Angel - Epiphany

Summary

Angel has just awakened after sex with Darla. He's gasping and falls to his knees. Darla, thinking he is losing his soul, follows him out. He apologizes to her. She tells him she came to kill him, but he gave himself completely to her. He says she made him what he was and now she saved him. She realizes he still has a soul. She complains that their sex was perfect. He says it was perfect despair. He realizes all his problems stem from Darla who sired him and that now she has fixed those problems by failing to redesoul him. As they talk, he remembers the phone call from Kate in Reprise. She's outraged and tries to kill him. He tells her to leave, that if he sees her again, he'll kill her.

Angel arrives at Kate's apartment and breaks in. He finds her unconscious, but is able to revive her. She thanks him and kicks him out. Lindsey arrives home to find Darla there. He says he was calling, why didn't she answer. He warns her away from the window, saying there is a stake on sight order out against her. He sees she has the Band of Backnil. It doesn't work because they performed a disenchanting ceremony after Angel stole it. She says it was her payment. He demands to know what she means. She asks if he wants details and he says yes.

Angel goes to the bar to talk to the host. The host tells him he had a moment of clarity. Angel says he doesn't know how to get back and the host says he has to go forward. Angel isn't sure he can. The host tells him the lawyers were doomed to die and that the powers that be were trying to keep Angel from being there, only he ignored them. Angel asks what the powers want him to do and the host says he's not Angel's link to the powers, that he fired that link. Angel realizes he has to reunite with the gang, but the host says they may not live through the night.

Cordelia arrives at the Sharp residence, finds the door open, enters, and sees the dead bodies of the family. She has a vision of herself attacked by a demon. As she turns to leave, the demon attacks her. She regains consciousness to find herself a captive of Skilosh demons, the one's they rescued the little girl from. They want Cordelia and the others to pay for what they did. They've located Wesley and are now looking for Gunn. At his place, Wesley senses someone outside. He wheels to his closet and gets a gun and some ammunition (this is pretty tough since he's in a wheelchair and cannot stand to get things from the closet shelf). Angel smashes the door open, but he needs to be invited in by Wesley. Wesley hesitates, still angry at Angel, but when the Skilosh crash in he invites him in. Angel starts fighting the demons and Wesley tells him to hack them to pieces. Between them, they manage to destroy the demons. Wesley is happy to see Angel, but still angry with him.

Lindsey and Darla are sitting quietly, as far from one another as they can on the sofa. Lindsey goes to change. Angel and Wesley are driving to the office, they can't get Cordelia on the phone. Angel says he stopped by Cordelia's place and she wasn't there. They have an awkward conversation and Angel never really explains what happened to him. He's happy to learn they still call it Angel Investigations, although Wesley tells him they plan to change the name. Wesley tells him about the Skilosh. Angel tries to show his appreciation of what Wesley does and has done and Wesley thanks him for his compliment. The Skilosh tell Cordelia that two more of their tribe were killed. They decide to inseminate Cordelia.

Wesley and Angel are at the office and Wesley notices a truck keeps driving past. Angel suspects Cordelia is on a date, but Wesley says it's unlikely He says Angel doesn't really know Cordelia anymore, that she has changed and is no longer carefree. He says Angel could ignore the visions, but Cordelia couldn't. And because of her nature, she felt compelled to do something about them. They agree they have to find her. Angel senses someone coming. They close the lights and surprise Gunn coming in. Wesley is happy to see him and Gunn says he hopes he didn't think he was abandoning them like Angel. He and Wesley clearly demonstrate their bond, Gunn talks about how you form a bond when you fight shoulder to shoulder. Wesley explains what has happened and Gunn suggests checking Cordelia's note pad. They find directions to the Sharp place on the pad and decide to go there.

Cordelia awakens to find herself with a third eye and a Skilosh growing inside of her. Angel seems to see something in the rear view mirror as he drives Gunn and Wesley to the Sharp house. Gunn is unaccepting of Angel's epiphany, wondering if he'll change back. A Skilosh demon jumps into the car. Gunn manages to kick it out. Angel stops the car as the demons gather. He gets out and tells the others to go ahead. He'll stop the Skilosh and meet them at the house. They drive off. He confronts the Skilosh who suddenly run away. Angel turns and is hit by a truck driven by Lindsey. Lindsey backs up and hits him again. Wesley and Gunn are at the house and see Cordelia and the demons inside. Angel can't get away from Lindsey. Wesley and Gunn decide they cannot wait for Angel and they have to act. Lindsey gets out of the truck and starts beating Angel with a hammer, demanding to know everything that happened between him and Darla. He refuses to tell. Lindsey goes to the truck to get a stake, but Angel gets up and stops him. He beats him up, all the while apologizing for what has happened: for Darla not loving him and Angel not having saved him. He smashes Lindsey's artificial hand when he reaches for the stake, now on the ground. He then knocks Lindsey out and takes the truck. Wesley and Gunn have been captured by the Skilosh and they intend to inseminate them all. Angel smashes the truck right into the house. As he fights the demons, Wesley and Gunn free themselves and deoculate Cordelia. The demons defeated, Angel rushes to Cordelia and asks if she is ok. She says no, he really hurt her feelings.

Next morning, Lindsey finds his truck returned, with a note attached saying thanks. He returns home to find Darla has left. Kate and Angel are talking. She thanks him for saving her. He says he's figured out that there is no great plan and that means every little act of kindness is really important. He no longer feels the need to fight for something (like redemption or revenge), he just feels the need to help people who are suffering. Kate tells him she thinks there is a greater power looking out for them because she never invited him in.

Angel shows up at the office and says he's sorry. He says he wants to work for them, because he thinks he can help. He admits he'll have to earn their trust. Cordelia says no, then has a vision. She discovers Angel has rushed to her side and saved her from falling. She says he should drive.

Analysis

There was a moment in this episode when I was disappointed, a moment when I was confused, and then a long period in which things happened pretty much as you expected. I was disappointed right at the beginning with Darla's initial reaction to Angel not losing his soul. I had been expecting this and Darla's rage was something I was looking forward to. But her dialogue, at least for the first part of the scene, sounded like something written for Cordelia. It was way too light for that moment. I was confused when Lindsey appeared out of nowhere to run down Angel. It was only after the show ended that I figured out his was the truck Wesley had noticed going past the office several times and that he had followed them and waited for an opportunity to attack. But most of the show was just predictable and mildly enjoyable. Angel did not lose his soul, he did save everyone, the Skilosh demons were looking to use the gang as incubators, and Angel ultimately rejoins the group.

I was glad when Angel described his time with Darla as perfect despair, largely because I kept harping on that point in my review of Reprise. Angel no longer believed that anything mattered and so was ready to sink back into the mire of evil. It took a direct communication from the divine to achieve this - actually several communications. It starts with Angel not losing his soul. Although I suspect this is merely proof that good sex does not equal perfect happiness (hence the number of unhappy porn stars). Then the host tells him he's not responsible for the deaths of the lawyers, that they were supposed to die anyway and TPTB were trying to have them die without him present. Angel comes to realize that either events are preordained (in which case what happens happens and our actions make no difference) or there is simply no guiding power ruling things, in which case concepts like redemption are pointless. In either case, life comes down to how you live it and doing good should be a matter of wanting to do good - not hoping to achieve an end. In effect, Angel is saying what Holland said in Reprise, only he's saying it for good, not evil. When Kate notes that she never invited him into her apartment and he was able to enter (a miracle considerably greater than not losing his soul from my perspective), Angel realizes that the lesson he has learned is the key to his redemption. That redemption comes not from seeking it (and as I said in Reprise Angel has been seeking grander and grander gestures in the hope of achieving redemption), but from merely being good and ultimately getting the unsought reward. This leads him to return to the gang and ask to join them. He realizes he doesn't need to lead, he doesn't need to do great deeds, he just needs to help people. The host told him he couldn't go back, but Angel's life to date has been an attempt to go back. To return to a point when his sins were light and redemption seemed easy. He now understands, as the host explains, that he has to to go forward. He cannot change the past, he can only learn from it.

I loved the scenes with Lindsey. His confrontation with Darla was wonderful. The scene when they were sitting on the sofa, as far apart as possible, was great. Lindsey was acting like an aggrieved husband learning his wife has been unfaithful. He wants to know the details and he doesn't. He wants revenge against the man who cuckolded him. The one man he might reasonably have trusted Darla with. And it doesn't make matters easier when Darla refers to the ring as her payment - she has reduced her passion for Angel to an economic exchange. Darla casts herself in the role of prostitute, while Lindsey has been elevating her in his mind as a symbol of feminine perfection. If Darla has been brought low, the only thing he can counter with is to bring Angel even lower. So he attacks Angel and is reasonably successful. The threat is not that he will kill Angel, but that he will delay Angel in helping his friends. The challenge for Angel is to give up on his fight with Lindsey and Wolfram & Hart and focus on the goal (the small but attainable goal) of saving the gang. He succeeds and it is a turning point for him. After having abandoned the gang, he finally comes through for them (and his catching Cordelia so she doesn't fall is another example of this). Clearly, Angel realizes he has to be there for them continuously if they are ever to accept him again.

I liked the lengthy apology Angel makes to Lindsey as he beats him up. He does owe Lindsey something and he realizes it. He realizes that Lindsey loves Darla and she cannot love him, she's simply not capable of it. He realizes that Lindsey came to him at a moment in his life when he might have turned from evil and Angel didn't help him make the right decision. Instead, he allowed Holland to gain control over Lindsey. Angel's apologies are just generally interesting in this episode. He says I'm sorry to Darla 4 times. He says it to Lindsey 5 times. He says it to the gang once. He treated the gang poorly, but as tough as things were for them they were tougher for Darla and Lindsey. He realizes he let them down even more. Even after firing them, he still worried a little about the gang. But he failed Lindsey when he came to him and then never really tried to save him again. He failed to do anything for Darla in all the years he had a soul and she didn't. When another opportunity came, he failed to save her again. Darla lost her soul, Lindsey may be losing his, and Angel could have done something for both of them. But he's also learnt that he cannot unmake his past. Instead of trying some great feat to undo the evil he did to Darla and Lindsey, he just tries to be nice. He catches Cordelia when she falls, because that's something he can do. And because the smallest kindness is important.

Darla, as I said above, talks of the ring as her payment and is clearly recasting herself in the role of prostitute - something she expressly reminds Angel of. For Darla, Angel was the great love of her life. She abandoned the Master for him. She strove to cure him of his curse, both in her first and second lives. And she finally discovers that she couldn't bring him the perfect happiness that would remove his soul and return him to her. This means that the great love she has been focussed on for centuries wasn't really so great. That after 400 years, she is still a whore. That's more devastating to Darla than being set on fire. And by taking this chance with Angel, she has burnt her bridges with Lindsey. That's why she moves out of his place. She realizes anything he felt for her is now poisoned by her betrayal.

I liked the moment when Cordelia said Angel hurt her feelings. They've been through so much and she has been near death so many times, but that hurt is the one she most remembers. For the first time in her life, as Wesley realizes, Cordelia has been more concerned about others than herself. She really wants to help people. Angel and Doyle have changed her. Doyle died on her, giving her the painful gift of visions, and Angel abandoned her. She finally becomes the kind of person you'd really want as a friend and the person she cares most for in the world, the person she has risked her life for, kicks her out. And Angel doesn't even really realize what he has done or how bad it is. He doesn't even realize how much Cordelia has changed. Gunn jokes that Angel is stuck in the past when he mistakes the meaning of the word pad. But it isn't a joke. Because Angel doesn't change, he doesn't see that others do. He still saw Cordelia as the insult proof high school princess. Not the sensitive and caring woman she has become. He sees Wesley as the somewhat bumbling would be demon hunter. Not the effective leader of the team he has become. He begins to see what he has missed when he sees how Gunn and Wesley bond - Gunn truly appreciates Wesley risking his life while Angel has never made his feelings clear. But it isn't until Cordelia's outburst that he completely understands.

Some quick final thoughts. I liked the fact that Darla still had burn marks, just as Dru did in the Buffy episode Crush. Lindsey's truck has an Oklahoma plate. Is the truck part of his previous life, before Wolfram & Hart? I know Lindsey couldn't kill Angel with the truck or the hammer, but shouldn't some serious bones be broken. How is Angel still walking after all that.

Lines of the week:

"It was perfect despair." - Angel finally ending things with Darla.

"It was my payment." - Darla realizing nothing has changed for her in 400 years.

"Nothing happened." - Darla understanding the nature of her relationship with Angel.

"You've turned a corner." - The host trying to cheer Angel up.

"I've done... things. Questionable things." - Angel admitting he was wrong.

"Well that was helpful." - Cordelia on the uselessness of some visions.

"I can only pray Mrs. Starns isn't at home." - Wesley dealing with the practical problems of being a demon hunter.

"They owe us money." - Wesley and Gunn demonstrating their understanding of Cordelia.

"You really hurt my feelings." - Cordelia letting Angel know she's not ok.

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