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Angel 5x04 Hellbound - Hellmouth Central Review

Sunday 26 October 2003

Angel - "Hell Bound" Review By : Michael Hickerson Written and directed by Stephen S. DeKnight Original Airdate : October 22, 2003

Plot : As Spike’s trips into hell become more frequent and of a longer duration, Fred struggles to find a way to make the vampire corporeal again. However, as Spike begins to see visions of victims being tortured in various ways and is cut off from interacting with Angel and the rest of the group, the investigation turns up that it might not be hell Spike is being sucked into. Instead, it may be linked to the history of Wolfram and Hart…

Warning : If reading SPOILERS for the latest episode of Angel will leave you "Hell Bound" then you might want to turn back now. Don’t get sucked sucked into hell by the SPOILERS ahead…turn back now !

In short : Exactly what they advertised-dark, creepy and utterly unnerving.

Since he spun off to his own show five years ago, Angel’s goal has been to save souls in an attempt to atone for the sins of his past. Also, over the years, we’ve seen that Angel has had to make some choices because it’s not the quantity of souls he saves that will lead to his atonement and ultimate reward.

So, along the way, Angel has made some interesting choices. He’s had the power to choose who should and should not be saved.

In season two, Angel was reunited with his sire, Darla. Angel become obsessed with saving her-even to the extent that when he couldn’t save her, he tried to lose his soul and become like her. Eventually, his efforts did lead to Darla’s redemption and self-sacrifice to save Connor, but it wasn’t quite the way Angel expected.

Then, Angel was faced with his son, Connor. Angel wanted to save Connor but at each turn made mistakes. First, a mortal enemy pulled his son into a demon dimension and raised him there. Then, his son became so disenchanted with his biological father than he stuck him in a box, sunk him to the bottom of the ocean and then slept with the person who was the mother figure in his life. And that was before Connor realized he couldn’t have the perfect happiness that Jasmine offered and really went off the deep end. In the end, Angel made a sacrifice to save Connor’s soul-he took a deal with the devil at Wolfram and Hart because he believed he had to give his son a better life. The path Connor was on only led to his destruction. By giving up his son, Angel saved his soul and his life. But now, Angel is faced with another soul that needs to be saved-Spike’s. If anything, Angelus helped make Spike the vampire he was. But it was also Angel who helped make Spike the vampire he is. Certainly, Spike didn’t set out to fall in love with a Slayer, have that love tear him apart and then go looking for his redemption in the form of his own soul. But, that’s what happened. Spike went from the ruthless, blood thirsty killer who tortured victims with rail road spikes to the pivotal figure in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. And he came down on the side of good.

And now, Spike is stuck between worlds, being slowly sucked into hell and Angel could care less about helping him. Angel seems to be stuck in the mold that Spike can’t or won’t change, all evidence to the contrary be damned. Never mind that Buffy gave him the amulet meant for Angel (or possibly even her, as my wife pointed out to me during commercial breaks for Hell Bound) or that Spike has proven himself time and again to be on the side of good now. No, Angel is just as blind here as he was in season two, only it’s the other way around. Instead of thinking that Spike can change, he’s convinced he can’t. And despite having gone to hell and suffered himself for hundreds of years, he’s content to let Spike experience the same fate.

Sure, he’s willing to let Fred research the problem and try to help Spike, but he’s not really willing to put his own resources behind it or bring in Gunn or Wes to help things out. Also, his bad habit of leaving out pertinent information is hampering things and not allowing the rest of the gang to really get to see Spike for what he is now. Instead, they only see him as the vampire he was, not the man he’s become.

And I think it’s showing how Angel has already been corrupted.

And I think the senior partners are behind it. They know of his weakness-hell, they exploited it to no end in season two with Darla and seeing how short sighted Angel can be. Why not bring in another project of Angel when he was Angelus and blind him to what’s going on ? Why not make him lose sight of his mission ?

And you know what ? So, far, it’s succeeding.

Because until "Hell Bound" the rest of the staff, outside of Fred, didn’t care much about helping Spike. And even when they are helping him here, it’s only out of a sense of self-preservation, not out of any type of generosity to save a soul in danger of being lost. Again, the exception is Fred.

Why is that ?

Well, we certainly found out that it’s not because Spike is working his charms on her, though it was amusing as hell to hear how aware of what Spike was doing she is. No, I think she’s helping Spike because she senses a kindred spirit. This was the woman who spent five years in a demon dimension, much of it hiding out. She couldn’t reach out to the world for fear of being killed or sent into slavery, much like Spike can’t reach out and affect anything due to his ghostly status. She senses the profound sense of loneliness and futility that Spike must feel and she wants to help make it better for the vampire. And it ’s interesting to see that she is the one who was take up Spike’s cause-even to the point that she is negatively affecting her own health to do so. Seeing how worried everyone was about her was a nice touch and it shows how much overtime she’s putting into saving Spike from whatever it is that is being done to him.

And while I buy that Pavayne was doing all of these horrible things to Spike to torture him and set him up to go to hell, I’m not sure if Spike isn’t still being pulled into hell on occasion.

I have to admit that I found the Pavayne plotline to be exactly what it needed to be-dark, menacing and disturbing. I can see why they put the parental warning on this one because some of the images were quite disturbing. But they needed to be in order for us to understand what a sick puppy Pavayne really was. And let’s face it folks, the boy needed some therapy.

I liked seeing Pavayne go after Spike, trying to break his spirit, so he’d go willingly to hell. I’d be willing to bet that’s his pattern-take a soul that is trying to escape and break it so that person would willingly take his place on the chopping block and be sucked into hell. But he didn’t count on Spike. When you get Spike’s back against the wall, he doesn’t waste a lot of time feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he comes out swinging and that’s what he did here. I loved the scene where Spike figured out Pavayne’s scheme and then took it on himself to make sure he didn’t give into it. The sheer joy we saw on Spike’s face as he beat Pavayne into submission was nice. And I wonder what Spike will think of Pavane’s sentence-doomed to a dull view and unable to move for all eternity. That’s got to be one version of hell-and Angel would now that, having being locked in a box, unable to move and with only one view as your slowly watched the world go by (again, another viewpoint suggested to me by my lovely wife and one that I can’t not include here because it’s so damn good…nor can I steal it as my own !)

But in stopping Pavayne, Spike must make a choice. He shows that he is worthy of redemption. He puts another’s life above his own. He could just have easily jumped into that circle and come back into corporeal form. But instead, he chose to save Fred. If anything, I hope this shows Angel that Spike is worth saving. He has changed. The Spike we met in season two of Buffy would NEVER have done that-not even for Dru. Hell, he knocked Dru out and made an alliance with the Slayer to win her back way back when. But now, Spike puts the survival of someone he considers a friend above his own needs. And maybe that will convince Angel that Spike is worth being saved-at least from hundreds of years of torment in hell at least.

Also of interest is that Angel still thinks he’s damned, despite the good he’s done. Angel’s fatalistic view of "Well, I’m damned anyway" is interesting, especially coming out of all he’s been through the past few years. I wonder if he realizes that the prophecy wasn’t about him but about Spike and he’s given up. After all, Spike did save the world, he does have a soul and he might become human. It almost makes you think the senior partners specifically led Angel to that prophecy to give him hope and then destroy it. I tell you, those Wolfram and Hart guys are evil buggers…and they know it.

So, all of that said, I have to admit "Hell Bound" was the best episode of the young season. It was dark, gothic, scary and it had that right blend of humor thrown in to keep things from getting too depressing. This is why I tune into Angel each week and I’ve got to admit that Stephen DeKnight is the man when it comes to writing for Angel. And his first directing job worked very well also. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next for us.

So, that’s about it for now, except a few things…

-I loved the scene with Spike and Angel in Angel’s apartment as they compared notes. Great scene. -OK, I skipped this the last two weeks, but David Borenaz needs to stop pulling the Travolta from the 70s look with the shirt buttons. It’s really bugging me ! -So, Gunn takes Angel to the White Room and Angel can’t understand what the Big Cat says. Interesting…. -Well, at least we got to see Wes get some better screen time here than we did last week. But we need something Wes-centric and soon ! -OK, the Pavayne plot reminded me a lot of an old Dr. Who plot and so I guessed fairly early on what he was up to. Not that it ruined the enjoyment mind you. -I actually liked Eve and how she was used here. Seeing her as the bean counter was interesting. -So, Spike still isn’t corporeal, but he can affect things if he wants to. Yep, that’s right out of Ghost. -I also feel as though keeping Spike a ghost is a stall for sweeps. I didn’t expect it to get resolved this quickly but it feels as though they’re extending it arbitrarily. I’m not going to take points off for this, but it’s something I bring up for future consideration as season five progresses. -Yes, we got gratuitous Spike nudity, but we also got some gratuitous Fred showering scenes…so it all evens out.

OK, so I’ve gone on a lot longer than I usually do for a review, but that’s because I liked so much of what we got here. I’m hoping "Angel" has turned the corner in season five and that last week was just the one dip into less than stellar Angel and the rest of the season kicks it up as much as this week did.

My rating : 9.5 (out of 10.0)

Next up : Well, maybe I spoke too soon…Lorne throws a Halloween party and everything goes awry, including Angel hooking up with Eve ? ! ? Could go either way and heaven knows the previews have lied to us before….

"There is one thing I did like…your poems."

"Well, yes, but you also like Manilow."

-Angel and Spike.

Ats 5.4 "Hell Bound" Episode Quotes from Hellmouth Central


Spike : How long have you known I was there ? Fred : Just..since the lobby.

Angel : And your hair—what color are they calling it now ? Radioactive ?

Fred : He’s slipping into hell. Gunn : Kinda figured. Wesley : Of course. Gunn : Where else would he be headed ?

Lorne (on the phone) : Stop crying stop crying. It’s OK if you’ve put on a couple of pounds since casting. They can’t just...no no just put the pills down. I’ll straighten this out, if I can’t I’ll take a handfull myself.

Angel : I know Spike better than anyone, and he only cares about himself. Fred : And Buffy. Eve : Oh this is getting interesting. Angel : You’re right...he does care about Buffy. So where do you think he’s going to run off to as soon as his fresh new feet hit the ground ?

Fred : He just saved the world, vampire with a soul, fighting for the good of humanity. Ring anything ? He’s just like you, a champion. Angel : God I really hate that word.

Spike : You and me, together again. Hope and Crosby. Stills and Nash. Chico and the - Angel : Yeah, are we done ? Spike : Never much for small talk, were you ? Always too busy trying to perfect that brooding block-of-wood mystique. God, I love that. Angel : Not as much as I loved your non-stop yammering. Spike : The way you always had to be the big swingy, swaggerin’ around, barkin’ orders. Angel : Never listening. Spike : Always interrupting. Angel : And your hair, what colour do they call that, radioactive ? Spike : Never much cared for you, Liam, even when we were evil. Angel : Cared for you less. Spike : Fine. Angel : Good. [A long pause.] Angel : There was one thing about you. Spike : Really ? Angel : Yeah, I never told anybody about this, but I - I liked your poems. Spike : You like Barry Manilow.

Wesley : Angel does have a point. Spike has been unintentionally disapparating more and more frequently. Gunn : Give him 20 minutes. He’ll be popping up next to you in the bathroom, making cracks about your... Am I the only one he does that to ?

Spike : I never much cared for you Liam, even when we were evil. Angel : I cared for you less. Spike : Fine ! Angel : Good.

Spike : All I had to do, was want it bad enough. Guess what I want to do now you prissy son of a bitch ! (Kicks him through a wall)

Pavayne : No ! Defilers, I’ll cut you into nothing ! I’ll feast on your brains ! I’ll swim in lakes of your own blood ! Angel : (punches him) You’ll shut the hell up !

Spike : Don’t kill him, if he becomes a spirit again we’ll never stop him. Angel : Fine, no killing. Just a whole lot of bruising.

Gunn : Got it. The dark soul. Angel : What’s it say ? Gunn : Not a lot. There are over thirty two hundred references, four of them are about you. Angel : What ! ? Give me that. Wesley : This is getting us nowhere. Angel : Well that’s not fair, I didn’t even have a soul when I did that.