Written by: Tim Minear
Directed by: Tim Minear
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?"
"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
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.
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!”
Landok’s intervention changes all that:
: “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
: “He is Angel, the brave and noble Drokken killer!”
Angel : “Just "Angel" is
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.”
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.
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.
“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
Landok: “Will you not swing the
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:
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:
“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:
: “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
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.
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:
"If I let it, it'll kill you."
"Ha! But the demon is you!"
"Yes! That's the thing you spend so much energy trying to
"No, I just - I can't let it control me."
nods: "Ah. I see. You *don't* think it controls you?"
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
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?”
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.
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!
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:
“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.
“Cordelia, there are... forces at work here. You don't know who these priests
are or what it is they serve.”
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
“An animal, a beast. To my
people, I was nothing more than this.”
Groosalugg: “Can you not see why?”
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:
But again this
little idyll isn’t real. Cordelia
recognized this herself. As she
explains to a disbelieving 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 am...is so far from being a princess you have no idea. I'm an actress.”
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.
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:
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
Priest: “To allow her to wear the
crown is sacrilege!”
“She is cursed. She has The Sight. We all agree.”
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
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
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...”
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.”
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.
(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.