Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Bruce Seth Green
It’s sunrise…in Galway, Ireland in 1753. A maid is getting water from the well, and Angel is lurking in the doorway behind her, only the maid calls him Liam. He’s trying to persuade her to do “science experiments” with him. Wait, no, that one won’t work. He’s trying to persuade her to do “heretical devilry punishable by burning at the stake” with him. She’s not interested, particularly because of how his father would react. The man himself appears, shoving Liam out into the sunlight, where he doesn’t burn! He’s still alive! His dad is not impressed with his son’s pursuits. When Liam responds to his reproofs with ribald snark, he hits him in the face. He doesn’t think he’ll ever amount to anything.
Cut to present-day Los Angeles, where Angel is battling some kind of demon in the subway. Kate is on her way over to the scene, getting briefed by a pudgy beat cop. Witnesses have been saying that the person holding them hostage was suddenly pulled out of the train through the top hatch by someone. Kate thinks he’s useless and tells him to get more statements while she goes to investigate.
Angel is still fighting, and eventually, the demon just collapses, dead. Just in time for Kate to show up. She gathers that her perp isn’t human, but she’s not particularly happy to be chatting with Angel about it. Angel seems to wish he could patch things up with her, but has no idea how to do that. Kate is at a loss for how to put any of this stuff into a report, but Angel demonstrates how easy it is to pass the supernatural off for the natural. They overhear a witness giving a statement about how the demon perp looked entirely average, even though he was close enough to it to be able to smell its demon B.O. Kate can’t believe it, but she rolls with it.
Kate and Angel notice that her dad is down there. She goes over to chat with him. Seems he’s been poking his nose into any cop stuff that crops up near him. He’s about as chatty as he was last time, but Kate seems a bit pleased that he’s showing interest in her. He walks away, and Angel tries to make conversation with her. She isn’t interested. She wants things to stay strictly business between them, reminding him that she isn’t his girlfriend. Uh…okay. Pretty sure he only ever wanted to be your friend. Way to reveal your hand, there.
More flashbacks! Darla has made her way to Galway and she’s watching Liam having a tavern brawl with rapt interest. A tavern wench (played by Christina Hendricks) tells her a little about Liam, who might be attractive and charming but has a reputation for ditching ladies after sleeping with them.
In the present, Cordelia is trying to get Angel’s input on their brand new security system for the office. She wants it to be her birthday so he’ll be forced to remember it next time, because apparently he forgot it this time. Oh hey, does that mean Cordelia’s birthday is in February? Hmm. Close. The S3 episode actually set on her birthday (and cunningly titled “Birthday”) aired in January. I’m gonna go with something in that range, unless when I get to that episode, they give me a specific date.
Wesley has found information about the demon Angel fought. That species is all female (If they’re all one sex, then wouldn’t that effectively make them sexless? Or do they breed with an all male species, or with human males or something?) and very gentle by nature. They theorize that something might have caused it to go berserk. Like something or someone on that train it tried to hijack.
Angel goes to Kate’s precinct to talk to her. She wants him to be a little more subtle with the talk about demons, partly because she doesn’t want one of her colleagues overhearing them and partly because she’s still struggling to handle all of this herself. She’s a little surprised when he tells her that demons sometimes aren’t evil, but then she remembers who she’s talking too and feels abashed. He wants information about the train’s passengers, but she just wants to move on from the whole case.
Angel is in his car, on the phone with Wesley, who’s assuring him that Kate will come around in time. Wesley and Cordelia are looking for the dead demon, which Cordelia finds first and takes a hacksaw to. Wait, why? Ew! I guess they need to examine its insides or something?
Angel is tailing the delivery guy who gave that sucky witness statement. He follows him all the way to an apartment, inside of which is Trevor Lockley, Kate’s dad. Trevor irritably hands him a package, and he leaves. Uh oh! The retired cop is up to shady business! Angel knocks on Trevor’s door. Trevor doesn’t really remember him from the retirement party. Angel tries to get information out of him, but he ends up getting the door slammed in his face.
In the flashback, Liam is getting yelled at and shoved around by his dad some more. Now, his mom and little sister are watching, both crying. Also, holy crap did the casting director do a good job choosing the girl to play his sister. She looks like she could really be David Boreanaz’s sister!
Liam is leaving home because he’s sick of his dad’s endless reprimands. He never got anything but disappointment and disgust from the man (which is sort of unsurprising, considering how much time he’s spent getting drunk, sleeping around, and shirking his duties). Not long after he leaves home, he meets Darla in that alley from the flashbacks in “Becoming: Part 1.”
Kate and her dad are spending time together, having hotdogs on the pier. He asks her a lot of questions about Angel. She tells him Angel’s a P.I., and she admits that he’s pretty good. She seems to maybe be getting over her issues now. She’s talking about Angel pretty fondly. She’s a little confused by Trevor’s interest, and I think the only reason she doesn’t figure out he’s up to something is that he’s such a gruff man of few words to begin with. He’s pretty inscrutable all the time.
Wesley has been studying the demon’s organs and discovered that its adrenal gland is several times larger than usual, the result of some kind of substance abuse. The demon was addicted to some kind of mystical drug that made it super strong. Angel wonders if maybe the demon was just a lab rat for whoever was producing the drug, and that they might be planning to use it on demons that are already powerful fighters.
Cordelia comes in wearing a wig and a ghastly pink coat, annoyed that they didn’t turn off the security system. She managed to capture footage of the delivery guy moving more of those packages around.
Trevor is in some chop shop, chatting with a couple of suits. He’s telling them about Angel. And apparently he doesn’t actually know what’s been in the packages he’s been moving around. He thought he was helping them deal foreign auto parts under the radar of international trade laws. The suits give him more money for his extra troubles, but he’s still not happy.
Once Trevor leaves, the suits ask their boss what they should do about Angel. Their boss is a rather imposing warrior demon, and he wants Angel dead. Trevor too.
Flashback! It’s Liam’s funeral. His mother and sister are both crying, and his father keeps a solemn face, but he stays far longer than anyone else. The tombstone gives us Liam’s birth and death years, if not his last name or his actual birthday (humph). 1727-1753. So he was twenty-six when he died. That night, Darla comes to the cemetery to wait for him to rise as a vampire. Sure enough, up he comes. Hello there, baby Angelus. She’s really excited to start killing people with him. The groundskeeper of the cemetery finds them, thinking they’re a couple of grave robbers. Darla encourages Angelus to go enjoy his first victim. And somehow even though it’s his first time feeding, he manages not to get any blood on his face at all. Not even on his lips. (Come on, they put that gross wig on him, but they wouldn’t add any fake blood?) Darla is even more enamored of him when he takes her own plans a step further. He wants to slaughter the entire village, not just a few random people.
Cordelia and Wes are working on the security system. She seems very confident that this will give them an extra advantage against intruding demons. I’m skeptical, and Wes seems to be too. Angel plans to head out to do some more recon on those shady packages and Trevor, but before he can leave, Kate strides in. Cordelia is annoyed, because the lack of ringing alarms means they didn’t set up the system right. (Wait, so she wants it to go off when people walk in during office hours? Doesn’t that defeat the entire purpose of a business like theirs?)
Angel and Kate go into his office. She did find him info about the train’s passengers after all. What her dad said did get to her, it seems. She’s letting go of her bias against Angel, because that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that he’s a good P.I. and a good man. He’s really happy to hear her say that. She’d like to help with the case if she can, which surprises him.
After Kate leaves, Angel decides he needs to go see Trevor again. Wesley thinks it’s a bad idea, but Angel thinks Trevor might not know exactly what he’s dealing with, and he at least deserves to be informed before he gets himself in any deeper. The link to the flashbacks is becoming clearer. Angel has been through hell (at times literally) in part because of his human self’s one decision to leave home and abandon himself to his vices. Trevor could be making a similar mistake right now. Angel doesn’t want Trevor or Kate to suffer for that mistake. He heads out.
Cordelia turns on the security system once Angel leaves, only for it to immediately alert her that the door has been opened. Which it has, by another one of those normally peaceful demons. The security system provides commentary about various examples of property damage as Cordy and Wes struggle against the demon (and a second demon who arrives shortly after the first). Luckily, Angel didn’t get very far away, and he helps them. He calls Kate and tells her to warn her dad and get him out. They both might be too late getting to him, though. The suits are already at Trevor’s apartment.
Flashback! Angelus is now inside Liam’s family’s house, where his dad is nailing garlic up in all the windows and doorways. He got inside because his little sister, Kathy, invited him. He already killed her. And his mom. Now he’s prowling closer to his dad. For someone so determined both in life and in death not to bow to his father’s influence, he certainly seems to be trying pretty hard now to act like he’s the strong one. He vamps out and kills him.
Trevor offers the suits a drink. They’re inside his apartment now. He assures them that he hasn’t told Kate anything about them. He’s been doing all this for her, to provide her with enough money to be taken care of, but he would never tell her about it. He pulls a pistol out of his cupboard, and then there’s a knock at his door. It’s Angel. He tries to get Trevor to invite him in. Trevor doesn’t want to. The suits vamp out. Crap. And the vamps don’t respond to his threats either. They attack Trevor. Trevor dies, and the barrier goes down. Angel bursts in and stakes one of them. The other flees, pushing past Kate on his way out.
Kate is distraught. All the progress she made towards accepting Angel has been thoroughly undone. She kicks him out while she cradles her father’s body.
Back at his apartment, Angel is gearing up. Wesley finds him, and he’s a little uncertain about Angel’s new approach to this situation. Angel isn’t interested in anyone’s advice or criticism.
Kate is still at Trevor’s place, sitting in a corner, crying. She spots the envelope full of money, along with a business card for that chop shop. She makes it there before Angel and promptly shoots three of the guys there. Holy crap. They’re all vampires, though, so the bullets only slow them down a bit. She stakes the one who ran away from her dad’s apartment. Then the big boss demon strolls out. She empties her clip into him, which does pretty much nothing. Angel shows up, wielding an axe. They start fighting. Angel threatens to behead the boss demon unless he lets them walk out. He pretends to take them up on that offer, but then sics the vamps on them as soon as they turn around. Angel tosses his axe up in the air, stakes the two remaining vamps with his spring-loaded stakes while it’s still in its arc, then catches it and beheads him.
The battle over, Angel tries to talk to Kate, but she once again wants nothing to do with him. She tells him he knows nothing about being human, and leaves.
Flashback. Darla walks into the house, where Angel is sitting at the table, his family’s corpses strewn around. She tells him he hasn’t defeated his father the way he thought he did. He’ll always be infected by what he cared about as a human.
In the present, Kate is putting flowers on her dad’s grave, while Angel watches from inside a mausoleum (because it’s daytime). The tombstone mirrors Liam’s, which said “Beloved Son.” This one says “Beloved Father.”
“The Prodigal” is a great episode for anyone interested in backstory. Angel has a lot of that, but this is the only time outside of “Becoming: Part 1” (and the tiniest snippet in “Amends”) where we get to see anything of his human past. Human Angel gets a name (a first name, anyway), parents, and a sister. And we get new Darla footage for the first time since those first flashbacks, too! There’s really been a lot about family in the last few episodes. First, Penn is obsessed with proving over and over that he is free of his ties to his family in “Somnambulist,” then Angel calls Cordelia his family in “Expecting,” then there are parallels between him and Seth, the father in “I’ve Got You under My Skin,” and now the flashbacks to the downfall of Liam and his human family are linked to the Lockleys. I’m starting to wonder if the overall theme of the season isn’t the importance of friendship, but the importance of family. That’s kind of brilliant. It’s a shame it had to set Kate and Angel’s friendship back to square one again, though. If things hadn’t gone down the way they did, she might’ve ended up a part of the team for real.
Angel doesn’t just care about Kate, he cares about her relationship with her father. Because of his own experience, I think he might feel like estrangement between parents and children leads to disaster. He tries to get Trevor to get out of his shady dealings, and he tries to protect Kate from learning about those shady dealings. I think it’s interesting that he gives Trevor the chance to fix it himself. It’s a chance I’m sure he wishes he’d had with his own family. In the end, it’s not enough. He can no more save Trevor from the consequences of his mistakes than he can go back in time and save his own family from his demon. Still, I think Darla was wrong. Liam may not have given his father much to be proud of, and his disapproval may have bothered Angelus long after he killed him, but now Angel is a warrior for good, someone who protects people, fights evil, and cares deeply for the people in his life. He may still not be exactly the son his father wanted, but the drunken, whoring layabout who caused the man so much anguish is definitely gone.
I’m not sure why Cordelia is so obsessed with security systems. It almost seems like she slipped into the ditziness she occasionally exhibited in Buffy episodes. An electronic security system would be completely useless against demons. The most it can do is blare noise at them and summon mortal police officers. If she really wants to give them better protection at the office, she should be looking into protection spells. Maybe it makes sense that she wouldn’t think of such a thing (and Angel probably feels like his vamp senses will alert him plenty early to handle any threat, so he’s not thinking about security systems of any sort to begin with), but how come that didn’t occur to Wesley?
Wesley manages to be helpful without being an enormous sycophant or trying a little too hard to prove himself this time. He’s improving already! I wonder where he learned how to perform a demon dissection, and how he’s able to do it so effectively while still calling it a vivisection. (Vivisection is for things that are still alive, Wesley. I certainly hope that demon wasn’t alive while you were poking around in its organs.) Poor lab vocabulary aside, does this mean the Watchers’ academy teaches a demon biology course, and they did demon dissections for their lab assignments?
“Ever since she ran me through with a two-by-four, things have been different.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.