Previously: Angel and Spike went to Rome to fight over Buffy some more. Also, Illyria posed as Fred and it made everyone uncomfortable.
Kirsti: A bunch of dudes in robes are clubbing a shirtless dude with a bag on his head. One wall of the room is made of flames. From the other side of the flames, Angel watches the beating happening. He leaps through the flames and grabs Bag Head Guy. He pulls the bag off, and BHG gushes his thanks. But Angel vamps out and bites down on his neck. Electric Cellos like 30 seconds into the episode. This makes me very uncomfortable.
After the credits, the sun rises over Los Angeles 19 hours earlier. Angel and Werewolf Nina are snuggling. She gushes over his prowess (ew) before clarifying that he still has a soul. He does, and that seems like a really awkward conversation to have. You know, “Thanks for the sex, hope it wasn’t good for you!” She then makes it worse by asking if he’s thinking about Buffy. Girl, no.
Lorraine: I guess if you know going into the sex that it can’t be amazing for him and that he’ll probably be thinking about his ex, it might as well be good for you? So I mean, I’m glad you had fun, Nina. This is awkward for the rest of us.
K: True. Angel tells her that he’s thinking about work. She says that they should take a vacation together, but he says with a sigh that he’s too busy championing to go on a romantic getaway. She says she understands, because he’s a hero. Her hero. “I may not always be…” Angel replies.
Wolfram & Hart. Illyria stalks through the halls, being ignored by everyone. Spike sasses a little before saying that he can understand what Illyria is going through – stuck haunting a place that makes no sense in a world where no one gives a crap. He tells Illyria to get out and see the world, and suggests that Wes could help. But Wes is no longer speaking to Illyria – appearing as Fred was entirely too fucked up for him to deal with (legit, bro. Legit.), but Illyria doesn’t understand why. Spike informs Illyria that the most devastating power it has is to look and act like Fred.
Lobby. Hamilton introduces Angel and Gunn – still sporting a hoodie – to Senator Brucker. She apparently goes way back with the firm and seems unphased that the head of legal now wears t-shirts, cargo pants and a hoodie. Good for you, girl. She introduces them to her aide, who Angel declares to be a vampire thanks to his super smelling powers. (S: If you’ve got a vampire as your #1 guy, you’ve got priorities beyond shit like employee dress codes.) (K: FAIR.) The senator says that she likes diversity on her staff. Considering said aide is Hispanic, she got a two-for-one. Angel offers refreshments, and the aide – Ernesto – says that he’d like some virgin blood. Harmony interjects that they have a no human blood policy. Hamilton coldly suggests they make an exception, and Angel tells Harmony to check the lab’s blood bank. Gunn glares, but Angel has no fucks to give. He ushers the senator and Ernesto towards his office.
As Angel goes to follow them, Wes interrupts him to say that there’s been another fatality in Funville, which would seem to indicate that it doesn’t live up to its name. Although given that it’s an abandoned amusement park, it was never going to…
Sweeney: This sounds like something out of a Goosebumps book.
K: It really does. Wes tells Angel that the most recent victim was a teenage girl who was torn apart, and the teeth marks seem to indicate a Boretz demon. Spike and Illyria appear in time for Spike to tell us that Boretzes are super stinky and like to disguise themselves as homeless people. Angel has no fucks to give, saying that people die every day and the girl is just a statistic. Wes says that her name was Stacey, and hands Angel a photo of her. He barely glances at it before saying that he no longer has time to sweat the small stuff and he has a senator waiting for him. Angel walks away, leaving Wes baffled. Spike says eagerly that he and Illyria can deal with it, and Wes agrees, not acknowledging Illyria.
Lor: Illyria feels totally broken up with and she barely even knows it.
K: Angel’s office. The senator shows them a senate campaign video for another candidate, Mike Conley. It’s more American than apple pie – all family values and military service and red white and blue. The voiceover tells us that “Your home is his work.” Senator Brucker says that it’s stealing “the chick vote” from her, and that she didn’t claw her way out of hell and into a human body to get defeated by some paedophile. Gunn’s all “Skkrrrtttt, he’s a PAEDOPHILE?!?!?!” “Not yet. But the public better think he is when you guys get through,” Senator Brucker replies with a smirk. Gunn is NOT on board with this plan, saying that the firm has changed and they don’t ruin people’s lives any more. Angel interrupts and says they’ll do it by brainwashing Conley into thinking he’s a paedophile. Excuse me while I Hulk Smash everything and then vomit. Senator Brucker says Angel’s made himself a loyal ally, and Angel coldly dismisses Gunn and his concerns.
Wes’ office. He consults one of his codex books, asking for information on Boretz demons. The page fills with text but as he starts to read, one page is replaced by “YOU’RE LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE” in huge capital letters. (L: Um, where was that feature during all of my research papers?) (S: THIS TIMES INFINITY. My librarian and I will be exchanging words over the hiding of this secret.) (K: How do you think we librarians can always find what you’re looking for? Exclusive access, yo.) Wes asks what he should be looking for, and a symbol appears on the opposite page – a ring with eight thorns sticking out of it. Gunn walks in to tell Wes about the weird Angel problem, and when Wes looks back at the page, it’s back to the original text on Boretz demons. He stares at the book in bewilderment.
Cut to a squash court. Angel’s playing against a stereotypical Satan-y red devil, who we’ve seen in a previous episode that currently escapes me. I’ve played squash precisely once, and I gave up 10 minutes in when the ball hit me in the nose. (L: I feel fundamentally opposed to playing something called SQUASH. Nope.) Anyway, Not!Satan fills Angel in about how he ran into the Ultra Scaly Demons and they’re super pleased with their
ritual sacrifice baby, and very pleased with Angel’s work. Not!Satan says there’s a real buzz about Angel. Angel asks how long he’ll have to wait for an answer, and Not!Satan tells him it won’t be long.
“Fun”ville. As they search for demons, Spike says that he thinks going corporate has made Angel lose his love of the hunt. Illyria disagrees, saying that Angel has become a corrupt leader. “It always begins the same. A ruler turns a blind eye to the dealings of battles from which he cannot gain… and a deaf ear to the counsel of those closest to him. As his strength increases, so does the separation between he and his follow—” Spike interrupts when he thinks he hears something. When it turns out to be nothing, he says that he’d know if Angel were corrupt, he’d feel it. Because of their deep and undying shipper baiting bond and all.
Illyria says that they’ll know for sure soon enough, because corrupted leaders can’t stand intimates. Spike shipper baits some more:
Lor: “IT’S CANON,” I suddenly hear, like a deafening roar from all the corners of the earth.
Sweeney: This is actually infinitely more useful to me than the usual, “BECAUSE JOSS SAID SO!” rendition of that song and dance which annoys me to no end because externally stated authorial intent =/= canon. Sorry, I’m sure nobody heard my petulant little rant over the sound of the celebratory cannons. Ship on, shippers. Ship on!
K: Illyria interrupts to say that Angel will murder one of them soon enough. “Actually, he already has,” comes a voice from the shadows. It’s Drogyn, the Guardian of the Deeper Well. Illyria glares at him, calling him “my jailer.” Drogyn is shocked to see her. Conveniently, a demon interrupts them by attacking. Spike fights it but it throws him into a high voltage box. Illyria takes over. Spike offers advice from the sidelines, but Illyria easily kicks the demon into the wooden frame of a rollercoaster.
Spike is impressed, then heads over to demand answers from Drogyn. An increasingly pale and sweaty Drogyn says that he came to find Spike because he needed to warn him. He collapses into Spike’s arms, and Illyria notes that Drogyn is bleeding. Quite why Spike and his super smelling powers couldn’t work this out is beyond me. Anyway, Spike asks Drogyn if the Boretz demon is responsible, but Drogyn replies “No. Angel…” Fade to black.
After the Not Commercial Break, Wes walks across the lobby to Harmony’s desk. He grabs a page from the visitors book and sketches the symbol he saw in the book. I’m pretty sure the sole reason this happened there is so that they could throw a couple of lines Harmony’s way. She thinks Wes is sketching a tattoo design and suggests that his calf would be a good location for it. Wes glares at her and stalks into Angel’s office, saying that they have a problem. But Angel’s with Hamilton. Wes is all “Hey, this is super important, so Hamilton needs to leave,” but Angel tells Wes to get out. Wes looks confused, but does so.
Outside, Lorne asks Wes for “the weather report,” which is code for Angel’s mood. “Cold. Icy, actually,” Wes replies. Lorne tells Wes that Angel cut six of his clients loose with no warning and he’s spent all day talking them out of suicide. Wes suspects that Angel won’t care about suicidal celebrities. Outside Wes’ office, Gunn is waiting for them. He wants to know what Angel had to say. Wes says that Angel was too busy with Hamilton to talk, and the others are all “Seriously, WTF.” Wes’ phone rings. It’s Spike.
Sweeney: QUALITY TIME, ANGEL. Your bros all clearly have “quality time” as a primary love language. Work on that.
K: I’m convinced that love languages are a rort because when I took the test thing, I spent 75% of the questions going “BUT I HATE BOTH THOSE THINGS” and being forced to pick one of them.
Cut to Spike’s Rent-A-Hero apartment. Drogyn fills the gang in on what happened to him – he was attacked by a demon assassin with poisoned knives. He overpowered the assassin and tortured it for, like, ever until it confessed that it had been sent by Angel. Apparently demon assassins are hella well informed, because it also told Drogyn WHY Angel wanted him dead: Angel was worried that Drogyn would find something in the Deeper Well that revealed the true extent of Angel’s involvement in Illyria’s escape.
The gang are confused, because Angel helping a demon to escape makes no sense. But Drogyn says that wasn’t the point. The assassin said something about the sacrifice of someone “trusted and dear.” In short, Fred. The Far-Too-Many-Penises Gang are horrified. Gunn calls Drogyn “Aragorn” (legit) and angrily suggests that maybe the assassin was lying. But apparently his whole only telling the truth extends to people he’s torturing. (L: Aw, come on, guys. The assassin thinking it’s true doesn’t mean it’s true!) Wes shows Drogyn his sketch and asks if he knows what it means. Drogyn says he doesn’t. The FTMP Gang wonder why someone’s suddenly dropping clues and why Angel’s acting all weird and shit. Illyria eyerolls a little at their stupidity, saying that Angel’s preparing to make his move. The FTMP Gang decide to confront Angel and head out, leaving Illyria behind to guard Drogyn.
Lor: Sure, guys. I’m sure Angel will just suddenly tell you all about his plan. Clearly, none of you have had your Idea Juice.
Sweeney: Stop by Snark HQ! We keep tons of Idea Juice on hand at all times.
K: It’s next to the Brain Bleach for when our ideas backfire!
Back at Wolfram & Hart, the Gang demand to talk to Angel. They all head into his office, and Spike tells Angel that Drogyn’s in town. Angel wants to know where he is, but all the Gang will say is that he’s somewhere safe. Angel asks if that means they can get back to business. Wes asks what business they’re in, and Angel says that it doesn’t really matter as long as they’re on top and have the most. Gunn says that sounds more like Angelus than Angel. Angel scoffs that if he were Angelus, half of them would already be dead just for the hell of it. Spike snaps that one of them already is (Uh, anyone remember Cordelia?!?!?).
Angel sighs and says that Lorne’s the only one who ever really understood how things work. He didn’t get bogged down in the whole good versus evil thing, because ultimately it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters, he says, is power and until he has power on a global scale, he’s nothing. The FTMP Gang are all “……..DUDE, WHAT THE FUCK” and Lorne brings up power corrupting people. But Angel just says that he can’t worry about the small stuff. Harmony tells him that he has a phone call and he tells the FTMP Gang to get out. Wes turns as they leave and asks if the small stuff includes Fred. Angel slams the door in his face and we fade to black.
Lor: Huh. I take that back. I’m pretty sure Angel just told us most of his plan: get power. Let’s keep watching.
K: After the Not Commercial Break, Wes and Lorne are in an interrogation room. Wes says that he thinks it’s all a ploy, but Lorne disagrees. Angel, he says, never had any real power until they took over Wolfram & Hart. And now that he’s seen the view from the top, he wants more. Just then, the door bursts open. Gunn and Spike drag Lindsey into the room in shackles. “You boys look like you could use a hug,” Lindsey smirks.
On on college campus, Angel calls out to Nina. She greets him with a kiss, but he says they have to talk. He hands her an envelope filled with plane tickets, and she’s excited, thinking that they’re going on that vacation. But nope. The tickets are for her, her sister and her niece. He tells her that it’s not safe and she needs to leave town. He says that he wants to be with her, and if he survives what’s coming he’ll come and find her. She says he’s a terrible liar and that she’ll go because there’s no reason for her to stay. She grabs her stuff and walks away, leaving Angel sad panda-ing on a bench.
Lor: Oh, Angel. Always making decisions for the people he loves. -_-
Sweeney: OUR FAVORITE THIIIIING! -_-
K: Ugh. Spike’s Rent-A-Hero Apartment. Illyria and Drogyn are trying to play Crash Bandicoot. As they play, Drogyn tells Illyria that its time is past and it belongs in the well with the rest of its kind. Illyria replies “Truly. I wish now I had never been brought out of it,” because everything seems pointless annoying, and yet, like Crash Bandicoot, continuing is compelling.
Sweeney: This bit made me giggle enough that I spent an embarrassing additional amount of time/effort warping it frame-by-frame to make it fit on the thumbnail. It was stupid funny but I laughed all the same.
K: Hamilton smashes through the door. He greets Drogyn, who he apparently knows from way back, and sasses about how Drogyn lives in a tree. Illyria orders Hamilton not to hurt Drogyn, so obviously Hamilton throws Drogyn into a wall. (L: Drogyn’s fault. He got weirdly close to Hamilton for reasons… there are no actual reasons.) Illyria attacks, but is rapidly overpowered by Hamilton. He reads from the Big Book of Villain Gloating about how he thought an old one would be harder to defeat, then punches Illyria in the face repeatedly. When Illyria’s on the floor, unable to get up, he kicks Illyria unconscious.
Okay, SEGUE. I have problems with that. I mean, we’ve established that Illyria isn’t a female character. But she’s inhabiting the body of a woman. And one of my major problems with what I saw of Dollhouse was that Echo got punched in the face by dudes in like EVERY EPISODE. I know that they’re trying to emphasise that Hamilton is evil and all, but that many repeated punches with no fighting back and then KICKING ILLYRIA IN THE FACE is overkill and really pretty disgusting. Would they have done that with a male character? Probably not. There would have been a moment when the hero managed to get to one knee and throw a punch, and then the heroic music would have started up, and Hamilton would have been overpowered. In short: SIGH.
Lor: Interesting. I didn’t think of it while watching the scene, though I was wondering if Illyria was weaker than I supposed or Hamilton was stronger than I’d guessed. In contrast, Drogyn was tossed aside easily and the evil was focused over on the (kind of) female in the room. Maybe at this point we’re hyper sensitive because of all we’ve seen, but also, they make it SO EASY.
Sweeney: I get it – this show does shitty things to women, can’t write them worth a damn, and rather than work on that, they just killed them all off and made a giant sausage fest. In that sense, their treatment of women has sort of become like my feelings with Game of Thrones and rape – they crossed a line that makes me wary of trusting them anywhere near the subject. That being said, I’m not really buying this moment as being inherently gendered, specifically the bit about how they never would have done this to a male character. That seems untrue and hard to substantiate.
K: I totally understand that. I’m definitely putting words into their mouths on this one, and I’m aware of that. But I can’t help but think that if it was ANGEL in that situation, they would have gone the whole hero-gets-beaten-down-but-triumphs-over-adversity route instead of the beaten-down-and-pummeled-into-unconsciousness route…
Interrogation room. Lindsey sasses about them beating him up, but the FTMP Gang give a modified “we can do this the easy way or the hard way” speech. Lindsey says that he doesn’t know anything until Wes shows him the sketch. Then Lindsey’s taken aback, and says there’s no way the Circle of the Black Thorn would take Angel. “Sounds like a little sewing club for pirates,” Lorne sasses. Lindsey says that it’s a secret society. A small, evil, very elite, very powerful secret society. In short, they grease the wheels that make the Apocalypse happen. Wes is all “But aren’t the Senior Partners doing that?” Lindsey eyerolls a little as he reminds them that the Senior Partners are on a different plane. They need a crew on the ground, and that crew is the Circle of the Black Thorn.
Lindsey smirks that Angel would never make it, though. He’d have to give up the championing (SHOTS), and he probably wouldn’t even be on their radar until he killed one of the Fang Gang. The FTMP Gang exchange horrified glances. Wes hangs his head in shame, saying that they let this happen. After a moment, he suggests that if Angel’s strayed from his chosen path – helping the helpless – maybe there’s still time to bring him back, because Angel would do the same for them. “And what if he’s skipped too far down that evil brick road?” Lorne asks.
Cut to a cave. Angel stares at the Circle of the Black Thorn’s symbol on the wall. He walks around a corner and we can hear the beating from the teaser scene happening. Angel jumps through the fire as before, and this time we see that the dude he bites is Drogyn. The masked and robed Circle watch as Angel drinks Drogyn’s blood, then snaps his neck. He throws Drogyn’s body to the floor and we fade to black.
After the Not Commercial Break, Angel is branded with the Circle’s symbol as the members chant around him. He’s welcomed into the fold and the lights come on. The members unmask, and we see that it includes Not!Satan, the Senator, Vail and Archduke Sebassis. In short, a lot of the villains from this season. (S: Fun penultimate episode callbacks!) Angel mingles with them for a bit before Not!Satan tells him how pleased they are that everyone in the Circle turned up for his initiation. Angel stares around the room, noting all the members.
Seizure cut (WOW. It’s been ages since we had one of those!) to the lobby early the next morning. Angel steps off the elevator and heads to his office. Once he’s inside, the FTMP Gang attack, knocking Angel down. Gunn says they know everything, and Angel scoffs at them finding out from Lindsey. He says that what he does in the office is his business and if they don’t like it, they can leave. Or he’ll kill them. Wes says that they have a problem and cocks his shotgun. Angel grabs it and the Gang attack. Angel overpowers them all easily and kicks their weapons away. Except for Lorne, who shoots Angel in the shoulder with his crossbow. Angel grabs Lorne by the neck and uses him as a shield.
Wes demands that Angel let Lorne go, but Angel says that Wes doesn’t give the orders. He tells Lorne to pull the arrow out, which he does, then Angel pulls a crystal from his pocket and mutters a spell. There’s a flash of white light and Angel says they have six minutes. The Gang are all “WTF are you talking about?” Apparently Angel has invoked a glamour that will allow them to talk while to anyone on the outside, it’ll look like they’re still fighting. Angel tells them that everything they’ve heard and seen is a lie. He’s the one who sent Wes the message in the book, he’s the one who sent the assassin after Drogyn, knowing that Drogyn would seek out the Gang for help, which in turn would convince The Circle that Angel was responsible for Fred’s death.
He says that The Circle needed to think the Gang didn’t trust him any more, to think that someone as good and pure as Drogyn saw Angel as an enemy. Lorne wants to nominate Angel for an Oscar. He’d probably win before Leonardo diCaprio, now that I think about it. Spike asks when it started, and Angel replies “Two months ago. With a kiss.” With that, we flashback to Cordelia kissing Angel goodbye. Only this time, we can see a little flash of blue pass between them, just like when Doyle kissed Cordy. Present!Angel voiceovers “Though it didn’t hit me until later that night“. We flash to Past!Angel awaking from a vision, which showed the symbol, Drogyn dying, and flashes of bloody bodies and fire.
Lor: I DIDN’T EVEN THINK OF THE VISIONS PASSING! Aw, man, I feel silly, but that’s awesome. Also, I kind of wish it were more than a one time deal, because that’s weird. But also: CORDELIA!
Sweeney: +1 TO ALL THESE THINGS. I love that. CORDELIA! and a side of DOYLE FEELS! Well played.
K: So Angel decided to use Fred’s death, to make it mean something. The powerful, he says, control everything except their right to choose. He knows who they are now and heroes don’t accept the world the way it is. They may not be able to kill the Senior Partners, but they can make things painful for them. In short, he wants to kill every member of the Circle of the Black Thorn. If they survive, he says, the Senior Partners will rain down absolute hell to make an example of them.
The Orchestra of Shit’s Getting Serious And the Hero Is Making a Speech starts up as Angel continues:
“10-to-1, we’re gone when the smoke clears. They will do everything in their power to destroy us. So…I need you to be sure. Power endures. We can’t bring down the senior partners, but for one bright, shining moment, we can show them that they don’t own us. You need to decide for yourselves if that’s worth dying for. I can’t order you to do this. I can’t do it without you. So we’ll vote. As a team. Think about what I’m asking you to do, think about what I’m asking you to give.”
He looks around at the Gang and everyone is deadly serious. Spike’s the first to sign up, closely followed by Wes. Gunn slowly raises his hand, followed somewhat reluctantly by Lorne.
The camera pulls back, through the illusion, and suddenly we see what Hamilton is seeing from outside – Angel still holding Lorne hostage and the others edging forwards with their weapons drawn. Fade to black.
I don’t really care for this episode. The “is he evil or not?” stuff feels recycled, and the kiss-o-vision was major retcon. I know they had to find a way to wrap things up with very little notice but the lack of female characters – the Senator is another demon-in-the-body-of-a-woman deal and we’ve gotten rid of Nina for good – still grates. Plus, it raises a whole lot of questions about whether doing bad things counts as doing good if it’s for the right reasons. I mean, Drogyn was a massive source of good. Is having his blood on Angel’s hands really worth it? I don’t even know any more.
Lor: I had similar feelings but with a better general outlook. Yes, the CrAngel bits felt MAJORLY recycled, and it was probably even more annoying to have them all doubting Angel. Again. It was pretty heavy handed with it’s POWER! themes. Did you guys get that? I think it’s all about power. I’m not sure, but I think power is important.
All said, though, I think I’m grading on a curve. Firstly, because it has the feel of making lots of moves to finish this off before the end. As I understand the timeline, they had to fit a lot of end of story in a shorter-than-anticipated amount of time. (And the absolutely ridiculous placement of The Girl In Question is even more apparent here…) I appreciate the effort to send us off with a bang more than I find the rush-rush-rush of it all grating. The Black Thorn thing had a feel of giving them something to fight against, seeing as how we had a season’s worth of proof (and more!) to suggest that the Senior Partners are perpetual, untouchable and intangible. So, yes, not the best execution but decent enough to have me curious about the end.
Secondly, because it’s almost the end! I’M SO EXCITED WE MADE IT.
Thirdly, because I don’t care if it’s retcon (though it felt more like REVEAL! to me): I love that Cordelia plays a big role in this final showdown even if she isn’t physically there. Man, I miss that character so hard, and they’ve ignored her pretty thoroughly. This last minute, “But look! Cordelia!” was fine by me.
Sweeney: Major agreement on that last point. I miss Cordelia and was just glad to see her face on my screen.
K: True. I feel like season 5 should have the subtitle “Needs more Cordelia”.
Next time: THE BIG FINALE OMG. Find out how things wrap up in Angel S05 E22 – Not Fade Away.