Angel - Harm's Way

Summary

We see a cheesy recruitment/orientation film for Wolfram & Hart telling the firm's history and the new Angel zero tolerance policy of not killing people. Cut to Harmony getting up (is it 7 am or pm ?). She showers (be your best is on her wall), brushes her teeth, does her hair, dresses, and heads off for work. She passes a lady with a dog. The lady doesn't return her greeting and the dog barks. At the office, she brings in Angel's dry cleaning, then goes to the lounge where she bumps into a girl. She tries to talk to two others, but they ignore her. She heats up some blood for Angel (the mug says #1 Boss). She takes a bowl out of the microwave and the guy who put it in complains, but she blows him off pointing out her boss is his boss's boss.

Angel comes by and she tells him about his schedule, the cleaning, and the catering she took care of for the coming demon confab. But he's been listening to his demon language tapes (his clicks are all wrong) and hasn't heard anything she said. He asks about the catering, but when Gunn comes up he walks off ignoring her and basically slams the door in her face as she tells him she went above and beyond over the catering. At her desk, a guy called Rudy comes to check that she hasn't been drinking human blood. She comes up negative. Eli, a sleazy accountant demon, shows up saying he has an appointment with Angel. Gunn calls him in. She realizes Angel forgot his blood and takes it in only to see him cut off Eli's head.

Gunn and Angel explain Eli was killing virgins for amusement. Harmony is still upset at his beheading. Fred, Lorne, and Wesley come up. Spike walks in and says he's been out drinking and enjoying his new corporealization. He says he's off to see Buffy. Wesley thinks he should stay until the prophecy is resolved, but Spike says Angel is welcome to the prophecy. He asks for money and Angel refuses, so he asks for a ride and Angel says any car except the Viper. Spike says he'll take the Viper. He thanks Fred for having believed in him and for having tried to help him. Harmony is upset he doesn't talk to her and asks if he's mad at her for trying to kill him when they were having sex. He tells her to keep it simple.

Angel is explaining about the demon confab. Two demon clans have been at war. It started 5 generations ago when at a feast a guest from one clan used the wrong fork. Gunn says the clans are finicky about manners. Tobias Dupree, a demon rights activist, is the only man both clans trust and he is brokering a peace and the talks are to take place at Wolfram & Hart. Wesley wonders why they don't let the clans slaughter one another, but Gunn says if they can make the peace work, it will impress the demon world. Wesley has a list of their rules and suggests they memorize it. Lorne's assistant, Dan, shows up. He's the one from the lounge. He has a seating chart and Lorne praises his work and calls him an up and comer. Fred says they have an upgrade to the weapons scanner and it is state of the art. Gunn says he'll do the talking since his brain upload included some demon languages. Angel says in addition to the etiquette issues, the demons are very superstitious. Harmony starts talking about what she's learnt (they think poodles are bad luck), but Wesley cuts her off saying they should order lunch. Fred says not Thai.

In the lounge, Harmony over hears two others talking about Fred and speculating about her and Gunn. Harmony says she thinks Wesley and Fred are involved and the others quickly disagree. Dan arrives with muffins from Lorne and the others think he's being groomed. Harmony says Angel grooms her as well, the others act as if they don't believe her. She gets an angry call from Angel and goes back to the office. He's mad because a camel has been delivered. She says she researched the demons and a camel is what they would want to eat at the meeting. She says Angel can ceremonially slaughter it. He tells her to get dip instead and get rid of the camel. Fred walks up during this and when Angel leaves she tries to be nice to Harmony who starts to cry and says Angel hates her. Fred tries to comfort her and ends up agreeing to go out for drinks with her. Over drinks, Harmony explains how sad her life is. She wasn't good at being evil and she's not good here and she has nowhere to go. She says she wishes she were like Fred, only not so flat. She says Knox and Wesley are after Fred and Fred says yes, then no, then wonders why she's telling this to Harmony and Harmony says they are bonding and are gal pals. Harmony admits she has no friends. Fred says she has to put herself out there. Harmony thinks one of the guys at the bar has been checking her out and Fred says she should go over to him. She does and while she's awkward, he offers to buy her a drink.

Cut to Harmony waking up in bed with the guy next to her. She can't remember his name. She tries to wake him, but he's dead and there are bite marks on his neck. Cut to Harmony carrying the body (wrapped in something) to the trash chute. The lady with the dog walks past, the dog barks. She pushes the body down, but sees it bounces out of the dumpster. She runs downstairs and tosses it in the dumpsters. The lady walks by again and the dog growls. Harmony tosses some garbage on top of the body.

At the office, Harmony spots Rudy the tester and slumps down in her chair to hide from him. Angel comes and asks for his blood, he wonders what she is doing and she says desk crunches. At the microwave, she takes out the bowl again and heats the blood. She can't remember what happened the night before. She blames it on her drinking and blames that on Fred for going with her to the bar. She reasons it is all Fred's fault. Dan shows up and complains about her taking his bowl out. She gets her thermos out of the fridge and starts gulping down blood. She says she's stress eating. Angel phones, wondering where his blood is. At her desk, Harmony is ordering dip from the caterer. There is a call from the police for Angel. They found the body. Angel calls Gunn and Wesley. The dead man was the demon rights activist, Toby. Harmony remembers he told her he was an astronaut. Angel and the others wonder whether this was an attempt to derail the demon summit. They call the demons who want revenge. Angel tries to talk to them, but he doesn't have a grasp of the language yet and insults them. They call him whore man. Gunn calms them and promises they'll find the killer and punish him. Angel says the body is in the lab and Harmony rushes down there. Fred is already examining it. Fred thinks Harmony was sent by Angel who wants quick results. Harmony plays along and says couldn't the killer have had a blackout and not known what he did. Fred, not understanding, agrees. She says the vampire was female. Harmony says maybe he was gay, but Fred says it doesn't work that way. She says she actually enjoyed the previous night and would do it again. She asks about the guy at the bar. Harmony says he was a loser she dumped and tells Fred he told her he was an astronaut.

Harmony leaves and walking down the hallway she plans to flee to Mexico. Then she realizes Fred said the man was bitten on the right and realizes that means she is innocent. Rudy comes up and tests her, she's positive. She knocks him out and dumps him in a supply closet. She bumps into Lorne and asks what happens to the test results. He says they get transmitted immediately to the lab. He hears Rudy moaning. She knocks him out and dumps him in the closet. At the lab, Fred knows she tested positive. Harmony explains what happened, but says she was drugged and didn't do it. She points out she's a right biter, she leans right when she bites which means she bites you on your left. Toby was bitten on the right. She says her thermos must have been spiked with human blood. Fred wants to tell Angel, she says he'll help. Harmony disagrees. She knocks her out and dumps her in the closet. She has put tape over the mouths of her three victims and promises she'll buy them dinner once she clears her name.

Harmony figures there are fingerprints on the thermos. In the lobby, the demon clans have arrived and want a sacrifice. They'd like the killer, but will settle for anyone. Angel calls for Harmony, but he just wants her to get an update from Fred. She goes to the lounge where she sees Dan touching her thermos. She thinks he's getting rid of the evidence, he says he's getting Lorne's protein snack. She shoves him against the wall and shouts at him, accusing him of framing her. Others try to stop her, but she puts on her vampire face and scares them off. He's crying and suddenly another woman hits him on the head with a bottle, knocking him out. She says she did it to make it look like Harmony did. Harmony realizes this woman is the killer, but she doesn't know her.

The woman sat next to Harmony in the steno pool. Her name is Tamika, although Harmony thought it was Sambuca. Tamika says Harmony was only there for 5 weeks, Harmony says it was 4 and a half. Tamika was in the steno pool for 5 years. She types 80 words per minute and has a pleasant telephone voice. She's angry that Harmony was fast tracked. She believes Harmony is one of the in-crowd. Harmony puts on her face, ready to fight. Tamika puts hers on, she's a vampire, too. They fight. Tamika slipped a roofie into Harmony's drink at the bar, then followed her home and killed Toby when she passed out. The girls pick up chopsticks and attempt to stake each other with them. Tamika seems to be getting the better of her, but then she says the first thing she'll do is trash all of the unicorns at Harmony's desk. This gives Harmony the motivation she needs and she soon is pulling Tamika down the hall to Angel's office. Meanwhile, the demon clans are demanding a sacrifice. Harmony and Tamika crash into the room and Harmony stakes her on the table. The demon clans say it works for them.

Later, Angel has everyone in his office, including Rudy, Lorne, and Fred. He says Harmony should have come to him. Harmony apologizes and says she was scared. She says she knows Angel never wanted her as his secretary. Gunn comes in and says the meeting is going well. Fred says Harmony could have handled it better, but she didn't kill anybody. Rudy says she'll be clean in two days and he'll be watching her. Harmony says she knows he won't have to and she'll clean out her desk. Angel tells her just to bring them coffee. That night at the bar she's complaining to the bartender that she saved the conference and all she got was 'bring us coffee'. Spike walks in. He decided he couldn't go to see Buffy because he made such a great exit how can he come back from that. She says girls don't care about that. That when Buffy sees him she'll get all tingly and forget how horribly he treated her and how he took her for granted. He starts to say he never took her for granted, then realizes Harmony was talking about herself. He says if he shows up now his grand finale won't matter. Harmony says she understands about not mattering. He says she mattered to the girl who framed her, she hated Harmony. Harmony realizes this is true, she does matter. She smiles.

Analysis

I think this was an attempt to do for Harmony what was done for Cordelia. The episode was designed to give her some depth and broaden her character. It worked, but only in part. Harmony is still pretty much a stereotype, selfish and generally thoughtless. We felt sorry for her because she was treated badly, but really she doesn't treat others any better. There were a couple of good moments (especially the last scene with Spike), but the episode suffered from predictability and it failed to make Harmony fully three dimensional.

I'm reminded of the invisible girl episode of Buffy. Cordelia, in between rude gibes at Buffy and the others, talks about how she can be surrounded by others yet still be alone. It's an incredible moment that reveals her thoughtfulness and her sense of being trapped inside the prison of popularity. It demonstrated that there was a person inside the stereotype. Harmony tries to do something like that (or rather the writers try to do it for her) when she talks to Fred about her isolation, to Spike about her realization that she keeps going back to him no matter how badly he treats her, and especially to Angel when she talks about how hard it is to be good when you don't have a soul. The words are there, but not the music. I feel sympathy for her, but I've felt that in the past. But I don't get the sense that all these things really matter to her, that she actually has feelings. She's still the insensitive high school girl who'll quickly put down the outsiders. She feels no sympathy for others, even when she learns that others feel as isolated as she. She has no empathy. Her harshness isn't a defense mechanism (as was Cordelia's), but her nature.

One problem is that Harmony still seems trapped in high school. She has no idea how to function like an adult. She wants to be at the cool table in the cafeteria. She looks to nonessentials like the mug, the thermos, her unicorns, her clothes and never pays attention to others. She doesn't really listen to Fred, she never even noticed Tamika. When she's in trouble, she deals with it the way a child would, trying to hide the evidence. She's upset that others don't pay attention, but doesn't realize her childish behaviour is part of the reason. No one takes her seriously, no one treats her like an adult, because she never acts like one.

Another problem is Angel's relative lack of response. He was surprisingly thoughtless and cruel in this episode as were Wesley and Gunn. They can be forgiven, they were generally preoccupied and not really outright mean. But Angel consistently ignored Harmony, called her names, and made her feel little. Yes, she's a vampire and we know she's betrayed them in the past. But Wesley, who has a soul and is good, betrayed him and was ultimately forgiven. He has made his own deal with the devil at Wolfram & Hart and can hardly consider himself above reproach. His harshness, only slightly moderated at the end, is out of character and unnecessary. Angel is becoming less and less human and the easy way in which he kills employees (even evil ones) and stomps on the feelings of others is disconcerting. Whatever Eve, Lindsey, and Wolfram & Hart have in plan for him, I think they are winning.

Fred at least tries to make contact with Harmony, but Harmony sees more deeply into Fred than Fred into her. Which is pretty sad given Harmony's lack of interest in others. But she reveals surprising insight, recognizing that Knox and Wesley are jockeying for Fred's affections. Fred gets so into herself at that point, she stops really focusing on Harmony. And, later, she doesn't trust Harmony enough. While Harmony's casual assault on others reveals her lack of morality, Fred should have had some faith her. She's put faith in far less believeable characters in the past.

The only one who really listens to Harmony is Spike. It's a credit to the actor that a scene intended to give depth and pathos to the character of Harmony actually served more to deepen his already rich and complex character. His sudden recognition of how he has treated her, his realization that he has much to atone for and that his crimes included things other than murder and mayhem, is wonderful. Spike is constantly growing as a person. In this scene, he's deep within himself, talking about the difficulty of going back to Buffy after his fabulous and world saving exit. But he's quickly brought out of himself. He's never so self absorbed (unlike Angel) that he fails to listen to others and sense their feelings.

Predictability ruled in this episode. The bones of the plot stuck out everywhere. In the opening sequence, we see her lift the bureau to remind us she is strong so we aren't taken out of the moment when later she will lift the body and carry it to the garbage chute. When the blood tester comes by, we know later she'll test positive. When we see the thermos, we know it will be spiked with human blood. And as she and Tamika fight, we know they will end up in the conference room and Harmony slaying the vampire will be the blood sacrifice the demon clans demand. Most of these things could have been hinted at in previous weeks. But this was the Harmony episode so all of it had to happen here. And by making it all happen here, it made it all the more obvious.

I know the 'everyone matters' line from the opening film and the company promise of helping people up the ladder was intended to be ironic. That we were meant to sympathize even more with Harmony who was working hard and got no recognition, no helping hand, nothing. She did study the demon clans, the camel thing was actually a good idea and I can't believe Angel is suddenly squeamish about slaughtering camels. But her dedication is never rewarded. Unfortunately, the opening sequence is so over the top, it's merely comedy and not irony.

Some quick final thoughts. The opening orientation film reminded me of the one Buffy had to watch when she was working in fast food. I was happy to learn Harmony still loves unicorns. I understand that a demon rights activist might not tell everyone that was his job - but astronaut. Plus, couldn't he tell Harmony was a vampire and wouldn't that make him more likely to tell her the truth? I like Harmony putting on her vampire face so she can brush her fangs. If Angel cares enough about the catering to ask, he should care enough to listen to the answer. Harmony has a sense of humour, I liked her curses, foiled again joke. It's interesting that the other staff seem to think Wesley is gay. It's interesting that Harmony refers to nonvampires as straight. Why is Fred always alone in the lab and how can Harmony carry bodies through the hall without being noticed? Add 5 weeks and 4.5 weeks and you get 9.5 weeks, which I thought was a deliberate and funny reference. Wouldn't Rudy be checking Tamika's blood and wouldn't she test positive? Of course, there is no reason for Tamika's scheme to be a good one.

Lines of the week:

"If you don't kill, we won't kill you." - Angel on the new zero tolerance policy.

"Bit of a hangover, but that's to be expected after all the drinking." - Spike on the after effects of recorporealization.

"Your welcome to that heroic destiny. Whether you deserve it or not." - Spike to Angel demonstrating he really does deserve it.

"Keep it simple, Harm. It suits you." - Spike possibly underestimating Harmony.

"You can teach me about life, and I can teach you how to dress better." - Harmony on how she and Fred can help one another.

"Since I got vamped at my graduation, I've had trouble connecting with people." - Harmony pretty much saying what you'd expect.

"Get fit while you sit. You should see my ass. You wanna?" - Harmony trying to appear inconspicuous.

"He's not a helper." - Harmony with a different take on the guy who helps the helpless.

"I so owe you guys dinner." - Harmony trying to make up for kidnapping and assault.

"It's not like I have a soul. I have to try a lot harder." - Harmony making a really good point.

"Oh." - Spike realizing Harmony is talking about herself, not Buffy.

"Not mattering, I know that feeling well." - Harmony opening up to Spike.

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