Angel - Hell Bound

Summary

An unseen presence stalks Fred in her lab. She turns, nothing is there. She faces front again, sees Spike, and screams. He realizes she knew he was there all along and is humoring him. She has a theory about anchoring him to reality. He falls through the floor and smashes down to the basement. He rises and walks into a room where a man is working at a table. He talks to the man who we see is cutting off his own fingers. The man vanishes.

Fred goes to Wesley's office and asks him to get her some rare books. He agrees, but only if she'll have dinner. Not with him, just dinner. He says she hasn't eaten anything other than day old takeout in days. He also says she hasn't gotten any proper sleep. She tells him she'll be fine. Eve pops up and asks if she's got a sec. Cut to Angel's office where he tells Fred she's way over budget for the quarter and the quarter isn't over yet. She says she's spending the money doing what he asked, making Spike corporeal. He said he asked her to get rid of Spike. She says Spike is a champion and he would be a help fighting on their side. Angel says Spike only cares about himself. Fred says he cares about Buffy. Angel agrees and says Spike would immediately leave and go in search of Buffy. He implies Fred has a crush on Spike. She says she's not stupid, she knows he's playing her. But she's doing this because it's the right thing. Angel says it's her call, but he doesn't believe Spike can be saved.

Spike is back in the lab looking for Fred. Lights flicker and go out. There's the sound of a woman crying. He walks toward it. A woman appears without arms. She asks him to hold her. She walks through him and disappears. Cut to Angel walking into his office. Spike is there. He says he just wants to hang. Angel realizes he's afraid of hell. Spike says if Angel could escape hell, so can he. Angel says he didn't escape, just got a reprieve. Spike says he knows about the prophecy. Angel says it doesn't mean anything. That all the evil they did is what counts. That they will both burn. Spike asks why bother to do the right thing. Angel says what else are they going to do. Spike sits next to Angel and says at least they'll be together. They both start going on about how they don't like each other, dissing each other's habits and hair. There's a moment of silence and Angel says there was one thing he liked about Spike. He liked his poems. Spike notes Angel likes Barry Manilow. Spike sees a hanging man. Angel sees nothing. Spike sees the man standing beside them. Spike sees ghosts all over. Angel calls the others, but they see nothing. Gunn and Eve enter saying the staff mystics do a sweep every hour and Spike is the only noncorporeal in the building. The ghosts tell Spike it's coming. He starts asking Fred to help him, but he vanishes. Angel tells Eve he does this sometimes. But we see Spike is still there, just invisible to them. They spread out to look for him. Spike hears a voice telling him no one can help him.

Spike wanders through a seemingly empty building. He finds himself in front of an elevator which opens. Cut to Wesley saying Spike has been disappearing a lot. Gunn says in 20 minutes he'll pop up next to you in the bathroom and make disparaging remarks. He then asks if he's the only one Spike does that to. Fred says they don't realize what is happening to Spike, that he's slipping into hell. Gunn and Wesley say that's what they figured. Spike has entered the elevator and it takes him to the basement. A woman with a piece of glass in her eye sings about the reaper coming for him. She pulls the glass out and slashes him on the face, cutting him and making him bleed. She vanishes.

Fred is working on a formula. Spike comes up and tells her hell has come to get him. That the ghosts are its welcoming party. He thanks her for her attempt to help. She says she's a genius, he's thrilled, then she realizes her theory won't work. He goes to touch her and there's a spark. Fred can't see or hear him, but she did feel the spark. She looks around and calls for Spike, but he can't make contact with her. Angel shows up to tell her the mystics did another sweep and found nothing. She says they have to find a way to make contact.

Cut to Wesley and Gunn wondering if this is a good idea. A woman enters the room. She's a medium and they're going to have a seance. Spike tries to talk to her, but she doesn't hear him. She says she senses a dark soul in pain. Spike realizes she's sensing the reaper, but it kills her before she can say anything. Gunn wonders why Spike would kill her. Wesley says he wouldn't, that it makes no sense to kill someone trying to help you. He says there is something else worse than Spike in the office.

Fred is taking a shower. She senses something, but can't see anything. Spike is standing outside looking at her. He's trying to understand why the reaper killed the medium. He figures it wasn't about him, but something else. He touches the shower wall and doesn't go through it. When he tries again, his hand goes through. He tries a third time and is able to write in the mist on the wall. He writes 'reaper'. She sees it. The mystic force shatters the glass and sends Spike hurtling out of the room. He sees a lawyer whose face is half destroyed. Then the ghosts of the women he saw before appear. He starts shouting, saying he won't deal with flunkies any more. He falls to the ground in pain. The reaper appears. Not the grim reaper, but a guy who reminds me of Holtz. He has a knife and says Spike will suffer.

Gunn has found a reference to dark soul. Only there are 3200 listed and Angel is 4 of them. Fred rushes in and says cross reference it with reaper. Angel finds it, number 182, Pavayne. He was a serial killer doctor who dabbled in the black arts. He fled to then Spanish ruled California. Wolfram & Hart wanted to open an office there, but the land their seer chose had a mission on it. They needed a sacrifice to desanctify the ground. So they used him. Pavayne has been torturing Spike whose face is bloody with cuts. Fred enters the lab and Pavayne says maybe he'll get a taste of her. Spike tries to hit him, but he goes through. Pavayne says he's thinking like meat. He says everything there is controlled by his will. Spike realizes Pavayne made him disappear. He makes Spike's wounds disappear. The other ghosts appear and taunt him. Pavayne makes his clothes disappear. He says he knows all of Spike's secrets. About the evil he did. About falling in love with Buffy. About getting a soul. But he says hell still waits for him. That Spike knows he deserves it. Pavayne admits the ghosts died in the service of Wolfram & Hart. He pushed them into hell. Spike says they can't be there if they are in hell, that it's a trick of Pavayne. Pavayne says they are real enough and one of the ghosts stabs Spike in the back. Spike falls to the ground in pain.

Fred is writing on the window. She tells the others she's ok, she just ran out of whiteboard. Angel says they'll get Spike back, then deal with Pavayne. Fred says they'll need a massive surge of dark energy. Gunn has an idea. He takes Angel to the white room. He plans to get some of the conduit. The leopard appears and Gunn talks to it. Spike is writhing in pain. Pavayne says he expected more of him. An entry to hell opens up. He says the soul that blesses Spike also damns him. He says William will go to hell so Pavayne won't. Spike says he does deserve to go to hell, but not today. He knocks Pavayne back. The entrance to hell disappears. Spike stands and says he understands about reality bending to desire. He was able to touch Fred and write on the wall because he wanted to enough. He makes his clothes reappear. They fight.

Fred is working on her corporealisation machine. Gunn brings her the bits of conduit and tells her they won't get any more. Pavayne is winning the fight. He says in this realm he is god. Fred's machine starts. They rush to it and Pavayne grabs Fred. They can't see him, but the others try to rush him. He knocks them back. Spike rushes in and Pavayne says he can save the girl or himself. Spike knocks Pavayne into the circle and Pavayne becomes corporeal. Angel starts beating him up. Spike appears and says not to kill him. That if he becomes a ghost again they'll never be able to stop him. Angel says he won't kill, just bruise a lot.

Wesley and Gunn tell Fred to take a break as they finish cleaning up the debris. Fred tells Spike she won't be able to repeat the experiment. His chance at corporealisation is gone for now. She says she's sorry. He says he made his choice and he wouldn't change it for the world. She says they are other things they can try, but he says he doesn't want to end up like Pavayne, cheating hell no matter the cost to others. She says it proves she was right, he is worth saving. He picks up a coffee cup, showing Fred he has learnt a few tricks.

Pavayne is in a cell, frozen. Eve says he's in permanent storage. Angel says he'll live forever, but be unable to move or talk or feel. He closes the door and says welcome to hell.

Analysis

I find myself confused after watching this episode. While at times it appeared unfinished, there were abrupt scene shifts that had me wondering whether something had been cut, at other times it demonstrated writing quality which has been sorely missed this season. I'm speaking, of course, of the great Spike/Angel hanging scene. And there were other, smaller, yet still substantial moments. Like Wesley and Gunn knowing all along about Spike being drawn to hell. Or Angel having to talk to Fred about her budget. The Psycho reminiscent shower scene. And, my personal favourite, Spike doing the right thing. But, like the credits, we have to start with Spike and Angel.

Way back in City of (and on a side note I think I've referenced that episode three times so far this season which makes me realize that in season 5 the series is really starting all over again) Angel was a brooding loner who had to be drawn back into society by Doyle lest he lose all his humanity and become a monster once more. In some ways, not unlike the monster Pavayne was. Well, no fear there for Spike. He yearns for society. He's the most social vampire in history. He wants friends. He wants to hang with people. Despite Angel's constant rebuffs and his own pretense of dislike for the brooding one, Spike never gives up on their friendship. And, in this scene, Angel finally seems accepting of it. He continues talking to Spike, even though he denies he wants to. And he actually says something nice to him, something that would really matter to him. He says he likes his poetry. We know, from flashbacks in seasons past, that Spike's poetry was a sensitive point for him. And that it was bad. Yes, Angel has terrible taste. Yes, he likes Manilow. But he means it when he says he likes the poems and he knows that Spike, as critical as he may have become of his romantic period, is still a romantic at heart. This has to have touched him. By saying this, Angel is admitting that romanticism is a characteristic they both share. That Fred is right in naming them both champions. He's also replying, indirectly, to Spike calling him Liam. They are going past their vampire lives into their human lives with references to those earlier times. Past the sarcasm, this is an attempt to reach out and connect. And, in their cases, connect to the only other being in the world who can actually really understand them.

This scene also demonstrates the depths of Angel's despair. He's decided that damnation is inevitable (which decision, theologically, does make it inevitable - you can't be forgiven your sins if you never ask for forgiveness because you're sure they are unforgiveable). Coupled with the attack by Pavayne, you expect this to have an impact on Spike and his progression to good. Why bother if the leader in the world of vampires as good guys says there is no real point, no salvation, just doing good because you should. Yet Spike never doubts. He does the right thing. He shakes off the despair which shrouds Angel. Despair just isn't in his character. Which may explain why Angel suffered for a century after getting a soul and Spike got through it in weeks. Spike's sense of humour and his love of humanity (even in season two of Buffy he admitted this preferring to save the world rather than help Angelus destroy it because he just liked it) help him get through the dark times.

Spike comes to an interesting realization, that he can alter reality through the power of his will. This, of course, is the power of the champion as well as that of the truly evil. Angel has often said that champions exist to live the way people should. While they cannot change their own fates, they can change the world. Spike reveals this new found knowledge to Fred when she says he has demonstrated he is worth saving. She is responding to his decision to accept pain so others will not have to bear it. To be strong for the weak. Her words offer him hope, offsetting the despairing talk of Angel and Pavayne. Spike is damned and his own deeds may not be sufficient to save him. But the prayers of others may tip the balance in his favour.

There were also small, good things in this episode. Like Fred revealing she's not an idiot and knows that Spike has been playing up to her. But she still is intent on doing the right thing. The same way Angel does the right thing, because what else are you going to do. The same way Spike does the right thing, because why else fight to get a soul. They are all champions. The have different talents, but they all do the right thing when the choice is presented them. It's interesting that this right thing theme isn't shared by Wesley (who kidnapped Connor and went to the dark side) or Gunn (who has struck the devil's bargain with Wolfram & Hart). Another small, good thing was Gunn and Wesley revealing they figured Spike was going to hell. And Angel already revealed he'd figured that out in the conversation with Spike. I always appreciate it when the writers don't make the characters look like idiots. There's the lovely way Spike keeps saying he's not afraid while he's clearly terrified. This not only helps humanise Spike, but it makes his heroic actions all the more heroic. He's much more human than Angel. He's not standing aside from humanity, he's immersed in it. He loves it. He yearns for it. And he's willing to sacrifice it to do the right thing. And there is Wesley quickly realizing Spike didn't kill the medium, that some other mystic creature did.

I have to get back to my confusion. At the end of this episode, we're left unsure of Spike's actual status. Is he being pulled to hell, or was that all Pavayne's doing? Is he still immaterial or is he capable of materializing at least some times? Is everyone really oblivious to the fact that the prophecy could just as easily refer to Spike as to Angel? In Blind Date and To Shanshu in LA, we learn that the prophecy is about a vampire with a soul. They both qualify. Admittedly, Fred wasn't around at the time, but surely Wesley should have realized this.

Some quick final thoughts. Isn't Pavayne's punishment a lot like what Connor did to Angel in Tomorrow. I like the fact Angel realized it was weird there weren't ghosts at Wolfram & Hart. It's really hard to notice what isn't there. I enjoy the humour of the offices being haunted (or maybe it's unhaunted) ultimately because they were built on the site of a mission. And, of course, the whole concept of desantification. Does it bother anybody else that the offices always seem to be empty. Or that Fred seems to be working alone in her lab and even Knox has disappeared. And will they ever do anything with Eve other than have her pop up and be annoying?

Lines of the week:

"Feeling the tug of eternal damnation." - Spike summing up his afterlife.

"It's about doing what's right." - Fred on why she's working to save Spike.

"Some people can't be saved." - Angel talking about himself as much as Spike and revealing his despair.

"Bloody well invented afraid of the dark." - Spike scared of the dark.

"Never much cared for you Liam." - Spike letting Angel know he cares.

"Cared for you less." - Angel letting Spike know he cares.

"I liked your poems."
"You like Barry Manilow." - Angel admitting Spike is a champion and Spike admitting Angel is human (sort of).

"You go now, William. So I can stay." - Pavayne maybe giving a hint of a future plot point.

"Reality bends to desire." - Spike realizing his power.

"You're worth saving." - Fred telling Spike something he has finally come to realize for himself.

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