Angel - Soulless

Summary

There is a crime wave in the city. Connor is battling vampires from Tucson who have come to town because of the darkness. He destroys a bunch of them, but lots more appear. Wesley is putting the receptacle with Angel's soul in it into the hotel safe. Cordelia says they've done the right thing. Wesley says they all know Angelus' history and that he will be focussed on only one thing - getting free so he can slaughter them. Cordelia says they are Angel's link to humanity and Angelus will hate them for that. Wesley says to watch the monitor when he goes down and pay attention to everything Angelus does. That he will try to play on their emotions. He admits a lifetime of training has not prepared him. He says Angelus is smarter than him and more focussed. In the basement, we see Angelus singing Teddy Bears' Picnic. Ominously.

Wesley goes down to confront Angelus. Wesley seems to be buttering him up. Angelus tries to get to him by talking about the atrocities he committed - killing the gypsy girl, newborn babies, nuns. Wesley says they could start there. Angelus says he knows Wesley really wants to know about the beast. But when Wesley asks, he's evasive. He won't even explain why Angel wouldn't remember. He mocks Angel's dream fantasy, comparing it to Raiders of the Lost Ark. He says everyone has an agenda and describes Wesley's agenda: to find out how to destroy the beast and be a hero. He says he's doing it for Fred, to get her to love him. Then he starts talking crudely about Fred and Gunn having sex. Wesley glances toward the camera broadcasting this to the monitor the others are watching. Cut to the others watching. Fred says you can't believe anything Angelus says. Gunn says what about the true things. Cordelia says he distorts everything and lies with the truth. Gunn calms down. Wesley congratulates Angelus on finding a weakness and exploiting it. He asks if they can move on. Angelus says all the digging he's been doing on the beast is in the wrong place. But he won't say where to look. Wesley tries to confirm Angelus and the beast were adversaries. Angelus says it's hard for him to keep track. Wesley says if they were, then by killing him he'd be doing Angelus a favour. Angelus says Wesley may have a new haircut and clothes and have hit the gym, but he's still a loser. He has no leverage. Wesley says he'll kill him, Angelus laughs. He says he'll return his soul. Angelus says that just means he loses. Angelus starts listing Wesley's failures: letting Lilah get Lorne's brain, Faith, kidnapping Connor. He talks about the bond between father and son.

Wesley tries to get back to Cordelia's vision of Angelus and the beast. Angelus starts talking crudely about Cordelia and complains about her personality, her yapping. He mocks her conversations with Angel. Upstairs, Lorne tries to console Cordelia. She says she's ok. Angel says kidnapping Connor is probably better than having sex with him like Cordelia did. Fred thinks that's ridiculous since it would be like sleeping with your son. Then they realize it's the truth. Angelus starts yelling that he wants a drink. A beat up Connor walks in. Everyone is staring strangely at him. Wesley comes up saying Angelus wants blood. Fred says she'll get it and Gunn goes with her.

Fred and Gunn (with a crossbow) go downstairs. Angelus calls them Othello and Desdemona, then says Desdemona wasn't in love with the other guy. Angelus starts working them. He talks about them having sex, about Wesley being Gunn's boss, about hearing them at night in their room. He says he hears the things she says and touches himself. Gunn points out Angel can't get any. Fred calls him a pig. Gunn tells him to step back. Fred puts a glass of blood on a cart and wheels the cart to the cage. Angelus steps forward and takes the glass. He kicks the cart knocking Fred forward and grabs her through the bars saying 'Might get some now'. Gunn drops the crossbow and rushes to her, trying to pry Angelus' hands from her neck. Wesley appears and shoots Angelus with a tranquiliser dart. Angelus drops. Fred says it's her fault. Wesley says Angelus is unpredictable and Gunn should not have dropped his weapon. Fred clings to Gunn and tells him she's glad he's there.

Cordelia brings Connor a shirt, a black one of Angel's. He wants to go back out, but she says no. He says he doesn't like the way everyone looks at him, like they still think he's connected to the beast. She says the looks were about what Angelus said about their night together. He's fine with everyone knowing. She says not to go out again, he says if she doesn't want to be with him that's fine, but not to tell him what to do.

Wesley is in the office trying to do research. Fred comes in. She thanks him for what he did. She looks to see if Gunn is nearby and Wesley looks as well and says he's not. She says Gunn heard what Angelus said about Wesley and Fred. She says his feelings are sweet and there's nothing wrong with it. He says there is and he kisses her. She pulls away, flustered. Gunn comes in asking why no one is watching the monitor. He's immediately suspicious. Fred tries to calm him and get him out of the room, but he confronts Wesley and they start arguing ignoring Fred. Gunn complains to Fred that she always goes to Wesley for help. He warns Wesley to stay away from her. Downstairs, Angelus comes to and says 'that was fast'. Fred pushes Gunn out of the room. The argument gets louder. The others come down, but they can't calm the two men. Gunn says nobody wants Wesley there. Wesley says Gunn can't give Fred what she needs.They start fighting. Fred tries to intervene and is knocked down by Gunn. Everyone is shocked. Cordelia sees Connor going down to Angelus on the monitor.

Angelus tries to work Connor. He calls him son. Connor recalls what Angel told him about Angelus in Awakening. Angelus talks about Cordelia. He reminds Connor that Holtz killed himself. But Connor is untouched. Then he starts talking about Darla, saying she staked herself because she couldn't stand the thought of Connor inside her and preferred to be dead. Then he says Holtz killed himself because he couldn't stand Connor. Connor gets angry, says Holtz was a good man (first calling him his father). That all he wanted was for Angelus to get the punishment he deserved. Angelus starts saying now Connor is in love, but that Cordelia is pretty much the closest thing he has to a mother and he's basically committing incest. Connor recounts what Angel told him in Awakening. But he says he didn't believe it. He says Angel is just something Angelus is forced to wear and Angelus is his real father. Angelus sees the challenge in Connor and eggs him on to fight. But Connor resists. Angelus continues egging him on but before it comes to blows Cordelia walks in and tells Connor to leave. At first he won't, but when she says please he goes upstairs as Angelus calls him "mama's boy".

Cordelia turns off the camera so the others can't see her and Angelus. She tells him she'll deal for information about the beast. She offers herself. He doesn't believe her, but she says as a champion sometimes a sacrifice is called for. She says to look in her eyes and see she isn't lying. The gang can't understand why Angelus is suddenly cooperative. Connor asks what she did, she won't say. Wesley says he needs to know, but she says he doesn't.

Angelus is talking to Wesley. He says the time was 1789, Wesley says that must have been in Prussia. He says he was taking a shortcut to Vienna. There were troops about and he found a massacre. He followed the trail to the beast. It had staged the massacre. It knew of Angelus and wanted to meet him. The beast feared the Svea priestesses who were working to banish him. The beast couldn't touch them, but Angelus could. He offered a deal. Angelus declined. Before the beast could destroy him, the priestesses banished him. The gang start looking up the Svear. They find some information, it's a little vague yet it seems to match what Angelus said. Gunn finds the Svear in the phone book and they head out to get them.

Wesley, Connor, and Cordelia have gone to the Svear. They knock, but no one answers. The door is unlocked and they enter. They see family photos. Then they discover the bodies. The entire family has been slaughtered. They wonder how the beast got there ahead of them and whether it is spying on them or Angelus was able to contact it. But Wesley realizes the family have been dead for days. Angelus had nothing to do with it. He finds a banishment incantation. Connor sees a calendar with a date marked 'Daddy's birthday'. He runs outside and vomits. Cordelia follows. She tells him death is different when it's humans, not demons or vampires. He says that's not it and starts to talk about the family. A vampire attacks. Wesley pulls up in the car and they hop in as more vampire start coming. They drive off.

The others are watching the monitor where they see Angelus singing Teddy Bears' Picnic. Lorne isn't getting anything useful from reading him. He does say that in his mind Angelus isn't in a cage. The others return and explain what happened. Gunn says the last ditch plan to turn Angel into Angelus is a bust. Cordelia says it's time to bring back Angel. Connor walks away. Cordelia goes down to Angelus. She tells him that since his information didn't help stop the beast, she doesn't have to fulfill her part of the bargain. She says they are putting his soul back. That he's a disease Angel can't wait to get rid of. Upstairs, Wesley opens the safe. She goes upstairs to find the receptacle and the soul gone.

Analysis

This should have been the most intense and most interesting episode this season. It actually started that way with Wesley's interrogation of Angelus. But it went steadily downhill from there. It required Fred and Gunn acting like idiots - there is so much wrong with that scene where Angelus grabs Fred I can't believe it happened. And then Angelus seems to be a dope because he actually buys Cordelia's line. The good bits were the Fred/Gunn/Wesley triangle and the missing soul. Who wants to bet whoever took the soul also drugged the drinks at Gwen's?

Let me start with Fred getting grabbed by Angelus. Why does she put the drink on a cart and then stand right beside it? The whole point is to maintain a distance from Angelus. That's why Gunn tells him to stand back. The obvious thing is to have Angelus stand back, push the cart there, move away, and then let him come forward to get the drink. Not stand right there in the line of fire waiting for him to make a move. Of course, Angelus should be chained up and not allowed to move freely around the cage, but that's a different argument. Gunn and Fred were just incredibly careless and that's not really in character for them.

Of course, that carelessness led to Wesley's heroics and Fred ignoring him. She clings to Gunn, while it is Wesley who saved her and Gunn who was careless. It drives home the fact that Gunn has nothing to fear from Wesley. Fred has made a firm choice. But Gunn doesn't feel that way. He's incredibly insecure. Angelus realizes that and he uses that knowledge to push his own agenda. When talking to Wesley, he talks about his yearning for Fred. He emphasizes Fred's sexuality - both in that conversation and later when Fred and Gunn come downstairs to give him blood. This diminishes Fred's intellectuality and independence and makes Gunn and Wesley think of her more as a possession and as a sexually promiscuous being. It makes it easier for Wesley to think he has a chance and easier for Gunn to think she has betrayed him. The revelation about Cordelia actually continues to push this agenda (note that when Angelus says 'that was fast' he's referring to the quarrel between Gunn and Wesley) because it lowers the moral bar for everyone. If Cordelia, paragon of virtue and one time higher being, could have a practically incestuous relationship with Connor then surely Fred could cheat on Gunn with Wesley. Angelus has created a morally ambiguous environment where Fred, Gunn, and Wesley don't know what is right or wrong anymore. That's the kind of environment he triumphs in.

It's no accident that Angelus makes many revelations but not the one about Wesley and Lilah. He's probably saving this for another time, but it would actually hurt his plan right now. It would lead Gunn to think he had moved on and had interests other than Fred and it would drive Fred away from him. He wants to emphasize Wesley's attraction to Fred without any distractions from that point.

Cordelia compares Angelus to a disease Angel has recovered from and will recover from again. Connor calls Angel something Angelus is forced to wear. This is the problem of the vampire with a soul. Is he a demon controlled by a soul or is he a human with a soul which was once controlled by a demon. If you demonize him, you can justify controlling him. If Angelus is a prisoner of Angel you know he will keep attempting to escape until he makes it. So killing him can be justified, in a death penalty sense of things. But if Angelus is a disease which can be cured, then you have to treat him and you can't blame Angel for what happens when he is sick.

Angelus has to know Cordelia will not keep her end of the bargain. Either she will weasel out of it, as she does, or the others will simply stop it from happening. It's just another chance for him to push his agenda and get the gang to mess up. It did lead to Cordelia, Connor, and Wesley leaving the hotel. Which means Fred, Gunn, and Lorne were left. It's possible he hoped to work on them and get some further advantage. We see Lorne watching Angelus sing, but we don't know whether some of them didn't have further conversations with him.

So who took the soul? I really haven't a clue, but we can at least handicap the possibilities.

I've found a couple different versions of the Teddy Bears' Picnic song, but I thought this one was the most popular.

If you go down to the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today
You'd better go in disguise!

For ev'ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain,
Because today's the day the
Teddy Bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for Teddy Bears
The little Teddy Bears are having
A lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them frolic on their holiday.

See them gaily gad about.
They love to play and shout,
They never have any care;
At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies
Will take them home to bed,
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears
.
Ev'ry Teddy Bear who's been good
Is sure of a treat today.
There's lots of marvelous things to eat
And wonderful games to play.

Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please
'Cause that's the way the
Teddy Bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for Teddy Bears
The little Teddy Bears are having
A lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them frolic on their holiday.

See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout,
They never have any care;
At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies
Will take them home to bed,
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears.

If you go down to the woods today,
You'd better not go alone!
It's lovely down in the woods today,
But safer to stay at home!

For ev'ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the
Teddy Bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for Teddy Bears
The little Teddy Bears are having
A lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them frolic on their holiday.

See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout,
They never have any care;
At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies
Will take them home to bed,
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears

Angelus uses the quote 'foul rag and bone shop of the heart'. It's from the following poem by W.B. Yeats:

 The Circus Animals' Desertion

I

I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

II

What can I but enumerate old themes,
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride.

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it;
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love,
And not those things that they were emblems of.

III

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Some quick final thoughts. I would never have believed Teddy Bears' Picnic could sound so scary. Why wasn't Angelus chained? Why let him walk around freely? Angelus speaks the line 'whose a guy got to kill to get a drink around here'. The closed captions read 'bang' instead of 'kill' and later 'screwing' is replaced with 'doing' when he talks about Connor and Cordelia. Lots of cultural references on Angelus' part. He's a well read guy. We've got a popular song, a poem by Yeats, a play by Shakespeare (Othello),and a classic Greek tragedy (Oedipus Rex). That super hearing is often forgotten. It had not occurred to me that Angel would be able to hear pretty much everything that went on in the hotel at night.

Lines of the week:

"Tourists." - Connor not liking out of town vampires.

"I spent my life training for this and I'm still not ready." - Wesley being honest with himself.

"My first nun. Now, that's a great story." - Angelus with the kind of dialogue no other show could have.

"The foul rag and bone shop of the heart." - Angelus showing his literary side.

"He lies with the truth." - Cordelia getting to the heart of Angelus' power.

"It's just words." - Fred stating a not helpful truth.

"I'm just glad you're here." - Fred telling Gunn what Wesley wants to hear.

"Yes there is." - Wesley on whether there is anything wrong in his feelings for Fred.

"That was fast." - Angelus on how quickly he turned the gang against themselves.

"Doing your mom and trying to kill your dad. There should be a play." - Angelus getting cultural again.

"Angel's just something that you're forced to wear. You're my real father." - Connor defining reality.

"Don't disappoint daddy." - Angelus looking to push Connor over the edge.

"I think you've done enough damage." - Cordelia on why she took Angelus off camera.

"You took out the soul, still have the brain." - Angel not believing Cordelia's offer.

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