From Scoopme.com & Khom.de
AngelAngel 4x17 Inside Out - Review
Friday 4 April 2003, by Webmaster
From Scoopme.com :
"It is our choices, Harry, that show who we are, far more than our abilities."
Okay, gang, it’s time for something a little different. Today, I’m throwing off the mantle of a mostly-impartial reviewer and getting a little personal. I’m going to go out on a limb, lay it on the line and (mostly likely) invite criticism by telling you, faithful readers, that this my favorite episode of the season so far.
Yes, ever since the return from our extra-extra long hiatus, the quality of the story lines has been quite good. However, this particular venture takes the cake. "Why?" you say. I’m so glad you asked! What you will find below is a summary of the reasons why this particular episode embodies some of the things that I love best about Angel (and Mutant Enemies shows in general) and why it should definitely be renewed for the next season.
I must confess there was a point during all the 90210ish developments that I wouldn’t have minded if the show had it’s plugged yanked. But since then things have changed, and I’m going taking this opportunity to get a little nerdy and sing the praises of one of best shows on television while throwing a little analysis into the tune.
I rarely gush, so please indulge me.
#1 - Like Pieces of a Puzzle
Warning: Big Fat Geek Moment Ahead - X-men fans might remember a spin-off comic book called Excalibur, which featured a team of super heroes fighting evil in England. In the 49th and 50th issue (over four years into its run), it was revealed that the team’s formation and destiny was all manipulated by a higher power. In this case, the writers had planned this revelation from day one.
Whether or not the writers of Angel had this gigantic plot in place since the beginning, or even since Cordelia got her visions form Doyle, remains a mystery. However, that does not take away from the fact that they were able to tie in all the smaller events into one grand scheme in a feat of fantastic storytelling.
We were finally given some answers. Cordelia is evil because she’s got a nasty inside of her. She’s got a nasty inside of her because she went to a higher plane. She went to a higher plane because she was being manipulated. Ah ha! How many of us cried foul when she left the Earth due to her "saintly" nature? Now it all makes sense! Good things come to those who wait, and we’d certainly waited long enough for an explanation of how our self-serving Cordelia turned into a being of infinite goodness so quickly.
The story has come full circle and those of us who have hung on for the duration cannot help but feel like we’ve finally been rewarded for our dedication. Plus, the Murder She Wrote flashback/exposition was nifty, too.
#2 - Fighting and Feelings
Angel wouldn’t be Angel without the terrifically choreographed fight scenes. When Angel recovered from Skip’s beatings and returned with an attack of his own, you could feel each blow as it connected with the dastardly demon. Even more exhilarating was when Wesley found Skip’s weak spot and took the opportunity to blast his green, gooey brains.
However, as much as the man in me loves a good fight, there’s something to be said about the way the members of Angel Investigations bond and interact. My favorite moment in the entire episode was when Wesley asked Angel why he should care about the fate of his mortal enemy and Angel replied, "Because you did."
With those three words, all of the bad blood between the two men was washed away. Their friendship and commitment to one another was renewed without any blame-tossing, screaming matches, or macho posturing. Even without the usual histrionics, one could feel the emotion and the importance of the moment.
By combining such moments of dramatic tension with others filled with physical catharsis, the show is able to maintain its genre-bending status and broad appeal.
#3 - Shock and Awe
When Darla unexpectedly walked around the corner to confront Connor, that was shocking enough. When she started to try to convince Connor to not kill the girl, the shock was taken to a new level.
Here is a woman who was one of the most evil and sadistic vampires that ever lived. Now, because of an intervention by The Powers That Be, she is allowed to confront the son for whom she sacrificed her life. Instead of behaving in the wicked manner she’s so well known for, Darla acts like a loving, caring mother who was most likely redeemed by her final, selfless act.
As she attempts to dissuade Connor from using her sacrifice to enable more death, the possessed Cordelia confronts her. Two mortal enemies have swapped sides of the coin and face off as the representations of complete good and ultimate evil. The two voices warring over Connor’s soul prove once again that life is more than shades of gray - there really is a difference between right and wrong.
As if that is not awe-inspiring enough, the shock continues when Evil Cordelia wins the battle and an innocent girl ends up losing her life. Connor’s innocence is destroyed, as well, as he watches his mother die before him.
Despite his instincts telling him it was wrong; despite his suspicions about Cordelia’s whacked out behavior; and despite the fact his mother contacted him from the beyond the grave to beg him not to do it, he still was a part of murder. No longer will I pity him as the confused teenager struggling with daddy issues and raging hormones. His foolish behavior has cost a person her life, and he’s got to live with the consequences.
But first, he’s got to deal with other shocking developments. Like a full-grown woman popping out of Cordelia’s belly.
#4 - Production Supercrew
As Connor made his choice and began dragging the girl to her doom, a shot of a partially concealed Cordelia holding a cleaver summed up the entire tragic-creepiness of the entire situation. The music playing as Cordelia groomed Connor to become a sociopath provided a hypnotic sense of foreboding. These are only two examples of the excellence in direction that Steven S. DeKnight provided for our viewing pleasure.
Not only is the direction superb, but the costumes as sets are equally impressive. Skip’s body was one of the most intricate costumes to ever appear on the show. If you’ve read Allyson’s Mutant Enemy column, you know how much thought, money and hard work goes into the preparation of the amazing sets as well.
Probably the most noticeable, and best-appreciated, aspect of production is the dialogue to die for.
You’ve got funny: "Kid vicious did most of the heavy lifting, Cordelia just ’Mwahahaha’d at us."
Poignant: "Do you really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?"
And Monty Pythonesque: "Or what, you’ll bleed on me some more?"
Put them all in a pot and you’ve got yourself the best vampire comedy-drama-action show on television. Not to be confused with that other slayer comedy-drama-action show. Sure, the show isn’t perfect, but when it’s good it’s a whole lot of fun.
Well, the list could go on and on, but it’s time to for me to put the lid on this praise jar and return to the role of unbiased observer. It’s in your hands now, my friends. Feel free to throw your own two cents into the jar, or open up one of your own on the boards below.
Until next week . . .
Evil? What evil? This newborn bad girl looks like she’s taking over the world with love, peace and understanding. Only Fred sees that everyone is becoming mindless zombies in the process. But can she really do anything about it? Perhaps she needs to go out and buy everyone copies of the Infinity Crusade. (Ack! More of my geekines shows through!)
From Khom.de :
The show was great, wasn’t it? Anyway, do you recall what I said last week? "I hope Gina Torres won’t play Cordy’s child, since another adult growing in about five minutes time seems rather lame to me. It even reminds me of those supernatural beings portrayed as Greeks in Angel’s season 1 (and, sadly, later on). Why is wearing some sort of toga enough to star as a good or evil god/goddess? Isn’t that like some science fiction movie from the sixties?" I was wrong. The Child didn’t wear a toga, but seemed to be wearing nothing. It didn’t grow in about five minutes, but was born as an adult. But it is, actually, some kind of supernatural being - and of supernatural power as we have seen. It’s some kind of goddess that can convert ordinary (and not-so-ordinary) people into followers.
All people? Well, not quite so. Some of you already wrote to me, suggesting that some of the gang aren’t converted, and here’s why:
Lorne: since he’s a demon (actually; not a good reason, because Angel became the first follower and he’s partly a demon, too). Wesley: since he has a history of not doing what Angel thinks is best (and he would be capable to stop the Child). Fred: mainly because of plot reasons. She would be able to stop the Child - she’s the brainy one, remember? Gunn: he could resist - after all, in 4.16 they gave Gunn more exposition, and perhaps this was the beginning of a series of Gunn centred shows? Gwenn: because - well, why did they introduce her anyway? She was fun to watch, but didn’t play an important part so far. Cordy: After the Child left her, she could be herself again - and to redeem herself, it could be her part to defeat the Child. Perhaps she isn’t under its influence since she has delieverd it. I guess, there will only be one who doesn’t comply with the going all religious thing the Child brings on. But hey - this week’s ep was a classical detective story, just as Angel was intented when Joss and David set together to nail down the concept of AtS years ago. Not so much of a detective part, I have to admit, but plenty of mystery solving. We saw flashbacks of how Cordy did what she did - we saw a flashback, too, at the beginning of Orpheus to illustrate what Faith did. This is pretty much a new layer of visual expression AtS didn’t have before, or did it?
Anyway, everyting was part of some master plan - even Connor’s birth. Again, as with Dawn, he was not sent to Earth accidentally, but purposely - to procreate the Child. (By the way: "to sire", which is used in the Buffyverse to describe the act of making somebody a vampire, stems from latin "senior", meaning: older one, male ancestor, forefather. So, if we keep to the original meaning of the word, Connor, in a way, is the sire of the Child, or - put another way - sired the Child. If this doesn’t accentuate his vampirey nature, I don’t know what does.) (BTW: Don’t take that too seriously, I know, it means, we’re all siring our children in a way.)
Cordy actually is Cordy, but imbued with demoniness - Angel was ready to kill her nevertheless, but Connor didn’t let him, and when he finally could have done it, it was too late. But didn’t Skip say something like: she’ll never be Cordy again as long as the Child isn’t born? Well, it is now, so there’s a fair chance of Good (or, at least, Bitchy) Cordy returning to AtS. The spell said to bring Angel back was merely casted to put a charm on Lorne, as most viewers already expected.
Well, let’s get to the master plan. They seem to carry the idea a bit too far, don’t they? What do you think? Even bringing Fred into another dimension, what does that have to do with the Child? And what’s coming next? Why is there a master plan, above all? What’s the objective? Well, first, to bring forth the Child - and then? What is the Child supposed to do? It actually gathers followers, but why? Is the First Evil involved, and are all those followers merely part of the army of the FE? Or doesn’t the Child have to do anything with the First?
In the end all comes down to: Gosh, AtS really is getting damn good. But the staff’s now skating on thin ice. A goddess of evil - didn’t we see Glory before? Gods in togas - didn’t we see that before? (The Child’s not going to stay naked througout the season, I guess, and perhaps it’s too luring to dress her up in some "godly" stuff which, after all, will only look ridiculous.) Angel on the dark side - didn’t we see that just before? It’s way weaker than Faith joining the Mayor’s team in season 3, since she did it because she wanted to, and not because he put a spell on her. Glory had edges and was fun to watch, though not everybody liked her. Evil Cordy was just plain evil, and that’s why most people got all icky when seeing her on screen. She wasn’t as original as villains before - think of Lilah or Lindsey, they’re all evil, but they have a human touch, they have edges, and in some way we can relate to them. This wasn’t the case with Evil Cordy. I hope, the Child will be a villain to love - or to fear - again, and she won’t be all nice and smiling and doing evil all day as Evil Cordy did.
Another problem is, character development has been abandoned almost completely. Angel and Connor don’t follow the Child because - in any remotely possible way - it’s appealing to established inner needs (as Faith did when joining the Mayor), but because she has the power to put some sort of spell upon them. This can prove an obstacle when trying to further uplevel AtS, since normally these are elements of less demanding fantasy serieses such as Xena or Hercules (fun to watch and a tremendous success, but not quite as demanding as BtVS).
Ok, that’s it for now. As you know when you’re a regular visitor to this website, more is added later on in the feedback section. E-mail me and tell me, what you think about this week’s "Inside Out". Was it great or what? What are your feelings about AtS so far?
Shortcuts: AtS 4.17. Inside Out
What happened? Angel and the gang are trying to question Cordy, but Connor comes down from the ceiling, delievers a hell of a fight against all of them and escapes together with Cordy. He doesn’t know why they’re up against her, and she says, it’s because of the child - they’re afraid of it and want to kill it. She even says, Angel’s doing all this only because he hates Connor. Angel’s switching dimensions once again to meet with Skip, the demon that took Cordy to a higher plane. He pretends Cordy didn’t return, saying only a slayer once returned from paradise (remember that?;-)), but when Angel beats him up, brings him to our dimension and threatens him to cast a spell throwing him into a magic prison of agony and torment, he finally admits, Cordy was made evil and not a higher being. Lorne casts some sort of locator spell, and Angel goes to kill Cordy. Meanwhile, TPTB send ghostly Darla back to Connor. He kidnapped a virgin, because Cordy said it’s vital to the baby (good thinking skills, the boy, hm?), and Darla tries to talk him into releasing her. When he’s about to do just that, Cordy shows up, and he helps her slaughtering the virgin and putting her blood on the belly. Angel shows up, they fight, then there’s a beam of light, Cordy falls into some kind of coma and the Child turns out to be a naked female goddess. Angel as well as Connor fall to their knees, admiring her beauty.
Topics addressed? Lots. We learned that Cordy is Cordy and how she did what she did. We even saw the Child. Unfortunately, no character development.
Any strange things? When Angel fought with Skip, a chain and a fist were enough to knock Skip out. When the baby was born and there was this earthquake and the circle containing Skip was broken, Wesley fired a gun several times, but Skip turned out to be bullet-proof. Finally Wesley shot through a hole in Skip’s head (remainder of a horn Angel broke), but it wasn’t explained why Skip’s stronger in our dimension than he is in his, which is quite strange. Also, TPTB sent Darla, but why? If all was part of a master plan, why didn’t they show up earlier, and, for instance, prevent Angel from working out with Darla? Or at least tell everybody way earlier that Cordy’s evil? Very strange they waited that long. Perhaps, Darla wasn’t sent by TPTB, but by the FE which is competing with the Child?
Was it good or not? Yes, it was. Four stakes out of five.
What do you hope for? I hope, the Child will be developped as a "classical" AtS or BtVS villain, that doesn’t need to avoid comparison with the Master, the Mayor or Wolfram&Hart.
Feedback (updated frequently)
The Child: Carl writes, it wasn’t a real surprise since Gina Torres was mentioned to guest star, but then didn’t turn up until the very end. Indeed. Wil and WillowLittle suggest, the Child is a good goddess, after all, and the ending is cool, because everybody thought, Cordy will give birth to some sort of devilish demon. Darla then was the FE, trying to prevent the birth of the one who is able to defeat her. I don’t agree here. Angel and Connor didn’t fall to their knees because they recognized her as a goddess. I think, it’s a devilish demon (dressed up as a naked beautiful woman, who doesn’t like that part anyway?) and it’s evil because it takes away free will and makes people pray to her and follow her. If she was good, why would Cordy be killing?
Turning: Lara says, we didn’t see yet, if looking at the goddess is enough to be turned or if it was some kind of birth miracle that doesn’t happen later on. We also don’t know yet if it is permanent. Certainly not, as I’d like to presume, and we don’t know either if it is necessary to see the goddess (or if the ban vanishes when not), or if it is limited to a certain amount of time. The question, of course, is: How can somebody resist it? Any ideas? Sent them in!
Who’s going to resist? Most readers vote for Wesley, so far. They say, he’s most likely to instinctively know something that prevents him to fall under her spell. Number two: Cordy. After all, a common topic in the Jossverse is redemption, and who could redeem herself more than Cordy? Gunn, most of you say, may be strong enough to kill the goddess, but he wouldn’t know how. Fred, on the other hand, would know how, but wouldn’t be courageous enough to face the goddess. Perhaps Fred and Gunn will face the evil together? Gunn’s history with Gwenn could split them up again in a crucial situation, and only by learning to cope with what happened in their relationship, it would be possible to face the Goddess - this involves major character development, and hence could be the way it turns out. Perhaps even Cordy will do her part - perhaps Fred and Gunn have to wake up Cordy somehow, because she knows the one and only weakness of the goddess. The promo’s now out, however, and it shows, Fred’s the one resisting. Why her? I don’t have a clue, but if you have an idea, send it in!
Cordy: She still will have a part in defeating the Child, even though Fred’s the one at first resisting. Sara says, when Darla told Connor about how she know how he feels, because they shared a soul, it was fore-shadowing the things to come. Cordy will feel how the goddess feels (and know her weakness) because they shared - well, did they share a soul? Does the Child have one?
Skip: Art says, Skip wasn’t any stronger in our dimension. He can be bullet-proof, but he’s not immune against getting limbs and horns ripped off.
Character development: Eli maintains, there was some: Angel and Wesley’s reconciliation (they talked about Lilah and Angel said, he cares because Wesley did - but didn’t he say that before or was it really new?); Gunn and Fred talking about free will, Gunn at ease with what he is because of Gwenn; Angel making the choice of killing the woman he loved (yes, but who thought they’d surprise us so much as to actually really kill Cordy?); Connor choosing sides against his consciousness, because he needs the feeling to belong somewhere (that’s right, but isn’t that exactly why Cordy was able to exploit him even before or was it really new?).
Rating: I was surprised how upset most of you were that I gave four stakes out of five. Most of you said, it was the worst show on AtS so far, the birth was the lamest ever in any series, and above all "Inside Out" shouldn’t get more than 2.5 or 3 stakes. Perhaps, I would have said so myself, but I had to learn, that AtS - contrary to BtVS - plays with cliches by first going along with it, and than undercutting it in any way. Like when Faith drugged herself. She fell prey to Angelus, just before defeating him - pretty much cliched, but then it turned out she drugged him. That’s why I try not to rate AtS based on all the cliched plot-points we had this week. Next week’s ep has a very difficult task, because it has to show us, what was behind all those cliches. I don’t know why they do it that way, however, since I know of many people who don’t turn in for AtS anymore, because when they do, they only see cliched fantasy action, and most of them don’t trust the series enough to turn in again and wait how the staff’s solving it. The story-telling has been weak, but not as weak as in season 3, and it’s getting better, even damn good. I hope there will be a fifth season, and I hope Joss will be around to take care of the scripts, at least more than they do now.
From Jenoff :
The gang are confronting Cordelia as they did at the end of the last episode. She asks what tipped them off. Angel says it was her use of the phrase ’my sweet’ to refer to her unborn baby. He remembered the beast master used that phrase when talking to Angelus. Wesley says all the circumstantial evidence led to her. Angel doesn’t believe she really is Cordelia. He asks who she is. Connor crashes in through the skylight. He beats off the others and shoots Angel with a tranquilizer. As Angel falls, he asks what she is. Connor and Cordelia leave. The magic 8 ball rolls to Angel with Ask Again Later displayed.
Gunn, who claims he didn’t get their page because being around electroGwen screws your equipment, arrives to find the beat up gang at the hotel who tell him Cordelia is evil. They explain she is the beast master and Connor helped her escape. Angel maintains Connor is not evil, just confused. They realize she groomed Connor to be her champion. They realize Lorne’s spell to cure her amnesia awoke the demon within her. That what he read was that demon. They realize she killed Manny and the priestesses and stole Angel’s soul. They realize the spell to reensoul Angel was actually a spell to mess up Lorne’s powers. Wesley realizes she killed Lilah.
Connor has taken Cordelia to a safe place (in the meat packing district). He asks why they were trying to hurt her and she says they are scared of them and the baby and wanted to kill it. She says Angel hates him because he lost her to him. She says Angel is an animal and he turned them all against them. Connor says he’d kill them all before letting them hurt her. At the hotel, Angel returns from a fruitless hunt for Cordelia. Wesley says the Connor relationship was part of the plan to keep Angel emotional and confused. Angel expresses sorrow at Lilah’s death and Wesley says why should he care, Angel and Lilah were enemies. Angel says he cares because Wesley did. Wesley changes the subject, saying he can find nothing about the beast master and it must have erased all record of itself the way it erased references to the beast. Wesley suggests going to the powers that be, Angel points out that hasn’t helped much in the past. Angel argues that the powers didn’t do anything to stop Cordelia because they didn’t want to get their hands dirty. He says they need somebody who does, somebody in the middle of it all.
Cordelia and Connor move to another hideout. Connor still can’t believe Angel tried to kill her. He wonders whether it was Angelus. Cordelia assures him it was Angel. He remembers what Angel said about being a champion and making the world a better place. She says those were lies meant to keep him in his place. He can’t believe the others would be evil. He says they were good. She says these are just words, concepts of morality forced upon him. She says they don’t have to live by their rules because they are special and their baby will be extraordinary.
Fred, Gunn, and Angel are in Cordelia’s room where they find nothing. Angel is going somewhere dangerous and assures the others he’ll be fine. Next we see, he’s beating up a demon. He goes into another room where he finds Skip, eating Buffalo wings and waiting for the game to come on. He asks Skip about Cordelia. Skip says she ascended. Angel says she’s back and Skip says no one comes back from paradise (he admits a slayer did once). Angel says either Skip is a dupe or he’s in on it. Skip admits he’s not a dupe and prepares to fight. Skip seems to be winning. He says he took a dive when they last fought to let Angel rescue Billy (in That Vision Thing). Meanwhile, Cordelia is telling Connor that Angel won’t give up until he finds them. She says when they see how beautiful their baby is it will change everything. But the baby is a week or two off and Angel will find them before that. She says there is a way to bring their baby into the world now, but she’ll need Connor to get her some special things.
Skip continues to beat up Angel. Angel breaks off Skip’s blade on his hand. Then breaks off the bone on the side of his head. Wrapping a chain around his hand, he manages to beat Skip into unconsciousness. He returns to the hotel with Skip and tells the others they need to bind him to this dimension. On the street, a young girl is attacked by a vampire who calls her a virgin. Connor stakes him. He then punches the girl and knocks her out. He brings her to Cordelia who tells him not to listen to his heart because it will lie to him. That he should trust her. She says the girl is just an average normal person. But what they do will elevate her beyond that and give her death meaning. She says the girl’s death for their baby is a fair trade.
Skip is captive. They threaten him with eternal agony and he agrees to talk. He tells them Cordelia is real, but she’s not in control of herself. That the demonic force running her is actually responsible for her ascension. Meanwhile, Cordelia is starting a spell. Connor goes over to the girl who comes to. He gives her some water, but ignores her pleas. Suddenly, an image of Darla appears. She says the powers sent her to him. She goes over to the girl and says she recognizes her fear, she saw it in all the people she murdered. He says she’s dead. We realize the girl can’t see her. Darla says she’ll always be a part of him. That she shared his soul once and it brought light to her shadow. He’s angry that she killed herself claiming she hated him. She says she loved him and traded her life for his. She says he was the one good thing she ever did. She is angry about the girl. Connor says they need her to keep their baby safe. She says safety cannot be achieved by an evil deed. He says good and evil are just words. She asks him not to let her death mean nothing.
Skip tells the others that they can do nothing to stop what will happen.Skip says everything that happened to them - Cordelia getting the visions, Lorne leaving Pylea, Fred going to Pylea, Gunn’s sister being killed, Wesley sleeping with Lilah - has been planned. This includes Connor’s birth. Angel realizes Connor was intended to sleep with Cordelia and create a vessel for the evil to come. The baby is the big bad. Skip says they can only stop it by killing Cordelia. He says giving birth will also kill her or reduce her to cabbage level. Angel asks how to find her. Skip names a ritual, thinking they can’t perform it. But Lorne demonstrates they can. Skip isn’t happy.
Connor tells Darla he and Cordelia are feared because they are special. She says they are scared. Connor says they wanted to kill him before he was born. She says that changed when they saw him. He says the same will happen when they see his baby. She says he has a choice. He argues they are hunted like animals. She says he is acting like one. She says as vampire she killed without remorse because she had no soul. She asks what his excuse is. He says he doesn’t want to do this. She says then don’t. He says he has to. She says why, because Cordelia says so. She tells him it has to be his choice, he can stop it. The girl cries and Connor yells at her. Darla says this isn’t him. He says how would she know. She talks of sharing a soul and knowing his pain. She says she feels the good in him.
Fred and Gunn are wondering what Angel will do. Gunn says he will do what is necessary. She wonders if it matters, if Skip is right in saying their actions are meaningless. Gunn says he knows that ultimately the final score in life cannot be predetermined. That free will and choice exist. He says you just never know which decision is the important one, so you have to treat them all as if they are. Lorne tells them they’ve got it. Skip claims they are all puppets, Wesley tells him to shut up. Lorne says Cordelia is in the meat packing district. Angel tells them he will go alone. He doesn’t want the burden of Cordelia’s death on them. Wesley says Angel has no choice but to kill her.
Connor seems to be freeing the girl. Cordelia enters. Connor seems to have been swayed by Darla and doesn’t want to kill the girl. Cordelia realizes someone has got to him. She says it’s magic, a trick by Angel. Darla tells him not to listen, to shut him out. But Cordelia realizes it’s Darla. She says it’s lies and that is not Darla. They both plead with him, Cordelia arguing that he is playing into Angel’s hands and jeopardizing their baby. He shouts out that the vision of Darla is not his mother. He drags the girl to the place of the ritual. As Darla pleads with him to stop, Cordelia kills her. She has Connor dip his hand in the girl’s blood and put it on her belly as she recites a ritual.
There’s an earthquake. It frees Skip and he attacks the gang. Cordelia says it’s the beginning of a new world, but Angel has arrived. Skip is beating them all up. Angel says she lied, it’s not Cordelia. But Connor doesn’t listen and attacks. Cordelia yells to kill Angel. Wesley tries shooting Skip, but the bullets have no effect. But when Skip turns, Wesley sees the hole in his armor Angel created. He shoots and the bullet enters the hole killing Skip. Meanwhile, Angel and Connor continue to fight. Angel goes to strike Cordelia, but before he can the demon is born and the force of its birth hurls him back. He goes to attack it, but it has appeared as a woman. He falls to his knees as does Connor. He says she’s beautiful. She says Angel.
Analysis Gunn and Fred killed her exprofessor. Wesley helped Fred do that and kidnapped Connor. Cordelia killed Lilah. Angel, well as Angelus he did pretty much everything. I can’t recall Lorne ever doing anything, but maybe my memory is just failing. Now, Connor kidnaps a girl and is an accessory to murder. Admittedly, this group isn’t all that evil compared to the Buffy crew (as alluded to in the Willow/Wesley dialogue in Orpheus), but they are still pushing the envelope. We can forgive Cordelia since she was controlled by a demon within her. But can we forgive Connor? Which makes me wonder whether he will live out this season. You can only push that "he’s confused" argument so far.
I have to admit, I didn’t especially like this episode. I felt the revelation of Skip as evil and of all the events of the past few years as part of an evil master plan struck me as lame. Nothing that had happened before set this up. I took as a symbol of this deus ex machina approach to scripting the fact that I, like many others it seems, thought Skip was being played by a different actor this episode. He seemed so different, probably because his character has been altered 180 degrees. Only it’s the same actor probably just struggling to make some sense out of a bizarre scripting decision. Compare this to Faith going evil or Willow going dark and it’s a real failure. Nothing set this up.
What I want to talk about this week are the two themes articulated in this episode. Themes which have dominated many an episode of Buffy and Angel: Nietzschean philosophy and free will. Cordelia articulates the former with Darla in opposition (much like the good and bad angels of cartoons) and Gunn articulates the latter with Skip taking the opposing position.
Cordelia keeps telling Connor that they are special. She argues that this specialness puts them above the morality of the others. That concepts of good and evil have no real meaning but are relative. She tells Connor that the concept of the champion, the idea of the strong having a responsibility to protect the weak articulated by Angel, is meaningless. That it’s just a technique for controlling the strong and stopping them from doing what they want. She argues that being strong gives you the right to do what you want. When she sees he wavers, upon bringing her the girl, she tells him to disregard his feelings. She works to purge him of all positive emotions and thoughts calling them lies and weaknesses. She argues that the girl has no value, that her life is meaningless and that exchanging it for their child will actually give it meaning. She twists the act of murder into an ennobling act arguing that it helps the victim. The average person only has value, in her cosmology, insofar as he or she interacts with the superior person. Serving the superiors, even if it means death, is the only meaningful and worthwhile thing. This completely subverts Angel’s concept of champion, where the superior is the servant of the average person preserving society and enabling normality. Fighting the demons so the others needn’t even know they exist. Cordelia argues the average ones should be sacrificed to ensure the existence of the demons.
When Darla appears, she says she has always been close to his heart. This is the heart Cordelia has told him to ignore. Later, when he asks Cordelia if she can see Darla she says she can see the lies. She is arguing conflicting points to Connor. On the one hand, she justifies her sacrifice of the girl in the name of mother love and has essentially bound him to her via their child. But she denies the reality of Darla’s mother love. She makes Connor renounce his mother, deny her existence. Darla talks of the light Connor’s soul brought to her (even as the dark being within Cordelia has the reverse effect). While Cordelia wants to sacrifice the girl to save their baby, Darla points out she sacrificed herself for Connor. This is the opposite of Cordelia’s philosophy. Darla is the ultimate example of sacrifice from the strong to protect the weak.
When Darla says Connor is her one good deed, she ties her redemption to his actions. If he is evil, despite her sacrifice, then it lessens the value of that sacrifice. This is why she talks about how he repays her with evil. She makes the point that evil acts cannot make you safe. When he argues that good and evil have no meaning she replies that he must not let her death mean nothing. He talks of being special, the argument Cordelia gave him. Yet while Cordelia has argued that their superior power gives them the right to do what they want, Connor argues that he is acting against his will performing an evil deed he doesn’t want to perform. He says he is forced to it, thus denying his superiority while at the same time arguing for it. Darla tells him he has a choice.
When Darla tells Connor he has a choice, that choice is a precious thing, she creates a link to the theme of free will. When Skip finally tells the gang what is happening, he argues it doesn’t matter - although this makes one wonder why he held out the truth in the first place. He says they can do nothing to change the course of events. He contradicts himself again when he grows panicky because they can perform the ritual to find Cordelia. His words worry Fred, but Gunn assures her the ultimate faith of them as individuals and of the world as a whole is not predetermined. That they have the ability to make the choices that make a difference. He argues that the problem is knowing which choices are the critical ones. Since we cannot know, he says we have to treat all choices as if they are crucial. We always have to strive to do the right thing.
Skip argues they are all puppets, but we begin to see his arguments against free will are merely a ploy to sap the will from the gang. The issue is not whether they can make a difference, but whether they will exercise their will or give in to despair. This is the same point Darla raises with Connor, less effectively. It’s ironic that Wesley says Angel has no choice. Actually, he does. He could choose to do the easy thing and not kill the woman he has come to love. Not to fight his son. Just to give up. He could go along with Skip’s argument that nothing matters. Instead, he takes the hard road. He chooses to go alone and to do what he knows in his heart is right. Wesley really means that, given his dedication to being a champion, Angel’s course of action is clear.
There is a certain irony in the manner of Skip’s defeat (probably death). He keeps pretending nothing matters, yet he is beaten because Wesley refuses to give in to despair. He keeps trying and he makes what is clearly an impossible shot, firing a bullet into a hole scarcely larger than the bullet itself. But he makes that shot and Skip is defeated. Wesley has demonstrated that if you keep trying, you can win. That defeat only comes from failing to try. It’s equally ironic that Angel echoes Connor’s words about not having a choice. Of course, both of them do. They can choose to do evil or good. They can choose to do nothing or to take actions uncertain of the outcome. They can choose to seek out safety or danger. They can choose to protect or to destroy. Angel has made the good choices, Connor the bad ones.
Some quick final thoughts. Of all the ways to figure out Cordelia was the beast master, the one Angel gave was the lamest. That comment Gunn makes about Gwen’s power screwing with his equipment is just rife with double entendre. Angel feels the powers that be don’t want to get their hands dirty. But they do send Darla to Connor. It seems to me the powers aren’t willing to interfere with free will. It’s interesting that Angel wants to believe Cordelia isn’t really Cordelia and Connor wants to believe Angel isn’t really Angel. For a guy who was really down on magic before, Connor doesn’t have much of a problem with the spells Cordelia is casting.
Lines of the week:
"Cordy’s evil. Nice suit." - Fred getting it all together.
"Because you did." - Angel on why he cares about Lilah’s death.
"Lies meant to keep you in your place." - Cordelia subtly preaching Nietzschean values.
"Concepts of morality they forced around your neck." - Cordelia getting less subtle.
"Ok, a slayer once." - Skip with a nod to continuity.
"It will lie to you if you let it." - Cordelia telling Connor not to trust himself.
"Her blood for our baby. That’s more than fair." - Cordelia driving the point home.
"My life for yours." - Darla taking the opposite point.
"You were the one good thing I ever did." - Darla on her hope for salvation.
"Don’t let my death mean nothing." - Darla pointing out the consequences.
"You have a choice Connor. That is something more precious than you’ll ever know." - Darla linking the two themes.
"The final score can’t be rigged." - Gunn on the essential fairness of the game of life.
"You’re all puppets." - Skip still trying.
"I don’t have a choice." - Angel oversimplifying.