Previously: LORNE’S HEAD ON A PLATTER. WTF?
There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb
Kirsti: We pick up where we left off – with Cordy crying over Lorne’s severed head. She apologises and says that it wasn’t his fault, and that she wants to go home. “Oh honey. I’m right there with you,” says Lorne’s severed head. Cordy screams and collapses on the floor. Roll electric cellos.
After the credits, we learn that Charisma Carpenter has an impressive lung capacity because Cordy screams for like 30 seconds straight without drawing breath. (S: We already knew that! Back in the early days of Buffy, we had a running joke about a scream clause in her contract!) (K: True. How forgetful of me!) Lorne’s severed head, meanwhile, is trying to say that he can explain and then wonders if she’ll ever need to breathe. Once she’s done screaming, Lorne explains that he’s still alive because
contrivance demands it his people don’t die unless you cut off the head AND mutilate the body, and clearly there’s a backlog in the body mutilation department.
Lorraine: …really? I mean, I’m pretty happy Lorne’s not dead, but really? I suppose we’ll stick to the “happy Lorne’s not dead” feelings.
K: He’s in the middle of saying that if they move quickly and quietly maybe they can reconnect his body parts when two servants burst in. Cordy jumps in front of Lorne’s head. The servants ask if she’s okay on account of all the screaming. She says that it’s just a meditation technique that she uses (uh huh).
One servant goes to take Lorne’s head away, and Cordy makes up a half arsed explanation that she’d like to keep it for a while. She spits on it, then says that she’ll turn it into a planter or a candy dish when she’s done. The servants look confused, but leave when she dismisses them. She apologises to Lorne for spitting on him, and he yells at her that he’s a bit preoccupied with being decapitated and could she please pick up his head and locate his body. She dithers that she doesn’t know where the mutilation chamber is, and he demands that she find someone who knows.
Cut to one of the servants being interrogated by the priests. He says that Cordy was super torn up about Lorne’s severed head, and the head priest says that they’ll add more severed heads to her collection so she remembers her place. He orders a big blue demon to send a hunting party after Wes and Gunn, and then asks if he knows what Angel is. The soldier calls him an animal, and the head priest informs him that Angel is a Van-Tal, and lists the usual vampire killing techniques. The soldier leaves to start hunting down the Fang Gang.
The priests discuss how Angel can’t be allowed to live because he’s a symbol of hope for Pylea’s human population, and that runaway slaves now become rebels.
Sweeney: It’s a very Hunger Games day for me in the Buffyverse, because all I could hear was President Snow talking.
Lor: We’ll never be mad at Hunger-gifing around here.
Then there’s something about supposedly loyal slaves being traitors and Head Priest Snow hits a button on a knuckle duster looking device, and the head of the servant being interrogated explodes. He orders another servant to clean up the mess, then pulls a cloth off a hand shaped console panel covered in jewels. He spouts some religious craziness about smiting down your slaves when they offend you as his hand hovers over the panel.
Cut to the forest, where Wes and Gunn are in the stocks and about to be executed by the rebels. Luckily for them, a party of demon soldiers turn up and shoot the executioner just as the axe is about to fall. In the confusion, they manage to stand up with the wooden boards of the stocks still hanging from their necks. There’s some ridiculous comic relief-y stuff as they spin around and accidentally knock out a bunch of enemy soldiers.
Fred’s cave. Angel wakes in a beam of sunlight as Fred returns with some food. He heads over to the pool of water and stares at his reflection for a moment before asking if he snored. She says that she remembers caterwauling and gives a little scream. He apologises, and her reply is kind of great if a little nuts: “I don’t mind. Sometimes it just burbles up inside you and you have to…bellow a little. Do it all the time. No one’s around to hear.” She hands him a bowl of “oatmeal”, and says that everyone has their demons. She then fangirls a little over Mexican food (girl, I hear you) and says that she’s been trying to make an enchilada out of bark. Unsurprisingly, it’s not going well.
Sweeney: Oof, yes. Good Mexican food was the only serious food nostalgia I experienced living abroad. Five years without it? Brutal.
K: Back at the castle, there’s a knock at the door as Lorne pretends to be dead in the background. A servant girl comes in. After some Flattery Demon reminiscent grovelling from the girl, Cordy demands that she take her to the mutilation chamber. The girl refuses, saying that it would bring shame to the kingdom if anyone saw Cordy there, and that she should not defile her holy self. Cordy thinks for a second, then demands that the girl take off her clothes. Lorne’s eyes snap open in surprise. (S: Yeah, sure. Surprise.)
Fred’s cave. Angel stands in a beam of sunlight and talks about how he can’t do that at home. “So it’s better for you here,” Fred says. Well, yeah. Except for the demon part that wants to eat his friends.
He stares at what she’s scribbled all over the walls of the cave, and says that it’s the same words they used to open the portal. She replies that they’re not words, but parts of a mathematical formula, and that she used to think if you said them in the right order, you’d open a portal. But she tried for ages, and nothing happened, so it doesn’t work from this side. Angel informs her that it must, otherwise Landok and the drakkon wouldn’t have been able to get through to LA, and maybe she just doesn’t know WHERE the portal is opening. Just then, some soldiers burst in. (S: I legit jumped when this happened. It was well timed in their conversation.) (L: +1!) Angel fights them off, but the leader pins him against the wall. Angel’s eyes glow red, but he refuses to change. The leader throws him to the ground and stakes him with a spear. Fade to black.
After the Not Commercial Break, the leader stabs Angel in the chest a few more times until Fred hits him over the head with a giant hunk of rock. She falls to the ground besides Angel and begs him not to die.
Cut to the rebel camp, where they’ve successfully killed all the soldiers. The leader walks up to Wes and Gunn, and says that the soldiers were there for them and asks why. Wes tells him that they were trying to rescue Cordy from having to mate with the Groosalugg. The rebel leader decides they’re on the same side, and orders them to be released.
Sweeney: AND EVER. I’m sure we’ll be using that “SRSLY?” face again.
K: He tells them they’re free to go, and the rebels give them three cheers as they go. Wes tells Gunn they should go and find Angel, but Gunn’s not convinced on account of that one time Hybrid!Angel tried to eat his face off. He tells Wes that instead they should stay with the rebels and use their manpower to break into the castle and save Cordy. Also, he doesn’t want to leave them to die like he did his own men. And with that, I hand over to Sweeney.
Sweeney: Back in Fred’s Crazy Recluse Cave, Angel is waking up to Fred healing him. She notes his fast healing and he says it’s a perk of being a beast, and that he only didn’t change because he was afraid of not being able to get back if he did. She assures him that he’s not a beast and we hear the big blue demon laugh. Fred has him tied up and says she’ll roll him into a cliff like the others. (K: Winifred Burkle – slightly crazy, but a total BAMF.) (L: I’m quickly learning and loving that.) Angel gets up and gets with the interrogating. Big Blue Demon makes a snide comment about Cordelia being a “cow bitch,” to which Angel threatens to slowly murder his face off. Big Blue Demon becomes more cooperative. He tells Angel about Lorne’s beheading and body mutilation.
With that, Angel drops him and goes to leave. Fred tries to stop him because it’s dangerous out there and he’ll be safe in the cave. She goes for the emotional manipulation, noting that he’ll turn into the beast, which she isn’t afraid of. Big Blue cuts himself free and pulls a knife on Fred, which Angel quickly turns on him. Big Blue is dead and Fred is now wounded.
Cordelia and Lorne make their way into the mutilation room. They freak out a little because they see Lorne’s red suit and a very clearly mutilated body. They hear someone enter and they hide, but it turns out to be her BFF Groo. It turns out the Groo stole Lorne’s body and put his “strange garments” on another body to fool them. He had the body smuggled to his mother’s farm and made arrangements to meet with Landock to smuggle the head out.
Back in the woods, the rebel humans are exchanging stupid plan ideas and are interrupted by Wesley explaining how guerrilla warfare works. The way he says “sneaky” is the cutest thing ever. (K: Agreed) They think Wesley has the totes the best plans EVA and they make him leader, what with their old one being dead. “Why do people keep putting me in charge of things?” he asks Gunn, but Gunn’s got nothing.
Lor: Nothing but an A+ “srsly?” face. Sorry. I’m still basking in its glow.
Sweeney: Crazy Recluse Cave. Angel has patched up Fred and decides to go. She says he’s a good man and the flutes of feels start playing as Angel leaves.
So exciting! It’s been the piano or a full orchestra lately – it’s been a while since we just got flutes!
Anyway, after Fred has a moment to sit and listen to Blind Jenna’s flute playing, Angel returns to say he doesn’t actually know how to get to the castle. Fred offers to show him.
Lor: There were a few times across these episodes that tried for funny, but fell flat because of the dark nature of some of the topics. Cordelia joking about decapitating her friends comes to mind. Fred, however, has been a constant source of entertainment. Amy Acker has great comedic timing.
Sweeney: Segue back to the castle where Groo is brooding about having betrayed his sacred duty and inevitable burning in hellfire and stuff. She says something about how as a champion, it’s his duty to stand up to evil dudes like the priests. He laments that he’s not worthy of lifting her burden and asks what burden he’s referring to. Groo explains that after they complete the mating ritual, he takes over her visions. She’s bummed because she knew there was going to be a catch to this, “Marry a pretty warrior dude,” arrangement. She can’t give up her visions because she needs them and likes them, in spite of all the agony. He says that she wasn’t meant to carry the burden because she’s pure human. “Maybe not, but I’m not ready to give them up either. They’re a part of who I am now — they’re an honor! And you know, the visions, they only last, for.. like…” and with that, she has a vision of Groo getting mauled by what appears to be Mega Demon Angel.
After a Not Commercial Break, Wesley is at the planning table with the rebels. He confirms that the Groosalugg, who is their biggest worry inside the castle, will have to fight anyone who challenges him. Defeating him is a concern for later, though. (As in, like, when Angel conveniently returns.) Wesley points to a map and where everyone’s going. Gunn interjects that he wouldn’t split his crew up so much and Wesley’s all, “Tough shit, I’m in charge.”
K: This was pretty awkward for me, considering Gunn was basically running a guerrilla demon-fighting operation before he joined the Fang Gang. I’d listen to him…
Sweeney: An excellent and totally legit point.
Lor: I’d only add that Wesley at least put his big boy, leading pants on and is calling the shots. He waffles, but he always finds his way there.
Sweeney: Shortly thereafter, Angel makes his convenient entrance! The guy who appointed Wesley leader is angry about the shitty watch-keeping they’ve been up to. Introductions are made all around, including bringing Wesley and Gunn up to speed on the whole we-found-Amy-Acker thing. Wesley offers to hand over the general gig to Angel and he declines, reminding them of the evil demon thing. He apologizes for what happened before.
Then he adds that Fred might be handy in the whole getting-them-out-of-there thing, and she does a mixture of crazy babble and academic babble. The latter often has a way of sounding like the former. I feel like Fred’s crazy is an analogy for any of us who have ever spent an unreasonable amount of time in a library writing a research paper. This must be how we all sound when forced back out into the real world. Noted. (L: A+, which is even more fitting in this context.)
As Angel goes on to tell them about Lorne, he is cut off by the arrival of Landock who says he won’t be battling Angel for saving Fred, because it’s forbidden to fight while performing a sacred duty. Said duty is transporting Lorne’s head. There’s a bit of a dramatic moment where they all look at the head, but they aren’t very effusive in their feels, which Lorne sarcastically notes when he opens his eyes.
Later that night, Gunn goes to tell Wesley that the diversion-creating guys will die. Wesley says he knows. “You try not to get anybody killed, you wind up getting everybody killed.” He walks off, ordering everyone to move out and telling Angel that his job is to call out Groo and kill him. Angel says he can’t do it without turning into the beast. He goes on to say that he fired them because he didn’t want them anywhere near the darkness and this shit is like infinity times worse than his Earth darkness, and he probably won’t be able to find his way back from it. Wesley assures him that he will, because he’s a man with a demon inside, not the other way around. “We know you have the strength to do what needs to be done, and you will come back to us.” Fred volunteers to go with and prepare the challenge torch. After Angel goes, Gunn asks if Wesley really believes that. “I need him to think it.”
Back in the castle, Cordelia is telling Groo that the only thing she needs is for him to not go anywhere and also not to fight a big pointy green demon. With that, the priests burst in and Head Priest Snow says it looks like it’s time to get to the mating. Cordelia insists that she will do no such thing with a bunch of creepy priests standing around and Priest Snow starts to say something about making her.
He is interrupted by a lower priest who says there is something in the village he will want to see. He dramatically opens a window as even more dramatic hero music plays to Angel’s entrance with the fancy torch Fred lit for him.
Aaaand I’ll let Lor come into finish us off as that fancy hero music reaches its crescendo.
Lorraine: I can almost pretend the fancy hero music is for me!
Angel yells up to the priests that he challenges the Groosalugg to a mortal combat. Fred cutely watches on and mouths the words they surely practiced behind him. Then Angel ad libs and calls Groo a spineless coward. When he looks back for Fred’s reaction, she’s hiding in fear, because he should’ve never added the coward part.
Head Priest Snow tells Groo that he’s been challenged and must fight, though Cordelia screams that he can’t fight because she had a Groo-dying-vision. She’s ignored and left alone.
Groo wants to know who has called him out, and to get him hyped up with ragey energy, Head Priest Snow says that his challenger will defile Cordy over and over again, and then kill her, if Groo is loses.
K: Too bad you left out the part where he’d turn her skin into his clothing, or you could have just called him a Reaver and been done with it!! #Whedonversejokes
Lor: I slacked!
Outside, the challenge fight is being announced, and soldiers head in that direction. Wesley sends off the rebels to their positions. He uses those rebels being killed as a diversion to break into the castle.
In the village, Groo has arrived and his way of accepting the challenge is apparently place his hand into the challenge fire. Angel asks Fred if that player doesn’t feel pain, and Fred enthusiastically says that he does feel pain, but overcomes all things. Groo grabs a weapon and starts beating Angel easily. Angel is on his back watching as Groo approaches when we cut to a Not Commercial Break.
After, Angel is still getting beat up. Fred tells him that he can’t hold back or he’ll die. Angel: I’m not holding back. I’m holding on.
Inside the castle, Wesley and Gunn fight off a bunch of soldiers. Head Priest Snow comes back to Cordy and she tries to warn him again about her Groo-dying-vision, but is slapped for her trouble. He blames Cordy for trying to ruin their way of life, and threatens to kill every cow in the world is he has to.
K: Asshat Priest is an asshat. That’s genocide, douchebag.
Sweeney: Just like President Snow is totes chill with leveling entire districts if they can’t behave. Not quite genocide, but related. Sort of.
Lor: Relation accepted!
Angel is still getting beat up. In fact, the Groosalugg manages to tie one of his arms to a post, and beats him with a club repeatedly. Angel can hold on no longer, and he demons-out. Even the horses are scared of that shit, and start neighing and, “run away, bitch!”ing in the background. Mega Demon Angel breaks free and jumps on top of Groo in one movement.
Head Priest Snow is starting some sort of ritual. Wesley, Gunn and a couple of rebels hobble in and HPS declares them too late. Wesley tries to reason that he doesn’t have to do this but HPS evils that he’s going to do it anyways. That’s Cordy’s cue to cut off his head, like the BAMF the writers sometimes forget she is. (K: I cheered so hard.) Cordy wants to get moving, because of her Groo-dying-vision. Wesley tells her that Angel is the beast from her vision.
Mega Demon Angel and Groo are rolling around on the ground. It looks like things are over for Groo, but Angel turns back. He says that they will find another way to handle this, because he isn’t an animal. He stands, and Groo punches him in the face for good measure.
Sweeney: I’m not sure what a wise move that was, given that Groo knows Demon!Angel can murder his face off, but whatever.
Lor: It did allow Angel a great, “WTF? I’M BEING NOBLE HERE,” moment though.
Cordelia comes running in and stops the fight, yelling that she loves him. Angel gets all hopeful, and asks if she really does love him, and Cordy clarifies that she means Groo.
She proclaims that Head Priest Snow is dead and all the priests have been defeated. She outlaws killing humans and hugs Groo again, as Angel wonders if she loves him too. Throw him a bone, Cordelia!
At Lorne’s family house, he’s all put together. He tries to be all, “BYE MOM,” and leave quickly, but Angel encourages him to say what he has to to his mother. Lorne thanks mommy dearest for storing his body on top of lice instead of maggots, and she sniffles loudly about how she never thought he’d come back. This isn’t sentimental, though, because mommy dearest is soon ranting loudly about how Lorne’s brought even more shame to their family. Plus, now all the humans are free, and where are they supposed to get free labor?
Angel and Lorne run out of there quickly. Lorne says that his psychic friend told him to come back here, and he came back because he always thought deep down inside that he had to come back. All said and done, he had to come back to Pylea to learn that he didn’t have to come back to Pylea. He doesn’t belong there. He belongs in LA, where no one belongs, and is the perfect home for people like Lorne and Angel.
Lor: I had a feeling you would.
As they walk off, declaring the beauty of Lorne’s words, he breaks out into song. Nearby creatures fall to the floor and hold their ears.
At the castle, Cordelia is telling one of the priests to take a memo of the “all citizens are created equal” variety. Plus, she outlaws religious persecution. Wesley, Gunn and Fred all cleaned up! run in, saying that they’ve opened the portal. Turns out, Fred was opening them all along, she just didn’t know where. All they have to do is head over to Angel’s car, and they are taking the Wolf, Ram and Hart books with them.
Cordy tells the Groosalugg that he’s in charge now, and that reconstruction is just beginning. Groo asks what that is, and Cordy hands it over to Gunn to explain… as the black guy? WTF?
K: Yeah, I think it’s as the black guy. It’s kind of awkward. But I also enjoy the periodic moments of “Gunn’s a lot smarter than he seems, and he’s capable of so much more than being the demon fighting muscle.”
Sweeney: YES. It’s totes awkward for her to be all, “Hey, only black guy on the show! Explain reconstruction!” That said, I appreciated this moment from Gunn, however awkwardly we had to get to it.
Lor: He says that saying people are free doesn’t make them free. They are looking forward to social confusion, economic depression and riots. He finishes by wishing Groo luck. Cordelia is more genuine with her, “you’ll do fine.”
The Groosalugg is worried, but he wants to know if Cordelia really must leave. She says she’ll miss his eyes and being a princess, but she has a job to do back home. They kiss as a hero’s epic journey music plays in the background. They leave.
We cut to Angel’s car crashing into Caritas (K: How in the hell do they get the car OUT again? The bar is underground…). Lorne puns about remodeling the bar and we seizure cut to the gang arriving at the Brooding Hotel, Fred included. It’s so cute for about two seconds. Angel rushes to the door, eager to say something. “There’s no place like,” he starts as he pushes the doors open.
In the lobby, sitting on some couches is Willow. I legit freak out about the Crossover Magic, and then quickly remember why she’s here. Buffy is dead. Willow has come to tell them Buffy is dead and my feels knot themselves even though she doesn’t say a word. She just looks at Angel, who quickly realizes, “it’s Buffy.”
Sweeney: I obviously finished watching after I wrote my bit, so I had to send Kirsti a capslocktastic email. I’m pretty sure there were a few “FUCK YOU WHEDON!”s thrown in there for good measure. This was all, “Tralala, happy finale!” and beautifully lulled you into complacency. Angel going for half a gold star, “There’s no place like…” only to find a visitor from a former home bringing the worst possible news. After we spent 45 minutes soaking up the weirdness of Pylea as a way to deal with what just happened to Buffy, Whedon’s all, “NOPE! Not going to let you forget it.” It’s brilliant, really. Right in the feels, as usual. So well done.
As was the rest of this Pylea arc. It was weird and I’m not totally in love with it, but it was a nice quirky way to deal with some of the show’s other big arc and character development issues. We got big strides forward for everyone in the Fang Gang. Possible exception being Angel. The thing about Angel is that the demon/human struggle is constant and you can’t avoid that. It makes him a really hard character to write, because you can’t just say, “OK, he resolved that problem!” and move on. I’m intrigued by the various ways the writers manage to respin that struggle.
Lor: I’m with you on all these things. Just watching Willow’s face in that gif set strangles my heart. The implications of her traveling there , of bringing the news in person, of remembering that Angel would want to know… UGH, WHEDON.
That one moment truly eclipsed the whole entire rest of this finale, which truth be told, felt nothing like a season finale. I’ve been avoiding making any grand observations about the Pylea arc, because I didn’t know how I felt about it. There are some of you, I’m sure, that like Pylea for its unconventional placement in the season. I think this is one of its weaknesses. But, fine, it was fun, though perhaps a little dragged out.
In the end, Pylea was a backdrop for some moments of character development. The most interesting to me was Wesley’s and perhaps it’s because I so recently finished “The Gift” but he reminded me a lot of Giles. To reference what Sweeney was saying, Angel’s big inner darkness struggle will be a constant one, but I think they do a good job here of emphasizing that it’s part of the human struggle. We all have those dark parts of ourselves, and Fred says as much. Sure, Angel’s is like an actual demon, and tends to make his face go bumpy, but you get it. We see Angel get a hold on this inner darkness as he fights Groo. At the same time, we see Wesley embrace some of this darkness as he sends men to their certain death. Meanwhile, Gunn who started his journey all “rah-rah-fighting and dying!” is more and more the voice of caution and reason.
They are all changing, and Pylea was just a place for us to see that.
Cordelia’s visions are getting worse, and for all of her struggle with them, we find out that she holds them in high regard. She’s found a place and a purpose and she isn’t keen to let that go, even when she finds she can.
And then, the ending.
Next time on Angel: Angel mourns Buffy’s death and battles a vampire that also lost a love in S03 E01 – Heartthrob.