Angel - Heartthrob

Summary

Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia come back from battling demons. Fred is lurking about, sees them, and dashes off to her room. We learn from their conversation that Angel left three months ago to spend time with some monks and work his way through his grief about Buffy. Gunn thought he should have gone to Vegas. Fred has been pretty well hiding in her room ever since. She's become devoted to Angel. The gang have been battling demons by themselves. Cut to Angel battling demon monks in Sri Lanka. After defeating them, he walks out and tells the people waiting outside that he should have gone to Vegas.

Cordelia is setting traps, apparently the hotel is infested, and neither of the guys is brave enough to do it. Angel returns. He has gifts: a shrunken head for Gunn, a pendant for Cordelia, and a knife for Wesley. Angel asks after Fred. That evening, we see Fred in her room - writing on the walls the way she did in the cave. Angel knocks and, after a little confusion, she invites him in. He sees she has written 'listen' on the wall many times and she tells him she is listening for the click in her brain when it all will make sense to her. He tries to reassure her and encourages her to come downstairs, saying it is safe. When he opens the door, we hear Cordelia screaming and he tells Fred to wait while he rushes to her. She's having a vision of vampires attacking some college kids. Cordelia is in a lot of pain.

At the college, they find the kids injured or dead. But some have been taken by the vampires. They call for an ambulance and Angel rushes after the vampires while Gunn and Wesley follow in the car. The female vampire is talking to the kids they've grabbed. One of them asks them not to hurt his girlfriend. She asks if he loves her and offers to let one of them go and kill the other, but he has to decide which. He tells her to let him go. She tells him that's not love. Angel lands on the car and it comes to a halt. Gunn and Wesley arrive. Angel frees the humans and fights the evil vampires. One flees. Angel stakes the woman, grabbing a locket off her as he does, but before she disintegrates she recognizes him.

An exhausted Cordelia comes home and phantom Dennis helps her take a relaxing bath. The visions are getting worse. The phone rings. Flashback to Angelus and Darla and the female vampire he just staked and her male vampire companion walking through a town at night headed for the docks and bound for Morocco. They are fleeing Holtz, a vampire killer. The other two are in love and rather annoying Angelus. We learn their names are James and Elisabeth. We see James steal the heart shaped locket she was wearing when Angelus staked her. Soldiers appear and Elisabeth and Darla leave while Angelus and James stay to fight them. But Holtz is with them and the vampires are stuck. In the present, Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn are listening to the story. They figure if James learns what happened he will look for Angel. And since Elisabeth is still wearing the locket, they figure they are still in love. Gunn and Wesley go out to talk to their sources.

The vampire who fled is telling James what happened. James says he wants to die. He pushes the vampire into the sunlight, killing him. Angel is looking at the locket which has old fashioned portraits of James and Elisabeth in it. Cordelia tries to talk to him about Buffy, trying to cheer him up or at least commiserate with him. But he won't talk so she asks him what happened with Holtz. Flashback to Holtz and his men closing in on James and Angelus. Holtz wants Darla, she and Angelus killed his family. Angelus agrees to tell him. He tells him she's with Elisabeth at the docks. This betrayal maddens James who attacks Angelus. In the melee, Angelus grabs a horse and escapes with James although he takes a couple of arrows. When they lose Holtz, James knocks him off the horse and goes to find Elisabeth and Darla saying he will tell Darla how Angelus betrayed her.

In the present, James bursts into a doctor's office. The doctor is a demon. James says he wants the cure and has already paid the price. Cut to Wesley and Gunn at the club with Lorne singing I Left My Heart in San Francisco. The club is full of old people and old demons. Merl, the squealer demon, shows up. After some argument about price, he tells them that James is in town and knows what Angel did. Gunn calls Angel who realizes James will come after him. He tries to get Cordelia to go home, but she refuses thinking it is safer to stay with him. She has rearranged his weapons, his hurling axe is in the basement. When he opens the basement door, James is there. They fight. Fred comes out of her room, proud of herself, and Angel tells her to go back. Merl tells Gunn and Wesley that James visited the doctor. At the hotel, the phone rings but no one can answer. Cordelia tries to help Angel, tossing him a stake which James catches. Angel does get control of the stake and stakes James, but he doesn't die. The fight continues. Angel manages to knock James outside, but he doesn't burn up.

Angel and Cordelia flee to the sewers and elude James. Her cell phone rings and it is Wesley explaining James had his heart removed by the doctor. It makes him invincible, but he will die. Only she can't hear how long it lasts - 6 something. The signal is not good in the sewer and she loses it. They decide they just have to wait him out, only he bursts into their hiding place. They run to the subway and catch a train. The door closes before James can get there, but he leaps on and crawls along the roof smashing into their car. Angel shelters Cordelia and James thinks Angel is in love with her. Angel tells him the one he loved is dead. James doesn't believe he really loved her because if he did her death would have killed him. They fight and Angel fends him off until his time runs out and he dies. But before he goes he tells Angel that he lived while Angel merely existed, never having really loved.

At the hotel, Angel returns from checking on Fred. Cordelia confronts him about his feelings about Buffy. He says he's ok and that is the problem. That he could deal with the death of the woman he loved. He says he feels like he betrayed Buffy. Cordelia says a sick, loser vampire like James would feel that way. She says he's a living being who continues the fight against evil honouring Buffy. Wesley and Gunn arrive and they go off to destroy some nester demons.

We cut to Nicaragua, a bar. Darla is at the bar and a man comes over giving her a piece of paper and talking about a shaman. He hits on her, trying to buy her a drink. She bites him and drinks his blood, tossing him aside. When she stands, we see she is pregnant.

Analysis

A lot of people will leave a movie part way through or turn off a tv show before the end because they aren't enjoying it. I like to wait until the end because sometimes a film or a tv show can turn everything around in the last couple of minutes. That's what happened with Angel this week. A weakly written show with a predictable plot suddenly became really interesting when Darla stood up.

Let's start with the bad bits so we can end with the good ones. There really was no good way to deal with the death of Buffy without a crossover, so you can't be too tough on the show for the weak opening. Having Angel go off on a spiritual retreat is reasonable. But couldn't there be some place not infested with demons? And what happened to the threat from Wolfram & Hart who were trying to buy the hotel? And how lame was the Vegas joke? It wasn't until Cordelia's comments at the end that the death of Buffy was fittingly dealt with.

Then we have the Fred story. I like the character of Fred and I'm glad she became a regular. I'm surprised Angel left so quickly that she hadn't yet taken a room and invited him in once. I'm surprised that someone tough enough to survive Pylea for years is so emotionally unstable now. And the gang really don't seem to have done much for her in 3 months.

But worst were the lover vampires. We've already seen Angel and Darla. And we've had weeks of Spike and Dru. Plus, we've had scenes in the past with Angel, Darla, Dru, and Spike together. But these two just suddenly appear out of nowhere and act just like Spike and Dru at their peak. So we've got a carbon copy couple who were never even foreshadowed. Plus, we've got this weird demon doctor who can remove a vampire's heart making him temporarily indestructible - how come we never heard of that before? There was an awful lot of stuff piled into this episode to give us some fight scenes and move the characters across the screen for an hour.

Now, I have to admit, this did make me think a little. Are vampires naturally prone to such relationships? Did Angel and Darla deliberately seek out similar couples? Or were Darla and Angel a role model for other vampire couples? Then it occurred to me that Angel has had exactly two relationships: Darla and Buffy. Before Darla he was a womanizer, but there is no evidence of any real relationship. And Darla has had one relationship: Angel. Before that she was a prostitute and there is no evidence that she ever was romantically involved with men. Dru and Spike seem to fall into the same category - no evidence of a prior relationship for either of them. So is the greatness of their loves really a result of the novelty of the emotion. Are they simply in love for the first time (or maybe the second but in Angel's case with Buffy the first time with a soul). Is this a kind of puppy love (Angel has been called the angry puppy by Buffy and the gang)?

Cordelia tries to help Angel (isn't it weird that she is the sensitive and helping one in this group plus she's the one who realizes Angel isn't alright when he returns from Sri Lanka) and talks about honouring Buffy's memory by fighting evil. They've come a long way when Cordelia is being thoughtful and Angel is listening to her advice. And maybe fighting evil because of his love for Buffy (which is the same thing Spike does because of his love for Buffy) really does distinguish this kind of love from the love Darla and James feel. Darla and James are ready to do evil for their love (as was Spike for Dru and she for him). But love of Buffy ennobles Angel and Spike, making them do good not evil. And that is what true love is supposed to do.

If that was the point of this episode, then I guess the scene between Bobby and Elisabeth, where he cravenly tells them to kill his girlfriend and let him go, is the antithesis of love. Whatever Bobby feels, it makes him worse. Rather than sacrificing himself or honouring his beloved, he's ready to sacrifice her. So I guess Elisabeth is right about him and he does need a lesson in what love is about. If Bobby and Angel are at the extremes, then I guess James and Elisabeth are somewhere in the middle. Love makes them somewhat better, at least they care for someone, but they are still evil and love has not ennobled them in any significant way. James says he wants to die, the most negative of thoughts brought on by his love. And James doesn't seem to really understand love and the forgiveness which accompanies it. He doesn't believe Darla would betray Angelus (he's shocked when he hears of the story of her deserting him in the barn with Holtz closing in). And he's shocked at Angelus betraying Darla to Holtz and is sure she will be irate when she learns he betrayed her. But such little things as betrayal cannot break the bond between Darla and Angelus. Perhaps it is a sign of her inability to love that she could not forgive him the greatest betrayal - having a soul.

And then we have the best scene of all. Darla in a bar, getting information about a shaman from a sleazy guy who hits on her. Great dialogue about the dangers of drinking and then Darla going vampire and drinking his blood, killing him. A great moment of prime Darla violence followed by the biggest surprise of all - Darla pregnant.

Now, how a vampire can produce eggs or sperm (or even get an erection given that you need blood flow for that) is beyond me. But the Buffyverse has never been bothered by details like that before. Now, it is possible that Darla is pregnant with Angel's child from their night together. Some magic may be at work here, after all something really magical happened when he didn't become evil and when he was able to enter Kate's apartment without being invited. But it's also possible Darla got pregnant in human form (she looks really big for someone only 3 or 4 months along). So who is the father then? Lindsey? He'd be my bet and that would make things very interesting. Or, this may be some magical pregnancy unrelated to Angel or Lindsey. After all, she was looking for a shaman.

Some quick final thoughts. I liked the way they kept talking about Buffy while saying they couldn't or wouldn't or shouldn't. It was a nice in joke at the networks and their battle. I'm curious as to how Angel gets to and from Sri Lanka. Planes generally fly in the daytime and there can be a lot of sunlight. And ships are just as problematic. Vegas really was a better idea - no one goes outdoors there and the casinos don't have windows. It's an artificial light world. I loved Cordelia fishing for gifts when Angel returns. I liked the cut between the wounded Angelus saying he needed a doctor and James rushing into the doctor's office. I also like James saying he has already paid the price, meaning with Elisabeth dead his heart is lost. Best was the next cut to Lorne singing I Left My Heart In San Francisco. Cordelia doesn't want to go home alone because as every horror film points out separating is the worst thing to do when a monster is hunting you down. So it was great when staying together was actually the wrong thing to do.

Lines of the week:

"Demon monks. Shoulda gone to Vegas." - Angel on yet another bad decision.

"Look how it brings out my breasts." - Cordelia liking her gift and reading everyone's mind.

"I can't wait to kill something with it." - Wesley enjoying his gift.

"It's just a smidge of vampire in you as far as I'm concerned." - Fred and her analysis of Angel.

"Click." - Fred telling Angel what she's waiting for.

"I'll show you what love is." - Elisabeth telling Bobby what she has in store for his education.

"I want to die." - James on how love makes him feel.

"Go back to your room and stay there." - Angel forced to give Fred some bad advice.

"We try not to say her name too much." - Cordelia and Whedon with an in joke.

"It just feels like I'm betraying her." - Angel on survivor guilt.

"I'm Cordelia, I don't think. I know." - Cordelia on her defining characteristic.

"Life's full of surprises." - Darla capping off the episode.

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