Angel - Happy Anniversary

Summary

Wesley and Cordelia are straightening up their new office. Gunn arrives having distributed flyers to all the cars in the neighbourhood. But the phone doesn't work and when Wesley fiddles with the wires he takes out the power. Angel is trying to sleep and is awakened by the host, who has entered the hotel and is singing the Star Spangled Banner. He tells Angel the world will end in a couple of days. The previous night he was at the club and a human came in and sang. The host was literally knocked out by what he saw. The singer had no future after 10 PM tomorrow night and neither does anyone else. He's come to Angel because he's a champion and Angel agrees to help him. They think the singer may just like karaoke, so they decide to try the other karaoke bars in the area.

At the university, we see the singer who is a grad student working on time. He wants to separate a moment of time from the space time continuum. His girlfriend, Denise, shows up. They are approaching their one year anniversary and he's planning something special. Angel and the host are at their 17th bar (someone is singing Greensleeves very badly) and wondering if they are on the right trail. The bartender thinks he knows the singer. The host has him think of the singer and sing a few bars of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. He sees the bartender's mental image and it is the man they are looking for. In his lab, the student thinks he has the solution, but his experiment fails. He leaves and two demons show up. They say he is the one and change part of the equation on the whiteboard.

Cordelia is putting on a brave face, getting candles now that the lights are out. Gunn and Wesley tell her to stop trying and join them wallowing in depression. She does, they have three chairs set behind the only desk and they sit together. Virginia shows up with imported chips, little packets of cheese, and champagne. Cordelia takes the champagne and starts drinking. Virginia has a job for them. A very wealthy friend's family is being stalked by a demon. They will pay buckets of cash to have the demon removed.

The student returns to his lab and sees the changed equations. He tries his experiment again and now it works. He runs out of the lab shouting with glee. Angel and the host are at the university library. Angel gets a bunch of year books to look through for the student. We see the demons from the lab in the library watching. The student, we learn his name is Gene, comes upon Denise and her friend talking. Denise is getting read to dump him, something she will do after their big anniversary night. She tells her friend she finds him lonely to be with. She says theirs wasn't the kind of love that lasts. Gene walks away in despair.

In the library, the host finds Gene's picture. Angel asks the library assistant about Gene and is told where he can find him. The demons attack. In his lab, Gene decides to give Denise an eternal love. Angel fights off the demons and the host says they are lubber demons, devotees of a cult waiting for the end of humanity. From what they said, he believes Gene is the one they are waiting for. At the lab, the equipment is missing and the guy they find there can't understand how it happened. He does tell them Gene was working on stopping time. He explains how Gene would do this while we see Gene setting up his equipment in his bedroom.

Angel and the host are driving to Gene's. The host starts talking to Angel about his problems, the way he's stopped caring and driven away everyone around him. Angel says what happened to Darla and the fact that he has to kill her is bothering him. And he realizes he has to do something about Wolfram & Hart. He intends to kill Darla and burn down the law firm - actions he doesn't feel the gang are ready for. That's why he fired them. He doesn't believe he can ever atone for the evil he has done and seems ready to give up on the hope for redemption. The host says things will get better and before the conversation can continue one of the demons from the library appears in front of the car and Angel screeches to a halt. They are surrounded by demons. Denise shows up at Gene's.

Gunn has killed the demon the gang were hired to stop. But Wesley realizes the demon was a puppet of a human master. He deduces which of the family members was really responsible - the aunt - and exposes her. Angel fights the demons as Gene and Denise have an awkward dinner. Angel defeats the last demon and he and the host get back in the car as Gene and Denise make it to the bedroom. Angel and the host arrive to find demons at Gene's place. Gene switches on his device as he and Denise make love. A demon downstairs modifies the time bubble causing it to expand. But even as it begins, Angel bursts in. He manages to defeat the demon and destroy the time bubble. Denise dumps Gene.

The host, Gene, and Angel are sitting together. Gene is sorry for what happened. At the host's prompting, Angel tries to commiserate with him, but just gets depressing. The host tells Gene stopping time isn't the solution, that change is what life is about. Gene goes to get them beers. Angel admits he feels badly about leaving the gang in the lurch. The gang are partying, celebrating their success. A client comes in and asks which of them is Angel. Wesley says 'it's just a name'.

Analysis

Is there any other show on tv, now or in the past, where an episode about the end of the world could be classified as light? Anyway you look at it, this was fluff. Fun fluff, but still fluff.

Let me start with the big problem in this episode - the science. Except for solving everything by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, the science in this episode was at about par with your average Dr. Who show. Now, I'm a big fan of Dr. Who, but there is no way the science on that show makes sense. And frankly, you never want to peek behind the curtain. The Buffyverse holds together just fine as long as we don't dwell too long on why drugs work on beings without circulation and how a creature which can't see itself in the mirror is always so perfectly coifed. Similarly, the science in this episode works fine until they try to explain it. A few equations on a whiteboard are all I need, please don't try to make it make sense. It won't, it can't, and it will just destroy the illusion. To make matters worse, since the demons knew the equation, could use the equipment, and had access to the lab - why didn't they just do it by themselves? On the science end, nothing worked in this episode.

I like what they are doing with the gang. The chemistry amongst Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn is great. It reached a peak in this episode when they sat together and wallowed in despair. And I loved Virginia's interaction with them. Every moment of this scene worked beautifully. From Cordelia's forced cheerfulness, to Wesley and Gunn telling her to give it up and wallow, to Virginia's cheery entrance and dribbling out of information. The relationship amongst the three has clearly strengthened. Most interesting, Gunn seems to have given up his pretense of disinterest and has really joined in. He and Wesley seem to have bonded, a result of their adventure together in Blood Money. And they are interacting naturally with Cordelia. Virginia isn't truly a member of the group, but she is trying to help and I'm glad to see that she cares enough about Wesley to do that. I also like the fact that Cordelia treated Virginia pretty much like she treats Wesley and Gunn - she was implicitly accepting her as one of the inner circle.

I also loved the scene where Wesley, in the tradition of bad English detective mystery, deduces who the real killer was. This scene worked beautifully as a parody, but also had some great throw away lines, like the one about impotence. It also showed the role each of them plays. Gunn provided the muscle, killing the demon. Wesley was the brains - deducing the identity of the murderer. And Cordelia was there to wrap up the lose ends - stopping the guilty aunt from escaping. At the party, the gang take the final step in cementing their identity. Wesley tells the client Angel is just a name, not a person. They have made the break from Angel and formed a self sustaining unit on their own.

The most important part of the Angel storyline came when he and the host are driving to Gene's. The host analyzes Angel's problems - the first insight into his psyche we've really had since he changed. He talks about the way Angel has driven everyone away from him and isolated himself from humanity - the very thing he was warned against in City of. He takes this to the next step, noting that Angel has moved from helping the helpless to hunting down the guilty. That he has replaced the role of champion with that of vigilante. Before he helped people, now he doesn't care about people at all. Or, at least, that's what he pretends. But he does give the money back to Anne in Blood Money and in this episode he does go to help the host save the world. Even though, as the host points out, the end of the world doesn't seem like such a bad idea to him. Angel is trying to dehumanize himself, turn himself into a pure evil fighting machine, but he hasn't quite succeeded yet.

The host's analysis finally gets Angel to let up, in an uncommon outburst. He admits to despair - he doesn't think it's possible for him to atone for all the evil he committed. He's angry at Wolfram & Hart for taking away Darla's chance at redemption. He says he will have to kill Darla and burn Wolfram & Hart down to the ground - acts his friends weren't ready yet. He fired them because they are still human, incapable of the horrible violence he has decided he has to inflict. He feels they are better off outside. The host tries to convince Angel that things will change, they will get better. But Angel has to really feel that, not merely be intellectually aware of it. Theologically, despair is the only unpardonable sin because those in despair will not ask for pardon. If Angel is convinced he cannot be redeemed, he's right. He has to have hope and the host is trying to ignite the spark of hope in his heart. He has to get back together with the gang because they personify hope (it would have been easy for them to give up but they have decided to continue the fight against evil) and because the care they have for Angel is proof that he can be redeemed. If good people like Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn care for him, surely he cannot be beyond hope of salvation. But these aren't things Angel can just learn from the host, they are things he has to come to believe in his heart.

All that analysis must have done Angel some good, because he does connect with Gene. He empathizes with him, realize they both almost destroyed the world because of the women they loved. He also admits he was tough on his friends by firing them.

I also liked the way the host took over the role of Cordelia. Like her, he had a vision of a disastrous event - a vision which caused him discomfort. He went to Angel to act as the champion and worked with him to find the threat and defeat it. Like Cordelia, his emphasis was on the vision and the research with little help coming from him in the conflict. He also spoke to Angel like Cordelia. He was forthright (always Cordelia's forte) and the dialogue often sounded to me as if it could just as naturally come from Cordelia.

I liked the parallels between the two story lines. Angel and the gang both have a mission, but both are without an immediate task. Both are hanging around without anything to do. An outsider who is a friend (the host and Virginia) arrives with a mission. In each case, succeeding in the mission reinforces their purpose (Angel is constantly reminded by the host that he is a champion and that is his role and the gang succeed in destroying a demon and its human controller thus proving they are competent demon detectors) and helps them with their personal problems (the host points out that Angel manages to reconnect with a human and for the first time Angel admits to concern about his friends while the gang get the cash that will allow them to continue their mission).

Some quick final thoughts. It's interesting that the host indicates an interest in Cordelia. Since a romance with a demon is not something she has ruled out, you have to wonder if this will lead somewhere. Also, the host indicates something really special in store for Wesley and Angel should have paid more attention to that. I like the fact that Ramone and the seabreeze problem have not been forgotten. I loved the three chairs set behind the desk - they really did share. I find it impossible to believe that Gene could move all that heavy equipment by himself and that his apartment would have a power source capable of running it. The fact that Angel says he will kill Darla demonstrates that he realizes she didn't die when he set her on fire, something that wasn't completely clear until now. I loved Cordelia munching away while Wesley deduces.

Lines of the week:

"Think we can do it?" - Wesley starting that slide into depression.

"I am so glad I met you guys. It's entertaining, really." - Gunn sharing the love.

"You just get darker and darker." - The host noting the change in Angel.

"Stop trying" - Gunn letting Cordelia off the hook.

"Sometimes you need to wallow." - Wesley giving them all some advice.

"There's always more down." - Gunn imparting some worldly wisdom.

"The post-sympathy-bone walkout is your only escape hatch." - Val on the simplicity of university relationships.

"Blood vengeance is a luxury of the lesser being. You're a champion, Angel." - The host explaining the facts of life to Angel.

"It's a lot colder in here." - Angel letting the host know he's in a very bad place.

"It's just a name." - Wesley making the final break.

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