Angel is in a building full of goats. Two guys are planning a sacrifice. They work for Wolfram & Hart, but they don't know what the sacrifice is for. He destroys their preparations. The little girl with the eye in the back of her head has been cured by the gang. But the parents refuse to pay. The mother says her husband says there are no demons so this is clearly a scam. Wesley (who is in a wheelchair) says to let her go - that they clearly find denial an easier way to deal with things. Gunn leaves, saying he's going to the neighbourhood.
Lilah finds Lindsey, she's worried about the coming 75 year review and so are most of the people at the firm. The last one led to widespread sackings (with real sacks). She gives him a file of everything she has found out about the last review. She's worried about something going wrong and about their weak record. She asks about Darla and Dru and Lindsey says he hasn't be in touch with them and that it will take them a long time to recover from the fire. Meanwhile, Angel is telling Kate about all the rituals that the Wolfram and Hart folks are holding. He wants her help in dealing with this. She tells him she's in trouble with the force. The captain Angel beat up in The Thin Dead Line has filed a formal complaint, saying she allowed Angel access to the station and he assaulted the captain. She has also learnt that Darla and Dru had to break out of the wine cellar when they killed the lawyers - meaning someone locked them all in there. She realizes Angel was involved and refuses to help him any more.
Lindsey arrives home with a bottle of blood for Darla, who is secretly staying with him. Dru led him to her in the sewers. She seems really weak. He goes to take a shower and she gets up (clearly much stronger than she is letting on) and reads his file about the review. Angel is at the bar, which is really crowded with a lot of lawyers there. The host won't tell him what he read in the lawyers, but he will tell him what he overheard. He explains about the 75 year review and the coming of the senior partner. He also tells him of the Band of Backnil and the home office, but he doesn't know what it means.
Angel can't find any information and goes to the gang's office to get a book. Wesley and Cordelia are there. He doesn't even ask, he just starts going through the books. Cordelia tries to stop him, but an angry Wesley stands up and tells her to give him the book and for him to leave. She does and Angel exits. Wesley falls back in to his wheelchair. He's bleeding from his reopened wound and asks Cordelia to call an ambulance.
Kate is at her hearing. They fire her offering her counseling as part of her severance package. Angel goes to see Denver (from the bookstore he visited in Are You Now or Have You Ever Been). Denver is thrilled to see him, saying he changed his life. The fact that a vampire would help people made him believe there was goodness and hope in the world. Angel points out he didn't actually help the people in the hotel. Denver doesn't know about the home office but says the senior partner will manifest as a Kleynach demon because they can manifest themselves without any need for ritual using a ring called the Band of Backnil. Angel wonders if the ring would let him travel back to the home office. Denver says the home office is probably hell and that would be suicide. He realizes Angel wants to go there to fight and kill the demons. He says the Kleynach can only be killed using a special glove. He has it and gives it to Angel, but Darla is there and kills Denver. She takes the glove and tells Angel the ring is about power but she'll be back for vengeance.
Wesley is at home with Virginia. She's upset at his reinjuring himself and says she can handle demons ok but the guns bother her. She asks if he could move to a different line of work, but it's clear he can't. He realizes she is going to leave him. Kate comes home, devastated at being fired. She's drinking and crying. Lilah arrives at the office for the big event. She gets out of her car with two body guards. Angel easily takes out the guards. He uses Lilah to get in the building. She notices he is in pain from the wound Darla gave him.
Wesley phones Cordelia and tells her he's not feeling well and won't be in the next day. She tells him to take it easy and spend time with Virginia. He tells her she should go out herself. She says she has no friends. He tells her things will get better, for all of them. Cordelia gets another call, from Mrs. Sharp. She says she's willing to pay and Cordelia agrees to go there that night. We see a demon with Mrs. Sharp, who forced her to make the call.
The lawyers are waiting for the senior partner to appear. They learn a vampire is on the floor. Lindsey sees Lilah with Angel and shouts out. She elbows Angel and flees. The guards rush to him but he escapes and comes round the other side. He sees Darla in disguise and exposes her, using holy water. They fight and he gets the glove. The guards swarm her and Lilah tells them to stake her. Lindsey punches Lilah and a guard, freeing Darla. Angel attacks the demon and pushes it out the window. Lindsey gets Darla safely away and Lilah sees this. Angel lands on the ground, the ring falling beside him. He puts it on and an elevator in the building opens. In it is the dead body of Holland Manners. But Holland is still working for Wolfram & Hart - his contract goes far beyond death. Angel enters the elevator and they go to the home office, a long ride.
Holland asks him what he hopes to accomplish. He points out Angel was supposed to stop the coming apocalypse. Angel says they won't win and Holland says they don't intend anything as prosaic as winning. Angel asks why fight then and Holland says he should ask himself that question. He says the firm has always existed in some form or another and always will. That it is in the hearts and minds of all people. The elevator stops, the doors open, they are back on the street. Earth is hell. Holland says if there weren't evil in everyone they wouldn't be people, they'd be angels. Angel drops the glove and steps out. The doors close behind him as Holland wishes him a nice day.
As Angel walks home we see scenes of Kate drinking and looking at some pills, Wesley alone, Cordelia preparing to leave. He gets back to the hotel as Kate is leaving him a long and despairing message which sounds like a suicide note. He finds Darla there and offers her the ring. He then shoves her against the wall and starts kissing her. He's rough with her, but wants to have sex. He says it doesn't matter. They do. After, he wakes gasping.
Wolfram & Hart aren't interested in winning a war, as the wonderfully resurrected Holland Manners tells us. They are interested in turning their enemies into them. They don't want to be victorious, they want to be right. That's far more profound and far scarier. And it's clear their goal is not simply to turn Angel evil, but to make Angel think that's the better way. To make him choose of his own free will - and free will is clearly the key religious point here. To achieve this goal, they use their greatest tool: despair. Convince Angel that redemption is impossible and you're more than halfway to getting him to convince himself that going back to Angelus is a good idea. In fact, going back to something even worse than Angelus.
I think the easiest way to look at what happened this week is to talk about the characters separately. So let's start with the big one, Angel. Watching the show, we see Angel routinely triumphing. But I think his perception is of continual failure. He failed to stop Wolfram & Hart from raising Darla. He failed to save her from being revampirized. He failed to stop her from killing. He failed to stop the paranoia demon. He failed to save Kate's father. He failed to make Kate an ally. He failed to be a good friend to Wesley and Cordelia. And, this week, he failed on the simplest of all missions - suicide. He has decided to attack the evil powers where they live. He will journey to hell and destroy them, putting an end to them at the cost of his own life and future happiness. In Happy Anniversary, Angel said it was impossible for him to atone for all the evil he had committed. The more desperate a situation appears to people, the more they seek the big gesture. That's what's happened to Angel. He's decided that no amount of saving lives or helping people is enough. He has to do something colossal. So he decides to journey to hell and destroy the demons who live there - freeing Earth from their threat. Angel should have paid more attention to Denver. He made a real difference in one person's life - surely that means something. But even as Denver is telling him the things which should cheer him, he's discounting them - saying he didn't save anyone and failed to destroy the demon. The truth is somewhat more complex. While he failed to save the people in the hotel, he did eventually destroy the demon. And all this should count for something, but Angel is too far gone to care.
If Angel were actually able to journey to hell and destroy the demons there, it would be huge. It wouldn't be stopping an apocalypse, it would be stopping the possibility of apocalypse. It's clear that since early this season he has been headed in this direction. His failure to redeem Darla was a turning point. He decided that only a superhuman success could make up for his misdeeds. So when he learns that not only is it not possible for him to perform this great deed, but that the very people he has been struggling to save are themselves already tainted; he goes off the deep end. Angel doesn't lose a battle, he loses the will to continue fighting. He just gives up. He drops the glove he fought so hard to get. He gives himself up to Darla's embrace, even though it may lead to the loss of his soul. He really believes what Holland tells him - that the world is in league with evil. This is despair so deep only an theophany can bring you out of it.
Darla is driven by a simpler set of emotions, but the complexities of life are beginning to catch up with her. She wants power and revenge. And she plays both Angel and Lindsey in an attempt to achieve these. But they both surprise her. Lindsey helps her - at considerable risk to himself and after realizing she was lying to him about how weak she was. Angel gives in to her. Something she could never have expected. Darla seems always to be confused. She was confused when she was first brought back from the dead (in To Shanshu in LA). She was confused when Dru revampirized her in Reunion. She was confused at Lindsey's lack of fear in Reunion. She was confused when Angel set her and Dru on fire in Redefinition. And this week she is confused by Lindsey helping her escape from Wolfram & Hart and Angel giving her the ring and having sex with her. The real excitement will come in the next episode, when Darla has to deal with the aftermath of her night with Angel. Either Angel will be Angelus again and Darla, who has grown, probably really doesn't want that, or he won't in which case she will have to accept that she could not give him perfect happiness.
Lindsey and Lilah are in a rather interesting state. Both are running scared, although Lindsey seems outwardly more calm. The fact that she is walking around with bodyguards indicates how frightened Lilah is. And the lawyers who wanted Angel dead at the club, indicate how fear of him has spread through the firm. This is something Angel should have noticed. With the exception of Lindsey, everyone at Wolfram & Hart is really worried about him, scared of him. Lindsey would be too, except he's too preoccupied with his jealousy to have room for any other emotions. I think both Lindsey and Lilah could still be redeemed, especially Lindsey who still can feel love for others.
Wesley looks depressed, but I think he's in better shape than most of the characters. In fact, I don't think anyone has grown as much over the last few weeks as Wesley. He's faced down fire breathing monsters, he's survived being shot, and he stood up to Angel this week. He's positioned himself as a leader - Gunn and Cordelia definitely follow his lead. He displayed both insight and courage in realizing what Virginia was doing and making it easy for her. He also showed his strength and his selflessness when he called Cordelia. Most people would have dumped their emotional baggage at that point, but Wesley keeps his pain to himself (even though Cordelia gives him an opening) and tries to cheer Cordelia instead. Yes, Wesley is unhappy. But I don't think he's depressed. He's still thinking of others, something Angel seems to have stopped doing by the end of the episode. The host, in Happy Anniversary, indicated Wesley has a great destiny. His actions in this and recent episodes show him becoming a person who could fulfill such a destiny. He is definitely sad, his decision not to go to work shows us that, but he still sees something worth living for.
Kate is much worse off than any of the other humans. Her life has revolved around her job and that has been taken from her. She has no friends and her peers reject her. In her darkest moment, she calls Angel - who she has at best a love/hate relationship with. And he just ignores her. She's trashing her apartment, drinking, and taking pills. This is the mostly tightly wound character on the show - someone who has been driven from almost the moment she met Angel. Now she has no agenda and is coming unglued at a frantic pace. Like Angel, the focus of her existence has been removed. And like him she is spiraling into despair. Dramatically, I would expect Angel and Kate to come together in some way and help each other overcome their despair and learn to hope again.
Cordelia and Gunn are the least unhappy of the lot. Gunn feels guilt at abandoning his neighbourhood - we saw this in The Thin Dead Line. I don't see his leaving the office this week as unhappiness with the firm or how things were going, but as a guilty response to his disregard of his old friends and responsibilities. Cordelia still seems pretty happy, for her. She's still angry at Angel (we saw her outburst of rage this week and it shows how involved she still is). She is lonely (Wesley has Virginia and Gunn has his friends - she seems only to have them). In retrospect, a massive amount of her life centered on Angel. Given that her role has become that of Angel's intermediary to the powers that be (although the host seems to be taking on that task), she's taking his absence remarkably well. I'm hoping that Gunn is still lurking around, looking out for Cordelia and maybe even Angel. I'm fearing that the demon who got Mrs. Sharp to call Cordelia is the same one that attacked her daughter. His goal may be to use Cordelia for the same purpose he was going to use the little girl.
Some quick final thoughts. It's interesting that both Wesley and Angel are now wounded. It was great to see Holland back. He was my favourite character at Wolfram & Hart and I'm glad to see death hasn't slowed him down.
Lines of the week:
"They used actual sacks." - Lilah on Wolfram & Hart's layoff practises.
"I am done helping you now." - Kate making a decision about Angel.
"I'm always dirty" - Lindsey revealing that he does care.
"They'd really like to see you dead." - The host with a very easy reading.
"May we help you." - Wesley trying to connect with Angel one more time.
"I knew you guys were a waste of money." - Lilah on the worthlessness of bodyguards when dealing with vampires.
"You've got the tiniest bit of give a crap left." - Holland analysing Angel.
"We have no intention of doing anything so prosaic as winning." - Holland on the plans of Wolfram & Hart.
"The world doesn't work in spite of evil, Angel. It works with us. It works because of us." - Holland doing his best to destroy Angel's faith in humanity.
"I just wanna feel something besides the cold." - Angel reaching out to Darla.
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