Angel - Awakening

Summary

The TV news reports the blackout which it says is restricted to the LA area. Fred is trying to find an answer, but without any luck. Gunn points out Gwen and Wesley both took off. Connor says they are wasting their time, the answer is among them. We see Angel is his office singing to Lorne. Connor says he knows. Cordelia says that's Angelus not Angel. Connor says they are the same and she says he's never seen Angelus. Gunn says maybe it's about time they did. Cordelia explains the curse and says it's not very likely Angel is going to find a moment of perfect happiness. Lorne has read nothing, although he admits to being thrown by Angel's choice of The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia. Angel says he can remember every atrocity Angelus committed, but nothing about the demon. Lorne says it must be buried deep. Angel says there's no way to bring Angelus back. Cut to a shaman chanting and the sound of fighting in the background. A man is hurled to the ground and a triumphant Wesley enters. He says he needs a soul extracted.

Angel joins the others and Fred says she's found nothing. The beast swallowed the orb and without it the remaining items cannot bring back the sun. Angel says the beast is not their only concern. That the darkness makes it the devil's playground. Connor says that's the way Angel likes it. He says Angel is either in league with the beast or a puppet and either way is responsible for all the terrible things that have happened and for ruining Connor's life. Angel tells him to get over it. Lorne asks if they can get back to the pep talk. Fred says it would be nice to have a plan. Wesley enters and says he has one. He introduces the shaman, Wo-Pang, and says he can deliver Angelus. He asks Fred to make Pang some tea. Angel takes him aside and asks what he means. He's angry when he learns Wesley has brought a dark mystic to his home. Wesley says the shaman can remove a soul and return it. He says this way they can get Angelus. Angel says no despite Wesley's assurances.

Angel goes out into the garden. Cordelia follows and tells him all the flowers and plants will die without the sun. She says she agrees with him, that she knows Angelus from Sunnydale and from her time as a superior being and he is the biggest of big bads. That the others don't get it. He asks if she thinks Connor is right and he's being used by the beast without knowing. She says no, but when he asks if she's just saying that she says yes. She doesn't know. It's possible. He says he might be a threat to them and she says not like Angelus, he's different, he's smart. Angel is upset that she thinks Angelus is smarter than him and she says he's more ingenious in a twisted evil way. Angel realizes Angelus thinks like the beast and Cordelia agrees - they are both always a couple steps ahead of them. He walks back into the hotel and tells the others they will need a cage. Gunn doesn't think it will hold the beast and Wesley says it's not for the beast, it's for Angel.

The gang are finishing building the cage. Lorne says he's going to sit this out. Angel tells him to tell Fred and Cordelia to stay upstairs as well. He tells Connor that whatever Angelus says or does, he's not his father, Angel is. He tells him he has to take care of the others and that if anything goes wrong with Angelus he has to kill him. Connor is quick to agree. Angel is bound inside the cage. The shaman takes out a receptacle for Angel's soul. Cordelia is there and when Angel tells her to leave she refuses. The shaman enters the cage, telling Gunn to put a second lock on the door. He begins a chant, his eyes go red, he pulls out a knife, says it's time to say goodbye, and attacks Angel. Angel manages to free a hand and hold him off. Gunn opens the cage. The shaman fights with them, Angel frees himself and confronts the shaman who says he works for the beast. The shaman kills himself rather than talk. Wesley tells Gunn to check the shaman and when he does we discover the shaman's body is covered in writing.

Wesley translates the writing and says it's about the beast. Gunn realizes this is why they couldn't find anything in the books, it was all written on the members of the beast's cult. Wesley reads of a victory by the cult over another group which forged a weapon to destroy the beast. It was called the 'tooth of light'. The acolytes never found it because it was hidden. Cordelia has a vision of it, it's a sword. She says it's under the city. Angel says that's better than the plan to have an evil shaman cut off his head. Wesley says he's sorry. Angel goes to him and says that's the first time he's ever heard him apologize, about anything. Connor asks if they're going to get the sword.

Wesley, Connor, Cordelia, and Angel are in the sewers looking for the sword. Cordelia explains the sword is accessible from a hundred points all over the world, explaining why they can get it in LA. They find a tunnel leading down and Angel says they should take it slow. Connor rushes ahead. They find a boobytrap, a curtain of bells. If they disturb the bells, wooden stakes come crashing together. Gingerly, they make their way through. Cordelia almost sets off the boobytrap. Just as they are through, Wesley sets it off and he and Angel jump clear at the last second. Cordelia realizes they are at a dead end. But they see Hebrew letters on the wall. Wesley says they are random, then thinks they may represent a numerical sequence. He presses the first and the wall lifts a little. He presses the second and a stake pierces his hand. He realizes it's not the numerical order, but the order of the 9 antediluvian patriarchs in Genesis. Angel presses the next one, it works. He and Connor hold the wall up, the others go through, he and Connor dive through.

They split up and over Connor's objections Angel and Cordelia go together and Connor goes with Wesley. Cordelia apologizes for Connor. She says there are some decisions she'd like to take back. Before she can explain further, she finds the place. It's an open area with a sort of pedestal. Only there's no sword. Angel realizes the light is coming from somewhere. He reaches across the pedestal and a ball of light appears. It's a dimensional hub, explaining how the sword is accessible in many different places. Angel pulls the sword out. The hub collapses and the pillars in the cavern fall and fire bursts out. Angel saves Cordelia. They hug. She cries and says she's sorry about what happened with Connor. That she thought it was the end of the world and she really wanted to be with Angel but she couldn't. She says that even though she can look back and see all the horrible things he did as Angelus it doesn't matter because all the good he has done as Angel is more important. She says she doesn't deserve forgiveness and he says he doesn't care about her past either. They kiss. Connor and Wesley see this. Connor runs off and Angel goes after him.

Connor and Angel enter another boobytrapped area. Connor says the world is harsh and cruel because of Angel. They fight, with boobytraps going off around them. He says Cordelia was his. Cordelia enters and says she wasn't. Connor runs away. They go back to the hotel. Wesley tells the other Connor is out patrolling. Lorne says rumor has it the beast is in the warehouse district. Fred and Gunn have discovered that piercing the beast's head with the sword will kill it. Also, it should release the energy which is blocking the sun. But that much energy will likely kill anything human and they aren't even sure Angel can survive it. Angel says he will face the beast alone. He says they've all helped, they've all been champions. Cordelia says she can't lose him. He says he knows he'll come back. The beast smashes his way into the hotel.

The beast says if Angel won't join with him, then he'll die. He realizes Angel has the sword. Angel tells the others to get away and begins fighting the beast. Cordelia doesn't want to go, but Wesley drags her out. The beast breaks the sword. He grabs Angel by the throat, but Connor appears and attacks him with an ax and he drops Angel. The beast says Connor is like Angelus. Connor says his name is Angel. Angel grabs the shard of the sword and stabs the beast in the head. The beast is destroyed leaving a pile of rock dust and the sun is back. Connor runs to Angel's side. Connor says he realizes Cordelia really loves Angel. He says she was too old for him and asks if this is what it is like to be a champion. Angel says yes. The others return. Angel says they were victorious. Gunn and Wesley shake hands. We see people in the sunlight, Angel peeking out the window at them. Cordelia says it must be hard for Angel to see the light and not be able to go out into it. He says there's no place he'd rather be than with her. They kiss. They make love. Angel calls out Buffy. We're back in the cage. The shaman says illusion becomes reality. Angelus is back. Cordelia knows it. He laughs.

Analysis

After watching this episode, my initial feeling was two strikes. That is two bad episodes in a role. I didn't like the fact that this was essentially a dream and that nothing between the entry of the monk into the cage and the awakening of Angelus was real. It also annoyed me that Angel can so easily have that moment of perfect happiness. And I wondered why they didn't use the pills Rebecca used on him in Eternity which seemed to make him temporarily perfectly happy. That would have been a lot safer. Then I talked to my friend Jeff who made a lot of good points. He argued that the illusion was in fact a series of events depicting Angel's idea of what would be an ideal end to this adventure. And that the totality of these events was what led to the moment of perfect happiness. Which means the dream sequence does have value since it gives us an insight into what Angel really wants. I should point out later the same day Mike and Andrew wrote to me with many of the same comments and their ideas along with Jeff's are the inspiration for most of this review.

It starts with Wesley and Gunn. The first big moment doesn't seem that big. Wesley tells Gunn to check the shaman and Gunn does without comment. This is the first time in a long time that Gunn has quietly gone along with anything Wesley has suggested. And it suddenly becomes notable that Gunn hasn't been throwing jibes Wesley's way. At least not since the start of what we ultimately learn is Angel's dream. Next, we have Wesley apologizing to Angel. Angel takes this as an apology not just for the mistake with the shaman, but for kidnapping Connor and starting the whole tragic sequence. The two finally bury the hatchet just as Wesley and Gunn seem to have buried the hatchet.

At the same time, the gang discover a method of defeating the beast - a method which involves adventure and peril but not the awakening of Angelus. Bringing back Angelus and losing control of himself is Angel's greatest fear. He's relieved to discover something as simple as a sword can solve all his problems. Then, on the journey to get the sword, he has bonding experiences with Connor and Cordelia confesses she was wrong. Angel gets the sword and the girl. She says it was a mistake to make love to Connor. She says she really wanted Angel. That she wishes she could undo that bad decision. Angel gets to be big and forgiving while Cordelia cries and begs for his understanding. She says nothing he has done can stop her from loving him or for him being the one for her. So Angel has his old friend (Wesley) back. He has had a bonding moment with his son (lifting the wall), and his girlfriend has confessed absolute love for him and absolved him of all his sins. Of course, there is a fly in the ointment. Connor is not entirely on Angel's side and he's angry. But Angel's fight with Connor only serves to give Cordelia another chance to proclaim her love for Angel and to say she never had such feelings for Connor.

Next we come to the battle with the beast. It's made easy for Angel, because he doesn't even have to look for the beast. His son returns and fights by his side. After a relatively easy victory - with Angel striking the killing blow while his son distracts the beast, Connor admits Cordelia was never his and she was never right for him. So Angel gets to have Cordelia with Connor's blessing. All his friends (Wesley, Cordelia, Connor) keep telling him they are wrong and he is right. Wesley wants to be his friend and right hand man again (and we get Wesley and Gunn shaking hands victoriously just to let us know all is fine between them), Cordelia wants to be his girl, and Connor wants to be a champion just like his dad. Connor demonstrates his acceptance of Angel by insisting on using that name when the beast calls him Angelus - the complete opposite of what he was saying to Cordelia at the beginning of the episode.

Finally, we have Cordelia feeling sorry for Angel - forever forbidden the light. And insisting they make love - despite the curse. This was the point at which most fans had to realize it was a dream. How could they ignore the curse so blithely? But their lovemaking is only the capper to a long sequence of events. Angel has rebuilt his family (the family we saw in his dream sequences in Deep Down), he has been proclaimed right in all things and unimpeachably heroic by everyone who matters to him. He has defeated the great evil and returned the sun. And he has won the girl. It's the perfect end to the perfect day.

At this point, something really interesting happens. Not Angel awakening from his dream as Angelus, but Angel shouting out Buffy's name. Was there a little imperfection even in this illusion of perfection? Is Cordelia not really the perfect woman but merely second best after the now unattainable Buffy? Or was he merely remembering the last perfect moment of happiness?

I've been trying to understand Angel's reluctance to release Angelus. Cordelia has already seen Angelus and knows what he can do. Wesley is well acquainted with him and had a brief personal glimpse in Eternity. Connor was raised on stories of the evil Angelus. Fred and Gunn are the most ignorant, but I don't see why Angel should be worried about them. I think the clue to this is in the Pylean arc of season two, especially in Through the Looking Glass. Angel turns into his demon form. Not the mixed human/demon we see but the pure demon within him. He's disgusted, not just at the demon within him but at the thought of his friends actually seeing it. When you come down to it, Angel is vain (in the same Pylean episode he was fussing about his hair). How he looks and how others see him really matters to him. When Cordelia suggests Angelus is cleverer than he, he's upset. He, as Angel, has to be perfect - physically, emotionally, and mentally. This is an interesting flaw for a hero to have.

Some quick final thoughts. I don't think someone raised in a hell dimension by a nut like Holtz would have the dry wit Connor does. But I still enjoy it. One of my regular correspondents, Andrew, points out that the sped up montage footage that we see at scene changes was missing from the dream sequence - a subtle clue that it was not real. I found that missing footage annoying, since it made it harder to recognize that a commercial break was over.

Lines of the week:

"I need Wesley." - Fred saying the wrong thing.

"Deep inside Angelus." - Lorne with what really sounds like a porn title.

"I need a soul extracted." - Wesley with the kind of line it takes real skill to stop from being camp.

"You're the reason my life sucks." - Connor pretty much summing up what dads do.

"Get over it." - Angel passing on the advice he received last episode.

"How about orange zinger." - Pang on his preferred tea.

"What is it about evil that jacks up the IQ points?" - Cordelia asking a very interesting question.

"Ok." - Connor being really quick to agree to killing Angelus.

"Wood. Why did it have to be wood." - Angel asking one of those questions.

"I know I don't deserve forgiveness." - Cordelia saying what Angel wants to hear.

"Oh, there he is." - Angel making with the understatement.

"Is that what I think it is?" - The beast realizing his time is up.

"His name is Angel." - Connor accepting his father.

"She was too old for me anyway." - Connor being truthful.

"Buffy." - Angel saying the thing you're not supposed to say.

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