Angel - Darla

Summary

Angel is drawing a picture of Darla. Wesley comes in to see if he is alright. He asks if there is something on his mind and Angel says no. But we see the floor is littered with his drawings. Darla is sitting on the floor, her hands and wrists cut up. She has smashed the mirrors. Lindsey comes in and talks to her. She reminisces about her time with Angel and says now they are soul mates.

It's 1609 in Virginia. Darla, the human one, is dying. A priest enters her room. We learn she is a whore. He sends the doctor and nurses away. He reveals himself as the master. He has come to vampirize her, in fact he was with her the previous night. In the present, Angel is telling the gang he wants to find Darla. Gunn says Wolfram & Hart must have her living somewhere and there likely is paperwork connecting them to the place. Angel says to look for a place with a view, Darla always liked a view. We flashback to Darla introducing Angel to the master for the first time. Angel isn't impressed, they live in the sewers. The master views humans as pests and wants to destroy the world. Angel enjoys the pleasures of the human world. They argue and the master beats him up, but Darla goes with him. The master lets them go, saying they won't last a century together.

Angel tells Wesley the master named her Darla. He doesn't know her real name. Wesley suggests Wolfram & Hart brought her back to keep Angel distracted. Lindsey has brought Darla to the office. Holland talks to Lindsey privately and Lindsey explains she is cracking up. Holland says they will have to speed things up. In 1880, Dru, Darla, and Angel are in London. Dru is complaining that she has no one and Angel suggests she make herself a companion. Spike (as William his human self) bumps into them. Dru is obviously interested. In the present, Cordelia has found Darla's place. Gunn and Wesley go to check it out.

Darla tells Lindsey she cannot remember her human name. She says she became nothing when Angel killed her. She wonders if they brought back the girl whose name she cannot remember or Darla. Lindsey says they brought back her. She wonders why he hasn't kissed her. He says he didn't know if she wanted him to. She says she wouldn't have let that stop her. He kisses her and she says that's how humans get what they want. She says they just want her to get at Angel. She bites him on the neck and says that's how vampires get what they want. She asks who she is and he says Darla. She says Darla would snap him in half. She says she can feel her body dying and decaying.

Darla has attacked a gypsy camp hoping to reverse the spell on Angel. But they won't help her. Dru and Spike kill all the gypsies. Wesley and Gunn return and tell them that all the windows in Darla's placed were smashed. Angel believes this is the weight of her soul, she can't bear to look at herself. Wesley suspects a trap. Darla phones. She asks Angel if there is a hell. She says she is sick with fear, something she hasn't felt in 400 years. Lindsey comes in and she says she has to go to Angel. A guard walks in. They struggle and Angel hears a gunshot.

Holland and Lindsey watch the security tape of what happened, the guard was shot. Lindsey took Darla out. Holland says Lindsey is off the project, that they picked up Darla within a couple of blocks, and that they are terminating the project. He also says the police have a suspect in custody for the murder of the guard. Angel is determined to rescue Darla. He says he knows what she is going through, suddenly having a soul, and he doesn't want her to go through it alone, like he did. Cordelia says he's not alone. Wesley reminds Angel he went a hundred years without seeking redemption. Angel says he sought Darla.

Flashback to the Boxer rebellion and Darla. Angel suddenly appears. He has tracked her down. She pulls a knife on him and threatens to cut off his head. She says he stinks of vermin (he has been living off rats since he cannot bring himself to kill people now that he has a soul). She cannot bring herself to kill him. He says he wants to be with her again, to be a vampire again. She isn't sure of him, but she still loves him and gives him a chance.

Lindsey is walking through the garage and making a call on his cell phone. Angel grabs him from behind. Lindsey was calling Angel, he wants him to save Darla. Angel isn't sure he believes him, but he takes the address Lindsey gives him - an abandoned building Wolfram & Hart use for things like murders. Back in Boxer rebellion China, Angel is wandering through the rioting streets. He encounters a missionary family, including a baby, and saves them from an attacker. Darla calls him and he goes to her, saying there is nobody there and directing her away from the family. Spike and Dru arrive and tell them about Spike having just killed the slayer. Dru senses the missionaries and Angel gets them all to move away. In the present, Darla is thrown on the floor by two men who draw their guns. Back in the past, Angel returns to Darla's room. She says he's been feeding on vermin again. She says he has only killed evildoers. She reveals the missionary baby. She knew Angel was hiding something and went back and found them and killed them. She brought the baby for Angel to kill and prove himself to her.

In the present, Angel rescues Darla. Lindsey is back in the office and sees Holland talking to the dead security guard. Holland tells Lindsey they needed to fool him because they needed Darla to believe in what was happening. They needed to provoke a real crisis. Lindsey thinks their goal is to get Angel to sleep with her and become evil. But Holland says they expect Angel to save her soul. Darla awakes and calls to Angelus. Cordelia tells her it's Angel. He asks them to leave and talks to Darla alone. He says he understands what is happening to her. She says she knows he does and realizes he never had anyone who understood to help him. She says she knows he will help her. She asks him to vampirize her. He won't. She says she can't stand the beating of her heart, he says it's a gift. She says she released him from the fear of death and wants him to return the favour. He says she damned him. She tells him to take his revenge them. He says he can't. In the past, he says the same thing about killing the baby. Darla says he disgusts him and he grabs the baby and flees. In the present, Darla runs out and tells him never to look for her again.

Analysis

The critical moment in this episode happens at the beginning when Darla says she and Angel are soul mates. She means they both have souls now and so are equally cursed, from the vampire perspective. But they are also soul mates in that their lives are inextricably intertwined and they still have strong feelings for one another. These emotions peak in the concluding scene when Darla asks Angel to do the one thing he won't do for her. He's determined to save her, but not by damning her. For Darla, having a soul is a curse. We've always thought that way as well, since the gypsy curse is what ensouled Angel. But Angel has finally come to realize that the real curse was being vampirized. That Darla didn't give him a gift, she damned him. And, now, blessed with a soul he's able to forgive her. He cannot gift her with vampirism because he knows it's not a gift. And he won't vampirize her in revenge, because he has forgiveness for her in his quest for forgiveness for himself.

Darla doesn't understand this, yet. She is feeling the burden of life. She talks of feeling her body dying, of hating the sensation of her heart beating. But Angel says this is a gift. This is what he is fighting and hoping for. This was an episode rich in irony. Angel's curse is revealed to be salvation. Darla's gift is damnation. Being able to die is the ultimate goal and eternal life is the punishment.

I liked the reuse of the Boxer rebellion scene from Fool For Love. In the Buffy episode, we saw things from Spike's perspective. Here we see Angel's point of view. And this second perspective adds depth. Spike's perspective was limited to himself and Dru. The interaction between Darla and Angel was obscure at best. Now we see that Angel was committing perhaps his greatest sin - abandoning the quest for salvation in order to be with Darla again. Both male vampires are striving to gain the love of the females. Spike needs to prove himself worthy by killing the slayer. And doing this bonds Dru even more closely to him. Angel is striving to bond with Darla, but cannot bring himself to kill the missionaries and the infant child. As much as he wants to be with Darla, he cannot ignore what his soul tells him. But the fact that he tries shows how deeply he did love Darla. The master was wrong. This was not a relationship that would end. Only the gypsy curse could split them apart and even that (and even death) has not been able to keep them truly separate.

In that scene, we also see the vampiric rise to dominance of Spike. As the foursome walk away Spike leaps upward and forward. He has become the alpha male of the group. Darla makes this clear when she confronts Angel that evening. He has been feeding on vermin while Spike killed a slayer. Angel has even failed to protect the missionaries, the one thing he was trying to do. Finally, forced to decide between eternity with Darla and saving the baby, he chooses the infant. In Darla's eyes he has failed her while Spike has risen to heroic heights in the eyes of Dru.

If, a few years ago, you had told me that the Darla/Angel romance would rival or maybe exceed the Buffy/Angel romance, I wouldn't have believed it. But I would have been wrong. Darla and Angel were together for more than a century. They defied the Master and Angel even tried to defy the gypsy curse. His love for Darla was so great he chased her around the world and tried to become a vampire again - ignoring the pain of his conscience. And not even death has been enough to destroy Darla's love for him. Maybe these two are really meant to be together. In Dear Boy, Angel said he had never found true happiness with Darla because he lacked a soul then. I'm betting they could find it together now.

Darla cannot even remember who she was before she became a vampire. She cannot remember her name and she asks Lindsey who he brought back, the vampire or the nameless girl. He says both, her. But Darla is split in two. What she remembers is her vampiric past. But she is human now. This is similar to the problem which besets Spike (split between poet human and killer vampire) and Angel (trying to resolve Angel and Angelus). Reintegrating herself is what she has to do to be happy. She believes destroying half herself, by being revampirized, is the solution. Angel knows this is wrong and so does Holland. Holland continues to grow as a villain in this episode. He plays Lindsey and Darla beautifully. He knows Angel will not vampirize Darla and he knows this will drive her even further away from him and make her even less likely to unify her warring parts. And by keeping Darla in this state he preserves a strong ally whom he can easily control.

Both Wesley and Cordelia work hard at consoling Angel. Wesley tries to help him come to grips with his obsession with Darla and regain control over himself and the situation. Cordelia does something more important. She makes Darla call him Angel, reinforcing the distinction between Angelus the pure vampire and Angel who combines Angelus and Liam. More importantly, she tells him he is not alone. This is a statement which goes practically unnoticed, but it's critical. Angel is part of a community, there are people to help him. Darla is seeking help, but ultimately rejects the one person wanting, willing, and able to give it. Angel hasn't made that mistake, he's ready to listen to his friends. But it becomes clear to Cordelia, from his nonresponse, that even the friendship of Wesley and herself is not the same as a fellow vampire who truly understands what is happening. They can never help Angel as much as they would like and he can never explain himself to them as clearly as he would wish.

Some quick final thoughts. In the scene where the living Darla dies, we learn she was a whore. It's interesting, given that background, how much Angel's infidelity bothers her. What is Lindsey life expectancy with Wolfram & Hart? He has betrayed them twice, although this time it was what they wanted. And why is Angel so angry with him. Lindsey has come through for him when it counted and when he did turn on Angel it cost him his hand. I think they are even.

Lines of the week:

"Soul mate." - Darla's ironic description of her current relationship with Angel.

"That's what we suck at." - Cordelia admitting as a detective agency they aren't very good.

"Both. Neither. You're just you." - Lindsey as confused about vampires as they are about themselves.

"400 years and still too short." - Darla on life.

"It's a cancer, this soul." - Darla on the gift given her.

"You're not alone." - Cordelia trying to get through to Angel.

"I just might be coming back for you anyway." - Angel threatening Lindsey.

"While Spike was out killing a slayer you were saving missionaries - from me." - Darla with her final condemnation of Angel.

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