Written by Howard Gordon
Directed by Tucker Gates
We open on a Cordelia voiceover and areal footage of Los Angeles. What’s going on? Oh, she’s pitching Angel a commercial for Angel Investigations. Because P.I. firms totally have commercials. In this hypothetical commercial, Angel would rush in to save a woman (played by Cordelia) from some thug, and then he’d turn to the camera all suave-like and say he’s the “Dark Avenger.” Angel’s reaction to this pitch is priceless, and pretty much the same as mine.
What the crap is that shirt, Cordelia? A backless halter top with a heather gray on red color scheme? I thought she was supposed to be good at fashion. Or is her shirt supposed to represent how broke hey are?
Said broke-ness is why Cordelia is so desperate to get the word out about their business faster. Angel isn’t interested, and he retreats into his apartment before she can badger him more. Cordelia thinks the problem is that Angel is in a post-Buffy funk. Doyle comes in and points out that it’s a little hard to promote a business that’s really about a vampire superhero protecting people from monsters, especially because he still doesn’t have an investigator’s license.
It occurs to Cordelia that they can still do the commercial, but not with Angel starring in it. They need a normal person who can project a more relatable image. Doyle fits that description, in her estimations. He is not thrilled at his opportunity for commercial stardom.
After the intro theme, we return to Doyle awkwardly reading lines off cue posters (that are actually manila folders) while a camcorder films him. Cordelia isn’t very impressed by his performance, and she sort of gives up on the idea of doing a commercial. She accidentally insults Doyle in the process, but she apologizes for that. Doyle starts to head down to try talking Angel out of his funk, and then Cordelia comes up with her next idea: Angel should wear a superhero costume! Please no. The long wool duster is perfectly sufficient.
Angel is beating up a punching bag when Doyle finds him, and he didn’t have the courtesy to remove his shirt first. Angel wants a little time to deal with what happened with Buffy. He (brusquely) tells Doyle about the day he had with Buffy, and he demands information about the Oracles. Doyle can’t believe Angel would give back what he wanted most for the sake of continuing a thankless battle against evil. He’s pretty sure he’d have just taken the easy way out if it had been him. Angel worries that he made a mistake, but Doyle thinks it means Angel’s a real hero. Angel’s worried about the armies of darkness the Mohra demon and the Oracles mentioned. He thinks they might be on their way.
Doyle tells Cordelia the story of the Day that Wasn’t. She’s upset that Angel didn’t tell them sooner, because she doesn’t want there to be secrets. Doyle agrees, and he’s working up to telling Cordelia he’s a demon. She tries to find out how much he’s planning on seeing of Harry in the near future. He’s not, really, even though she’s living in L.A. Cordelia tries to hide how much she likes his answer. Before he can tell Cordelia his secret, he gets hit with a vision. Dangit, Powers that Be! You couldn’t have waited thirty more seconds?
The vision is of a bunch of not-quite-human-looking people who seem to be hiding out. That night, a couple of kids who look like the people in Doyle’s vision are running from the sound of marching boots. The kids are definitely not human.
Angel and Doyle come investigating the hideout from his vision. It’s in a very run-down building. They find the demon people hiding in a panic room under the floor of a crappy living room.
The demon people explain their situation. They’re trying to get out of L.A. The two kids from before show up, and the leader guy calls Angel “The Promised One.” They have prophecies about someone who will save them from an organization called the Scourge. Doyle seems weirdly affected by all this. He knows who the Scourge are.
Doyle flashback time! An unspecified amount of time earlier, but after he and Harry split up, a demon of the same species as Doyle is waiting for him in his apartment. His people were attacked, many of them killed. By the Scourge, who are an army of pure-blood demons who hate half-bloods like Doyle and these nice demon people. The demon guy in the flashback wants Doyle to help him and the others, but Doyle isn’t interested. He identifies more as human than demon, so he wants no part of it. The demon guy fails to convince Doyle to join his cause, and he leaves.
In the present, Doyle continues telling Angel about it, and we go back into the flashback. Time passes for Doyle, and then he gets his first vision, which is of Brachen demons in trouble. He goes to investigate, and he finds that all the Brachen demons have been slaughtered by the Scourge, including the one who came to him for help.
Angel thinks that instead of fighting the Scourge (which is a pretty difficult prospect), they should just help the demons evacuate. Cordelia comes to meet up with Angel and Doyle, but she finds the demons first, and she tries to defend herself with a breath freshener spray. They stare at her flatly, and then Doyle comes out to explain. She brought a truck to get the demons out, but she’s not too happy to be helping a bunch of demons. Doyle tells her that these demons aren’t evil, but she’s not convinced. He tells her these demons are half-human, and they need help. She still seems a little annoyed, but she’s willing to help. They’re going to get the demons out of the country on a freighter captained by a dude who owes Angel money. Cordelia would rather just cash in that guy’s debts.
Angel is chatting with some harbor master guy, using threats to get him to look the other way when a bunch of undocumented passengers leave the country on that freighter. The guy knows Angel’s a vampire, so these threats are very effective.
The leader of the demon guys is upset because the teenage boy demon ran away. Doyle leaves to go find him. He catches up to him. The kid doesn’t want to go anywhere. He’s sick of being hated by humans and by other demons. The only night of the year he could go out without a disguise when he was little was Halloween. He doesn’t believe Angel can help them, but Doyle does. He manages to convince the kid to come back.
Cordelia is meeting with the captain, and she’s telling him half of his debt to Angel will be covered if he lets these demons ride to freedom in his boat. It’s not going to be a comfy ride.
Doyle and the kid are about to get back to the other demons when they hear the marching boots again. A bunch of demons in very Nazi-like uniforms go tromping past. Doyle and the kid flee into an abandoned building, but the demons are raiding all the buildings on the street. How have these guys not drawn the attention of human authorities by now? Doyle goes in demon mode and tries to draw the Scourge guys away from the kid’s hiding place.
Angel grabs Doyle and pulls him inside another building. The Scourge guys are still following him. They find the demon family’s hide-out. Angel pops out, doing his best Angelus impression and pretending to be on the Scourge’s side, hauling Doyle by the back of his jacket. He snaps Doyle’s neck, and the Scourge guys are intrigued by Angel’s willingness to kill other half-breeds. He convinces them that he’ll be an effective tool for him, and they haul him off.
The demon kid finds Doyle after the Scourge leaves. He wakes up, wrenching his neck back into joint, then shifting back into human form. Owwww.
The captain is getting antsy; it’s time to leave the harbor, but Cordelia insists that they wait until the kid shows up. The captain will wait, but only if he gets 60% off his debt to Angel, not just 50%. The demons are very grateful to Doyle, and the leader guy ends up revealing to Cordelia what Doyle is. Whoops!
The Scourge are having a lovely fascist hate rally. And Angel is suited up in one of their uniforms now, in vamp face, with his hair gelled in a more Nazi-like way. It’s not a good look for him. The Scourge plans on wiping out the nice demons that night, and they can do it because the first mate on that freighter sold them out for money. They demonstrate the thing they’re going to use to kill the nice demons, which is a large machine. It produces a blinding light fatal to anyone with too much human in them. Which means the traitor first mate guy incinerates on contact with it. It’ll have a blast radius of a quarter mile when it reaches full power. Man, couldn’t that thing have been a spell of some kind? Why a giant, murderous light bulb? How the heck did they figure out how to make a machine that fries humans and part-humans? Wouldn’t a genocide spell have been easier? (It certainly would’ve been easier for me to suspend my disbelief.) Angel steals one of the demons’ motorcycles and races off to warn the nice demons.
Doyle and the kid make it back to the boat at last, and they get ready to take off. Cordelia confronts Doyle about not telling her what he is. She’s offended that he thought she’d reject him because of that, especially because she already rejected him for totally mundane reasons. Half-demon barely registers on her list of reasons she doesn’t want to date Doyle (and she’s starting to not care about that list at all). Now that there are no more secrets, finally, she tells him to just ask her out already. Hee! He’s surprised and delighted, and she gives him a big smile.
Angel shows up before Doyle can actually ask Cordy out. The captain doesn’t want to leave without his first mate, but he won’t be coming on account of having been incinerated. The Scourge comes hot on Angel’s heels, and there isn’t time for the boat to leave. Angel heads off the Nazi demons while Doyle and Cordelia help get everything ready for departure. Angel beats three of the Nazi demons, but has a harder time with the leader. And then they lower the incineration machine into the cargo hold where the demons are waiting. It’s firing up. Angel kills the head Nazi demon. Then he, Doyle, and Cordelia race up to where the incineration machine is. Its detonation is imminent.
Angel thinks he can shut it down by pulling the cables out, but he’d have to get close enough for it to kill him to do that. He grabs Doyle’s shoulder in farewell, and Cordelia’s starting to cry. But then Doyle knocks Angel over the catwalk, grabs Cordelia and kisses her (and a bluish-white light goes out of him into her when he does), switches to his demon face, tells her goodbye, and jumps onto the detonation machine to unplug it. Angel tries to get back up there to save him, but it’s too late. Doyle manages to unplug it, but he dies Raiders of the Lost Ark style in the process, and there’s nothing left of him. Cordelia, sobbing and in shock, hugs Angel while she reels from what just happened. The nice demons are saved.
Back at the office, Angel and Cordelia silently watch the footage of Doyle trying to do that commercial, which has gone from funny and awkward to intensely bittersweet now that he’s gone.
“Hero” is kind of a mixed bag. It automatically qualifies as a game-changer because it killed off one of the three main characters, and it isn’t even a season finale. Even though important characters die on Buffy, we can always be reasonably confident that the Core Four are safe. We have no such security for the main characters of Angel. Angel himself, as the title character, is the only one safe from being killed off. But Doyle doesn’t just get killed off, he dies to save a bunch of people. It fits with the nature of the show, and how this show differs from Buffy. Buffy is about a group of friends fighting evil, and Angel is about a group of people who fight evil becoming close friends because of the fight. The characters in Angel are much more closely connected to that fight, so it makes sense that they might die fighting. If it wasn’t for Doyle’s sacrifice at the end, though, “Hero” would probably be one of the more forgettable episodes of the show, which sort of makes it a poor sendoff for him. The Nazi demons are a pretty ridiculous concept, and they don’t really even make sense with the lore of the Buffyverse. According to Anya, all humanoid demons are actually “tainted, human hybrids,” and “pure” demons are more along the lines of the thing the Mayor turned into. More Lovecraftian type things. So are these guys just trying to prove how demonic they are by killing demons with more human in them than they have? And just because Doyle shut down their doomsday device, it doesn’t mean the twenty or so demons we saw earlier are just gone. Aren’t they still out on the docks, or on the ship itself? Did Angel kill all of them offscreen? Did they give up and go home when they realized their leader was dead? And was this the army of darkness that would have gotten Buffy killed if the Oracles hadn’t reset the day? Does that mean if we’d stayed in the human Angel timeline, Buffy would have been the one to shut down the doomsday device and die, not Doyle? Does Angel now feel like he traded Doyle’s life for Buffy’s, instead of trading his own life like he wanted? Plot holes and Nazi demons aside, though, I really like the backstory stuff with Doyle. Even if this isn’t a great episode, it does a pretty good job of resolving his storyline. Also, it does a lot to expand the Buffyverse lore to include benign demons. So far, Whistler (who looks human), Doyle (who usually looks human), and that demon guy Faith killed in “Enemies” have been our only examples of good (or at least neutral) demons. This episode confirms that there can be entire species of demon who are as capable of being good as humans, even if their appearance makes it impossible for them to mix with human society.
Angel gets to pull out his Angelus act once again, but that’s much more fun when it comes with leather pants and good shirts, and he doesn’t stay in vampface the whole time. I think the fact that Angel was willing to tell Doyle about the Day that Wasn’t shows how far he’s come in being able to let people (who aren’t Buffy) into his confidence. At the beginning of the season, he probably would’ve just brooded quietly about it, not telling anyone and not caring what they thought about him brooding quietly.
Ever since Cordelia’s family lost everything, she’s been hyper-aware of money, particularly when she doesn’t have enough of it. I think she still has a mindset of money above all equals comfort and security. She may have just learned in a very brutal fashion that while money can certainly mean those things, it isn’t the most important thing.
We’ve known since the very first episode of the show that Doyle has had some serious guilt from his past hanging over him, and now we finally find out why. If you’re paying close attention, it’s obvious that saving the nice demons is part of Doyle’s redemption arc, not Angel’s. He did nothing to help his own people against the Scourge; these demons are his second chance, and he doesn’t waste it. It’s particularly poignant because of how convinced he is until the very last moment that Angel is the only real hero in their group. He doesn’t think he has it in him, possibly because of his past failures. But we’ve been seeing evidence all season that one mistake doesn’t define his character. His instincts may have always tended towards self-preservation, but then his sense of loyalty to his friends overrides it every time. It’s hard to imagine what the show would have been like if Doyle hadn’t died. And as much as I know there were external reasons for killing him off, I do think it works internally as well. He knew that Angel would be more capable of fighting the good fight in the long term, so he decided he was the one the world could afford to lose.
“Is that it? Am I done?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.