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Are You Now...
First Impressions
Dear Boy
Guise Will Be Guise
The Shroud of Rahmon
The Trial
Blood Money
Happy Anniversary
Thin Dead Line
Dead End
Over the Rainbow
Through the Looking Glass
No Place Like Plrtz Glrb





Written by: Shawn Ryan and Tim Minear

Directed by: James A. Contner


The Trials of a Soul

It 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 -

“to bring this creature down to us…tear him from the Powers                That Be”,

it 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.

Rather 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”:

“It’s 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 process."

Making 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.

And then came Lindsey…and Drusilla.

And 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.


Wheels within wheels

It 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?"

Holland:  "What he will do.  What he must do.  Save her soul."

The 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.

As 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.

“Reunion” 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 that reaction.


Losing touch with humanity

In 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:

Angel:  "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. 

As 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?"

Holland:  "You don't kill humans."

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."

Holland:  "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."

The 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?"

Angel:  "Nothing."

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:  "Because."

Magev:  "Why?"

Angel: “If I let it, it'll kill you."

 Magev:  "It?"

 Angel: "The demon."

Magev:  "Ha!  But the demon is you!"

 Angel:  "No."

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

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

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

And 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.

But 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 Sunnydale:

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."

Angel:  "Yeah, that's what the lady wants."

But 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."

To Cordelia he said:

"We can't just arbitrarily decide whose soul is worth saving and whose isn't."

In 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.

It 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.”

Instead 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:

Angel:  "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."
Wesley:  "Angel, we're not done here."

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?"

It 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.

I 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.

And 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 hisses:

“It's not Daddy.  It's never Daddy.   It's the Angel-beast."

But 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:

"It's 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."

Guilt, 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 innocents. 

But 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”.

To 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:

“There's going to be trouble."

Angel’s response is almost brutal:

            “Yeah.  There's gonna be a lot of trouble.  And I say bring it on."

In the Angel spoiling for a fight here the one we see at the end of “Reunion” is, I think, unmistakably glimpsed. 

Not  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.

But 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:

"And 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."

Further 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."

Holland:  "And yet I just can't seem to care.”

And 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.


Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn

And that is why he fired Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn.  He did so in response to Cordelia and Wesley’s impassioned plea:

Cordelia:  "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."

He 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

"He's soul-sick.  Not even thinking about his own family. Only thinking about them."

This 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.

Angel’s 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.

I 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.”

He 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:  "It's working."

But 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?"

Wesley:  "Like…did he prefer milk or sugar in his tea.  It's how men talk about things in England."

Wesley 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."

Cordelia: "Don't worry about a thing."

It 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."

Cordelia:  "With very large and heavy objects. - Okay?"

 The 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."

Gunn:  "And louder."

But this is now all, of course, too late.



And 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 of Angel.


The Payoff of the Plan

But 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.

Of 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."

Holland:  "Oh, not at all, Darla.  That's what we're here for."

The purpose of this suggestion is clear:

Lilah:  "Those two should keep Angel busy for some time."

Lindsey:  "Yeah, until he kills them."

 Holland:  "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 anymore."

And 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.

Angel: "Where?"

Holland:  "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 them."

He 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.

The 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 danger.


The Plot

The 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. 

The 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.

Up 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:

"Hitting the pause button.  Wolfram and Hart, as in vampire detectors, crack security system and armed guards? Nice plan, General Custer."

It 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.

First 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 trembled.

And 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.

Of 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 shortcuts.



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.


 Review revised and rewritten on Sunday, January 14th 2001