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Angel 5x02 Just Rewards - Jenoff’s Review

Saturday 11 October 2003, by Webmaster

Angel - Just Rewards Summary

Flashback to Spike’s destruction in Sunnydale 19 days earlier. In the present, Spike puts on his vampire face and charges Angel. He goes right through him. Spike is surprised. Harmony thinks he’s a ghost, though Spike denies it. Wesley says he came from the amulet. Angel says it’s the amulet he gave to Buffy. Spike asks about her and Angel says she’s in Europe. They start arguing about Buffy and it’s revealed that Spike had sex with her. This disgusts Harmony who runs out. Wesley explains Spike was an ally. He says that’s all Angel told him. The others assume this means Spike is like Angel, a good guy vampire. Both Angel and Spike deny this. Spike demands to know what has happened to him. Cut to Fred scanning Spike while Lorne talks to Wesley about what a great movie it would make. Fred explains she’s head of the science division of Wolfram & Hart. Spike knows of the firm, but is unaware of a science division. Angel says he’s in charge of the firm now. Fred says he appears to be a ghost, but there’s no ectoplasm. Which means they shouldn’t be able to see him. She’s also detecting brainwave activity and he’s actually radiating heat, just above room temperature. Wesley says Spike is tied to the amulet. He asks if he had a strange sensation when it released its energy. Spike is sarcastic about this (he talks about his skin and bones burning). Fred suggests he might have been sent there by the powers as part of their plan. Spike starts ranting, arguing that he should be allowed to die in peace after saving the world rather than be toyed with by the powers. He vanishes. The others are mystified and Fred asks what he meant about saving the world. Angel admits he did, but downplays Spike’s part. Spike reappears. Fred asks where he was. Instead of answering he blames Angel, saying he should have worn the amulet but he chickened out and left town. Spike says he didn’t ask for this, that just because he has a soul doesn’t mean he wants to suffer and atone. The others are shocked. Angel admits he knew Spike had a soul. The others realize Angel has held back a lot. Spike says Angel is jealous because he’s not unique anymore. Angel leaves. Angel walks down the corridor and meets the mail delivery man, who wears a mask. Spike walks through the wall and claims Angel is running away again. Harmony says Angel has a 3 :00 appointment. Spike recognizes that Angel hopes to fight evil from inside the system, but says he and the others are being devoured. He says he knows he’s not in control, but neither is Angel. Then a Grox’Lar beast appears and Angel fights it. Spike tries to help, but his fist is immaterial. Angel kills the beast. Harmony explains it was his appointment. Angel says Grox’Lars eat babies. Harmony says just their heads. Gunn explains he was going to negotiate with the beast’s clan to get them to stop eating baby’s heads. Gunn says it’s ok, the Grox’Lar appreciate someone with a strong opening position. He says he should have briefed Angel, but they got side tracked (looking pointedly at Spike). He adds he’s been busy with the corporate reforms and has fired 40 people in the last two days. They walk off together. Harmony talks to Spike. She wants to make up, but he just walks off. She says it’s too soon, but if he needs to talk, she’s there. Then she calls him a slayer loving freak.

Gunn shows Angel a voodoo doll one exemployee made. Spike walks in. An angry employee, Novac, enters. They are shutting down the grave robbing division. Novac says it’s a money maker and they can’t do that. Angel doesn’t care. Novac says they are under contract to provide bodies to Magnus Hainsley. He explains he is one of their oldest and most important clients. Angel tells Novac to tell Hainsley he’s no longer a client. Spike says Angel used to be a hero, now he’s sending spineless flunkies to do his job. Angel tells him to get out. Spike says he’ll gladly leave LA.

That night, Angel asks Wesley if he thinks Spike has really left. Angel says it could have been him. That they gave him the amulet. Wesley asks if he’s feeling guilty. Angel doesn’t know why they gave him the amulet, knowing he would use it and die, and gave him the LA office. Wesley suggests there may be dissension in their ranks, or maybe there is another player the senior partners don’t know of. Or they got what they wanted. Spike returns. He has tried to leave LA, but gets drawn back. Wesley says the amulet is tied to Wolfram & Hart and Spike to the amulet. Harmony comes in and says Novac has returned. Security brings in buckets containing the remains of the lawyer.

Angel tells Harmony to contact Novac’s next of kin and to be discreet. It turns out Hainsley is a powerful and well connected necromancer. Angel intends to visit him. Wesley says he should avoid an eye for an eye escalation. Gunn says he knows what to do to hurt Hainsley. Cut to Angel and his cars. He goes to one to find Spike there. Spike says he’s really predictable. Angel gets in another car, Spike is there as well. He likes the idea of haunting Angel. They go to Hainsley’s. Angel tells the butler he’s from Wolfram & Hart. The butler says Hainsley is with a customer and doesn’t want to be disturbed. Angel says disturb him anyway. Angel and Spike find a room with dead bodies. Angel realizes it’s a show room. Hainsley is with a demon and a dead woman. The demon says in the end he went for looks. The butler tells him about the visitors and Hainsley says to kill them. The butler goes to the showroom to attack them. Angel kills him. He’s angry with Spike who claims Angel has it too easy. Angel says he didn’t ask for a soul, Spike did. That he had a century of infinite remorse while Spike had three weeks in a basement. Spike vanishes again.

Angel kicks in the door and confronts Hainsley. The woman goes to leave, but Angel knocks her down. He realizes Hainsley puts demons into human bodies, disguising them. He says he’s closing him down. Hainsley uses his power against Angel. He says he eats the dead for breakfast and Angel is another plate of bacon and eggs. Spike appears. Hainsley thinks it odd he brought a ghost for backup. Hainsley says he could kill Angel, but the senior partners wouldn’t like it. He lets Angel go. Angel opens his cell and tells Gunn to do it. He tells Hainsley his assets have been frozen and he’s lost all his resources. He walks out. Spike mocks him and then vanishes, much to Angel’s relief. Spike appears in Hainsley’s office. Hainsley says he can give him a body if Spike will help him against Angel. Spike says he’s come to the right ghost.

At the firm, Wesley explains they can’t release Spike from the amulet in the conventional sense. But he does say they could give him the eternal rest he asked for. Spike appears in the hallways. Harmony sees him and says she thought with a soul he might have learnt to open up. She says the leopard can’t strange its stripes. He calls her a dink and says it’s spots. She’s sarcastic and walks off. Spike starts listening in on the others talking. Fred says killing him doesn’t seem right. Wesley says he agrees, but leaving him the way he is isn’t right either. He says it would be an act of mercy. Angel says he’s all for mercy and asks how it can be done. Wesley says the amulet can be destroyed on hallowed ground, like a church or cemetery. Angel says he’ll have to sleep on it.

Angel goes to his apartment with the amulet. Spike is there. He tells him he heard the conversation. He tells him Hainsley offered him a deal. He says he doesn’t want to continue this way, he wants it to end. Cut to Angel and Spike at a cemetery. Angel is about to destroy the amulet. But he hits himself in the head instead. Hainsley appears. He knocks Angel out. Angel comes to at Hainsley’s. He’s going to put Spike in Angel’s body. Have Spike restore his assets and the grave robbing division. Later, he’ll give Spike his own body back. He forms a conduit, channeling Spike’s essence into Angel’s body. Only Spike doesn’t play along. Instead, he takes control of Hainsley’s body. This free’s Angel. With Spike helping on the inside, Angel fights Hainsley. He sends him flying into a table. Hainsley comes back battling. Angel cuts his head off and we see the Spike ghost within. Spike admits Hainsley was dead after hitting the table, the rest was him. He wanted to get a few licks in.

Next day at the firm, Angel tells Wesley about Spike’s plan and how they defeated Hainsley. Wesley says Spike should have shared the plan with the others. Angel says sharing isn’t something Spike does very well. Cut to Fred in her office. Spike is there. She asks if she can help him. He says that’s the crux of the matter. He says he’s slipping. That he feels himself being drawn to hell. She realizes that’s where he goes when he vanishes. He asks her to help him.

Analysis I felt last week’s episode was predictable, but it was a model of excitement and dramatic ingenuity compared to this week. I really don’t think there was a single surprise in this episode. And I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to say that about another Whedon show. But let’s be thankful for the good things. Like the complete absence of Knox and Eve. Like the fact that Spike, saying nothing and just listening in on a conversation, is more entertaining than those two characters combined. And that Marsters reveals more acting skill in that silent moment than the rest of the cast did in the entire episode. Although I think Fred perked up a lot in her scenes with Spike. But Wesley and Gunn have to work on a second emotion. Still, I know these actors can do it because they have. So I have to level my criticism at the script - again something I don’t think I have ever said about a Whedon show.

The predictability pretty much starts with the first scene. Spike charging Angel and going right through him (a scene played out many times before in fantasy shows). Then, of course, we learn Angel hasn’t revealed Spike’s full story - something dragged out through the episode. You’d think at some point Wesley and the others would sit Angel down and tell him to spill on Spike. But no, that would mean they couldn’t have those scenes where they learn something about Spike and get to act surprised. Even more obvious was the scene with the lawyer, did anyone not realize he was about to be red shirted ? All of the scenes with Hainsley followed an obvious path and Spike’s double or triple or whatever cross was also obvious.

There were some redeeming moments. The above mentioned silent moment for Spike when he overhears the others discussing ending him for one. I wonder what is more significant there. The fact that Spike actually seriously considers that as a potential good or the fact that Angel wants to sleep on the idea. Spike has to have caught on to that and realized that for all the animosity between them, Angel does accept Spike as another champion and can’t just dust him the way he would have in the past. Spike’s revelation to Fred about his fears of going to hell was a strong point and clearly ties in to his ambiguous attitude toward being ended. On the one hand, his immaterial life is far from satisfying and he is ready for his final reward. On the other, he doesn’t expect to get the hero’s reward he might expect. He’s something of a combination of the season 3 Angel (pulled out of a hell dimension) and the season 6 Buffy (pulled out of heaven). And I think that accurately portrays Spike who is a spiritual union of those two characters. Angel is his grandsire (he makes that point explicitly), but Buffy is his mentor. One created, one re-created him.

I dreaded the Spike/Harmony relationship. Partly because it seemed silly - hasn’t it been played out already. And partly because it seemed it would cheapen the Spike/Buffy relationship. I think I’m wrong there. Something seems to be happening. Harmony seems to be deepening as a character and Spike seems to be responding to that. I actually think this is a relationship which may work or which may at least be interesting. After all, if Spike/Buffy and Wesley/Lilah could work, then why can’t the writers do something equally interesting with Spike and Harmony. I’m probably over interpreting, but I think I see the vague beginnings of the kind of development we saw with Wesley. He was, after all, a buffoon on Buffy and was developed into a serious character with enormous depth on Angel. Why can’t that happen with Harmony ? Spike looks happy when she’s sarcastic. It’s the first time she does anything that might make her look like a good match for him.

Spike always responds well to people who treat him like a person and not a monster. He made that comment about Joyce and Fred seems to be treating him that way. I suspect that’s why he’s ready to confide in her at the end of the episode. She suggests that he might have been sent there by the powers to help them. I think Spike appreciates the fact that she came up with a theory in which he is a hero. Although he clearly doesn’t appreciate being a tool of superior beings. She’s also the one who says killing him doesn’t seem right. And, when he appears in her office, instead of confronting him she asks if she can help.

Spike twists some of the facts of Chosen. He claims Angel chickened out, but he knows that isn’t true. He also knows he asked to have the amulet and he demanded Buffy leave him to his fate. But I don’t think Spike is just lying here or angry at Angel and looking for a reason to blame him. This outburst happens when Spike vanishes for the first time. Later he tells Fred he’s being drawn to hell. That’s where he goes when he vanishes. When Fred asks where he went, he replies with his rant. It’s partly anger at a destiny he fears, but partly a cover story. He doesn’t want them analyzing what is happening too carefully, because he doesn’t want them to know the danger he is in. I think he fears both their potential lack of concern and their potential compassion.

In my review of Chosen, I postulated 4 ways in which Spike might be reanimated. Number three was "the pendant has additional magical properties, is recovered, and we discover Spike’s essence has been stored in it safely all this time and he just has to be released". It’s nice to be right, but I really wish I had been surprised by something completely unexpected.

Some quick final thoughts. Good to know Buffy is in Europe. Hope she’s having fun. Now, has she taken Dawn with her ? Given that the events in Sunnydale happened 19 days earlier, it must still be summertime in the Buffyverse. The masked mail man made another appearance this week. That has to be someone we know. Maybe Andrew ? I know I complain about things being obvious and I also complain about too much humour in the episodes, but I just love the scenes when Spike and Angel deny the obvious similarities between them. Call me inconsistent. It’s interesting Spike is radiating heat, given that vampires are room temperature. The Initiative used heat detectors to determine which people were human and which vampires. Spike has always been incredibly intuitive. Back in Lover’s Walk he recognized that Buffy and Angel could never stop being in love. In this episode, he immediately sees what Angel and the others are up to and what is happening to them. That is one heck of an apartment Angel has. Note that Spike really does want to help and be good. He tries to help in the fight against the Grox’Lar and then concocts the scheme to defeat Hainsley. He’s a powerful adversary even when immaterial.

Lines of the week :

"I must be in hell." - Spike probably right.

"Anger, tears, venomous death threats." - Gunn on the problems of downsizing.

"Slayer-loving freak." - Harmony’s take on Spike.

"I guess the leopard can’t change his stripes." - Harmony making her point however poorly.

"I want to sleep on it." - Angel demonstrating he doesn’t really hate Spike.

"Circle of death." - Spike never able to pass up a good line.

"Preaching to the horse’s mouth." - Harmony being incomprehensible.

"Can I help you ?" - Fred treating Spike like a man.

"Help me." - Spike opening up.