Angel - Warzone

Summary

A girl is being chased by a gang of vampires. They corner her, but hear noise behind them and turn to find a gang of teenagers armed with stakes. Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia are at a party meeting a client. Cordelia is thrilled to be around so much money. The client is a software billionaire, David Nabbit, who doesn't even know the people at his party and who admits to being incompetent with women. It's obvious Cordelia convinced him that the best way to meet would be at the party just so she could mingle with all his powerful and influential guests. He's being blackmailed. There are pictures of him in a demon brothel. Wesley knows of the brothel because the council is well aware of it. Nabbit knows who is blackmailing him, but can't track this person down. He wants Angel to get the pictures back, discreetly. Cut back to the melee between the kids and the vamps, with the kids doing some serious staking. One vampire badly hurts a kid while escaping. The girl drives him off and she and the leader of the kids take the wounded boy inside. Some others are sent off to follow the vampires to their nest. The boy dies. The leader talks to another boy about food (they steal food to survive) and he makes sure some kids who just wandered in are also fed.

Angel goes to the brothel. They don't serve vampires, but he convinces the madame that dealing with him is a good idea. She's not eager to have her place associated with a scandal, nor to have her customers concerned about their privacy. She gets the girl, Lina, who was with Nabbit to talk to Angel. At the kids' hideout, the girl, Alonna, talks to the leader, Gunn, who we learn is her brother. She fears that he is getting reckless and might be courting death. She points out there were no attacks by vampires in 3 weeks and he had her lure the vampires out. He assures her he is only doing what is necessary. The guys who followed the fleeing vampire come in saying they found the nest, only 4 blocks away. Another comes in to report a vampire coming at them. They head out to take a look. The incoming vampire is Angel. He's found the blackmailer and turns vampire on him. He tells him he's moving in and taking over and he wants the photos. The kids see this and assume he's an evil vampire staking out territory.

At Nabbit's office, Wesley and Cordelia are picking up a cheque. Nabbit is really grateful to them for talking to him at the party, even though he was paying them. The cheque is really large and impresses both Cordelia and Wesley. Angel meets the blackmailer, who brings a demon to fight Angel. It's a tough demon, but Angel kills it and gets the pictures. The blackmailer flees but the kids arrive and attack Angel. They almost stake him and he flees, running into a building they have booby trapped. He's weak from the fight and the wounds the kids inflict and is having trouble fending them off and fleeing. He realizes they are human and won't hurt them. He's cornered but grabs Alonna as a shield. But he releases her. A boobytrap goes off almost killing her, but he saves her. Gunn isn't ready to listen to Angel, but he does let him go. But he warns him not to return.

At the office, Cordelia is patching up Angel while Wesley is looking at the retrieved photos. Angel is worried about the kids. He sends Wesley and Cordelia to find them and goes himself to find the nest of vampires. Meanwhile, the vampires are bemoaning their fate. Their leader is telling them they have gotten lazy. He says they have to attack. He stakes the vampire who escaped the kids and and says they have to go for the heart. Meanwhile Alonna and Gunn are trying to puzzle out what Angel is about, but having no success. Angel finds the nest, but it's empty except for one vampire who attacks him but fails. At the hideout, smoke bombs are tossed in. Gunn orders everyone out. He waits for an attack that doesn't happen and realizes it was a trick to lure them out. He rushes out to find Alonna pulled into a truck by heavily cloaked and masked vampires launching a day time attack. He sees them in the truck biting her, but can't save her.

Cordelia and Wesley are in the convertible, enjoying the sun and scouting the street for the kids. Cordelia is fantasizing. Angel gets in to the hideout (he gets a kid to invite him). He tells them they will die if they go up against the vampires, he can see they are arming themselves for battle. Gunn says he doesn't need any advice. He forces Angel into a room and locks him in. They go to attack the nest. Gunn goes in first and tells the others to give him 10 minutes. Inside, he meets Alonna who is now a vampire. Angel is trying to break out and manages to smash a hole in the wall. Alonna tries to convince Gunn he should become a vampire. Angel is struggling to open the lock, Cordelia and Wesley come in and free him. They point out he could have contacted them on his cell phone. Alonna goes to bite Gunn; he stakes her. As she disintegrates, we see Angel behind her. The other kids rush in and Gunn stops them from attacking Angel and says they are leaving. Then the other vampires appear. The leader says they are going to have a war. He brags of vampirizing Alonna. Angel says the vampires can go, if they leave immediately and he never sees them again. The leader mocks him. Angel introduces himself as Angelus and stakes the leader. Gunn leads his people away and the vampires leave.

In the park, Cordelia and Wesley are having coffee. Cordelia is upset at the way the kids have to live. She says she's thinking of prostituting herself to Nabbit. But after talking about it, she realizes she just can't. Gunn is on a rooftop looking at the city. Angel appears beside him. Gunn expects a lecture, but Angel says there is nothing he can say Gunn doesn't already know. He leaves, with the promise of help (which Gunn says he doesn't need) and with a request for help from Gunn should Angel need it.

Analysis

I really like it when a show surprises me, when it does something that is artistically right but in such a way as to shock me. And I like it when a show doesn't do something that you keep expecting it to do but which wouldn't be artistically right. I really hate it when a show squeezes in characters not because they have any purpose to serve but because the actors are getting paid and you might as well use them. I call this the Star Trek syndrome since the Trek films (and even the series) have an annoying habit of giving air time to everybody every time. Based on those simple criteria, there were two really good things and only one really bad thing in this episode. And, as a bonus, there was one really nice moment.

So let's start with the good things. The first is clearly the death of Alonna at the hands of her brother. When the vampires first captured Alonna, they looked to be vampirizing her. So I really expected her to be made a vampire to have to be staked. But as much as I expected that, I still doubted it would happen. Let's face it, that's a pretty dark moment. An innocent girl is killed and turned into a vampire and then this poor guy has to kill his own sister. Dramatically it's fantastic, but I just didn't believe the series would get that dark. So I was blown away when he staked her. This is the kind of earth shattering event that could make him reconsider his whole world view and make it possible for him to accept a truce and to accept Angel as an ally. Without the death of his sister at his own hands, the rest would have been unmotivated. So I'm glad as well as surprised it happened. This also tied in nicely with Alonna's concern that Gunn was actually courting death, eager to get close to it. But she was wrong, when he got that close he was able to pull back.

The second good thing is one of omission. There was so much emphasis on how much money they were getting for this job (when Angel goes out he asks to look at the cheque again) that I really wondered whether the cash wouldn't serve as a plot point. Would Angel give the money to those kids to help them out? I'm glad he didn't. The money might have made a temporary difference, but it wouldn't have solved the problem. Even a very substantial fee wouldn't do much for that many kids. And it would have done nothing to improve their neighbourhood. A less thoughtful person than Angel might have tried solving their problems with cash. But he knows better and instead tries to give them a new way to live.

You've probably guessed the bad thing in this episode. It's the way in which the Wesley/Cordelia scenes were squeezed in for no good purpose. The first couple of scenes were fine, they helped advance the plot. But the scene with Wesley/Cordelia in the convertible was just silly. It did nothing to advance the storyline or their characters. It was lame dialogue. The scene where they open the door to free Angel was almost as pointless. I guess you could argue it has a purpose as comic relief in what was an extremely dark episode. But I don't think the episode was so intense that it needed such a break and I don't think it was all that funny. Finally, the scene with Cordelia talking about prostituting herself was just dumb. Cordelia is way too arrogant to ever think of herself as a prostitute. And I just don't see her having such a conversation with Wesley. And there really was not enough interaction between her and Nabbit to justify the idea. Possibly some scenes were cut from the final episode which would have made this final scene more meaningful.

Now for the really nice moment. It comes when Angel confronts the vampires and the kids. He tells the lead vampire his name is Angelus just before staking him. Not Angel, Angelus. Now Angel never refers to himself that way. I think he does so in this scene because as Angelus he has a reputation as a mean, tough vampire you don't want to tangle with. He wants to scare them rather than fight them. He's not interested in staking vampires or seeing kids die and he'd like to see some kind of truce between them. This is a small thing, but it is the kind of detail I love to see in a tv show. For those who don't think a truce is possible, it actually seems one was already in effect. Alonna tells Gunn they had gone 3 weeks without a vampire attack until he used her to lure them out. It seems the vampires were already avoiding the kids because they saw them as too dangerous.

The computer nerd billionaire was a pretty lame stereotype, even worse than the same type of character in the film Mumford which he vaguely resembled. On the other hand, the party scene did lead to the two funniest moments of the episode. The first and best was Cordelia yearning for the smell of money and Angel commenting on hiding some around the office and watching her. The second was his misunderstanding when ask about his experience with Dungeons and Dragons. Of course, this scene led to the brothel scene which was pretty good, too. I was a little surprised that Wesley knew of the brothel (actually surprised that there were no jokes made at his expense because he knew). I loved the madame who wouldn't cater to vampires (why not?) and the 'look ma no hands' girl.

The teenagers fighting a war against the vampires was a pretty weak plot concept. Now, the execution was strong and the characterization good, but the general idea was lacking. Given how vampires are hampered by sunlight, you'd think it would be pretty easy for such a gang to defeat them. And if they weren't bright enough to fight the vampires in the day time, you'd expect the vampires to take them out fairly easily. But a sustained war just didn't seem credible to me.

Some quick final thoughts. Is it my imagination, or did a lot of the girls at the party look just like Cordelia? Isn't Nabbit really close to rabbit and didn't Nabbit look kind of rabbitlike. Wasn't it nice seeing Angel have to be invited into a dwelling? Angel just has problems with cell phones, doesn't he?

Lines of the week:

"I like to smell a little money once in a while."
"She's not just saying that. Hide some in the office sometime and watch her. It's uncanny." - Angel on Cordelia's sense of smell.

"Look ma, no hands." - Giving a whole new meaning to the concept of getting some tail.

"Look I'm the boss here. I say when we use the cell phones." - Angel having a Wesley moment.

"Gunn, you came all this way, you're not going to kill any vamps."
"I already did." - Gunn accepting peace.

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