Angel - I Fall to Pieces

Summary

Cordelia and Doyle are talking about the need to start charging customers. Angel comes up and has some coffee, which is awful. He says he isn't comfortable asking people in trouble for money. Doyle has a vision of Melissa Burns. At Melissa's office, they are having a little party for Penny. Melissa gets flowers from someone called Ronald and it disturbs her. She takes some pills. That evening, she meets Angel in the garage who offers to help her. He leaves her his card. Doyle says he should let people pay him because then they will feel they have dealt with their problem and can move on, rather than being in debt to a mysterious saviour.

At an ATM, Melissa meets Ronald who seems to have a way of spying on her. He knows what she did that day and her ATM PIN number. He scares her. He thinks they have a relationship while she doesn't. She goes to Angel and tells him her story. Ronald is a surgeon who operated on her and saved her sight. Now he's obsessed with her. He takes the case. That night, we see Ronald's eye in Melissa's apartment watching her. Ronald can detach parts of his body.

Angel visits Kate, the detective he met in Lonely Hearts, and asks for help with the case. She tells him Ronald's lawyers are Wolfram & Hart (the legal firm from City of). The odds of putting him in jail are slight. She offers to put a uniformed officer on Melissa's building. She says the real problem is that Melissa is scared and as long as he has her scared she won't be free of him.

Angel goes to Ronald's office. He walks in and takes a book called Anything's Possible given Ronald by the author. Ronald comes in and Angel pretends to be a wealthy potential client. He says his wife needs an operation, only it would be illegal to perform. He gives Ronald a card and promises to pay him a lot of money.

Cordelia poses as a reporter doing an article on Ronald. She gets another doctor to admit that Ronald is strange and a bit radical. Angel gets an interview with the author of the book who says Ronald learned to do things that frightened him and led to his abandoning psychic research. He says he introduced Ronald to psychic surgery and Ronald took it to extremes.

Ronald detaches his hands and sends them into Melissa's bedroom that night. She screams when they touch her and the policeman rushes in. The hands strangle him. Kate and Angel show up and Kate says if she finds Ronald's prints, she'll arrest him. Angel comforts Melissa and Ronald sees them together.

Angel takes Melissa to his place and plans to have Doyle and Cordelia guard her. They try to seal off the place. He tells Melissa that she is strong, that she has survived months of stalking and it is Ronald who is coming unhinged, literally. Ronald calls the number Angel left and pretends he intends to do the operation Angel asked about. But he is just luring Angel to his death. When Angel shows up, Ronald shoots him with a paralytic dart which will stop his heart and kill him. He leaves with Angel paralyzed on the floor.

As Cordelia and Doyle discuss the evils of stalking, Ronald's hands creep in. He overcomes Doyle and Cordelia and goes to kill Melissa. She finally tells him what she really thinks of him, that he's the weak one. That he has turned himself into a repulsive freak. Angel shows up and they fight. Ronald goes to pieces, really.

Angel buries Ronald's different pieces in different steel boxes in concrete. Melissa shows up with a plant as a gift. She also pays her bill, making Cordelia happy. Doyle and Cordelia go to the bank leaving Angel alone.

Analysis

You know, when Angel got hit by that poison dart I began to wonder why a poison that stops your heart would bother a vampire at all since his heart doesn't beat anyway (and Harmony made that point in The Harsh Light of Day). Obviously, it doesn't kill him, but why does it paralyze him in the first place? Then I remembered that we have seen vampires affected by other drugs. We've seen them get drunk (Spike in Lover's Walk, and take drugs for emotional problems (Kralik in Helpless (Eighteen)), and Angel himself has admitted caffeine makes him edgy ( in The Prom). But then I remembered that Angel drank coffee in this episode and that Cordelia implied he had coffee every day. All of which just shows continuity is a tough beast to tame. And none of which made any difference in my enjoyment of this episode.

Thematically, this episode is very similar to the Buffy episode Fear, Itself. In both stories, characters had to overcome their fears in order to triumph over evil. Melissa is terrified of Ronald. As frightening as his powers are they aren't his greatest weapon - that is the fear he has induced in Melissa. She's cowed by him and unable to fight him. Doyle is right when he says Angel must charge his clients so that they know they are hiring a man to do a job, not being rescued by a mysterious saviour (I hate to say this, but this was a plot point in an episode of the original Kung Fu series). In hiring Angel, Melissa takes a positive step toward vanquishing Ronald. And that first step leads her down the road to independence. When Ronald seems about to kill her, she stands up to him. She realizes that what Angel told her is true. That Ronald is the weak one and she is strong.

Ronald cannot deal with the truth. For all his skill, he's incapable of accepting her refusal. As Angel said, it's not about being obsessed with Melissa, it's about being too weak to deal with a real woman and preferring a fantasy instead. And then having to destroy that fantasy when reality taints it. Melissa does accept the truth, as bizarre as it is.

When Melissa calls Ronald a self made freak, she could be speaking of Angel as well. In Angel's case, the freakishness is all external. Inside, he's normal and so his display of inhuman ability - being pretty well unaffected by Ronald stabbing him - doesn't terrify Melissa the way Ronald's detaching his body parts does. In Angel, she can see past the freak to the genuine person. But Ronald is freak through and through.

You have to wonder if Cordelia doesn't realize how Doyle feels about her. Their conversation about stalkers and bad relationships was pretty suggestive. And when Cordelia said that if you didn't like the guy, he inevitably hung around, she seemed to strike home. It's not like Cordelia to be indirect, but maybe she's actually growing as a person. There have been hints at that through this series.

Angel pays rent? So if he hasn't been charging people anything, where is the money coming from? In City of, Cordelia implied Angel had no significant savings. Won't somebody start looking for Ronald, like maybe Kate. Won't his fingerprints turn up at Melissa's apartment. Of course, they might buy the story that he fled arrest. And will that law firm show up again. How do you specialize in demonic clients? Where would you advertise?

Line of the week:

"Maybe I'm a little attracted." - Doyle on watching Angel walk away.

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