“In the Dark”
Written by Douglas Petrie
Directed by Bruce Seth Green
A blonde girl is running away down an alley. *squints* The same alley, it looks like, as the one from the cold-open of “City Of.” Do they only have one alley they can shoot in? She think she’s gotten away from her pursuer, but it turns out he’s in the alley too, and he grabs her. Apparently they’re in a very unpleasant relationship. He knocks her down, accusing her of cheating and various other stuff that still doesn’t justify violence, then pulls a gun on her. She’s cowering in fear for her life, when Angel shows up, disarms him, and beats him up. He helps the girl up. He knows her by name. She’s Rachel. It seems she’s a client with Angel Investigations.
On the roof of the adjacent building, Spike dubs over Angel and Rachel’s conversation with his own snarky alternative. It’s one of his most famous scenes. I’m sure most people who’ve seen the show multiple times could quote it line for line. He’s here to reclaim the Gem of Amara (and to kill Angel). He’s all cocky about his odds for success. That usually goes well for him.
As planned in “The Harsh Light of Day,” Oz is on his way into L.A. for his band’s gig and to drop the Gem of Amara off with Angel. He pulls up to Angel’s building. Inside, Cordelia (whose typing seems much better than it was last time, but not so much better that it’s implausible) is excited because Rachel is their first paying client. Doyle tries to bring that down a little. Rachel hasn’t actually paid yet. What Cordelia is holding is an invoice, not a receipt. Doyle tries to flirt with her, and she responds with a witty burn.
Enter Oz. Cordelia is psyched to see him, but they don’t really have a lot to talk about. Or, at least, he’s so monosyllabic that they cover everything in thirty seconds. She introduces Doyle, sort of. Oz is intrigued by their detective agency. Cordelia is still keeping her acting dream alive, though.
They take Oz down to see Angel, and Angel and Oz’s conversation is my favorite conversation in possibly any show ever. Two monosyllabic guys having a friendly chat that encompasses everything important in ten words or less. Oz holds up the Gem of Amara, which Angel and Doyle both recognize. Angel looks conflicted. Is that just about the ring itself or about the fact that Buffy’s the one who sent it with Oz? Oz tells them how Buffy’s doing in Oz-speak, so, completely free of details. Doyle is so keen for Angel to put on the ring that he’s weirding Cordelia out, until he explains what it does. Angel seems slightly hurt that Buffy didn’t bring the ring herself. Doyle heads out to go to a bar. Cordelia and Oz go with him (for food purposes only, of course, as they’re both underage). Angel doesn’t accompany them. Instead, he heads into the sewers, where he stashes the ring underneath a loose brick.
The next morning, Doyle has a massive hangover and Cordelia is making fun of him. Down in his apartment, Angel is doing Tai Chi. Tragically, he isn’t shirtless. The phone rings. It’s Rachel. Her boyfriend was let out of jail, and she’s very upset. He heads out to go help her, but Spike greets him with a two-by-four to the head. They fight. Spike mocks Angel’s new profession and tries to beat the location of the ring out of him. Angel gets the upper hand in the fight (which is only happening because Spike found abiding to his own careful plan too dull), and then Cordelia and Doyle find them. How does Spike know who Cordelia is? They never interacted in Sunnydale. Did his minions do recon on the entire Scooby gang? Spike leaves, and Angel tells Cordelia to go home with Doyle so Spike won’t be able to target her as easily.
Doyle’s apartment is only marginally nicer than Cordelia’s, but it’s much messier. Doyle’s having trouble getting information about Spike out of some of his street contacts (mostly because he owes them money). Cordelia tells him a little about what Spike was like in Sunnydale.
Angel is at Rachel’s apartment, discussing what she can do to stay safe. Even though she knows her boyfriend is an abusive jerk, she keeps taking him back, and she’s not sure she’ll ever stop. Angel gently tries to help her see that she’ll be better off in the long run if she does what feels harder now: turn her back on the guy for good.
Cordelia is making Spike out to be a serious threat, but while he might have started a lot of trouble in Sunnydale, his follow-through was consistently terrible, mostly ending in him getting beat up by Buffy. The only one of his plans that ever worked was restoring Drusilla to full health, but he ended up in a wheelchair for months after that one. For all his talk and bluster, and his history of killing Slayers, he doesn’t have Big Bad status.
Doyle gives Angel a lead on who to beat up to find information about Spike’s location. Cue montage of violence! The lead actually points him straight to spike, who’s feeding off a girl in a way that looks unnecessarily sexual. He throws the girl at Angel, who tells her to run before giving chase after Spike. He corners him at a chain link fence. Angel has a couple of seconds to think he’s trapped Spike, but then Spike’s new friend shows up and tosses a chain around Angel’s neck.
The next day, Cordelia and Doyle still haven’t heard anything from Angel. Cordy’s getting worried, but Doyle is staying positive. Maybe Angel just took the Gem out for a spin.
Sadly, no. Angel is chained up in a warehouse. Spike is introducing him to his friend, Marcus, who is a master of torture, a child rapist, and a fan of classical music. Marcus does an analysis of Angel while Spike waits impatiently for the torture to happen. Then he starts in with hot pokers. He impales Angel with one. Angel responds to the torture with glibness. Spike loses patience quickly and acts like he’s going to stake Angel, but it’s a ploy that convinces neither Angel nor Marcus. Angel points out that Spike’s a moron for hiring another vampire to help him get a ring that makes vampires invincible. Spike taunts Angel about Buffy sleeping with Parker. This touches more nerves in Angel than that poker, but he has an excellent comeback. Spike decides to leave while Marcus does his thing.
He goes to Angel’s apartment and ransacks the place. I bet it’s fun, as an actor, to get to do stuff like that. It’s less fun for Spike, though. He wants a faster way to find the ring.
The torture continues. Angel’s up to two pokers. Marcus shoots holes in the ceiling, forcing Angel to avoid the beams of light as best he can while chained so high that he’s on tiptoe.
Cordelia confronts Spike with a crossbow. Doyle’s there too, with a large cross. Spike might be outmatched fighting the likes of Buffy and Angel, but he presents enough of a threat for Cordelia and Doyle that they don’t rush in for a fight. Spike tries to use Angel as leverage to force them to get the ring for him.
Angel is up to three pokers now. Marcus is still yammering to him about innocence and suffering, and he fails to notice Angel grabbing Spike’s makeshift stake between his feet. He probably would have succeeded in killing Marcus if Spike hadn’t chosen that moment to show up. Now Marcus is angry. Spike joins in with the torture.
Cordelia and Doyle have no success finding the ring until they go to the sewers. When Cordy’s not looking, Doyle morphs to demon mode, which apparently comes with enough of a boost to his senses for him to sniff out the ring. They’re about to go meet Spike, but they decide to come up with a plan first.
When they do meet Spike, they don’t have the ring on them. They refuse to hand it over until they see that Angel’s alive and intact. He takes them to the warehouse. Doyle tosses it onto the floor, and then Oz bursts into the warehouse in his big van, plowing into a bunch of 500-gallon drums. For some reason, Spike drops to the ground as if he was knocked down, even though he’s like thirty feet away from anything Oz’s van is doing. Weird. Oz, meanwhile, is doing an excellent impression of Wishverse Oz.
Doyle and Cordelia grab Angel and load him into the van while Oz keeps his crossbows trained on Spike and Marcus. Then he drives them away. Spike looks for the ring, which has vanished. Because Marcus took it. Marcus is now enjoying an afternoon stroll outside. Spike throws a tantrum about his failures. He decides that he’s going to go it alone from now on, because things always go wrong when he works with partners. Before he can strut out of the warehouse, confidence regained, he walks into one of the beams of sunlight from the bullet holes, and his hair catches fire.
Marcus is now at the beach, looking for kids to target. Oz is trying to figure out where to drive Angel to get him some help with all those torture wounds, but Angel would rather he followed Marcus. (Wait, does that mean he saw Marcus snatch the ring?) Cordelia and Doyle think that’s a terrible idea, because it’s broad daylight. Angel doesn’t care. He won’t let Marcus hurt any kids.
Oz drives the van directly into Marcus right when he’s closing in on a bunch of kids at an ice cream vendor. Marcus goes flying, and Oz steps out of the van with his crossbow and the coolest pair of sunglasses ever.
He shoots Marcus straight in the heart, but it of course does nothing. Doyle fights Marcus, but gets knocked aside. Oz opens the van door for Angel, who dives at Marcus, tackling him over the edge of the dock. He catches fire about a second after leaving the shelter of the van. Luckily, the water puts it out. They fight under the dock. Angel impales Marcus on a jagged board, then rips off the ring. Marcus turns to dust, and Angel puts the ring on for the first time. He steps out into the sunlight. Cordy, Doyle, and Oz find him. Oz comments on his paleness, but Angel is barely listening. He’s too enchanted by the experience of daylight.
It’s sunset, and Angel and Doyle are on top of the building with Angel’s office and apartment. Doyle is excited about the possibilities the ring offers, but Angel’s not planning on watching any more sunsets after this one. He feels he doesn’t deserve the ring. If he could walk in daylight, he might stop paying as much attention to the people lost in the dark. The sun sinks all the way below the horizon, and Angel smashes the ring with a brick. On their way back inside, Doyle gives Angel a message from Rachel, who apparently took his advice and plans on steering clear of the abusive jerk guy from now on.
I like “In the Dark” a lot. Crossovers are pretty much always fantastic, and this is definitely the superior one out of the pair of episodes (not the last time that will happen). My favorite thing about it is Oz, who is somehow even cooler here than he is most of the time on Buffy. Maybe the difference is that he’s usually merely cool, but here, he’s FREAKING AWESOME. Yeah, that’s gotta be it. It’s also more fun to see Angel squaring off against an opponent like Spike than random monsters-of-the-week, because they have a lot of history. However, the connection between Rachel and everything else in the episode feels a little weak. Is she just there to be an example of the kind of people Angel needs to be focused on saving? There doesn’t seem to be any parallelism between her specific circumstances and anything the main characters are dealing with. It’s almost like it’s a fourth example of “How Not to Do Relationships,” completing the set from “The Harsh Light of Day.” Things are moving forward at Angel Investigations. Their first paid client! My least favorite thing about the episode is probably Angel’s explanation for why he shouldn’t keep the ring. I agree wholeheartedly with him destroying it; an object that makes him unkillable is too much of a deus ex machina to keep around. Angel can be as self-flagellating as he wants, and feeling like the ring will blind him to his mission is a very noble sentiment, but a logical reason to destroy the ring would be that there is a very serious danger that Spike wouldn’t be the last vampire to come looking for it. The fact that Angel has the ring would not be something he could keep secret. Every vampire on Earth who’s willing to challenge him for the prize would swarm into L.A. before long. That’s a good reason to destroy it.
Angel has come a long way since Whistler found him in that rat-infested alley. He had no purpose at all back then. Just three years later, he’s so attached to the purpose he’s found (saving people, hunting things, the family b—wait, wrong show) that he won’t let anything compromise that, even if it’s something that could make his life easier. Marcus hit the nail on the head when he said that Angel isn’t one to take the easy way out. He doesn’t want redemption to be easy, because he’s completely convinced that he doesn’t deserve that. This would be a much more annoying attitude if he wasn’t so willing to do it the hard way, but he is. I mean, he was willing to risk death by sunlight to prevent Marcus from harming children. Also, it’s interesting how different Angel is with Spike to how he is with Drusilla. He can barely meet Drusilla’s eyes, he’s so consumed with guilt whenever he’s in the same room with her, but he and Angelus seem to have about the same attitude towards Spike. Soul or no soul, he finds Spike’s pretensions to Big Bad status absurd.
Cordelia still hasn’t had any one-on-one scenes with Angel (as in, actually just the two of them, not them chatting for a minute in the middle of a room full of strangers before she ditches him to mingle with important people). Doyle’s the only one who gets those kinds of scenes with either of them. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for that dynamic to shift. Even as she becomes a somewhat effective secretary and lands no acting jobs, Cordelia clings to her acting career goals. I wonder if she’ll become more willing to own her identity as a member of Angel Investigations at about the same time that she starts seeing Angel as an actual friend.
Somehow, I never really paid attention to how many connections Doyle has in the underworld (both literal and figurative). He brings some serious street knowledge to the group. The more time Angel spends in the city, though, the less essential that knowledge is going to become. (It feels very morbid to tick off the attributes of a character that keep him from being expendable, but I want to see if Doyle really was as redundant as the writers evidently decided he was.) He’s still a bit of a lout who flirts with Cordelia at every opportunity. Doyle is the kind of character who is way more endearing than he has any right to be.
“Quickly! To the Angelmobile! Away!”
“…Are they always like this?”
“No, we’re usually laconic.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.