“To Shanshu in L.A.”
Written by David Greenwalt
Directed by David Greenwalt
Arial shot of Los Angeles. Gradually, we end up in the office, where Wesley is still poring over the prophecy from last time. His entire desk is covered in reference materials. One word in particular has him stumped: Shanshu. He’s starting to get frazzled, especially when Cordelia voices her own impatience. Also she seems to think the ancient prophecies are like a carnival Tarot reading, which annoys Wesley even more, even though she was joking.
An ominous figure in a purple robe makes its way towards the office. Inside, Cordelia has found a newspaper article about Lindsey’s promotion. They’re all a bit indignant that he would sell out after working with them, but not especially surprised. Then Angel’s spidey senses start tingling. Turns out, the purple-robed figure is David Nabbit in his dungeon master cape. He wants to hang out. He is so very sad. But adorable. He’s quite impressed with their office. He envies the sense of purpose they must feel in their work. Even though he’s a billionaire, he doesn’t really feel like it means much. His visit is rather awkward. He just needs to stop trying too hard.
Elsewhere, some robed dudes are doing a summoning spell, which conjures this guy:
Holland, Lindsey, and Lilah are his welcoming committee.
Nabbit is still at the office, and it is still awkward. He finally gives up and leaves. His visit did do some good, though: it got Wesley away from his research long enough for some of the pieces to click together in his brain. He thinks Shanshu means death. Which would mean the prophecy is about Angel’s death. Cordelia is rather upset, but Angel seems remarkably unaffected. Which weirds Wesley out. Then Cordy gets hit with a vision about a slime demon attacking a homeless woman. Angel leaves to take care of it while Cordy fumes about being stuck with painful, stinky visions, which Wesley finds endearing.
At W&H, the masked dude is giving Holland crap about Angel stealing the scroll. Apparently it’s a vital element of some crucial ritual. He’s even less pleased when he learns Angel was the thief. The ritual is supposed to be something that will make Angel switch teams. Yikes. Masked dude plans to fix their mistakes without their help, and he’s going to “sever Angel’s ties to the Powers.”
Police cars pull up in front of the waste treatment plant where Angel went to fight a demon. Kate is one of the cops on scene, but it seems she’s working outside her precinct again, and she’s getting a rather unflattering reputation amongst L.A.’s police force at large because of it. She goes in despite their scorn, and she finds Angel guiding the homeless woman out. She’s definitely insane. Kate wants to know what it was, and she’s pretty curt about it. She starts laughing when he tries to be sympathetic. Boo, Kate, cut it out. Angel isn’t the one who killed your dad, so stop treating him like it.
Wesley is still working on the translations, but he’s losing hope of finding a different answer than “death.” Cordelia tries to downplay it. Big whoop if there’s a prophecy about Angel’s death; he’s in and out of life-and-death situations on a constant basis. Also she wants food. Wesley thinks Angel’s lack of reaction about his impending demise is because there’s nothing he wants. (Okay, not true. It’s just that most of the things he wants are forbidden to him because he’s a vampire with an extremely unfortunate curse.) He’s worried that Angel is cut off because of his immortal, unchanging nature. Which is exactly why Doyle showed up to help him forge some human connections. Cordelia wants to help him, and she refuses to accept that there’s nothing they can do.
Angel comes up the elevator. Cordy tries to tempt him with coffee and doughnuts and then gets upset when he wants neither, which confuses him. He’s not very excited about her and Wesley wanting to help him connect with the world. Wesley heads out to find some more reference books. While he’s gone, Angel is going to store the scroll in the weapons cabinet. Why don’t they make a copy? Shouldn’t that have been their first priority? Aren’t there things on that scroll besides the prophecy about Angel that are important?
Cordelia tries to get Angel to go to the Oracles. He doesn’t seem interested.
Or maybe he is. Now we’re in the Oracles’ realm. But their visitor isn’t Angel. Crap. It’s masked dude. They are extremely displeased to see him. Under normal circumstances, creatures like him can’t even get in. He conjures a scythe. Nooo, I like the Oracles!
Cordelia is strolling down an open air market. She stops at an art supply booth, hoping to buy Angel something that will get him interested in a new hobby (I guess she doesn’t remember that Angel is already good at drawing). Masked dude comes strolling down the market just as she finishes her rather large purchase. Cordelia is such a sweetheart in this scene, and she shows how much Angel means to her. And then the masked dude comes along and brushes against her, making a mark appear on her hand. He’s gone when she looks around, and then she has a vision. It ends, and she pulls out her phone to call Wes or Angel about it, but then she has another. She ends up curled on the ground, screaming at the pain from nonstop visions, surrounded by concerned market-goers and vendors.
Next, masked dude heads down into the office. Angel is looking at the scroll on his way to storing it in the cabinet. He doesn’t notice masked dude lurking in his apartment, but he does seem to think something might be wrong, because he’s about to get the scroll back out. Then he’s distracted by the phone ringing. It’s about Cordelia. He leaves in a hurry, leaving masked dude’s path to the scroll clear. He leaves something else in its place. Something with a pulsing sound effect.
Angel gets to the hospital, and the receptionist tries to get him to sit in the waiting area, but he hears Cordelia screaming and goes running. Several doctors and nurses are trying to hold Cordelia down on her hospital bed, but she’s thrashing violently and screaming. Angel yells that he’s family, and they let him get closer. The visions just won’t stop, and there’s nothing the doctors can do to stop the pain, since the cause is mystical. If it keeps going, she’ll die.
Wesley comes back to the office and goes to get the scroll, but the cabinet is busted. He opens it, then backs away and starts running. We can still hear that pulsing noise.
Angel pulls up to the office building, but before he can walk up to the front steps, the whole first floor explodes, knocking him backwards onto the street. Goodbye, Angel Investigations, Angel’s cool basement apartment, and...Wesley?
After the commercial break, Angel is making his way down into the burning remains of his apartment, calling for Wesley. He finds him on the back stairs, unconscious. He sees him onto an ambulance. It drives away, and Kate chooses that moment to come harass Angel some more. His patience for her attitude is now gone, though. (Also, she looks kind of ill. Like, her lips are almost bluish. Is she okay, physically?) He tells her he’s done being her punching bag for all the crap she can’t deal with, and he leaves.
Wesley is now in the hospital. Angel stands there by his bedside, looking distraught and helpless. Then he heads over to where Cordelia is. She’s not screaming anymore, just lying there with a miserable expression, eyes staring at nothing. Angel takes her hand and promises her he’ll fix everything. I’m not sure he realized how much Wesley and Cordelia meant to him until someone tried to take them away. He notices the mark on Cordy’s hand. It’s a lead. He follows it.
He goes to the realm of the Oracles, only to find their bodies—the scythe still sticking out of one of them. However, the spirit of the female Oracle materializes next to him. She tells him who killed her. Masked dude’s name is Voca. He’s a warrior of the underworld, and he’s been trying to weaken Angel by attacking the people he cares about. If Angel wants to save Cordelia, he’s going to need to get that scroll back. It has the spell to heal her on it. Angel grabs the scythe and heads out.
Gunn and his gang are gratefully collecting crates of, I’m guessing, end-of-the-day leftovers from a restaurant when Angel pulls up. They whip out crossbows when they see him, but then Gunn calls them off and comes out to meet Angel. Gunn is more than happy to do Angel another favor, since the last one was hilarious. Angel wants Gunn to protect Wes and Cordy while he confronts Voca and W&H.
In a large mausoleum, five vampires are chained to a large wooden box. Voca and his monks stroll in and begin a ritual that involves opening the gates of hell and releasing some kind of beast.
Angel stakes out W&H. Holland comes out with a posse of lawyers, including Lilah and Lindsey. Lilah ribs Lindsey a bit as they all climb in limos to head to the mausoleum, along with a large moving truck. Angel follows in his car.
Voca is still doing the ritual when Holland and the rest arrive. Then we hear that awesome ghostly whistle noise that means Angel has arrived. It looks like Voca hears it too, because he pauses the ritual and walks over to the other side of the mausoleum, conjuring a new scythe. His instincts are excellent; Angel breaks through the iron lattice door a second later. They fight. Lindsey steps up to continue the ritual. The monks are a bit shocked, but they go along with it after some encouragement. The mausoleum starts shaking, and then all the vampires turn to dust. Their ashes swirl in a vortex around the wooden box while Lindsey continues the chant. Then a shockwave of white light shoots out of the box, throwing Lindsey to the ground. On Holland’s order, a bunch of moving guys haul the box away, and all the lawyers clear out, leaving Lindsey, Voca, and Angel in the mausoleum.
It looks like a pair of scythes are pretty awkward dueling weapons, but Angel eventually makes it work. He uses his to shove off Voca’s mask, revealing a face covered in maggots before he buries the scythe in it. Nasty. Lindsey’s up by now, and he fends angel off with a long pole ending in a cross. Nice. He’s holding the scroll in his other hand. Angel calls Lindsey out for the choice he made, but Lindsey isn’t remotely apologetic. He’s completely bought into the “power is what matters” philosophy now. Also, he knows Angel can only help Cordelia with the scroll, so he holds it over a brazier to burn it. Angel throws the scythe, cutting off Lindsey’s right hand and saving the scroll. He takes the scroll and leaves Lindsey furious and in agony over his fun new stump.
Wesley is conscious now, and he reads out the part of the scroll that will heal Cordelia. It causes a weird power overload in the hospital, but the mark disappears from her hand and she finally starts responding to her surroundings again. But it was still a super harrowing experience. She’s happy to see them, but she starts crying. Not for herself, though. She wants to help the people in her visions. Angel promises they will, and he wipes away her tears and clutches her hand.
Later, the three of them are at Cordelia’s apartment, since they can’t exactly go back to the office anymore. Wesley is working on the translations again. Cordelia is bustling about making food for all of them, including Angel! He’s a little self-conscious about drinking blood in front of them, but Cordelia insists that they’re family; it shouldn’t matter. Awwwwwww. He smiles. And Wesley’s still kind of stunned that she’s being so solicitous. She tosses in some insensitive comments, proving that she didn’t get a completely new personality knocked into her by Voca’s attack, but helping people just jumped ahead of “becoming rich and famous” on her priority list, and that’s not changing.
Wesley realizes he screwed up the translation just a bit. Shanshu doesn’t mean just “death,” it means “living and dying,” as in, the cycle of human life. As in, if Angel traverses all the obstacles ahead of him and helps avert the apocalypse, he’ll be able to earn the reward of becoming human. Wesley’s very excited, and even Cordelia thinks that’s pretty neat. Angel has a faraway look in his eyes. It won’t be an easy or a short road, but there’s definitely a light at the end of it.
Meanwhile, in W&H’s vault, Holland, Lilah, and a rather irritable one-handed Lindsey check out what’s in the box. It’s Darla. Oh boy.
“To Shanshu in L.A.” almost feels like a condensed version of everything important in season one. Angel needed to build ties to other people instead of cutting himself off, Cordelia needed to learn to be less self-centered, and Wesley needed to trade his overblown ego for actual confidence in the things he’s good at. The episode begins with a distant, apathetic Angel, a Cordelia who can only think about food, and a Wesley who’s beating himself up for his inability to effortlessly crack the translation. It ends with Angel understanding how much these two people have come to mean to him and learning that not only redemption, but retirement to a normal human life might be possible for him; Cordelia gaining new, more altruistic priorities that extend to Angel and Wesley as well as the people they help; and Wesley being confident in his own work and delighted about what it means for his friend. And it also continues the trend of using W&H as the primary antagonist, even when a monster-of-the-week is in play (in this case, Voca). It’s a great follow-up to “Blind Date” in terms of Lindsey’s downward development. Most season finales in shows like this tend to be much flashier, but even though the battles are pretty standard fare for a normal episode of Angel, thematically, it’s still a very satisfying episode. And the office and Angel’s apartment getting blown up do make up for the ordinariness of the battle in terms of epic season finale stuff. I think the only thing I actually don’t like about the episode is Kate. Her attitude seems incredibly harsh, and I’m not sure there’s enough justification for that. She should be getting more bitter, not more combative, as more time passes since her father’s death. It’s kind of ruining her as a character for me.
W&H clearly hasn’t learned enough about Angel yet, or they would know better than to go after the people Angel cares about before they go after him. He’s already in this fight for the sake of other people more than himself, and that’s when it’s people he doesn’t even know. Lay a hand on someone he considers family, and he’ll destroy you. I wonder why Angel seemed so depressed at the beginning of the episode. Was the idea that his fight might be as interminable as his own life wearing on him after going up against W&H?
Cordelia’s development has been fairly subtle, but it tends to jump forward the most when she gets put through the wringer, and boy was this episode a wringer. I find it incredibly admirable that she could spend the better part of a day in so much pain that she lost all sense of her surroundings, and the first thing she did when she came out the other side of it was to tell Angel and Wesley that they needed to keep helping people. Who would have guessed that the girl who bullied Willow in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” could become someone so driven by concern for the welfare of strangers? And when she tells Angel they’re family, it just gets me so hard. I’ve never really formed much of an opinion about Cordelia before, but I think I can officially say I like her now.
I love Wesley’s dogged determination to figure out a translation that doesn’t spell doom for Angel. Angel’s done so much for him, and he wants very badly to return the favor. It’s so sweet. Their friendship is wonderful. And the fond look on his face when Cordelia is being Cordelia is also adorable. Wesley really has a place with these people.
“I’ve been dead a while. So far, I don’t like it.”
“Remember when Robert Price let the Senior Partners down and they made him eat his liver? [placidly] I don’t know what made me think of that.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.