Angel - Parting Gifts

Summary

Angel is asking the Oracles to fold time again and bring back Doyle. They refuse, pointing out it would nullify his noble death which allowed him to atone for his earlier sin. When Angel points out he needs Doyle as a contact with the higher powers, they imply another contact will be supplied. We cut to a demon being pursued by someone on a motorcycle.

Cordelia and Angel are mourning the death of Doyle. She tells him they have to stay together and work their way through it, but then realizes she has to go to a commercial audition. At the door, the demon we saw being chased appears. He is searching for Angel. He says he is being chased and needs help. The demon is Barney and he's curious as to why Angel isn't in his coffin. Angel says that's a stereotype perpetuated by hack writers.

Cordelia is at the audition for Stainbegone. She tries to read her lines, but she's obviously too sad about Doyle to say them happily. When she tries again, she has a Doyletype vision complete with blinding headache.

Barney tells his story to Angel about being pursued through several states by a mysterious stranger. As he speaks, we see the motorcyclist getting off his bike, taking out a crossbow, and examining some ooze on a wall. Barney admits to being a card cheat (he's an empath demon who uses his power to win at games), but he says he isn't really evil.

Cordelia shows up and kisses Angel. He thinks she's acting out of grief, but actually she's trying to get rid of her vision power. She believes Doyle passed it to her when he kissed her just before sacrificing himself in Hero. She thinks she can get rid of it by kissing others. Angel wants to know what the vision was, but she just remembers it as an ugly blobby thing. Barney walks in and Cordelia kisses him, but that doesn't work either.

Angel goes to Barney's apartment and we see the motorcycle parked outside. He sees some of the ooze on the side of the door. Angel enters the apartment. Behind him is the crossbow wielding motorcyclist. Only it turns out to be Wesley. Wesley claims to be a rogue demon hunter now. Angel tells him he thinks he's hunting a harmless demon, but Wesley says the demon he is hunting has left a trail of mutilated corpses, human and demon, behind him. He has cut off the source of power (poison tongues, stuff like that) from the humans and demons he has killed. Wesley describes him as large and powerful and not at all like Barney. He also says he's the source of the mysterious ooze. Angel notices ooze dripping on Wesley. They look up and a big, mean demon drops on them. They fight and Wesley launches a crossbow bolt at the demon who goes out the window and escapes.

Cordelia is trying to sketch what she saw. Barney senses her hurt over Doyle's death and tries to comfort her by talking about him. Angel and Wesley come in and Barney runs away thinking Wesley is after him. Cordelia kisses Wesley, but that doesn't work either. Angel explains the situation to Barney and Wesley, using Angel's books, identifies the demon they are chasing as a Kungai. He says it is of Asian origin and he tracked it through Korea town earlier. Angel decides to go there, but refuses to allow Wesley to come with him. He doesn't want Wesley to be endangered the way Doyle was. Angel leaves and Wesley goes to change because his leather pants are chafing.

Angel goes to Lotus Spa where the manager admits the Kungai is present. Cordelia keeps trying to draw the blobby thing she saw. She tells Barney about the visions. He feels Doyle gave her a rare and valuable gift and she should be happy, not angry. Angel finds the Kungai, who is dying. Cordelia makes coffee and Barney calls a friend and tells him he has the Kungai horn. Then, looking at Cordelia, he says he might have something even better. When Cordelia gives him the coffee, he starts putting her down, saying all the things she fears are true. Like never having a chance at success as an actress or being responsible for Doyle's death. Then he grabs her.

Wesley shows up at the spa. The Kungai tries to talk to Angel in his language and Wesley has some understanding of it but can't quite make it out. It is clear the Kungai is trying to explain why his horn was taken. Meanwhile, Barney is tying up Cordelia. She tries to get free, kneeing him, but he grabs her and punches her knocking her out. The Kungai dies, but tells them the one responsible is a demon heart reader. Angel realizes that means Barney. Cordelia awakes to find herself bound and gagged and with the strange blobby shape she saw before her. Barney and his partner are arguing over whether they should cut out her eyes or sell her intact. She sees bits of bodies in cases.

Angel and Wesley get back to find Cordelia and Barney gone. Wesley blames himself, since he was tracking the wrong demon. He admits the council fired him for messing up as a watcher. Angel finds Cordelia's drawing and recognizes it as a sculpture, Maiden with Urn. He reasons if they can find the sculpture, they can find Cordelia. And he sets Wesley to translating the Kungai's final words. They discover Barney is holding an auction at a hotel. We cut to the auction where Barney has just sold the Kungai's horn and is getting ready to auction off Cordelia or at least her eyes. We see one of the people at the auction is from Wolfram & Hart.

Angel and Wesley figure out where the auction is and head there. Cordelia tries to delay things by encouraging the bidding on herself. Eventually, the Wolfram & Hart representative bids $30,000 and buys her. Barney holds out for another thousand when he's asked to extract the eyes. He gets it and gets ready to take out Cordelia's eyes with something that looks like a cross between pliers and ice tongs. Angel and Wesley have made it to the hotel and are searching for the auction.

They make it to the room before Barney takes out Cordelia's eyes. A fight ensues. Wesley is pretty useless. He has taped a knife to his leg, but can't get it free of the tape. Eventually, he uses the Kungai horn to cut Cordelia free. He fights with Barney and Cordelia stabs Barney with the horn, draining his life force. The Wolfram & Hart representative leaves and calls her people to tell them about Angel's involvement. Cordelia tells Angel she never doubted he would save her. Angel gives some credit to Wesley.

Cordelia frames her drawing as a reminder of their adventure and of Doyle. Wesley says he will be leaving. He keeps drawing out his exit until Angel invites him to breakfast.

Analysis

Is an empath who beats people up a sadist or a masochist? Any show which raises questions like that can't be all bad. And when you add the fact that the episode explores the obvious solution to Doyle's death, get the Oracles to undo time, and rules it out, you've got a pretty darn good show.

One of the things I really hate in so much fantasy and science fiction is the return to life of presumably dead characters. With the exception of Buffy's death in the concluding episode of season one, Buffy and Angel have played pretty fair. Dead means dead and you only come back undead. The Oracles are right in that bringing Doyle back would erase the meaning of his death. The writers are right in that bringing him back would destroy the drama of that death and basically reduce the tension any viewer would feel whenever any character died in the future. Both made the right decision.

There seems to be a little more chemistry between Wesley and Cordelia now than there was when they first kissed in the Buffy episode Graduation Part 2. But this isn't a relationship I really want to see. Wesley is basically Xander with an accent or Doyle without any great sin and I prefer the real thing.

Wesley does have his moments, mostly as comic relief. His fiddling with the knife her taped to his leg is classic Wesley incompetence. Reminiscent of his performance in battle in Graduation Part 2. There is also his desperate attempt to get Cordelia and Angel to ask him to stay in the final scene. But he has his darker moments too, most significantly when he blames himself for Cordelia's capture and confesses that he was fired. His sorrow is real and strong enough to generate a kind response from Angel, who both tries to reassure him and later tries to give him some credit for saving Cordelia. And given that the Wesley/Cordelia kiss didn't seem as bad this time as last (no wiping their lips afterward), maybe a romance between the two is possible.

The scene in which Angel rejects Wesley's offer of assistance, stating he doesn't want another person to die helping him, is probably the best of the episode. Partly because Wesley's desire to help is obviously genuine. He's still the rather clumsy, not terrible scary Wesley we remember. And he still wants to be something better than that. He seems a little humbled by his experience in Sunnydale. And partly because it really brings home to us how hard Angel took Doyle's death. We saw Cordelia crying, and being uncharacteristically nice when Barney tried to comfort her. Those actions were out of character but not unheard of for her. But for Angel, this scene was an emotional outburst whose only parallel is the scene where he hurled the mayor against the wall in Graduation Part 2. This is something we just don't see from him.

When Barney first talks to Angel, he assures him that as a demon he is evil, but not EVIL. Well, he was lying about that, too. As an empath, Barney can sense the feelings of others. In his conversation with Cordelia, he demonstrates a real understanding of how people feel and how to manipulate their feelings. He's able to make her feel better about Doyle's death and about the gift he has passed on to her. That was nice and if Barney is capable of that level of niceness and of comprehension, then using that ability for evil ends is EVIL. He demonstrates just how low he'll sink when he uses the same skill he displayed in making her feel better to make her feel terrible, telling her she's a failure and responsible for Doyle's death. And what makes it all work is that he's just telling Cordelia things she already half believes. Normally, empathy is presented as a passive power but Barney is clearly an aggressive empath. He's learned to use his power to give him power over others. And, as he says, feeling their pain and fear gives him a rush. I think Barney falls clearly into the sadist camp.

I'm not sure whether the auction was macabre or comic. Obviously, there is a fairly well organized demon underworld if they can rent hotel rooms for such events. And Wolfram & Hart are clearly deeply involved in whatever is going on. This is the third time Angel has foiled their plans. You have to expect a counterattack from them soon.

Some quick final thoughts. I loved Wesley's comment about the leather chafing. And his insistence on being called a 'rogue' demon hunter.

Lines of the week:

"It's a misconception made popular by hack writers and ignorant media." - Angel putting down everyone who ever wrote about vampires other than on Buffy or Angel.

"What's a rogue demon?" - Cordelia asking rogue demon hunter Wesley the obvious question.

"I had somebody by my side. He's dead now." - Angel demonstrating he's taking Doyle's death every bit as hard as Cordelia is.

"Seems like he gave you the most valuable thing he had." - Barney on the significance of Doyle's gift to Cordelia.

"Our merchandise was just taken off the market. Three guesses by whom." - The Wolfram & Hart representative showing an increasing anger at Angel.

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