Angel - The Shroud of Rahmon

Summary

Two detectives are interrogating a suspect in a decapitation and attempted murder of a police officer. It's Wesley. He rambles, saying he was trying to warn him. That he grabbed her hard. We see his memory of Angel, dropping a woman to the ground his mouth red with her blood. Wesley tries to explain that he was there to stop what happened. Then he realizes he doesn't know where Cordelia is.

We flashback to the start of all this. Wesley has just noticed Cordelia has changed her hair style, she did it 10 days ago. He does compliment her and after a pause she compliments his suit. She tells him Angel has been spending all his time brooding about Darla, but he has gone off with Gunn to help Gunn's cousin who is involved in something illegal. Wesley has tickets to a premiere and invites Cordelia who is thrilled.

Gunn's cousin has got a job as a driver for a group planning to rob a museum. He hasn't met them and he'd rather not get involved, but he'll get killed if he backs out. They are bringing in a vampire from Vegas to help them, Jay-Don. Angel knows of him. Angel tells Gunn he'll take over and it's too dangerous for him to get involved. Angel arrives home and thinks Darla is there, but it's Kate looking for her. Angel warns her not to get involved. She pulls out a cross sharpened to a stake to fend him off. He knocks the cross aside and warns her that if she gets between him and Darla she'll end up dead. She leaves.

Cordelia and Wesley return. Wesley has splashed cocktail sauce all over Cordelia, whose top is badly stained. Angel sees them and is stunned at Cordelia's hair, which he too has only just noticed. Wesley tells him he accidently splashed Cordelia while they were meeting Chow Yun Fat. Cordelia crouches below the counter and changes. Wesley asks about Gunn's cousin. Angel tells them. He says he'll meet Jay-Don and take his place. Wesley knows of him and says he's very loud and flashy. Angel says he ran with the Sinatra rat pack. They obviously aren't sure Angel can impersonate a flashy person.

Angel meets Jay-Don at the bus station and stakes him. He impersonates him and is picked up by a demon who takes him to a meeting with a human and another demon. The driver arrives, it's Gunn impersonating his cousin. The demon who picked up Angel explains the plan. They are stealing the shroud of Rahmon. It's in a vault in the museum. The human, Bob, who is a security guard at the museum, will let them in. They will blow off the vault door, but the vault has a thermal alarm system inside. Hence the need for a vampire who has no body temperature. He enters and deactivates the alarm letting them in to steal the shroud which is in an extremely heavy case. They are planning to pull the job right away, Gunn and Angel thought it was planned for later in the week.

Wesley and Cordelia are doing research and find the shroud of Rahmon. The gang get to the museum. Bob lets them in and they take out the other guard. They start drilling into the vault door to plant the charges. At the police station, two detectives reveal they have been following the robbers. They have pictures and just got one of Angel which they show to Kate. The gang blow the vault door. Wesley determines the shroud drives people mad. They realize the gang may be stealing it that night and rush out to warn Angel. Angel has entered the vault and we can see the shroud is beginning to affect all of them. Angel deactivates the alarm and they enter and lift the box. Wesley and Cordelia arrive at the museum and are affected. They split up, although they know they shouldn't. Kate arrives at the museum and calls for backup.

Angel and Gunn start fighting and drop the case. The glass panel breaks. The demons break up the fight. Bob has them tie him up and asks them to hit him, so it looks as if he was just doing his duty and is innocent. One of demons rips his head off. Wesley bumps into Kate. He tries to warn her about the shroud. Cordelia is staring at her reflection in a display case. She steals a necklace from a display. The gang start breaking down. Wesley rushes in and tries to warn Angel. Kate shows up and tries to stop them. Angel knocks Wesley aside and grabs Kate, biting her.

The backup finally arrive and find Wesley alone leaning over Kate's prone form. The gang get the shroud back to the hideout. They break the case open and start fighting over it. The two remaining bad guys end up killing each other. Angel and Gunn struggle over the shroud. Angel asks Gunn to trust him and he lets go. Angel burns the shroud, releasing them from its spell.

Wesley is about to be arrested by the detectives, but a very pale Kate comes in and tells them to let him go. Later, we see Kate at her desk which has several pictures of her father. She is remembering what happened. Angel bites her, but not fatally. He whispers to her to stay down, she sees that behind him is one of the gang pointing a gun at her. He's saving her. Wesley and Cordelia are talking. She swears she returned everything she stole, but she's wearing the necklace she took. He says he fears Angel's blood lust may have been reawakened from biting Kate. Angel is also remembering what happened. But in his remembrance of biting Kate, the passion is foremost.

Analysis

Like the rat pack movies (and this episode seemed very much a parody of Ocean's Eleven a not very good movie best known for starring the entire rat pack), this episode was pretty much fluff. But it was redeemed by a strong and ambiguous ending.

Wesley concerns himself with the reawakening of Angel's blood lust. And that's a serious concern. This season, we've seen Angel mired in thoughts of his past. Whether his early years in Los Angeles as depicted in Are You Now or Have You Ever Been or his time with Darla. Although most of his memories are of his ensouled time, we do see that even with a soul Angel was capable of evil. He abandoned the people in the hotel in Are You Now or Have You Ever Been and he admits, in Darla, that his desire for a long time was to reunite with Darla and he was even willing to kill (admittedly only what he considered evil doers) to effect that reunion. Here he reverts to vampire form and bites Kate, although his intention is to save her from the demons.

In my review of Guise Will be Guise, I spoke of the need for Angel to integrate his Angelus and Angel parts into a single unified being, to make himself stronger. In biting Kate to save her, he does something very like that. He uses the most essential aspects of his vampire nature to do good. But the danger in accepting and using the vampiric side of him is what Wesley fears. Because once Angelus is awakened, he may strive to seize control and overwhelm the Angel side of his personality. Wesley is concerned that Angel cannot achieve the balance he needs to have between light and dark. But even when exposed to the shroud, Angel never seems to move entirely to the dark side. He always maintains some sense of his ensouled self. He saves Kate and later Gunn. While there is clearly a struggle here, it is one Angel wins.

But blood lust isn't the only thing happening in that scene. Plain ordinary lust also seemed present. We know that the vampire's bite is as much about sex as it is about feeding. The bite is part of their mating and reproductive practises. In the final scene, the closed captions say the noise we hear is 'breathing passionately'. Both Angel and Kate are remembering this moment. We know Kate once felt romantically for Angel (this was pretty clear in Lonely Hearts and Sense & Sensitivity). And it's significant that earlier in the episode Angel mistakes her for Darla, the other woman with whom blood and lust are combined. And Kate, like Darla, comes unbidden into Angel's home. Both these women pursue Angel and at the same time want to keep him at a distance. Both have threatened him with crosses (Kate in this episode and Darla at the end of Dear Boy. Both have been used as tools by Wolfram & Hart, yet neither is really an agent of that organization.

More significantly, both these woman are angry with Angel and blame him for their problems. And Angel feels a certain responsibility toward both of them. He wants to save them both, yet he's involved in a combative relationship with them both. His emotional response to Darla makes it difficult for him to deal effectively with her. Wesley and Cordelia see this and try to control his obsession with her and his inability to be rational when confronting her. They've had to stop him from rushing off into danger (most notably when he attempts to break into the Wolfram & Hart offices in Guise Will be Guise. But they haven't yet noticed the very similar situation with Kate. Instead, their energies have been directed toward controlling Kate and trying to get her to think clearly in regards to Angel, most notably in Dear Boy. Unfortunately, in this episode everyone goes a little mad and neither Wesley nor Cordelia nor even Gunn is able to restrain Angel and Kate.

It's interesting that when in his maddened state Angel comments on Gunn's obsession with his sister's death and how it has shaped him and then on Kate's obsession with her father's death. He demeans both of them, but in his meanness there is a lot of truth. Not unlike the truth in the statements of the false swami in Guise Will be Guise. In the Buffyverse, truth seems to be something evident to everyone but spoken only by the mad (see the Buffy episodes Real Me and No Place Like Home) or the evil (the fake swami and Spike in Lover's Walk). It's not clear whether these statements have any effect on Gunn or Kate. Gunn does trust Angel enough to let him have the shroud and Kate trusts him enough to free Wesley and not pursue Angel. It may be that the induced madness of the shroud has served as a medicine to cure or at least alleviate the madness which has plagued Gunn and Kate since the deaths of their loved ones.

Some quick final thoughts. I love Cordelia's new hair. It was also nice to see her actually return a compliment to Wesley. And it was nice of him to think of her and invite her to the premiere. It was even nicer to see that the Virginia Bryce connection and Wesley's new profile hasn't been forgotten. I loved the scene where Angel knocks aside the cross stake Kate is holding. This reminded me of a similar scene in the Langella Dracula which I've always liked and remembered. Why don't Cordelia and Wesley move into the hotel. I know Cordelia has a great place, but she already spends almost all day at the hotel. And Wesley doesn't really have much of an excuse.

Lines of the week:

"Who does shallow better than me?" - Cordelia happy to be invited to the premiere.

"What, you met Chow Yun Fat." - Angel getting excited.

"People you've got to leave your tombs earthed." - Cordelia with some good advice.

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