Angel - Lineage

Summary

Wesley and Fred are negotiating the sale of advanced weaponry to an arms dealer. A mysterious being appears and kills the dealer and his guards. Wesley fights him, but is knocked down. Angel bursts in and defeats the being who turns out to be a cyborg. Both men rush to a wounded Fred.

At the office, Angel reprimands Wesley for taking Fred on a dangerous assignment. Eve says Fred is ok and will be up and about soon. Angel tells Wesley that in the future he has to clear the use of any staff with Angel. Wesley leaves and Eve tells Angel he was too hard on him. She suggests he believes Wesley may betray him because of what happened with the infant Connor. Angel says he just wants to be kept informed.

Fred goes to Wesley's office, arm in sling, to tell him she's okay and they are examining the cyborg. He apologies for not protecting her and she says that's patronizing. He says she shouldn't have been there in the first place and she says that's not his call. He insists it is. She says he's being childish. Wesley's father, Roger, walks in. Fred tries to pretend Wesley was just helping her prepare to reprimand an employee. Awkwardly, she leaves. Roger doesn't believe her. He says he has business with Wesley. The former watchers are reforming the council and are considering letting Wesley back in. They consider his tenure as a watcher their greatest embarrassment and Roger has been sent to evaluate Wesley and see if he should be invited back. Wesley says he's not interested, he's happy where he is. Roger says Wolfram & Hart is a haven of evil. Wesley says they are changing that. He says they take their work seriously. Lorne appears talking on the phone about a party. He introduces himself, news is out about Roger being there. Roger is not impressed at the entertainment division as a tool to fight evil. Gunn shows up and introduces himself. He says they want Wesley in the lab. Wesley invites Roger.

Fred is explaining the cyborg and what they've found in it to Angel, Eve, and Spike. Spike wonders whether it was the creation of someone having sex with a robot. Fred explains that there is a memory and if they can decode it, they may get a record of everything the cyborg has done. Spike, concentrating hard, knocks over a beaker. He's proud at first, then apologizes. Wesley and Roger arrive. Spike jokes about thinking Wesley was grown. Roger reveals they've met before. He and some others confronted Spike when he was slaughtering an orphanage. Spike killed two of them. Spike asks how he's been and walks off. Angel goes to shake hands, but Roger refuses to shake with him. Angel leaves, with Eve, asking Fred to keep him posted. Fred says they found what they think might be a selfdestruct device. It has writing on it and they were hoping Wesley could decipher it. Fred says Wesley is a genius with languages. Roger says he was head boy at the academy, but the pickings were slim that year. Wesley thinks the text is Hellenic. While trying to look at the device, Wesley activates it. He shouts that they have to evacuate the building. Spike starts running, then realizes he has nothing to worry about. Wesley grabs Fred and tells her she has to leave. Roger disarms it. He says the symbols were actually an explanation of how to do that.

Angel is asking what happened. Spike says he can explain and tells Angel about Wesley being head boy. Angel already knew. Wesley explains. Angel asks where Roger is and Fred says Lorne is entertaining him. Cut to a hysterical scene of Lorne doing that. Cut back to Fred thinking that's not a good idea and going to get Roger. Spike says he'll go as well, unless Angel wants him to get the head boy report typed up. Angel says no and Spike goes. Wesley admits he can't think straight around his father and Angel says fathers and sons can be torture. He hands Wesley a report from his department about assassin squads that sound like the cyborgs. They are taking out demons and seem to be on the side of good. Wesley says he'll try to research them.

Wesley finds Fred and Roger. He's telling her a story about Wesley as a 6 or 7 year old child trying to use a resurrection spell. Wesley explains a bird had died flying into his window and he wanted to bring it back. Roger says it's a good thing he stopped him or they would have had zombie birds everywhere. Fred is impressed that he could read a resurrection spell. Roger says his mother thought Wesley a prodigy. Wesley asks Roger to help him in his research and they go to his office. Roger starts asking about Fred and their relationship, but Wesley refuses to talk about it. Roger says he wants to know about Wesley's personal life and Wesley tells him about having to chop up Lilah. Roger sees this as sarcasm. He says if Wesley likes Fred, he should tell her. Wesley uses the books which impress Roger, but he feels Wesley is lax in letting them lie out on his desk. Wesley says he keeps dangerous things in the vault and that the building is very secure. Cyborgs land on the roof.

Eve is in an elevator. Spike materializes there. He says Eve has been watching him. He thinks she's scared that he will corporealize. He thinks she's part of his problem. That the amulet was sent by Wolfram & Hart for Angel to use and he used it instead. He wonders why they keep him around. She says what makes him think the amulet was meant for Angel. The power goes out. Spike shouts at Pavayne, but that's not what's causing it. Angel and Gunn are in the lobby wondering what's happened. Spike materializes saying something is wrong with the elevator. Cyborgs attack from all directions. A cyborg enters Wesley's office and attacks. After a brief fight, they disable it. Roger points out the cyborg went straight for the books. Wesley tells him to grab them and opens the vault. He starts putting the books away. Roger hits him from behind and knocks him out. He then removes a strange sort of stick from the vault. He uses some kind of concealed communications device to say phase one is complete and to begin phase two.

Angel and Gunn are fighting cyborgs. Wesley comes to and goes back into his office where he sees the disabled cyborg. Roger bumps into Fred and tells her Wesley's department has noted a spatial disturbance on the roof and he's gone to investigate sending Roger to tell Angel. Wesley starts torturing the cyborg for information on Roger's plan. Gunn is being strangled by a cyborg. Spike comes to his aid, but he has to pause and really concentrate before he can corporealize enough to hit the cyborg and knock it down. Angel is being attack and Roger knocks down the cyborg from behind. Fred rushes in and tells Angel Wesley is on the roof. Angel has her look after the wounded, sends Gunn to security, and goes with Roger to the roof. Spike starts talking about Eve in the elevator, but doesn't care and goes.

On the roof, Roger tells Angel this was never about Wesley. He pulls out the mystical object, utters a magic word, and Angel falls to the ground. Roger uses his communication device again and says he's ready for extraction. The stick is grabbed out of his hand by Wesley and the two men face each with guns drawn. Roger tells him to walk away. Wesley reveals the staff steals Angel's will, making him a slave. Roger says Angel is dangerous and was always a puppet. To the powers, to Wolfram & Hart, and now to them. Wesley says he went to a lot of trouble, why didn't he just talk to Wesley. Roger says he would never do that, Wesley has failed him enough for one lifetime. Fred runs up and rushes to the fallen Angel. Roger tries to convince Wesley to side with him, Wesley refuses. We hear a helicopter and see its light. Roger says he'll shoot. Wesley says he's sure he will. But then he'll drop the crystal and it will shatter freeing Angel. So whether Wesley lives or dies, the plan fails. Roger grabs Fred and starts talking about someone you care about. Wesley shoots him. Several times. Roger drops. Wesley drops his weapons. The helicopter leaves. Wesley vomits. Fred stares at him. When he turns back there's an electrical discharge around Roger. We discover he was a disguised cyborg.

In Angel's office, Angel tells Wesley losing his free will made him nauseous. They don't know who sent the cyborgs. Angel says the perception is that they are weak. Wesley says the perception is that he is weak. Angel says that's wrong, that Wesley makes all the hard decisions. That he does what he knows is right to protect those around him. That he never understood that before. He says Wesley didn't really shoot his father, just a cyborg with a glamour. He says they probably had the council files with all the information they needed about Wesley. He then says he killed his father right after becoming a vampire. Wesley says it's not the same and Angel admits he didn't think it through. They leave to get some sleep. Spike comes to Wesley and says he killed his mother. Wesley says he's comforted and goes to his office. Fred comes in and says that part of him knew it wasn't his father. He says he was sure it was. That she was there and he killed his father. He says he pointed a gun at Fred, so he shot him. She tries to reply, but before she can Knox shows up saying he thought he was taking her home. Wesley tells her she should go. They leave. Wesley calls home and speaks with his mother and father. It's an awkward conversation and the real Roger clearly is treating him just like cyborg Roger did.

Analysis

This is an episode with many lows and a couple of highs. Unfortunately, some of the lows undercut the highs. I don't think I've ever seen a Buffy or Angel episode where the critical scenes were diminished in this way. I'm particularly disappointed since this episode actually made a stab at giving Wesley some screen time and at times I was reminded of the great Wesley scenes from last season. Of course, it also had lots of Eve and way too much humour.

Let me start with some comments about Eve and Knox. Eve seems to be turning into a Greek chorus, there to comment on the actions of Angel, just in case we haven't figured it out. In the past, this kind of comment on motive would have gone to Lorne. Only he can't do it now because he doesn't know about Connor. Only Eve and Angel share this knowledge now. I think this is a case of the writers having backed themselves into a corner. They want someone to be there and make these comments. Lorne is the right character, but he can't do it because he lacks the knowledge of Angel's central tragedy (at least central for this season). So they bring in Eve. Only she's evil and she's an agent of evil. It makes no sense for Angel to confide in her or listen to her or trust her at all. And we know that, unlike Lorne, she only raises these points to undermine Angel's confidence. It boils down to this. Eve is there because Lorne can't be. This means Lorne basically has nothing to do any more except wander around the halls and make popular culture references. But Eve can't really do Lorne's job because she's evil. And Angel by confiding in her is acting entirely opposite to what common sense would tell him to do. So you've got one character, Eve, who exists purely as a plot convenience. Another, Lorne, who no longer has a real role. And a third, Angel, who must act like an idiot.

Knox is similar to Eve in that he takes on the role another character used to have, namely Gunn. Unlike Wesley and the Connor amnesia, there is no strong reason for this to happen. The writers seem to have just side stepped the whole Gunn/Fred relationship and so lost the Gunn/Fred/Wesley triangle. This means the murder of Fred's professor has been forgotten and the guilt/angst that accompanied it. Clearly, that should have been an undercurrent in this episode, since it is basically the second time Wesley has killed or assisted in killing for Fred. But it never came up. Now, normally I would chalk this up to subtlety on the part of the writers. But considering how they hit us over the head with Angel can't trust Wesley because of the earlier betrayal, I just don't think I can give them that credit. All of this wouldn't be so bad if Knox existed outside of this role. After all, Gunn had more going on than nemesis for Wesley. But Knox doesn't. We barely see him except when Wesley is there to get jealous. In this episode, he has two such scenes - one where Wesley jealously watches him help Fred in the lab and the second when he arrives to take Fred home. We're a third of the way into the season and I think any slack one might reasonably cut the writers is used up. Knox and Eve are cardboard characters and nothing is pointing to them becoming anything more.

I will give this episode credit for lots of references to Buffyverse history. Wesley's father hasn't been mentioned in a long time, but in reality he was exactly as described. When Spike mentions having sex with robots, we know it's a reference to the Buffybot. There's Spike shouting at Pavayne thinking he's back. The references to Angel killing his father and Spike killing his mother are also parts of the canon. Wesley refers to Lilah and having to chop her up. And it's good that the loss of Connor hasn't been ignored. Of course, all this makes it even harder to understand why the loss of Cordelia seems completely forgotten.

Sometimes you wonder whether all the actors have been getting the same direction. I wondered that this episode because Wesley does his dark thing (really the best Wesley scenes since Lilah vanished) while Angel and Spike seem to think they are in a sitcom. There's a lot of evidence to back the latter point: Wesley's bumbling when his father first appears, Lorne's phone call, Spike on sex with robots, Spike knocking over the beaker, Spike learning Roger and he had met, Spike on Wesley being head boy, Lorne entertaining Roger, Spike shouting at Pavayne, and Spike concentrating before he can help Gunn. But in the final few minutes of the episode the show got serious and that's when the best scenes happened. And they all belonged to Wesley: Wesley shooting his father and Wesley talking to Angel, Spike, and Fred.

The shooting was my favourite scene, for several reasons. It happens quickly. There isn't a lot of agonizing. Roger crosses the line and Wesley shoots him. Again and again and again. When it was just a matter of Angel, Wesley was ready to die. Roger could shoot him, he'd drop the crystal, and Angel would be freed. But when Fred was imperiled he took action. Wesley will die for Angel, but he'll kill for Fred. That point, the intensity of his feeling for her, was made crystal clear. He was ready to kill his own father rather than see her come to harm. Then he vomits. He's physically sick from the emotional stress of the moment. Killing his father really was hard for him. But he never hesitated for a second.

This, of course, leads to the series of conversations which are both good and bad. They are good from Wesley's perspective. We're getting the dark, depressed Wesley of Wesley and Lilah here and that's my favourite Wesley. They're bad from the Angel and Spike perspective because we get the superficial funny Angel and Spike who aren't my favourite Angel and Spike. The Angel conversation starts with Angel realizing how strong Wesley is and how difficult the decisions he has to make are. How much they take out of him and how he still continues to do what he knows is right. But he too quickly dismisses what happened, saying Wesley only shot a cyborg with a glamour., He's wrong. Wesley shot his father. That's what he thought he was doing and that's what he did. And he has to live with that even though the facts turned out not to be what he believed. Angel gets even dumber talking about killing his own father as a vampire. There's no parallel there, or at least not one helpful to Wesley. Then we've got the really awful moment. Spike telling Wesley about killing his mother. This was a huge, emotional issue for Spike in Lies My Parents Told Me. Now he tosses it off lightly. Worse, Spike is the sensitive one. He's the one who sees into people and who knows the right thing to say. I can understand Angel bumbling and fumbling, but not Spike. And Spike practically is Wesley. They are both from the same social background, both devoted to a parent, both never quite successful until they turned dark. So from Spike's perspective, I find this an awful moment which diminishes the emotional intensity of the earlier Buffy episode and undermines his own character. But when Wesley says he's comforted, we get an insight into the thoughtful Wesley. He understands that these two undead creatures really are trying to make him feel better, to make him feel not alone. Given all that has happened to him, his ability to realize that at this time is amazing.

And then we have Fred. She comes in saying what Angel said. That he really didn't kill his father and that at some level he knew. Wesley explicitly denies it. He's following cyborg Roger's advice. He's telling Fred how he feels about her. He feels strongly enough to kill his father for her. He makes it clear that he shot him not to protect his friends, but because he was threatening Fred. Fred is ready to stay, but at this point Wesley tells her to leave with Knox. Wesley realizes that the feelings he has for Fred are dangerously strong. Like his magical items, they need to be safely locked away. He has to distance himself from her or he may end up doing even worse things than killing cyborg Roger. It's like his relationship with Lilah all over again. A deep passion which is just impossible.

We have, I suppose, met this season's big bad. It promises to be interesting since it knows a lot about our heroes and it sees itself as a force for good. It's also possible it really is a tool of a revived council and that Wesley's father was involved. That the cyborg was created at his direction and that he provided all the information about Wesley. Would the council files really have contained so much personal matter as Angel suggests? Did Wesley call home because he was wondering that and wanted to see how his father would respond?

Some quick final thoughts. I generally don't notice these things, but there seemed to be a really bad cut in the opening sequence when Angel looks at the cyborg. Also, the John Woo type fight scenes are getting a little old. Spike is right, Eve has been watching him. Presumably, she's watching both vampires with souls. It's amusing that both Angel and Spike make the same impression on Roger and both try to defuse the situation, unsuccessfully, with humour.

Lines of the week:

"Turned on by a woman holding an enormous gun, what a surprise." - Fred proving she belongs.

"Your people?" - Wesley challenging Angel in his very quiet British way.

"Are you worried about the next time Wesley betrays you." - Eve trying to sow the seeds of discontent.

"Sex with robots is more common than most people think." - Spike speaking from experience.

"Do you really expect me to shake that." - Roger letting Angel know what he thinks of him.

"If you like this girl, tell her." - Roger with some good advice for Wesley.

"To be honest, I don't even care." - Spike on Eve.

"I'm very comforted." - Wesley being nice to Spike.

"If you're here to tell me about how you killed your parents, perhaps it could wait for another time." - Wesley letting Fred know he's been comforted by the pros.

"I was sure it was him." - Wesley letting Fred know how he feels about her.

"He pointed a gun at you, Fred. So I shot him." - Wesley making the point crystal clear.

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