Written by: Shawn Ryan and Tim Minear
Directed by: James A. Contner
The Trials of a
was, perhaps, inevitable from the very beginning of ANGEL as a series that the
writers should explore the way in which our hero might be drawn from the path of
good and onto the path of evil. The
duality of his nature, a single body inhabited both by a human soul and a demon,
made this plotline a natural. The
human within Angel had to continually fight to keep control.
It was, therefore, clear that circumstances could be created in which
this control was jeopardized. In
fact this was such an obvious source of material that, when in the season 1
finale we discovered that Wolfram and Hart intended to raise some new evil -
bring this creature down to us…tear him from the Powers
created particular expectations as to how this plotline would proceed.
And the early stages of season 2 seemed to conform to these entirely
conventional expectations. As I
have previously observed in my reviews of “First Impressions”,
“Untouched” and “Dear Boy” the emphasis seemed to be on weakening
Angel’s conscious self control, his ability to restrain the demon within him.
The expectation was, therefore, that the writers were working their way
towards the return of Angelus. But
from the final confrontation between Angel and Darla in “Dear Boy” onwards
the true intent of the writers has become increasingly clear.
And the return of Angelus was not part of their plans.
than dealing with the conflict between a demon, whose sole instinct was to hunt
and kill, and human soul they seemed intent on looking at the conflict within
the soul itself. Angel’s
obsession with Darla was never the result of a sexual attraction and there is
certainly never the suggestion that, as a human, he regarded her as his One True
Love. Rather her return as a human and her unhappiness with that
condition reawakened in Angel old uncertainties about who he was and what he
really wanted. And the desire to
kill, to take pleasure in another’s suffering was never part of the conflict
within Angel over his identity. It
was, I think, made clear in “Five by Five” that Angel’s humanity could
never stomach that sort of life and this was further reinforced by the way he
was forced to abandon Darla and the vampire life in “Darla”. Rather, as I suggested in my review of “The Trial”, the
nature of Angel’s ambivalence towards life as a Vampire lay in the extent to
which he felt more comfortable with its narrow, selfish certainties as opposed
to the need to make a messy and difficult connection with others.
But making that connection was what his mission was all about.
In this context I quoted the following in my review of “the Trial”
and I make no apologies for doing so again now because I think it is vital to
our understanding of the crisis that Angel went through in “Reunion”:
about reaching out to people, showing them that there’s love and hope still
left in the world. …It’s about letting them into your heart. It’s not
about saving lives; it’s about saving souls. Hey, possibly your own in the
a connection and thereby showing there was still hope was how Angel managed to
turn Faith’s life around in “Sanctuary”, the episode that for me most
clearly demonstrated how Angel had established his sense of mission.
It was also, for example, how he helped Bethany in “Untouched”.
But most triumphantly of all it was the means whereby he helped Darla in
“The Trial” to accept her own humanity and her fate as a mortal and thereby
started her on the road to her own redemption.
The way he helped all of them was, therefore, the way that Angel cemented
his own grasp on humanity. It was
truly his own road to redemption.
then came Lindsey…and Drusilla.
this was the importance of the way “the Trial” ended.
This was not merely shock or the sake of it.
The way Drusilla made Darla, as a horrified Angel looked on, helpless to
intervene, became the nexus around which this developing tragedy now turns. But before I look at this further it is, I think, appropriate
to say a few words about the unfolding plan through which Wolfram and Hart
brought about these developments.
is the working out of the Wolfram and Hart master plan that gives the Darla arc
its essential unity and direction. It is this plan that is intended to bring
Angel over to the dark side. Angel’s
progress in this respect must, therefore, be related to the various stages of
the plan. It cannot be simply the result of a collection of haphazard events. And I think that it is greatly to the credit of the writers
that you can see a pattern of cause and effect in the progression of events over
the season. As I noted in my review
of “Darla” the great thing about the way the Darla arc has been written is
that we the viewers haven’t been given an overview denied to Angel or even
Darla for that matter. Rather we
have seen the layers of the Wolfram and Hart plan peeled away layer by layer
like an onion. And with each
successive layer we can see a bit more, not enough to enable us to predict with
certainly what was in store or even to fully understand what was happening at
the time. But always there was just
enough to draw us along with the story and more importantly to look back on past
events and make sense of them in retrospect.
From the episode “Darla” onwards it was clear that Darla was being
used by the lawyers. Everything
that she had done for them –the dreams, the nocturnal visits, the appearance
as a human, even the murder of the unfortunate actor – was simply an elaborate
ruse to bring her together with Angel. But
why? The answer was provided in the
sequence of events that we saw in that episode when Holland first of all
provoked a crisis that seemed to spell the end for Darla in the clear
expectation that Angel would rescue her. As
he subsequently explains to an incredulous Lindsey:
Lindsey: "You think now that you've driven her back to him she's gonna give him that perfect moment of happiness? He's gonna come on our side? Won't happen. He's noble. He'll never take advantage of her - not in this state, not now."
Holland: "Lindsey, you don't understand our friend at all. We know there is no prospect for physical intimacy here. So you needn't torture yourself."
Lindsey: “Then what do you expect him to do?"
"What he will do. What he must do. Save her soul."
Wolfram and Hart plan therefore depended on Angel reaching out to Darla, on his
getting into her life as he was supposed to do with those he was intended to
help. And just to add a little more
spice to the mix they chose shortly afterwards to reveal to Darla something that
had not only long been aware of but probably planned on in the first place –
the fact that she was dying. For
someone like Darla nothing was more calculated to make the job of redeeming her
more difficult. This was because it
essentially meant Angel had to persuade her that she had to give up her one last
chance for life.
Wolfram and Hart anticipated this was what Angel did.
And, as I tried to explain in my review of “The Trial”, he did it
because of the strength of the personal commitment he had to her – a quite
unselfish commitment in which he was prepared to give up everything and ask for
nothing in return. Saving Darla
meant more to him than anything else he had ever done in the course of his
mission. It was probably more difficult than anything else he had
tried. And he gave it quite
literally everything he had. And he
did all of this only to see it destroyed coldly and quite deliberately before
his very eyes. And there was
nothing he could do about it.
is essentially about the reaction that that event brought about in Angel.
It also raises questions as to the extent that Wolfram and Hart planned
Losing touch with
view of the events at the end of “Reunion”, it is I think important to
understand that Angel did not go “evil” in the conventional sense in this
episode. The moral compass that was
restored to him when he got his soul back continues to operate.
He understands “right” and “wrong”.
Just as in Bursa in 1898 and in China in 1901 he cannot do something he
believes to be intrinsically evil just because it meets his own selfish needs.
That remains the difference between himself on the one hand and Darla and
Drusilla on the other. More
importantly he continues to believe that it is his duty to fight for the
innocent against those who have no such qualms about destroying them for their
own selfish reasons. That is why
his first instinct was to make good the promise he made in “The Trial” and
prevent Darla from rising the only way left open to him – with a stake.
And throughout the episode this remains important to him:
"Drusilla's insane, deadly, not in a good mood. Darla - she needs to
feed soon, okay? And once she does she's gonna be that much stronger. Now
we got two options: either we go back to the people who brought them both here
in the first place or we sit around waiting for the bodies to start piling up.
I decided not to wait.
this quote suggests killing Darla and Drusilla remains important because he
realizes the cost in innocent human lives of leaving these two to roam free.
And this is because he does care about protecting the innocent.
Holland understands this:
Angel: "I can crush the life out of you before they even lift a finger."
Holland: "Oh, I'm sure you can. Just as sure as I am that you won't."
Angel: "Won't I?"
Angel: "You don't qualify. You set things in motion, play your little games up here in your glass and chrome tower, and people die - innocent people."
"And yet I just can't seem to care. But you do. And while you're
making threats, wasting time, crashing through windows, your girls are out
painting the town red, red, red."
fact that Angel does continue to care is, I think, amply demonstrated by the
sympathetic way that he treats the injured survivor of Darla and Drusilla’s
little shopping expedition.
But something has changed, something important. Angel is not perfect, never has been. Angel has always been capable of great anger. The source of this anger is not hard to guess at. Partly no doubt it is dues to his resentment and frustration and the hand he has been dealt with in his unlife. Partly it is not doubt due to the influence of the demon within. Because he knows it is so dangerous he has tried, usually successfully, to keep it under control. For example in “Guise will be Guise” Angel and the faux Tish Megev are staff fighting on a covered bridge.
Magev: "You're holding back. What are you afraid off?"
Magev: "You're wimping. This isn't River Dance. Fight!"
Angel: "I am fighting!"
Magev: "Yourself. You're fighting yourself. Fight me! Why are you holding back? Why can't you let go?"
Angel: “If I let it, it'll kill you."
Angel: "The demon."
Magev: "Ha! But the demon is you!"
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."
"Ah. I see. You *don't* think it controls you?" But
on occasion the anger does indeed boil over.
It did when Tina was murdered in “City of…”,
when Trevor Lockley was killed in “The Prodigal” and when Angel
himself killed Baker in “the Ring”.
Heck it does so every time he sees Lindsey McDonald.
ultimately however Angel felt personally about someone was not allowed to warp
his mission. And here I turn back to the events of “Five by Five” and
“Sanctuary”. After Faith’s initial attempt to kill him Angel wasn’t
exactly in a forgiving mood, especially after learning of what she had done in
Wesley: "Seems you're taking this personally."
Angel: "Well, you know, she tried to shoot my own personal back, so yeah."
Wesley: "Did she do something to Buffy?"
Angel: "Giles just said it was rough."
Wesley: "I'm sorry. But if you let emotion control you right now, one of you will certainly end up dead."
"Yeah, that's what the lady wants."
in the end he set aside his anger. He
reached out to her and helped her. And
he did so expressly on the grounds that she had a soul he could save.
To Wesley he said:
"She's a person. In case
you've forgotten. We're not in the
business of giving up on people."
Cordelia he said:
"We can't just arbitrarily decide whose soul is worth saving and whose isn't."
these episodes, in “Untouched” and most of all in “the Trial” Angel made
it his business to seek a personal connection with someone in trouble or who had
lost their way and, as Doyle had suggested so long ago, by doing so he was not
only saving their soul but his own in the process.
is this that has now gone by the board. And
the most startling demonstration of this is the way he treated to would be
suicide. Cordelia begins by
cautioning him about how carefully he has to act:
"Easy, Boss. This kid's
ready to snap, crackle *and* pop. I felt it in my vision. We've
really got to handle this one with care. You know, delicately.”
he throws the boom box at the wall, twists the gun out of the suicide’s hand
and deals with him in the most cursory fashion:
"Listen I'm not here to hurt you, kid, okay? And Morgog's not the
way. Morgog couldn't find his way to his hairy spine-hump without a
roadmap! So, don't go killing yourself, he's not worth it. And you've got,
you know a million reasons to live…I bet. Okay? Got it? Good."
Angel: "I am."
Wesley: "The Powers That Be must have had a good reason for sending us here."
Angel: "I don't have time to figure that out."
Gunn: "Maybe that's the plan. Maybe they're trying to keep you from going on this mission."
Wesley: "In any case *that* young man still clearly needs our help!"
Angel: "Go help him. I got more important things to do, okay?"
would perhaps be going to far to say that making, a connection and helping
people now no longer features on Angel’s personal radar screen.
But it certainly becomes subordinate now to what he sees as his mission
to kill those who would threaten the innocent and to punish to wicked.
This is a very different mission definition to that Doyle gave him and
which he has followed to date. And
the reason for this new sense of priority is to be found in his anger at what
happened to Darla.
have already dealt extensively with the degree of personal commitment that Angel
brought to saving her and the consequent sense of defeat he must have
experienced. The anger and the bitterness this caused can only be
imagined. And at whom would this
anger and bitterness be directed? Not
at Darla whom Angel would conceive of as the victim of the conspiracy.
Not even at Drusilla who was too mad to plan things out in this sort of
detail. No, the masterminds behind
Darla’s fate were the lawyers in Wolfram and Hart and they were the ones
Angel’s special hatred was reserved for.
And it was a hatred of a particularly deadly kind, one fuelled not by
personal spite (like Lindsey) but rather by a burning self-righteousness, a
sense in Angel of being the hand of God sent to smite the evildoer.
it was with this mindset that Angel arrived in Holland’s wine cellar hard on
the heels of Darla and Drusilla. The
choice he made here is the focal point of the whole episode and indeed probably
of the whole Darla arc. So it is
important that we understand a few things.
First and foremost Angel did not just leave Holland and the others to the
tender mercies of Darla and Drusilla. By
locking the door he made sure no-one could escape.
He, therefore, actively participated in the massacre. Secondly this was not a decision that could be in any
sense described as irrational or the product of blind rage. He had a lot of time to think about what he would do when he
found his two girls with the lawyers. And
watching the scene I was struck by the complete lack of emotion, the flat calm
so eerily reminiscent of Holland’s own demeanor.
It was precipitated by anger certainly but this was indeed a decision
taken in as cold and calculated a fashion as any made by Wolfram and Hart.
And finally it must be stressed that locking that door on Holland and the
others was not a justifiable decision. After
all the whole point of this storyline was that Angel should go too far.
Indeed just in case we missed the point the triumvirate of Wesley, Gunn
and Cordelia at the very end was intended to dive the point home.
Ad he was wrong for precisely the same reason that he was right in his
treatment of Faith. The victims in
that room were human beings and he did arbitrarily decide that none of them had
souls that were worth saving. This,
even more than his cavalier treatment of the would be suicide, was the ultimate
repudiation of the mission that the Powers that Be had given him.
And this message was driven home by the reaction of Drusilla to the
arrival of her sire. At first she
not Daddy. It's never Daddy. It's
when he walks out on Holland and the others she says just one word –
“Daddy”. I do not think the
writers here meant to convey the idea that Angel had reverted to his demon
identity. Rather it was their way
of showing that Drusilla recognized that Angel whole way of thinking had
changed. In the way Angel dealt
with Faith and Bethany he recognized that you could not simply act out of
vengeance. Human beings were
capable of great evil but were redeemable and there were accordingly constraints
that the good guys had to face in dealing with them.
This meant that for them the fight against evil could be complicated,
messy and very frustrating. In
“Blind Date” he admitted as much:
still their world, Wesley. Structured for power, not truth. It's
their system, and it's one that works. It works because there is no guilt,
there is no torment, no consequences. It's pure. I remember
what that was like. Sometimes I miss that clarity."
torment and consequences come when you do the wrong thing.
This is something that Angel (for all too obvious reasons) is familiar
with to his great cost. Of course
if you do not recognize constraints on your actions, if you truly believe that
“anything goes” then life does indeed become very simple.
But it is for that very reason that this way of thinking is essentially
demonic in the proper sense of that word. In “Darla” and “the Trial” we
saw the Vampire lifestyle as being simple and pure in this sense.
You can do what you want without regard to whether it is right or wrong
simply because you do not have to face up to guilt or torment or consequences.
We saw Angel’s attraction to this lifestyle.
What stopped him from pursuing it was that morally he could not harm
now Angel no longer has to face that dilemma.
He is quite convinced that his is righteous anger aimed at destroying
evil and protecting the innocent. He
believes in his own mind that he is on the right path.
What Wolfram and Hart did to Darla not only fired him personally but, in
his eyes, justified whatever he
chose to do to them To him there
was no distinction between revenge and fighting evil, not apparently realizing
that he had changed his idea of fighting evil so that it served his need for
revenge. It is no wonder Cordelia
put his new attitudes as destroying people he doesn’t like. . He has redefined himself as Angel Warrior Vampire.
He wants a fight and is prepared to do whatever it takes to win that
fight. In effect Angel has again embraced the mindset of the Vampire.
Hence Drusilla’s excited little cry of “Daddy”.
me the way Angel’s descent into darkness has been handled is character writing
at its very best. We have seen the way the ANGEL writers have taken poorly
drawn characters from Buffy and skillfully progressed them as individuals.
This is true of all three principals in the series.
But in drama as in real life there must be character regression as well.
And this poses perhaps even more problems because it is so easy to ignore
the inconvenient character development that had taken place and just pull the
idiot Jeb out of the hat every time the plot calls for him.
Those who have followed Xander’s treatment in seasons 3 and 4 of BUFFY
will not, I think, need and
explanation of this reference. But
Angel’s regression in stark contrast shows every sign of careful planning.
Not only have the writers cleverly and believably designed a cause to
bring about the change but more importantly there is the nature of the change
itself. The characteristics that Wolfram and Hart exploited were
always there within Angel, both the anger and (for want of a better term) the
arrogance, the idea that he has all the answers and that he doesn’t need to
learn from anyone. But above all
they took a great deal of trouble to explore the idea that
Angel at some level continued to hanker after the value system that he
now plunged right back into with its freedom from guilt and its very
simplicity. In designing
this scenario writers have shown in a very coherent and convincing way not only
how the events at the end of “The Trial” can trigger a change but also why
it triggered that particular change. Indeed
both in AYNOHYEB and at the end of “Dear Boy” there are
wonderful pieces of foreshadowing. In
the former, after Angel had tried to reach out to Judy only to have her betray
him he coldly invites the fear demon to take all the residents of the hotel.
This not only highlights the counterpoint between the good that can
happen when individuals can connect with and help one another and the evil that
occurs when fear and hatred and unleashed.
It also shows how hard Angel is capable of being when his anger is
aroused. But perhaps even more
pointedly in the final scene in “Dear Boy” we find Angel sitting in a
chair in his dimly lit room, staring straight ahead.
When Wesley warns him:
going to be trouble."
response is almost brutal:
“Yeah. There's gonna be a lot of trouble.
And I say bring it on."
the Angel spoiling for a fight here the one we see at the end of “Reunion”
is, I think, unmistakably glimpsed.
least of the advantages of this particular approach is that the Angel we
now see is a far richer, more complex and downright more interesting character
than if the writers had simply done the easy thing and looked for a way to bring
Angelus back. But that isn’t all
in this episode that is deserving of admiration. Making Angel actually do something as terrible and
unjustifiable as we saw in “Reunion” requires enormous courage. Off hand I cannot think of another show that would have tried
something like this (and I include BUFFY in this). This season time after time
the writers have chosen to do the hard thing and in terms of drama it has
produced a very rich reward by making for compelling viewing.
In the classic tradition the highest form of tragedy is where a good and
noble man willingly chooses the wrong path.
Essentially this is what we have here.
Before Angel could justly be described as the victim of circumstances
beyond his control. But here his fate and those of the Wolfram and Hart lawyers
(to a degree at least) were under his control and he chose to damn them.
And now he must clearly take the responsibility for his actions.
This is powerful and gripping drama.
of course in following this approach the writers are walking a very fine line.
You cannot go too far with a hero without destroying his character altogether
and thereby jeopardizing the whole show. That
is why there is the very careful balance we find in the set up for the massacre.
I think this was intended to be a meeting of people with blood on their
hands, people who knew in detail the nature of the special operation involving
Darla. Hence the general self
congratulatory tone of what Holland was saying to them:
the Senior Partners have informed me that they are very, very pleased - with the
work our division has been doing. Things have been progressing nicely - and
ahead of schedule - I might add. I would be remiss without extending
well-earned praise to the two members of our team who have made it possible:
Lilah Morgan and Lindsey McDonald."
details were not needed because they were known to everyone present.
And the callousness involved in their special operation is amply
demonstrated by Holland’s response to Angel’s challenge:
Angel: You set things in motion, play your little games up here in your glass and chrome tower, and people die - innocent people."
"And yet I just can't seem to care.”
because their own handiwork returned to (literally) bite them they were indeed
authors of their own misfortune. And
there is a sort of poetic justice in that, a poetic justice underlined by Angel
throwing back into Holland’s face his own
"And yet I just
can't seem to care” comment.
Indeed it would be easy to understand a sense of satisfaction at the
lawyers’ fate. I for one would
confess to greatly enjoying the irony of their having succeeded in their plan so
well that it doomed them. For the reasons I have already given this does not make what
Angel did any less wrong. But it
does make his actions deeply human rather than inhumanly evil.
And I think that this is particularly true when you understand just what
Angel suffered to save Darla and the casual and cold blooded way in which
Wolfram and Hart snatched away her chance of redemption.
For these reasons those same actions were, therefore, understandable and
ultimately forgivable. And I think
that this is important. It will,
however, be equally important that the forgiveness is earned, and not cheaply
either. I have more than enough trust in the evil natures of our
writers that I have no fear on this particular score.
that is why he fired Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn.
He did so in response to Cordelia and Wesley’s impassioned plea:
"You have to change the way you've been doing things.
Don't you see where this is taking you?"
Wesley: "Listen to her! Right now the three of us are all that's standing between you and real darkness."
doesn’t try to argue with them, he doesn’t try to justify what he has done,
even though he is clearly very comfortable with it.
The three of them have now proved themselves a liability to him,
obstacles in his path. So, he
coldly gets rid of them. In this
context Drusilla utters the most ominous line.
In the wine cellar she says of Angel
soul-sick. Not even thinking about his own family. Only thinking about
could of course be a reference to his Vampire family and how in his desire to
see Wolfram and Hart punished he ignored Darla and Drusilla.
But it can also be taken to be a reference to his other “family” - Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn. They too are no longer uppermost
in his thoughts as all he can think about is killing the enemy.
action here came as a shock. It is
nothing that I would have expected. And
yet it was, with hindsight, an entirely predictable development we should have
seen coming. By the end of season
1, relations between the members of the Fang gang had seemingly reached a level
of closeness that matched that of family. They
had bonds of trust, inter-dependency and indeed mutual affection that were for
all intents and purposes immensely strong.
But it is one of the strengths of this season that we have been shown
how, because of a key flaw in the relationship,
the very strengths of the relationship contained within them the seeds of
its own destruction.
have on a number of occasions referred to Angel’s high handedness.
He always saw himself as the key player in the Fang gang, not only as the
terminator-in-chief but also as the individual with the sharpest understanding
of evil and what had to be done to combat it.
Such was this belief that he almost refused to accept that it was
possible for him to be wrong, even when he was.
And this (as it always is) was most dangerous when he fell into the trap
of thinking that
“what did not suit could not be so.”
refused to accept the evidence that Darla did not want to be human, even to the
point of misinterpreting her destruction of the mirrors in her apartment.
He was equally dismissive of the idea that Wolfram and Hart might be
telling the truth about her illness. Because
he was deluding himself about key issues like this he was unable to understand
that the lawyers were playing him. In
this context I don’t think Gunn really counted for much. He just didn’t have the same personal commitment to
Angel that the others did. As long
as he was fighting demons Gunn would go along for the ride. Beyond that he didn’t really care. But Wesley at least suspected something was wrong.
He did not have enough information to deduce the true nature of the
Wolfram and Hart plan but he believed something was up and tried to warn Angel:
Wesley: "Angel, you must admit that your record when it comes to Darla has been …spotty at best."
Angel: "I killed her Wesley. And she came back. They brought her back and now I need to know why. I mean why like this? Why human?"
Wesley: "Perhaps human was the only way Wolfram and Hart could bring her back and hope to control her with any degree of success. Angel, I don't supposed it occurred to you that *this* might be why they brought her back? You have all your attention focused on finding this one woman."
Angel: "So you think Wolfram and Hart went to all this trouble just to keep me distracted? Take me out of the game?"
Wesley: "It is possible. And if that's the case..."
Angel was never going to defer in his opinions to Wesley, at least not without a
fight. And Wesley was not the sort of person to give him that.
As the teaser in “the Trial” showed:
Cordelia: "Don't say Darla! I'm sick and tired hearing about Darla. If I hear the name Darla one more time! And he is not distraught, he is obsessed! And I thought you were gonna be a man and talk to him about this!"
Wesley: "I was a man! I said…things."
Cordelia: "Like what?"
"Like…did he prefer milk or sugar in his tea. It's how men talk
about things in England."
is too diffident, perhaps too much in awe of Angel and is ultimately too loyal
to him to pick the fight he needed to. Cordelia
is a more interesting case. She may
never been the sort of person who could articulate reasoned arguments the way
Wesley could but she was never afraid to speak her mind.
And she certainly didn’t like Darla and was afraid for Angel but that
is as far as she went. Like Wesley
she all too often swallowed her doubts. As
a result Angel was left without an effective check on him, a check which could
have saved him. For example when in
“the Trial” Angel asks both of them to look after her, the response was:
Wesley: "Of course."
"Don't worry about a thing."
was only after Angel left that we get the truth:
Cordelia: "So, first up - you're a prisoner."
Wesley: "I'd have to concur with that, yes."
Cordelia: "See, you've got our friend - all - in knots."
Wesley: "Can't say we like you much."
Cordelia: "So, sorry about the dying, but if you try to escape - we *will* hit you."
Wesley: "On the head."
"With very large and heavy objects. - Okay?"
inference must therefore be that even with Cordelia personal loyalty and
affection led her to keep her mouth closed.
The very force that held the Fang gang together was, therefore, the agent
of its destruction. Ultimately they
were not a band of brothers and sisters. There
was no equality within the group. Angel
was the authority figure. And when
he was on a path towards self destruction there was no-one who could hold him
back. That is why Wesley especially
accepts responsibility for their failings:
Wesley: "We've all been worried about you, and I guess it's fair to say we all share some of the blame. We should have spoken up sooner."
this is now all, of course, too late.
finally in this context I would like to mention what may perhaps be the greatest
irony of all in “Reunion”. Ever
since “the Prodigal” Kate’s concern about Angel has been the fact that he
acts outside the law. It was
because she finally came to accept her own limitations (and by implication those
of the LAPD) in dealing with the threat of Vampires that she felt able to turn
to Angel, trusting him to stop the killing.
Holland and the others at his party may have been evil but they were
entitled to Kate’s protection and the protection of the law.
The fact that Angel used the freedom Kate had given him to doom them
rather than save them would I think be regarded by her as a betrayal of her
trust and a vindication of her previous suspicions.
I will be interested to see where this one goes but it occurs to me that
there has been some comment to the effect that Kate was beginning to sound a
little crazed. It may well be that
this was the writers giving her a good, solid reason for renewing her distrust
The Payoff of the
all of this, of course begs, the question – was the creation of this mindset
in Angel part of the Wolfram and Hart plan. I think the answer to this is
“yes”. As we have seen from the
very beginning it was necessary for their plan to make Angel dark that he should
try to save Darla’s soul. Drusilla’s arrival to turn her just at the right moment was
also clearly pre-planned. The rest
is a simple matter of cause and effect. The advantage to them of an Angel who
was motivated solely by anger and hatred are obvious. I have already described how it had the effect of turning him
from the path intended for him. This
was indeed tearing him away from the Powers that Be. His mission was no longer to help people but to destroy evil
and how discriminating would he now be in his choice of target?
If for example Kate or even Gunn, Wesley or Cordelia got between him and
his intended target what would he do? Would
they become collateral damage? Such
an Angel could be as dangerous to the forces of good as to the forces of evil.
And for what it is worth it would not surprise me in the least if there
were not further layers of the plan to be revealed.
course by making themselves the key targets for Angel Holland and the others
were running something of a risk. But
they had evidently taken very serious precautions to protect their own
headquarters. More importantly they
had the ultimate diversion for Angel - Darla and Drusilla.
Holland allows them to leave the building without incident and then
specifically rings Drusilla up with a little suggestion:
Holland: "Darla. Feeling better I trust?"
Darla: "Like my old self again."
Holland: "Splendid. I understand you girls have been on a little spree."
Darla: "Hmm, is that a problem?"
Holland: "Oh, on the contrary. As a matter of fact, I was just thinking. Why settle for a spree, when you could have a…say…a massacre?"
Darla: "A massacre?"
Drusilla: "Ooh, I like the sound of that."
Holland: "Now, of course you'd have the full weight and support of Wolfram and Hart squarely behind you."
Darla: "I appreciate that Holland."
"Oh, not at all, Darla. That's what we're here for."
purpose of this suggestion is clear:
Lilah: "Those two should keep Angel busy for some time."
Lindsey: "Yeah, until he kills them."
"Oh, I think he'll find that course of action more difficult than even *he*
realizes. Regardless, Lilah's correct. We won't have to worry about Angel
just to make sure Angel gets the message Holland spells it out for him:
Holland: “And while you're making threats, wasting time, crashing through windows, your girls are out painting the town red, red, red.
"Well, that would be telling. In any case you may want to hurry.
So many lives hanging in the balance, waiting for their champion to save
doesn’t of course give him any help in this.
He just makes sure that Angel will have his attention elsewhere instead
of threatening anyone at Wolfram and Hart.
problem with this plan is that it fails to take into account the
unpredictability of Darla and Drusilla. Wolfram
and Hart are hardly to be blamed for that.
They are after all rational creatures.
They have evidently had a long association with Vampires like Russell
Winters on the basis that they were more useful to them as living functioning
lawyers than as lunch. It probably
would not have occurred to them that they themselves could have been in any
plot in “Reunion” has a number of strengths.
If we take “the Trial” as an example everything in that episode led
up to the two climactic moments at the end.
Angel tries and fails to save Darla’s life but does succeed in guiding
her towards redemption, only to have that taken away at the last moment.
But until the start of the trials themselves nothing very much actually
happens in terms of story. Here
similarly everything leads up to the climactic confrontation in the wine cellar.
But on the way to that we have a strong self-contained storyline to keep
our attention fixed, namely Angel’s attempts first of all to prevent Darla’s
raising and then find and stop her and Drusilla killing a lot of people.
first was, I think, in particular very effectively handled.
We had a fixed timeframe to work against and therefore a real sense of
the clock ticking away. This is
always one of the best ways to convey a sense of tension.
Then the trip to Lindsey’s apartment also served a very useful purpose.
Insofar as Angel failed to find either Lindsey or Darla it contributed to
the sense of losing time. But it
also provided useful clues which the members of the Fang Gang put together to
produce a real piece of logical deduction which in turn enabled Angel to find
Drusilla’s nursery. I thought
that was very clever. And then of
course there were the shifting fortunes of the three handed battle between
Drusilla, Darla and Angel leading the escape of the two women and the second
problem for Angel.
to this point Angel’s actions and motivations appeared normal.
We were almost allowed to forget the whole purpose of the Darla arc and
we certainly had no sense of just how close Wolfram and Hart were to their goal.
But it is from this point onwards that Angel’s own state of mind
intrudes more and more into the plot. In
particular his insistence on making a frontal attack on Wolfram and Hart seemed
suicidal. I mean it wasn’t as if they had any idea that Darla and
Drusilla were even there. As
Cordelia put it:
the pause button. Wolfram and Hart, as in vampire detectors, crack
security system and armed guards? Nice plan, General Custer."
is from this point onwards that we get a sense that Angel’s agenda is not the
simple one it appeared at the start and we can focus more and more on those
elements which lead directly to the denouement.
we have Darla and Drusilla, perhaps as effective a pair of villains as we have
seen in the entire Whedonverse. Not
only are they physically enormously powerful (as was made clear by the fight
with Angel in the nursery) they are also wildly unpredictable and utterly
ruthless. The scene of the pair of
them shopping for clothes in the boutique was especially successful in this
respect. The juxtaposition of the
seemingly normal preoccupations of young women out shopping and the brutal
contempt with which they treated their victims was utterly chilling. And it made all the sense in the world for them to show
Wolfram and Hart that they were not puppets whose string could be pulled as the
lawyers saw fit but were indeed “superior beings” before which mortals
in the middle of all of this we have various combinations of Holland, Lindsey
and Lilah appearing in different scenes. They
are there partly to remind the viewer of the role that they have played in
bringing Angel to his present state of mind, thus helping to remind the audience
of the reason for the choice Angel makes at the end.
But their presence also serves to help forward the plot by providing the
nexus around which the story would now turn.
Angel went after Lindsey and the others ostensibly to help him locate
Darla and Drusilla. Holland set the
latter off on a hunt as a way of distracting Angel. And Drusilla and Darla in turn led Angel straight to
Holland’s party. In this
way the three strands of story - Darla and Drusilla, Angel and Wolfram and Hart
– are pulled together to the fated meeting place.
I thought that this was a neat and elegant piece of plotting.
But best of all it was never predictable.
At least I for one didn’t imagine that Darla and Drusilla would turn up
at Holland’s party to massacre the very people who had driven the series arc.
And notwithstanding Angel’s very odd behavior to that point I did not
imagine that he would ever lock the door and leave the lawyers to their fate.
And in this context there was one tremendous detail that I must mention.
As Angel walked down stairs the “heroic” music the series uses from
time to time swelled up. Everything
about that moment cried out – here comes the cavalry. And then he turned his back on those who needed his help.
Shocking, and exciting this scene left me breathless in a such a way that
I cannot recall a similar experience watching television.
course it must be admitted that the plotting did creak more than a little here
and there. Angel
finding the woman whom both Drusilla and Darla on the one hand and the police
had missed was convenient. So too
was the fact that Mrs. Manners invited two strangers into the house when her
husband made such an obvious point of making it clear that Angel wasn’t
invited. And finally the fact that
Darla and Drusilla actually left her alive to invite Angel in was stretching
things a bit. But I suppose these
are the shortcuts that writers must sometimes take and certainly the pace at
which things moved throughout this episode more than justified taking these
A (9.5/10). Not a perfect episode but in an exceptionally strong series this is a standout. I say this for a number of reasons but principally because the writers have done something that is hard, brave and very interesting. Throughout this episode there was a continually changing dynamic between the three principal protagonists: the vampire girls, the Wolfram and Hart lawyers who seemed for so long to be in control and the Angel. We were never entirely sure until the very end how this dynamic was going to resolve itself. This was interesting enough but when the dust finally settled it appeared that evil has succeeded in a way that I would never have predicted. Angel has more than flirted with darkness. He has now quite voluntarily severed his connection not only with the Powers that Be but his own closest friends. And the shock and surprise of his actions here are what really makes this episode. On the other hand he is not simply gone back to being a killer Vampire. No, the Angel we now have occupies morally very ambiguous grounds in which he thinks he is doing the right thing but actually isn’t. But while this episode is a genuine turning point it also seems to be setting things up for future developments. The other great change is the emergence of two new villains who can be expected to play a full part in future developments. Darla for the first time has emerged as a genuine force in her own right instead of merely as a tool used to explore Angel’s dilemma. She and Drusilla not only make very considerable opponents for Angel but they also contribute some deliciously black humor as they play off one another. And then there is Wolfram and Hart. Holland appears to be doomed. But what about Lindsey and Lilah? Lindsey in particular becomes more and more intriguing. For someone whose only interest seemed to be in serving his own ends he looked remarkably calm in the face of death. And what was behind that sardonic little smile he gave as Angel closed the doors on them? “Reunion” doesn’t therefore complete the arc in any sense but rather acts as a bridge to all sorts of intriguing future developments. This arc just gets more and more interesting.
revised and rewritten on Sunday, January 14th 2001