Angel - Forgiving

Summary

Angel stares at Connor's empty crib. At Wesley's, Fred and Gunn realize he has left not intending to return. Fred says they have to find his diaries. As they drive off, we see Wesley's cell phone lying on the ground in the nearby park and his motionless body beside it. Justine returns to her hideaway and finds her men chaining two vampires they say are for training. She slays the vampires and tells the men the training days are over, it's for real now. They ask about Holtz and she lies to them saying he has gone with Connor as she and he planned. That he praised his men and that they now have to carry on his task of killing Angelus.

At the hotel, Fred and Gunn find out what happened to Connor from Lorne. Fred is really upset the baby was pulled through a portal. She clearly remembers her own portal experience. They cannot understand why Wesley would have done this. Angel enters and says he doesn't care why, he just wants to get his son back and punish those who took him, including Wesley. He asks Lorne to look into Quortoth. He says he's going there and Gunn and Fred say they will go with him. But they note Wesley is the one who figured out how to go through portals before, who will help them now? Angel says they will find Sahjhan and make him reopen the portal.

Linwood enters Lilah's office. He's angry she met with Sahjhan and Angel behind his back. She says she's putting it all in her report which will be on his desk in the morning. Linwood says it was a big win for Holtz. The research at the hotel is not going well. Fred doesn't have Wesley's knowledge of languages. She wants to call Cordelia, but Angel won't let her. He says Cordelia will return with presents for Connor and he'll be there to receive them. Angel realizes they aren't making progress and leaves. Fred and Gunn think he's gone to kill Wesley and they decide they have to find him first. In the park, a homeless man finds Wesley, but steals his money and drags his body into the bushes.

Lorne returns and finds Angel alone and going through stuff on the desk, like a spike of the sort you put paper on. Lorne tells him Quortoth has no portals, that to get there you must rip open the fabric of reality. He says this takes enormous dark magics. He says Angel doesn't have the resources to conjure up all that dark power. Angel walks into another room where Linwood is tied to a chair. He says he thinks he does. Linwood says they are in trouble, kidnapping an employee of Wolfram & Hart. Angel says the firm would kill Linwood before it would kill Angel. Linwood says he's committed a lot of crimes, but when Angel brings over a series of torture implements Linwood says he has no intention of pressing charges. Angel threatens him and Linwood offers to help him find Sahjhan. He has Angel call Lilah and tells her to do whatever Angel wants.

Justine is whittling a stake. Gunn and Fred enter and ask her about Wesley, but she isn't telling them anything. Fred realizes that Justine cannot be happy and she sees that she had feelings for Holtz. The trash lying around suddenly gives Fred a clue. Justine has her men attack them. She knocks down Fred and one of her men holds a knife to Gunn's throat. Justine flashes back to slitting Wesley's throat and calls off her men. She lets Fred and Gunn go.

Angel is at Wolfram & Hart and Lilah is with him. They are going to the white room which seems to be a mystery even to Lilah. They enter the elevator and a secret code which Angel has reveals a hidden white button. Angel pushes this and they are in a white room with a little girl. She knows who they are and what they want. She tells him the demons like Sahjhan were once material and extremely violent. The chaos they created was a problem, so they were made immaterial. She tells him their essence can be captured in a special urn, but realizes he wants a material Sahjhan. She says it comes with a price and tells him to kill Lilah. He goes to do so and the girl is amused. She stops him, saying she sees why they respect him. She gives him the ritual to make Sahjhan material.

Fred and Gunn are at the dumpster by Wesley's building. Fred has Gunn toss her into it. She says she realized Wesley must have taken his diaries with him or dumped them in the trash. She finds them. They go through the diaries and find out about the prophecy. Fred realizes why Wesley did what he did and says they must tell Angel. Gunn asks if she thinks that will make Angel forgive him. Fred says he might begin to forgive. At the hotel, Angel is starting the ritual and Lorne is trying to talk him out of it. Angel has drawn a pentagram. Lilah is reading the instructions and says they need human blood. They all turn to look at Linwood still tied to the chair. Lilah picks up a knife and walks toward him, then cuts her own hand and squeezes the blood into the center of the pentagram. Angel begins the ritual. There's a light show, but no Sahjhan. Angel confronts Linwood. Sahjhan materializes in the street and is hit by a truck. The driver stops, shaken. A now material Sahjhan flips the truck over. Meanwhile, Angel is angry at Linwood. Lilah tells him Wolfram & Hart detected the disturbance on the street. She gives him the address and he tosses Linwood down the stairs, breaking the chair and freeing him. Angel goes to leave as Fred and Gunn burst in. They tell him about the prophecy, but he doesn't care. He leaves. They see Linwood and Lilah. Lorne tells them things are really bad. Linwood says Angel will pay. Outside, Angel is attacked by Justine and her men. He makes short work of them and her. Fred and Gunn come out to find Justine taking off in Wesley's car and abandoning her men. They follow her.

Angel is at the scene of the accident and talks to the driver. He tells him it's not his fault. Justine is at the hideout, in the place where Holtz once nailed her hand to the table. She is reminiscing. Fred and Gunn enter. Justine starts talking about how it was all lies, Holtz just wanted the baby. She tells them Wesley is innocent. She says she slit his throat. Fred hits her. Justine starts fighting, but Gunn subdues her and insists she take them to Wesley. Sahjhan enters. He says they are uninvited and in his home. He hits Justine, then starts smashing things up. Angel enters. Justine sneaks out. Sahjhan realizes Angel must have materialized him. Angel says if he takes him to Quortoth they can call it even. He says he can't, that he could only open the way to Quortoth one time, that's why he chose it. He reveals he wrote the prophesies. That originally, the prophecy said Connor would kill Sahjhan. To protect himself, he rewrote them and orchestrated the whole thing. He was glad Wesley finally did something because Holtz wasn't helping him. Angel attacks him. Fred and Gunn also try to help, but Sahjhan is more than a match for them all. He has Angel down and is going to kill him. He says Connor had a big future. Justine returns with the urn Holtz had and captures Sahjhan in it. She tells them where she left Wesley. But when they go to the park, he's not there.

At the hotel, Lorne and Angel are talking. Angel says he went too far, endangering Fred and Gunn. Lorne says he shouldn't feel guilty, he did everything he could just as Wesley did. That he can begin to forgive himself by forgiving Wesley. Fred calls. They found Wesley. Angel rushes to the hospital. They tell him Wesley cannot talk because of the damage to his trachea. Angel goes to see him. He tells Wesley he knows why he did it and how hard it must have been for him. He tells him he didn't turn into Angelus, that he is still Angel and it's important for Wesley to know that. Then he grabs a pillow, shoves it over Wesley's face, and tries to kill him shouting that he will pay for what he did. Hospital staffers and Gunn rush in and pull Angel off, screaming that Wesley is a dead man.

Analysis

I was prepared to be disappointed this week. It's been weeks since the last new episode. That episode ended with a ton of cliff hangers. Wesley bleeding to death in the park, Holtz fleeing to a demon dimension with Connor, and Angel rolling on the ground moaning. Plus, we were all wondering what would happen with Cordelia who has been off vacationing with Groo through all this and apparently not having visions. The powers that be don't seem to be taking much of an active involvement in Angel's life lately. And there was the still mysterious Sahjhan whose grudge against Angel was unknown.

Much to my surprise, just about everything was handled well. And some things handled brilliantly. There were two things I particularly liked about this episode. One, it focused on just a handful of the regulars. Lorne had little dialogue, Cordelia was completely absent, and Wesley had no dialogue. This gave lots of room to work with Gunn, Fred, and Angel. Gunn and Fred were used as a tool to bring everyone together and to explain the details of the plot to the characters within it. And the time spent on Angel was spent showing us what happens when a vampire with a soul goes into a white hot rage. Two, there was no immediate forgiveness. I loved the ending to this episode. I loved Angel trying to kill Wesley in his hospital bed. I loved it because I really didn't think they would do it and I loved it because it made sense. Yes, Wesley has all kinds of explanations for what he did. So did Angel when he abandoned the gang. Angel didn't get immediate forgiveness and neither will Wesley. I'm hoping the relationship between the two men gets increasingly dark and complex. This scene was nicely paralleled with the scene between Angel and the truck driver. Angel tells the truck driver what happened isn't his fault, attempting to console him. It's interesting he takes the time to be kind. His basic good nature moves him to this action, but his rage against Wesley makes it impossible for him to do this for Wesley right now. It's interesting that Lorne suggests his anger at Wesley is really anger at himself. I would argue his sympathy for the driver is really sympathy for Wesley - both are victims of Sahjhan and magic.

I am, however, disappointed with some things. I'm disappointed at the resolution about Sahjhan (although I'm sure we will see more of him). I'm disappointed because it came out of nowhere with no foreshadowing. While his plot makes sense in retrospect, there was nothing to suggest it. I'd have liked something to let us know he was in the prophecy forging business. Also, I don't understand why he feels sending off Connor to a hell dimension makes a difference. The prophecy, the real one, still stands. Connor isn't dead. He can come back. If I were Sahjhan, I'd still be worried. Also, the race of demons Sahjhan belongs to (is it a race or just him?) has never been hinted at before. There were just a lot of convenient things we never even heard of in this episode. And the most convenient was the white room. I realize this is the equivalent of Angel going to the Oracles (as he did several times in episodes like I Will Remember You and Parting Gifts). It makes sense for Wolfram & Hart to have such access, but it would have been nice to have some foreshadowing of the white room. This way, it comes off as a convenient deus ex machina. About the only thing here where there was foreshadowing was the use of the urn to capture Sahjhan. Holtz had mentioned it and Justine knew of it.

I think we were meant to see a parallel between Justine and Angel in this episode. Both have had incredible tragedy in their lives. Both have just begun thinking that things were getting better - that they were part of a family, that they had purpose. Justine was fighting vampires and had clearly fallen for Holtz. Her life had purpose again. She, Holtz, and Connor would form a family, replacing the families they lost to vampires. Angel was also building a family. He had the gang and he had Connor. He was dreaming about sending his son to university and watching him play hockey. Connor is what brings the two of them together. Angel and Justine both have dreams of a normal family life with Connor. When these dreams are shattered, both fall apart and resort to violence. Justine decides to blame Angel and destroy him. She uses her gang, whom she abandons when she doesn't need them, to attack Angel. She ignores what she did to Wesley. Angel uses his gang, who he also abandons, to try to get back Connor. Both engage in violence against humans. Justine almost has her men kill Gunn and Fred. Angel kidnaps and tortures Linwood. They are both focused completely on their goals and don't care at all who gets hurt on the way.

It looks as if Justine undergoes a sea change. She doesn't flee and leave Angel and the others to die at Sahjhan's hands. She captures him. She tells them where to find Wesley (and it seems that her deepest regret is the attack on Wesley). But Angel appears unchanged. His rage has not abated. Perhaps because unlike Justine he has no other hope for a normal family (although Fred indicates that at least at one point Justine was sunk in despair). Justine can still marry, can still have children, can still be part of a society. Angel's only shot was Connor. With him gone, there is nothing left but anger and revenge - characteristics which clearly please the girl in the white room.

There is also a parallel between Wesley and Justine. Both are lied to and manipulated by others. Sahjhan lies to Wesley through the forged prophecies and Holtz lies to Justine about his real goals. Both think they are doing the right thing. Both kidnap Connor, with the best of intentions, both realize they have made a mistake and have jeopardized not just Connor but their relationships with those they care for. Justine refuses to talk (despite the pleas from Gunn and Fred) until she is retraumatized. Angel's attack and his words about her boyfriend smacking her around reveal to her that she has been in a disfunctional relationship. That Holtz was abusing her (in fact literally since her facial bruises were deliberately inflicted to add credence to the story she gave Wesley). That realization, plus the confrontation between Angel and Sahjhan (demonstrating graphically that he is the good warrior and Sahjhan - who was behind the appearance of Holtz in our time - was the evil warrior) leads her to take positive action and tell them the truth about what happened. She attempts to help Wesley and make amends for her misdeeds. Wesley cannot talk, because of the attack on him, and he is retraumatized by Angel's attack. Wesley thought Angel was turning evil. Angel makes a point of emphasizing his goodness before attacking Wesley. Now we will see how this second trauma changes Wesley and whether it leads to an action of amends similar to that of Justine's.

I'd argue that the white room girl helped Angel because she knew capturing and even destroying Sahjhan would not make him feel any better. That she knew his rage would have no way to work itself out and would be focused on his friends and those closest to him. This certainly serves the purposes of Wolfram & Hart. If Angel is busy attacking Wesley, threatening Fred, and basically obsessing about Connor he won't be spending time helping people. And if he doesn't help people, his chances at salvation are pretty well zero. She is clearly either a powerful being or a being in contact with major powers. She says they made Sahjhan's people immaterial. This suggests enormous power. She talks about Wolfram & Hart in the third person (she says she sees why 'they' respect him) or is that reference to higher demonic powers? It isn't clear whether she is one of the senior partners, a being allied to the senior partners, or a captive of them. We really need to see more of her and learn her place in the Angel cosmology.

Everything will certainly change when Cordelia returns. She should be the one to remind Angel of his mission and remind him that his personal problems should not deter him from that mission. She's the one who should broker the peace between Wesley and Angel. And this will be difficult because neither is at fault. And that's the best kind of drama. Wesley felt he was saving Connor. He was tricked by an extremely elaborate ruse. He's as much a victim as anyone. And he never intended to hand the child over to Holtz. Angel has a right to be angry because Wesley, who knows him so well, didn't trust him. He didn't go to him with the prophecy. And because Wesley opted not to trust him, and trusted Justine instead, Connor has been lost. Angel's anger is partly about the loss of his son and partly about the loss of the trust which bound these two men together.

Some quick final thoughts. I love Fred getting so upset at the baby being pulled through a portal. I'd almost forgotten about her traumatic experience. If Quortoth is a dimension without a portal and one which seems to scare everyone, maybe it's not an evil place. Am I misremembering or did the immaterial Sahjhan smoke a cigarette in Offspring? I like the relationship between Linwood and Lilah. I also like the way she tried to get the paper with the white room ritual and later had some fun with Linwood pretending she was going to get the blood from him.

Lines of the week:

"Keep trying." - Gunn realizing they cannot afford to give up hope.

"The side you choose should always be mine." - Linwood with some career advice for Lilah.

"Give him anything he wants." - Linwood working hard at placating Angel.

"I'm not your boyfriend. Find somebody else to smack you around." - Angel getting harsh with Justine.

"This isn't Angelus talking. It's me - Angel....You son of a bitch. You're going to pay for what you did." - Angel letting Wesley know his drive for revenge has nothing to do with being a demon.

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