Angel - Power Play

Summary

Robed beings beat a hooded man. Angel leaps through a fire and grabs the man, removing his hood. The man thanks him; Angel bites him.

It's 19 hours earlier and Angel is in bed with Nina. They've made love, but he isn't perfectly happy - Nina had a stake ready if he were. She asks if he was thinking about Buffy (she calls her his Roman friend), but he says no. He says he is thinking about work and she suggests a vacation. He says there are things he has to do, things he's set in motion. He has fought a long time and now he doesn't like what he has become. Nina says he's a hero, her hero. He says he may not always be.

Illyria is walking down the hallway and Spike comments on how the staff don't even respond to her. That she's fallen a long way from a god king. She says she doesn't care what humans do. He empathises with her, seeing her existence as similar to his earlier ghostly existence. He says she should get out once in a while. She says even though she has been made more human, she finds this place disconcerting. Spike says he thought Wesley was teaching her. She says they aren't talking any more. She explains that becoming Fred upset him but he won't say why. Spike explains that looking like Fred is devastating to some of them.

Angel and Gunn enter the lobby and Marcus walks over with a senator and her aide, Ernesto, who's a vampire. Angel offers them coffee, but the senator says no but Ernesto would like blood. He asks for virgin if they have it. Harmony says they have a no human blood policy. The senator asks if they can make an exception and Angel tells her to get some from the blood bank. She asks if she can have some and he says no. As they enter Angel's office Wesley comes up and says there has been a fatality (the third) at an abandoned amusement park. He thinks it's a Boretz demon. Spike comes up and says Boretz demons smell and dress as transients to prey on the homeless. Wesley says the last victim was a teenage girl runaway. Angel says there's not much they can do. Wesley wants to hunt it down. Angel says they can't sweat the small stuff. He tells Wesley to find out what he can about the demon and they'll talk later. He leaves. Spike says he'll look for the Boretz. Wesley says ok, he'll go do more research. He leaves and Illyria says he paid no attention to her. Spike points out she said she required no human attention. He asks if she wants to go demon hunting with him.

In his office, Angel, Gunn, the senator (who we learn is a demon installed in a human body), and Ernesto are watching an ad done by her opponent. He's beating her and she wants them to convince everyone, even the opponent, that he's a pedophile. Gunn is outraged, but Angel says he'll go along with it. He shuts Gunn down.

Wesley is researching. While he looks at a book, an image appears in it and some text saying he's looking in the wrong place. Gunn enters and when Wesley looks at the book again, the image and text are gone. Cut to Angel playing racquet ball with a demon. The demon says he talked to the leader of the Fell Brethren who couldn't say enough good things about Angel. Cut to Illyria and Spike looking for the Boretz. She says Angel has been corrupted, she's seen it in leaders before. They have no interest in battles without gain for them, they stop listening to their followers, as their power increases so does the separation from those they were close to. Spike hushes her as he senses the demon nearby. He says he doesn't believe her, he'd know if Angel were corrupted. She says he'll have proof soon, Angel will become increasingly suspicious and will murder one of them. Drogyn appears and says he already has. Spike explains Drogyn was her jailer. The Boretz attacks and knocks down Spike. Illyria easily defeats it. Drogyn says he came to find and warn Spike. He says he can find anyone who has visited the well. Spike realizes Drogyn is badly hurt and asks if it was the Boretz. Drogyn says it was Angel.

In the lobby, Wesley draws the illustration he saw on some paper at Harmony's desk. She thinks he's getting a tattoo. He enters the office to find Angel in there talking to Marcus. Angel asks Wesley to leave and close the door. As he exits, he meets Lorne who asks about Angel and Wesley says things are icy. Lorne says Angel cut 6 of his clients. They go to Wesley's office where Gunn joins them and Wesley tells them what happened. Wesley gets a call from Spike. Cut to all of them at Spike's apartment listening to Drogyn talk about being attacked by a Sathari, an assassin. He defeated and tortured the attacker who revealed Angel was behind it. That Angel feared Drogyn would uncover evidence that he was behind freeing Illyria. The gang find this hard to believe. Drogyn says he thinks freeing Illyria wasn't the key point, that sacrificing one of them was. Wesley knows who Drogyn is and that he doesn't lie. They find it hard to believe, but are getting convinced. He shows Drogyn the design, but Drogyn doesn't know what it is. He explains how he got the symbol. Wesley says Angel has been acting differently lately. They can't understand why now, why things have changed. Illyria says he's preparing to make his move. Wesley says the only way to find out is to ask Angel.They leave, but Illyria is told to stay behind and guard Drogyn. Spike says she can play Crash Bandicoot to pass the time.

Angel is giving Harmony some paperwork.The gang come up and say they want to talk. They enter his office. They tell him Drogyn is in town and hurt. Angel says he had nothing to do with it and asks where he is. They don't say. He says they should get back to business and they ask what business is that. Angel says the business of business. They say that sounds like Angelus. He says only Lorne understood. He never judged, he didn't obsess over good and evil. He says they got lost in the minutiae. That an ant, no matter how he schemes, is still an ant. He says only power matters. He says until he has real power he has nothing. He says Wolfram & Hart have called the shots and they've been shot at. He wants to change that. Harmony comes in and says there's an important phone call from a guy about a thing. Angel tells them they're done, he has to take the call. As he leaves, Wesley asks if the small stuff includes Fred. Angel says he loved Fred, but won't answer the question. He closes the door on them.

Lorne and Wesley are talking. Wesley says there has to be an explanation, that maybe it's a ploy. Lorne says he'd like to reassure him. but he can't. Lorne believes Angel believes what he's saying. Wesley says it makes no sense, Angel never cared about power. Lorne says Angel never had real power before. He believes Angel will go for the power. Gunn and Spike enter with Lindsey.

Nina is going home and Angel calls to her. She's surprised to see him. He gives her plane tickets. There are three and she realizes he wants her, her sister, and her niece out of the country. He wants her away so she won't get hurt. She wants to stay and fight with him. He says he might be the one hurting her. He says if he gets through things intact, he'll come to her. She says he's a terrible liar. He tells her to go. She leaves.

Drogyn and Illyria are playing Crash Bandicoot. He says she belongs in the Well. She says she regrets coming out. She says she plays the game, but it annoys her. Yet she feels compelled to play on. Marcus smashes in. He and Drogyn know one another. He smashes Drogyn aside knocking him out. He fights Illyria and easily beats her to a pulp.

Lindsey asks if they're going to beat him. Spike says if he wants. Lindsey says he doesn't know why Angel is doing what he's doing. Wesley shows him the illustration and Lindsey says there is no way they'd take Angel. He says it's the Circle of the Black Thorn. He says the Circle is about power. It is creating the apocalypse. The senior partners are on a different plane, on Earth the Circle keeps things moving. Wesley believes Lindsey came back and tried to kill Angel to become one of them. Lindsey says members are agents of the senior partners, it doesn't get bigger than that. Gunn says Angel succeeded. Lindsey doesn't believe it. He says he'd have to give up being a champion and he wouldn't even be noticed unless he did something like kill one of his people. The gang believe Angel is being destroyed by degrees by the partners and the Circle. Wesley says Angel wouldn't want this and he can be saved. Lorne asks what if Angel is too far gone. No one answers.

The 19 hours have passed and we're back at Angel finding the hooded man and biting him. This time we see it's Drogyn and after Angel drinks he breaks his neck. Angel has the symbol of the Circle burnt into his chest. Angel is welcomed to the Circle. The members unmask and we see the Archduke from Life of the Party (Party Animal) and Vail from Origin. The one who inducted Angel is the demon from racquet ball. The Archduke says he'll throw Angel a party. The senator is there, she talks of taking the white house in 2008. Vail says he hears Angel is looking for him. Angel says that's just for appearances. He looks around the room, seeing all the members of the Circle unmasked.

Angel returns to the office. The gang jump him. Gunn reveals they've figured it all out. That Lindsey told them. Angel attacks and disarms them and grabs Lorne. He pulls out a gem and says involvere. This creates a glamour which he says will last 6 minutes and stop anyone from seeing what they are doing. He releases Lorne. He tells them everything they think they know is a lie. He says he told it. He reveals he sent Wesley the message in his book. He sent the assassin to kill Drogyn knowing Drogyn would defeat him and think Angel had been involved in bringing back Illyria. He says turning them against him and having Drogyn believe he was an enemy was the only way to gain the confidence of the Circle. He says it all started when Cordelia kissed him in You're Welcome. She transferred her visions to him, but just for one time. He got a glimpse of the Circle and of what was coming. But he couldn't see who they were. When Fred died, he decided to use that as a way to gain credibility with the Circle. He says the senior partners will always exist because mankind is weak. The powerful control everything except our will to choose. He says Lindsey is right in saying heroes don't accept the way the world is. He wants to kill every member of the Circle. And that will lead to the senior partners raining down their wrath on them. He says they have to choose. Spike raises his hand and says he's in. Wesley does the same. Gunn raises his hand. Lorne seems about to. Cut to Marcus watching from outside seeing the glamour of Angel holding Lorne and the others attacking.

Analysis

For much of this episode I was bemoaning the fact that the ending of the series is being rushed and that so many things are happening without any setup. And then came the last few minutes and the flashback to You're Welcome and Cordelia kissing him in the final scene. That paralleled, of course, Doyle kissing her in Hero and it had the same effect - transferring the visions. It makes sense, the way Angelverse things make sense, and in retrospect I kick myself for not guessing it long ago. Angel's explanation of how he wanted Fred's death to have meaning and so used it to propel himself into the Circle also made a lot of sense. It's a good set up for the final confrontation.

Angel's commentary on power and what men can do about it is at the core of the episode and of the series. It starts in his first scene with the gang when they confront him about Drogyn. He talks about power and getting it and being more than an ant. Later, when Wesley and Lorne talk about this Lorne focuses on power and how Angel has never been close to real power before. The Lindsey tells them the Circle is about power. They think Angel is attracted to the power of the Circle, but he reveals that he's realized there is no way to defeat the power. All he can do is exercise his free will. He can die in a hopeless cause and bring pain to the senior partners. He can pause, for a short while, their plans for the apocalypse. He can frighten them by showing them that men will choose death over power when the power is tainted. He can live in the world the way it should be, not the way it is. This inspires Spike, then Wesley and Gunn and I guess we'll see Lorne as well. The real power is the joint belief amongst these heroes. The thing that keeps them united. That makes them willing to die not for victory, but to set an example.

In Origin, Wesley suspected Angel of complicity in Fred's death. When he got his memory back, he was devastated at his betrayal. But now the likelihood of Angel's involvement in her death is raised again and from an impeccable source. This has to be deeply disturbing for Wesley. He's become an emotional pingpong ball - although he's doing a good job of suppressing all emotions these days. First he suspects Angel. Then he's overwhelmed with guilt at that suspicion and at the remembrance of his earlier betrayal. Now he suspects Angel again. He tries to confirm or refute his suspicions. He asks Angel whether Fred is part of the small stuff he doesn't care about. But Angel won't (can't) give him a straight answer. Wesley agonizes over this. He wants to believe this is all a ploy, he tries to get Lorne to back him up in this belief. But Lorne is fresh out of faith in Angel. His argument with Lorne is really an argument with himself. He raises all the points he can against Angel having been corrupted. But Lorne refutes them, pointing out Angel has never been near real power before. Lindsey, like Wesley, doesn't believe Angel could do it. But when he describes what would be necessary to become a member of the Circle, they realize he has done it. Still, Wesley can't bring himself to abandon his friend. As angry and hurt as he is, he still holds out hope for Angel's salvation. But when Lorne asks what if Angel is too far gone, Wesley has no response. None of them do. But they still give Angel a chance to explain. They have to and Angel is counting on this. He is trusting Wesley to have enough faith in him that he'll go against his instinct of revenge and hear Angel out.

I'm glad to see Nina back, especially since she was referenced last week. I liked Nina calling Buffy Angel's Roman friend. Maybe he never told her Buffy's name, but more likely she just doesn't want to use it. It was a realistic bit of characterization. Although it really bugs me when Angel has sex and doesn't turn into Angelus. Isn't it a huge risk and one he shouldn't take? I suppose he and Nina together are a sign of his moving on from Buffy and also possibly of his expecting to die. He's grabbing temporary happiness because he doesn't expect to be there in the long run. Even with Nina, he's reminded that he's a hero, he has responsibilities. And in their bedroom discussion he foreshadows her eventual negative reaction. He says he may not always be her hero and later when he sends her away - knowing in all likelihood they will never meet again in this life - she's angry and hurt. But Angel's life consists of him distancing himself from those he loves. First Buffy, later Connor, now Nina. That kind of life, that kind of happiness, is not what heroes get.

Illyria seems to be deliberately obtuse. Surely she understands why Wesley is upset. She's alien, not stupid. Just as Wesley is restraining his emotions, so is Illyria. She is compelled to stay in this world and to stay with Wesley and the others. She doesn't really understand why. She has gone from being a ruler, making the rules and controlling the game, to a mere game player. That frustrates her and weakens her. Marcus defeats her easily, not just because she is weaker than she once was, but because she has no direction, no clear game plan. That was made evident through the Crash Bandicoot metaphor. She and Drogyn basically understand what they are supposed to do, but they aren't very motivated to do it nor do they understand why they are doing it. Illyria has to find a purpose, something to replace her drive to rule everything everywhere.

Some quick final thoughts. Is Drogyn dead? Angel seemed to kill him, but I'm not sure he can die. Spike really is a nice guy. He actually feels sorry for Illyria and tries to help her. Why does Wesley go to Harmony's desk to draw what he saw? Surely he has paper in his office. I liked Angel holding his chest where he was branded when he returns to the office. When did Angel learn how to send mystical messages in Wesley's books.

Lines of the week:

"For the last very long moment I haven't had a single coherent thought." - Angel letting Nina know things are good between them.

"There are things that I have to do." - Angel with his other curse.

"You're my hero." - Nina letting Angel know who he is.

"I may not always be." - Angel predicting and accepting his fate.

"He and I are no longer having intercourse." - Illyria saying she isn't talking to Wesley.

"Looking like Fred, for some of us, it's the most devastating power you have." - Spike on what upsets Wesley.

"You coming then." - Spike still trying to be Angel's friend.

"We're in the business of business." - Angel spelling it out.

"If I were Angelus half of you would already be dead. Just for the fun of it." - Angel on the difference.

"One of us already is." - Spike maybe talking about himself but I think talking about Fred.

"The small stuff that you can't worry about. Would that include Fred."
"I loved Fred."
"That's not an answer."
"Then I guess you don't get one." - Wesley scared Drogyn is right and Angel not doing much to calm him.

"He's never had any to care about, has he. Not real power." - Lorne on what has changed.

"He's gonna go for it, Wes." - Lorne with his analysis of Angel.

"You couldn't just not call." - Nina on the problems of dating Angel.

"Why on earth would I stay?" - Nina disappointed.

"Your son, he kills quite well." - Vail trying to be polite.

"I wasn't going to let that be another random horrible event." - Angel on how much he loved Fred.

"The powerful control everything except our will to choose." - Angel on options.

"Heroes don't accept the way the world is." - Angel with his credo.

"We can't bring down the senior partners but for one bright, shining moment we can show them they don't own us." - Angel with something worth dying for.

"I'm in." - Spike, showing he's a hero.

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