writers have
undoubtedly taken perhaps their greatest risk to date.
Having chosen quite deliberately to make the hero of the piece act very
badly indeed they may find some are quite unable to forgive him.
But in taking that risk the writers have been entirely true to the
philosophy of the series. I think
that ANGEL maintains that we all owe each other the chance to try for
redemption. In particular it rejects the notion that it is up to us to judge our
fellow human beings and decide who can be redeemed and who cannot be. If you
like, this is precisely why the writers have no hesitation in saying that what
Angel did was wrong in locking Holland and the others in the wine cellar. He was
at that point deciding that they were irredeemable. Moreover it seems to me that
the series also seeks to make a statement about the value of each human being
connecting with one another in the process of redemption. It is not only that
you help others it is in making the connection itself that we see a
manifestation of our own humanity. In that sense it does challenge the viewer in
the terms. When faced with someone
who tries to do what is right but fails what is your reaction – anger,
disgust, indignation? Are we happy
then to see them fail? Or do
we just not care and turn away? What
then does that say about your own humanity?
here I would like to say a word about the enigma that is Lindsey McDonald.
Two things strike me immediately about him in this episode.
The first is that, in complete contrast to everyone else, he seems to
lack any fear about the coming review. When
Lilah produces a dossier on the review he is interested only in a passing way.
And yet, given his history he has arguably more to fear than anyone else,
"We'll stand on our records. It's the only thing we've got."
"Then we're dead! Do I have to remind you of our collective
this the same career-orientated individual we saw in “To Shanshu in LA”?
The answer to that is made clear very soon indeed as he returns to his
apartment where he has evidently been caring for Darla:
"Sorry I'm late. I would have come home for lunch but everything's
crazy at the office with the review coming up. And I would have called, but I
didn't want you to have to get up to answer the phone. How do you
"Good. You're getting stronger everyday."
"Only because you saved me. I'd still be in that sewer if you hadn't found
"I'm gonna take a shower."
"You always take a shower when you come back from that place. Don't
know why. You're never dirty."
"I'm always dirty."
the metaphor is a might heavy handed but the meaning of that phrase is clear
then most interestingly of all we see his behavior when Darla tries to kill the
Senior Partner. He hits Lilah, throws a security guard off Darla and then helps
her up off the ground and towards the door.
This is not going to help his career.
Indeed it seems entirely possible that Lindsey has come to his own crisis
point. I would not say that he was
necessarily on the road to redemption. After
all the creature he has been helping is herself a soulless killer so he is
albeit indirectly contributing to the deaths of innocents. But by the same token he is not just acting for himself.
He is sacrificing himself, possibly his own life for someone else. And
that fact alone is an indication that something has changed within him.
We can only wait and see where this goes.
I will try to be brief. The whole
beginning of this episode was intended to create a sense of an impending crisis. So you had the goat sacrifice and the sense of panic at
Wolfram and Hart. But the reason
for all of this activity was very quickly established – the arrival of the
senior partner and the review. There
was no sense of mystery, no puzzle to be solved.
Nor was there any doubt as to what Angel’s response to this development
would be. The fact that we were
forcefully reminded of his all consuming preoccupation with Wolfram and Hart in teaser and in subsequent scenes with Kate and the Host saw
to that. Even the next
logical question – could the Senior Partner be killed and if so how –
wasn’t too problematic. The visit
to Denver’s bookshop provided all of the answers.
It was reasonably obvious by this stage therefore that this aspect of the
story was something of a red herring used to hold our interest while the real
story was developed elsewhere. And
indeed this is the real strength of the plotting of the episode.
All of the essential elements needed to make sense of Angel’s final
plunge into darkness are set up as part of the “Angel goes after the Senior
Partners” story. We had, in
particular, the re-emergence of the already dark Angel, only this time one that
was very believable fraying around the edges.
In this context we could see that Angel was reaching a crisis point but
the precise nature of the real crisis he was to face and its implications for
him remained well hidden. But
not unfairly so because they were unknown to Angel himself at that stage and
telling a developing story from the point of view of the “hero” and keeping
hidden what was unknown to him is perfectly justified.
the key twist that the writers pulled off here was, I think, a classic of its
type. They introduced the idea of a
“Home Office” and associated it – loosely – with the arrival of the
Senior Partner. Nowhere was it ever
stated that he was coming from the Home Office.
But when we learned that he was moving between Earth and the demon
dimension where “dark entities” reside his own conventional expectations led
Angel to assume – without any evidence – that here was the Home Office.
And we made precisely the same mistake for precisely the same reasons.
There was actually a clue that should have led us to question this
assumption. The fact that Angel
didn’t dematerialize into the demon dimension in the same way that
the Kleynach demon materialized here should have been a big clue that he
wasn’t going to the same place (misleading footage of the elevator’s descent
into Hell notwithstanding). But the
fact that we didn’t pick up on that fact was very important because the idea
of the “Home Office” was not simply a gimmick.
As I have already explained, the impact that opening the elevator doors
to reveal not the demon dimension but LA played a crucial part in pushing Angel
over the edge. It was the
visual manifestation of the case Holland was making to Angel and as such played
a crucial role in convincing Angel of the truth of that argument.
there are two other aspects of the plot that I would like to pick up on.
First I really did appreciate the way that the different stories of
Kate’s dismissal and Cordelia and Wesley’s troubles were used in the
episode. At first each seemed to
stand on its own; an individual tragedy without relevance to any other. But the way they were brought together in the montage near
the end helped illustrate the nature of evil in the world and, as I have already
explained, greatly helped to elucidate the theme of the episode.
finally we come to the intervention of Darla.
There were a couple of minor problems here.
I am still not sure why or how she found her way to Denver’s bookshop.
Equally why she didn’t stake Angel when she had him at her mercy is
also somewhat problematic. Her key
motivation seems to be explained in the following passage:
suggests that the glove was only a means of getting the ring and that she was
not interested in killing the Senior Partner simply for the sake of revenge.
But it is still far from clear to me how getting the ring would have
given her power. But none of this
really matters. Darla had to be
part of this episode for the sake of the last scene.
This is crucial to the whole episode.
It’s not that I think for one moment that Angel will actually lose his
soul (then again I have been wrong before).
Because of this the cliff hanger at the end doesn’t constitute for me
at least a twist of the same power we had for example at the end of “The
Trial” or “Reunion”. But even
more than ignoring Kate’s plea for help (for that is what I think it
essentially was) the reckless abandon with which Angel decided to have sex with
her demonstrates the true depth of his despair to which he has sunk.
And it is such a crucial part of the episode that Darla had to be given a
really good reason for lurking in Angel’s bedroom. Otherwise the scene would have been simply unbelievable.
And indeed her intervention in Angel’s attempt to kill the Senior
Partner and the fact that she was forced to flee without the ring does give her
such a good reason. This is all part of the evident care and skill used in the
construction of the plot of this episode.
result, when taken together with the trials of Cordelia, Wesley and especially
Kate, was that the episode built up to a quite stunningly powerful crescendo.
There was the montage of Angel walking the mean streets of LA seeing only
the pain that people could cause each other, interspersed with shots of Kate
reaching for the pills, Wesley grieving for his loss and Cordelia about to walk
into a trap. And things only get
worse with Kate’s last bitter phone call followed by the climax in the form of
the violence and passion of the encounter between the two vampires.
And then, when this ferocity and passion seems spent there is the ominous
thunder and lighting and a very close replica of the final scene in the BUFFY
episode “Surprise” where Angel did lose his soul.
So the excitement of the sexual encounter we have just witnessed is
immediately followed by a sense of foreboding.
We have witnessed the transgression.
Now it is to be followed by the consequences.
It is, of course, a classic combination.
(10/10) Something very strange
happened at the end of this episode. I
had just watched an hour in which the lives of our protagonists had been laid
waste. No-one escaped.
In contrast the triumph of the principal antagonists of the season was now complete. By
rights I should have felt like putting my head in the oven.
Instead I felt elated. I did
so because I had just watched a story that dealt brilliantly with a very serious
and powerful subject. That subject
was the nature of evil and its place in the world and what our proper response
to it should be. It made an
argument that represented a radical new approach to the mythology of the
Angelverse. It was an argument that
made us think anew about the nature of humanity and the place of evil within us.
But everything about that argument was entirely consistent with what we
had learned about the series basic mythology beforehand.
But more than that, it was an argument that was made by exploring of the
character of Angel and the crisis that he went though.
By approaching the episode in this way the writers gave us yet further
insights into what makes Angel as a character tick and most importantly of all
what are the internal challenges that he must face.
Finally, we are left with a sense of a character that has been changed
and changed profoundly. What we do
not know is how. The events of this
episode, even more than “Reunion” mean that things can never be the same
again. But how will this new Angel
respond to what he has now been through? When
all the evils of the world escaped from Pandora’s box, only one thing remained
– hope. And it seems to me that,
in the best tradition of tragedy, this is what now remains here.
It is one of the consequence of taking a character to a point where he
can sink no lower that the only way is up.
And here is perhaps where the whole theme of redemption will come into
its own. Angel certainly is in need
of it. Faced with developments as
important and profound was we have seen in this episode other considerations
like plot can seem less significant.
Indeed, what plot there was essentially turned out to be a red herring.
But apart from Angel himself there were intriguing character-related
developments for Lindsey and an obviously life-changing set of developments for
Kate. Both seem essentially to be
set-up for future threads but they do greatly add to the sense of anticipation
engendered by this episode. And
finally I would like to say a brief word about the humor.
In an episode that was so nihilistic (dark doesn’t even begin to cover
it) humor can play an important point as a break in the tension. But the humor we got in this episode was of a particularly
dark nature. The teaser sequence in
which the goat sacrifice was treated like some sort of DIY kit was especially
effective but my favorite line must be from Lilah:
heard Henderson actually pulled her firstborn out of company daycare to offer it
up to... Brown noser. My mother was right. I should have had
is not only wickedly funny in itself but is a very pointed satire on company
politics which complements the theme of the night wonderfully well.