Angel - Origin

Summary

Illyria is standing very still in the lab. Wesley is above observing. Angel enters. Wesley says she's either counting oxygen molecules, analyzing the petri dish she put in her mouth, or sleeping. He can't quite tell. Angel asks if this is a good idea. Wesley says they are running out of people. Angel says he still intends to get Gunn back. He says Wesley has to let them help him study her. Wesley says testing her could get someone hurt. Angel says they'll make Spike do it. Wesley says Illyria doesn't understand their world and needs a guide. Angel asks when he last slept. He says he needs Wesley working at the firm, not chasing ghosts. He reminds him Fred is dead.

Wesley is in his office and a couple are talking to him. They say that their son was going to get the mail. A van, going 60 mph, hopped the curb and hit him, then backed up and sped off. But their son was fine, barely scratched. A policeman called them and suggested they contact the firm. Wesley calls Harmony and asks her to send Angel up. They say their son is downstairs. He thinks they've come to set up a trust. Wesley says they'll help. Angel is walking through the lobby. He hears a boy say dad. He turns and sees Connor. Connor is talking to the father who is with Wesley, they are the Reillys, his parents. Of course, none of them knows Angel. Wesley starts to tell Angel about the problem, but he quickly says they cannot help. Wesley doesn't understand why and Angel won't explain.

Gunn is having his heart cut out by the demon torturer. When it finishes, he mystically heals, is resurrected, and goes upstairs with his lightbulb. Illyria is beating up Spike. He tries to set ground rules. No more punching him in the face. When he punches her in the face, she tells him how it feels so he can write in in his clipboard. No touching his clipboard. She says she enjoys hurting him. She punches him and sends him flying across the room. Wesley enters. Spike says he'll break her. Wesley says she's not a horse and the room has automated training devices. Illyria says Wesley reeks of frustration. Spike says that's scotch. Wesley says he had a disagreement with Angel. Spike calls Angel broody pants and reminds Wesley Angel can't have sex without going crazy which makes it fun. Illyria says in her day such insolence would have been punished by death. Wesley says they've not being insolent. Spike says he is. Illyria says Wesley is loyal to Angel and Wesley says he's earned the loyalty.

Angel is in his office and Marcus enters. Angel asks what's going on. Marcus says the senior partners aren't behind what happened, but he doesn't think it's a coincidence. He believes someone is sending Angel a message. Connor and his parents are driving home. He reveals he knows they weren't looking into setting up a trust but were concerned about him. Their car is attacked by demons. Connor fights them, he's enormously strong, but he doesn't know how to fight. Angel appears and kills the two attacking demons. Connor is really impressed. Connor's father is hurt and Angel takes them all back to the firm where they have doctors to look after him. He talks to Connor alone and explains they were attacked by demons. He also tells him he's a vampire and Connor is a normal person with enhanced abilities, a kind of superhero. Connor asks a bunch of questions about vampires - like do they spend their time making out with other vampires like in Anne Rice novels. He asks if everyone in the office is a superhero and Angel says it's mostly paralegals and secretaries and pretty boring. Spike comes crashing into the hallway, knocked there by Illyria. Spike dashes back in. Angel and Connor enter to find Illyria standing on Spike's head. Angel introduces them. Connor asks if Illyria has powers and Spike says she can hit like a mack truck, selectively alter the flow of time, and possibly talk to plants. Illyria says she'd like to keep Spike as her pet. She says Connor is lusting after her. He's embarrassed and says it's her outfit. Lorne enters and Connor is impressed saying this is better than college. Lorne says Wesley wants Angel. Angel asks what college and Connor says Stanford.

Wesley has identified the demons which attacked Connor. He says they are the henchmen of a warlock called Cyvus Vail. Angel says he'll go see Vail and refuses to let anyone come with him. Alone in his office, Wesley asks for all the files on Cyvus Vail. Angel confronts Vail, after killing all his guards. Vail says he didn't want to kill Connor, just make him aware of what he is capable of. He says he built Connor. Harmony brings Wesley and Lorne the Vail files. She also brings in Illyria who says Spike is resting. Lorne discovers Vail worked for Wolfram & Hart specializing in memories and time shifts and mind control. Wesley sees a large payment for a major project on the day they took over Wolfram & Hart.

Vail reveals he built Connor's memories. He wants Sahjahn dead. Angel says he's trapped. Vail has the urn, but he fears it will break and Sahjahn will return. He wants finality. Vail holds up something he calls an Orlon window. He says if it breaks around someone whose mind has been altered, all his memories would come rushing back. Angel agrees to kill Sahjahn, but Vail says the prophecy is clear and only Connor can do it. He says Angel has to turn Connor back into a killer.

Angel tells Connor he has to kill Sahjahn. Wesley doesn't understand why they would give in to Vail's threats. Connor believes his family is being threatened. Wesley says Vail performed a major spell the day they took over the firm. Angel says they have no time and Connor agrees to kill Sahjahn. Gunn is being tortured by the demon. Marcus walks in and removes the medallion. He offers Gunn a deal saying the senior partners can get him out and his friends aren't doing anything to help him. Gunn just asks for the medallion back and allows the torture to continue. Angel tells Connor he'll help him fight Sahjahn. Connor says that doesn't seem fair. Connor has never fought, he doesn't know what to do. Angel tells him he's faster and to keep moving. That Sahjahn talks a lot and will try to slow him down. Connor asks if Angel believes he can do this and Angel says he knows he can.

Wesley is looking through files. Illyria reveals that Fred's memories were changed, although she doesn't know what they used to be. Wesley finds the contract Angel signed and realizes they were all changed. Connor and Angel arrive at Vail's. Vail sends Connor into an alcove where the urn is on a table. When Connor turns around, the entrance is a wall. Vail explains he can't afford risking Sahjahn's escape, but he says Connor is very brave. Connor opens the urn. Sahjahn materializes. He thanks him for releasing him and says he'll grant him three wishes, then says he's just messing with him. Connor says they're supposed to fight. Sahjahn realizes who he is. Angel is watching and upset because they are talking and he told Connor not to talk to him. Sahjahn throws the urn at Connor, knocking him down. Angel tries to enter, but a mystical barrier keeps him out. They start fighting and he insists Vail open the doorway, but Vail reveals the Orlon window again and refuses. Sahjahn is winning the fight. Angel turns to Vail, but he's no longer holding the Orlon. Wesley is. He's there with Illyria. Wesley says Angel sold them out. Angel asks for the Orlon and Illyria knocks him down saying Wesley doesn't follow him any longer. Wesley says Angel changed the world. Angel reveals Connor is his son. Wesley thinks he traded Fred for Connor. Angel denies this. Wesley goes to destroy the Orlon. Angel says it won't bring Fred back. But Wesley says he can't trust him any more and destroys it. There's a mystical explosion.

A series of flashbacks indicate the memories flooding back. Wesley remembers the baby Connor and his kidnapping. Wesley getting his throat cut, Angel attacking him in the hospital, Wesley and Lilah. Connor remembers his return from the hell dimension. In the other room, Connor tosses Sahjahn off him. He grabs an ax and attacks Sahjahn. They fight briefly and Connor cuts his head off, killing him. Angel enters, the mystical barrier is gone. Connor seems normal. He says Sahjahn made him cranky. He doesn't like being grabbed by the neck. He asks if he can go back and see his parents. He says he doesn't think this whole fighting thing is for him.

Illyria asks Wesley if knowing of his betrayal makes things better, makes him more Wesley. He says at least he knows the truth. She asks how he can tell which of the memories is real. He tells her to focus on the fabricated ones and try to push the others out of her mind. He says they were created for a reason. Not to hide the truth, as she suggests, but to endure it.

Connor talks to Angel in his office. He says his father is better and about to be released. He says he told his parents his being different was a good thing and they shouldn't worry about him. Angel says parents worry. Connor agrees. Angel says they will look for Vail. Connor says he's not worried, Vail can't show him anything he hasn't seen. He says goodbye to Angel and that he must get back to his life now. Angel tries to get him to stay for a bit, but Connor says he wants to take his parents away. This isn't their world, they aren't safe here. He says you have to do what you can to protect your family. That he learnt that from his father. He leaves. Angel watches him walk away.

Analysis

A lot of things came together in this episode. It's the kind of episode that fans really like because it rewards you for paying attention to the details of the show. It's also the kind of show which basically dooms the series, because casual fans just won't get it. Unless you watched the previous episodes with Sahjahn, remember the prophecy and the betrayal by Wesley of Angel and the deal Angel struck with Wolfram & Hart, unless you watched all that and remember it all this episode just doesn't mean much to you. But if you did and you do, then this was a masterful hour of television.

I've argued that Angel made a terrible mistake in making the deal he did with Wolfram & Hart. Not because of what it did to Connor (although it did remove his free will), but because of what it did to all the others. It changed them without their consent. He owed them that much. He should have made them part of the decision. Instead he wiped out part of their memories. They were often bad memories, but even those are important. That point is made by Gunn. He refuses the offer of the senior partners, he won't even listen to it, because he knows his choice to suffer was the right one. And the fact that they don't like it makes it even more likely to be right. He loses his memory when he dons the medallion, but he made a conscious and remembered decision to do that. Wesley made no such decision. Angel stole that opportunity from him and the others. And that's a sin.

While Angel's action helped Connor temporarily, it didn't cure him. He needed the memories back for that to happen. Angel created a safe fantasy for Connor to grow up in. But when you grow up you have to face reality. He wanted to keep that from Connor forever. It never occurs to him that a mature and balanced Connor could handle the memories. Could see what really happened and make the right decisions. He doesn't want to take the risk of letting Connor make that decision. But Connor can't achieve his personal salvation if he doesn't get that chance (just as Gunn needed to knowingly accept his punishment). When Wesley kidnapped the infant Connor he did the wrong thing for the right reason. He really thought he was saving the child. When he released the memories, he did the right thing for the wrong reason. He thought Angel was responsible for Fred's death and this could bring her back. Instead, it brought back Connor and led to the integration of his two sides - demon fighter Connor and university student Connor. Wesley wants to hide from the memories later - he still regrets his betrayal of Angel - but that's not the right thing. He atoned for that wrong and his memory of the atonement shouldn't be erased or else it makes his suffering pointless.

I've been hoping the Sahjahn storyline would be finished off and I'm glad to see this episode did it. Although Vail seems a clumsy construct to do it with. I've complained a few times about characters who are introduced just to advance the plot and who could easily have been introduced weeks earlier. Vail seems one of those. Maybe we'll see more of him. Certainly it makes sense that Wolfram & Hart contracted out the reality shift and the people responsible for it would appear one day. But this happened a bit too fast, maybe the result of squeezing the action to fit the remaining few episodes.

Illyria raises an interesting philosophical point. You have opposing memories. Both seem genuine. So which is real. Wesley, with the bitterness of the born cynic, chooses the darker memories because sadness seems more real. He sees the other memories as a way to cope with the horror of the truth. Connor, on the other hand, seems to merge the memories into a unified whole. He doesn't see them in combat, but rather as part of the whole that makes him. He has two fathers and speaks about them in the same way. And he has no problem with that. Connor knows what he is. As Illyria said, he's the sum of his memories. Both lived and implanted. Because all those memories made him what he is now.

I'm reasonably sure the memory return was a localized phenomenon. That only Wesley, Illyria, and Connor have their memories back. I guess we'll find out when we next see Lorne. That would make more sense of the whole thing since if everyone got their memories back then Connor's parents and friends would know he really didn't grow up with them. And that would cause additional complications there is no hint of.

Some quick final thoughts. I loved Connor's questions: are you 500, do you spend your time making out with other vampires, do you have a girlfriend. Gunn made a huge mistake accepting the deal with Wolfram & Hart and getting his brain upgrade. He doesn't repeat that mistake when Marcus offers him another deal. He's learnt his lesson. Connor forgives Angel when he has his memories back. That's another reason getting them back was important. It was something Angel needed for his own process of identity integration. Spike has a very strange idea of fun and he seems to be having lots of it getting beat up by Illyria. I loved her wanting to keep him as a pet.

Lines of the week:

"She put a whole petri dish in her mouth?" - Angel on the mystery that is Illyria.

"We'll make Spike do it." - Angel on avoiding harm to anyone they like.

"You know they have dried scorpions in the vending machines downstairs." - Connor reminding us what a weird place Wolfram & Hart is.

"He can't get laid without going crazy, Makes it funny." - Spike on how he deals with Angel's brooding.

You almost broke that guy in half, That was awesome." - Connor revealing he's likely a wrestling fan in this reality.

"Do I look 500?" - Angel displaying a little vanity.

"I'd like to keep Spike as my pet." - Illyria showing her gentle side.

"I should have given them the day off." - Vail on the cost of guards.

"You're making a good case for the whole concept of free will." - Sahjahn thinking he's about to win.

"To endure it." - Wesley on the reason for the false memories.

"Nothing he can show me I haven't already seen." - Connor with his first hint to Angel.

"I gotta go back to my life now." - Connor letting Angel know he's ok.

"You gotta do what you can to protect your family. I learned that from my father." - Connor letting Angel know and forgiving him.

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