Flashback to Fred leaving home for school in LA, packing her bags while her parents worry about her being alone in the big city. She makes sure she takes her stuffed rabbit, Feigenbaum. Cut to Fred using a flame thrower on demon bugs. Wesley is beside her with a gun. They start kissing and we hear Angel and Spike arguing. They enter and Angel has a sword through him. Spike stabbed him to kill one of the bugs on his back. Fred asks if she can have the bug. Cut to the lab where Knox receives a late night delivery of a sarcophagus which nobody seems to have ordered.
Gunn is in his office singing Gilbert & Sullivan (Three Little Maids). He sees Wesley in the doorway and tries to switch to rap. Wesley says Gunn is suddenly very happy. Gunn says he and Fred are together again. That they hooked up last night. He admits he's just kidding Wesley and says he's alright with Wesley and Fred being a couple. But he does say if Wesley hurts Fred he'll kill him. He says he found out where Lindsey was living. Wesley says he should tell Angel, but Gunn says he doesn't want to go in there. Cut to Angel and Spike arguing. Wesley enters and asks what they've been going on about. Spike says if cavemen and astronauts got into a fight, who would win. Wesley says they've been shouting at each other for 40 minutes over this. He asks if the astronauts have weapons and Spike says no.
Fred is looking at the sarcophagus which Knox says arrived without any paperwork. It defies analysis. She thinks it's probably just a mummy. He says mummies can be trouble and she's seeing Wesley. He says he just wanted to get it out there and he's ok with it. He goes to get the Hazmats and Fred is suddenly drawn to the sarcophagus. She touches it and it opens with a gush of air she inhales. Knox rushes back in and she says she's ok. The box is sealed again.
Spike enters Angel's office saying Harmony pulled him out of a promising poker game with the guys in accounting who all agree cavemen would win. Angel says he wants Spike to leave. He offers him the resources of Wolfram & Hart. He can have money, cars, gadgets and go fight the good fight anywhere he wants except LA. Cut to Lorne and Fred walking down the hall. Fred says the cavemen have fire, so the astronauts should have some sort of weapon. They bump into Wesley who says he wants to take Fred out that night. Lorne starts walking off and Fred says he should look her up for lunch. He says he'll look where the sunshine is and starts singing You Are My Sunshine. She sings the line 'you make me happy' and Lorne whirls around as she spits out blood and falls down the stairs into his arms.
Fred awakes in a bed surrounded by the guys (including Knox). They tell her she'll be fine, but she thinks she's becoming a mummy. Angel says they'll fix things and she says 'handsome man saves me' the words she spoke to him when he saved her in Pylea. Everyone leaves, except Wesley who tries to comfort her. They kiss. Angel and Spike see this and we learn Angel didn't know about them. The guys walk through the corridors talking. They know almost nothing. Angel says the doctors told him her organs are cooking and will liquefy within a day. Spike says no. Gunn says he'll go to the white room and see if the senior partners did this. Angel says if they didn't, Gunn should secure their help. Spike asks about Lindsey. Angel says they should check out the address and Spike and Lorne say they'll come along. They split.
Wesley is in his office and a staffer enters asking for a file. Wesley says it can wait. The staffer says the whole company can't be working on the Burkle case. Wesley takes out a gun and shoots the guy in the leg. He calls to another staff and tells her to send in anyone who isn't working the Burkle case. Gunn is in the white room. Someone hits him. He turns to see himself. The conduit has taken his form and says the senior partners are tired of his insolence. They are not there for his convenience. The doppelganger says Gunn is failing. Gunn says he wants to make a deal, the doppelganger says deals are for the devil. Gunn offers his life for Fred's. The doppelganger says he already has Gunn's life and starts beating him up.
Spike, Angel, and Lorne are at Lindsey's place. They enter to find a frightened Eve. They question her and she says she knows nothing. She asks if they know anything about Lindsey. She says they wouldn't do anything to Fred, they didn't care about her. Lorne punches her in the face. He tells her she's going to sing for him. He tells her how Fred once told him she thought a lot of people would choose to be green. He says if she's a note off Spike and Angel won't even have time to kill her. She sings and he says she's clean. He admits he might be wrong, but she reads clean. He tells her her future isn't bright and she might be better off dead. She pleads with them not to tell the senior partners where she is. She tells them if they can't find the sarcophagus in their records, then it comes before their time. It comes from the time of the original demons. She says the books can conjure up any text, not just what they have in their files. She says Wesley should look for the oldest scrolls and the deepest well.
Armed with this information, Wesley tells them it is Illyria, a demon monarch left in the deeper well, a burial place. He says Fred's skin is hardening and he thinks she's being hollowed out and used as a shell to gestate the Illyria demon. He has found the location of the deeper well and says it's like a prison and the escaped Illyria can be drawn back there. Angel says to prep the company jet and he and Spike will go there. Knox says they can be there in 4 hours. Lorne says he's going to pray and Wesley says it's appreciated. Angel and Spike leave for the plane. Cut to Fred jerking awake.
Wesley goes to Fred's sickbed to find her missing. He finds her in the lab. She believes she has to work on a cure. She says she's not a damsel in distress. She says she lived in a cave for 5 years on a planet where they killed her kind like cattle. She says she won't be killed by demon flu. She says she's scared. She starts to fall and Wesley catches her. She looks at his book and asks if it can call up anything he needs. He says yes. She tells him to bring the book and take her home. Cut to Wesley carrying Fred to her bed.
Spike and Angel are in the air. Spike has never flown before, Angel was in a helicopter once. Spike says after they save Fred they should go to the West End and take in a show. Angel says he's never seen Les Miz and Spike says he won't want to. Angel says he can't lose her. Spike says he won't. Angel says he lost Cordy. Cut to Gunn on the phone trying to get mystical healers for Fred but to no avail. Knox comes in and says they can freeze her, slow down or stop what's happening. Gunn asks if he's sure that will work and he says they can test it. Fred is sleeping as Wesley reads. She wakes and says she wants to be awake. Wesley tells her Angel and Spike are off to save her. She suddenly wants Feigenbaum but when he asks who that is she can't remember. She cries and Wesley holds her. She wants him to read to her and asks if he can summon any book. Cut to him reading about Sara Crewe.
Angel and Spike are at the spot Wesley sent them to. They find the mystical door and warriors with swords come running out of it. Angel tells him to hold his hand. Spike does and says St. Petersburg. They part and hold a thin wire which slices the attacking soldiers in half. They grab their swords and kill the next wave. More come. Cut to Knox saying freezing isn't working. He's tried it on a blood sample and it doesn't slow down the disease. He says he really cares for Fred and wishes he could be the white knight. He says he doesn't just care for her, he practically worships it. Gunn realizes he said it and Knox goes oops. Cut to Spike and Angel killing more soldiers. The guardian of the well comes out. It's Drogyn who Angel knows. Drogyn tells Spike not to ask him a question or he'll kill him. He knows they are there about Illyria and tells them to come in. Angel explains Drogyn doesn't like questions because he can't lie. Meanwhile, Gunn is beating up Knox who says this was all set in motion millions of years ago. He says he picked Fred because he loves her and she's a fitting receptacle for his god. He says Angel won't save her. Gunn says he doesn't know Angel and Knox says Angel won't fail, he'll choose to let her die.
Fred and Wesley are lying on her bed. She asks him to read more and says the light hurts her eyes but she wants it on. She says the cavemen win. Drogyn is surprised to see Angel there. He explains that the coffin disappeared a month ago. It was teleported away, part of Illyria's escape plan. They reach a bridge and see a seemingly bottomless pit filled with coffins. Drogyn says it goes all the way through the Earth. He says Illyria was a great power and still has acolytes. Knox tells Gunn there are only a few of them left. He came to LA because that was the base of its power and it was supposed to teleport there. But the continents drifted and it got stuck in customs. But Gunn fixed that. It was the sarcophagus he helped the doctor bring in. Knox shows him the paperwork. Gunn grabs a cannister and slams Knox in the head with it, knocking him down. He holds it up and we see him bring it down it what could be a death blow.
Wesley is giving Fred an injection. Fred starts rambling about how she has sinned, that she never got a B- before. Spike breaks down and asks questions, but Drogyn doesn't kill him, he says since Illyria is free drawing it back will infect everyone on its path. Thousands will die in agony if they try to save Fred. Drogyn says he'll prepare the spell and it's their choice. Angel says to hell with the world.
Fred is rambling. Wesley says he won't leave her. She says she walks with heroes and he says she is one. Angel turns to Spike. Spike starts talking about the pit going all the way through the Earth. He says there's a hole in the world and they should have known. Fred asks Wesley to kiss her. He does. She asks if he could have loved her and he says he's loved her since he's known her and maybe even before. She tells him to talk to her parents and tell them she wasn't scared. She dies in his arms. He cries. We see her eyes change. She has a spasm sending him flying. She rises, changed, and says 'this will do'.
Happiness is always a bad sign in the Buffyverse. As soon as you have it, it's gone and something really bad takes its place. Angel gets happy, he becomes Angelus. We had that last season. This season, Wesley and Fred get happy and she's killed and taken over by an ancient demon (not all that different from what happens to Angel when you think about it). Gunn gets happy and he ends up beating himself up and discovering he's unwittingly involved in Fred's death. It's all good stuff (from a tv enjoyment perspective) but the episode felt a bit rushed (odd in a multiparter) and you can't help but compare the Fred and Wesley scenes with the far better Lilah and Wesley scenes. I can't help but keep feeling that this season is basically copying bits and pieces of previous seasons and not doing it nearly as well.
You have to feel sorry for Gunn because he's trying to get his life together. Of course, he's trying to do that by using demonic powers and striking a deal with the devil, but he is trying. Like a lot of characters in the Buffyverse Gunn is both arrogant and lacking in self confidence. He believes he can trade with evil and not be infected by it. He's said this a number of times and when he accepted the original brain upgrade he made his opinion clear. But he took it a step further, a fatal step for Fred, when he got his second upgrade. Last episode we didn't see it actually happen, so it was always possible he had avoided the evil deal. But this week we get confirmation that he made the deal and that it has, indirectly, resulted in Fred's illness. Gunn had to realize that the doctor was evil and that by helping him he would hurt others. If it hadn't been Fred, Gunn wouldn't know and wouldn't care. And that callous disregard for strangers is part of the arrogance that Gunn has developed. If it doesn't directly affect him or those he cares for, it doesn't matter. But if it weren't for Gunn's essential insecurity (his inferiority complex) he wouldn't have done this at all. The brain upgrade struck at Gunn's weak point. His sense of intellectual inferiority. That's the area where he wasn't Fred's equal and where Wesley was. It was the root of his jealousy of Wesley. As upgraded Gunn, he has it all. The street smarts married to intellect and education. Plus a really nice wardrobe. But he never considered the price he would have to pay.
The conduit says its form is determined by the one who seeks it. Gunn sees himself. Partly because he knows a part of himself is now tainted by evil. And partly because the thing he most fears (and the white room is all about fear) is himself. He doesn't want to take a close look at himself because the reality of what he has become will hurt. And it does. The metaphor becomes all too real and Gunn literally beats himself up over what he's done. That violence carries on when Gunn realizes what Knox has done, he reverts to his old tough guy self attacking Knox and possibly killing him. Just as last week we never saw Gunn make the deal with the devil this week we don't see whether he smashes in Knox' brains. Possibly this week he did the right thing.
The Wesley/Fred scenes remind us both of Wesley's sad relationship with Lilah and of the horror that was a significant segment of Fred's life. We get a reprise of Fred's life which interestingly parallels Cordelia's in some ways. She's a more or less normal girl who goes to the big city (the opening sequence with her parents). She encounters demons, spends some time in a hell dimension (Fred talks to these points directly in the scene with Wesley in the lab but the most interesting references was when she said 'handsome man saves me' the words she spoke when Angel saved her in Pylea), comes back and becomes a hero (also in the precredit sequence when she is burning the demon bugs), and then finds herself hijacked by an ancient power. The young Fred is nicer than the young Cordelia, but otherwise their lives parallel quite neatly.
I've said that I feel this season has rushed ideas and replaced them with new characters and I feel that a great deal this week. The intensity of the Fred/Wesley relationship seems forced because we haven't seen much of it this year. The quiet scenes with Wesley sitting by her bedside, reading to her, lack the impact of the scenes with the dead Lilah in Salvage because we had seen that relationship develop through a season. Similarly, our sorrow at Fred's death isn't as deep as it should be because it's crowded into an episode and those flashes to her past should have been spread out over the previous half season. It's as if this season was split in two. One half an action/adventure series with just enough story arc to pretend it's really Angel. The other half a rapid fire series of character development. I've no doubt this was in response to network demands for less arc and more action.
If there is a saving grace to this episode, a moment or two when I think 'hey this is the best show on tv' and not 'hey this show used to be so good' it's the Lorne/Eve scene with the Spike at the hole in the world scene a close second. The Lorne scene was particularly welcome because Lorne has been hanging around the edges of the series this season with almost nothing to do. This week he got a lot.It started when Fred started singing and he whirled around. We knew then that he had seen something really bad in her future. It's been a long time since Lorne read any auras and this was a really good instance. But it peaks when he interrogates Eve. Lorne punching her in the face was a real shocker. Even on Angel we rarely see something like that. Then the speech, about the Chinese food and apropos of nothing and choosing to be green. This was one of those moments that make Buffyverse shows great. In a few seconds it gave us a depth of insight into the characters and their motivations. It made it all real. And it all gets topped off when Lorne says he's going to go pray. It's a very human reaction (from the least human of them) and that makes it all the more impressive. Wesley isn't kidding when he says it's appreciated.
When Spike starts talking about the hole in the world he does it in part to stop Angel from saying what Spike knows he has to say. That they can't kill thousands to save Fred. That they have to let her die as Knox predicted. He doesn't want to hear it and he knows Angel doesn't want to say it. But the hole is also the absence of loved ones. Of Cordelia and Lilah and Doyle and Anya and now Fred. Spike always has this way of talking about things without directly mentioning them. It intensifies the emotional impact of the moment. In the background, we see Angel almost in tears and in counterpoint we see Fred dying in Wesley's arms. And it all comes together around the literal and metaphorical hole.
Some quick final thoughts. Feigenbaum was a mathematician who did work on fractals. I'm told the song Eve sings was written by Christian Kane who plays Lindsey. Is it just me or was Fred moving in and out of accent in the first scene? Is Fred this season's Cordelia? And is the fact we even ask such a question a sign of the diminution of this series? I think so. I'm going with the astronauts. The cavemen might be stronger and more violent, but the astronauts would have the advantage of strategy and communications. Angel has to start paying attention. He was the last one in the company to learn about Wesley and Fred. One aspect of the show never fails, that's Spike revealing the depth of his feelings. When he says 'not this girl' it's a moving moment. Angel says he thinks Lindsey may be laughing at them. But he also thinks the senior partners snatched Lindsey. So what does he really think. Is my memory failing me? Have we ever met Drogyn before? Why do the writers keep giving Angel and Spike so much comedy? They are much better at scenes like the one at the well. The comedy should be a rare thing, a counterpoint to the sadness of their existence. Not a constant. Is the offer to give Spike resources to go elsewhere a set up for a possible Spike spin off series?
Lines of the week:
"If you meet one Angel there, I'll eat the dogs." - Fred's father with a line which will be ironic more than 5 years later.
"Do the astronauts have weapons." - Wesley getting pulled in.
"No EBay after the commemorative plate incident I'm living clean." - Fred with a story you'd love to hear more of.
"Handsome man saves me." - Fred with good memories.
"I didn't know." - Angel on Wesley and Fred.
"No. Not this girl. Not this day." - Spike letting us know he wasn't really playing Fred when he told her how much he cared for her.
"Winifred Burkle. Go." - Angel saying it.
"I think a lot of people would choose to be green. Your shade, if they had the choice." - Lorne quoting Fred explaining why he loves her.
"I'm going to pray." - Lorne reminding us that there are other powers than the senior partners.
"Nobody's on our side." - Spike with a dose of reality.
"I practically worship it." - Knox letting things slip.
"I don't mean Angel's going to fail to save her. I mean he's going to let her die." - Knox being right.
"Cavemen win." - Fred giving in.
"That's madness." - Spike on the world.
"I walk with heroes." - Fred on the greatness of her life.
"You are one." - Wesley on the greatness of Fred.
"There's a hole in the world." - Spike really talking about Fred's death.
"I've loved you since I've known you....I think maybe even before." - Wesley on loving Fred.
"This will do." - Illyria's first words.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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