Angel - Conviction

Summary

Angel saves a woman from a vampire attack in an alley. As he leaves the thankful woman behind, a bevy of Wolfram & Hart types arrive. The special ops team, which secures the area, and media types who take photos, get the woman to sign a release, and make it all look like a press event. Angel discovers he's been wired and they've been following him. He's disconcerted.

Two young boys are walking to class and talking about comic books. One is called Matthew and his father won't let him read Punisher. Cut to the Wolfram & Hart offices where a mail cart goes buy with an envelope addressed to Angel. Fred gets off the elevator, a bit confused, and Wesley comes to her assistance. They talk about the size of the offices and how hard it is to get their bearings. She says her lab is enormous and she doesn't even understand the equipment in it. He wonders why they are there. She admits it's odd being crusaders against evil and running the LA office of an organization which represents most of the world's evil and which likely is trying to corrupt and divide them. Knox arrives and takes Fred to her office. She calls him Knoxy.

Gunn shouts at Wesley and tosses him a basketball. He tells him you have to think fast. Wesley thinks it's unseemly to add Ys to people's names. Gunn asks if that means he has to call him Westle. Gunn says he's made up his mind, he's chosen an office. He notes he has a view of the mountains and never even knew there were mountains. Wesley says he's not comfortable there and Gunn says he's not either. He thinks it will be a long time before any of them is. Cut to Lorne walking down the corridor, on the phone, clearly in his element. Angel shows up and tells Gunn and Wesley what happened to him the previous night. Angel says they will shake the place up. He enters his office to find a woman there. She says she just wanted to see his face. He says she likes to make an entrance and she points out he opened both doors to enter the room. She says she doesn't need to make an entrance, she needs to make an impression. She's their liaison to the senior partners. Her name is Eve, she tosses Angel an apple. She says he's head of the LA office, but it is a multidimensional corporation. She says almost all of their clients are evil demons and they could start hacking away at them, but then the company would go out of business and they wouldn't have it any more. She says that's the catch. In order to keep the company, to keep tabs on evil, to stop the worst of it if they can, they have to help evil prosper. She asks Angel if he's scared. He takes a bite out of the apple. She tells them they should start going through the client files.

Later, we see the gang disgusted by what they find in the files, including records on the Kennedys and Bushes. Gunn reads the file on Corbin Fries, on trial for prostitution, gun running, and drugs. His trial isn't going well which Angel takes as good news. Gunn believes the staff are opportunistic, they'll go with the flow. Fred says they'll have to check all the staff to see which are die hard evil. Angel says they are doing the right thing. Lorne says he has to sleep and Angel tells them all to go. Gunn goes to his office where Eve is waiting. She asks if he's ready for the next step. He says yes and she hands him a slip of paper saying he'll feel like a new man. Wesley asks what it's about and Gunn says it's a tailor.

The next day, Angel is at his desk. He puts aside the envelope. He tries to buzz his secretary and get some coffee, but gets a voice menu for ritual sacrifice. He tries again and gets a rather ditzy woman who seems to be his secretary. He asks for coffee or blood. She says right away. He hangs up, but gets the voice menu for sacrifice again. Wesley calls and asks if he can drop by. Angel's blood arrives, carried by Harmony. She's his secretary. She says she got a job with Wolfram & Hart and claims to be a great typist. And incredibly sycophantic. Angel wonders why he shouldn't kill her. She points out how good tasting the blood is. A mix of pig and otter. Wesley enters. It turns out he's the one who picked Harmony from the steno pool. He says he thought a familiar face would help. Angel says he turned evil pretty fast. Harmony starts talking about how Cordelia will react to her being there. Angel tells her about the coma. Harmony is upset, saying Cordelia was her best friend her entire life. But she quickly gets over it. Wesley asks her to bring in the men from his office.

Corbin Fries enters with his attorney. He's about to be convicted and he wants them to do something. He knows who Angel is and doesn't care. He says if they don't save him, he'll say the magic word and bye bye California. Only the already dead will be left standing. Harmony is relieved.

Lorne is interviewing the staff. He has a sheet with names and 5 categories beside each name: okay, on the bubble, evil, to be fired, and yikes! They each sing for him so he can read them and report. Fred is explaining this to Knox, who says he's ready to go sing for Lorne. He says he wants her to be comfortable there and she says that'll never happen. The phone rings. Cut to the gang discussing the Fries threat. They think the threat is mystical, maybe a virus. Fred will see if they created it at Wolfram & Hart. Wesley will research the mystical element. Lorne will go to the court room and keep on eye on things. Harmony enters and says she has paged Gunn but he hasn't answered. She also has Spanky's address. Spanky is a mystic whose name was in Fries' file. Angel will visit him.

Angel goes to the garage where his cars are. He really likes them. Hauser, the head of special ops, shows up. He knows about Spanky and says he can bring him in. When Angel says he'll handle it, Hauser says his team handles the wet work. Angel says this time he'll go alone. At Spanky's, Angel identifies himself as from the firm and is invited in. The house has a bunch of s&m paraphernalia and Spanky notes he doesn't spank men, thinking Angel might be there for that. Angel asks about his work for Fries. Spanky doesn't want to talk about it, but admits he built a mystical vessel although he doesn't know what Fries put in it. When Angel asks where he put the vessel, Spanky grabs Angel by the throat and tries to choke him. Angel knocks him over.

Gunn is in a waiting room. He's called in and complains about being kept waiting 5 hours. He's asked about the white room and the conduit, but refuses to talk about it. It looks like a mystical medical office and the man who looks like a doctor or dentist asks him to take off his shirt. Cut to Fred and Knox going through files. Knox finds a lab technician who worked with Fries. The technician was later set on fire. He belonged to a cult which created viruses. The phone rings and it's Angel. Fred tells him about the virus. He says he found where the container is. Cut to the school and the boy who we learn is Matthew Fries, Corbin's son. He contains the virus.

Gunn is in a chair with equipment attached to him. The procedure clearly hurts, but he insists on continuing until it is finished. Fred tells Wesley they don't know what the virus is or what the antidote might be. He says he can't disable the trigger without knowing the magic word. Eve is in Angel's office. She knows about Connor and why this case is bothering Angel so much. She tells him he won't last a week if he continues this level of emotional involvement. He tells her to get out of his office. Fred's department isn't working at getting an antidote fast enough to suit her and she yells at them saying that when the virus hits and they all die she'll have the intense satisfaction of knowing she's dying with the only people in the world who deserve it. She yells at them to focus.

In court, things are not going well. Lorne calls Angel to tell him to get the child into isolation. Hauser and his people secretly listen to the call. Hauser heads to the school intending to kill the child and everyone in the class. No witnesses, he says. Harmony tells Angel that special ops left for the school and called for the cleaners, meaning lots of bodies. They have a 10 minute head start and Angel can't beat them there. Cut to the school, cut to the special ops team heading there, cut to Wesley entering the court room and showing Lorne he has brought a gun, cut to special ops arriving at the school. They break into the classroom only to find Angel there. Harmony told him he had a helicopter and he beat them there. Hauser realizes the boy is nearby, in isolation. Angel says they're fired. Hauser orders his men to fire. A fight ensues.

In the court room, Gunn enters, very nicely dressed. He takes over the defense and moves for a mistrial. He asks the judge to recuse herself. He says she owns stock in a company connected to a company owned by Fries. His conviction would diminish the company to an extent where she would have a controlling interest. She says she'll see him in her chambers.

Angel has beaten up the special ops team, but Hauser is still standing. Hauser is going to shoot him. He says he's pure, he believes in evil. But that Angel and his friends are conflicted. He says they possess the most powerful thing in the world, conviction. Angel says there is something more powerful, mercy. He kicks the gun, it goes off blowing out Hauser's brains. One of the special ops team asks what happened to mercy. Angel tells him he just saw the last of it.

At the office, Eve explains that they fed the entire knowledge of the law into Gunn's brain. He explains he spoke to the guy in the white room and says the guy is scary but doesn't lie. He offers to sing for Lorne to prove he wasn't turned evil. In addition to the law, he also has the complete works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Lorne says Fries is free and his son returned to him. Wesley says he and Fred can disable the bomb now. Gunn says he can draw out the trial for months and Fries will have to tone down his criminal activities in that time. Fred asks if that's their life from now on. Angel says they will make it work. That eventually Wolfram & Hart will tip its hand and they'll discover why it brought them there. He picks up the envelope and opens it. The amulet from Home falls out. Spike materializes. Harmony says 'Blondie Bear'.

Analysis

Angel airs at 10 PM here. I get up for work at 4:45 AM. And most nights I'm getting by on 4 hours sleep or less. So 10 is late for me and I actually slept through the opening segment of the premiere episode, waking just in time to see the first post commercial scene with Fred and Wesley talking. Fortunately, I had set my vcr to tape, so all was not lost and when the show ended I rewound and watched the opening. I'm rather glad I missed it. Seeing the show as I did, I rated it as mediocre with the glimmer of an interesting idea far in the distance. But having seen that action packed, comedic opening sequence, I'd rate it pathetic.

The title of the episode is Conviction and I guess that's meant as a pun referring both to the conviction or acquittal of Corbin Fries and the convictions of the gang which Wolfram & Hart (through the aptly name seductress Eve who comes equipped with apple) are attempting to pervert. A point Fred makes to Wesley in the opening bout of exposition. And they are doing really well so far. Just in this episode we see Gunn buying in to the Wolfram & Hart agenda and getting his intellectual upgrade. That was the deal he got in the white room and we know, as must he, that you don't deal with these guys without having to pay them something in return. But he does it anyway. You have to wonder if it still isn't part of his battle for Fred with Wesley. Gunn has always been the muscle, now he also has the brain and it's his brain which saves the day. At the end of last season, I commented several times on how Gunn was using his brain more and more, muscling as it were into Wesley's territory. Now it's a full fledged invasion and one which required a deal with the devil.

We also get Fred going from sweet girl next door to reaming out her employees like a power mad harridan. Even Knox seems sympathetic at that point and we know he's evil. His comment, that Fred is the boss, strikes me as a subtle implication that she has become like the traditional Wolfram & Hart department head. Her harangue of the staff with the comment that they will all deserve their painful death and it will give her intense satisfaction is worthy of Lilah. Lorne is in his element, wheeling and dealing. Wesley is ready to shoot up a court room and, even more surprisingly, to hire a dumb and double dealing vampire like Harmony. While these three are not as obviously seduced and changed as Gunn, there is no question the power that is Wolfram & Hart is subtly influencing them and changing the way they act.

The influence on Angel is less subtle. In the above mentioned opening scene, Wolfram & Hart actively trivialises his heroism, turning it into a marketing stunt. This scene is reminiscent of the opening scene in City of, an episode where Angel is saved from his loneliness and dehumanisation by Doyle and Cordelia. Now, Wolfram & Hart are trying to reverse that process, alienating him from his friends by subverting them. Of course,with Cordelia in a coma, Doyle dead, and Wesley still something of an outsider a lot of their work is already done for them. We see Angel getting sucked into the role of executive and loving it. Metaphorically and literally he eats the apple of knowledge of good and evil given him by Eve. He loves the cars and gets a kick out of discovering he's got a helicopter. He is enticed by possessions. But that's a pretty little thing compared to the one big one. He kills a human. A bad human, but a human nevertheless. And he does it while talking of mercy. Where are his morals, what does he stand for now? He has been talking about using evil to do good, about subverting Wolfram & Hart, but he just seems to be enjoying the material things they provide him and becoming more and more like them. Fries talks about what the firm was like when Holland Manners was running it. Well, I know Holland was ready to kill rebellious underlings and Angel just did the same thing. So I don't know if it has changed that much.

Fred talks of the need to check the staff to sort out those who are die hard evil (like Hauser). The senior partners are doing the same to them, sorting out which are die hard good and which will go with the flow as Gunn put it. So far, they've all pretty much gone with the flow. Hauser complains that Angel and his colleagues are conflicted. He's right, but he misses the fact that the senior partners are taking advantage of that. He's also right in that good can never have the purity of evil. Because evil sees the world in black and white and good recognizes the shades of gray. That's why some demons are let free and how Angel justifies the evil he does (like killing those humans) and letting himself live despite the evil he did in the past as Angelus. It's the cause of his grief, but also the cause of his strength. It's a paradox evil can't accept and which it can only see as weakness.

Angel says he has mercy and he does. Without mercy, he would have killed the child. And killing Hauser is a better end than the crueler entities of Wolfram & Hart would have meted out. But it's a tainted real world mercy. Angel has won this battle, but the cost has been horrible.

Some quick final thoughts. What's with the hair. Angel and Gunn both seem to be sporting new styles. And Fred seems to have gone upscale in her clothes shopping. Was anyone surprised that the envelope contained the amulet which contained Spike? Who is that guy delivering the mail. We saw just enough of him, trundling through the halls, to make it look as if he or she is an important character. And he or she was bundled up enough so that it looked as if he or she were in disguise. Maybe an exBuffy character in a guest spot? Eve goes out of her way to say they can't get to the senior partners through her. Which makes you wonder if they can. I'm guessing Fries wouldn't hire a cut rate mystic. So I find it odd that Spanky doesn't recognize Angel or at least realize he's a vampire. And doesn't Hauser know Angel is a vampire? Why shoot him, you know bullets won't work. This really doesn't make sense since later they attack him with holy water. Spike's rematerialization is pretty much a reversal of his destruction in Chosen.

Lines of the week:

"I help the helpless." - Angel trying to remember what he does.

"Your run on sentences have got a lot less pointless."
"That's so sweet. And a tad condescending." - Wesley and Fred apparently very confused.

"You always open both doors when you enter a room." - Eve letting Angel know she's got his number.

"And here I was worrying about the clients." - Wesley realizing the staff are a big threat.

"We're doing the right thing. Right? - Angel not sure of himself from the beginning.

"They're evil, they don't judge." - Harmony with a really interesting point.

"That's a relief." - Harmony with a too casual attitude toward apocalypse.

"Oh God they're so beautiful." - Angel a little too excited over his cars.

"I'm applying pressure to your windpipe." - Spanky making a big mistake.

"Not using my windpipe." - Angel on why Spanky is making a big mistake.

"I have no problem spanking men." - Angel on his versatility.

"I'm pure. I believe in evil." - Hauser on what makes him dangerous.

"There is one thing more powerful than conviction. Just one. Mercy." - Angel being honest and ironic.

"Blondie bear." - Harmony showing she may be evil but she just can't carry a grudge.

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