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Revisiting ANGEL - Hero

Shane King returns with another in depth review of a key Angle episode. This week it's the ninth installment of season one, Hero.

After the gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, depressing, sobfest that was “I Will Remember You”, I’m looking forward to a light-hearted, funny, uplifting episode of “Angel” to make myself feel better...oh, wait, another sobfest! Curse you, Whedon!

“Hero” is the second episode out of the last three that is all about Doyle. I’m really impressed with how fleshed-out and loveable they’ve made Doyle in just nine episodes. He’s had two episodes that centre around him and we know a lot about his history and his motivations before the end of this episode. While “The Bachelor Party” gave us a significant amount of backstory on Doyle (more than we get in seven years of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” for Giles), “Hero” fills in the blanks. We learn that Doyle turned his back on his Bracken demon side, we learn that when a group of Bracken demons came to him for help, he turned them away and they were slaughtered, and we learn why Doyle is so desperately fighting for redemption and why his behaviour is often self-destructive. I’ve got to be honest with you guys, I’ve been dreading re-watching this episode. Even more so than “I Will Remember You”. It’s a goodbye to Doyle and in a lot of ways it’s a goodbye to Glenn Quinn. In saying that, Doyle’s farewell episode is the perfect ending for his character. He validates himself for the choices he made historically, he finds the redemption he’s been seeking, and he proves that he’s a hero. My only regret is that Doyle was in just nine episodes of “Angel”.

In my review of “The Bachelor Party”, I compared Angel Investigations to the characters from The Wizard Of Oz. “Hero” continues in that same vein, only this time they’re the characters from Harry Potter instead. The Scourge are the ‘monsters-of-the-week’ in this episode and they deliver in a big way. The Scourge are a race of ‘pure blood’ demons whose sole purpose in life is to eradicate the ‘half-bloods’, such as part-demons and vampires. Is this sounding familiar to you at all? THE SCOURGE ARE DEATH EATERS! ALL THEY NEED ARE WANDS! After The Scourge were introduced, I assumed that this episode would concentrate on social class and racial oppression. It would explore the persecution of a certain group, similar to how the Nazis operated. In some ways, I was correct. However, this episode isn’t an exploration of social class and prejudice, it’s a swan song for Doyle. This entire episode is building up to Doyle making the ultimate sacrifice. If The Scourge are Death Eaters, you would expect Angel to be Harry Potter, right? That is what makes this episode great! You expect Angel to swoop in and save the day at the last minute like he always does. However, Joss pulls the ol’ bait-and-switch on us at the last minute. It was well shrouded, but Doyle is Harry. Doyle is doing what Harry does in “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows”. He’s voluntarily walking to his death in order to save the people around him. I swear, I’ll stop talking about Harry Potter now...

The episode opens with Cordelia, a muggle, trying to explain to Angel what she’s going for with the advert she’s attempting to shoot. Even though it’s only in Cordelia’s head, Angel pulling a goofy face and pronouncing “You can count on me, ‘cause I’m the Dark Avenger” is so funny that I may die. David’s delivery of that line is so over the top and cheesy that I can’t help but want that advert to become a reality.

End of episode. Press eject and move on to “Parting Gifts”...can I do that? Is that allowed? Is that it? Am I done?

After Angel is less than enthusiastic about appearing in the advert, Cordelia turns to Doyle...

Cordelia: “Come into the light and let’s see if we can create some cheekbones.”
Doyle: “I don’t see Angel putting on I do and it’s really disturbing...”

Cordelia wants Doyle to be the focus of the advert because he’s normal, he’s ordinary, he’s average. On the surface this looks like another back-handed compliment from Cordelia, but by the end of this episode we discover that Doyle is far from those things. Cordelia’s advert gives the audience the opportunity to think about what a hero is. What makes a hero? Is it constantly sacrificing for the greater good? Is it never giving up? Is it doing anything to help the people around you? Is it putting other people before yourself? Is it a combination of all of those? Whatever makes a hero, the beginning of this episode emphasises the point that Angel is a hero and Doyle is not one. Oh, you tricky, tricky Whedon!

Angel himself has grown rather a lot since hooking up with Doyle and Cordelia in Los Angeles. Through flashbacks, we’ve learned that Angel closes himself off from the world when he’s going through a rough time. He becomes a loner, distances himself from everyone around him, and starts to brood. God damn, that man knows how to brood. After rewinding time and his perfect day with Buffy, I was expecting Angel to turn back into the brooding loner that he was when Doyle found him at the beginning of “City Of”. I was wrong. Angel has learned to evolve and talk to his friends in moments of emotional turmoil. I was happily surprised to see Angel confiding in Doyle that Buffy was there for an entire day and night before she left for Sunnydale. Not only does this show us just how close they’ve become, but it’s also important for the end of this episode. Angel sacrificed everything he’s ever wanted (Buffy and humanity) in order to protect the world and the people around him. Doyle mentions to Angel that he’d never have that type of strength and that he’d choose pleasures of the flesh over doing the right thing any day of the week...

Angel: “You never know your strength until you’re tested.”

We’re then introduced to the Lister demons and The Scourge. While I really enjoy The Scourge and think that they’re interesting, they do raise a potential error in continuity. Giles explains to the rest of the Scooby Gang on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” that no pure demons exist on Earth anymore. A few people have achieved ascension and become a pure demon (such as The Mayor), but they are few and far between. Excluding those exceptions, the last ‘pure demons’ disappeared from Earth when the Old Ones were driven out. Wouldn’t that make The Scourge less than ‘pure’ themselves? I can see a way around this problem, though. Just because The Scourge claim to be pure, it doesn’t make them pure. They are more ‘pure’ than vampires and half-demons either way. The Scourge are interesting, memorable, creepy, and actually serve a purpose beyond being the villains of the episode. They have a history with Doyle that is directly tied into Doyle’s past mistakes and they were part of the catalyst for Doyle’s mission of redemption. Doyle’s history with The Scourge makes this episode work so well. It adds a new dimension that wouldn’t have been there if Doyle had sacrificed himself to save the Lister demons from something else.

The revelation of The Scourge leads Doyle to confide in Angel. Doyle explains that just after he discovered his Bracken demon side (he was 21-years-old when it showed itself), a group of Bracken demons needed his help as they were being persecuted by The Scourge. At this point in his life, Doyle didn’t want anything to do with his demon side. He despised that side of himself. Doyle refused to help and in doing so refused to accept who he is. Instead he chose to hide from it. The repercussions of Doyle’s decision were devastating. The Bracken demons who came to Doyle for help were slaughtered brutally. The scene where Doyle discovers them all dead is shocking. The musical score that plays over the scene is absolutely perfect too. Again, it’s another example of making “Angel” a grey-area show. Angel and Doyle are both extremely flawed heroes and the Lister demons aren’t evil in the least. It really makes for an excellent dynamic. You never know who’s ‘good’ and ‘evil’ based on appearance alone. It’s this exact thing that makes the next episode, “Parting Gifts”, so interesting. I get a great deal of satisfaction in watching the Lister demons interact with each other. They are a loving family that want nothing more than to be left in peace.

Rieff: “She took me out with her one day, I was so excited. Just out in the neighbourhood with all the other kids. Do you know what day it was? What day was it?!”
Doyle: “It was Halloween.”

How heartbreaking is that line? You know you’ve had an interesting life when you’re empathising with a demon. Like Doyle was after he discovered he was part-demon, Rieff is struggling to accept what he is. Rieff doesn’t belong in the world. He has to skulk in the shadows and hide away from humans because he doesn’t look like the rest of them. I think a lot of Buffyverse fans can relate to the issue of not fitting into the ‘normal’ societies of life. I know I’ve struggled with it. During my school years I was physically and verbally bullied on a daily basis because I wasn’t ‘normal’. I wore black clothes, had shoulder-length hair, wore eyeliner, and was a huge fan of comic books and metal music. None of this was considered ‘normal’ in my school. I was outcast and shunned because of that. My friendship group consisted of all the people that didn’t belong anywhere. To this day I’m still great friends with those people. Interestingly, after starting college (and beyond that), it’s been those things that have helped me to stand out in a positive way and make friends. Being confident and self-assured in who you are is a great thing...unless you’re in school and surrounded by people who want to abuse anyone who is confident in being ‘weird’ and ‘odd’. Doyle explains to Rieff that he’s got to keep faith. He can’t give up and repress who he is. Remember that, people! You were made to standout, not blend in. It’s almost like Doyle is talking to a version of himself from a decade earlier. Rieff is going the same way that Doyle did. Doyle lost faith in the world and ran away from who he was. This resulted in innocent demons being slaughtered. Doyle doesn’t want the same thing to happen to Rieff. He explains to Rieff that Angel is the genuine article, a real hero.

Then, Angel snapped Doyle’s neck in front of The Scourge to prove that he’s worthy of joining them. Well, that was violent and shocking. Especially when the audience didn’t know that Doyle could survive that! Watching Angel snap Doyle’s neck to prove himself was disturbing because it made me jump forward in time to Angel’s penultimate episode, “Power Play”, where Angel legitimately snaps the neck of a friend in order to prove himself to the Circle of the Black Thorn. Angel officially joins The Scourge (and in turn has glorious hair) in order to keep an eye on them while the Lister demons try to escape on a boat. It turns out to all be a ploy. The Scourge are aware that the Lister demons are trying to escape via boat and are heading to the boat to kill them.

Before Angel and The Scourge arrive, Doyle reveals to Cordelia that he’s part demon. Cordelia slapping Doyle and yelling at him for not telling her before is amazing. In this one moment Cordelia proves just how much she’s grown since leaving Sunnydale. She instantly accepts Doyle for who he is. When you consider that Doyle has been terrified that Cordelia would turn her back on him if she found out, it makes the moment all the more wonderful. Not only does Cordelia accept Doyle, she demands him to ask her on a date already! See all that growth!...

Cordelia: “You’re half demon. That is so far down the list. Way under short and poor.”

...okay, perhaps she hasn’t completely grown yet! We can’t expect miracles!

Angel Investigations are too late. The Scourge have implanted a device on the ship that will kill all non-pure demons for a quarter of a mile in every direction. Doyle finds himself in a situation similar to when he turned his back on his Bracken demon kin before. This time around, Doyle quickly takes a different route...

Doyle: “The good fight, yeah? You never know until you’ve been tested. I get that now.”

The second that Doyle said that, I knew how the rest of the episode was going to unfold. The writing had been on the wall since the opening scene of “Hero”, but I was too blind to see it. Doyle makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the Lister demons, Cordelia, and Angel. It’s easily the most selfless that we’ve seen Doyle be. I feel that there are two main reasons why Doyle found the strength to sacrifice himself...

  1. Earlier in the episode, Doyle listened to Angel explain how he gave up everything he ever wanted in order to help people. He listened to his best friend explain how he sacrificed the two most precious dreams he had in order to protect the world. I think this finally prompted Doyle into realising just what a hero is and what a hero must sacrifice for the greater good.
  2. Harry’s return in “The Bachelor Party”. As I mentioned in my review of “The Bachelor Party”, Harry returning and Doyle realising once and for all that Harry wasn’t pitying him with her talk of loving his demon side encouraged Doyle to finally embrace and accept who he is. Doyle was able to find closure on his past and come to terms with his Bracken side.

When I realised that Doyle was about to die, I was frantically looking for a way around it. Frantically trying to find another way for the plot to resolve. Then, I thought about the episode. I thought about the advert, I thought about the Lister demons, I thought about Doyle’s flashbacks, and I realised that it had to end this way. Doyle’s character had come full-circle and had reached his redemption. Doyle made amends for what happened last time he was face-to-face with The Scourge. I like to think that Angel’s influence helped Doyle become the selfless, compassionate man that he was during death. Doyle kisses Cordelia (I sure hope that doesn’t have repercussions for the next three years...) and exclaims...

Doyle: “Too bad we’ll never know *he transforms into his Bracken demon face* if this is a face you could learn to love.”

In that one moment, I had more love for Cordelia and Doyle as a romantic pairing than I ever did for Cordelia and Xander.

Doyle’s death was tragic and incredibly sad, but it’s also the perfect way for him to leave the show. What makes this message more powerful is that Doyle mentioned earlier in the episode that he could never be as heroic as Angel, yet here he is sacrificing himself when he didn’t have to. Angel was willing to die to save the Lister clan. Doyle didn’t have to sacrifice himself, but he did so anyway. Doyle died a hero. I always get teary-eyed watching Doyle’s death scene. I think about the rest of “Angel”, I think about how funny it would have been for Doyle and Wesley to interact, I think about the drinking sessions that Spike and Doyle could have had in season five, I wonder what Fred and Gunn would have thought of Doyle, I think about Doyle and Lorne drunkenly singing karaoke songs in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, and I can’t help but feel sad that I never got to witness this. Goodbye, Allen Francis Doyle. You and your accent will be greatly missed. Goodbye, Glenn Quinn. You were taken far too soon and may you rest in peace.

The episode fittingly closes on Doyle’s advert, as Angel and Cordelia both look heartbroken...“So don’t lose hope. Come on over to our offices and you’ll see that there’s still heroes in this that it? I done?”

You are done. Farewell, Doyle.

Quote Of The Episode

Doyle: “If you need help, then look no further. Angel Investigations is the best! Our rats are low...”

Cordelia: “Rates!”

Doyle: “...It says ‘rats’....our rates are low, but our standards are high. When the chips are down and you’re at the end of your rope, you need someone that you can count on and that’s what you’ll find here. Someone who’ll go all the way, who’ll protect you no matter what. So don’t lose hope. Come on over to our offices and you’ll see that there’s still heroes in this that it? I done?”


Shane ‘Shangel’ King is a blogger from England, where he spends most of his time reviewing television shows, attending conventions, and fanboying professionally. He’s currently reviewing every episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” in-depth on his blog, and will soon be covering “Firefly”, “Game Of Thrones”, “The Walking Dead”, “Chuck”, “Doctor Who”, and more in equal depth! You can also follow Shangel on Twitter.

City Of

I Will Remember You

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