Angel - Prodigal

Summary

I'm departing from my normal summary mode and dividing this summary into two parts: the Angel flashback and the drug story. While there are thematic connections between the two, they aren't connected in the plot and can be looked at separately.

Liam's life

Galway, Ireland 1753. Angel (whose real name is Liam) is trying to tempt a servant girl into the shadows. His father pushes him into the light, which hurts his eyes because he drank so much the night before. His father berates him for his debauchery. Angel says some forms of debauchery are more pleasing than others. His father strikes him and says he's ashamed to call him his son, that he'll never amount to anything.

Angel is having a great time fighting and drinking in a bar. Darla is there and notices him. She asks about him. The next day, Angel is leaving home. His father tells him if he leaves, he can't come back. Angel claims his father has always wanted him to be a failure and he has lived down to his expectations. He tells him to get out of his way and his father says he was never in his way. Angel leaves and we see him at the bar and later being vampirized by Darla.

Angel's family and friends are attending his funeral. That night, Darla comes to the grave and he rises from it. The groundskeeper arrives and he's Angel's first kill. Darla tells him he can have anyone in the village, he says he wants the village. Later, Angel is back in his home, watching his father board up the windows. His father realizes he's a demon and doesn't know how he got in the house uninvited. Angel points to his little sister, now dead, who let him in thinking he was an angel returning to her. He tells his father he has finally made something of himself and kills him.

Darla walks in to see Angel surrounded by his dead family. She tells him that his victory over his father took mere moments, but his father's defeat of him will last lifetimes. He doesn't understand. She says his father will never be able to approve of him now. She explains that their past still controls them and motivates them, even though they are dead. That the love they felt still informs their actions. He looks at the dead bodies lying scattered through the house and asks if this is an act of love. Darla says he is still so very young.

Demon drug trade

Angel is fighting with a demon in a tunnel in the subway. Kate is on the platform talking to the officer on the scene. He tells her a homeless man attacked some passengers and, according to them, was pulled through the vent in the roof of the moving train. She walks to the tunnels and finds Angel just after he has killed the demon. She's not very comfortable with it. Angel advises her not to do anything about the body, he'll take care of it. The witnesses remember what they want to remember, an attack by a homeless person they can't describe very well. The person attacked, a delivery man, can't give a description of any value and doesn't know why he was attacked. Angel notices Kate's father. She talks to him and asks if he were listening in on his police scanner. She tells Angel she thinks he was checking up on her. She then tells Angel not to make the mistake of thinking she's his girlfriend.

Cordelia has had a security system installed in the office and they need to pick a code. She suggests her birthday, so Angel will be sure to remember it. Wesley has determined the species of demon Angel killed. It's a Kwaini, a gentle and always female demon. They can't understand what made the demon so violent or so strong. Angel visits Kate to talk about the demon. She asks him not to use that word and just say evil thing. He tells her the evil thing was not actually evil. She asks how he got there in the day, and he says through the sewers. He wants the names of the people on the train. She tells him to forget it, she wants to.

Angel is trailing the delivery man. Wesley and Cordelia have found the body of the Kwaini and are cutting it up. Angel wonders why a delivery man with a truck was taking a commuter train during the working day? The delivery man gets a call and goes to a building where he picks up a package from Kate's father. Angel confronts him, asking what was in the package. He realizes Lockley was there just to pick up the package and take it away from the crime scene. Lockley denies knowing anything. He gets angry when Angel suggests he was at the scene for reasons other than concern for his daughter. He asks if Angel has children and tells him cannot know why a father does what he does.

Kate and her father meet for a hot dog for lunch. He asks her about Angel, his job, whether he's good at it. She thinks he's interested in Angel because he thinks they were dating. He says he doesn't really like Angel. He tells Kate it's not good to be alone.

Wesley has performed an autopsy on the demon and discovered it's adrenal gland was greatly enlarged and that it was taking a drug which acted like PCP. Angel wonders what such a drug would do to a battle demon. A blonde bewigged and sunglass wearing Cordelia shows up. She was trailing the delivery man during the day and found where he is picking up the packages with the drugs. Meanwhile, Lockley is visiting the drug dealers and telling them what he has learnt about Angel. He doesn't know what's in the packages, he thought they were smuggling auto parts. They give him more money to compensate for his additional trouble. He leaves and a demon comes out and tells the others to kill Angel and Lockley.

Cordelia has turned on the security system (0522 is the code so presumably her birthday is May 22). Angel tells them he's going to do some recon of the drug dealers. Kate walks in without setting off the alarm. Cordelia grabs the booklet on setting up the alarm from Wesley. Kate gives Angel the list of names he wanted. She tells him about her conversation with her father and says that she's giving him the list because she realizes he is good at what he does and she should trust his instincts. She also says she wants to be involved in the case.

Angel decides to warn Lockley about what he's involved with. Wesley thinks it's a mistake, that Lockley made his choice. Angel argues that sometimes the punishment for a single bad decision far outweighs the mistake. He walks out and the alarm goes off. Wesley and Cordelia are attacked by Kwaini. Angel comes back (he probably hears the alarm) and lures them away with the drug. He grabs one and makes her talk. He calls Kate and tells her she should get her father out of his place, that he's in danger.

Lockley opens the door to the two drug dealers he was talking to before. They say they want to talk to him about his daughter. He lets them in. They ask if he ever mentioned them to Kate. He says no. They say they were concerned she might not be as pragmatic as him. He says she's not crooked and she won't have to be because he has provided for her. He is going to pick up a concealed gun, but there is a knock at the door. He answers to find Angel there. Angel asks to be invited in, but he refuses. The two men are actually vampires. Angel tells them if they kill Lockley he will come in and kill them the moment his soul leaves his body. They kill him and Angel rushes in and kills one of them. The other flees as Kate comes in to find her father dead with vampire marks in his neck. Angel explains what happened, but she is too upset to listen and kicks him out. He goes home to arm himself for an attack on the demons. Kate sees the envelope with the money and beside it a card for the business which is the front for the demons.

Kate shows up at the demon HQ and starts shooting. Of course, this doesn't kill them, but she also has a stake which she uses and kills one of them. The leader comes out and tells her she doesn't know what she has gotten into. Angel arrives. There is a fight and Angel agrees to let the leader live if they let them go. He agrees, but then tries to kill them. They stake the vampires and Angel cuts the head off the leader. He tries to talk to Kate about her father, but she tells him her father was human and he doesn't know anything about it.

Kate is at her father's grave. Angel watches from a distance, in the shadows.

Analysis

Mothers are easy, they fall into two categories: those who provide unconditional love and the bad ones. Fathers are more complicated. Fathers have conditions, expectations. And nobody ever meets them all. And the distinction between bad fathers and good fathers is often a murky one. There has been a lot of talk about fathers on Angel lately, mostly bad fathers. In I've Got You Under My Skin, we learnt of Wesley's overbearing, tyrannical father. In Expecting, we encountered a demon father who cared for his offspring but not for their mothers. Doyle resented his father and the demon inheritance he left him. In Somnambulist, we learn how much Penn hated his father. And in I've Got You Under My Skin, Ryan's father came across as bad even though he was struggling desperately to hold his family together and save his son. In Sense & Sensitivity, we met Kate's father and he came across as insensitive and mean.

In this episode, we get a closer look at Kate's father and our first look at Angel's. Kate's father comes across as a surprisingly complex man. And the complexity is unveiled in a handful of scenes. In a lot of ways, I'd say this is the best character development we've seen of a minor character on this show. When we first meet him, he appears a little suspicious, but Kate believes he is checking up on her. Angel comments that she sounds surprised at this. So paternal care of this sort doesn't strike her as common, but it is what she reads into the situation. We later learn he was there for much darker purposes, but he still managed to convey that feeling to Kate.

When Angel confronts Lockley in his apartment, the first thing he asks is if something has happened to Kate. This is the only time he actually looks concerned. Angel's threats don't worry him, but potential harm to his daughter does. And he makes it clear to Angel that his motives are more complex than they appear. That his actions and feelings toward his daughter are not easily understood.

When Lockley pumps Kate for information about Angel, he's acting partly as a an agent for the drug dealers and partly as a concerned father. His questions about Angel's occupation and abilities are being asked for the drug dealers. But when he tells Kate it isn't good to be alone, he's speaking as a father. Although he is concerned about Angel (after all he is the one most in danger if Angel finds out what's going on), he is even more concerned about his daughter.

When Angel comes to Lockley's home to rescue him, Lockley refuses to let him in. He realizes the danger he is in and doesn't want to imperil Angel. What he doesn't realize is that Angel is his only hope. Lockley is ready to die for his sins, but he doesn't want to take Angel or Kate with him. He has kept Kate ignorant of his doings and is trying to do the same with Angel.

We don't get nearly as much insight into Angel's father. But I think two scenes reveal a lot. The scenes I'm thinking of are the one in which Angel is trying to get the servant girl to come to him and the one in which he leaves his house. In the first, his father comes up behind him and pushes him into the light. Angel has been hiding in the shadows and the servant sees this as peculiar. We assume he's already become a vampire, but he's just drunk and the light hurts his eyes. But this is clearly foreshadowing and the implication is that Angel was already evil and becoming a vampire just allowed him to act out his evil on a broader stage. By pushing him into the light and by criticizing him for his debauchery, his father is trying to save him, albeit crudely and without success. But Angel clings to the shadows and is a creature of the night long before Darla converts him.

In the scene where Angel leaves his home, he tells his father not to block his way. His father says he was never in his way. He looks genuinely surprised at Angel's comment. In his own way, he's quite right. He never blocked Angel on his route to salvation. But the only way he knew to get him there was derision and force. And Angel rebelled against these, doing exactly the opposite of what his father wanted. His father does move aside and Angel goes out into the sunlight, for the last time. His father shouts an ignored warning at him. This is as close as his father comes to success, forcing Angel into the light, but only so he can escape further into the darkness.

When Lockley tells Angel he doesn't know why a father does what he does, he's quite correct. Angel, as Liam, couldn't understand his father and why he acted the way he did. He saw his father's expressions of love - his drive to save his son from himself - as acts of hatred. His father's criticism he took as a desire to see his son fail. Kate makes the other side of this statement, saying that Angel doesn't understand her feelings about her father and his death. Even though Angel was once human and has a soul and has memories of family life, he's still treated as something outside of world. When Kate referred to demons as otherworldly, Angel corrected her saying they were actually on this world first. But she walked away not listening. No facts or history or evidence will stop him from being ostracized, even by those who like him.

When Angel goes to warn Lockley, against Wesley's wishes, he says that the punishment for a bad choice may far outweigh the evil of the decision. He's talking not really of Lockley, but of himself. He made the mistake of leaving his family home and ignoring his father's advice. He took up with Darla and became a soulless killer. And he's been paying for that ever since the gypsies cursed him.

When Darla tells Angel that in his killing his father he assured his own defeat, she's speaking from a deep knowledge of human nature. Just as when she tells him that his acts were motivated by love. His love of his father, his desire to be approved of by his father, to meet expectations, turned to rage and murder. But the murder provides no satisfaction. Angel proved himself stronger than his father, but still failed to prove himself the man his father had desired him to be.

In my comments on She, I expressed some concern that Angel was turning into Forever Knight, with flashbacks in every episode and references to famous people and events. The flashbacks in this episode concern me in that way. They were interesting and they were thematically connected to the storyline, but they weren't essential to the plot. And if the writers think such flashbacks are necessary to develop the character of Angel, why don't we see them for anybody else and why did we see so few of them in the three years Angel spent on Buffy? I think I would have preferred fewer flashbacks and more explanation of the drug trade the demon was involved in.

Some quick final thoughts. Okay, it's Liam. I'd have been happier if it were Angel. If the Kwaini are all female, how do they reproduce? Possibly the males belong to a different species of demon. I was so happy to hear Kate ask how Angel got around in the day. I loved undercover Cordelia. Almost as much as I loved demon sawing Cordelia.

Lines of the week:

"Well, I guess I can forget about reading him his rights." - Kate commenting on the lack of rights accorded the demonic and the dead.

"Ever since she ran me through with a 2 x 4, things have been different." - Angel with a statement only a vampire could make.

"I was never in your way, boy." - Angel's father having a moment of communication with his son.

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