A blind woman is walking down the street. Elsewhere, Angel fights and defeats two vampires. He hears groaning and finds a dying man. The blind woman appears, she is the killer. They fight and she matches him. He knocks off her glasses and we see she is really blind. She knocks him down and flees. Wesley and Cordelia do some research and discover the woman is human, Vanessa, and is currently on trial for a double murder, defended by Wolfram & Hart. Angel goes to the courtroom and hurls her glasses at her (she left them at the scene). She catches them with one hand. At Wolfram & Hart, Holland is congratulating Vanessa on being acquitted. He talks privately with Lindsey, asking if Vanessa unnerves him. He says she scares him. He says Lindsey has had some bad luck this year. He also says it's the time of year they start getting rid of the dead weight in the firm. He suggests Lindsey is getting restless, wondering when he will move up. He says Lindsey has to find his place in the scheme of things before he can be happy. He tells Lindsey to start preparing another defense, because Vanessa has another job - killing some children.
Angel angrily hurls a phone against the wall. He's upset because Vanessa was acquitted. He complains that the world is structured for the Wolfram & Hart types. It works for them because they have no torment, no guilt. He remembers when he was like that. Lindsey walks in saying he wants out and needs Angel's help. Angel can tell Lindsey is really afraid, but doesn't know why he should help him. Lindsey reveals that the firm knows about Angel's past - his father and how he murdered his family. He tells Angel he was born into terrible poverty. Angel doesn't care. Lindsey tells him that Vanessa is going to kill children, but he doesn't have much in the way of details. But there are files in the vault at the firm. Lindsey is afraid to go back there. They have mind readers. Angel says if he wants to change, he has to do something. Lindsey gives Angel the plans to the building. There is a demon guarding the vault. Lindsey will enter and leave his security pass for Angel. Angel will break in through the sewer and enter the vault, Wesley will research how to defeat the demon. Lindsey points out the shamans guarding the building will know the instant a vampire enters. Angel goes to Gunn to ask him for a favour.
Lindsey enters the building as Angel starts burning his way in through the sewer. Lindsey goes to the vault level and bumps into Lilah as she comes out of the records room. He pretends to be doing research. He leaves his badge for Angel and goes to the security room. Gunn enters the building doing an angry, black man routine. He drags in a cloth draped person, who turns out to be a vampire. At the same time, Angel enters the building. The shaman signals a vampire is present, but the guards think only the one in the lobby. Lindsey redirects the camera focussed on Angel entering the vault area. The guards stake the vampire. Angel enters the vault and uses a powder Wesley prepared to defeat the demon. He gets the disks and then sees a scroll which he is drawn to. He takes it, setting off an alarm. He makes it out as the vault closes and calls Lindsey on his cell, telling him to get out. Angel makes it out, but Lindsey is caught in a sweep. Holland has mind readers. All the young lawyers are brought into a room where the mind readers examine them. Holland speaks briefly to the mind readers. He tells the group he is disappointed by disloyalty. He tells Lee, the other lawyer we've seen before, that he has been negotiating with another firm and planning on taking clients with him. A guard shoots him in the head, killing him. The blood splatters on Lindsey. Holland dismisses the group, but asks Lindsey to remain.
Angel returns to his office. Wesley says the scroll is ancient aramaic and he'll try to translate it. Cordelia looks at the disks and finds they are encrypted. Holland tells Lindsey he knows everything. Lindsey says he just wants out. Holland says he has what it takes to go all the way, but he doesn't know where he belongs. He says Lindsey doesn't have a clear sense of himself yet. He tells Lindsey to take a few days off to consider things. He says he believes in Lindsey, in his character, and is sure he'll find the love of self that will make everything clear.
Cordelia is on the phone to Willow, getting help on decrypting the files. They succeed and discover Vanessa studied with the nanjin (monks)and blinded herself. She achieved enlightenment, of a sort, and blinded herself to make her other senses all the more powerful. They learn her targets are three child seers, also blind, who will grow in power as they mature. Lindsey walks in saying that's what makes them a threat to Wolfram & Hart. The children are in the country at a safe house with a guardian and will be meeting their mentor later that day. Only the address of the house is known and that is where Vanessa will attack. Angel sends Wesley and Cordelia to intercept the mentor. He and Lindsey go to the house to get the children and take them to the mentor. At the house, Vanessa kills the guardian. Lindsey and Angel arrive to stop her killing the children. They fight and Angel realizes she has trouble sensing him if he doesn't move. He uses a freeze and then burst of action technique and defeats her. They get the kids to safety.
Wesley tells Angel the scroll is the prophecies of Aberjian and it talks of the children. It also mentions a vampire with a soul. Although Angel did not know this, he is not surprised. Wesley tells him there is a design in the chaos, and he has his place in it. Lindsey returns to the office to give Holland the disks, although he has kept copies to keep himself safe. Holland tells Lindsey he handpicked him. That he saw in him potential to see the world for what it is. Not about good and evil, but about who wields the most power. And he says that the power Wolfram & Hart wields makes the world a better place. He congratulates Lindsey on having the nerve to stand up to the firm and win. He says only a handful of people have that kind of nerve and he needs them working for the firm. He offers Lindsey his job, a big promotion, as he is moving upstairs. He tells Lindsey if he wants to turn down the job, to walk out. He leaves. Lindsey closes the doors, staying. He stares out the window at the dark cityscape. Cut to Angel staring at the city himself.
The greatest enticement to evil is the opportunity to do good. And that's why Holland and Lindsey are probably the most interesting villains to hit the Buffyverse since the mayor met Faith. I was worried that adding another series would drain the creative energies of the Buffy/Angel writers. But Buffy has at worst dipped slightly in quality this season and Angel is finishing strong.
I thought Holland was one of the senior partners they keep talking about. But since he's moving upstairs, clearly he's at least one step down from senior partner. And if those senior partners are scarier than him, then Angel is in real trouble. Holland reached villainous perfection when he told Lindsey that the world was a better place because of the power he and others in the firm wield. He played Lindsey perfectly. First, he demonstrated his willingness to kill without conscience. But Holland also shows he isn't some kind of homicidal maniac. If he were, he'd be easy to dismiss and to defeat. He doesn't immediately kill Lindsey, even though Lindsey has betrayed him. In fact, there are multiple betrayals and Holland has at least two chances to kill him. But he doesn't. Instead, he talks of Lindsey's character. That character, he says, is the reason he hired Lindsey and the reason he has confidence in him to do the right thing. He praises Lindsey for standing up to the firm. For actually besting it. Holland know that the kind of person the firm needs is the kind of person with the guts to pull the stunt Lindsey does and win. Lindsey's character makes him dangerous opponent, but it also makes him an incredibly valuable ally. And Holland knows exactly how to get Lindsey onside. He appeals not to his greed but to his desire to have the power to do good. He calls Lindsey's avarice and selfishness love. He tells Lindsey he must find his place in the world - knowing Lindsey sees the world divided into those who are stomped upon and those who do the stomping. And Lindsey can't say no.
As I was watching this episode, I expected Lindsey to get killed when Holland first confronted him. Or to turn against Angel and return to the fold of the firm. Or to be killed in an attempt to save the children, becoming a martyr. Instead, Lindsey stays true to himself. You know, when he opts to stay with the firm, that he's thinking of how he can use the power he know has to do good. That, of course, is how it starts but not how it will end. With that rationalization, no evil will be beyond Lindsey.
When Lindsey asks Holland who the children are that Vanessa is supposed to kill, he tells him it's best to know only what he needs to know. There's an interesting parallel here to Angel's theft of the prophetic document. The document gave Wolfram & Hart knowledge of the future, of events affecting them. Now Angel has it and it mentions him, giving him the opportunity of knowing things about his future. So, should Angel get Wesley to continue his translation and find out about the future or was Holland right? Certainly, knowledge of the future didn't help Wolfram & Hart in this instance.
Angel says the Wolfram & Hart types succeed because they have structured a world without torment or guilt. But that's not entirely true. Lindsey does feel guilt. That's what drives him to seek Angel's help and to betray the firm. Holland understands how Lindsey feels, that's why he talks to him about his place in the world and about character. What makes Holland and Lindsey dangerous as well as evil is the fact that they do understand the guilt. They have felt it. They've just learnt to put it aside. When they are searching for information on Vanessa, Wesley first thinks of a blind demon. But Cordelia looks for a human because she knows people can be awful. She's right and they are worse than demons because they do have souls and they understand the evil they do - yet they still do it. This was true of the mayor (who could display affection for Faith while killing without conscience), of Professor Walsh (who thought of herself as a mother to Riley but who performed inhuman experiments on demons and people), and now we find it is true of the lawyers at Wolfram & Hart.
Angel tells Lindsey that he is feeling panic, not necessarily undergoing a moral change. He says Lindsey needs to make a decision. Holland gives Lindsey pretty much the same advice. If Lindsey follows Angel's advice, he'll die. If he follows Holland's advice, he'll be damned. Neither is an attractive alternative. Lindsey has already said that he wants to be the one in control, not the one being controlled. He chooses life probably thinking he will have other chances to make the decision Angel says he has to make. And he's right, as long as he lives he has the opportunity to reform. But what he forgets is that he could die at any moment. That he doesn't control when his life ends, just how he lives it moment to moment. And if death comes at the wrong time, Lindsey is out of luck.
Both Wesley and Holland speak of knowing one's place. They see a place in the order of things for Angel and Lindsey. That each has a role to play. The final scene, with both men staring at the darkened city (Lindsey having just dedicated himself to darkness by accepting Holland's offer, Angel trapped in the darkness by accepting Darla's offer) makes the parallel between them obvious. Ultimately, these two have to meet in a final conflict - as defenders of good and evil. They are the same being moving in opposite directions. Angel had an unhappy childhood, became one with the darkness, was cursed and regained his soul and is fighting for his salvation and the salvation of others. Lindsey had an unhappy childhood, fought for his salvation and the salvation of others, and now is becoming one with the darkness. Angel strives to keep his soul, Lindsey is allowing his to be stolen from him. Perhaps Lindsey's soul is the price Holland is paying to move upstairs.
Some quick final thoughts. Is Gunn going to become a recurring character? There really wasn't a need for him to be in this episode. While the fight scene with the blind assassin was very good, she was woefully under utilized. It looks to me like Lilah has a thing for Lindsey. I liked the phone call to Willow and the tie in to the events of Primeval. I know this is a show where we accept demons and vampires and supernatural beings who can turn back time, but Willow walking Cordelia through the decryption of files over the phone was just too much for me to take.
Lines of the week:
"You're not going to be happy until you find your place in the scheme of things." - Holland giving Lindsey some disturbingly good advice.
"Sometimes I miss that clarity." - Angel remembering when things were simpler and he was purely evil.
"I get myself killed. That'll convince you I've changed."
"It's a start." - What Angel considers proof.
"Terminating an employee is never pleasant." - Holland confusing murder with something merely distasteful.
"Look deep enough inside yourself. You'll find that love." - Holland on his confidence in Lindsey.
"What I'm offering you Lindsey, is the world." - Holland at his most devilish.
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