Angel - That Old Gang of Mine

Summary

Angel is apologizing to Merl. They are in Caritas and he's reading his apology. Merl doesn't feel it's genuine. They start arguing and Angel tells Merl to take a shot. He does, only a magical force hurls him back since demon violence is not allowed in Caritas. Merl thinks Angel goaded him into this on purpose and Angel insincerely says he forgot about the spell stopping violence. Merl says he wants nothing to do with them anymore, but he does want a lift. Gunn takes him home, drops him off, and drives off. When Merl enters his home, he's attacked.

Gunn is dreaming about his sister's death. He wakes screaming and his pager goes off. He goes to Merl's where he finds Angel. Angel says he went there in the morning to try again, even bringing doughnuts, and found Merl dead. Wesley is there as well, investigating the crime scene. Gunn asks what are they doing. Why are they bothering to investigate when all someone did is kill a demon, something they do all the time. Wesley says Merl was harmless, but Gunn still doesn't get it. Gunn and Angel begin to argue and Wesley says if Gunn can't get behind the investigation it's ok and he can go. He does.

Gunn goes to his old neighbourhood and is attacked by one of the gang members. He defeats him, but another comes in with a crossbow pointed at Gunn's head. But Rondell shows up and stops them. He introduces Gunn to the new guy with the crossbow, Gio. Gio says he had heard about Gunn and came to LA because of him. Gio is from Miami. He starts off sounding friendly, but pretty soon he is riding Gunn about working for a vampire.

Angel asks Cordelia to talk to Fred. He's worried about her and the fact that she still hasn't gone out. She agrees to talk to her. She gives Angel the enemies of Merl list she has put together and Angel's name is at the top - it's alphabetical. He's upset at the accusation and Wesley says they'll start backwards and end with the As.

Rondell tells Gunn that he has been distant for a long time. That it began with Alonna and got worse with George. Gunn apologizes for disappearing on them and they both agree that they started something good, something which saves lives. Angel and Wesley go to see a bookie named Larch who is on the list. Only he's been killed. Angel says they are going to need Gunn. Cut to a demon in the sewer. It's attacked by a gang and killed and we see Gio is leading the gang.

Wesley is checking Larch's home for evidence. He finds an arrow from Gio's crossbow and puts it in an evidence bag. Gunn arrives and again questions Wesley's purpose. Wesley says they know of six victims, some evil and some assimilated. He says Larch had no history of violence and that whatever is killing the demons is killing indiscriminately. Gunn still isn't sure they should pursue this. He sees the evidence bag, recognizes the arrow, and pockets it. Angel arrives to tell them about the sewer demon, a harmless creature according to Wesley. Gunn says he'll hit the streets. He goes to Rondell to tell him he thinks Gio has gone rogue. But Rondell says the whole crew were there. He sees nothing wrong with the indiscriminate killing of demons. Gunn sees the gang are handing out guns. Rondell says Gio has found a nest and invites Gunn to accompany them. But he says he's busy. Gio tells Gunn he knows Gunn isn't the hero Rondell thinks he is.

Wesley is going over the evidence and can't figure out what is going on. He notices the missing evidence bag. Fred comes down and Angel has Cordelia talk to her. Cordelia gets her to agree to go out, with Cordelia. Fred feels she'll be safe because no one will notice her with Cordelia around. But Cordelia says they will because she'll be on stage in a spotlight.

After thinking for a long time, Gunn takes the evidence to the hotel. But only Angel is there. Angel says he has been going through the evidence and doesn't think the killings are random. He thinks there is a larger purpose, to have fun. Fred is singing Crazy at the club. Cordelia and Wesley are there with her. Gunn enters. Lorne realizes Gunn has the answers to Wesley's questions. The gang suddenly arrive, firing their guns. Several demons are killed.

Wesley dashes on to the stage, grabs Fred, and carries her to safety behind a table where he and Cordelia have been sheltering. The gang stop shooting and Rondell wants them to leave, but Gio says the fun is just starting. He calls out Gunn. Gunn tells Rondell to leave, but Rondell wants answers. Wesley stands and so does Lorne. One of the gang attacks Lorne and Gunn stops him. Wesley realizes the gang did the killings. He also realizes Gunn knew this. Gunn tells Rondell he lost the mission. Wesley points out he was wounded trying to help Rondell. Gunn wants him to let the others go. He tosses his car keys and Cordelia gets them. They start to leave, but Rondell will only let one go - Cordelia. He says the others will go free when Angel comes. Reluctantly, she goes. One of the demons keeps whimpering 'oh God' and another tells him to shut up.

Angel is going to the club although Cordelia thinks it is a bad plan. He tells her to see the transuding furies, three sisters, who put the spell on Caritas and to get them to lift it so he can fight. He says they will do it for him, that he knows them. At the club, Gio is singing about Gunn being his hero. Wesley tells Gunn they will kill Angel and he says they will make him do it. Lorne starts talking about Miami. He says he knows why Gio left. Why he had to. He says she trusted him. Gio hits him. The demon who told the whimperer to shut up makes a run for it but is caught. In the melee, Gunn grabs Gio's gun. Gio accuses him of siding with the demons. He says the demon which tried to flee is a baby killer. The demon calls them cowards and tells them to do it. Gio continues to upbraid Gunn. He says Gunn wants to be one of the demons. He wonders whether he didn't want Alonna to become a vampire and to have her turn him into one. The captured demon starts talking about eating their babies. Gunn yells at Gio to stop. He shoots, narrowly missing the baby eating demon. Angel enters.

Rondell gives Gunn a stake to kill Angel. Wesley says Angel has a soul. He says this makes him better than Gio since Angel did his pleasure killing while soulless. Angel puts on his vampire face to make things easier for Gunn. Cordelia is talking to the furies who are three attractive women who moan every time she mentions Angel's name. Gunn refuses to kill Angel, saying he has the mission and Rondell doesn't. Gio says a monster lover is just like a monster. He says he'll let anyone free if they kill Angel. Fred says she wants to live and he hands her the crossbow.

The furies say only Angel is equipped to pay the price for them lifting the spell. Fred takes the crossbow but points it at Gio. Angel tries to calm her down. Gio grabs back the crossbow. The spell is cancelled and Angel and the others attack the gang. The whimpering demon turns into a huge monster and bites off Gio's head.

Everyone is outside and Wesley is putting Fred in a cab. Gunn is saying goodbye to the gang. He tells Wesley they won't be crossing Venice boulevard any time soon. Wesley says the pull of divided loyalties is always difficult. Wesley tells him that if he ever withholds information again or compromises the group, he'll be fired. Wesley gets into the cab with Fred and they drive off. Gunn turns and sees Angel. Angel says he knows Gunn meant everything he said, that they are not friends. Gunn says it doesn't mean he doesn't like Angel and he says he proved he could be trusted when he didn't kill Angel. Angel says he'll prove that the day he has to kill Angel and does.

Analysis

A lot of the characters in Angel try to live in two worlds, or find themselves trapped between two worlds unable to move from one to the other. Angel is a vampire, yet he wants to live in the world of light. Cordelia wants a normal life (well a normal life as an actress), but is trapped in the role of messenger for the powers that be. Fred is struggling to leave Pylea (mentally since she has escaped physically). Wesley still struggles to overcome his father's vision of him as incompetent. Internally, he lives in the world of failure while externally he is a leader. And Gunn has to decide whether he walks in the world he once lived in, killing vampires and seeing the world in simple terms of black and white or whether he will move to a more complex world with shades of gray. He has to choose between his human gang and the demonic gang he is now part of. Between a largely black world and a largely white one.

The racial issue was clearly at the core of this episode. The demons were being profiled, considered evil because of the way they looked rather than how they acted. Green skin justified killing. Gio's comments at the club, refusing to even consider the humanity of the demons - viewing them all as intrinsically evil - reeks of racism.

It's sad to see the last of Merl, who was one of the more interesting and intriguing of the demons in Angel's world. I loved his comment about spending three months in therapy because of being hung upside down in the sewer. Where does a demon find a therapist? While Merl was an annoying and mendacious character, he was reasonably harmless. He was fully socialized, like other demons killed in this episode. It's interesting that so many socialized demons become criminals, possibly because their appearance makes any other business difficult for them. Lorne is lucky in that he was able to open the club. Entertainment and crime seem the only venues for demons and the same could be said of minority groups. Sports, performing, crime are all seen as ways out of the ghetto.

Angel talks about the killings being about having fun. This is the point at which Gunn realizes he must seek out Wesley and tell him what he knows. He realizes the demon killings aren't about protecting innocents. They aren't even about an evil agenda to destroy all demons. They are simply somebody having fun. And that's far more evil than anything the demons have been doing.

You have to wonder about what Gio said about Gunn. About wanting Alonna to get vampirized so she could vampirize him. Lorne sees something in Gio's past, about a woman who trusted him until the end. Was Gio just projecting his own past on Gunn?

Some quick final thoughts. Angel almost seems to have regret at not having gotten to know Merl. It looks as if an analogy between vampirism and substance abuse is being made. Angel's apologies to those he has wronged (he's done this with Cordelia and now with Merl) are reminiscent of 12 step programs. At last we learn how Caritas is free from violence, although with all the humans who visit there you'd think a blanket no violence spell would be needed and not one merely directed at demons. Lorne should be looking into that. At one point, Rondell tells Gunn demons are too scared to even cross Venice Boulevard. At the end of the episode, Gunn says his old gang won't be crossing Venice Boulevard anymore. The distinction between vigilantes and evil demons is pretty much invisible. Angel's final comment to Gunn, is reminiscent of similar conversations with Cordelia who has always made it clear she is ready to kill Angel if he turns evil again. That's true friendship to a vampire with a soul.

Lines of the week:

"If I had killed Merl, would I have brought doughnuts?" - Angel defending himself.

"You lost the mission." - Gunn summing it up.

"We ain't monsters". - Gio lying.

"I told her she'd be safe with me." - Cordelia taking responsibility.

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