Angel - The Price

Summary

The gang are trying to repair the earthquake damage to Angel's room. Groo and Fred suggest painting a different colour (Groo likes purple better than the current pomegranate mist). Angel says he wants everything back the way it was. Cordelia tells him that's not possible, but he picks up a snow globe and stares at it. He says he doesn't know why he bought it, it never snows in southern California. Cordelia reminds him it did once. He says they should be working, but is told there are no clients. He says someone should be downstairs in case a client walks in. He leaves the room. Downstairs, a client walks in. He calls out, but no one answers. He looks around and a strange sort of transparent slug latches onto his face and goes down his throat. Angel arrives and the man acts strangely, saying we have to go. Angel thinks it's because of the pentagram on the floor.

Cordelia comes down and Angel says they have to figure out how to wash off the pentagram. Cordelia says she'd like to know what magic was done because there are usually consequences. Angel says he doesn't want to talk about it. Cordelia says he should have contacted her, that her visions or new demon powers might have made a difference. He says what he wants is for her to find him a case to work on. At a juice bar, the client is drinking like mad - scaring the staff and customers. He starts to get violent, demanding more to drink. At Wolfram & Hart, Gavin and Lilah talk about Angel's attack on Wesley and how it brings him closer to them.

Fred is watching Angel in the office and wondering whether he and Wesley could work together again. Gunn doesn't believe that can ever happen. Cordelia is despairing of ever cleaning off the pentagram. She suggests buying a rug. She gives Groo a bucket of water to throw out. Fred asks her to talk to Angel about Wesley and she won't. She says he might listen to her, but he doesn't want to hear it. Fred says she knows Cordelia cares about Wesley, but Cordelia says Angel is her priority, that she became part demon for him. Groo comes in and overhears this. As she speaks, she has a vision of Angel being tossed across the room. Lorne enters and says a fracas is happening at the juice bar. In the juice bar, the client is looking bad. The gang enter and everyone else in the bar runs out. Cordelia is trying to tell Angel about her vision. Angel recognizes the now mummy looking client. Fred finds his ID, he's Phil Spivey. Angel tries talking to him, but he just says "we're thirsty". Angel knocks him out and they carry him to the hotel.

Cordelia still wants to talk about the vision, but Angel won't. He says he has to worry about Spivey and this has nothing to do with him. Spivey stands up and points at Angel, saying it is all his fault. Then falls and his dehydrated body falls apart. They see the slug thing crawl out of the body. Angel doesn't understand what this has to do with him, but Cordelia points out the pentagram.

Angel hands out weapons. Cordelia has sealed off the hotel to keep the slug inside. He tells Fred to do research, starting with thaumogenesis. The rest go hunting. Lorne and Angel are together. Lorne does an I told you so and Angel says he would do it again for his son. They hear a noise. They find a slug drinking from a toilet. Lorne accidently breaks the light, revealing the slugs glow in the dark. Angel impales it, but it tears itself free. Fred is complaining to Gunn, saying she hates doing the research. She feels she lacks the necessary skills for demonological research. Gunn isn't really listening. She wishes Wesley were there (although neither of them say his name). Gunn says they'll manage. He turns toward Fred and as he does so a couple more slugs appear.

Lilah is opening an encrypted email. This entails using a spider to type in the password. The email talks about the infestation of the hotel. Gavin comes in, he's read the email even though he shouldn't know about it. He points out Linwood is unreachable and the senior partners will be upset if Angel is destroyed. Lilah is left thinking she has to save him. Cordelia is hunting with Groo and telling him she feels the guilt is eating at Angel. Groo says he knows Angel is her priority. She says she meant work priority and Groo is her other stuff priority. Groo looks menacingly, lifts his axe, and tells her not to move. There is a slug behind her on the wall. He flails and misses. She jumps. The slug heads downstairs. They pursue it and meet Angel and Lorne. Both of them shout they've seen it.

The gang reunite and realize there are several slugs. Angel says they have to turn off the lights. Since the slugs glow, this will make them easier to see. He gives Fred a lantern and tells her to lock herself in the office. He and Gunn go to the basement to shut off the power. In the office, a slug attacks Fred. Lorne, Groo, Cordelia, and Angel are in the unused south wing. They hear a noise like birds. Gunn returns to the office. He talks to Fred about taking some time off later and going away. Fred breaks the snow globe and drinks the liquid inside. Gunn realizes she is infected. The others are searching for the place the sound is from. Lorne thinks the room they are in would make a great club. Gunn and Fred arrive, they realize she is infected. Gunn wants to take her to a hospital but she says no. The slugs want to get out and spread and kill. She says they really don't like Angel. Gunn wants to take her to a hospital anyway and he and Angel argue. He says Angel always does what he wants and ignores the consequences. Groo finds where the sound is coming from, beneath the floor. He breaks it open with his axe. Under is what seems to be a pool full of slugs. The slugs come out and the gang run away and barricade themselves in the kitchen. Angel turns on the ovens, thinking the heat will dry out the room and drive off the slug. Fred realizes Gunn is gone.

At Wolfram & Hart, Lilah is planning a magical extermination. Gavin comes in. He's contacted Linwood (he had the emergency cell phone number) and told him what Lilah is doing. Linwood, angry at Angel torturing him, is happy to let Angel die. And angry at Lilah for overstepping her authority. Gunn arrives at Wesley's and asks for help.

Angel tries to talk to the slug in Fred. She says they are fleeing the destroyer which torments them. She says it's after Angel. Gunn tells Wesley what happened. At first, Wesley says he cannot help but when Gunn says Fred is infected Wesley appears more helpful. He tells Gunn what kept him alive was thinking of seeing his friends again and explaining his side of things. Gunn says they know and Wesley says he doesn't know anything. He tosses a bottle at Gunn. He says he'll help because it's Fred but that none of them should ever return.

At the hotel, they are turning up the heat. Angel is still trying to get information from the slug in Fred. But Fred is in bad shape. He tells them to turn off the stoves. He says they have to take Fred to the hospital. He turns on all the taps, hoping to use the water as a way to distract the slugs while they get Fred to a hospital. He tells Groo to take her and goes to face the slugs. They open the doors and the slugs head straight to the water. Cordelia won't leave with the others and joins Angel. Groo and Lorne go out with Fred. They encounter Gunn. He forces Fred to drink from the bottle Wesley gave him. Cordelia and Angel are hacking away at the slugs. One attacks Cordelia and she catches it in her hand. Fred spits out the slug and Groo kills it. Cordelia glows brightly, illuminating the entire hotel and killing all the slugs. Angel and Cordelia come downstairs and explain what happened (Cordelia's new demon powers). Gunn says he gave her alcohol, causing dehydration and driving out the slug. He doesn't say the idea came from Wesley. He says he realizes he ran out, but he did what he had to do. He realizes that's what Angel did for his son. Lorne reminds them the destroyer is coming. A monster suddenly materializes. A teenage boy materializes and knocks down the monster. He turns to Angel and says "hi dad".

Analysis

In the Buffyverse, cause and effect are strong and clear. The things you do come back to haunt you, sometimes literally sometimes metaphorically. I like that because it's real and it's what sf/horror and drama in general is supposed to be about. So it was pretty easy to get me to like this episode. And I did, most of the time. I was completely blown away by an incredible piece of continuity near the beginning. I was again floored by the very strong Gunn/Wesley scene. I like the Lilah/Gavin interplay. I liked Groo and his coming realization of Cordelia's priorities (not to mention his surprising colour sense). But the victory over the slug things, that was a sham. It was exactly the kind of deus ex machina I had feared. That's where they lost me.

Let's start with that incredible piece of continuity. Angel is looking at his snow globe and talking about how it never snows in southern California. Cordelia says it did once. She's referring to Amends (A Buffy Christmas), where Angel attempts suicide by staying out until sunrise and the powers make it a dark, snowy day so he doesn't die. That's more than 3 years ago (before the Angel series even began). It was a single event, but Whedon just assumes we'll get it. This is part of the respect for the fans and for their interest in the Buffyverse that you always see in this show. And it's proof that the writers pay attention to what was said and done in past episodes. It's one of the reasons Buffy and Angel are such great shows.

This reference is also important because it gives context to one of the main themes of the series and of this episode: there is a plan for Angel. He is a warrior for good. The powers that be have sent him signs - the snow in Sunnydale when he was driven to a suicidal despair and the visions of Doyle and Cordelia when he moved to LA. Cordelia complains that he didn't call her. She's right, this cut him off from his access to the powers that be at the very time he most needed them. He then engaged in violent and evil acts which already are leading to dangerous repercussions. As Lilah and Gavin note, his attack on Wesley and his willingness to use dark magics are leading him to the side of evil - the goal of Wolfram & Hart. He exposed himself to their influence and denied himself the positive influence of the powers that be. Just as with his attempted suicide, his actions endanger his future role as a warrior for good.

I felt a little cheated when Gunn visited Wesley. Mostly because I couldn't figure out how Gunn could get out of the hotel and back in without letting those evil little monsters out into the world. But I'm willing to overlook that reality intrusion because it gave us a great scene. It gave us Wesley's side of things. For the past few episodes, Wesley has been silent - because he got his throat slit. We assumed he was agreeing with what was said - with the criticisms levied on him by Angel and later Fred. We assumed that because silence implies consent. That's a fine old legal maxim, but I don't think it was meant to apply to those forcibly kept silent. This was an example of really good writing. An expectation was subtly built up and then blown away by a quite reasonable and, in hindsight, logical event. I loved it.

It makes sense for Wesley to be angry. Yes, he should have trusted his friends. He should have gone to them and not kidnapped Connor. He should have trusted in Angel and not in prophecy. But what kind of friends aren't ready to forgive you when you slip? Wesley did something bad, but he was under a lot of pressure and did what he thought was right for Connor. It turned out badly, but the same can be said of Angel's adventures in dark magic - a parallel we are clearly meant to see. People make mistakes, sometimes really horrible mistakes. Their friends, their really good life long cover your back in a dark alley friends, forgive them. They don't shut them out and tell them never to return. Wesley's got a point and nobody even gave him a chance to make it.

I like the Lilah/Gavin relationship. I like the fact that Wolfram & Hart encourages hatred and infighting amongst its employees. That's the kind of thing which ultimately leads to the victory of good over evil. And if you don't believe me, read Lord of the Rings. I will admit there is some weakness here. Why does Lilah fall for Gavin's obvious ploy? If I were her, I wouldn't do anything on his say so - I'd check everything out for myself. But lets face it, this was the comic relief element of the episode. This was Gavin and Lilah doing their little dance. You know it will eventually turn deadly (a company which uses spiders for secret passwords doesn't let anyone retire gracefully), but for the time being it's just fun.

Groo and Cordelia seemed to be just as light as Lilah and Gavin, but developed substance really quickly. Which proves the writers aren't lacking in skill. Groo is sweet and naive, but not stupid (hence my anger last week when when he never mentioned the demon looking for Gunn). He overhears Cordelia talking about her devotion to Angel. And he realizes something Cordelia doesn't. That her devotion transcends the work place. It almost went to the next level in Waiting in the Wings (only Groo's arrival stopped it). Groo isn't going to stand in the way of true love. I have to wonder whether that's how he'll be written out of the series. Leaving because he believes Angel and Cordelia will be happier together than she would be with him.

When Cordelia first became part demon, in Birthday, I wrote of my concern that the writers "could back the whole gang into a corner and then have Cordelia save the day with some new power". That was one of my big worries and it came true this episode. Cordelia has turned into a deus ex machina, letting the writers hit the handy Star Trek type reset button any time they want. And that will lead to lazy writing. What next - a holodeck? Having had that worst fear realized, I don't even want to tell you my worries about the return of Angel's son.

Some quick final thoughts. Fred sure seemed a more capable scholar on things demonic earlier this season. Her problems coping don't fit with the Fred we know. Exactly what colour is Angel's hair? It seemed lighter in shade this episode. Would a pool in a long abandoned hotel have water in it? Or was that really a pool? And why would the ovens still be functioning? They would be gas ovens in a hotel and I'd expect the gas to have been turned off. It's not as if Angel eats.

Lines of the week:

"It never snows in southern California."
"It did once." - Cordelia reminding Angel of powers greater than himself.

"Angel's feelings are the only ones I care about. He's my priority." - Cordelia accidently letting Groo know her priorities.

"I wanted to live to see my friends again." - Wesley on what kept him going and what broke his heart.

"Hi dad." - Words Angel never expected to hear.

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