Angel - Why We Fight

Summary

Frightened men on a submarine in 1943 flee from some monstrous unseen creature. Angel and the gang are meeting late in the evening. Eve has vanished. Angel wants confirmation on the fate of Lindsey. Gunn says they have lost their liaison and the white room is empty. He says a new liaison will be established, then has trouble getting his sentence out and says he's tired. They all have lots of work to do and agree to meet again, even later. Fred says Knox dropped the ball on some work and Wesley says he's unreliable. As they leave, the elevator opens and off steps one of the men we saw on the submarine.

Fred walks into her lab to find the strange man there looking at some of her papers. He knows her name and says he just came to talk. He asks if she likes working there. He warns her not to run and says he came to see Angel, that they were friends back in the day. Cut to Angel in 1943 and men bursting into his room. They are from the government and they want him to join the war effort. They say a German submarine was captured by allied sailors, but something happened and now the sub seems stuck at the bottom of the ocean. The men were attacked by something. They can't send a man that deep, but they can send a vampire. They give Angel intelligence on the cargo manifest of the submarine.

Cut to the sub and the survivors who have locked themselves off. They don't know what attacked them and they realize they only have two days air supply left. The survivors consist of Lawson, Hodge, Spinelli, a German, and some other crewmen. They hear screams from one of the men who was captured and Lawson wants to go rescue him while the others try to stop him. They hear a clanging on the hull. Lawson orders them all to the torpedo room. They hear SOS being tapped in morse in a tube. They open it and out comes Angel. Cut to Wesley entering his office to find a bound and gagged Fred. Lawson attacks him from behind and knocks him out. In the past, Lawson asks Angel how he got down there without diving gear. Angel asks for the captain and is told he's dead. Lawson is in command. Angel issues an order with a coded password and they accept him. Hodge thinks he's like Captain America, a super soldier. Lawson explains they are the only ones left: a helmsman, an ensign, and some petty officers. Angel tells Lawson to keep the men in the room while he goes out. He offers Angel his gun, but Angel says Lawson will need it and he knows what he's up against. He tells him to lock the door and not to open it except for him. He goes further into the sub and meets Spike wearing a Nazi uniform. But Spike says he's not a Nazi, he just ate one. He assumes Angel was kidnapped as was he - at a free virgin blood party in Madrid. He calls him Angelus. He introduces him to the other vampires: Nostroyev and Prince of Lies. Nostroyev is Russian and upset that Angel never heard of him. Prince of Lies is a Nosferatu looking vampire. They say no one is left alive.

Angel says there are other survivors, but they are not to kill them. He says they need them to operate the sub. Spike thinks it's easy to do and goes to the controls, but just sets off an alarm. Nostroyev says they'll leave one alive to work the sub and eat the rest. He moves toward the torpedo room and Angel grabs Nostroyev's axe and stakes him with it. In the present, Lawson walks into Angel's office. Angel remembers him. He says he's been keeping tabs on Angel and can't understand how he's fighting evil and running Wolfram & Hart. Angel says it's complicated. Lawson says everything is these days and he misses the sub, everything there made sense and was simple.

Flashback to Angel leading the survivors forward to meet Spike and Prince of Lies. Lawson sets the crew to work. Spike sits in the captain's chair. Angel tells Prince of Lies to sit down. He asks Lawson to move out the bodies. Lawson says Spike's in the SS and Angel says he isn't, he just likes the jacket. Lawson says they butchered his crew and doesn't understand why they are working with them. Angel says he doesn't have to understand, he just needs to follow orders. Lawson says there's a difference between orders and purpose. He says evil is spreading and he wants to stop it. Angel says they are doing a job which will help win the war. He doesn't need Lawson to understand every detail, just know they are on the same side. He says he'll get them through it safe and sound.

In the present, Lawson echoes those words. He says it's not the time to argue semantics. He wonders if Angel cared about any of it. Angel asks what he wants and he says to understand. As he elaborates, Angel attacks him. But before he can stake him Lawson tells him he has an ace in the hole. Angel lets him go and asks what he did. Cut to them exiting the elevator to the sight of the gang bound and gagged, standing on chairs, with loops of wire around their necks connected to the ceiling. Lawson says Angel doesn't need to understand every detail, just believe he'll get them all through this safe and sound. Lawson says the wire will take their heads off if the chairs get knocked over, so no fighting. He says he thinks blood will be spilled that night, for old time's sake.

In the past, Spike is grousing about not having any fun. He wants to be called captain, since he ate him. Angel tells him to check the torpedoes. Lawson realizes Spike and Angel know each other. They hear screaming. An angry Prince of Lies is attacking the German. He has some papers which have upset him. Angel tries to calm him down and he hits Angel, sending him flying. Lawson shoots him, but the bullets don't faze him. He goes to kill the German, but Angel stakes him. The German thanks him and Angel knocks him out. Some of the men saw this and can't understand how the Prince of Lies seemed to just explode. Lawson says he wants to know and Angel tells him vampire. It doesn't help. They wonder what set off Prince of Lies and Spike holds up the papers and asks if any of them read German. Spike menaces the German while Lawson, who speaks a little German, questions him. They learn they have been experimenting on vampires, cutting into their brains. The German realizes Angel knew this and Angel shouts at him in German. Spike thinks Angel is working both sides, but he doesn't want to be experimented on by the Americans and he threatens Lawson. Lawson says they wouldn't do that. He says you don't win by doing whatever it takes, you win by doing what's right. Angel says he'll give them the ship and the men, but not the research. He hands the papers to Spike and tells him to burn them. Spike lights them and starts singing God Save the King. The ship is rocked by explosions. The enemy has found them and is attacking. Lawson has them dive. There are more explosions and the engines go out. Angel sends Lawson to fix them. They start taking on water and Angel and Spike go and Angel uses his superhuman strength to stop the leak. Spike realizes the German is missing.

Lawson can't find his screwdriver. He turns to find the German with the screwdriver who stabs him. He knocks the German down, but is mortally wounded. In the present, Lawson talks about what goes through your mind in your final moments. He says it's not the special moments of your life but just the thought that this really sucks. In the past, Angel finds the wounded Lawson. He realizes only Lawson can fix the ship and that he's dying. He vampirizes him.

Time has passed, the air is running out, the men are barely alive. Spike is ready to kill Hodge (out of mercy he says) when vampire Lawson finally gets the engines working. Lawson realizes they're surfacing. Angel says the men need air. Lawson says he's hungry. He puts on his vampire face and runs at Angel who grabs and holds him. He tells Lawson they should take a walk. The sub surfaces. Lawson says the men look smaller. Angel says it's 8 hours to sunrise, 20 miles to land. He's kicking Lawson out. He tells him that if he sees him again, he'll have to kill him. Lawson says he understands. After Lawson goes, Spike calls Angel a dick. Angel agrees and makes it clear Spike has to go too. He does.

In the present, Lawson asks if they tortured Angel when he returned. He says he jumped ship off the coast of Maine and went underground until the war was over. Lawson says damning him to save the world was a fair shake. Angel says killing the gang won't change the past. Lawson says it will hurt Angel and that's something. Angel says it's never enough. Lawson says you need a reason to live, even if you're dead. He says when alive he had patriotism. Then he had the demon thing. But all the monstrous things he did left him numb. He asks if this is true for all the ones Angel sired. Angel says he's the only one he sired after getting a soul. Lawson asks if he has one and Angel says he doesn't think so. They fight. Lawson says he got enough of Angel's soul to stop becoming what he should have been. He isn't human, but he's not really a demon. He's nothing because of Angel. He asks for a mission. Angel stakes him.

Later, Spike goes to Angel, he heard what happened. He wonders why Lawson waiting so long for revenge. He says revenge is a dish best served cold but by this time it was likely icy. Angel says he doesn't think that was what Lawson was after. Spike asks what then. Angel says 'a reason'.

Analysis

I was really enjoying this episode and then something happened, it ended. It didn't really conclude, it just suddenly ended. We never learn why Lawson chose this moment to attack Angel (was it something to do with Eve and her promise of revenge). It never becomes clear how attacking the others functioned as a failsafe for Lawson (in the end Angel kills him anyway). The strange little glitch Gunn experienced at the beginning of the episode went uncommented on (although maybe it will be fodder for a future issue). We never even learnt how Lawson and Spike survived (although it strikes me a vampire could just sink to the bottom of the ocean during the daylight hours and walk to shore waiting for night before coming up). This was a really interesting background piece which went nowhere.

One sign of a weak episode is the presence of characters who exists purely to create a scene or establish a plot point but who have no real identity or personality. We saw this in the dispensable vampires on the submarine. The first existed so we could have a scene where Angel dusts him and to make a couple of historic jokes (like Rasputin's lover). The second was there to show off the makeup and to further the plot point of the Germans doing research on vampires. But mostly they existed to be staked, the Angel equivalent of redshirts.

It happens all the time in football. You've got a highly paid starting quarter back and a relatively modestly paid back up quarter back who's either a young guy 2 or 3 years away from starting or an old guy a year or 2 away from retirement. The starting quarter back gets hurt and you bring in the backup. And the backup does a great job. He wins games and the fans love him. But when the starter gets healthy you put him back in. Why? Because you are paying him the big bucks and it hurts to see all those dollars sitting on the bench doing nothing. And because you chose to pay him those big bucks and if a cheaper player could do as well or better it makes you look dumb. The same thing happens in television. You hire a cast, you put some of them in the opening credits, you include them in your advertising, they are your stars. You pay them the big bucks. And you make sure they work every week whether you really need them or not because it hurts to see those dollars sitting in their dressing rooms eating their free lunch.

The problem is, sometimes you just don't need all those stars. That was true in this episode. There was no need to have the rest of the gang there at all. Lawson didn't have to confront them, this added nothing to the story, and his stringing them up really wasn't used at all. They didn't even get any dialogue afterwards. Neither did you need Spike. Come on, not every important moment in Angel's past life involved Spike. The vampires on the ship could have been any three vampires. Spike there added nothing and his appearance right at the end could still have happened or could have been any other character (actually Lorne strikes me as a better choice). But these guys are all being paid so we have to squeeze them in somehow even if it probably detracts from the story and means there is almost no time left to develop the guest character. The guy the episode is supposed to be about.

Lawson talks about wanting to understand. I guess you could argue that's part of this season's theme. Everybody is walking around in a fog (partly because Angel has struck a deal which removed some of their memories) and nothing much seems to make sense. Things were simpler in the past when the bad guys wore swastikas and the good guys spoke English and waved the Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes. It's much more complicated, as Angel points out, and no one seems to be addressing that complication. The line between good and evil is constantly shifting. It's likely German scientists involved in the vampire program came to America after the war and joined the Demon Research Initiative which probably became the Initiative and developed the vampire controlling chip. So, was the demon research good or evil. The Germans wanted to use vampires as slave warriors. The allies were using Angel in very much the same way. Lawson says you win by doing what's right, not whatever it takes. If that's true, then the allies were wrong in forcing Angel. But they were the good guys. It's an illusion that things were simpler in the past. We just didn't see the complexity.

Lawson personifies the grayness of the moral world Angel inhabits this season. He's not quite monster and certainly not man. He can do terrible things, but not really enjoy them. Yet he's not driven to do good. Angel made him a vampire, but with good intent and that poisoned the evil. Lawson lives in the netherland between dark and light, good and evil. He can never be happy because nothing, not torturing and killing not fighting demons and protecting society can bring him a sense of purpose. He has no mission and his life is hollow. He has come to Angel not for revenge, but for a sense of purpose. He was telling the truth when he told Fred he wanted to talk to Angel. That is what he wanted. He wanted to understand what he could be, what he could do. And the best answer Angel could give him was dead. That doesn't token well for what lies ahead.

I have to speculate a bit about Gunn's glitch. He was talking about a new liaison with the senior partners and then stopped, muttering about a protocol. Was he about to say something he didn't want to share? Is his mind somehow being manipulated, possibly by Eve? Or is he slated to be the new liaison (this would make sense since he got to go to the white room and he seems the most trusted by the senior partners and the one they have modified the most) and he didn't want to or couldn't say anything about that.

In Hero, we saw Nazilike demons trying to eliminate what they saw as mixed breed, impure demons. Vampires were top of their list. In this episode we see the Nazis doing experiments on vampire hoping to make supersoldiers out of them. There's a certain irony there - the pure race guys looking to the most impure of demons for help - but unfortunately the episode failed to address this idea or really any idea.

Some quick final thoughts. I remember when Angel couldn't sneak into Wolfram & Hart because alarms would go off if a vampire entered. Now, as he puts it, the place is like a bus station. Surely with all that happens you'd think they'd improve security a little. We saw federal agents taking the invisible girl and training her as an agent on Buffy. Later, we saw the Initiative and its role in fighting and using demons. Now we learn there was a demon research department in WWII. These things have to be connected. When Spike sings God Save the King, the closed captions show God Save the Queen. Spike sings the correct song, there was a king in 1943 when the episode is set. I guess I'll just have to believe Wesley was really tired, because his reflexes were exceptionally slow. When he entered his office and saw the bound and gagged Fred he should have reacted quickly and realized he was probably about to be attacked. Does Wesley's criticism of Knox mean he's still interested in Fred? And where is Knox? It's bad enough that the good guys (like Buffy) don't think they can trust Angel anymore. But now we learn the bad guys don't trust him either.

Lines of the week:

"He is unreliable." - Wesley on Knox.

"It's funny how you lose part of your mind when you stop using it." - Lawson on his math skills but maybe also a comment on Gunn.

"Demon research initiative." - Probably the forerunner to the Initiative.

"Don't ever go to a free virgin blood party." - Spike with good advice.

"I was Rasputin's lover." - Nostroyev with a not very wise statement.

"You'd be amazed at how many people break into this building on a regular basis." - Angel on the poor security at Wolfram & Hart.

"I take it back. It doesn't help." - Lawson on learning he's on a ship with vampires.

"I'm not getting experimented on by his government." - Spike with a prophetic statement

"You don't win a war by doing whatever it takes." - Lawson maybe being naive.

"You're new at this. I'm not." - Angel letting Lawson know the order of things.

"You're still a dick." - Spike possibly praising Angel.

"Did they at least torture you?" - Lawson being hopeful.

"I don't think it works that way, son." - Angel breaking the bad news to Lawson.

"I'm nothing because of you." - Lawson on the horrors of being neither good nor evil.

"Really ought to do something about security." - Spike stating the obvious.

Got a comment? Send me mail.

Go to more Angel reviews.
Go to other tv reviews.
Go to my home page and get links to everything.