Angel - Are You Now or Have You Ever Been

Summary

Angel shows Wesley and Cordelia a picture of the Hyperion Hotel, an abandoned building. He wants them to research it, but won't explain why. We flashback to the 1950s when the hotel was still in operation. The bellboy is sent to deliver the rent bill to room 217 and is scared to go there. He drops off the bill and runs away before the occupant comes to the door, it's Angel.

In the present, Angel enters the deserted hotel. We go back to the past as Angel enters the crowded hotel lobby, people are watching HUAC on the television. A black family are being refused rooms. On his floor, Angel sees a mysterious man lurking in the hallway. As he's about to enter his room, he sees two men (clearly homosexuals) leaving. In his room he takes a bottle of blood out of the bag he is carrying. He goes back into the hall to get some ice. He sees a salesman talking to someone in one of the rooms. He walks back to his room, seeing the mysterious man again. In his room, he finds a woman who pretends to be a maid and then says she's hiding from her jealous boyfriend. Someone is at the door. He hides the woman and opens the door to find the mysterious men who demands he turn over the woman. Angel denies there is a woman and slams the door in the man's face. He grabs him and tosses him out. The woman follows into the hallway, says her name is Judy, and tries to thank Angel but he goes back into his room slamming the door shut. We are back in the present with Angel standing in front of room 217.

Wesley has found the hotel closed in 1979 when the concierge went room to room with a shotgun. They don't understand why Angel has them investigating this building. Cordelia finds a photo from 1952 with Angel in it. Wesley wonders if Angel is ashamed. Back in the past, Angel is in his room smoking. The salesman next door puts a gun to his head while listening to a mysterious whispering. Angel hears the shots but does nothing. The bellhop and manager come to the room, the whispers tell the manager the hotel will be closed if news of the suicide (the third in 3 months) gets out. He tells the bellhop to hide the body in the freezer. In the lobby, some of the guests have heard of the suicide. A screenwriter thinks not telling the police is a good idea, as does an actor who is the gay man Angel saw earlier. A man sitting there hears the whispering voice telling him it may not have been suicide and that he may not be safe. At night, Judy meets Angel outside. She tries to talk to him, but he is monosyllabic in his replies and she eventually gives up.

Wesley and Cordelia have found that the bellhop was convicted of the murder of the salesman. They think Angel did something that led to someone's death. In the past, the hotel guests are becoming convinced the salesman was murdered. Judy calls Angel into her room and tells him about the suspicions and that the police may come. She shows him a suitcase full of money she stole from the bank in Kansas she worked at. She thinks the PI (the mysterious man she claimed was her boyfriend) works for them. She says they fired her when they found out she was passing for white. Her boyfriend left her and she was angry and stole the money. She hasn't spent any of it. She says as mixed race her blood is tainted. He says they will hide the money. In the present, Cordelia has a picture of Judy who checked into the hotel in 1952 and disappeared.

As Angel and Judy hide the money, he hears the whispers and realizes something is in the hotel driving people crazy. As Judy goes on about returning the money and the possibility of forgiveness, Angel ponders what inhabits the hotel. In the present, Angel finds the hidden bag, still full of money. Wesley is wondering what was in the hotel, Cordelia tells him it was a Thesulac, a paranoia demon. She hands him the phone, Angel is calling with the information. He is also turning the power back on in the hotel. He tells Wesley he now realizes the Thesulac never left the hotel and he needs them and Gunn to come and help him raise the demon since it needs to be corporeal for them to kill it.

In the past, Angel goes to a book store to get information on paranoia demons. The store owner tosses him a bible, exposing him as a vampire. But Angel gets the better of him and he agrees to show him the books. In the lobby, the guests are arguing amongst themselves. The playwright suggests the actor killed the salesman because he found out he was gay. The actor calls the playwright a red. In her room, Judy hears the whispers saying she'll go to prison. The bookstore owner tells Angel he has to make the demon corporeal, either by raising it or waiting for it to have a big feed. He gives Angel the implements needed to raise the demon and an axe to hit it with, although he says a lightning bolt would be better.

In the lobby, the guests are arguing more fiercely. The PI enters with a picture of Judy. Angel walks in with the implements and finds the lobby empty. We cut to the present and Wesley conjuring the demon. Angel thinks the whispers are getting to Wesley and Gunn since they are sniping at one another, but Cordelia says they were like that in the car coming over. Wesley raises the demon and we switch to the past. Angel walks onto his floor to see Judy surrounded by accusers. He goes to help her and she accuses him. The PI finds the axe and hits him with it, knocking him out. They grab him and take him to the lobby and hang him. Suddenly shocked by the sight of his swinging body, they all leave. Angel frees himself and drops down. The Thesulac materializes, fat from feeding. He says Angel really reached Judy, which made her an even tastier morsel for him. He says the hotel is full of tortured souls who need Angel's help. Angel says take them all.

In the present, the demon recognizes Angel and says he likes the meal he's brought, especially Wesley full of paranoia. Angel realizes the demon is still feeding in the hotel. Angel grabs one of the demon's tentacles and electrocutes it, destroying it. He goes upstairs to Judy's room, the demon has been keeping her there all these years. She recognizes Angel and, finally free, dies. Angel tells them they are moving in. He assures Wesley he doesn't find him especially paranoid.

Analysis

Exactly how bad a sin do you have to commit to be damned for eternity, exactly what constitutes sin, and how long does it take to atone for such sins. Those are really important questions for people watching a show about an ensouled vampire seeking his salvation. And we get a little more insight this week into what the sins were and Angel's motivation for his long period of atonement.

In Prodigal, we learn of Angel's human past as Liam and how his sins as a human (especially his hatred of his father) formed the actions he took in his early years as a vampire. In Five By Five, we saw Angel killing the gypsy girl (precipitating the curse) and even after being ensouled trying to act as a normal vampire. In this episode, we see him many years after the curse, no longer active as a vampire, but still sinning. This time his sin is one of omission rather than commission, but none the less sinful for that. He's given a chance to help someone, someone whose life experience is similar to his own: an outsider who made a mistake and wants to make up for it. But his resolve is weak and he ultimately abandons her. Worse, when he leaves the hotel in 1952, he tells the demon he can have all the denizens of the hotel - formally abandoning his quest to save them. Angel isn't responsible for the evil within the hotel, but he is now responsible for its continuance.

The title of this episode is a clear reference to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) and its reign of terror. In fact, in one scene a tv is tuned in to the committee's investigation. HUAC fostered the kind of paranoia the episode is about and encouraged people to turn on one another. In a sense, HUAC was about sin. It attacked communists and homosexuals and anyone who had ever had contact with communists and homosexuals. These sins were seen as contagious and the only way to free yourself from them was to do penance in the form of admitting your sin and denouncing all the others. The residents of the hotel fall into this madness in the scene in which they all accuse one another of various crimes. And Angel sells them out, as so many people sold out their friends to HUAC, when he leaves them to the demon.

The Hyperion is full of people leading secret lives or on the fringes of society. The black woman passing for white, the woman who drinks her breakfast and whose credit at the liquor store has been cut off, the homosexual, the prostitute, and the vampire. The hotel itself pretends to be something it isn't. It has a surface patina of morality and correctness, but beneath is corruption. It hides the suicide of the salesman, it refuses to rent rooms to a black family, it maintains a pretense that it's inhabitants are ordinary people. And at the core of the hotel is a demon.

Angel is constantly refusing to do the right thing in this episode. He sees the salesman acting strangely and ignores him. When Judy comes to him for help, he doesn't give it. He drives away the PI simply because he wants his privacy. But he isn't really helping Judy as his slamming the door in her face demonstrates. She explicitly recognizes this in the scene where she tries to thank him. When the salesman kills himself, Angel doesn't even react. When he does decide to help, probably because he sees similarities between Judy's situation and his own - both are outcasts from society, half breeds; he does the wrong thing helping her hide rather than getting her to own up to her error and accept the consequences. The right thing is to return the money (Judy even hesitantly suggests this), but they simply hide the money. He sends Judy to her room, despite her obvious fear of being locked in, and leaves her. When he returns and the demon mad crowd turn on him, he abandons them. He does this even though the demon assures him Judy really cared for him. He doesn't really listen to Judy or really pay attention to what is happening around him. Judy really wants forgiveness and ultimately that is what Angel seeks. But he's too inwardly directed at this stage in his life to hear and understand that.

Some quick final thoughts. I'm glad to see the hotel used as a new base of operations. I'm even happier to see Angel find some money, it helps explain how he finances his adventures. I don't understand why Angel was in a photo taken after he had ceded the hotel to the Thesulac. The picture was of the arrest of the bellhop for the murder of the salesman. And that obviously didn't take place during the episode. Did Angel hang around for awhile? Didn't any of the other guests wonder why he wasn't dead?

Lines of the week:

"It's not that vampires don't photograph. It's just that they don't photograph well." - Cordelia making a mythological breakthrough.

"It's just blood." - Angel talking from experience.

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