Written by David Straiton
Directed by Campbell
A black girl with seriously awesome hair is walking anxiously down a not-so-pleasant part of Los Angeles at night. Three dudes start following her, gradually getting closer. She ends up backed down what appears to be a dead-end alley, and the guys are vampires. But then the vampires turn around to face a newcomer holding a sword. The camera starts at the guy’s feet, and Angel’s hero music is playing in the background, but then it changes key as the camera pans up, because, surprise! The guy isn’t Angel. He’s a very handsome black man. A tricked-out truck full of guys wielding anti-vampire weaponry pulls up behind him. Fantastic entrance. Even though we don’t recognize this guy, the vampires do.
After the intro theme, we (and the A.I. team) arrive at a swanky party. Cordelia feels right at home. They’re there to meet with one David Nabbit, a socially awkward nerd who looks like a hobbit and made billions in the software industry. He’s their new client, and Cordelia ever-so-subtly suggested that he throw a party for a bunch of important people so they could keep their meeting with him more inconspicuous. Wow.
Nabbit’s case involves tabletop RPGs, demon prostitutes, and blackmail. What I’d like to know is how Wesley knows about the specific demon brothel Nabbit has been frequenting. He makes an effort to play it off as common knowledge to the Watchers’ Council, and I can’t tell if he’s just covering or if he realizes what that sounded like and is backpedaling in a vain attempt to stop them from getting the wrong idea. He tells Angel about the blackmailer, and Angel’s job is to recover the compromising photographs before the blackmailer can publish them.
Over in the bad part of town, all those street kids are in a full-blown battle against the gang of vampires. They have a stake-launcher mounted on the bed of the truck, and they’re very good at using it. They still take a couple of casualties, though. Eventually, the remaining vampires flee, and the kids retreat back to their hideout (an abandoned building), carrying one kid who’s in bad shape. He doesn’t survive more than another couple of minutes. I’m really confused about the cause of death, though. Was his spine broken? Was there massive internal bleeding? He was talking right up until he went all glassy-eyed and dead. *shrug* The awesome leader guy’s name is Charles Gunn, and the girl who drew the vampires into that alley is his sister, Alonna.
Angel pays a visit to that demon brothel (and one of the girls there is the same type of demon from “She”). For information. Even if he was there for something else, they don’t allow vampire clients. The madam is not at all happy to hear that one of her clients is being blackmailed, because she prides herself on the discretion of her operation. The prostitute who was with Nabbit is a demon with weird spiny purple-and-white hair, and a tail. She thinks Angel’s a client and would be happy to work with him. She gets pretty flustered when he shows her the picture of the blackmailer.
At the street kids’ headquarters, Alonna wants a word with her brother. She’s very upset about how that battle plan went down. In fact, she’s upset that he thought they needed to have a battle in the first place, since they hadn’t been attacked in three weeks. She thinks he’s some kind of danger junkie who’s going to get them all killed. He promises he won’t let that happen. Some of their other guys come back with news about where the vampires are holing up, and then another guy reports in about a solo vampire traveling by rooftop in their direction. Hmm, wonder who that could be. Gunn and one of his main lieutenants go to check it out.
Angel sneaks up on the blackmailer, and it’s the first (but definitely not the last) time his arrival is heralded by this cool little ghostly whistle sound. I love that sound. It really enhances his mystique. He starts threatening the blackmailer in a jovial sort of way, which is great fun. The guy doesn’t respond until he vamps out and informs him this is his territory now. (Gunn and his main guys are listening in, and they are not liking what they hear.) He lets the blackmailer go with instructions to retrieve the pictures or else, then vanishes again.
Wesley and Cordelia are at Nabbit’s place, and he’s writing a check for services rendered. Also he really appreciates that they actually hung out with him at the party. Aww. Why doesn’t he have any friends? His little demon prostitutes thing aside, he seems like a pretty lovable guy. (And seriously, doesn’t he look like a hobbit? Like, from the animated Lord of the Rings movies?)
Apparently the amount he put on the check is something insanely huge, because Cordelia temporarily loses her powers of speech (except to stop Wesley from “we couldn’t possibly”-ing them out of the check). The job isn’t even finished yet. He wants them to call him David, too.
The blackmailer waits at that first spot Angel found him to hand off the photographs. Angel does his Batman thing, accompanied by another ghostly whistle (yesss). This isn’t going to be a simple hand-off, though. The blackmailer hired a demon hit man to take Angel out. The demon manages to do some damage, but then Angel gets the upper hand and ultimately breaks its neck. Blackmail guy runs away, and then Angel gets a stake through his shoulder from that stake-launcher on Gunn’s truck. The truck chases him down the alley and all the way into a building...which is rigged with booby traps and guys waiting to jump out at him with stakes. He manages to navigate this minefield without killing anyone or dying, though there will be plenty of bruises all around.
Angel and the street kids come to a stalemate when Angel gets Alonna by the neck while Gunn aims a crossbow at him. Angel lets Alonna go as a sign of good faith, but she falls on another tripwire. He throws his hand out to take the ensuing crossbow bolt through the palm so it doesn’t strike her right in the face. They’re all rather stunned, and he pulls the bolt out. Wait, is that a metal crossbow bolt? What’s the point of that? Angel tries to convince them he’s on their side. Gunn doesn’t really care, but he’ll let him walk this one time. They leave him there.
The next day at the office, Cordelia is bandaging Angel’s injuries while Wesley looks through the pile of photographs, which are apparently horrifying. Now that they’ve got the blackmailer material dealt with, they can focus on the street kids and making sure they don’t get themselves killed. Angel wants to take out the nest before the kids can take another crack at it. He gets Wesley and Cordelia looking for it.
Meanwhile, at the aforementioned nest, the vampires (at least ten of them) are not happy with the street kids moving in on their turf. Also, did they run out of yellow contact lenses, or were some of the extras just allergic to contacts or something?
The leader of the nest stakes one of his oldest cohorts to prove a point, which really seems like a stupid idea. His plan for dealing with the street kids is to go for the heart. Uh oh.
Alonna is trying to convince Gunn and the main lieutenant guy that they should consider teaming up with Angel, but Gunn really doesn’t want to.
Angel comes walking into the vampires’ nest, holding a stake. One of them is waiting to ambush him from the ceiling, and that goes about like this:
You’ll have to get up earlier than that if you want to get the jump on Angel, dude.
Alonna has just returned from a trip to the market. Based on the questions Gunn asks her about the trip, I suspect that the food wasn’t actually purchased. Then Gunn’s spidey-sense starts tingling. He orders an evacuation about five seconds before smoke bombs comes bouncing into their building. It’s the middle of the day, so he and the guys can’t figure out how the vampires could be attacking from the street and how they even got an invitation in the first place. Except that no vampires actually come inside. They were literally just trying to smoke them out, and it worked. A windowless van comes screeching up, and vampires covered head-to-toe in leather and ski-masks for protection from the sun grab Alonna and drive off. Gunn jumps onto the van and sees them starting to bite her, but their leader punches him right through the glass, knocking him off the van, which drives away.
Wesley and Cordelia pull into the alley outside the street kids’ hideout. Cordelia would prefer to fantasize that she’s on a luxury beach, but they need to figure out where exactly the hideout is.
Apparently they succeed, because next we see, Angel is grabbing one of the kids and demanding an invitation, which he gives. Then he strides inside, tossing the kid ahead of him. Gunn still doesn’t want Angel’s help. He whips the cover off a window, letting in the sunlight and forcing Angel to retreat into something that looks like it was once a walk-in refrigerator, which they slam shut on him.
Gunn and his crew are launching the assault on the vamp nest. Gunn goes in first, alone. He finds Alonna in there, singing to herself. He’s so happy to see her until he realizes what happened. They turned her into a vampire. She sees it as an improvement, and she tosses him across the room. She thinks being on Team Vampires is way better, and she’s pretty sure Gunn would love it too. He’s devastated, but that doesn’t make the prospect of killing the monster that looks like his baby sister any easier.
Angel is struggling to break his way out of his prison. He’s about to succeed when Cordelia just opens the door from the outside. Angel is understandably annoyed at being rescued after all that work he did to escape on his own. Hahaha. Wesley reprimands Angel for not thinking to call them with his cell phone. Wait, seriously? They’re still doing the gag where Angel doesn’t know how to use a cell phone? It would be a fine gag if he hadn’t proven in that early episode that he’s perfectly capable of using a cell phone.
Vamp Alonna is reminiscing about how she always hero-worshipped her big brother. He’s always protected her and taken care of her, and now she wants to do that for him. She vamps out and leans in for the bite, then turns to dust as he stakes her. Through her falling ashes, we see Angel silhouetted in a doorway. Gunn has changed his mind about wanting a battle, but the rest of the vamp nest comes out. They’re not going to let them back down.
Angel strides out of the shadows to make his own threats to the vamp nest. They can leave now, or he’ll kill them all. He even uses some of his reputation from his pre-soul days to make an impression when he introduces himself. He says “The name’s Angelus.” So cool. Then he stakes the leader. The minion vamps are looking a little less confident now, but Gunn’s lieutenant is still spoiling for a fight. Gunn has him and the others back down, and they all leave.
Wesley and Cordelia are at a little outdoor coffee vendor. Wesley accidentally ordered an extremely overcomplicated drink when all he really wanted was straightforward coffee. Cordelia is trying to convince herself that she could stomach being David Nabbit’s mistress if it meant she had access to the kind of money that could really help out kids like Gunn’s crewmembers. She doesn’t succeed. Wesley is amused.
It’s night, and the camera does a long zoom down an abandoned building until it reaches Gunn looking out over the city. Angel joins him there. Gunn doesn’t want to talk to him, but Angel’s not here to give him a lecture. He respects Gunn for how he’s been holding his crew together like that, and for being able to stake the thing that wasn’t his sister anymore. Gunn says he doesn’t want Angel’s help. Angel gets his attention by suggesting he might need Gunn’s help at some point. Then he pulls a Batman again.
“War Zone” is interesting. The plot with David Nabbit, the demon brothel, and blackmail could have been its own episode, and so could Gunn’s crew versus the nest of vampires. Instead, these two wildly different stories are overlaid on each other. Seeing David Nabbit’s cushy digs highlights the desperate situation of Gunn’s crew, and seeing the love and camaraderie of Gunn’s crew highlights the “forever alone” emptiness of David Nabbit’s existence. I think it’s a pretty good episode. Gunn was already an interesting character when he was standing where the audience expected Angel to be standing, and the episode kept on delivering with him. J. August Richards does a fantastic job. Gunn’s anti-vampire truck is awesome. He has clearly earned the trust and respect of his crew, not just by being the best fighter, but by being a good leader who cares about all of them. However, when people trust you like that, it means you’re responsible for their well-being. Gunn learns caution in the most brutal way possible. It’s not his fault that Alonna got turned into a vampire, but the vampires wouldn’t have considered taking her if he hadn’t been pushing so hard for that war against them. Also, vampire Alonna pretty much tells him a twisted version of his own mindset, which is what makes him realize that the living Alonna’s way of thinking was better. I’m definitely ready to see more of Gunn.
Angel deals with David Nabbit’s problem in fairly short order, but he’s much more emotionally invested in Gunn’s crew. David Nabbit is a bit like Jonathan Levinson, except that he’s the kind of nerd with a highly marketable skill set. He’s a nice enough guy, so Angel doesn’t mind helping him, but he’s a bit naïve when it comes to Plot A stuff. He dips his toes into it (or, well, other parts) because he thinks it’s exciting and exotic. The only danger he’s in is the danger to his company’s stocks and his personal reputation. Gunn’s crew is up to their necks in Plot A stuff. They couldn’t get out of it if they tried. So they’re the ones who matter more to Angel. Also, when he’s threatening the blackmailer, he says offhandedly that he wants love and a family. He might be in jovial menace mode, but he’s not lying.
Cordelia continues to be shameless when it comes to rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful. I love her “sorry not sorry!” smile when Angel realizes he’s at a rich people party because Cordelia manipulated David into throwing one. Although, now that I think about it, a party like that actually would be a pretty good cover if you’re trying to make sure your blackmailer doesn’t know you’re hiring a private investigator to deal with him.
Wesley spends most of the episode being Cordelia’s foil, but that scene where they go check out the neighborhood where Gunn’s crew is likely holing up made me realize something. He hardly ever did field work in Sunnydale, but now he does it all the time. Whether he’s accompanying Angel to face demons or bringing Cordelia with him to do recon during the day, he’s game for more than just book research.
“They locked you in, huh?”
“No. I just love old meat lockers.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.