Angel, Season 2 eps 9-11

Thoughts — Angel. Lindsey. Drusilla. Twist endings. Massacres. The Good Fight vs. Total War.

The Trial

You know, one of the things I never fully appreciated about the first half of Season 2, being fully immersed in the Angel-Darla stuff, was how little story Wesley and Cordelia got that wasn’t just them reacting to Angel and his obsession. Then, when Angel abandons them in mid-season, suddenly they get to have their own problems.

But prior to that, they mostly just stood around wringing their hands and wondering what to do about Angel, while Gunn, who should have known better at this point, continued to enable Angel in his addiction.

Anyway. So Darla is told in this episode that she is dying of syphilis. Now I’m not sure if that was part of Wolfram and Hart’s original plan, but one gets the impression they have plans inside plans when it comes to stuff like this. And Darla, who is now starting to resent being used by Wolfram and Hart, continues her search for someone to vamp her with renewed motivation.

In the episode “Darla”, Wolfram and Hart appeared to drag Darla off to kill her (Holland’s, “We’re terminating the project”). But I don’t think they wanted her dead. I think that was just more manipulation of Angel. They wanted Angel to play the hero, to think of himself as Darla’s protector, so that when they played the Syphilis card, Angel would play the hero again and turn Darla into a vampire in a desperate attempt to save her life. He would do it, they thought, with the best (misguided) intentions, and it would be the trigger to set him down the path of towards dark!souled!Angel.

Of course, the damsel!Darla and the dying!Darla also plucked Lindsey’s manipulation strings, which I don’t think Wolfram and Hart intended. But I DO think it’s what Mutant Enemy intended.

The manipulation of Angel and Lindsey puts these two men, who have more or less the same goal (saving a woman’s life) at each other’s throats. And Mutant Enemy are not afraid of building up their rivalry with beaucoup amounts of homoerotic subtext. Angel and Lindsey are ostensibly passionate rivals over the same woman. But long, scrutinizing looks, invasion of physical space, and brawling and physical violence between men has long been used as a thinly disguised surrogate for sexual interaction. And in this case, the subtext lights fire to the textual rivalry.

But Angel isn’t so easily led down the path Wolfram and Hart want him to go. He desperately looks for an alternative to vamping Darla, and that’s where the Trials come in. Angel struggles through three physically grueling trials in order to earn Darla a second chance at life.

The twist ending, of course (well, one of them) is that he doesn’t save her. Oh, he earns a second life fair and square; but then it can’t be delivered. This sets up a cosmic debt in Angel’s favor, the payment of which, of course, is a story for another season. ; )

I think that being forced to suffer the Trials with Angel was the first experience and understanding of Love that Darla ever had in 400 years. What Angel would endure for her! Her emotional appreciation of it was lost the minute she was revamped, of course, and she wouldn’t remember that feeling of Love again until she gained another soul in Season 3.

“The Trial” is an episode with a twist on top of its twist., ever, and the best reason I can ever give for staying unspoiled. Yes! Drusilla RAWKS. What makes this ending so chilling (besides slinky Dru in slo-mo) is that just when Darla finally seems to have made peace with her life, just when you could actually really believe she could be redeemed, Mutant Enemy pulls the rug out from under her.

One final thought before I leave “The Trial”. One of the things I always appreciated about the flashbacks on AtS was that they were never gratuitous. They always showed you key moments in the character’s past, moments that really shed light on who the character is in the present. This is as opposed to the flashbacks on say, Forever Knight, and more than a few on Highlander, that seemed to have no connection to the present action of the episode except that they dealt with the same general theme.

That’s why the Holtz flashback in “The Trial” was so jarring. It seemed like they had an extra 15 minutes of air time they needed to fill, or perhaps it was a cheap excuse for dressing the characters up in fancy period outfits for the sheer fun of it (and exploring Darla and Angelus’ atypical response to betrayal).

In retrospect, of course, the Holtz flashback set us up for a significant story line about Angel and Holtz in Season 3, but it was so premature one wonders if M.E. was just bandying about the idea of having Holtz as their season 3 menace but hadn’t made up their minds yet.


I am seriously thinking “Reunion” might be my favorite episode of Season 2 (but I haven’t rewatched “Reprise” yet, so I’ll get back to you). I have this memory of sitting at my mother’s computer over Christmas vacation trying to do my episode analysis of “Reunion” with only an AOL web browser and Word Pad and AOL’s ftp utility. All my usual tools for creating and uploading my analyses were at home with my desktop Mac. I was sitting there, irritated as hell, struggling with the primitive technology, rewatching the episode, and I remember thinking in that moment that AtS was truly as brilliant as its mother show. It had finally proven itself.

Not that I hadn’t enjoyed it before, but Season 1 wasn’t the strongest of the show’s seasons and was too stand-alone for my tastes. And I had been enjoying season 2 so far–Dear Boy, Darla, The Trial–but in “Reunion” they took the risks a truly great show takes–when the main character is complicit in the murder of human beings, no matter how contemptible those human beings might be, and you UNDERSTOOD his reasons? Wow.

Anyway. So now I will stop squeeing so much about Darla and Angel and start squeeing about Drusilla.

I can’t say I was ever fond of Dru as a character by herself. She always shone when she was in a pairing–whether it was Dru/Spike or Dru/Darla or whomever. She needed someone to play off of, a companion. Someone to tolerate, or fail to tolerate, her complete looniness.

Drusilla is all about companionship. She is all about family. Mothers, daughters, fathers, grandmothers. This might be a vestige of her human life. To torment her, Angelus chose in particular to kill her family, which I suppose would torment anybody, but Angelus was the Artiste of mental torture. Why pick that in particular?

Because family was the main focus of Drusilla’s life. And her unlife. After she has her fun hanging with grandmummy and tormenting daddy in L.A., the first thing she does is run to Sunnydale and try to bring sonny back into the fold.

The relationship of Drusilla and Darla is complex. One imagines they were never great “girlfriends” with each other, at least not until Spike came along. And even then, Dru remained “Angelus’ annoying experiment” in Darla’s mind. Darla always struck me as being the kind of woman who wanted a man in her life but had no use for children, and let’s face it, Dru and Spike were her children, the ones that Angelus gave her against her will and then stuck her with when he got his soul back. Dru annoyed Darla with her looniness and dependence, Spike annoyed her with his unruliness.

But in the present day, all VampDarla has is Drusilla. And for Darla to appear the powerful vampire she wants to appear as, she needs a sidekick, something family-oriented Dru is only too happy to provide.

Other thoughts. Gunn proves himself useful in this episode, both as a foil–“if we explain Angel’s convoluted family history to Gunn, we explain it to the viewer”, and as a character in his own right. Again, Gunn cuts through the muck of the gang’s cluelessness and puts them on track to find what they’re looking for (in this case, Unborn!VampDarla).

Lindsey. I love how serenely Lindsey smiles in the wine cellar as Darla and Drusilla torment the assembled guests. One imagines he’s thinking, “We’re all dead! But what a way to go.”

And of course the delicious irony of Darla and Drusilla giving Holland the massacre he encouraged them to have right there in his own home is just…. That’s all I can say, it’s just… JUST. Poetically just.

In the final moments of the episode, Angel finally gives his friends a seasonal story line they can sink their teeth into. “You’re all fired.”


“Reunion” was the final episode of the calendar year 2000, airing probably the second week of December. And so it was weeks before Redefinition aired in mid-January. Weeks before we got an answer to the Locked Cellar Mystery — namely, did anyone survive?

Ah, those were the days. When it was a matter of weeks, rather than TWO MONTHS, before new episodes, and you got 10 episodes in the Fall instead of 7. And the final image you were left with to live on for two months wasn’t a sex scene that made you go hysterically blind. We were spoiled in Season 2, kids.

Of course, one thing we would get a lot more of later and not nearly enough of before was Lilah. I didn’t realize until now how little Lilah there was in the first half of season 2. But Lilah and Lindsey dancing on the hot tin roof of Angel’s little games would be the highlight of our Spring 2001. And we also saw very little sparring between them before, either–maybe in Untouched and Reunion? But now we get full-on rivalry.

The thing I remember most about Redefinition at the time it aired was the debate it spawned among fans. Was Angel doing the right thing or not? The episode depicts him toughening up, working to become more ruthless, believing that that was necessary to bring down Wolfram and Hart.

Some fans argued that Noir Angel was wrong. They gave the classic argument that you can’t fight the devil using the devil’s own methods. If you do, you throw away the very thing you’re fighting for. You become the thing you’re trying to fight. Other fans felt differently.

There was this poster at ATPo at the time named Max. God, I think at this point, atpo_onm might be the only one who remembers him. Maybe dherblay or rahael. Anyway, Max’s favorite argument was to haul out the Classic Star Trek Episode “The Savage Curtain”. The moral of this episode is, apparently, that it’s the Ends which differentiate the good guys and the bad guys in a battle, not the Means. We are the good guys because of what we are fighting for. But our means must be as ruthless as the bad guys if we have any hope of winning, and after all, isn’t the point of the fight between good and evil being that the good guys win?

The debate between fans was not just about this abstract philosophical argument, but also about where Mutant Enemy was going with the Noir Angel story line. Were they advocating Angel’s ruthless methods, or “The Good Fight” methods of the rest of the gang?

I think we know the answer to that now, but at the time, there were people who were cheering that Angel was finally embracing “the War” (Total War). That “the Good Fight” had been hopelessly naΓ―ve and would have ultimately been ineffective against evil1.

It is the episodes to come that flesh out Mutant Enemy’s answer to the debate (Reprise, Epiphany).

1. I’ll have more thoughts about this when I get to ‘Epiphany’, but I’m not sure this is entirely wrong. Assuming you can use the most ruthless methods and still retain your status as good guys, would we have gotten a different ending to the show than the Existentialist ‘if nothing we do matters all that matters is what we do’ ending of Not Fade Away?

21 thoughts on “Angel, Season 2 eps 9-11

  1. It’s strange and wonderful being the overseeing guy on your very own odyssey, wanting you to hurry up, and also to savour the brilliant episodes.

    Just want to heartily agree with you on every aspect of ‘The Trial’, except to say that I personally preferred it to ‘Reunion’, but both are so good that’s neither here nor there. And the first time I saw ‘Redefinition’, I was fairly convinced that Angel was considered to be doing the wrong thing, and with the hindsight of ‘Reprise/’Epiphany’ (sigh, still the best writer in the Whedonverse’s best show), I stick to that.


  2. I was fairly certain we were supposed to assume that Angel was Wrong and the Gang were Right as well. So I marveled at the people who argued otherwise at the time, not because they were arguing in favor of the ends justify the means, which I suppose an argument can be made for, but that they would argue that Mutant Enemy were trying to say this. I mean, Joss???

    As for episode preferences, I’m currently savoring the brilliance of Reprise/Epiphany and I will probably go with Reprise. But Reunion was brilliant as well. I loved The Trial for many, many reasons, but I’m trying to downplay my Angel/Darla ‘shippy squee-ness, which has been getting out of control in the past few installments of these reviews. ; )

  3. I always thought that in season 2 you were supposed to think that Angel had flipped out. And it made sense that he would. He’d been unhinged by Darla’s arrival since the beginning. Even his thoughts and rationale made sense, but if you felt a wormy feeling of discomfort, you were supposed to. This was reflected in the reactions of the rest of the gang, and his total distancing from them was an obvious clue that he was marching off down the wrong path.

    That was the philosophy in season 2. I’m not sure how much of it was taken back by season 5. I think quite a lot.

    Interesting that you mention (somewhere in there) how little Wes and Cordy got to do while the show concentrated on Angel and Darla. I guess that’s so for the first bit of the season. But I thought Wes had a lot of character development after they all got fired and had to fend for themselves. But I guess that’s all after what you just watched, so you haven’t gotten there yet. It’s true that I don’t recall much about what they all did before that point. (I really must rewatch season 2 in order sometimes.)

    YES to the fun with Lindsey and Angel, which I think became practically canonical. They at least had fun with it. By season 5 the writers were meta joking around with it, the same way they did with Spike and Angel, which actually was somehow less fun. But yeah. Those two were always interesting. But the was Lindsey was with Darla was also interesting in a sort of Wes-and-Lilah way (well Ok it doesn’t compare to Wes and Lilah, but you know what I mean). Lindsey was somehow way out of his league even when Darla was just confused.

    I don’t recall if I’d found ATPoBtVS during season 2 of Angel. I can’t remember when I found it. I think it was the next season, actually. But I can easily see people arguing for and against Angel’s behavior in season 2. I see those arguments all over the place when talking about different aspects of both Buffy and Angel, means and ends and what type of warfare is acceptable. I could never reach the end of those arguments. People who were logically consistant were usually reprehensible, and the people who clung to compassion were usually logically inconsistant. What I did end up thinking was that Buffy and Angel should fight the fight that leaves them still human, still themselves. Otherwise they’ll start making insane decisions. Unfortunately I think season 7 of Buffy and season 5 of Angel explored this and ended up somewhere else. That is… they did start making insane decisions, they did start losing themselves, but then it was all pulled up into a sort of fatalistic war story where nothing else could have happened. I don’t know.

  4. I actually disagree that Angel Season 5 ended up somewhere else. As I was watching “Reprise” and “Epiphany” this morning (yes, I’m ahead of my own posts), I was thinking that Season 5 negated everything that Season 2 stood for. That they went into “Total War” mode, kill the bad guys or die trying.

    And then I remembered the conversation Gunn had with Ann in “Not Fade Away”. During his day before the battle in the alley, he chose to go visit her at the Teen Shelter and help out. He asked her, “What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it’s all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive, and they will never let it get better down here. What would you do?”

    And she replies, “I’d get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. Wanna give me a hand?”

    He says, “I do.”

    He realizes that every small act can have the effect of making that moment, right there, better. You can choose to act in that moment and make it better, or get cynical because it will not have some over-arching value, and not try.

    I believe the AtS gang went into that fight in the alley knowing that the Senior Partners were perpetual, that human evil was perpetual, and that in the grand scheme of things, killing the Circle of the Black Thorn wouldn’t change the world.

    But they believed it might make the world better for that day, for some people, and that was enough.

    The significance of Gunn and Angel visiting Anne and Connor respectively, of Anne saying she would keep doing what she did, of Connor returning to help Angel, was that the Gang could go into the alley and maybe die, but they would leave behind people who would continue to try to make things a little better.

    In Reprise, Angel tries to take down Wolfram and Hart and the Senior Parnters in one fell swoop and fails miserably. He’s filled with despair that he can’t do this grand act, and that evil still exists in the hearts of people. The next day, in “Epiphany”, he realizes that, “If nothing we do matters, than all that matters is what we do.”

    He forgets that epiphany later, that small acts of kindness are the greatest thing in the world. But in the end, in Not Fade Away, I think he gets back in touch with that.

  5. Yeah… kind of. Kind of. I think that Gunn’s talk with Anne was great. And I agree that they came around to not thinking they could eradicate all evil and just trying to make things better. Sort of.

    The entire season, it looked like they had forgotten all that. They kept edging up against that moral question and then not resolving it. Maybe my problem is just that with all that build up I wanted clearer answers. But I also think that they chose the blaze of glory. They didn’t chose anything terribly sane. They chose to take out the Black Thorn, and why do that if it won’t really help and costs them all their lives, costs them the ability to do any more small things that help? It was still an all-or-nothing kind of battle. They still believed they could use that power they’d been dubiously gaining all season to do something major. And it was major. But in the end, what did it really matter?

    Maybe they did survive that huge fight in the end. But what happens after?

    I don’t know–this might be partly my own preferences and not logically consistant, but I’d always had a huge affection for Angel the detective trying to help people who had no one else in the dark with them. Angel who was a thorn in the side of W&H, who could not be taken down by them, but who was certainly not on their level. Giving him power of W&H was a fascinating move and it definitely confused them all. Good move for W&H. But did they manage to get back out of it? Untangle themselves and return to the good fight? Not really. And maybe this was the move that was left to them: destroy as much as you can from the inside, destroy it all along with yourself, because you can’t come out again.

    (This might be a little too cynical. But it’s what I kept seeing.)

    In season 2 Angel was only working for himself when he went noir. And so he was able to come back. His friends took him back in and so he was able to change himself back. Even alone he might have been able to change himself back, though that would have been hard and taken longer.

    Hmm I’m babbling. I’ll try this later. πŸ™‚

  6. What I suspect is Joss was quite into “doing the Season 5 ending I was going to do anyway”, and trying to reaffirm the “small acts of kindness” message of the show at the same time. Which wasn’t totally workable, given the moral ambiguity of the season.

    In the large picture, I think season 5 was supposed to be a dark time for the show, when the gang’s morals were compromised, and that they would come back to the higher ground in subsequent seasons. But they didn’t get subsequent seasons, so we got a somewhat muddled message instead.

    But I’m working hard to live with that. ; )

  7. I absolutely love these three eps too. Stunning.

    As for “Max” it got to the point where I automatically started distrusting every person with that name.

  8. I really dislike “Redefinition”. When I first saw it, which was after S4 had aired, I had a taping mishap and only caught the first half. As much as I had been dying to see what happened to Darla and Dru, I wasn’t the least bit interested in watching it when it came back around on TNT. I couldn’t get past the VO’s. That’s pretty sad. Now that I’ve seen it 2 1/2 times, I can’t get past the VO’s and also DB’s goofy pose when Angel’s smoking.

    Sorry, nothing of philosophical note to add, just opinion. I’m still trying to recover from totally miscalculating W&H’s motives during the eps in my own journal.

    Except, er…okay, I hate to be the person who makes the crackpot theories but then disagrees with everyone who makes sense and ends up wondering why she doesn’t receive any validation for her theories, but so be it: I’m pretty emphatic about not seeing HoYay between Angel and Lindsey in S2. Yes, I know it could credibly be taken as such, and S5 pretty much laid out all the support for it, interviews show that the writers were aware of it and hint that they did it on purpose (in S5, though) and I see HoYay between Angel and Wes and in other non-canon-couples, but I think Angel and Lindsey’s relationship was more complicated than the standard, “Oh, just kiss already” UST thing. Angel is Lindsey’s nemesis; Lindsey is Angel’s gadfly, but Lindsey also brings out a hint of Angelus in Angel. I find that so fascinating and I don’t even care for Lindsey that much. I would feel the same way if Lilah and Angel had hooked up in Season 4: sure, she was initially enthusiastic about the sex in Carpe Noctem but the conversation she had with Angel in the bar in “Sleep Tight” pretty much clarified her disdain, so if they had hooked up in S4, it would have been disappointing to me. Hm, writing all this out has led me to suspect that maybe I have a problem with the ‘hate each other right into the bedroom’ convention’, even if it doesn’t go that far. Interesting.

    I don’t mean to interrupt your journal, I’ll go ramble in my own now. I’m not nearly as serious as I read, btw; I rely a lot (too much) on cadence to telegraph my mood and it doesn’t adapt well to writing. (I don’t like to use the smiley faces all the time because I think they come across as super sarcastic on occasion. But I’m just good-naturedly, for lack of a dorkier term, talking about this stuff.)

  9. I don’t think there were any other Maxes. As far as I know. Or maybe I just assumed every Max was him and avoided his posts, too! ; )

    It’s one thing to argue a different position, it’s another to make yourself completely obnoxious and hostile.

  10. I’m definitely NOT one of the “oh, kiss already crowd”. Subtext slips right past me. When I watched Season 2, I enjoyed the rivalry of Lindsey and Angel, but I didn’t see any homoerotic undertones in it. And I’m gay. I tend to take things for what they are on the surface. If there is some kind of subtext feeding that, I’ll notice the intensity it leaves its wake, but I won’t notice the subtext itself. And that goes for lesbian-erotic subtext and straight, too.

    I picked up all this subtext stuff after I came to live journal, which is to say, in the past year and a half. I had to learn to see it from other LJers.

  11. Oh, and I just wanted to add, feel free to ramble in my journal any time!

    [insert non-ironic smiley face]

  12. Yeah, it’s hard that they weren’t expecting the show to get cancelled. Who knows what might have happened had they had more time? How might the last episode have been different if they’d had another season?

    Grumble… hadn’t really thought of it in those terms. That just sucks. πŸ™‚

  13. Well, there were spoilers about what Season 6 would have been like in interviews with M.E. after the cancellation. The folks at ATPo are writing a virtual season 6 fic based on those spoilers, as are a few other groups. I will be posting the URL to our Season 6 in my LJ when it’s ready.

  14. You’ve been very productive again, honey! (have you been able to sleep at all?)
    As you know well Drusilla is my favourite character. Drusilla is all about companionship. She is all about family. Mothers, daughters, fathers, grandmothers. This might be a vestige of her human life. To torment her, Angelus chose in particular to kill her family, which I suppose would torment anybody, but Angelus was the Artiste of mental torture. Why pick that in particular?
    Indeed, she is very much about the family, but I haven’t ever thought deeply about hte reasons. You always make me see new aspects with these reviews!

    Btw, when Darla was resired, are we to suppose that it was the same demon she already had when she was sired for the first time? That would explain her being powerful right away when he woke up. Is it canon then that the demon that enters once in a human has the “privilege” to enter it again or is it because the persons nature/character(before siring) draws to it a certain kind of demon?

  15. I did sleep better last night. For some reason, my alarm didn’t go off this morning, even though I set it, and I slept in until after seven (hey, that’s an hour later than I usually get up, and four hours more than I got the night before!)

    I don’t think it matters if Darla got the “same” demon as before or not. After years of arduous study of the Buffyverse, I’ve become convinced that the vampire demon is a mindless brute animal (like Angel in the Pylea episodes). The personality of a vampire comes from the human they were. They are just that same person, only without a conscience (soul), and with a (meta-)physical infection that is the vampire/demon.

    That said, I believe different brute-animal-vampire-demons can have different strengths, and I believe that comes from the bloodline of the vampire. The Order of Aurelius was such a bloodline, and it made for powerful vamps. Darla was originally sired by the Master, a very powerful member of this bloodline. The second time, she was sired down a few generations (she is her own great-grandmother, *snort*). Not sure if that dilutes the power or not. I suspect not.

  16. I slept in until after seven I’m happy to hear that!! ❀

    Of course, I forgot all about the old bloodline *knocks herself with a bat*! I just had in my mind this concept that fledglings are weak and the strength comes only with age, but that actually might not be canon but some fanficnon. Sometimes, I get messed and that’s why I should be viewing eps too! lol

  17. And for bringing Dru to TD I smoochhugglesnogkissyou forever! πŸ˜€
    I was quite disappointed that they never told what happened to Dru after Crush (well, I of course know that she met Riley in Belize ;P) and now she is back to LA.

  18. Well, I really do literally spend hours sitting around thinking about this stuff. ; )

    I think the idea that fledglings are weak comes from two sources. In other (non Buffyverse) vampire mythologies, all fledglings are weak and strengthen with age. Also, most fledglings we’ve seen on the show are weak. Easy pickings for Buffy. But that’s likely became some random Shemp!Vamp was their sire.

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