Lotsa oohing and aahing about the people and places that make me lurv my show.
There is an interesting little anecdote about the opening scene of Judgment, and I don’t remember where I heard it, because once Season 2 started, the ATPo board had been going about four months, and I might have heard it at ATPo, or I might have heard it at the Bronze.
Anyway, the anecdote goes like this. Someone’s spouse was watching “Buffy vs. Dracula”, the BtVS season premier for the 2000-2001 season, and thought it was pretty lame. So then BtVS ends and Angel starts and the first thing you see on the screen is this green demon with red horns. And the person’s spouse says, “Now, see, on Angel they have *real* demons. Actually *scary* demons!”
At which point the demon proceeds to sing “I Will Survive” like a big green Disco Queen.
Angel the Series: it’s not just Morally Ambiguous Noir Angst.
It’s Los Angeles!
Lorne may have been sadly underused in later seasons, but I never stopped loving him.
And how brilliant was the idea of Caritas? At the time I thought it was Lame with a capital L. Probably because I hate Karaoke and I like my demons scary just like FanSpouse did.
But Caritas became a lot more morally ambiguous with time. And it became Angel’s home-away-from-home. It was where he went to get advice from the pal who replaced Doyle as his demon confidant. It was where the gang went to hang out. And it was where Connor was born (OK, in the alley behind). Caritas is exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find in the demon-infected entertainment capital of the world. Caritas IS Angelverse Los Angeles.
OK, enough about that place.
This episode also introduces the Hyperion.
*sob*! I miss the Hyperion. It’s home, you know? It’s where everything happened. All the pain and the heartache and the happy moments. The good news is, ME was planning on blowing up the Hyperion at the end of Season 4 and they didn’t. I don’t think I could have taken the death of *that* too, on top of everything else.
Anyway, so in this episode, Angel is hell-bent on getting the toy surprise at the bottom of the Champion box, and in his enthusiasm, inadvertently kills another Champion. He then proceeds to soak up the guilt and angst about how he thought he was gonna Shanshu any second now – all he had to do was put in enough fighting. Then Cordelia gives him an interesting speech. She tells him that he will get there, and she’ll be with him until he does.
And you believe her. And you believe the writers believe her. That was the plan. Cordelia has spent a year helping Angel at this point. She’s been stuck with the visions, she suffered through the spell that forced her to experience everyone else’s pain in TSILA. She is a different person now. Growing, changing. She’s going to have a hell of a life as a Champion of Good.
Sigh. Things never quite work out the way they’re planned though. Especially in episodic television.
The highlight of Judgment is of course, Faith!! At the time it aired, it was an unexpected little treat. THIS is why it’s good to stay unspoiled kids. This is it in a nutshell.
And Faith’s appearance wasn’t a throw-away gift, either. It was a necessary bridge for the character, to span the gap between Sanctuary and Salvage. We see her in her prison context, working on herself. And Angel’s visit is a meeting between a former evil-a-holic and her sponsor. Two people who care about each other talking about the journey to redemption.
Oh, and out-takes of Boreanaz singing Mandy. Run screaming! Teehee
OK, I know I’m alone in this, but I think AYNOHYEB is overrated. People I admire inevitably give it the 9 or 10 out of 10 or rate it as the best Second Episode of all five seasons and wax on about the color and the lighting and the themes and the mood and the metaphors.
But I find it kind of boring.
I know, I’m an unschooled plebeian.
The episode is set in the 1950’s, which is probably my least favorite era, ever, and though setting the story in this decade allows for nifty metaphors of paranoia and conformity and sets up the whole noir thing in spades and I’m supposed to be uncomfortable with it because that’s the mood they’re creating, I’m still sort of more… bored.
But let me focus on the positive.
At the time this episode aired, AYNOHYEB was the first attempt to fill in Angel’s history *AS* souled Angel (rather than as Angelus) between the 1898 re-ensouling in Becoming/Five By Five and the 1996 alley way scene in Becoming.
I remember people complained after watching this episode that Angel living more or less competently in a comfortable hotel in 1952 broke continuity with the rat-eating Angel of Becoming. Which just goes to show you that fans will complain about anything, because I could have written you a narrative back when AYNOHYEB first aired about how he got from the 50’s hotel to that alley – long before episodes like Darla and Orpheus and Why We Fight filled in more of those gaps.
As Tim Minear argued, Angel was souled for 100 years – that’s a long time. He didn’t go straight from the alley in Five By Five to the alley in Becoming. A lot of Shit Happened, good, bad and indifferent, and in AYNOHYEB, we still get a big sense of Angel’s isolation from humanity – in it, but not really in it at all.
Another thing I liked about AYNOHYEB is Denver the bookstore owner. A great character. I was glad they could bring him back in the present in Reprise. Characters like that–interesting and 3-dimensional even though they are bit-parts–are part of what made AtS great. They made that unreal world seem real.
And it’s not just the people, but places that did this as well. AYNOHYEB is the episode that establishes the Hyperion as the new home/base of operations for the gang. In 2000, “The Hotel” as we would come to know it, was introduced through its history. In Angel’s present-day (2000), it’s a mysterious run-down place full of trash and dusty cobweb-covered objects left behind from 70 long years. In one era of that stretch of time that we see, the 1950’s, it is filled with strangers who saw as a temporary lodging.
Four years later, though, it’s hard to see the place through those unfamiliar eyes. I know The Hotel like I know my favorite pair of old shoes. I look at the ’50’s scenes set in the Hyperion and I’m like, “Hey–that’s where Cordelia did this and Angel did that and Wesley and Fred and Gunn and Connor….” This place oozes history, but it’s not the pre-2000 history that interests me.
In some ways, the Hyperion *is* AtS for me. It’s the show’s heart. Its home.
My first attempt to write about First Impressions started veering into this long tangent about the metaphysical, moral, and emotional complexity that is Angel and Darla’s relationship. After two or three pages, though, I realized I had a whole essay topic. So I’ll spare you most of my thoughts right now and save them for another time.
The thing that’s hard to remember about Darla while re-watching early Season 2 is that we didn’t find out she was human until the end of “Dear Boy”, when she ran out into the sunlight. They saved that little factoid as a surprise.
One way they created that surprise was by having Darla act pretty much like you’d expect an unsouled vampire to act for the first few episodes. She’s going along with Wolfram and Hart’s plan to torment Angel with eager glee. She doesn’t have her big “soul break-down” until the beginning of …Darla?
They don’t really ever bother to explain why Darla isn’t instantly plagued by her conscience, why its influence builds gradually, and I remember fans noticing it and questioning it at the time. Now, though, it’s sort of a given that the experience of having a soul after one has lived without a soul for a long time is different for everybody. Angel isn’t Spike isn’t Darla.
Watching this episode, I can’t help but wonder – just what *are* Angel(us’) and Darla’s feelings for each other, over the span of 250 years, and how do they change? You can argue that Angel-with-a-soul has intense feelings for Darla because now he can, and now human!Darla can have feelings in return, especially after all Angel does to try to help her in subsequent episodes.
But what about before that? What about when they were Darla and Angelus, soulless vampires? The canonical writer’s blahblahblah is that they didn’t love each other, that unlike Spike, or James and Elisabeth in Heartthrob, they were somehow incapable of it.
But I believe this is one of those cases where the writers SAY one thing and SHOW another.
I mean, 150 years together – if that’s not love of *some kind* then I don’t know what is. Passion wears out. Obsession exhausts itself. Domesticity and commitment, OTOH, take work. And when you’re soulless and have no qualms about anything, and can and DO take off on your own whenever you want (and they did, from time to time), to still come back together over and over again – *that’s love*. It just isn’t the sort of love that’s easily defined and recognizable.
Darla and Angel(us) were many, many things to each other, and that’s what makes their relationship so rich. If I ever do write my hypothetical essay, I want to explore all the facets of it — the one-hundred-and-one variations on archetypal coupledom that these two characters have played out vis-à-vis each other over the centuries.
As a soulless vampire, Darla was seductress, mother, mentor, lover, wife, and friend to Angelus. After he was souled, she was his rejector, then the blindly hopeful ex whose hopes were dashed and disappointed (“Darla”). In BtVS Season 1, she was the long-ago ex going after her younger rival, trying to bring out in Angel the things she once had from him. Now Darla returns, seducing Angel in his dreams as the perfect date, the vulnerable damsel, and the sweet wife who offers theBigChampionMan domesticity and home.
That Darla can *do* this, that Angel would let the dreams seduce him rather than wonder “why am I dreaming about sweet domestic Darla? Like *that* would happen!” means he doesn’t find it so entirely implausible that she could be those things to him. Or at least, those are the very sorts of fantasies he had about her at some point in the past.
And Darla knows him pretty darned well, soulless or souled. She knows all the wildly different things that can seduce him.
They are all these things to each other. And I haven’t even gotten to the unexpected twists of Season 3 yet.
OK. Other stuff happened in First Impressions as well. Non-Darlus stuff. The basic plot of this episode is, “Dude, where’s my car?” Cordelia tries to help Gunn, ends up losing Angel’s car in the process, and so Gunn and Cordelia set out to find it.
Watching this episode, I think of roads not traveled. Gunn/Cordelia! Two big heads from different sides of the tracks butt and an interesting alchemy ensues. The bickering was hilarious. But ME never really revisited that chemistry, did they?
Note on Gunn’s evolution: In my previous review, I pondered how Gunn got from the guy he is in War Zone to the guy he was by the Pylea eps. As this episode starts, Gunn is still the impatient hot-head. The only difference is, now he’s hyper-vigilant on top of that. The lesson he took from Alonna’s death was that he couldn’t lower his guard for a second, and so now he goes around banging heads to keep himself and his “people” ready for any and all trouble.
Cordelia tells him he is creating more trouble for himself than he avoids this way. Nice to have someone blunt around to tell you what she thinks.
“Untouched” is one of the “women of power” episodes like Damage or Consequences, 5×5, and Sanctuary. A traumatized woman with supernatural powers has to learn how to control her power rather than channel it into her trauma/let the power control her.
Bethany is more screwed up than insane like Dana (Damage), and unlike Faith, she doesn’t feel in control of her supernatural powers (Faith feels in control in S3/S1; whether she really is is a separate question). But, like Faith, it’s her self-image that’s crippling her.
The “woman of power” episodes give Angel a chance to be a mentor to those with power, to teach them to realize that the power is theirs to control, to use for good or ill, and then to teach them how to control it. I don’t have a list of episodes where Angel mentors those with supernatural gifts, but I want to say they’re all women, with the exception of Connor, who Angel tried to mentor, even if he didn’t succeed.
As with Angel’s other “women of power” episodes, ME pulls no punches with Bethany. She was sexually abused as a child, and as an adult, she navigates her way through the world as a sexual landscape. That’s what she knows: fear, sex, and power. “If I make myself the willing victim, I feel in control of my inevitable victimization”. She is both victim and user. What she needs to learn is how to choose not to be a victim at all.
Contrasted to Bethany is Lilah, who is presented in this episode as the prototypical corporate woman struggling to prove she’s just as ruthless as any man in her firm. And the scary part is, she IS just as ruthless. In fact, she’s more ruthless than Lindsey could ever hope to be, because she doesn’t seem to have that pesky thing Lindsey is loathed to call his conscience.
But Lindsey somehow gets the benefit of the doubt he’s proven he doesn’t deserve, while Lilah gets a nice patronizing speech from the boss. They’re setting up the Lindsey/Lilah rivalry that’s going to be so delicious this season. You gotta love them W&H lawyers. More fantastic characters in this fantastic ‘verse.