Through the Looking Glass
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Are You Now...
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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:  Tim Minear

Directed by: Tim Minear


Developing a Theme

As I have tried to point out in my reviews of both “Belonging” and “Over the Rainbow”, the ANGEL writers have spent a lot of time setting up the themes to be explored over the last few episodes of this season.  And because of this and because they are the last episodes of the season it seems to me that these were to be important themes which were intended to have ramifications for our characters – especially Angel – in Season 3.  But of course  the events of “Epiphany” had already pointed towards the direction in which Angel should be traveling from now on.  As he said to Kate in that episode:

Angel: "Well, I guess I kinda  worked it out.  If there is no great glorious end to all this, if  nothing we do matters,  then all that matters is what we do. Because that's all there is.  What we do, now, today.  I fought for so long.  For redemption, for a reward - finally just to beat the other guy, but... I never got it."

Kate:  "And now you do?"

Angel:  "Not all of it.  All I wanna do is help.  I wanna help because  I don't think people should suffer, as they do.  Because, if there is no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world."

The idea here therefore was that Angel should look inside himself less and look outwards more.  But this theme must be understood to be the logical  conclusion to the whole season’s development.  A preoccupation with his own redemption was accompanied by an attraction to the simplicity of a life without consequences and without the moral ambiguities of the world we live in.  So, when the hopes of his own redemption were disappointed it led to an extreme reaction, including complicity in the murder of a roomful of Wolfram and Hart lawyers and his willingness to declare war on the remainder.  Here too Angel morality was a very simple and straightforward one – if you fight evil anything goes.  It made no concessions to moral ambiguity.  So too when his campaign of revenge collapsed around him in “Reprise”.  It did so because he accepted a very black and white view of humanity.

The turning point in his fortunes was in “Epiphany” but if he was to make good the promise quoted above he had to engage more with the world and that meant understanding and dealing with all its moral ambiguities.  And it is in this context that we must understand the themes we have seen unfold in “Belonging” onwards.  In Pylea it is becoming increasingly clear we do not have a mini arc standing on its own with brand new independent themes, leaving those of what I have referred to erroneously as the “Darla arc” hanging.  Rather we have the sort of coda to the season’s main arc that “Restless” never quite was for Buffy season 4.  In particular in Angel’s reaction to Pylea we are looking again at the central themes of that arc, only this time from a very different perspective



The promise of Pylea from a thematic point of view was that it was to be a world of black and white where everything was simple and straightforward.  And indeed that is what we continue to see.  So, for example we have the reception the Host gets from his Mother.  This was a wonderful piece of visual imagery by the way; talk about sexual ambiguity.  But there was obviously no question here of compromise on accepted social values.  Nor was there any attempt to extend sympathy to him or understand why he left.  Indeed no-one even tried to see things from his point of view.  There was only right and wrong and he was wrong.  Perhaps the best illustration of this tendency  lies in the way that attitudes to Angel swing around so completely and so suddenly.  In the course of Angel’s dealings with the Host’s family he starts off being Lorne’s cow.  As such he is not even worthy of being addressed but is rather referred to in the third person:

Mother; “Now take your cow and get off my lawn.”

Landok: “That is no cow!”

But Landok’s intervention changes all that:

Landok : “My friend, it is good to see you  again. I would have perished in your strange world were it not  for your bravery.”

Mother : “You know Krevlornswath's cow?”

Landok : “He is Angel, the brave and noble Drokken killer!”

Angel : “Just "Angel" is really...”

Landok : “He is as valiant and courageous a warrior as I have ever known.”

Mother : “Then he shall be welcome in our home, and we will honor him! Numfar, do the Dance Of Honor!”

Now the mere fact that he is a cow simply doesn’t matter.  All that does is bravery and skill in combat.  So we see Angel as guest of honor telling stories in front of a rapt and adoring crowd.  As the Host tells him:

Host: “Well! You're a regular Hans Christian Tarantino, aren'tcha? We should  probably be getting back to the palace.”

Angel : “Oh. I hate to disappoint the kids. They really seem to be enjoying this.”

Host: “Nice  to be seen as a hero without all those pesky little moral ambiguities  you get back home, isn't it?”

Angel : “Maybe it is, a little. Yeah.”

Host : “They see you a certain way... you start to see yourself that way. You become that image.”

And here is where the central imagery of this episode begins to work so well.  Angel is beginning to feel at home, in part at least because he is physically comfortable in this world.  He can walk around in daylight without burning up and he can see his own reflection.  This makes him look and feel good.  And in this context I have to say that I very much enjoyed the humor the writers get  at the expense of Angel’s vanity.  The way he looks really is very important to him, as was demonstrated in “Guise will be Guise”.  And the central thesis of that episode was re-iterated by the host – we become what others see us as.  Angel here is seen through the eyes of these strange demon people.  In the first part of the episode, nothing about him has fundamentally changed.  But from simply being regarded as a cow he now becomes a brave and powerful warrior who destroys evil things because that is how he is seen by the Pyleans.  And is this context the interesting point is the story he is telling the demons – how he cut off Lindsey’s hand in “To Shanshu in LA”.  Here we do not see the complex and conflicted individual Lindsey really is.  Instead he just is an evil lawyer beast and all Angel has to do is defeat him and save the day.  This world is simplicity itself.  So Angel now feels free to look and act accordingly.  He is starting to be the person in the reflection.

And this is where Pylea works so well.  Obviously this theme could not have been developed in Los Angeles or indeed anywhere on Earth and certainly not on the Earth pained by Joss Whedon which is anything but black and white.  On this world difficult and indeed irresolvable moral and ethical dilemmas are the norm.  But somewhere like Pylea can be used to create an environment where things are black and white; and the very look and feel to it is entirely appropriate for this purpose.  It is a simple agrarian society with an almost fairy tale like quality of princesses and castles and monsters.  It is in short the polar opposite of somewhere like LA and an environment where the sort of very black and white values we are here discussing make most sense.

And these simple values are again made manifest at the Bach-nal.  Fred has been caught stealing.  She is just a cow and death is the appropriate penalty.  Angel is a great warrior and an honored guest.  He must, of course, be given the privilege of executing her with a “crebbil”.  Nothing could be more straightforward. 

Angel: “You want me to kill her...”

Mother: “The cow is a runaway! A scavenger. It sneaks down from the hills and plunders our food stores.”

Angel: “She was probably hungry...”

Landok: “Will you not swing the crebbil?”

The fact that this is a sentient being who only stole to live is irrelevant.  And when Angel himself declines the honor the formerly adoring crowd of demons turns on him in an instant and try to kill him.

But by fighting them off (albeit with considerable help from the Host) and escaping nothing for Angel has really changed.  He is still behaving exactly like a hero.  After all where there is a damsel in distress isn’t that what a hero should do – rescue her.  The turning point for him comes when he meets two demon guards on horseback and has to morph into his game face to fight them.  He tries to prepare Fred for this:

“You may see something - it may frighten you. But I'm your friend. Okay?”

But when he tries to he can’t.  Instead he turn into something else – a pure monster.  This isn’t even Angelus.  It is pure demon.  It doesn’t act or think like a human.  It looks different and  moves differently.  There seems to be no intelligence at work; no sense of planning or purpose.  It is all rage and hatred and hunger and instinct.  It kills and eats its victims. It is an animal, a beast.

And just as Angel likes the idea of himself as the noble warrior, he is horrified by the sight of himself as the monster.  He cannot cope with it.  Once he actually sees his reflection in the pool he is devastated, driven almost mad.  He collapses and goes almost catatonic, shivering in a foetal position for comfort.  And later he says:

Angel: “They saw it... they looked right at it.”

Fred: “Saw what?”

Angel: “The monster. They saw what I really am. I can't go back. Not now. I can never go back...”

Again we see the reflection motif.  Angel is seeing himself as others see him – as a monster.  Wesley explains things in the following terms:

Wesley : “Angel's vampire self seems to have been  sublimated somehow by this dimension.  Only his human side has surfaced since  we've been here…”

Gunn: “You mean bein' able to walk out in the  sun... seein' his reflection... like that?”

Wesley: “Yes. And now, for whatever reason,  he's accessed his demon... but can't find  the balance he normally would in our  world. The demon part of him has totally  overcome his human side.”

Gunn: “So that's what the thing inside of him  really looks like?”

Wesley: “In its purest form, I think so, yes.”

To an extent this explanation is problematic.  If Angel’s ability to walk in the sun and see his reflection was the result of “sublimating” his vampire self, then you would expect that once the pure demon came out to play it couldn’t do either.  This is probably nit-picking though because I think the point the writers are trying to make here is an important and valid one.


The Black and the White

In Pylea Angel moves between extremes.  At one moment he is an (almost) human hero who can fit into society quite naturally.  Indeed he seems to enjoy doing so.  So, for example when he was sent with the Host to find out about the possible presence of a portal “hot spot”, he is easily distracted into taking part on a celebration in the village.  And in direct contrast to the celebration dinner at the beginning of  “Belonging” he is quite at home.  Hence his marked reluctance to leave it.   And as a hero it is his task  to right wrongs and fight evil.  But in the next moment he is that evil, a mindless vicious killer who took the lives of those who he had only recently been celebrating with.  But this vision of himself horrifies him.  And the difference in his attitude to the different sides of him is because he has never accepted the degree to which the demon and he are inextricably one.  In Guise will be Guise” we find the following exchange between Angel and the faux Tish Magev:

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

  The primal demon we saw in “Through the Looking Glass” was not Angelus.  It was pure demon.  It didn’t have the intelligence, the creativity, the artistic flair, the refinement or the joi de vivre of the Vampire.  It was pure malevolence and instinct.  Equally goofy Angel, certainly here, was for more like Liam than the classic Angel.  He is enjoying himself and actually interacting with people in the same way he would have done in his own village back in Galway in the 18th century.  Indeed those little touches of goofiness such as happy dancing clothes buying Angel or practical joker Angel may have been foreshadowing of this Angel.  But the real Angel is not just Liam in a vampire body.  I have always seen the human soul as the moral agent – the spiritual entity that rules and guides the body.  So when the human soul was restored to Angelus it could make choices about whether he would go on killing or not.  But those choices were not made in a vacuum.  They were informed by the personality of the individual.  Just as the pure demon that we saw here created a personality from the husk that was Liam, so too did that personality continue (albeit in a modified form) as the re-ensouled Angel.  And the whole story of the first half of this season – especially in episodes like “Dear Boy” and “Darla” – was of the way Angel was still influenced by this personality.  So again and again the writers stress the way that he enjoyed the freedom to live for himself, without the complicating consequences that comes from being a part of human society or having to care about others.  Life had an elegant simplicity. After “Reunion” evil beast lawyers deserved to die.  That was the end of story.  No possible moral ambiguity.  And as I said in my review of “Over the Rainbow”, when he fired the Fang gang or went after Lindsey and Lilah in “Blood Money” he didn’t think about how his actions would have undesirable consequences.  All he cared about was the simplicity of revenge.  More to the point in the aftermath of his elevator ride with Holland his view of LA and his understanding of what was going on around him was conditioned not by an appreciation of evil being one aspect of a series of complex interlocking relationships.  Rather all he saw was human beings really are motivated by their own selfish ends and as such are really no different from vampires in their capacity for evil.

Angel is therefore both human and demon at the same time.  He wants to do the right thing.  Yet his understanding of what the right thing is has in the past been deeply flawed and it was flawed because his reaction to problems in his life was conditioned by the demon inside him.  Yet this is something he has always had difficulty in accepting.  Hence his denials to the Tish Magev; hence his obvious sensitivity about his vampire physiology, especially in front of Buffy.  Here too Angel wants things simple and straightforward with very clear dividing lines between  good human and bad vampire.  He was the good human.  Good human controls bad vampire; life was simple.  It was because he didn’t understand his true nature and that the way that he reacted to the world was conditioned by that nature that he fell into Wolfram and Hart’s trap.

But in Pylea life actually is simple.  There are really two different sides to Angel’s character.  And in this world they are opposites but they cannot co-exist.  Angel is one thing or the other.  But he is unmistakably both.  He cannot any longer draw a hard and fast distinction between himself and the demon and that above all is why he is horrified at what he saw in his reflection and at the face he presented to Wesley and Gunn.  The beast is Angel.

But here is the catch and it is to be found in the second motif that we find throughout this episode.  When Angel first rescues Fred, she is confused:

            Angel: “Don't you want to talk to me?”

  Fred: “Pffft. Yeah.”

  Angel : “So why won't you?”

  Fred : “Ha. Because. You're not real. Or I'm not real... Somebody here isn't real and I suspect it's  you.  So if you're not real, then my head came off back there and  so I'm dead now. Dead. And  with me being dead and you  not being real I can hardly be  expected to get into some big  conversation at the moment  because it's just a little too much  pressure, alright?”

  Angel: “Okay.”

None of this is real.  Angel is seeing himself through a looking glass and there is a difference between the reflection and the reality.  That’s why Pylea works so well as a fairy tale world.  Nowhere does it correspond to the realities of our world.  Angel is not really a beast; just as he is not just a hero.  Both elements co-exist within him.  He is therefore himself an individual that reflects the ambiguities of our world rather than the cold certainties of Pylea.  And this is where the implications get very interesting.  If Angel is not simply Angelbeast then is Lindsey simply evillawyerbeast?  Of course not.  In our world, evil like the truth is rarely pure and never simple.

Where the writers go with this we can only wait and see.  There is one point I should stress at the very beginning.  I do not see them here as abandoning the basic metaphor of evil demons as representations the problems we have to face in life.  It seems fairly clear to me that Angel will still have to deal with evil in a pure form.  The classic representation of evil is still Wolfram and Hart and in this context the three books of the Trombli providing a link between their evil and that of the lawyers on Earth symbolized the universality of pure evil.  Rather what the writers seem to be concentrating on here is the way you deal with the implications of evil in the world of human beings.  If Angel is to fulfill the mission he described to Kate he must become more fully a part of the world.  He must understand the world and perhaps the key to doing so is to understand himself.  Where he went wrong in the past was not to understand or admit to the ambiguities in himself so how could he properly recognize them in those around him such as Lindsey?

And if I a right about this it is an immensely satisfying conclusion to the season.  The writers will have sustained what is in effect a single theme from beginning to end:  who is Angel what is his mission, how does the person he is affect the way he perceives that mission and how might a change in the way he perceives that mission bring about a change in him.  Through their exploration of that theme they have added immensely to the depth not only of our understanding of the character but of the mission; the two being intrinsically linked.  Here they are not covering new ground.  Rather as we reach the end of this particular stage in Angel’s development the writers are looking back at what ground has already been covered this season and giving us a fresh look at it through new eyes.  By doing so they first of all reinforce just how important the developments in this season have been.  Otherwise the exercise would have been something of a waste of time.  Secondly they help tie things together and thus help us understand what we have seen as a coherent whole as opposed to in week by week developments.  But finally by giving us the new angle then theme is made fresh and new, thus sustaining interest.  And the really encouraging thing is that the pay-off only seems to be starting.


Cordelia and the Others

For Wesley and Gunn in many ways the real turning points came in “Over the Rainbow”.  There Gunn finally resolved his dilemma about where his real loyalties lay and Wesley nailed the area in which he could really make a unique contribution.  There was little new in the way of development in this episode, although for Wesley at least the writers continued their exposition of his role as “the man with the answers.”  He is the one who sends Angel and the Host looking for the new portal hot spot and he is the one who bluffs Silas into revealing what the com-shuk is.  In terms of understanding he is therefore shown to be rather ahead of the game.  And in trying to understand the Holy Books he is of course in his element:

Wesley: “Of course! The holy books are written in trionic!

  Cordelia: “What?”

  Wesley: “No one of these volumes is complete without the other two... it's really one  book broken up into three pieces.”

  Cordelia: “Like a trilogy.”

  Wesley: “No, no. Much more complex than that (points to 3rd book).  You see, this passage here? It continues in this volume (points to 1st book)... here. Then concludes (points to 2nd book)... in this one. The rhythm of the sentence structure lets one know when to jump from book to book.

This not only continues the important character development for Wesley we first saw in “Over the Rainbow”, it also enables him to explain important plot points to the audience when the writers feel this is necessary.  An example of this is given above when he explains the fact that Angel has reverted to pure demon.  This is all very good and useful but it cannot of course make an episode.

Indeed, the other person (besides the Host I mean)  for whom this episode promises to be especially significant is, of course, Cordelia.  On Earth she has no life outside of her visions.  This fact was reinforced by the fiasco of the commercial.  In Pylea after a degradation far worse than she could imagine on Earth she is raised to a rank also out of her reach – that of princess.  And when asked to chose between them she knows which she prefers:

Cordelia: “No. I've heard enough, Wesley. You want me to go back out there where we'd be slaves? Sorry, not seeing the upside to that.

Wesley: “Cordelia, there are... forces at work here. You don't know who these priests are or what it is they serve.”

Cordelia: Look, if you wanna go, then go! I have to stay here and... be a princess.”

But it is here again that we see the idea of someone being a reflection of the way others see her and the difference between that and reality.  Take the Groosalugg

Groosalugg; “An animal, a beast.  To my people, I was nothing more than this.”

Cordelia: “Why?”

Groosalugg: “Can you not see why?”

  Cordelia: “Well... not exactly. You seem... pretty good to me.”

  Groosalugg: “You are truly beneficent. Such compassion. To ignore the flaws of my polluted birth.

  Cordelia : “Well... huh?”

  Groosalugg: “The odd curve of my mouth... the odd bulging of my limbs... the heart beating in the wrong place... As I matured and these defects became more apparent, The Covenant soon determined there  could be no mistake -- there was cow's blood in my veins.”

To Cordelia he was all she could have wished for – handsome, brave and decent.  But to the people of Pylea he was deformed and worthless.  So that is how he saw himself.  Equally to the Groosalugg she was “transcendent”.  Not only was she cursed, her beauty and her desire to do good made her a princess.  And because of the way that he saw her then Cordelia was prepared to believe at les for a moment that that is what she really was as she starts issuing proclamations:

“This one will free the slaves and outlaw polyester. I know it hasn't actually been invented here yet, but I'm a forward thinking Monarch.”

But again this little idyll isn’t real.  Cordelia recognized this herself.  As she explains to a disbelieving Groosalugg:

Groosalugg: “You have not The Curse?”

Cordelia: “The visions? Oh, yeah. I've got visions coming out of my ears. And sometimes blood, too. But that doesn't make me a princess. That just makes me... kinda weird.”

Groosalugg: “I don't understand...”

Cordelia: “Where I come from... who I really so far from being a princess you have no idea. I'm an actress.”

  Groosalugg: “I do not know this word.”

  Cordelia: “Actress. It means... when I'm lucky enough to get a gig... that other people tell me what to do, where to stand, how to move, what to say…”

In Cordelia’s description of the effect of her visions we see the reality.  On Pylea they were used as a tool in the affairs of state; a way for the Trombli to seize and retain power.  They were not used to help people like the unfortunate victim of the Drokken in “Over the Rainbow”.  Indeed the implication is that the Trombli wanted to use them as a means of bolstering their unjust society.  Cordelia is only a princess because she is a pawn in their game.  She didn’t know that but she did know she was only a princess because of the visions and that was not why she was given them.

And as it turns out Cordelia’s dreams last for only as long as Silas says he does.  Groosalugg’s bravery vanishes as Silas sends him scuttling from his presence.   Then he cruelly demonstrates to Cordelia that her power too was also just an illusion and that sadly polyester never would be made illegal. And he does so by countermanding her act of clemency to the Host; an act which is not only a rebuke to her authority but also wounds her personally.

In this scenario we see Cordelia’s great strength as a character.  In the real world her visions stood between her and the fulfillment of all her ambitions.  In Pylea they were the means of achieving far more than she could ever have dreamt about, even at Sunnydale High.  But unlike Angel she understood that life in Pylea was not real.  Cordelia as an individual has always been grounded in the realities of life.  But more than that, her personal experiences with the world as it was led her to understand who she really is.  To this extent she is the perfect counterpoint to Angel.  He is trapped between the different reflections he sees of himself in Pylea and doesn’t know where the reality lies.  It is Cordelia who established for the audience that it doesn’t lie anywhere in the demon dimension.



For an ANGEL plot this was unusually complicated with no less than three separate lines of action developing..  The basic idea is something of a classic with a small tight-knit band of friends in a strange environment being split up.  Each tries to get back to the others but on the way must face different obstacles and perils in the course of dealing with which they all contribute to the achievement of some overarching goal.  This is a classic for a reason.  If properly done it’s a bit like watching a jigsaw being put together.  Each of the trials makes sense on its own and can be followed as an individual narrative.  But then each goes together to create a bigger picture in which you get  a far greater sense of achievement .  And in this context the impact of this structure should be heightened because each individual trial should, I think, be linked to a theme.  So, to work at its best the individual themes should be correspondingly linked together in the achievement  of the overarching goal.  Of course we are still at a comparatively early stage in the development of this structure.  I think we can see the outline of where the plots involving Angel and Cordelia are going.  But the concentration on these two has meant that we are really only at the starting point of the plot involving Wesley and Gunn. It is therefore essentially impossible to arrive at any definitive judgment yet.  I think, however, we can make some comments on what has happened to date.

The first thing I would like to comment on is the very deft way the plot managed to combine genuine humor, real tragedy and a feeling of suspense.  Typical of this was the way in which the writers handled Cordelia’s dilemma.  Does she stay as a princess and risk whatever the com-shuk with the Groosalugg is or does she cut and run.  For her this is a very real problem with potentially life-threatening consequences but some very nice humor is extracted from it because of Cordelia’s very familiarity with the danger:

“If you ever figure out how to get us out of here, I want you to find me a dimension where some demon doesn't want to impregnate me with its spawn! I mean, is that just too much to ask?”

In real life, people often resort to humor of this sort when faced with real danger as a way of relieving the tension.  And that is why this technique of combining horror and humor works so well; much more so than in an episode which is all lighthearted fun and no real threat.

In terms of the actual structure of the plot, splitting the Fang Gang and the Host apart in this way did require some artifice.  For example why send Angel and the Host to meet the latter’s family if they were primarily interested in portal “hot spot” activity?  First of all the Host himself would be better placed than anyone to remember the place where he was sucked into the portal.  Secondly the two portals that were most likely to be known to his family as such would be the ones through which he and his cousin were sucked through and both of these were now cold.   The second artifice was that, when Wesley and Gunn escaped from the castle, Cordelia was left behind.  I find it very difficult to believe that someone of Wesley’s background would allow a woman to go last.  It would have been much more likely for him to have insisted that Gunn go first and that he would bring up the rear.

Of the various lines of action into which the plot was divided, by far the most successful was that involving Angel.  It never stopped changing and you could never really predict where it would go next.  It started out on a very humorous note and the scenes between Angel and the demon villagers were actually quite endearing.  You almost got the sense of the big child that was trapped inside the vampire.  But then all of a sudden things turned very serious indeed as angel is landed with a dilemma.  And what I liked here was that the nature of that dilemma didn’t become apparent immediately; it only dawned on us as it dawned on Angel.  And the success of this aspect of the plot can be gauged from the fact that we actually get Angel’s unwillingness to disappoint his new friends almost a sense of regret at letting them down.  The one substantive weakness lies in the way the Host engineered his escape.  That itself was great fun but is raised two questions.  First of all why didn’t he do the same when he had been captured along with Wesley, Gunn and Angel on the previous occasion.  Secondly why did Angel leave him behind.  There seemed no obvious need for it.  From this point onwards the tone of the plot gets progressively darker as we become first of all aware of the extent to which Fred herself is deranged.  And here we see her mental instability being put to classic use when she says:

Because she is crazy she doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We can’t get a coherent explanation from her of what she has\seen or experienced, any more than Cordelia did in “Over the Rainbow”.  But that is an advantage because it creates an undefined sense of unease; the idea that something bad will happen.  We just don’t know what.  Or at least those of us who hadn’t seen the WB promos wouldn’t have known what.  Could they not have simply shown a beast attacking Wesley and Gunn.  Did they have to identify it as Angel.  Because the most significant twist of all was when Angel turned into Angelbeast and it would have been a really cool surprise if I hadn’t been expecting it.  But once the Angelbeast had appeared I think we did get a very strong sense of horror, both in terms of its actions (seeming to tear one of the demon guards literally limb from limb) and from Angel’s reaction to it.  In an episode that was at other times very funny the real awfulness of these scenes makes an even stronger impact.  We get a sense that something not only dreadful but important is happening.  It makes us want to know what this means and so pulls us into the plot.  And after all that is the basic test of any narrative.  How interested are we in what comes next?

If anything more time was spent on the plot developing round Cordelia but I am afraid that I do not think that this worked to its advantage.  As I have already said the bulk of the humor came from this plot.  There were a lot of memorable individual scenes such as when Cordelia nearly ordered the Host’s death because her attention was occupied elsewhere.  And as always CC carried off her part in them with complete assurance.  But that cannot disguise the fact that basically too little happened of interest in these scene that warranted the time devoted to them.  Thematically this aspect of the episode was limited.  It really only needed a couple of scenes.  Equally, in terms of actual plot development far less happened here than in the Angel plot.  The first major plot point here was an elaborate tease about just how awful the Groosalugg was going to be.  I thought myself this was a little telegraphed.  It was made so obvious that we were supposed to think that he was this hideous monster that it actually came as no great surprise to see that he was quite a personable human being (or at least human looking creature).  So there was little enough there to sustain much in the way of interest.   In addition, the threat to Cordelia from the Trombli  was unmistakable:

Priest: “To allow her to wear the crown is sacrilege!”

Silas: “She is cursed. She has The Sight. We all agree.”

  Priest: “Not all. Why would The Powers choose as their  vessel this craven beast?

Silas: “It doesn't matter why. She is our sovereign, now. And no harm must come to her... at least... not until after the Com-shuk. If the princess survives the Com-shuk, then you may have her head, Barshon. But not before.”

But until the end it was always potential rather than actual and the lightest of touches was needed to remind us of it, as when Silas interrupted Cordelia’s escape attempt.   So  too much here seemed to be marking time without going anywhere  very important. 

Another of the weaknesses of this part of the plot that it is something of a cliché.  There was never going to be much of a surprise about Cordelia being in danger, as the writers I think quite consciously reminded us in the following exchange over why she became Monarch:

Host:  “She had a vision. That explains it. Well, see, there's this prophecy...”

  Angel: “A prophecy. Great. Because those always go well...”

Of course the fact that the series can poke a little gentle fun at itself in this way is one of its strengths and helps us overlook some of the more obvious plot points used.  But by definition it cannot make a cliché anything other than a cliché and when you know what is coming and have seen it many times before it is hard to get very involved in it.  This is especially true when there is no real sense of danger, of something important being at stake.  Fortunately  the writers were able to spice this particular aspect of the series up.  As I have already said I didn’t really think that the tease about how awful the Groosalugg was going to be worked that well but there was some compensation when we realize that we do not know the full implications of the Com-shuk.  The emphasis here seems to be on the ritual aspect of it and there is at least one hint that it in itself may be deadly to Cordelia.  The question is how?  And how does the Groosalugg fit into all of this?  He certainly seems genuine enough but if he is then why is he taking part in the Com-shuk?  Is he perhaps as disposable as Cordelia.  There are certainly questions enough left.

This part of the plot therefore really works best as an extended set-up for the truly shocking ending.  There was no foreshadowing; indeed the last time we saw the Host he was quite relaxed and happy.  But while it was unpredictable it still made perfect sense as a way for the evil Trombli to show their power.  This gave the last scene all the more impact ad really brought home how dangerous the priests were.  As such it is the perfect launching pad for the season finale.

And in addition we get what might be another interesting launch pad.  Wesley and Gunn spent most of this episode as secondary figures in the plots revolving around Angel and Cordelia.  But at the very end they were captured and threatened by the rebels.  Again there is an inevitable element of cliché about strangers being caught by rebels and treated as spies.  But I do not think we are intended to take this aspect of the plot that seriously because of the generally humerous tone.  This is best exemplifies by the following exchange:

Rebel Leader: “It's true. They know the princess.”

  Wesley: “Now, if your organization would just draw up some sort of list of demands, we'll be more than happy to  present it directly to her Majesty!”

  Rebel Leader: “Let's do it. Have Sasha write up a list of demands...”

  Wesley: “There, you see?”

  Rebel Leader: “...shove the list in their mouths, put their severed heads on sticks, and display them outside the princess's window.”

  Gunn: Have I mentioned just how glad I am  I decided to leave my people behind in L.A. so I could come here to die?”

Now why do I think that this was a scene designed by the writers to address all the complaints about Gunn not being fully a member of “Angel Investigations”?  In any event I don’t think we were intended to believe that Wesley or Gunn are in real danger.  Rather this was intended to be a humorous introduction to the plotline Wesley, Gunn and the rebels are going to play in the season finale.  From the tone of this they may very well be light relief but we will have to wait and see.



A (9/10):  Without ever rising to great heights this episode just worked on so many different levels that it has to get high marks.  We have now well and truly left behind the build up and we can see the themes unfolding before our eyes.  There is nothing very new or startling here.  But that is actually one of the strengths of the episode because I really do like the idea of a coda to sum up the major developments of the season.  And I think that the imagery used for the purpose works very well.  In many ways it follows that used in “Guise will be Guise” but takes if further forward.  We see Angel as he would like to see himself – a human champion fighting for justice.  But we also see that this is not the reality which is that he is a much more ambiguous character.  And as I have tried to explain, in that reality I see the lesson that Angel must learn for his future.  And once again in the way that this theme played out great credit has to go to DB for his portrayal of happy, relaxed playful Angel one moment and horrified tortured Angel on the other.  These are of course essentially serious themes and the decision to include so much humor in the episode could have been disastrous.  But as with the best of Angel the humor and the horror counterpointed one another very effectively rather than jarring.  The gentle fun at the beginning where Angel was ye olde knight in shinning armor led quite naturally to Fred’s near execution and his own experiences as Angelbeast.  And Cordelia’s preoccupation with the Groosalugg leading so nearly to the Host’s execution was the perfect launch pad for the reality.  In terms of plot I like the idea of splitting the gang up into different groups but there was a very uneven feel to the various lines of action.  Wesley and Gunn spent most of the time as secondary characters in other people’s stories.  There was too little of any real interest happening in Cordelia’s, until the end of course.  But the strongest by far was the storyline of Angel’s journey or rather reversion. This was always moving, always changing and you never know where it was going next.