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Connor manages to be majorly creepy with only minor events and expressions. Especially creepy when you know how it's going to turn out with him, but I think he's probably coming across as a bit creepy even without knowing.

This episode advances the plot, so that's good. It's nice when all your characters aren't bespelled and on the wrong side.

I wonder what Fred was thinking when she was talking with Angel about being all alone. It's easy at this point to forget how long Fred spent alone and hunted in Pylea, and they don't exactly remind you of it here, in fact the dialog about being new to being a fugitive almost sounds like they've forgotten.

It was very clever of Fred to figure out the blood connection. And to figure out how to take advantage of it.

Back to Connor, though, I feel like there's a lot of "what's going on" (Connor got the cliffhanger ending, for example) that could be time better spent actually delving into what it means that this is happening rather than trying to keep the audience fooled or whatever. Okay, two episodes ago, Connor made a choice, and this time around I know that he's still basically making the same choice, getting deeper and deeper, which is important, and which could be questioned and explored in various ways if they weren't trying to pretend that Connor was under a love spell like everyone else. I don't know. I think they're overdoing it, but I'm not adamant on that point.

Oh, but also, Connor actually has a lot in common with Fred in terms of being stuck in demon dimensions and having issues related to being alone, so if I were rewriting this episode, that's what I would try to bring out.
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This episode is sort of silly. I mean chilling. I mean...

Okay, I admit it, I just can't get into the plot that everyone has been taken over by a love spell. I am entertaining the hypothesis that it's supposed to be funny (sometimes I miss a certain kind of funny), but the first while until Fred snaps out of it was just plain boring to me. I suppose love spells always have a failure mode where the actual character under the spell disappears and therefore nothing has any meaning, and it's that much worse when it suddenly happens to all the characters. Oops. (I could see them trying to do under a spell but the character still matters, but...it wasn't enough for me. Nothing new there, perhaps? Nothing that moves anything forward? I'm not sure.)

On the other hand, the bit where Fred is all alone and everyone else gets Jasmine-ized was actually really chilling. And I'm glad to see Fred doing stuff. About time.

The random guy on the street who attacks Jasmine and then Fred goes to see in the hospital is doing way too much work in shaping the narrative here. Like, everything he says turns out to be totally on the money, even though...I mean, okay, it's possible that a random guy would turn out to be a "kill the monster" "you've been called" kind of guy, not to mention "don't tell anyone", but it's pretty convenient too.

The writers are still holding their cards pretty close to their chests here re: what's actually going on (besides the obvious, Jasmine not what she seems), but it's got really good forward momentum too. One of the very best cliffhangers so far. Actually, I think I'm going to go watch the next episode now.
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Spoke too soon. "My sweet" is not a very satisfying tip-off that Cordelia is the beastmaster when it could have been Wesley reading it in the book Angel was trying to recreate from memory, for example. Or finding evidence of Cordelia's spellcasting or link to the beast or something tangible. I suppose on second thought, possibly Angel wouldn't have reacted well to Wesley interpreting prophecies in a way he didn't like, all that history considered, but he could have been a grown-up and decided to test it. That would have been cool and interesting.

But seriously. Angel decides Cordelia, who he loves, is evil based on the beastmaster sounding "girly"?

As for the rest, where to start?

Okay, big picture: I am dubious about the pacing here. At the beginning of the episode, when Connor saves Cordelia when she's surrounded by Angel & co. who all know she's evil, I was like please no, let's not drag this out any more. Just when it looked like things were starting to resolve, don't pull Cordelia away... And then...suddenly I felt like they went from dragging to fast forward.

That detective recap I was talking about wanting earlier so it would clarify things...I think it took maybe two minutes, tops. Look, here's what happened, okay let's get going now.

It's like...you know, it's actually sort of weird, that they don't deal with the emotional repercussions of anything in the episode, because usually it's all about the emotions in the Buffy-verse, but this episode -- the episode where the past is supposed to come clear -- is not about the past. It's about the future, about Cordelia's octopus-woman baby being born, about Connor making a choice...

The revelations get a bit buried.

Things we don't even get to see:

1) Angel figuring out that Cordelia is the beastmaster. We know he did figure this out (probably not the instant she said "my sweet"?), and was sure enough to set a fairly complicated trap for her; we don't see it.
2) Connor reacting to Cordelia asking him to kill an innocent. We know he decides to go out and find a virgin to bring back, we don't know how he actually reacted.
3) Any specific rethinking of the past because Cordelia is evil. (Arguing about whether or not it's actually Cordelia doesn't count...but like, for example, did Cordelia have sex with Connor when she was confused, or when she was evil? Is there supposed to be a difference between those two states? It whirled by so quickly I missed it, and I don't remember the exact sequence of the beginning of the season. I guess it doesn't matter?)

And speaking of revelations -- so, everything that has ever happened ever to anyone on the show was all a part of some big evil plan? Sorry, I don't buy it. I liked Gunn's speech about how you have to act as if your actions count, because even if they don't always, you never know when they will...but if your big revelation can be so easily dismissed, it's not a very big revelation, is it? If you really want to do "It was all a plan" (and I think that would be super-cool, actually) then you have to provide a little support to your argument. A lot of support, characters fighting and losing the battle to not believe it would be better.

I don't know, maybe the point is that it's a stupid revelation, and you're supposed to ignore it as the random word-spewage of evil demon Skip who was just trying to throw Angel & co. by saying that. And they're better than to be distracted by that. Okay, I can live with that.

But getting back to revelations again...the first time I watched this, I was absolutely livid about the revelation that Cordelia hadn't ascended to a higher plane because she was worthy, but rather because it was all an evil plan. I hadn't really liked that Cordelia became a higher being stuff, but eventually I figured that in order to watch the show, I had to accept it, because that's what they were doing with this show. So I did. I WORKED at suspending my disbelief over that. And then, seventeen episodes in, they say "What, you believed that load of shit? Stupid you." Well, you know, it's not my fault I believed it, you're the one who forced it on me and didn't give me anywhere else to go.

This time around...you know, I still think it was stupid storytelling and very dismissive of the viewer, but whatever. That specific revelation is not actually the biggest thing they're doing here, and it's pretty clear that at this point, trying to understand the past is not actually where they're going with this story, so ... whatever. Go with it.

One more objection, and then I'll talk about what I like.

So. Connor. Last episode he was questioning Cordelia about her sending him to kill Angelus. Who he's always sorta wanted to kill anyway, who he was brought up to hate, etc. This episode, he goes off to get an innocent to kill, no questions asked. I sort of get it in terms of storytelling -- they wanted to have the Darla scene, with the high stakes of the girl already being there, and then have "Cordelia" vs. "Darla" showdown in which Cordelia wins by appealing to Connor's desire to belong and be special and have a special family and everything will be okay if only we kill this girl.

I just think it's too much too quickly. That one step -- Cordelia says "Go get me a girl to kill" and Connor does it, no questions asked (that we see, at least) -- that's the step that breaks my suspension of disbelief.

I don't like that Connor ends up being part of killing the girl, but I can see all the steps from getting a girl to kill and then killing her. It's like...once he fetches the girl, he's already sort of committed. He could still back away, but he's taken the first step. Darla has to convince him to turn around, to negate what he's already done, and she almost got there, but not quite. But if Connor is really conflicted (and I do think he is, he's not completely lost to evil Cordelia's lies), then Cordelia should have faced a similar reluctance to get him to act in the first place, to go out to get the girl with the purpose of killing her...and apparently she didn't. I think that is a flaw in the narrative. A convenient flaw, one that makes the way things turned out seem practically inevitable, because it shapes the argument and Connor's direction to make it seem more believable. But still, a flaw.

Now, onward to what I like about this episode.

Speaking of Connor's dilemma, I thought it was a neat trick that somehow the reality of "Darla" became more important to the argument about what Connor should do than the actual question about whether or not killing is wrong. I sort of feel like he did it because he didn't trust "Darla" (and who can blame him, because however right she was, I certainly have no idea who that actually was or whether she's trustworthy) and because he felt he has to trust Cordelia...because he has to protect Cordelia and his child.

Connor's best is turned against him, his impulse to protect...along with his worst, his desire to be special, his desire to hate and distrust.

I like how the idea of the champion comes up again, Connor is called Cordelia's champion...

Cordelia says that Angel has been telling Connor "Lies meant to keep you in your place so he can control you" -- which is, of course, more precisely what she has been doing. It's hard to even keep track of all the lies that she's been telling.

I do not know what to think about Angel going off to kill Cordelia alone. I feel like this has all kinds of echoes from stuff that's happened earlier...I mean, back in Buffy, Buffy faced a similar situation with Angel, destroying the person she loved to save the world...and she came with a sword too, in fact. And there's been a lot about Angel and being alone this season...and Conner being alone, for that matter. And you know, everyone being alone when you come right down to it.

I suppose the other big thematic element here is choices (and possibly deception). "We make our own choices," Gunn said. And choices are brought into question, choices are manipulated, choices are stated to be all part of some big plan. "It has to be your choice," Darla tells Connor. Angel has a big choice to make about Cordelia (but he comes too late).

So yeah. The way to my heart is through my head, and this episode didn't make it very far through my head, but it's got its good points.
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I liked this episode. Why did I like this episode? Well, my favorite character (Gunn) was a main focus character and did the sort of thing I enjoy seeing him do (being a good guy). Also, have I mentioned I enjoy Gwen Raiden as a character too?

And then there's the deception on top of deception on top of deception -- in both storylines -- you either have to enjoy that or throw up your hands and quit watching -- luckily, I enjoyed it, I thought it was really well done, though if it had gone differently I might not have. (I do wish Angel played fair within the episodes, instead of making you wait for the next episode for them to play fair and explain what actually happened and how Cordelia's evilness was revealed so that the characters could set the trap. On the other hand, I wonder if some outside force told the writers to do cliffhangers/make sure the plot didn't ever appear to get even slightly resolved since every single episode has such a nice cliffhanger ending.)

In a way, Conner and Gunn got parallel storylines, since they both figured out that what someone else was telling them didn't make sense. They both got played. Which shows...well, Conner seems pretty stuck with Cordelia, entangled in whatever web she's weaving, but Gunn made choices. I really think it's Conner's age and inexperience showing, plus not having anything to hold on to, and I feel sorry for Conner. All he had was Cordelia, and now she's evil and manipulating him.

This episode is also setting up Gunn looking for something more. Keep the suit...

I can't really talk about the trick the others pulled on Cordelia, because I don't know how they figured out she was evil and trying to trick them. But it's totally believable that they figured it out one way or another, so I like how it was set up and the ambiguities of the scenes with everyone and Cordelia.
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Ooooo, that was clever. For once my bad memory is working for me here, since I got to be surprised and delighted by Faith poisoning her own blood to get Angelus alive.

The episode is called Orpheus, who is mythologically famous for having a lute, right? And for going to the underworld to rescue his wife...so I suppose the magical drug "orpheus" that Faith and Angelus take is basically supposed to be taking them to the underworld. Okay, I'll buy that. More the underworld of mental states, but that's good enough.

I'm usually not that fond of dream episodes, but Angel and Angelus fighting was sort of worth having a dream episode for.

I really like Willow coming up against the grim Angel crew, and acknowledging what they're going through without being too grim herself. (But having said that, I also wish Willow had given Fred the spells and Fred had done them, because Fred needs character development... Seriously, has she done anything all season except break up with Gunn? And it would actually be interesting to see if Fred was a different kind of witch than Willow. For all that Willow was "the smart one" on Buffy, I can see Fred being a much more cerebral witch than Willow, very scientific method, very into theory and process over results and power, lots of finesse, usually very careful about her magic, maybe mixing magic and technological/mechanical inventiveness... And since the soul spell was one of Willow's first spells, it ought to be suitable for a relative beginner, because Fred has done spells before too...)

Oh, and I'm beyond ready to have the explanation about Cordelia. (I have no patience, I guess, but also, I can't figure out what Cordelia's up to, besides manipulating Conner, and trying to keep Angelus around, and having a fast-growing baby. But none of that adds up to anything, none of it is shedding any light on anything that happened earlier in the season, and more than that, none of that seems to have anything to do with Cordelia, which frustrates me.

I need some more stakes here if I'm supposed to care about evil Cordelia's plan. What's the actual threat? It's been three episodes of random unexplained evil Cordelia and I want to know why she's evil, where's the real Cordelia, and what it all means.

But maybe pregnant Cordelia showing up for the obligatory cliffhanger ending means that we're going to get some explanations. Maybe.)

Also, poor Conner is really getting into this family thing...which makes Cordelia saying "You have to kill your father..." Okay, it's sort of funny in the Orpheus episode, because it sounds like Oedipus (all Greeks together in the same episode), but why is she calling Angelus Conner's father? Everyone's usually so careful about separating Angel and Angelus... What is evil Cordelia saying about family there? Did she say it on purpose?
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This episode seemed more dynamic than the last episode, although the ending didn't do much for me. Well, okay, since I watched all of Buffy before all of Angel, even the first time through I knew that Faith wasn't turned and it was just one of those oh so dramatic but ultimately meaningless endings. But...imagining that I didn't know, just for fun.

Would Faith make a good villain? I mean, she's been the villain already, so yes, she would. And Wesley reminds her (and us) that he doesn't trust her, so there's tension there...but Faith as a vampire? It erases the journey she's on, and even if she ends up getting a soul after that or something it doesn't really add anything.

So this threat isn't about Faith, it's about...those that remain? I.e. Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Lorne, who would then be living in a city with Angelus and Faith, and in a hotel with evil Cordelia and Conner her misinformed and eager spy.

It might be interested to see Wesley vs. Faith the vampire, since in this episode he's all about pushing Faith further than she wants to go. I am not impressed, Wesley, that you've managed to become darker than Faith. I don't think Faith is either.

In a way, it reminds me of a Firefly episode that seemed to be saying that what you do in extremity is the real you. I personally think that what you do on any old normal day is the real you, especially since everyone creates their own normal, at least to some degree, by their own choices. (Maybe your choices are limited, but you still decide something about what you want normal to be.) So either Wesley has created his normal to be...disturbing, and full of justified torture, or he considers this to be extremity. Either way, I don't think this is a good place for Wesley to have gone and I don't have a lot of patience with it.

On the family front, we have Conner adjusting to the idea of being a father (not well, I don't think, poor Conner has pushed away any support he might have had from Fred or Gunn, who might have been decent support for him if this was the beginning of the season, and is willing to let evil Cordelia isolate him more, not that he wasn't already isolated) and also adjusting to the idea of being demon enough to be stopped by the anti-demon-violence spell. (Oh hey, magic is indeed a thing that goes wrong! Or at least, a thing that didn't help all that much and then hurt Conner because it classified him as a demon.)

So what does it say, that Cordelia's voice becomes male when talking to Angelus inside his head? Is she doing it on purpose, or is it a side-effect of whatever magic she's using? Is it some kind of comment on expectations of power? Whose expectations are we talking about here?

I'm not convinced that evil Cordelia's plan was to get Angelus. He doesn't seem that useful.

The fight between Faith and Angelus in the scaffolding had a lot of visual interest, like a dance.
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I really should have watched this faster, because I'm not happy about the pacing of this episode right now, but that might be because it's been weeks since I saw the last episode, so things like "Angelus!" and "The Beast!" don't seem urgent to me, but "Cordelia!" does. And I think we have like two small hints and one big hint about Cordelia and that's it.

I do like the kind of plots where you have to go back and think about everything that's come before and how it really fits into what is now known, but I think actually the actions the characters make and the details of the revelations have to lead you the viewer into remembering specific things, because expecting people to just remember "everything that happened up until now" and fit it into a new paradigm (especially a very vague paradigm with a pretty slow release on the details of just what's going on) just doesn't work that well (at least, not for the somewhat casual viewer, i.e. me).

So there were some moments of that kind of thinking back and reinterpreting, especially with the revelation that Cordelia was pregnant, which brought back all the history of Cordelia and Conner, and also made me wonder how exactly Cordelia's interactions with Angel at the beginning of the season fits into the Cordelia is evil plot. But there haven't been enough revelations to fuel any really good speculations, and sadly, this being the second time through isn't helping a whole lot because I have a vague recollection that Cordelia isn't totally evil forever, but I don't remember how it actually goes, and there are no clues that I can see. They're still cluing about Cordelia is evil, yes, really, not any mitigation.

In other words, that thing where the detective says "I will now reveal all" and explains how everything fits together, recapping it in the process and reminding you of the important bits -- a bit obvious, yes, but something that needs to happen. And I'm still waiting. Maybe next episode?

As for this episode...I find the linear plot a tiny bit frustrating. It's like there are five or eight or however many bodies and only one brain, so if Wesley says "I'm going to go get Faith" then nothing else happens until Wesley has gotten Faith. Most of the characters aren't doing anything. And I'm not totally convinced about the whole city being in gigantic trouble either, because we don't really see it. We don't see anything we haven't seen before. Vampires in allies, etc. It just doesn't seem bigger.

I like Faith, but I don't feel like we needed Faith at this point. It seems like a diversion rather than an advancement of the plot...but then again, the plot is basically "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." When they had Angel, they decided they wanted Angelus. Now that they have Angelus, they think they need Angel. But it turns out they really needed Angelus because Angelus killed The Beast, so...

It just doesn't feel like anything is actually going anywhere.

It might be interesting to compare Angelus watching Faith fight to that bit in Buffy where Angel stands around and watches Buffy fight.

Oh, and I did like seeing Faith's loyalty to Angel.

And I liked that the beast got killed with part of himself. I always like that trick.

And I like Conner complaining about magic, because he's so right. Magic is usually a thing that goes wrong more than a thing that goes right in the Buffyverse.
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There are two evil characters in this episode...and in a way it's sort of funny how Lilah is like evil-lite. Selfish, wants her pretty things, but without Wolfram & Hart, not powerful. Unlike Angelus, she can be left to wander around because she can do no harm. And since Angelus is locked up, they both only have what they say.

Oh, and she's got that evil is the only one who tells the truth thing too, just like Angelus. (...and Spike, when Spike was evil and perceptive, and I'm convinced this really happens a lot in the Buffyverse, but I'm blanking on anyone else besides that psychologist vampire in Conversations with Dead People...)

Or maybe not exactly like Angelus. Angelus is trying to cause problems, and the truth is as damaging as anything else. Lilah is trying to get what she wants. But the arguments she makes are accepted as difficult truths and not lies. I.e. benefits of letting Angelus out are questionable at best, but Cordelia says "We'll find another way," not "You're an idiot, Angel couldn't do anything so why would Angelus be any different?"

Oh, but we find out at the end that Cordelia's evil, and the one who's been doing all the betraying that's been going on, so she can't be trusted? It's starting to feel like everyone is evil, but I guess most people are just...compromised in various ways? I wonder how all this was received when it was new, though. Did people come up with elaborate theories to explain all this, based on whether they really wanted Cordelia to be evil or not?

Still, my favorite character is officially Gunn, because I can tell exactly what's going on with him (he and Fred just broke up, and he's unhappy), and because his breakup and the way he gets contrasted with Wesley is also setting up Gunn the lawyer, isn't it? Which I could not remember how that happened and it totally baffled me in memory that that was coming up.

Oh, and Angelus and Angel being actual separate people has evidence, because Angelus remembered something that Angel didn't.

It's interesting that Wesley/Lilah was revealed to Fred via Angelus, at a time when she pretty much had to not react so as not to give Angelus the satisfaction. If Angel was holding them together (and look how easily and well Angel-but-really-Angelus was able to take control -- he makes a pretty good leader) then in a way, Angelus was doing exactly the same thing. Holding them together, if only to fight him.
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I like the intensity of this episode.

I also like Angelus as the catalyst who's forcing the other characters to make choices, and bringing out all the things that we, the viewers, know is there and forcing it on the characters. I also like that the characters are up to dealing with Angelus. They're not perfect with him, but they're good enough. They can deal with it, they can call it lies and get through. They can blow up at each other and then get over it...enough. They have the mission. (It is so much grimmer than earlier seasons now, but actually that's interesting too. Thinking about early Wesley vs. Angelus, for example...that so would have ended in tears.)

So Gunn hits Fred by accident while trying to hit Wesley. I find the whole men are violent women are shocked framing a bit annoying, but...Gunn hits Fred by accident is actually interesting. Because they're at outs originally over Gunn taking over her revenge, so it's like a continuation of the pattern of Gunn can't do the right thing by Fred, however much he wants to. Actually, the whole time where it's been a lot of 'nothing happens with Fred and Gunn' is really a Gunn can't do the right thing (and Fred may not want it) happening in silence.

I do not understand Connor and families. He threw up because of something to do with a dead family...I guess it's that things to do with happy families hit Connor harder because he never had anything like that, but I still feel like I'm missing something.
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I skipped talking about the previous episode because it's all zombies and I don't like zombies, so I'm pretty sure I missed the point.

This episode we have things starting to get totally epic, and I like that. Blotting out the sun! I like the rah-tet, I actually really like that these mythological beings all split up and are doing completely different things, but they're still family. It's a very Buffy-verse kind of thing (all the vampires and mythological beings fit into the modern world, and wearing a loud shirt means you're just a normal guy) but it's nicely done.

I like that Gwen Raiden comes back, and that she has a cool hideaway with a safe room.

The plot is getting really tangled, and...yeah, there might be too many characters. They seem to just sort of weirdly appear and disappear from one scene to the next with no obvious rhyme or reason to it except presumably they wanted to keep the individual scenes from having too many characters, or balance the scenes so each character gets a few, or something?

The character stuff is as tangled as the plot, and adding Gwen Raiden certainly didn't simplify anything. I laughed a bit when Lorne said "You're a champion, you don't get personal days." Because truthfully? The whole show is all about personal days. It's all personal. And yet...it's so tangled it's easy to get disconnected. Who's suspicious again? Oh yeah, everyone. Who's unhappy about their love life? Oh yeah, everyone. Except Lorne!

They're not really doing anything with the idea that an ongoing end of the world might have wider repercussions, are they? They mention it, but they don't show it. But I also feel like there's a storytelling lesson about focus in this: just ignore the things that aren't part of the story and focus on the things that are.

And yet. It wouldn't have hurt them any to say something about the traffic on the way to Death Valley, because everyone was fleeing LA. Or something. Our characters seem very disconnected from the world in this episode. The world is over there panicking, and our heroes are over here moping.

But I'm starting to get more into what happens next. The sun just quit lighting the world! Now what?
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This episode seems to exist solely in order to play games with the viewer's suspension of disbelief. The basic plot: Angel thought he fixed everything but really it was a pipe dream that he had as he was losing his soul.

Remember that episode where Buffy showed up on Angel, and it looked like everything was going become better than it had ever been and Angel and Buffy could be together...except that there was a demon, and Angel chose to kill the demon and go back to less-than-perfect world. This was just like that, except without the choice part. And with Cordelia instead of Buffy. And with things working out between Connor too...

I.e. this is one of those "How to fanfic your own tv show without messing up the actual continuity" episodes. The Wish on Buffy is another similar kind of thing...Or the one with Buffy, as I said. So really, this episode could have stood to be quite a bit weirder and far more out there, because none of it actually counts...as it was, I just believed it, pretty much, until it turned out to be a lie.

Well, actually I believed it except that I also spent the whole episode half convinced that Angel was Angelus pretending to be Angel, and I still think that would have been cool...except that Angelus isn't really the type to pretend, so it's probably just as well.

There is quite a bit of stuff here about family that...doesn't work. Angel makes speeches about family and then acts like the loneliest of lone heroes, giving the lie to his speeches, which is pretty telling. Even in his pipe dreams, Angel doesn't actually believe that the Angel team is a family.

If I get to season 5, I'm going to have to remember this episode because I think there's one just like it except with Spike in the role of Connor, and more competition.

Unfortunately, this episode ends with the exact same "and then what happens?" question as the last episode, which is still an interesting question, but there's something to be said for momentum.
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This episode accomplished a lot in terms of character stuff (and the plot advanced too). Things are moving!

I'm not sure if Fred/Gunn is exactly meant to hold up a mirror to Angel/Cordy or vice versa...but there are definitely some similarities in that the guy did something and the woman can't deal with it. Gunn did something that he thought was noble but which took away Fred's ability to make her own choices about her revenge, Angel has a terrible past... I feel for Gunn a lot, while at the same time not having much sympathy with him because on the one hand, he tried to take a burden away from Fred, and on the other hand, she didn't want it and he keeps telling her who she is when that doesn't appear to be who she is after all. Angel/Cordy, meanwhile...just generically doomed, I'd say. She looked at something she shouldn't have looked at...huh. So she's like Psyche? That's a stretch... But you know, the narrative is sort of treating her like she's in that kind of myth, and is a woman alone with limited options for who to turn to. And also like this is a flat kind of thing, she loves Angel so she has two choices, either be with him or abandon him, like being in love with Angel is the only thing that matters.

Even putting aside that Cordy and Angel were friends, that being in love was not the only thing between them, because maybe she can't deal with being friends with a guy who has Angel's history...she's also friends with the rest of the team, and she really shouldn't be alone, and I'm sort of shocked that the narrative managed to lead me into thinking that this was reasonable until I started thinking about it...that's a neat trick.

So because she's established as living with Connor when she was memory-loss Cordy, and that was reasonable because they had a lot in common...it transfers to memory-regained but still sort of damaged by being a higher being Cordy.

(There is probably a lot to be said about the similarities between Cordy's characterization as empty and devoid of purpose because she was a higher being and Buffy's visit to heaven...

But the only thing that's popping out at me right now is that knowing why Buffy was back was a source of tension that was much stronger than not knowing why Cordy's back...or having a good explanation for why she was a higher being in the first place. Knowledge is much stronger than mystery, generally?)

I really don't know what I think about Cordy/Connor. It's pretty weird, because she held him when he was a baby, but technically they're not all that far apart in age, which is pointed out a couple of times in this episode alone... I don't think Cordy's habit of comparing Connor to his father does anything to make this any less weird, though. And personally, I don't see any of the resemblances that she points out.

Let's see...in other news, Connor said "Dad" of his own free will (in order to get a favor).

I enjoyed Angel's win-win proposition to Lilah: quite astute in terms of how to deal with Lilah (give me what you know and either I solve your problem for you or I die and solve a different problem for you). But Angel is something of a contradiction, in terms of wanting to be/thinking that he is a champion, which seems to be linked to idealism somehow, and then having a good grasp of the best way to deal with Wolfram and Hart employees. I'm ready to abandon what he said about a champion acting as if the world were a better place, because clearly if the world were a better place, it wouldn't include Wolfram and Hart, so acting that way would involving ignoring Wolfram and Hart.

I like that Connor appears to be linked to this apocalypse. Connor needed a better connection to the plot, because he has no connection (that he generally wants to acknowledge) to anything else (except Cordelia).

On the other hand, I'm completely baffled by Sunnydale veteran Cordelia Chase saying "if this is the end" as if she's never seen an apocalypse before.

And finally, the most important thing I have to say about this episode: oh no, they're breaking the statute of secrecy! This is the point where they just completely throw aside the conceit that this could happen in our world but it's all a secret and we just don't know about it. Fire is falling from the sky in Los Angeles. It's one thing when crazy things happen in Sunnydale because Sunnydale is some town that no one has ever heard of in real life, so you can pretend like all the people there just kept their mouth shut. Los Angeles, not so much.

This was quite a shock to me the first time I watched Angel. It's not that I'm super-fond of secret magic as a plot point (I'm really not), it's just that once you've established that that's what you're doing, suddenly not doing that any more is 1) shocking and 2) really hard to get right because of abandoning all the conventions you've set up. I don't remember exactly how this works out (I really did a very bad job of remembering Angel, apparently), but this is another thing I'll be watching for.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
There are two main problems with this episode:

1) We just did a ton of I-don't-know-what's-going-on type plottage with Cordelia and her lost memory, so some of the fun of this tpye of thing is more 'just did this'.

2) There is no real plot, just characters sort of randomly permutating and basically making up enemies until Lorne wakes up and provides a deus ex machina solution. (The Buffy memory loss episode was a bit stronger, as I recall, despite the random method of spell ending, because there were real enemies coming after them...or after Spike, at least. The Buffy adults-become-teenagers episode is one of my favorites, but isn't as good a parallel with this one, IMO, since the main Buffy characters weren't adults at the time.)

Other than that, it's fun to see younger versions of characters (especially Wesley) and once Conner shows up there's Angel and Connor parallels, both over father issues, and also...well, Connor is so lost, but so was Liam. It's funny than Liam wins the fight -- I would have suspected that without Angel's experience it would go the other way, but I think the basic message here is that Connor still has a lot to learn, even more than Liam.

We still don't know what's going on with Cordelia, but she has her memory back. It's really too bad that Cordelia and Angel were never actually a couple, but they sure are teasing about it a lot.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I love Fred being a physicist so much. At the beginning of the episode, I was wishing they wouldn't tell us so often that Fred is awesome but mostly show her falling apart, and then she didn't fall apart at the end, so that was nice.

The way the revenge plot played out, and the way Gunn and Wesley were contrasted in how they treated Fred was very neatly done, though I'm not really excited about...I mean, how many up in the air relationships does one show need? Are they really setting up both an Angel vs. Connor triangle with Cordelia and a repeat of Wesley vs. Gunn with Fred at the same time? They are, aren't they? Why don't I remember this clearly, since I have seen it before? Is it because when it's always up in the air, nothing really matters? Although it's no wonder I watched this way too fast the first time (on DVD). They've got so much up in the air that there's no room for resolutions, so 'now what's going to happen?' is a constant question.

But yeah, I was shocked by Gunn, and actually think that whole issue of revenge and what it does to people turned out really interesting in a way that I wasn't expecting, which was cool. At first it seemed like just another version of something that comes up a lot, in Buffy as well. But when it wasn't Fred who took the revenge, though she certainly tried...Fred and Gunn may both have been operating under illusions about each other, which is interesting.

I think we saw the weakness of the whole champion idea here. Angel says "We've got to do something about this guy" but treating the situation like he can show the world how to be a better place doesn't actually solve anything. The world isn't a better place, this guy is doing something truly criminal, and there's no law that covers it to deal with him.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I love the poem that the episode title comes from.

Well, this episode was very much filled with foreboding. Something is coming...I suppose if you were watching Buffy and Angel at the same time when they aired, you'd have gotten both "From beneath you it devours" and "Something's coming to get Cordelia" at about the same time. Something is always coming no matter where in the Buffyverse you are.

I have to admit, I think the amnesiac Cordelia as outsider perspective...only sort of worked. It was funny when she thought she was Connor's mother because she saw a picture of herself holding the baby, the comments in her yearbook were great, but even when they skipped the big explanation, there was a lot of explanations and Cordelia reaction which mostly served to show that amnesiac Cordelia does not have nearly as much character as she used to, which is a real shame. On the other hand, the old Cordelia showed through a couple of times (and I don't just mean that she could fight...or maybe I do: mentally, she's still got that fighting spirit at times).

Lilah playing Wesley...nice plot there. I'm not sure I believe her when she says that if Wesley'd ever trust her, she wouldn't have played him, but it did seem to throw Wesley for a loop. Way to imply that she could be more human if only he'd believe she could be more human. Admittedly, I have a hard time taking Wolfram and Hart and any of the characters there seriously as human beings, because they self-describe as evil too often. I don't think most evil people think they're evil. Just doing my job, on the other hand...yeah.

It's interesting to compare Lilah and Wesley with Angel and Connor. Because Angel does believe. Angel basically keeps on saying, "He's my son, so I'm going to trust him and I'm going to be proud of him." Connor, meanwhile, is still going around being conflicted about the idea of family.

It's interesting that Cordelia ends up trusting Connor because he doesn't lie. I actually like the dynamic between them, the two lost souls together (though really, I like the dynamic between her and Angel too, he might not jump in with the whole truth instantly but he does give her plenty of space and support even though he's obviously confused and hurting that she's not really her). And I can see why she might not want to go back to the hotel where all the scary things keep happening and everyone treats her weirdly, but I don't really get why there's not more persuading that something needs to be different. "I trust Connor not to lie to me" doesn't address the fact that she and Connor weren't winning that fight on their own, and the guys who were attacking ran off and so are probably still around and could come back...and yet Angel, Fred, and Gunn just leave Cordelia and Connor alone again.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
The premise of this episode is pretty good, showing the darker side of Lorne's gift without implicating him in that darkness...too much. I liked that Lorne was the one to destroy the glowy ball and end the destiny theft as well.

On the other hand, the idea that destiny is transferable only makes sense when it's something like becoming a chef and opening five star restaurants. Being a vampire with a soul and prophesied to have a major role in one of the apocalypses...losing that destiny obviously didn't make Angel not a vampire, so gaining it presumably wouldn't make someone into a vampire, so could it only be transferred to someone who was already a vampire? With a soul? Or would someone who wasn't a vampire with a soul suddenly have the destiny to do the things that a vampire with a soul should do...what, in fact, would it be like to have a destiny that isn't your own, especially if you weren't physically equipped for it?

(And what if the vampire with the soul in the prophecies was actually Spike? Is this a sign that whatever they suggest later about that possibility, it's definitely Angel who is the destined one?)

Overall, I'd have to say that the amount of shades of gray in this episode is pretty low. Evil is obvious and defeated, Lorne is rescued, and then suddenly Cordelia is back as well. You could blame Lorne for contributing to the evil, even if it was because he was being blackmailed with random deaths if he refused, but I don't think you're supposed to. I think it's supposed to be a pretty uncomplicated episode.

I am still really confused by this Cordelia plot. What is it supposed to be accomplishing?

Oh, but Cordelia thinks that Connor is very much like his father, so there's another point on the family matters side of things. And Fred and Gunn go on a semi-random road trip with Angel because they're worried about him, which probably counts as another, because they're not really held together by the mission at this point, but by concern for each other.

And there was some very obvious irony around the concept of family/friends, with Lorne saying that no one can take away the people you love, and then Cordelia showing up with no recognition of anyone.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Gwen Raiden is a very cool character. I really like the idea of the electricity-controlling thief.

The scene where she breezes in and then Angel and Fred and Gunn barge in behind her is great.

This episode made me remember when this show was about helping the helpless, though...and wonder if it still is at all. We get a glimpse of Wesley saving someone, running his own detective agency, and Angel sort of accidentally helps Gwen out of a tough situation where she was about to be betrayed...

It's not really clear how beneficial overall saving the thief from the greedy robber baron guy is, of course, even if Gwen is a cool character. It was a bit clearer cut in earlier seasons, wasn't it?

And then there's the scene with Lilah, in which she wonders why Angel's dealing with her, and he makes a threat...maybe what I really should be looking at is degree of shades of grey in each episode?

Because in terms of championing...Angel stopped Gwen from killing the greedy robber baron guy, should I give him credit for that? Is that acting as if the world were a better place than it really is? Yeah, actually I guess it is, so I'll give him credit there. But other than that, the whole episode is a slow and very indeterminate step on the Cordelia plot, since the characters find a resolution (which is a really weird resolution and doesn't make any sense and even Cordelia pointing out that it doesn't make any sense doesn't help it make any more sense...)

So yeah, the Cordelia plot is definitely the weakest part of this season so far, and I'm not majorly fond of Fred having a nervous breakdown either.

And in terms of family...this was not really an episode that advances anything on the family front, except that if these people are Cordelia's chosen team/family, they don't seem to know her very well, but like I said, whatever the Cordelia plot is (it drove me crazier last time, this time I'm just bemused), it's just so weird and badly fitting that I don't like drawing any conclusions from it.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Wow, I'd forgotten how depressing Angel can be. Fred and Gunn were the only points of not completely depressing, and they were pretty beleaguered here.

This episode was mostly exposition, so...in terms of exposition, it did a fairly good job of reminding me of what was going on, which I needed because it's been a while since I watched Season 3.

I thought the hallucination stuff was overdone, but I always do think that about dreams, etc. Dreams are pure emotion (and symbolism, is that generally the same thing?), and I like a little more grounding in some kind of reality with my doses of emotion. But it does pretty much work with the context of what's going on here.

In terms of plot, there were a few little turn-arounds, most notably Lilah killing her boss. Surprise! Now Lilah is a direct enemy with underlings. Wesley going after Angel was framed as a very minor surprise -- he said (to Lilah) that he didn't know anything, he didn't care, and then immediately proved otherwise. But really finding Angel, Angel confronting Connor, those were the only real plotty elements, the only movement forward. Everything else was establishing where we are and where we came from. (Even if it hadn't been a while for me, this would have been useful narratively, because there was a whole summer's worth of time to cover.)

If the theme of Buffy Season 7 was power (was it? or did I just want it to be?), then I feel like I need something to analyze what's going on with Angel, and so far the only things that have stood out are:

1) family. Is Connor like Angel? Is Angel like Connor? What does family mean? Connor didn't even want to pretend that he was like his father, even when he was pretending that he was okay with Angel being his father...

Also, would it be fair to call Angel Investigations at some point or another a surrogate family for many of the characters, as good teams often are? Granted, there have always been tensions, this was never really an easy or unquestioned team that I can remember, even before the whole Wesley kidnapped Connor debacle, but I feel like there must have been a point or two where they all got along for a while (and Angel's meal hallucination at the very beginning supports that, meals are a very family-like thing, right?). And Fred and Gunn's loyalty to Connor has something of that kind of family loyalty to it too, perhaps? There's definitely a mom and dad and kid vibe to some of their interactions with Connor in this episode.

And Angel uses "Daddy" more than once, invoking the strict father...

And the structure of the episode is more coming together than pushing apart (but it would have to be, since everything starts out pretty separated), and ends on a "must find Cordelia" note, which if it doesn't say something about family at least says something about them as a team? Fred and Gunn have already been looking for Cordelia, and now we have Angel as the core of the team reiterating the importance of that...team and family look out for each other...

Which Wesley has also done, despite his current status as outsider...

2) the role of a champion. This is mostly out of hope, because I find the subject interesting. I liked Angel's little speech about a champion acting as if the world were better, to show it what it could be. I'm not sure this is really going to be a theme, but maybe?

This could also, possibly, be called the role of emotion vs. the role of ideals? In which Fred, who just wants to hurt Connor for what he did, pretty much fails in this episode...assuming of course that ideals are better to act upon than emotions...

Yeah, that's a really unfair framing. I'll have to work on that.


lookingforoctober: (Default)

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