Angel - The Thin Dead Line

Summary

Angel comes home to an empty hotel. The gang are sitting around with nothing to do wanting some action. A woman enters with her daughter; Virginia sent her. Her daughter was attacked and bitten by something and now has a third eye in the back of her head. We see a couple of teenagers running away from something. Anne's shelter is packed and the two running teens show up there. It's past curfew and she has no room, but they are so scared she lets them in. On the street, we see a police officer.

Merl is packing. Angel arrives and Merl gives him information about a big meeting Wolfram & Hart are having with a new client. Merl is angry at Angel and asks about Wesley, pointing out Angel never even bothers to check up on the people he fired. At the shelter, Anne talks to Kenny, the boy she let in the previous night. He tells her the cops have been attacking people without cause. She goes to see Gunn (who she must know from the street) at the office. She tells him what is happening and he agrees to help. When she realizes the gang know Angel, she tells them of her experience, saying she thought he wanted to help her but he was just using her to attack Wolfram & Hart. Cordelia and Wesley are disappointed. As Gunn and Anne leave the building, we see Angel watching them from a nearby rooftop.

Angel follows them to the shelter and Anne has the kids tell Gunn about what is happening. He is suspicious, thinking they are scamming her, but they convince him. Angel is listening to this from outside. As Angel leaves, a cop confronts him. The cop attacks him and as they fight he calmly recites Angel's rights. Angel can't seem to knock him out and eventually he knocks the cop's head right off his body. The head keeps on talking.

At the shelter, Rondell and George show up with a camcorder. Gunn has called for them. They are old buddies angry that Gunn has not been in touch. They knew about the cop activities and complain at how long it took Gunn to get involved. But they agree to help. Gunn says they will go out and record the cops hassling them, basically doing a Rodney King.

Angel goes to see Kate at work. She is still working on the murder at the dress shop and the slaughter of the 13 Wolfram & Hart employees in Reunion. He says he eventually set Darla and Dru on fire. He tells her what just happened with the cop and shows her the badge he took from the cop's body. She looks up the badge number and discovers it belongs to a deceased cop she knew.

Cordelia is on the phone with Gunn who is telling her about his plan. He refuses her help. She and Wesley agree his plan is dumb. They decide to help him whether he wants it or not. Angel and Kate are at the cemetery where Angel senses that the graves of dead cops have been disturbed. He says someone has dug them up and turned them into zombies. Kate runs to her father's grave, but he says it hasn't been disturbed. At the shelter, Wesley and Cordelia arrive. Anne tells them where Gunn went and Wesley goes off to find him. Cordelia offers to help Anne, the regular staffers were too scared to show up. Cordelia notices a girl wearing the shirt Angel gave Anne in Blood Money. It's Cordelia's and she's upset, but thinks she was just deceived when she was told it was one of a kind. A guy named Jackson comes to the door just as Anne is closing it. He basically forces his way in and Anne doesn't want to have a fight, so she lets it go. Jackson bumps into a kid named Ray who is clearly afraid of him. He basically threatens to kill Ray.

Gunn and his friends are finally confronted by a cop. Gunn tries to get the cop, who becomes increasingly aggressive, to explain why they are being stopped. Wesley runs up shouting that Gunn is his friend and hasn't done anything wrong. The cop turns around and shoots Wesley in the gut. Gunn tackles him and George grabs the gun the cop dropped and shoots him when he pulls a second gun. Gunn goes to help the fallen Wesley. George is panicked at having killed a cop, but the cop just gets up again. Carrying Wesley they all run off. The cop calls in the situation saying there are witnesses and he needs backup. Gunn tries to staunch the bleeding. He uses Wesley's cell to call for an ambulance.

Angel and Kate are at the local police station. They talk to an officer who isn't very helpful. He says crime is way down in the precinct and his captain got the ball rolling. He says they have a tough policy, but they've made the streets safe. An ambulance arrives and Gunn gets in it with Wesley. He sends Rondell and George back to the shelter. The ambulance is stopped by the police who shoot and kill the driver. Gunn takes over and breaks through the police barricade and drives to the shelter. He tells Anne the cops aren't human. The police see the ambulance and contact the local captain who tells them to contain the area and then kill everyone in the shelter.

Gunn has Anne lock all the doors and windows. Jackson comes up and we see he has a gun. Gunn blames him for what is happening to the neighbourhood, he says the prevalence of thugs like him stops people from caring what the police do to clean up the place. They almost fight, but Anne breaks it up. The police captain orders his men in, but says no gunfire. Wesley is dying and needs to go to the hospital. Gunn lifts him as Cordelia gets the door, but the squad cars are pulling up to the shelter even as she opens it. Gunn and Anne lead the kids in barricading the building.

Angel enters the captain's office and asks about the zombies. The captain shoots him. He puts on his vampire face and starts choking the captain, insisting on knowing how to stop the zombies. The zombie cops starts breaking in. The captain refuses to tell. He breaks free and flees through a secret exit. Angel follows him. Jackson tries to escape, but is caught by a zombie cop. Gunn saves him. Jackson goes with Gunn to try to stop them from breaking in. Angel tracks the captain to his lair - there are pictures of all the dead cops and magic paraphernalia. The zombies break in and Gunn and Cordelia are fighting for their lives. Angel destroys the idol of Granath (the zombie god) and the zombie cops all drop lifeless. Cordelia and Gunn go to take Wesley to the hospital. They ask Jackson for help, but he's going back on the streets. With the cops gone they are safe for him.

Angel goes to Kate and tells her he's dealt with the problem. She points out how crime stats in that precinct had dropped dramatically during the zombie rule. Now that is over. Angel says he can live with it. Kate says the job is making her crazy. She's handed the case file on Wesley and tells Angel about it. At the hospital, Gunn is at Wesley's bedside as he wakes. Angel watches. Cordelia sees him. She tells him they don't need him. She tells him to stay away and goes to be with Wesley and Gunn. Angel leaves.

Analysis

The end of this episode bothered. In the penultimate scene, we have Kate wondering whether they did the right thing in destroying the zombies since the crime stats were down in the area during their reign. I know she wasn't yet aware that a zombie cop shot Wesley, but surely she was aware the zombie cops were beating up innocent people (the attack on Angel was completely unprovoked and she knew about that) and that the creation of the zombies was itself an offense (remember how worried she was when she thought her father might have been reanimated). This is a no brainer: rogue cop using black magic to enforce his own brand of vigilante justice. No one wants crime, but no one wants to replace it with state terrorism. This just seemed weak writing to me justifying the continuing antagonist relationship between Kate and Angel.

I also had some problems with the Anne storyline, mostly with Anne being suddenly so stupid and helpless. On two occasions she lets in people she really doesn't want to let in. The first time, she lets in the couple after curfew - but at least you could argue they were really scared and she was worried about them. The second time she lets herself be intimidated by a local gangster (Jackson). This is not the tough Anne we saw in Blood Money. Also, I found it stretching credibility that she knew Gunn. It's not totally ridiculous, they clearly move in the same milieu, but a little foreshadowing would have been nice. Harder to buy was that she didn't recognize Wesley and Cordelia from the tape Angel had her play in Blood Money. I'd have thought that image would be burned in her memory. Even when Cordelia recognizes the girl wearing the blouse Angel gave away, Anne mentions nothing. Anne is critical of Angel, which also seems inappropriate - she says nothing of his ultimately helping her. The Anne character just seemed to act in ways that helped move the storyline, rather than in ways that arose naturally from her character. And that isn't a flaw I generally see in this series.

I'm not quite sure what the point of this episode was. It does show Angel moving back to his champion role (his attack on the zombie cops had no relationship to his war against Wolfram & Hart - he was merely protecting the innocent) and his increasing guilt over the abandonment of his employees. It also further cemented the Wesley / Gunn relationship (but did it need it?). Wesley puts his life on the line for Gunn and the racial implications of that aren't ignored either. This is different from the way they have helped each other in combat - Wesley was not involved in Gunn's mission but he went to help him because he cared. I don't know if Gunn realized how much Wesley and Cordelia care for him and how far they are willing to go to help him.

Cordelia's rejection of Angel is probably the high point of the episode. A little while earlier, the gang were eager to hear what Anne said about Angel. The mere use of his name provoked interest and emotion. But when he finally shows up, Cordelia rejects him. She realizes they don't need Angel, that they have all they need amongst themselves: the emotional bond and the strength to persevere. Angel is a distraction and she doesn't want him there. Meanwhile, Angel's actions in the opening scene suggest he is beginning to regret his self enforced loneliness. Between the lecture from the host in Happy Anniversary and the sarcasm from Merl this week, Angel has had a surfeit of people telling him that he has let down his friends.

I can see the cops hassling kids on the street. They are unlikely to complain and no one will likely care if they do. But Angel looks like an honest citizen as does Wesley. If they were routinely attacking people like that, wouldn't it come to the attention of the authorities? At the very least, wouldn't someone from headquarters come down to investigate why crime stats had suddenly dropped so much? You'd expect the brass to be eager to learn what led to such success. And, while they might not have a problem with strong arm tactics (although fear of lawsuits might influence that), I suspect more than a few would feel queasy about the zombification of their dead buddies.

Was this episode about setting the stage for future events? There is the hint about a big deal going down at Wolfram & Hart. A connection is made between Anne and the gang. Angel is at least thinking about the others again. Kate has been drawn back into the circle - both by working with Angel and being given the case of Wesley's shooting. She and Anne seem to be taking the roles of intermediaries, people with a foot in either camp. And while neither trusts Angel, both have benefited from their contact with him and are willing to work with him. I'll be interested in seeing if we see Kate with Wesley next week.

Kate says Angel must not have caught up with Darla and Dru in time, hence the slaughter of the lawyers. He doesn't answer this directly, just says he set them on fire. He has to realize Kate will blame him for the deaths of the lawyers (they may have been evil but there is due process for humans) and she has to realize that by not clearly answering he was tacitly accepting guilt. I'll be interested in seeing whether this goes anywhere and whether Kate will pursue the case.

Another theme being presented was Gunn's abandonment of his former friends and responsibilities. Anne joked about not seeing him in a long time and Rondell and George were close to hostile. Gunn will likely start feeling guilty about his move up the social ladder as an associate of Angel Investigations. Gunn's rejection of Cordelia's help (on the phone) was probably an attempt to distance himself a bit from his new friends and reunite with his old ones. He wants to show that he hasn't changed. But, as Cordelia and Wesley realize, it's a dumb plan. Turning down help from people who care about you doesn't make sense. And when Cordelia says Angel is the master of dumb planning, she's making the same point. Angel is also turning down help from his friends, determined to go it alone and do it the way he did in the old days. It's stupid but understandable.

Jackson strikes me as Gunn following a slightly different path. If Rondell and George want to be mad at someone, it should be him. Gunn is staying true to his calling, trying to help people. When his old neighbourhood needs him, he's there. Jackson is only out for himself. He is a force for evil in the neighbourhood and he only helps out when his own life is on the line. He's interested in self advancement and doesn't care what happens to others on his way up. Gunn wants to improve himself to, but he does so with a conscience.

Some quick final thoughts. There was no conclusion to the third eye story. I don't have a problem with that, but it is unusual for the series. It's nice that Virginia is still drumming up business for the gang. I have to feel sorry for Merl. He's always being beaten up and never even getting paid. Why does Gunn make Wesley walk into the shelter - why not carry him on the gurney? He and the ambulance attendant should be able to manage that.

Lines of the week:

"You don't care about anyone but yourself." - Merl berating Angel.

"We'll be the ones walking while black." - Gunn explaining why the cops will hassle him.

"He sat at the feet of the master and learned well how to plan dumbly." - Cordelia on Gunn's planning abilities.

"I'm an actress. I can fake it." - Cordelia on her laundry folding skills.

"This job is making me crazy." - Kate with a confession.

"We don't need you." - Cordelia letting Angel know the facts of life.

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