Angel - Untouched

Summary

Lilah sneaks into someone else's office and starts going through his things; Darla is there. She sees Darla has a powder which she uses to keep Angel sleeping. Darla says you can understand and control a person through his dreams. We cut to Angel waking up. He goes downstairs to find Wesley and Cordelia fighting. She feels they should pay Gunn for his help and Wesley thinks Gunn might be insulted by the offer. Angel isn't sure, but Cordelia orders him to do it. He reminds her she works for him, but she says he can't fire her because she gets the visions. He agrees to consider it on a case-by-case basis. He asks for coffee and Cordelia points out he has slept through the entire day. He says he's been sleeping strangely. Wesley tries to talk to him about this, but before he really can Cordelia has a vision of a girl in an alley and Angel rushes off. In the alley, two men corner the girl. One pulls a knife and comes at her. A dumpster flies across the alleyway crushing the two men.

Angel arrives after the police. He pretends to be a detective and gets a uniformed officer to tell him what happened - basically two guys were pinned to the wall by a dumpster. The girl isn't there. Angel walks off as the real detective arrives. In a nearby building he finds the girl. He tries to talk to her, but she's afraid. She panics and impales him with a rebar (all this movement of object is achieved telekinetically). She can't believe this doesn't kill him. He says she needs someone like him, someone she can't hurt. He gives her his card. She runs off and he falls down in agony.

Bethany arrives home. She's staying with Lilah. We learn Lilah spoke at her school and told her to look her up if she came to the city. Lilah tells her she's special. Angel is getting bandaged. Cordelia points out he knows nothing about the girl, not even her name. He points out he was impaled with a rebar - Cordelia notes she understands perfectly what that's like. They know nothing about telekinesis. Gunn arrives and Angel asks him to look into the would be rapists. After Gunn leaves, Cordelia bugs him about paying Gunn and Angel agrees to bring it up. He says it's been a long day, but he's only been up for three hours.

Both Bethany and Angel are in bed. Bethany dreams of being a little girl. Her father, who calls her rabbit, has come to get her. In her dream she is using her power to move things and the lamp by her bed in real life is moving. Lilah watches this. Bethany gets increasingly upset and the lamp flies across the room hitting Lilah. Bethany awakes and shocked at what has happened flees. Angel is dreaming of Darla and the evening when she brought him the gypsy girl. He and Darla are making love on the floor. He wakes in the middle of the morning. Wesley and Cordelia have barely slept. Wesley says telekinesis is triggered by emotional distress. Bethany walks in, she says her name is Bethany Chaulk.

Lilah is talking to her boss, Holland. We learn she recruited Bethany as a potential assassin. Holland says the scenario in the alley, obviously this was planned by Lilah, may have been too much. He wonders what will happen when they pull the trigger. But he says he has confidence in Lilah. Her phone rings, it is Bethany telling her she is at Angel's. Cordelia has given Bethany some clothes. Bethany and Angel talk as Cordelia and Wesley watch. Cordelia senses a sexual vibe from Bethany. Bethany is trying to describe how she feels when she uses her power. She says she has never used it on purpose. She gets upset and says she shouldn't be there. Wesley walks in and says he agrees. He suggests she be returned to her father. This triggers an outburst which sends Wesley flying and hurls Angel into the light where he almost burns.

As she patches him up, Wesley reveals that Cordelia's comment about a sexual vibe made him consider sexual abuse as the triggering factor for the telekinesis. He guessed it was her father. Angel tells him to leave, that she won't feel she can trust them with him around. He also tells Cordelia to go home for her own safety. Later he finds Bethany in one of the rooms that's in disrepair. She says she feels ashamed. Later, Angel is dreaming of being with Darla on the night he took the gypsy girl. Bethany walks in waking him. She offers to have sex with him, but he refuses. She tells him the low regard she has for men in particular and people in general. She isn't sure he is qualified to help her. He says he may be the only one who is. She asks who Darla is but he just tells her to go to sleep. As she walks out, we see Darla in the shadows.

Holland tells Lilah Bethany is interfering and she has to get her away from Angel. Angel gets Bethany to use her power; she mentally picks up a scarf. Cordelia tells him Gunn wants him to meet him. She says she'll go shopping with Bethany. Gunn and Angel break into the apartment of one of the men who attacked Bethany. The man is in critical condition at the hospital and Angel can't enter but Gunn does. The man was expensive muscle. Angel offers to pay Gunn and he accepts. As Angel leans in the doorway, the man dies and Angel falls into the room. He hits redial on the phone and it calls Wolfram & Hart. At the mall, Cordelia tells Bethany not to have sex with Angel. She says Angel sees her as a damsel in distress and she thinks it's more complicated, that Bethany is kind of dangerous. That the men she squashed she could have just floated away. But somehow a decision got made. She tells Bethany about her vision and that she felt and understands Bethany's fear. As they walk, a man bumps into them and quickly injects Bethany with some drug. As she starts passing out, two men grab her. Cordelia tosses coffee in their faces and grabs Bethany, rushing her out. Two men in a van grab Bethany and toss Cordelia aside. But Angel and Gunn drive up and chase the van. Angel rescues Bethany. Lilah finds out and orders them to pull the trigger.

At the hotel, Angel is telling Bethany that Lilah betrayed her. She doesn't want to believe this. Her power is out of control. Angel calms her, but when she opens the door her father is there. She unleashes a burst of power, knocking down Angel and Cordelia and blowing out the windows on the top floor. Her father tells her Lilah is her friend and he and Lilah want to help her. She finally manages to control her power. She lifts her father in the air, choking him. Then she hurls him out the window. But she stops him a few feet from the ground, then letting him fall, so he isn't seriously hurt.

Bethany is at Lilah's packing to leave. Lilah pleads with her to stay, but Angel is waiting at the door and she is intent on leaving. Not even telling her Angel is a vampire makes a difference. As they leave, Lilah says sweet dreams.

Analysis

Foreshadowing, I think that's what this episode is about. The Bethany storyline is a condensed version of the Angel story. A young Bethany is assaulted by her father, which turns her into a monster who kills people. Ultimately, she wants to stop and control her power. Lilah, from Wolfram & Hart, wants to control her and uses her father in an attempt to do this. With the help of her friend Angel, she resists and frees herself. Angel is assaulted by Darla, turning him into a monster who kills people. Ultimately, he wants to stop. Lindsey, from Wolfram & Hart, wants to control him and uses Darla in an attempt to do this. Clearly, Angel needs to seek the help of his friends - Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn - to resist and free himself. These two stories are nicely tied together by two scenes - Bethany sleeping with Lilah walking into her room (clearly analogous to Darla's nighttime, dreamtime rendezvous with Angel) and Bethany walking into Angel's room and hearing him talk of Darla (making her the only person with an inkling of what he is dreaming of). The connection between Angel and Bethany is made explicit by Angel when he tells her, when they first meet, that they are both different from other people. He further emphasizes this when he talks of his experience in controlling dangerous power, paralleling his vampirism and her telekinesis. More subtlely, the parallel is displayed when Bethany talks of the shame she feels at her use of her power, not unlike the shame Angel felt after the return of his soul and before encountering Whistler.

Angel's anger at his father made him an easy tool for Darla to use. And once she had transformed him into a monster, he used his power to destroy his family and formed a new family with her. Bethany's hatred of her father made her an easy tool for Lilah to use. But where Angel used his power to kill, Bethany informed by Angel's experience merely uses her power to free herself from her father. Where Angel had only Darla to go to, Bethany has the extended family of Angel and his friends to go to rather than falling into the clutches of Lilah and Wolfram & Hart.

In the scene in the mall, I fully expected Bethany to ask Cordelia about Darla. If nothing else, I would have expected Bethany to wonder if Darla were Angel's girlfriend. But more important is the active role Cordelia plays in this and other scenes. She pushes Angel to pay Gunn, essentially extending their extended family. She asserts her authority as the visionary. In the mall, she is warning Bethany. When the men try to grab Bethany, Cordelia fights them off and delays them enough so Angel can get there. When Cordelia first came on the scene, in City of or the early Buffy episodes, she was a passive participant in the demon hunting actions. But now she is taking an active role. Arguing not only with Wesley (who is pretty much a milquetoast) but with Angel (in addition to pointing out she can't be fired she even mildly defends Wesley when she thinks he's being fired), Gunn (in First Impressions), and Bethany - all of whom are powerful enough to squash her.

Angel's sleeping is becoming more serious and more obvious. He spends only a small part of the day awake now. Wesley has noticed something is seriously wrong - that Angel sleeps more and is less rested. Cordelia comments on it. It even interferes with his attempt to save Bethany - she ends up waking him. And, of course, Bethany interferes with Darla's plans by waking Angel. It's ironic that Lilah's plans for Bethany are curtailed because they interfere with Lindsey's scheme. Had Wolfram & Hart not been scheming against Angel through Darla, Lilah might have succeeded in turning Bethany into a tool for them.

Bethany's decision to go to Angel first happens when both are asleep and dreaming. She of her father and he of Darla. Her dream is only suggestive of sexuality. She is obviously frightened in the dream and her father calling her rabbit - a sexually suggestive term - has strong implications. Angel is dreaming of having sex with Darla. When she first arrives in the office, Angel has just awakened and Bethany talks of being tired - Angel's constant complaint.The most intimate moment of their contact occurs when Bethany interrupts Angel's dream, offering him sex with her. His refusal puts him in a different category from the other men in Bethany's life. It suggests to her that not everyone wants to use her and some people actually genuinely want to help her. Bethany is desexualized in this scene (and in the earlier dream, in Cordelia's comments, and in the later scene at the mall Bethany is definitely perceived as a sexual individual). Angel has been struggling to establish a friendship with Bethany, not a sexual relationship. But Bethany has come to perceive herself largely as a sexual being and in this scene she attempts to resexualize herself. Angel's refusal not only reassures Bethany of his friendship, but helps her alter her negative self image. Angel's sexual tie to Darla - who is secretly watching - is also disrupted. At Lilah's, the references to brains to play with and sweet dreams are clearly about Angel and Darla's scheme. Angel has won, but he is in more danger than ever before.

Bethany has a surprising insight into the real nature of things. And Cordelia matches her in this episode. Cordelia intuits the sexual element of Bethany's trauma and she also realizes Gunn would like to be paid. She further understands the complexity of Bethany, that she combines both good and evil and the real issue is not saving her, but helping her move in the right direction. Angel merely sees her as an innocent to be saved. Bethany realizes Cordelia and Wesley are Angel's family, she refers to it as a family business. When Cordelia says Angel helps people with problems, Bethany asks Cordelia what her problem is. And Angel is helping Cordelia with her problem - her selfishness and her guilt over being selfish. He's also helping Wesley deal with his failure at being Faith's watcher.

Bethany's triumph comes from listening to both Angel and Cordelia and combining their advice. Angel has helped her learn to control her power. But Cordelia has talked to her about choices. Bethany chooses not to use her power to kill her father, just remove him. She realizes that she can exercise finer control and can make good choices, that she is not a monster.

I loved Holland in Blind Date and To Shanshu in LA and I loved his brief appearance here. Like the mayor from Buffy, he exudes a creepiness and a sense of enormous evil even without saying or doing anything. The way he tells Lilah he has confidence in her is more of a threat and more frightening than any act of violence could be. I'm glad to see he's still there and still pulling the strings in the background.

Wesley has a subtle role to play in this episode. He starts the interrogation of Angel - which is curtailed by Cordelia's vision. It's clear he has noticed the change in Angel. He also hears what Cordelia has to say about Bethany's sexual vibe and quickly links that to what he has learnt about the triggering factors for telekinesis. This leads to his reference to Bethany's father and the breakthrough it occasions.

Some quick final thoughts. I love Angel impersonating a detective and not giving the uniformed officer time to think. I also loved Cordelia's comment about knowing what it's like to be impaled with a rebar. Glad to see the writers haven't forgotten Lover's Walk. What was Darla's reaction to Angel's bedroom scene with Bethany? Has this changed her perception of things? I appreciate the way pulling the trigger was a reference to bringing up the triggering factor, her abusive father, that gave Bethany her power.

Lines of the week:

"Ok. Maybe she can hurt me a little." - Angel in a moment of honesty.

"Our new clients are monsters." - Lilah quite possibly telling the unvarnished truth.

"So it's a family business." - Bethany perhaps seeing more clearly than Angel gives her credit for.

"There's not enough yuck in the world." - Cordelia with a much shared sentiment.

"You wouldn't like me when I'm happy." - Angel telling the unvarnished truth.

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