Shane King continues his in-depth look back at Angel. We're on to Season 2, Episode 10 - Reunion.
If there was one thing to criticise season one of “Angel” over, it was that it wasn’t very consistent. It was never able to have more than two or three great episodes in a row. A part of the reason for this is that it lacked a strong, coherent season arc. It was more a string of standalone episodes with a general theme of redemption. This season has been completely the opposite. Season two not only has a wonderful season arc, but also a recurring theme: Angel’s darkness. I’m blow away by how well thought out this season is. It could be argued that episodes 1-16 of this season are the best planned of either “Angel” or “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. While some episodes have been standalone, they’ve each given us a piece of Angel’s mental state and the darkness that is always just below the surface.
The first nine episodes of this season have really made a point of humanising Angel (so to speak) and emphasising that he’s capable of making grave mistakes. “Judgment” showed us that Angel, even with a soul, sometimes does the wrong thing. He killed a demon that was protecting a pregnant woman and then continued to accidentally mess up the pregnant woman’s life for a while. “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been” showed us that Angel, even with a soul, has a brutal side. He can be vicious when he feels he’s been wronged. After Judy turned on him to save herself, he left a hotel full of humans to the mercy of a demon (notice a parallel between this and the wine cellar encounter from this episode?). “First Impressions”-“Dear Boy” showed us that Angel is incapable of thinking rationally when Darla is in his life and thoughts. He lashes out at his team, he ignores their advice, and he does whatever he can to get Darla’s attention. He’s framed for murder and makes a lot of stupid choices. Again, notice the parallels to this episode? “Guise Will Be Guise” explores the entangled nature of Angel and Angelus. The fake T’ish Magev tells Angel (and the audience) that Angel needs to embrace his demon side in order to stop it from controlling him. He needs to start thinking of himself as a man with a demon inside of him that’s a part of him. “Darla” fills in the backstory on Angel and Darla’s relationship and shows us why Angel is so desperate to save Darla from herself. Finally, “The Trial” gives us the last pieces of the puzzle. Angel is willing to die to save Darla. Angel is willing to end his eternal life to give Darla a second chance at a mortal one. He’s selfless to the bitter end and is ready to die to help the helpless. All of these pieces are needed for this episode, “Redefinition”, “Reprise”, and “Epiphany” to hold weight. If you take away some of those building blocks, these episodes sink.
The deep, unique nature of Angel and Darla’s relationship and the deep, unique nature of Angel and Angelus’ relationship is what makes this entire arc work. All of this, of course, is orchestrated by Holland Manners and Wolfram & Hart. They need Angel dark, but not soulless, as the Scrolls of Aberjian state that the vampire with a soul will play a major role in the final apocalypse. The only grey area is that the prophecy doesn’t state which side of the fight Angel will be on. So, Wolfram & Hart have been testing Angel. They brought back a human Darla, dangled her in front of Angel’s nose, and then proceeded to emotionally poke him with a stick. First, Angel had to deal with his sire and former lover being back from the dead (a place where he sent her). Then he had to deal with her drugging him and influencing his dreams, forcing him away from his friends and his mission. Next, he had to deal with the revelation that Darla is dying of syphilis. He finally gets her to a place where she’s ready to die and has accepted her fate and mortality, until Drusilla swoops in and sires her again. To put it bluntly, Angel has been mind-screwed for the past 10 episodes. I need to reiterate that point repeatedly because this is what causes the wine cellar drama at the end of the episode. Wolfram & Hart wanted Angel dark and they got their wish. The only problem is that he went dark at their expense. Didn’t see that coming did you, Holland?
Angel hasn’t been listening to his team for a while now. He’s ignored their advice at every turn since “Dear Boy”. “Reunion” takes this to a whole new level. All Angel can think about is stopping Darla before she rises from the grave. It’s understandable that he’s feeling this way. Darla knows Angel better than anyone ever has. Angel knows Darla better than anyone ever has. Darla had just confided in Angel that she’s ready to die and would rather die than be a vampire again. Armed with that knowledge, he intends to fulfil her wishes and stake her before she wakes up. After he fails at this, he tailspins. Does Angel act like an idiot in this episode by ignoring his friends? YES! However, throughout his entire journey over this season, Iunderstand why he’s acting the way he is. I don’t always agree with what he’s doing, but I can certainly empathise with his situation. It’s an odd parallel to what’s been happening with Riley at the same time as this on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Both are acting irrationally, but both are somewhat justified. Angel has a team of lawyers dedicated to turning him dark. Is anyone surprised that it’s finally working?
The first 10 minutes of this episode focuses on Angel frantically trying to find Darla and stop her from rising. He eventually tracks her down on a rooftop garden because Darla used to always love a good view. How adorable that Drusilla cared enough about Darla to allow her to rise with a good view! If she hadn’t just killed Darla, I would almost be inclined to say she cared about her. This leads to a wonderful fight scene between Angel, Drusilla, and the now risen Darla. As I’ve mentioned before and almost definitely will again, anytime the ‘Fanged Four’ interact, I squee. Angel attempts to stake Darla just before she rises, but he looks down at her in the dirty and can’t bring himself to do so. Angel has already staked Darla once. He’s already snuffed out her life once. This moment of hesitation allows Drusilla to fight him off and Darla rises. All of those shop assistants and shoppers that are killed later in this episode, all the Wolfram & Hart lawyers that are killed in the wine cellar...it all could have been avoided if Angel hadn’t hesitated here. It’s funny, Angel’s hesitation here stems from caring too much. When Angel moved to Los Angeles, he didn’t care about anything or anyone anymore. He’d given up on life. Over the past 18 months, Cordelia, Doyle, and Wesley have given Angel a reason to fight and love again. They’ve humanised him emotionally. When they tell Angel later in the episode that they’re all that’s standing between him and darkness, they’re totally right. The Angel of “City Of” could have killed Darla here before she rose and saved those lives. The fight scene ends with Darla jumping off the building(!!) and disappearing into the night.
Wesley: “Where are they now?”
Angel: “I don’t know.”
Cordelia: “But you know where they’re going to be?”
Angel: “Not exactly.”
Wesley: “But you have your suspicions?”
Angel: “Actually, I don’t.”
Cordelia: “So it’s more like a hunch?”
Angel: “Wouldn’t say hunch.”
Cordelia: “Would you say inkling? Please tell me you could at least say inkling!”
Even though this scene is partially played for humour, notice that Angel is acting irrationally and completely ignoring his friends’ pleas. The writing has been on the wall for some time now that Angel is going to fire his friends and walk the world alone, but I still refused to believe it was coming. I still refused to believe that Angel would leave Cordelia and Wesley behind. Cordy has been with Angel since day one! Since before Los Angeles even! Is Angel really going to leave her entirely because she’s holding him back from darkness?
Drusilla: “Did I do something to displease you? Grandmother, what? Don't be angry.”
*Darla slams her up against the side of the car*
Drusilla: “For you. All for you. I thought it was what you wanted. To be saved. All alone. All alone in the dirt. We've lost our way and the little worm won't dance if he's told to. No. No.”
I’ve missed Drusilla’s totally insane ramblings. Drusilla wants the family back together. She’s lonely and misses Darla, Spike, and Angelus. She misses the times they shared together. She misses the carnage. She misses the violence. She misses her family. After she leaves Los Angeles at the end of the next episode, Drusilla goes to Sunnydale to try to convince Spike to rejoin her in her attempts to get the family together again. It ends with Spike almost killing her, but her intentions are loving. Whatever happened to her and that Chaos Demon? What has she been up to since dumping Spike? There’s a two year period of blank knowledge on Drusilla’s timeline that I need filling in! I’ve also got to mention that Darla and Drusilla’s chemistry together is every bit as good as Angel and Spike’s. Their pairing is one of those weird ones that makes you question your morals as a human being. For example, when they were out shopping together and Drusilla was ‘ringing’, I was laughing my ass off. However, the camera pans to the shop assistant that has been brutalised and I remember that these two characters are murderous, soulless vampires and I feel guilty for finding them so hilarious. See, it’s not just Angel having complicated moral questions in this episode! I am too, damn it! Holland calls Drusilla and Darla and tells them that he wants them to cause a massacre. He wants them to paint the town red...literally. One of the great things about Mr. Manners is that he has a soul. Darla and Drusilla have an excuse for their behaviour. They have no soul. No conscience, no remorse, no guilt. Holland has all these things and still acts the way he does. It makes him a fascinating and complex villain.
I hadn’t realised quite how far Angel had fallen until the moment he was in the garage with the suicidal guy. Angel has lost all semblance of helping the helpless. He’s lost all semblance of his mission to save souls. Here is a man that clearly needs saving and Angel couldn’t care less. He doesn’t want to be there, he wants to be hunting down Darla and Drusilla. His team argue that maybe the Powers That Be have sent Angel to this guy as a way to tell him to not get caught up in the drama of Darla and Drusilla. Perhaps the PTB can see that Angel is heading down the wrong path and are trying to adjust his course. Once again, he ignores them...
Wesley: “That young man still clearly needs our help.”
Angel: “Go help him. I’ve got more important things to do, okay?”
Angel has turned his back on his mission. He’s obsessed with Darla, Drusilla, and Wolfram & Hart. This is a pattern that continues for the next seven episodes until Angel has an epiphany. So what if people in Los Angeles need Angel’s help? So what if Angel is heading towards darkness? Angel isn’t thinking straight. Angel doesn’t care. Again, I have to reiterate that Angel has a team of lawyers dedicated to turning him dark. They’ve been messing up his life for a year! I don’t blame Angel for snapping.
Holland: “You don't kill humans.”
Angel: “You don't qualify. You set things in motion, play your little games up here in your glass and chrome tower, and people die. Innocent people.”
Holland: “And yet I just can't seem to care...but you do. And while you're making threats, wasting time, crashing through windows, your girls are out painting the town red, red, red.”
Ahh, the classic “I just can’t seem to care” line, that Angel later turns back on Holland with disastrous consequences. Angel doesn’t know where to look for Darla and Drusilla, so he’s turned to the man that setall of this in motion right from the beginning. Angel tells Holland that while Holland is playing his stupid games with Angel, innocent people die. Holland’s response is chilling. I literally sat there open-mouthed at Holland’s response. This is a turning point for Angel. He’s been on the edge (mentally speaking) for a few episodes now and this statement from Holland, this metaphorical shrug at the loss of innocent lives, is the final push Angel needed to turn dark. If Wolfram & Hart are unwilling to play by the rules, why should he? If they don’t care who gets hurt, why should he care if they do? Up until now, Angel hasn’t been able to fight back against Wolfram & Hart because of his morals. Wolfram & Hart are willing to do anything to turn Angel dark and mess with his life, but Angel has been unwilling to kill humans to fight back, even if the humans are the people who are ruining his life. That changes here.
Lindsey has Angel taken out of Wolfram & Hart and arrested for breaking and entering. He explains to Angel that while Wolfram & Hart might not want him dead, Lindsey does. Lindsey doesn’t care that Wolfram & Hart have big plans for Angel. Lindsey would happily see Angel turn into a big pile of dust. He orders the police to lock Angel up in a cell with sun exposure. Angel sits down in the police car and Kate is sat there waiting for him. Kate tells Angel about the dead people in the clothing store and allows Angel to leave under the proviso that he stops Darla and Drusilla before they hurt anyone else...he doesn’t exactly follow through on that, does he?
Everything that has happened in the first nine episodes and thirty five minutes of this season has brought us to the wine cellar. To the moment that Angel becomes dark. What I love about the wine cellar scene is that it takes the obvious ‘Big Bads’ of the season and massacres them all (except two of them, as we discover in the next episode). We had expectations for the season and “Angel” reminded us that we’re unprepared. That anything can happen in any given episode. The Valet’s speech to Angel in the last episode, “The Trial”, really left us unprepared for this scene. Angel was willing to die to allow Darla a second chance at life, even though Angel agreed with the Valet that the world is a better place with Angel in it and that Angel is capable of doing more good in the world than Darla is. Even though the ‘greater good’ would have been for Angel to live, he was still willing to die to save someone. That’s who Angel is!Angel saves people! Angel saves souls! Angel protects humans! Even the bad ones! Therefore, when Angel arrived at the wine cellar to find Darla and Drusilla about to massacre the Wolfram & Hart lawyers, I knew how the scene would play out. Angel, even though he dislikes all the lawyers, would save them from the soulless vampires. Angel helps the helpless. All of the helpless.
...WHERE THE FLIP IS ANGEL GOING?! IS HE LOCKING THE DOOR?! OH MY GOD!...
As far as “oh my God!” moments go on “Angel”, this could be #1 on that list. Angel has fallen deeper down the rabbit hole to darkness than I’d have ever expected of him and he turns his back on everything he’s been building since Doyle walked into his life in “City Of”. Bravo to Joss and David! They take their lead character, their hero, and they make him a borderline villain temporarily. Not in a soulless, “I’ve been taken over” way, but in an “I’ve given up on the world” way. It takes a lot of guts to turn your leading character into an asshole. Also, I’m so devastated to see Holland go! He’s the vicious, brutal, uncompassionate man that’s ruthless and vindictive! He’s the man that’s set everything in motion thus far on “Angel”! He’s the Angelus of “Angel”! The only major differences between Holland and Angelus is that Holland gets others to do the actual killing for him and that Holland has a soul. While Lilah goes on to be a terrific villain in her own right, nobody ever replaces Holland as the top Wolfram & Hart villain in my eyes. To be fair to Darla and Drusilla, Holland did ask for a massacre.
Gunn: “You went too far.”
Wesley: “We've all been worried about you and I guess it's fair to say we all share some of the blame. We should have spoken up sooner.”
Gunn: “And louder.”
Cordelia: “You have to change the way you've been doing things. Don't you see where this is taking you?”
Wesley: “Listen to her! Right now the three of us are all that's standing between you and real darkness.”
Gunn: “Best believe that, man.”
Angel: “I do...you're all fired.”
Well, that was unexpected. This season has just taken a dramatic turn. Buckle in, kiddies.
Quote Of The Episode
Darla: “Come to punish us?”
Drusilla: “Yeah. We promise to be bad if you do.”
Angel: “I'm sorry I didn't get to you in time.”
Darla: “I'm not.”
Drusilla: “He's soul sick. Not even thinking about his own family, only thinking about them.”
Darla: “Come on, love. I never did get that goodbye kiss.”
Angel: “You will. But not tonight.”
Lilah: “For God's sake, help us!”
Holland: “Angel, please. People are going to die.”
Angel: “And yet somehow, I just can't seem to care.”
Holland: “Angel, please, we can negotiate! We...”
*Angel locks everyone in the wine cellar and walks away*
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
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 (www.shangelsreviews.blogspot.com), 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.
Previous "Angel" Reviews
"City Of" (1x01)
"I Will Remember You" (1x08)
"Five By Five" (1x18)
"To Shanshu In L.A." (1x22)
"Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been" (2x02)
"The Trial" (2x09)