Angel - The Trial

Summary

Wesley and Cordelia are worried about Angel who is in the basement from which a strange sound is emanating. Cordelia says he's obsessed with Darla. He comes up and they see he was doing his laundry. He tells them he realizes he has to let go and just be there for Darla if she needs him. Gunn rushes in saying he has found Darla. Angel was lying, he was searching for Darla all the time. She's no longer on the Wolfram & Hart payroll and is living in a cheap motel. In the motel, Darla is putting on her makeup. Lindsey comes in saying she was hard to find.

Darla is at Wolfram & Hart with Lindsey and Holland. Holland claims they would not hold her by force. He says she is their moral responsibility. He shows her some papers and asks how she wants to deal with it. Gunn and Angel are at the motel. We flashback to France 1765. Angel and Darla are hiding in a barn fleeing a vampire hunter named Holtz. Angel says they should go to Romania. Darla wants to have sex, but as Angel moves toward her the hunters set the barn on fire.

Darla is in a bar with a vampire. A loser who thinks he's exciting to women now that he's a vampire. She strings him along, saying she wants him to vampirize her. She says she'll be his mate, or he can just use her for as long as he wants and she'll leave when he's tired of her. He finally agrees and they go into the alley to do it - he doesn't even really know how so she says she'll walk him through it. Angel stakes him. He says if she becomes a vampire, he'll stake her too and he doesn't want that. She says she wouldn't let it happen again. She tells him she's dying. We flashback to France where Darla knocks Angelus down and steals their horse. She flees and tells him if he survives she'll meet him in Vienna.

Angel returns to his hotel with Darla and explains the situation to Wesley and Cordelia. Angel doesn't believe she is dying. He leaves Darla with them and goes to Lindsey's, who invites him in. He has lots of medical reports from many doctors, including his own. He says it is true. She is dying from a syphillitic heart condition, the same disease that was killing her when she was human the first time. Angel believes him. He thinks Lindsey is in love with her. Lindsey wants him to vampirize her, but Angel says he will find another way.

He returns and tells Darla what he learnt. He takes her to the club and gets her to sing and the host to read her. The host explains about Ramone's betrayal when Angel was sent to the fake swami. The host says some things cannot be fixed, but Angel insists. The host gives him an address and says to go there if he is ready for the big plunge. The address is a pool - without water. Angel dives in and goes right through the bottom and is transported elsewhere. He's confronted by a mystical being who says he can save Darla if he passes three trials. If he fails, Darla dies instantly. He asks for Angel's shirt, shoes and socks. Angel has to walk through a gateway guarded by a demon. They fight. Darla is in another room but asks to see what is happening and is allowed to. Angel defeats the demon, cutting it in half. But the gate doesn't open and the demon literally pulls itself together again. He cuts it in half again and pulls the two halves apart, hanging them up on opposite ends of the room. The gate opens and he walks through.

The second trial requires Angel walking across a floor of crosses and through a gate. The crosses burn his feet and the key to the gate is hidden in a font of holy water which he has to reach into. Darla sees this and feels for him and condemns the being running the test. In the next room, Angel is chained and a wall of spikes is aimed at him. He's told he has to die for Darla to live. Darla wants him to stop. The being running the test points out the world is a better place with him in it and Darla can promise nothing. But he accepts death.

As the spike's come at him, he materializes in the room with Darla. He's told he's passed the test. But when the being goes to cure Darla, he says he can't. She's already been brought back to life once and it can't be done again. Angel goes mad, smashing up the room and beating up the guards. They return to Darla's motel where Angel offers to vampirize her. But she refuses. He says he will spend every minute of her remaining time with her. Then Lindsey and some men burst in. They bind Angel and in walks Dru, who begins to vampirize Darla.

Analysis

This was a sad and deeply ironic episode. Darla wants to live forever and pleads with Angel to vampirize her. He refuses and instead sacrifices himself to give her renewed life. His sacrifice is accepted, but she cannot be saved. He finally is willing to accede to her request and vampirize her, but she refuses. She has come to believe that he is right and it is better for her to die as a human than live as a vampire. Then Lindsey bursts in with Dru (sired by Angel in his most evil act) who begins to vampirize Darla. So Darla gets what she wants (vampirization) when she no longer wants it. Angel gets what he wants (Darla is saved) in the way he most wanted to prevent. And Dru revenges herself on Angel (who drove her mad and vampirized her) by vampirizing the now human Darla who vampirized and hence damned Angel. Just to make things complete, it was Darla who gave the gypsy girl to Angel which precipitated the curse and led to all of this.

I have to wonder what happens off screen after Holland shows Darla her medical report. Do they reach some agreement, perhaps to arrange for Darla's vampirization. Was Darla a willing party to summoning Dru - one vampire she might reasonably expect would help her. Was her change of heart for Angel's benefit? If that's true, we lose some irony but gain an awful lot of clever evil on the part of Darla and Holland. Of course, it's also possible that Dru is entirely Lindsey's idea, a misguided attempt at saving Darla. And it may be that Holland is playing them all, including Lindsey.

Angel takes a step backward and one forward in this episode. He moves backward when he ignores the advice of Wesley and Cordelia. He is obsessing about Darla and he's right when he says he has to let her go. Of course, he's lying when he says he's ready to do that. He moves forward when he sacrifices his life for Darla's. That's a particularly big sacrifice given how poorly Darla has always treated him. In addition to killing him and turning him into a vampire, we learn she abandoned him to almost certain doom in France, kicked him out when he was cursed, rejoined with the Master to fight against him in Sunnydale, and was ready to work with Wolfram & Hart against him. If this is the way vampires in love act, you have to wonder how they act when they hate each other. The being running the test emphasizes Angel's importance and Darla's weakness. But despite everything, Angel decides to accept death. Not only is he self sacrificing, but he has avoided the sin of pride, the hardest sin to avoid. He doesn't put his life above that of another, even when the other has been so evil and has already lived so long.

When Angel materializes after the spikes shoot at him, Darla shouts Angel. She has normally called him Angelus and this seems to be a critical turning point. Not only has Darla realized that Angel truly is a changed and different being, but she has changed as well. She can see the angelic in him while before she only wanted to see the parody of the angelic that was Angelus. His act of sacrifice has opened her eyes to a world in which sacrifice has meaning.

Two small things really bother me about this episode. One, the only one second chance rule comes out of nowhere and is a kind of deus ex machina to keep the plot going. I'd be much happier to learn this was actually part of the Wolfram & Hart scheme, but I doubt it. More significantly, why would Angel believe medical reports from Wolfram & Hart or Lindsey. My first move would be to get Darla to a doctor I actually trusted. And she certainly looks terribly healthy for someone with only two or three months to live.

Some quick final thoughts. Surely Darla intended to kill the idiot vampire, not actually be with him. I'm glad we got a little closure about Ramone and the events of Guise Will be Guise. The flashbacks are being used a little too much. I hope we learn more of Holtz (is he a watcher or some other supernatural figure).

Lines of the week:

"We had tea." - Wesley proud of being English.

"I figured you'd nag." - Angel's excuse for lying.

"God doesn't give us a say in these matters." - Holland saying something I never expected to hear from him.

"You are, however, our moral responsibility." - Holland saying something else I never expected to hear from him.

"But you were just soulless, bloodsucking demons. They're lawyers." - Cordelia on the difference between amateurs and professionals.

"How did you think this would end." - Lindsey mocking Angel.

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