Angel - Redefinition

Summary

Wesley and Cordelia (carrying boxes with personal possessions from their office) and Gunn are leaving the hotel. They try to understand what just happened. Cordelia blames Darla. Gunn acts unconcerned. Wesley says maybe they should just let Angel be alone. They walk away in different directions. Inside, Angel tosses the pictures he drew of Darla into the furnace.

Angel is working out, toughening himself up for the upcoming conflict. He doesn't think he's ready yet, but he soon will be. At the scene of the massacre, the police have arrived and there are two survivors; Lindsey and Lilah. Virginia (from Guise Will be Guise) is with Wesley, trying to make him feel better. She says he will easily get a new job and asks him what else he does. He can't think of anything.

Angel is continuing his work out, thinking how Wolfram & Hart always kill at a distance, impersonally. He thinks he's ready and goes down into the sewers. Lindsey and Lilah are at the office waiting to see what happens. Lilah is sure they will be made the scapegoats. Lindsey says he was just following orders. When they enter the office, Darla and Dru are there. Darla says she left them both alive because she figures Wolfram & Hart will only kill one of them, thus leaving the other as a contact with the world above for her and Dru. She wants to get power and feels Wolfram & Hart can help her get it. Meanwhile, she will focus on the world below. Lindsey asks if this is about Angel and Darla gets angry, saying not everything is about Angel.

Angel is laying in wait for a gang of vampires. He attacks and kills them, staking most of them and using a sword to cut off the head of the last one. As he leaves, he drops the sword to the ground and takes off his coat, dropping it behind him. He says he's ready. At the karaoke club, the host is singing. Wesley comes in and orders a blood mary without blood. He's thinking of singing something by Cat Stevens. He turns and sees Cordelia who has just come in. They realize each of them is there to sing, Cordelia was thinking of Shania Twain or Madonna. Gunn shows up as well, admitting his brusqueness earlier was just an act. Meanwhile, Angel has a demon tied up hanging upside down and is dunking him in water, forcing him to reveal where Dru and Darla are. He leaves the demon hanging as he goes after them. They are in a bar, a rough place that is a demon haunt. They come in and tell the demons they are putting together a crew. Dru senses Angel is there and starts elliptically talking about it. This disconcerts Darla, but she leaves the address of the place interested demons should come. Outside, Angel realizes he isn't ready, he's still too close to Darla to fight her.

Lilah comes to Lindsey's office. She suggests they protect themselves by stealing files that they can use to blackmail Wolfram & Hart as Lindsey did in Blind Date. He realizes she is taping the conversation, hoping to incriminate him and save herself. At the bar, Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn are drinking and blaming each other. The more they drink, the more they fight. Then they sing together and hug. Almost alone in the bar, they are in the maudlin stage of their binge. The host comes over and they want him to tell them their destinies, but he says the big guys are about to talk. Cordelia has a vision, a demon dragging a bleeding girl. They go to help.

Angel arms himself. He ignores the ringing phone. The gang are in the alley from Cordelia's vision. The demon and girl aren't there, but Wesley sees a trail of blood they can follow. Dru and Darla are going to meet their recruits. Dru thinks Darla misses Angel and misses being human, but Darla denies it. Dru has a vision of fire. Angel arrives at the factory where the demon recruits are waiting. The gang find the injured girl and the demon. They fight it and it's tough. It bites Wesley badly, but Gunn kills it. They go to the hospital.

Darla and Dru arrive at the factory. Darla says she is curious as to what Wolfram & Hart's plan for Angel is. They open the door and find all the demons dead. Angel is standing inside, silently smoking. Darla calls to him saying Angel and then Angelus. But he doesn't answer. He drops his cigarette which ignites the puddle of gas on the ground. The flames rush to the entrance and Darla and Dru are on fire. They scream wildly and Angel simply leaves. Darla opens a fire hydrant and they save themselves, but they are badly burnt and frightened. Darla wants to know what that was, she says it wasn't Angel or Angelus.

Lilah and Lindsey are told that neither of them has done all that well. But their competition with each other is seen as a positive thing. They are made co vice presidents of special projects - the job Holland had before he was killed. Angel is practicing knife throwing. Wesley comes in and tells him they have decided to keep the agency open without him. Angel says nothing. When Wesley leaves, Angel's aim is off. He says that Wesley and the others can fight the good fight, but someone has to fight the war.

Analysis

Think back to City of, the first Angel episode. Angel is a loner wandering the streets of the city dispensing justice and destroying demons. Doyle warns him that as a loner he is at risk. He says to truly fulfill himself he has to maintain contact with humanity. So Angel hires Doyle and Cordelia and enters into human relationships. And it works, for a while. In this episode, aptly titled Redefinition, he starts on the reverse track. Angel starts undoing the humanizing process he began a year and a half ago.

It started at the end of Reunion, when Angel fires Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn. This cuts the strongest bonds which tie him to humanity. But there are other indicators of his gradual retreat from the Angel we have known to something darker. He thinks about not being on the level of Wolfram & Hart (who kill impersonally) but being able to get there. Even as he thinks this, he is descending into the sewer. Clearly, that is a level down. After he destroys the vampires in the sewer, he drops his sword and leaves his coat. He's symbolically divesting himself of possessions, of the things which tie him to this world. He also distances himself emotionally from everything. His burning of the drawings of Darla are symbolic of his cutting the emotional bond he feels toward her. His casual torture of the demon (and then leaving him hanging helplessly) is another symbol of his unfeeling nature. He's building an armor of insensitivity. This armored is pierced at the bar when he encounters Darla and Dru. Dru senses his presence, he hasn't completed sealed himself off - she talks of him remembering when Darla was warm, and when he goes outside he admits he is not yet ready. He still can be emotionally stirred by the mere presence of Darla - even as she was emotionally over wrought by the mere thought of him.

Angel's reaction to this is the confrontation with the demons who have answered Darla's call to arms. Interestingly, this confrontation happens off screen. I think at this point Angel is removing himself so far from the world that even we, the omniscient viewer, can no longer see him. What we see are the results of his decision - the dead demons and the new Angel. He is no longer clothed in black, he is darkness. Dru calls him a shadow and that is what he has become - a being without substance walking through the world but untouched by it. Without a word or an emotion he sets Dru and Darla on fire. And he does it not to kill them, had he wanted to do that he would have stuck around and made sure they were dead, but to let them know that he has changed. Darla gets the message. She knows this is neither Angel (who could never be so callous) not Angelus (who could never kill so joylessly). This is something new that Angel has created.

A similar process, but a lighter one, is happening to Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn. Each of them was alone and without resources when Angel brought them into his makeshift family. Cordelia, in City of, was basically starving and living in a slum. Angel gave her a job and purpose in life. Despite all the joking, Cordelia grew enormously through her association with Angel, as demonstrated in To Shanshu in LA (where she fully realizes the need for them to continue their mission) and in First Impressions (where she actually goes out of her way to help another). Wesley was at loose ends in Parting Gifts when he first arrived. Like Cordelia he was broke and friendless and Angel took him in. The association with Angel built Wesley's character and self confidence as evidenced in Guise Will be Guise where by emulating Angel he is able to be heroic (and it was nice to see Virginia there to reinforce this point and to remind us how much Wesley has grown). When Gunn first appeared in Warzone, he was a single minded and suicidal man without anything to care about in life once his sister was killed. Angel gave him responsibility and by introducing him to Cordelia gave him someone who cared about him and wanted to save him from himself (the enemy she pointed out in First Impressions). But as they stand outside the hotel, possessions in hand and ready to leave, all this is forgotten. The family Angel has created is, temporarily at least, destroyed. And this is symbolically reinforced by their exiting in different directions.

But they soon realize that they are bound by more than the presence of Angel. Virginia tells Wesley he could do something else, but like the others he doesn't know what he wants to do. Even Gunn, who puts up an uncaring front, realizes he needs to be doing something. Having tasted of purpose, he can no longer live without it. They all end up at the karaoke bar and they realize they are in the same boat. They spend the evening together, get drunk, sing, and appeal to the host for guidance. But a higher power than he guides them. Cordelia has a vision and, even though Angel is not with them, they go to the rescue. It's tough, but the combination of Cordelia's vision, Wesley's smarts, and Gunn's muscle leads them to victory. And while they are beat up, it is the demon who is dead. Cordelia's vision leads them to the scene, Wesley's sleuthing helps them locate the demon, Gunn's fighting skills defeat the demon, and Cordelia's always clear perspective sums up the significance of their victory. They have functioned as a unit and they have triumphed. They miss Angel, but they don't need Angel to continue doing what they do - helping the innocent.

Meanwhile, Darla is attempting to dehumanize herself. She mocks Lindsey's attraction to her. She keeps insisting that Angel is not her primary concern or interest. In her recent human incarnation, her emotions were strongly evoked by both these men. When Lindsey thought he alone had been spared, he likely thought Darla did it out of love for him. And he was clearly ready to believe that when she told him so, only to laugh to at him. He had feelings for her, even if she did not for him. And her desire for and attraction to Angel doesn't need documenting. Her continual denial is evidence of her continual obsession. She dives into the demonic underworld, seeking to lose herself in sordid violence. She plans to put together a group of violent thugs, exactly the opposite of what Angelus would have done. She wants to wipe herself emotionally clean of both Angel and Angelus. But when Dru senses him, Darla is unnerved. And when she sees him standing amidst the dead demons, smoking, she calls to him. Only it's not him. Not Angel and not Angelus. And knowing that, she is truly lost. The center of Darla's universe for a very long time has been that being. Now that he has recreated himself in another form, she has no purpose. While Angel has rededicated himself to his battle and Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn have found their role in life; Darla finds herself suddenly floating aimlessly.

Lindsey and Lilah are in a similar, though less dramatic, situation. Like Darla and Dru, they seem marked for death. But they don't know when or how it will happen. Their certainties, whether negative or positive, have been wiped away. They are still dangerous, but now they are driven by fear not purpose. Angel spoke of Wolfram & Hart killing from afar. This symbolizing the mechanical nature of their power - the lack of feeling in their acts of destruction. But Lindsey and Lilah are creatures of high emotion while Angel has stripped his emotions away. And Darla and Dru are no longer the calm unfeeling killers they were just days earlier. Now they are terrified creatures facing mortality. Angel has turned the tables on his enemies. He talks of being up close and bringing the fight to them. His intention is clearly to make Wolfram & Hart, and their allies, feel the same fear as their victims have.

Some quick final thoughts. How did Darla and Dru get into the office when vampires cannot enter undetected? Lindsey's superior made it clear he knew about their visit, but why did they let it happen and were they monitoring it. Are Lindsey and Lilah alive simply because Wolfram & Hart want a liaison to Darla and Dru? People would be better off listening to Dru. She senses Angel's presence at the bar and she realized he was going to set them on fire. Who was phoning Angel? Was that Wesley or one of the others trying to get his help or was it something unrelated?

Lines of the week:

"You're a renowned specialist in supernatural aid and rescue." - Virginia with her take on Wesley.

"When Wolfram & Hart take a life, they do it at a distance." - Angel understanding his enemy.

"I'm not on their level, but I can get there." - Angel describing his plan to defeat Wolfram & Hart.

"You want real blood with that?" - The kind of question only bartenders in the Buffyverse ask.

"He remembers when you were warm." - Dru sensing that Angel is still remembering Darla's brief humanity.

"Losers will be gutted and left for dead." - Darla's Darwinism.

"You know what's really, really evil. Tequila." - Cordelia having discovered a great truth.

"Angel's walked away from his duty. We're not going to." - Wesley taking charge.

"Yeah, but out of everybody here, which one of us is the dead one." - Cordelia cutting to the point.

"A shadow." - Dru's analysis of Angel.

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