1880, the Royal London Hotel, Dru brings the newly vampirized William to her home. Actually, it's the home of a couple Angelus has killed. She introduces him to Angelus (Darla has gone back to the master). He grabs William's hand and holds it into the sunlight coming through the window where it burns. He releases it, then holds his own hand in the light saying he's been wanting to share the slaughter of innocents with another man. William holds his hand out to burn. Both men laugh and Angelus says they are going to be the best of friends. Cut to the present with Angel telling Spike to get away from him. Spike wants an office and Angel won't give him one. We learn Wesley is on a leave of absence. Spike mocks Wesley and his angst over killing his father, talking again about how he killed his mother. Harmony hears this and thinks it explains a lot. She points out a package has come for Spike. She opens it for him and there's a flash. The phones start ringing, Spike walks to Angel's office and smashes into the door. He's corporeal again. Angel comes out of his office and Spike starts touching him. Then he grabs his cup of blood and drinks it, asking if it's otter. Gunn comes out and Spike hugs him. Spike tells them about the box. Angel asks Harmony what's up with the phones, she doesn't know. Spike kisses Harmony and wants to go off with her. She rejects him at first, then he compliments her skirt and she tells Angel she's going on a long lunch.
In the past, Angelus and William are in a carriage, with a body Angelus has been drinking. They slaughtered a wedding party. William says he's going to go look for Dru who's off hunting street urchins. He says she's his destiny. In the present, Spike and Harmony are wandering the halls. Spike kicks a guy out of his office and he and Harmony go in. The guy goes over to the photocopier and talks to someone he calls Jerry about what happened. Jerry turns and is bleeding from the eyes. He starts shouting about how nobody replaces the toner and attacks the guy. Cut to Angel saying to kill the phones and the computers. Gunn comes up as does Fred who tells them the atmospheric gauges are off the scale. Angel complains about Spike drinking all his blood and calls for Harmony. Gunn reminds him she's off having a nooner with Spike. Fred says what and Gunn explains what a nooner is, but she knows that and wants to know what happened to Spike. They explain and realize his corporealization and the phone and computers and gauges are likely linked to that. Eve enters and says the corporate seers contacted her. She says this is connected to the shanshu prophecy. She says two souled, vampire champions is upsetting the universe. She says Spike didn't qualify as a champion until he died saving the world. Then he was a ghost and didn't qualify. Now he's back and there's trouble. Gunn leaves to check on something. Fred asks why Eve didn't warn her about this, but Eve says she didn't know. She asks how they did it and Angel tells her about the package. Eve says it's the same as the amulet. Angel notes they never found out who sent that. Fred wonders if it's the senior partners. Eve says this is a harbinger and Angel asks of what. She says of something worse. Cut to Spike and Harmony having sex on the desk. Harmony starts bleeding from the eyes and bites Spike.
Harmony starts shouting at Spike, saying she doesn't belong to him and he wants his slayer whore. He hits her, knocking her over and out. Cut to the toner guy tied to a gurney and being sedated. We see Eve, Angel, and Lorne with the word toner written in blood on the wall behind them. Lorne says he came in on the toner guy going crazy and got smashed in the head himself. Angel orders the building shut down. Lorne goes to barricade himself in his office and Angel asks him to stop by and tell Fred he wants to know the second she figures out what's causing this. Eve says he already knows. They come upon Spike who tells them about Harmony. Eve explains her theory. Spike says he'll leave LA and go to Europe. She says the whole plane of existence is in peril. Gunn shows up. He went to talk to the cat in the white room. Both are gone and there is just a howling abyss. Eve says that means the conduit is gone and they are on their own. Angel asks Spike to stay, saying Europe will be there when this is all over. Angel says he read the prophecy and Spike says he's the one who said it was meaningless. Eve says they need to get an expert.
Sirk is lecturing Gunn, Eve, Spike, and Angel on the prophecy saying reading a translation is vastly different from reading the real thing. Sirk says there are some newly translated verses. He reads about the vampire with a soul drinking from the cup of perpetual torment. He says that will confirm one of them as the prophetic figure and the universe should realign itself. Angel and Spike argue over which it is. They ask Sirk where to find the cup and he reads about a city in the sand. Angel realizes it's a reference to an opera house in Death Valley which was destroyed in an earthquake. But Spike has already left. Cut to Spike racing along in one of Angel's cars. The car phone rings and it's Angel complaining Spike stole his car. Spike says it belongs to him now, possession being 9/10 of the law. Spike says Angel is wrong, that the prophecy is about him. He hangs up. At the office, Gunn suggests Eve is more involved than she admits. She says he's the one connected to the senior partners.
Angel arrives at the opera house. Spike is already there. They dis each other, then Spike goes to fulfill the prophecy. Flashback to William entering the hotel to find Angelus having sex with Dru. Angel and Spike find the cup and start fighting for it. Angel touches a cross and burns. Spike laughs, Angel says he's no different. Spike says he is. He says Angel had a soul forced on him as a curse, but Spike fought for his soul. Spike says he knew it was the right thing to do, that it's his destiny. Angel says he just wanted to get into Buffy's pants.
At the firm, Gunn starts bleeding from the eyes and attacks Eve. Fred tries to trank him, but he knocks her aside. Finally, she knocks him out. Angel and Spike continue to fight. In the past, William tells Angelus not to touch Dru. Angelus tells him not to raise his voice to him. William says Dru was his. Angelus tells him he can never have anything, not even Dru. Angelus says William should change his name. He goes and holds Dru, saying if William wants her he should take her. William hurls himself at Angelus. Spike hurls himself at Angel. He says Angel can't stand him because all the evil Spike has done was because of Angel. That Angel made him a monster. Angel says he just let the real Spike out. Spike hits him with the cross. He continues to hold it, even though his hands burn. He says Angel never knew the real him, he was too busy trying to see his own reflection. Spike says he's nothing like Angel. Angel says he's less and that's why Buffy never really loved him. Spike says she must have been thinking of Angel all the time she was having sex with Spike. They both put on their vampire faces and continue fighting.
Fred is tending to Eve. Eve tells her she doesn't have to pretend to care. Fred tries to say they don't believe Gunn's accusations, but Eve walks out saying she is not the bad guy. Spike gets the better of Angel and stakes him to the floor. They revert to human form. Spike says he would have dusted Angel but didn't want to hear her bitch about it. He goes to the cup and Angel says the cup is a burden and asks if it is really the destiny Spike wants or if he just wants to take something away from Angel. Spike says a bit of both and drinks. He drops the cup and says it's Mountain Dew. They realize it was a fake.
At the firm, Angel returns and tells Fred he fell. Spike enters and says Sirk has vanished. Fred realizes they fought. Gunn comes to and is alright. Harmony, too. Eve explains the senior partners have temporarily stabilized the universe. They know nothing about Sirk and are angry about it. She says they will find Sirk. She goes to leave and Gunn tries to apologize to her. Spike says he needs to get drunk and leaves. Angel says Spike beat him, that he was stronger and wanted it more. He thinks this means he's not the one.
Eve comes home. Her apartment has mystical markings on the walls. She enters and talks to an unseen person, saying what happened, how Sirk disappeared as wanted and how Angel and Spike beat each other up though they didn't kill each other. She undresses and gets into bed next to a mystically marked Lindsey who says it's a start.
This should have been a terrific episode. The Angel/Spike history is a strong point of the series now and there were certainly lots of good surprises in this one. But I find the characters just a bit off, Spike is just shallower (not in personality but in writing) than he used to be. The emotional impact of the show just doesn't seem to be there any more. Everything just seems weaker than it used to be. I can't, at least in this episode, delineate the reasons why I feel the show has declined. But that's still my general feeling. The positives, however, I can articulate. Mostly, it's a lot of little things done right, small ideas and moments, which add up to one of the best episodes this season.
Spike says that Angel created him as a monster. And in these flashbacks, and ones we've seen in earlier episodes, we get a sense of how really evil Angelus was. He didn't just want to destroy, he wanted to corrupt. Vampirizing Dru was part of that. And turning Spike into an Angelus wannabe was another part. I guess in a lot of ways Spike was Angelus' son (or grandson if you want to get technical about the sire lineage). When they first meet, Angelus starts warping Spike's attitude toward pain. In the coach, we see William has become an Angelus admirer, going on and on about how Angelus killed people at the bridal party. When Angelus realizes that Dru is William's first love, he takes her from him. He wants to be the primary being in William's life. He wants to twist and warp every aspect of that life. He even tells William to change his name, leading to Spike.
Back in Just Rewards, Angel told Spike Buffy was in Europe. Spike's decision to go there must have something to do with that. When Angel says Europe will still be there, he knows he's really talking about Buffy and the relationship Spike hopes to forge again. Even Harmony, as insensitive as she is, realizes Spike is thinking about Buffy while having sex with her (he wants her quiet so she doesn't break in to his fantasy). It's interesting that Spike thinks of Buffy while having sex with Harmony (and we know this from Buffy episodes even if not from this one) and Angel claims Buffy was thinking of him while having sex with Spike. And in the past Angel has sex with Dru who is both Spike's mother (in the vampire sense) and lover. And Spike keeps going on about how he killed his mother as she was coming on to him. While I don't like the casual way he throws that out, it clearly ties together the strange and Freudian relationship between Spike and Angel (which has got to be the genesis of volumes of slash fiction). Angelus wanted to mess up Spike, to make him a shadow creature always lagging behind Angelus, always number two. In many ways he succeeded, but the curse put a curious twist on it all. Spike followed Angelus all the way, including getting a soul. But then things changed. They changed because, as Spike notes, Angelus had a soul forced upon him. Spike sought one out. He fought for it. That makes him a different kind of champion, if not a better one. All the evil Angelus did, his evil intent for Spike, was turned to good by the curse. It's a beautiful example of how the actions of evil are turned to good by the higher powers.
It's interesting that Spike seems to have waited for Angel to arrive before looking for the cup. I think this isn't simply plot convenience (like the bad guy revealing his plan to the hero), but is an essential part of Spike's nature. He wants to win, but he wants Angel to lose even more. He has to exorcise the demon Angel(us) from himself so he can really be free and be his own man. Angelus tried to remove all hope from Spike. He tried to make him despair, the way Angelus and at times Angel despairs. But it never quite worked. Spike, for all his failings, never loses his sense of humour, his connection to humanity. He makes mistakes, but he rises above them. And, always, he understands himself and his motivations. When Angel questions his motives, Spike admits they are mixed. But he drinks from the cup anyway. He's willing to take the risk, he knows himself well enough to know this is what he wants even if the implications of the action are not entirely clear. Angel says the burden will burn him to ashes, but Spike has already been burnt and died. He's reborn and so carrying the cross of torment is no threat to him. That realization alone distinguishes him from Angel. Spike says Angel has chosen sides, but he's wrong. Angel is conflicted, unsure of his champion status and of what he will do. Spike knows. He is himself and he will fight for good.
Vampires, by and large, are not a very introspective lot. The ones we've seen tend not to change and grow. Angel and Spike are exceptions to that rule. That may explain why they both ended up with souls or the souls may explain why they've both managed to grow as people. But of the two, Spike has outdistanced Angel. While Angel has pondered his crimes and attempted to repent, Spike has pondered himself and attempted to understand his motivation and to make himself better. Angel is a champion because he wants to make amends for all the evil he has done. He knows he cannot really do that, nothing can undo the horrible crimes of Angelus, so this has led him to despair. His only logical move, being a champion, is fated to failure. Spike has become a champion because it is part of his bettering himself. Unlike Angel, he accepts the fact that past deeds cannot be made good and focuses on improving himself for the future. Angel gives lip service to this idea, often talking about defending the weak because he is strong, of the sense of service to others he feels. But time and again it comes back to his sense of guilt over specific deeds (hence the many flashback scenes throughout the series). Spike is not hobbled by this overwhelming sense of guilt. His guilt is a positive force, causing him to grow. Angel's guilt has always paralyzed him. It did so for years until Whistler introduced him to Buffy and it was continuing to do so until Doyle came to him. Change has always been forced upon Angel, starting with the acquisition of his soul. Spike has sought change to better himself. Even becoming a vampire was a mistaken action along that route. He was a victim, but a willing one. He tried, for a long time, to be the ultimate in evil; attempting to live up to the role model of Angelus. But as he was exposed to more and more good (from Buffy and her gang) he took new role models and fought to make himself better. At the same time, he fought to understand himself. Thus when Angel questions his motives, he is capable of accepting their mixed nature and still drinking from the cup. Spike's quest has been, for as long as we've known him, to be better. He has sought out positive emotions such as love and has tried to turn his negative emotions (such as his love for violence) to a good purpose. But he has never pretended to be an angel. He knows he is flawed and it is that self knowledge which makes him more a champion than Angel.
Spike's actions upon becoming corporeal are interesting and I have to wonder whether the sequence means anything. First, he hits a barrier, the door. Then he touches Angel (interesting that in the flashbacks Angelus grabs William's hand when they first meet and William complains while in this sequence Angel complains of Spike touching him). Then he drinks the blood in Angel's cup (while in past sequences he's always refusing drinks from Angelus). Then he goes off to have sex with Harmony (while in the past Angelus will have sex with Dru and in the more recent past both will have sex with Buffy - the Angel(us)/Spike relationship is mediated through shared relationships with women). These are all physical activities. Spike, having being insensate for a long time, yearns for physical sensation. He wants contact with people and with the world. This is very different from the withdrawal from the world Angel always goes in to. But after having had this initial contact, Spike is ready to take on the burden of the cup of torment. While Angel makes a sharp division between spiritual and physical, Spike has no trouble combining these. He can be a physical being enjoying his physicality and a spiritual being striving to better himself and the world around him. In the epilogue, Spike intends to get drunk and invites Gunn to go with him (interesting that Spike can so easily reach out to others even calling Gunn Charlie - he is essentially a convivial and social person very unlike a vampire). But Angel is already in a moping and introspective mode. For Angel, the world is within, for Spike it is both within and without.
Eve keeps saying she's not the bad guy and maybe she really means it. When I realized Sirk was involved in the plot against Angel I thought again of a revised council - the theory I had last week. But Lindsey showing up puts that in question. Especially since Lindsey was covered in markings as was Eve's apartment. And since Eve knows about Connor, I'm guessing Lindsey does, too. Which makes me wonder how much was changed because of Connor. Whether Lindsey was affected by that. Or has he just come back to get revenge or maybe to rid the world of evil. I've complained about lack of foreshadowing and about evil characters introduced just for an episode. Well, by bringing back Lindsey, one of my favourite bad guys, the writers sure have answered that point. And by linking him to Eve, they make her bearable and give her some reason for being other than taking on Lorne's role. Of course, it is possible that isn't the real Lindsey.
I have to wonder whether the prophecy is real. Perhaps it was artificially created simply to keep Angel off balance. That doesn't explain the universe ending fx, but maybe that's something entirely different. The key seems to be the coexistence of Spike and Angel, who are in many ways the same thing. And two objects cannot occupy the same space. That's simple physics and that's what is happening to these champions. I'm probably wrong here, but I think everything we think we know about the prophecy and the nature of Wolfram & Hart is now questionable. This really is a new beginning to the series. I'm curious whether Wesley, on his leave of absence, will be doing some additional research into all this and will he come back with some surprising information.
Some quick final thoughts. I assume Julie Benz was unavailable for this episode and having her summoned by the master was a way to write the character out. She had to have been summoned quite recently, since in Darla and in the companion Buffy episode Fool For Love we saw the Spike creation and Darla was with Dru and Angelus. Why do the most dramatic moments keep happening off screen this season. This week, it's Wesley taking that leave of absence. Spike is right about the otter, back in Conviction Harmony told Angel the blood was a pig and otter mix. You've got to love the Mr. Goodfang line. I also loved the anger over the toner. He's right, nobody replaces the toner and it's really irritating. Harmony has always had potential interest and I'm glad to see that there are indications she'll be better used in this series. I'm looking forward to seeing some depth in her character. I love toner written in blood on the wall, very Shining.
Lines of the week:
"Don't think that makes me some kind of deviant." - Angelus on wanting to share the slaughter of innocents with a man.
"Is this otter?" - Spike as blood connoisseur.
"She's my destiny." - William on Drusilla.
"I know what a nooner is, Charles." - Fred reminding us she only looks innocent.
"You want your slayer whore." - Harmony revealing her true feelings.
"You ever heard a howling abyss. Terrible sound." - Gunn with the kind of line no other show will ever have.
"Spike. Stay. Please." - Angel saying something he really doesn't want to.
"I miss Wesley." - Gunn on how very annoying Sirk is.
"I fought for my soul." - Spike on what makes him different.
"I knew it was the right thing to do." - Spike with another reason he's a champion.
"You can take what you want, have what you want, but nothing is yours." - Angelus preaching the gospel of despair to William.
"Drusilla sired me but you made me a monster." - Spike on the evil Angel wrought.
"I am not the bad guy." - Eve possibly telling the truth.
"I don't want to hear her bitch about it." - Spike on why he doesn't slay Angel.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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