Angel - Ground State

Summary

It's 1985 in Gills Rock, Wisconsin. A couple, the Raidans, deliver their daughter, Gwen rather oddly bundled up, to a private school. They've clearly made a huge donation because there is something strange about Gwen. The headmistress, Miss Thorpe, warns that she can't touch the other children and that they've created special accommodations for her. Later, at play, we see Gwen innocently touch a boy. There's a huge electric discharge and he's hurled back by it, the small toy car he carries is melted.

The gang are at Cordelia's apartment cleaning it out. Angel can still smell her there. And he smells lots of lemons because Fred went a little crazy with the floor polish. Cordelia has been away three months and the landlord is going to show the apartment to prospective tenants. They paid the rent for a couple of months, but couldn't afford to continue. Phantom Dennis knows nothing. Neither Lorne nor the police have helped. They show Angel the box of photos Cordelia had left out when she disappeared. Fred is still bitter about Connor. Fred gets angry at Dennis because he's unpacking her packing. She shouts that Cordelia's not coming back. She apologizes to Angel. She says she just meant the apartment. Angel says it's ok, they have lots of room at the hotel. She says that you count on things being where you left them. What happens when you come back and things are gone. He looks at the picture from Cordelia's stuff - it's of Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley - and says you go find them.

Wesley is leading a gang in an attack on a demon. Angel arrives, but his help isn't needed as Wesley kills the demon. He tells Wesley he never got a chance to thank him for rescuing him. He says he had time to think and as far as he's concerned, he and Wesley are ok again. Wesley gives him the file he has on Cordelia. He says he believes she is no longer in our dimension. He tells Angel about Dinza, demigod of the lost. He says only the dead can enter her presence and often she traps them there for eternity. He says she can't tell Angel where Cordelia is but may tell him where to look. He says Dinza isn't trustworthy and walks away.

Angel enters Dinza's lair. She knows him, because he was lost. And she knows what he seeks. She tells him Cordelia is far away and needs him no longer. He says he needs her. She says the dead think she should keep him there forever, but who listens to them. She tells him about the Axis of Pythia and that he can locate Cordelia with it. She tells him he has so much more to lose.

A very sexily dressed woman meets a man in a bar. They talk about the Axis of Pythia and she complains he is underpaying her. She's the now grown up Gwen working as a thief. The man, Elliot, says she's unprofessional. She takes the plans to the auction house where the Axis is stored and uses her power to destroy his $12,000 watch. She leaves.

We see Cordelia apparently able to see what is happening. Fred is giving a flipchart presentation on the Axis. Only Angel is a much better artist than she and his quickly scribbled drawing of the Axis is far more realistic than hers. He then holds up an amazing drawing of Cordelia. Fred tells them the Axis is in a black market auction house with tight security. Angel has the plans to the auction house and Fred lists all their security features. Angel pretends to a confidence he doesn't have. Fred takes the plans and says she will try to come up with some plan to get them inside. After she is gone, Angel tells Gunn how impressed he is with Fred and how she reminds him of Cordelia. Gunn asks what they will do when they find where Cordelia is and Angel says whatever they need to do to get her back where she belongs. They start listing the things they will need to pull off the heist. We see the objects as Angel speaks them, only it is Gwen who has them and who is preparing to steal the Axis. Her final preparation is putting on lipstick, bright red.

Lilah and Wesley are making out. She tells him she has to leave in a couple of hours for an important meeting. She reveals she knows about Justine and wonders how much of their sex she overheard while Wesley kept her chained. He says Justine did call Lilah impossibly loud. Lilah says all this time he was lying. He says Angel is necessary for fighting people like her. She says he did her a favour since Angel kicked out Connor and that makes him vulnerable to her. She says he may need a big sister or maybe Mrs. Robinson. Wesley says he doesn't need to hear her evil plans and she says it turns him on just to know she has them.

Gwen breaks into the auction house. The gang break in as well, not realizing she is there ahead of them. Gwen realizes they are there. Gunn knocks out a security guard. Angel enters the room where the Axis is. A gate suddenly drops down, cutting him off from the Axis. He tries to lift it and there's an electrical charge. Gwen drops in, literally. Fred discovers someone else has already hacked into the electrical systems. Gunn discovers the other guards have already been knocked out. Gwen uses her powers to get to the Axis. Gunn arrives. Angel pleads with Gwen to let him use the Axis to find Cordelia. She refuses. Fred manages to set off the alarm and Angel raises the gate. Gunn rushes Gwen and she uses her power on him, knocking him out. Angel feels for a pulse and says he's dead as Fred looks on. Fred cries. Gwen has a flashback to the little boy in Wisconsin. She knocks them aside and jump starts Gunn. Angel fights with her. But Fred says they have to get to a hospital and Gwen escapes.

Connor is walking down the street. Lilah is watching from a rooftop. Angel appears beside her. She says he let him off easily. He says Connor messed up and knows it. She laughs at his moral high ground. She asks if he plans to follow Connor until he repents. Angel says he's not there for Connor, but for her. He wants her to find out who is buying the Axis. In return, he'll ignore the fact she's within 50 yards of Connor, but just this once. He tells her he can smell her and Wesley all over each other and gives her an hour.

Gunn is looking at the readout from his ECG. Fred asks him what it was like being dead and he says he doesn't remember anything. He says that if Gwen hadn't saved him Fred or Angel would have. Fred bursts out in anger saying she's sick of everybody leaving (Wesley, Cordelia, Angel) and sick of having to keep things going and keep her chin up. She says he died and left her all alone. Gunn comforts her.

Gwen is going to see her buyer. Angel is there. They fight. She uses her power on him and actually starts his heart beating. He kisses her. She realizes his heart doesn't normally beat. Bars come down and they are sealed in the elevator. It's Elliot. He's had the elevator insulated so she can't use her power. And he is going to gas them and kill them. He's upset at her stunt in the bar. He starts the gas. Angel tries breaking through the wall so they can get to the wiring and short circuit it. Elliot calls his wife to tell her he'll be home soon. Angel succeeds and they break out. Elliot's goons attack and Angel takes them out. Gwen has recovered and is menacing Elliot saying she doesn't like being called a freak. Angel tells her she has to let it go. He knocks out Elliot and stops her from frying him. She says he really must be doing it for love and leaves.

Angel uses the Axis and finds Cordelia. He tells them she was surrounded by light made of pure joy. He says it looks permanent and it makes it easier knowing the good she's doing. He says Cordelia is where she belongs. Cut to Cordelia crying for them to get her out of there.

Analysis

Remember Jhiera from She. I do, no matter how hard I try to forget. Gwen has a lot of Jhiera in her. She is inadvertently deadly. She's a criminal but with a conscience. There is heat between her and Angel. And there's the awful threat that she might become a recurring character. Unfortunately, she's even less interesting than Jhiera. And we've already got two other conflicted women: Lilah and Justine. We just don't need more. After a great start to the season last week, Angel really let me down this week. This was a dreadful episode.

I'm going to focus on the things I liked this episode, so this will be a short review. I liked the scene between Wesley and Angel. Angel doesn't understand that forgiveness is a two way street in this relationship. Wesley betrayed Angel. He didn't trust him. He did an awful thing. But Angel never gave Wesley a chance to explain. He never trusted him to be doing the best he could. Now he says everything is ok by him, but Wesley isn't ready to forgive yet. Their relationship has become cold. In fact, all of Wesley's relationships seem cold these days. Wesley knows Angel has come not to apologize, but to find out about Cordelia. He knows that Angel feels for Cordelia, not him. She's the member of the triumvirate he misses. So Wesley helps him, mostly because he wants to help Cordelia. Although the gang have rejected him, he still feels an obligation to them. Hence the search for Angel and the research into Cordelia. Wesley has begun a new life with a new team, but he has not entirely abandoned the old life and the old team. His coldness is an attempt at self preservation. He doesn't want to be spurned or hurt again. So he removes himself from human emotions. He takes Lilah as his lover and gathers around him a gang he has no emotional connection to.

Fred's anger and frustration is nicely done. She sees her role as part Wesley (research and brain power) and part Cordelia (keeping the gang united - note that Angel says she reminds him of Cordelia and that she stepped up while he was gone). While Wesley has used coldness to insulate himself, she's become increasingly emotional. She's stymied by Cordelia's unexplained disappearance and the betrayal of Connor. These events bother her and she's unable to remedy either of them. After three months, Connor was still successfully deceiving her (hence her enormous anger at him) and Cordelia is still missing without a clue (hence her outburst at Dennis). When she does her presentation to Gunn and Angel, she realizes Angel does it better. Her value to the team, at least in her eyes, is constantly undermined and called into question. She sees herself continually failing.

Her anger and fear culminates in the outburst at Gunn. Not only is she failing, but everyone is deserting her. The pressure of having to keep things going without any support finally gets to her. She breaks down and lets Gunn know that she's not 'large and in charge' as he said earlier, but small and afraid. That, like everyone, she is just faking it hoping no one will call her bluff.

The best role in the Buffyverse has to be Lilah. Who else gets to say things like "I'm still evil" and "I don't run errands unless they're evil errands". That just has to be a lot of fun. When Lilah first appeared on the scene, she seemed to be the foil for other more interesting evil characters at Wolfram & Hart. But now she has outlasted them all and proven far more interesting. She is playing a strange game with Wesley and Angel. She helps them almost as much as she hinders them. On the surface, she's as cold as Wesley. But beneath there seems to be a lot of the emotional fragility of Fred. Lilah is the complete package and I hope this season really focuses on her.

Some quick final thoughts. I liked the fluttering Dinza. Appropriately creepy. Has there been a dumber moment on Angel than his kissing Gwen because his heart started. If that were true, ERs would be hotbeds of lust.

Lines of the week:

"As far as I'm concerned, we're ok again." - Angel telling Wesley something that doesn't matter to him.

"Who listens to the dead." - Dinza raising a good question.

"But you have so much more to lose." - Dinza on Angel's destiny.

"Please let my cell mate be gentle." - Fred not quite set for a life of crime.

"I'm a freak." - Gwen telling Angel what she is.

"Kind of my specialty." - Angel on guilt.

"Just this once I'll ignore the fact that you're within 50 yards of my son. Just this once." - Angel getting scary.

"I can smell you and Wesley all over each other." - Angel letting Lilah know he knows.

"You died and left me all alone." - Fred on why she's really upset.

"Nice kiss." - Gwen with what could have been her last words to Angel.

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