Angel - Shiny Happy People

Summary

Eventually, the demon born of Cordelia takes the name Jasmine, so I'm going to call her that from the beginning just to keep things simple. We're at the point the last episode let off, with the naked Jasmine wrapping herself in a blanket as Connor and Angel look on. Cordelia is unconscious. Jasmine seems really nice. Angel says he should be punished for trying to kill her. He hands her his sword. She holds it as if she's going to cut off his head, then as if she's going to knight him. She says she feels his suffering and it will end. His head is bowed, when he looks up she's gone.

Fred is reorganizing the books. She's making Lorne edgy. There is a buzzing sound and Lorne says it is Gunn and Wesley in the basement dismembering Skip. Lorne finds it a little hard to follow Fred's stream of consciousness verbalising. She is upset the beast master chose Cordelia as its vessel. She wonders why Angel has been gone so long. She wonders whether he found Cordelia and Connor. She can't seem to decide which is worse. Angel not getting there in time and the demon being born or him getting there in time and killing Cordelia. Fred spots Connor in the other room and rushes out to confront him, but he's just cleaning up. She's confused. Angel talks and they see he is back and Cordelia is asleep on the sofa. Gunn and Wesley run up. They realize Cordelia is not pregnant and the demon was born. Angel says he tried to kill her. He's upset and Connor tells him to stop beating himself up. Angel says she's disappeared. They all agree they have to find her, but the others want to kill her and Angel and Connor say no. Angel says they want to worship her. Wesley says Angel and Connor are under a spell. Wesley reminds them of all the evil the beast master committed. Jasmine enters and says that has to be rectified. They all fall to their knees. She says she wants to help. Wesley asks her what they should do.

The gang are all enchanted. Fred says Cordelia must be happy. Jasmine says she was one of the original inhabitants of Earth. She says the evil demons drove her and the other good ones away. She says then man emerged and it seemed a balance might be restored. Fred says they failed, but Jasmine says no. She says the powers failed them by doing nothing but observe. But she couldn't stand this and so found a way back. She created a miracle in Connor's birth. She explains that when Angel fought to restore life to Darla in The Trial, he won a life which was Connor's. This allowed her to reenter the physical plane. She says they will destroy the evils in the world and this will allow Cordelia to reawake. She says they will change the world and Angel is eager for it.

We see vampires in a bowling alley having taken over the place. They are fighting amongst themselves, some angry at having been brought to LA only to have the sun reappear. The gang arrive and attack. Jasmine sits and watches with Fred. Jasmine asks Fred what they should call her. One of the vampires injures Jasmine who bleeds a little. Fred is overwhelmed at what she sees as her failure to protect Jasmine. Angel pursues that vampire out of the bowling alley into a patio where people are sitting. The vampire collides into a man and Angel stakes him. Jasmine comes out and everyone falls to their knees. Jasmine reveals she knows their names. The man the vampire collided with grabs a knife off a table, calls her a monster, says she has to die, and attacks her. Angel stops him and beats him senseless. Jasmine stops him. The man cries and Jasmine goes to him. She touches him over his objections. She sends Wesley for an ambulance. She tells the crowd that he's full of fear and anger and will always be alone but they have found each other.

At the hotel, Gunn suggests Helen as a name for Jasmine. Wesley suggest Dianthia or Iphigenia or Aristophila (which means supreme lover of mankind). Fred is obsessed with getting the blood stain out of Jasmine's shirt. Fred runs off to try club soda. Gunn and Wesley say that she's really single minded when focussed on a problem. Jasmine says they love her very much. She says this love should bring them closer together, not drive them apart. Connor comes over and says he's sorry she was hurt. Jasmine reveals she's healed. Connor asks why the man tried to hurt her. She doesn't know. She says some people are afraid of change. She goes outside to see Angel. She remarks on the wonderful smell of the jasmine. He's remorseful over beating the man. She says he was only trying to protect her and he shouldn't be ashamed of that. He's worried he will fail her. He is afraid he is so happy at being with her that Angelus will return. She says soon they will banish all evil and that won't be a problem any more. That nothing will be left but beauty. She says he is her general. She says she has faith in them all to do the task.

We see the gang fighting and destroying demons with a voice over from Jasmine saying she will be with them everywhere they go. Intercut with this are scenes of Fred desperately trying to get the blood out of the shirt. Cut to a news broadcast about the falling crime rate in the city - the result of the gang destroying demons. The gang watch this and believe soon LA will be demon free. Lorne arrives with a surprise for Jasmine and they walk off together. Fred enters with a shirt asking what they think. They say it looks like new and she says it is new, she bought a new one because she couldn't clean the other. Fred cries. She says when Jasmine's not around she hurts.

Jasmine and Lorne are upstairs in a room he has decorated for her; it has a bouquet of jasmine in it which she loves. Lorne leaves and Connor enters. He says he knows why he was created, to bring her here. He says he doesn't deserve to be so happy. He talks about the evil he has done. She says he deserves all the happiness she can bring him. He asks why him and she says she needed a unique soul to bring her into the world. She says together they will transfer the Earth. He says Angel is the champion and she says everything has its season. She says it is his time. Fred enters with the shirt, but when she looks at Jasmine she sees a horrible monster of decay and death. Fred starts crying. The others enter and she says she's crying because she was thinking what it would be like if Jasmine left. Jasmine says she's not going anywhere. Fred leaves saying she needs time alone to count her blessings.

Fred is in Cordelia's room talking to the comatose woman. She says the evil is there and they don't even know to fight back. Angel enters and says he knows what she's thinking. He says when you look in Jasmine's eyes the lies and deceit melt away and nothing is left but the beauty. Fred says everything is different from what they expected. Angel says it's nice to be wrong. She says now everything seems so easy. She says they just do what she says and never asks questions. He says it's a relief not to have the constant questioning.

Fred goes to the hospital to see the man. We learn his name is John Stoler. He's been put in the psych ward. She sneaks in. She asks if he has a history of mental problems and he says no. She tells him what she saw and he says that's what he saw. He tells her not to let it touch her. He turns toward her and we see his face is horribly disfigured where she touched him. He wants her to untie him. He says they have to kill it. He says she has been called to the mission. She says she's never called. Her phone rings. She says it's Angel and they are probably wondering where she is. She leaves and he yells at her not to trust anyone.

At the hotel, a crowd of worshippers has gathered to adore Jasmine. Fred confides in Wesley. He says he'll help. But she sees he talks to the others who look at her strangely and then to Jasmine. She grabs some weapons from the cabinet including a crossbow which she fires at Jasmine. Angel leaps and takes the bolt. Lorne goes to Fred and she grabs him and holds a knife to his throat. Jasmine says there is nowhere she can go. She hurls Lorne at them and runs out. Jasmine says to let her go, now is not the time.

We see Fred driving that night. She stops the car and cries. Cut to Wesley saying he can't believe Fred is evil. Angel says they have to kill her and the others agree. Jasmine says it may come to that but first they have to try to help her. She says they'll look for Fred tomorrow because it will be easier then, they will have eyes everywhere. Fred is in a diner. There is a tv. The morning show introduces Jasmine, she's taken the name now. She starts telling the story about good and evil forces. Everyone in the diner kneels. Fred walks out.

Analysis

Is Jasmine stupid or simply incredibly arrogant? She should definitely have sent Angel and the others after Fred immediately. The more time they give her, the better a chance she has at succeeding in finding allies and fighting Jasmine. I also have to ask whether we are seeing the Buffyverse cosmology being completely reworked. Last week everything that happened on Angel was put in a new light as part of Jasmine's scheming. That theme is continued and extended this week. And Jasmine argues that she is one of the ancient gods who ruled the Earth and were driven off. Now, on Buffy Giles has said demons controlled the Earth and men drove them off. But Jasmine puts a slightly different twist on that. Of course, we know she's likely lying, but it seems to me the Buffyverse cosmology is in flux and I don't know if that's a good thing. This kind of twist and turn approach to plotting ultimately did in X-Files as it became so complicated no consistent answer to plot issues could ever be given.

Those meta comments aside, this episode reminded me very much of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Especially that final scene with Fred just about the only unenchanted person left in the city. This gives rise to two big questions: what is Jasmine's ultimate purpose and how come that man and Fred were able to see Jasmine for what she is?

Jasmine talks about not being satisfied with just observing anymore. It seems the concept of free will, of the independent development of man, is unacceptable to her. Jasmine may be a fallen angel. A being of divine origin with good intentions which it intends to enforce on the world. Of course, enforced goodness is no better than enforced evil. The Lord of the Rings, the gold standard for fantasy, handles this in Galadriel's speech to Frodo when he offers her the ring. She knows that she will start out using this power for good. But that absolute power cannot end with anything but evil. Jasmine is like Galadriel, a beautiful queen who seems to be using her power to rid the world of demons. But behind this facade we see there is nothing but corruption and death. Of course, as a fallen angel, Jasmine also reminds us of Milton's Satan. Another divine being who could not stand being second in power. She seeks to make a kingdom on Earth (note how pleased she is when people call her god) and to turn all humanity into her worshippers.

Last episode, Angel complained that the powers that be don't get their hands dirty. Jasmine makes the same kind of comment this week. But they are misinterpreting what is happening. The powers (at least the good ones) realize that by fighting mankind's battles for it they infantilize man. That man cannot mature, cannot become a superior being, unless he fights and wins his own battles making the right decisions for himself. The essence of faith is not knowing. By incarnating herself as a godlike being and forcing worship, Jasmine removes faith and free will. Man cannot improve in such a state, he is reduced to an automaton. Darla, last week, is the example of the powers proper interaction with man. She reminds Connor that he has the power to choose, but she doesn't force him to go one way or another. That's the proper role of the powers and the one Jasmine ignores. And it's seductive because it's so much easier for everyone, even the champions, to just do what they are told and not have to think for themselves. Fred points out to Angel that they have ceased to question, that they have ceased to plan for themselves and Angel finds this a relief. It's also a loss of humanity.

It seems that the demons aren't enchanted by Jasmine. At least when she enters the bowling alley none of them fall to their knees the way everyone else does. And the vampire hurts her apparently without any remorse. The man he then collides with is able to see Jasmine for what she is. And, later, so is Fred. The vampire touched Jasmine's blood and in his collision transferred that blood to the man. Fred touched the blood while trying to clean Jasmine's clothes. She even says she scrubbed the shirt until her fingers bled. Perhaps the man was wounded and some of the blood from Jasmine mixed with his and the same blood mixed with Fred's. Perhaps that contact is what opens their eyes to reality. It's interesting that Angel never looks directly at Jasmine when in vampire mode. Perhaps if he did, he might see her for what she really is. Or maybe simply having a soul prevents that no matter what. If blood on blood contact is necessary, it would explain why Angel, who touched the man, wasn't affected and why it took Fred so long to be affected.

Some quick final thoughts. It was nice to have Connor's miraculous birth finally explained as the victory won by Angel in The Trial. This actually made sense and tied off a loose end. Have we ever seen Angel in a white shirt before. Jasmine touches Angel and Lorne and I think Connor (it's a close thing and she may only have been close to him and not touch him). They aren't affected the way the man was. So, is this something she can do on purpose or are demons and partial demons somehow immune? It's interesting that both Angel and Connor worry about being too happy. Jasmine's comment to Connor about everything having its season sounds a little disturbing. Does she intend to pit father against son? Shouldn't Cordelia be in a hospital? How is she being fed? Wouldn't a psych ward be harder to get out of than in to? Helen may be a family name for Gunn, but I thought of Helen of Troy. Wesley seemed to pick up on the Greek theme - Iphigenia is the daughter of Agamemnon brother of Menelaus who was husband of Helen. Agamemnon sacrificed her to the gods in order to assure himself a safe voyage home after the battle of Troy. Perhaps Jasmine's words about Wesley, Gunn, and Fred will finally heal the rift amongst the three of them - even when they emerge from her enchantment. Nathan Fillion lately from Firefly appears as Caleb in Buffy and Gina Torres also lately from Firefly appears as Jasmine on Angel. While I applaud Whedon's loyalty to actors he's worked with on other shows, I've got to say I find it a little difficult to suspend disbelief, to get into the story, when I see an actor I've seen so recently in another role. The role of Jasmine is different enough from anything I've seen Torres do that I didn't see that as a huge problem. But Fillion even seems to talk the same way in Buffy as he did in Firefly and I found that annoying.

Lines of the week:

"Didn't even say goodbye." - Angel acting weird.

"We don't want to kill her. We just want to find her so we can worship her." - Angel letting them in on what happened.

"We're going to change the world."
"Finally." - Angel losing patience.

"There will be no doubt, no worry, no fear." - Jasmine describing a living hell.

"Someone so tickled they're out of similes." - Lorne with a moment we've all been waiting for.

"You deserve all the happiness I can bring you." - Jasmine with what sounds like a threat to me.

"Everything just seems so easy." - Fred noticing the hallmark of evil.

"The constant questioning, it's finally over." - Angel describing death.

"That's just eerie." - Fred with a great moment of comic relief.

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