Written by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon
Directed by Michael Lange
A scary looking green-skinned demon with red horns and eyes walks into frame...and starts singing “I Will Survive.” In a karaoke bar, with an audience who’s enjoying it. He tells them about how scary and messed up L.A. is, but that’s part of what makes it the town they love.
Elsewhere, Cordelia is begging a guy not to leave her. Then she slaps him and he objects to the director and crew. The director is very impressed, but the guy is still indignant about getting slapped. They’re about to take it from the top when Cordelia gets paged. Time to do Angel Investigations work. She bales without hesitation.
Wesley is playing darts in a bar, and he’s doing quite well. He gets paged too. He pauses on his way out to smile at a woman who’s been checking him out and tries to be cool by throwing a dart without looking. Judging by the cry of pain that results, he missed the dart board. Hahaha. Cool exit ruined, he leaves sheepishly with his winnings.
Angel, Cordy, and Wes stride into a gym, ignoring the protests of the manager who only wants paying customers on his premises. It’s fun having a vampire walking through a room surrounded by mirrors, but only if you keep the aspect ratio in the originally aired 4:3, rather than 16:9 like Netflix and the official DVDs (the show wasn’t actually shot for 16:9 until S3). In 4:3, it would’ve been easy to keep David Boreanaz’s reflection out of view in shots like these:
Oops. Anyway the gym manager stops talking when he realizes Angel doesn’t have a reflection, and then Angel vamps out and shatters one of the mirrors, revealing a room full of demons and their hostages. Angel and Wesley kill the demons with slight help from Cordelia, and then they free the hostages and leave.
Season two credits! Gunn has joined the main cast. Excellent.
At Cordelia’s apartment, they have a large white board of ongoing cases. Cordy and Wes are focused on the cases, but Angel is distracted by the everyday concerns he might have if he becomes human. Aww. Cordy has a vision of a big demon.
At W&H, Lilah is just finishing a conversation with either a client or an enemy. She goes to Lindsey’s office and mocks him for being one-handed while he struggles angrily with a CD case. (Hey, at the best of times, two-handed people can barely get the wrapping off those things.) He’s playing music on his stereo for Darla. Lilah’s attitude towards her is very coddling, which Lindsey thinks is moronic, considering that Darla’s over 400. She can sense Angel. They want to use her against Angel. She seems down for that.
Angel is trying to sketch the demon from Cordy’s vision. Dennis tries to help but is a little overenthusiastic about sending the correct book flying into Wesley’s hands. Wesley really wants them to get a real office soon. They’ve struck gold on the demon, though. Wes knows of a new contact they can use to get info, but in order to talk to him, they’ll have to go...
...To the demon karaoke bar. The current singer is a demon of the same species as the thuggish frog demon from “The Ring,” doing a spirited rendition of “I’m So Excited.” New arrivals (including one of the psychic demons from “Earshot”) have to check their weapons at the door. Wes, Cordy, and Angel come in. Okay, I know we aren’t going to learn the name of the green-skinned, red-horned demon until close to the end of the season, but I do n’t care. His name is Lorne, so that’s what I’m going to call him for the sake of brevity and clarity. Lorne makes the frog demon’s song a duet. The crowd loves it, and a furry demon with long horns steps up for the next song while Lorne pulls the frog demon aside. Lorne can read people’s auras and futures when they sing, so he offers advice to people (and demons) who sing in his bar. The frog demon is particularly psyched right now because it’s hatching time and that means he gets to enjoy some homemade caviar. Yum!
The A.I. team meet up with the new informant, a green, tongueless demon named Merl. He tells them some stuff about the demon they’re after. Lorne tries to get Angel to sing, but Angel doesn’t want to. Wesley explains Lorne’s abilities to Cordelia. Cordy wants Angel to sing, but Angel really really doesn’t want to. He leaves.
In the tunnels Merl mentioned, Angel sees a heavily pregnant woman making her way along, and then the demon attacks. Angel kills it, to the horror of the pregnant woman. According to the end credits, but not based on any dialogue in the episode itself, her name is Jo. The demon was her friend and protector. Angel tries to apologize, but Jo doesn’t want to hear it. As far as she’s concerned, he just ruined everything for her.
Back at Cordy’s place, Angel explains the mix-up to Wes and Cordy. Cordy in particular is annoyed with the Powers for giving her super vague visions that allow these kinds of mistakes to happen. That demon was an extremely rare exception for its kind, if it was protecting a pregnant woman. Kind of how Angel is an exception for his kind. Angel decides that accidentally killing a good guy means he’ll be taking over that guy’s mission. Also, he thinks Merl deliberately misled them.
Cut to him roughing Merl up. There’s a price on Jo’s baby, and Merl reluctantly tells her where the demon lived.
Elsewhere, a well-off looking white dude sees a gang of guys in hoodies approaching and immediately runs away. But it’s just Gunn and his crew, trying to protect the guy from a vampire. They succeed, and the guy is kind of in shock, then runs back to his car. Wow, what a weenie. Angel shows up and Gunn sends his crew home so they can catch up. Angel wants his help finding the good demon’s lair. They find it behind a fake vent. Pretty tidy digs for a demon. I’m a little confused about why he left so many candles burning when he headed out for the night, though. Seems unsafe. Angel finds out that his name was Kamal, and he finds a medallion in a secret compartment of a box on his table. He gives it to Gunn and sends him to Cordy and Wes with it.
Angel stays behind to continue looking at Kamal’s stuff. He lights a fresh candle in front of Kamal’s little Buddhist shrine. Then his vamp senses go off, but it’s just Jo. She’s not happy to see him. She thinks Angel’s a lot like Kamal, though. She’s sick of everyone treating her baby like some holy warrior. To Jo, she’s just her daughter. Angel gives her a business card. She hesitantly accepts his help and tells him she needs that very same medallion thing he found so she can present it to the Tribunal. She’s not happy that he sent it off with Gunn, and she would like him to leave her alone now.
On her way out, Jo gets jumped by a nasty-looking demon. Angel fights it, but he wants to be very clear that this is something he’s actually supposed to kill first. It is. He kills it. More are on the way. She’s willing to work with him now.
Gunn knocks on Cordy’s door, but she and Wes haven’t actually met him yet, so they think there’s someone at the door with a gun. He explains it’s just his name and that Angel sent him. Cordy lets him in. It’s one of the more awkward introductions between main characters I’ve seen, and it is fantastic. Gunn has a little fun with them when he tells them he knows them from the time he watched out for them in “To Shanshu in L.A.,” after which they stop being huge spazzes. Wesley immediately starts researching the medallion.
Angel and Jo make their way into the basement of an abandoned hotel. The way the camera pulls out and slowly pans around, it doesn’t seem like this is the only time we’ll be seeing this place. And it’s not the first time Angel’s been there. Jo explains what the Tribunal is, then decides she’ll just leave town. Angel doesn’t like her chances if she does that. The demons are catching up, so Angel tells Jo to head to the address on the card while he stays to fight.
When he makes it to Cordy’s place, Jo isn’t there. His shirt is shredded. He’s rather upset that he’s failed to gain her trust, and he feels like this failure has larger implications for how close he is to getting that reward of becoming human. Cordelia gives him a nice pep talk. She’ll be with him until he gets there. And now Wesley has figured out the medallion. Angel can win the support of the Tribunal for Jo as long as he takes the medallion and wins the fight to the death against the opposing champion. The only problem is that now he has to find Jo.
So he sings at the karaoke bar. And check it out, he’s wearing his Claddagh ring, heart pointing in!
For any of my readers who haven’t heard my headcanon about Angel’s Claddagh ring (which I actually got from my friend Kean), I’ll take a brief moment to explain. This is the first time we’ve seen Angel wearing his ring since “Becoming: Part 2.” It seems probable to me that after he returned from hell, he retrieved Buffy’s ring from the floor of the mansion but didn’t feel confident enough in the future of their relationship to give it back to her or to wear his again. (And it’s also possible that he lost his original one in hell and bought a new one later, because he was wearing it on the way in but it seemed to be missing when he got tossed out completely naked.) However, now that he knows he might be human again someday, he’s started wearing it again as a symbol of hope. I’ll keep an eye out to see how long the ring stays on his finger.
Anyway, he was not lying when he said he didn’t sing. It’s not pleasant. The lengths he will go to for the sake of saving people, though. Very impressive. The patrons of the karaoke bar are all transfixed with amazement that someone so bad at singing would power through a song like that anyway. Lorne jerks the microphone away from him and introduces the next singer. He and Angel sit down so he can give Angel his reading. Angel would like to cut straight to Jo’s location, but first Lorne wants to know why Angel picked “Mandy.” He just likes it, is all. Lorne tells him what he wants to know and he heads out.
Jo is walking down a street (the actual street, mind you, not the sidewalk that is mere yards away) when the Tribunal pops up in an archway right next to her. A demon knight on a horse, carrying a lance, trots up to the Tribunal and throws down his medallion. Without a champion, Jo’s life is forfeit. But before the knight can kill Jo with his sword, Angel tosses Kamal’s medallion down next to the other one. Huh, wow, he wore that shredded shirt while he was singing and everything. He’s still wearing it in this scene. Jo doesn’t think he’ll succeed, but Angel is more confident. For one, he rode horses for a century and a half, back before cars were a thing.
Points to David Boreanaz. He actually seems to know what he’s doing on that horse, and it’s still him riding at a gallop while carrying a shield and a lance when the two horses are charging each other. He lands a hit on the demon, and they come around for another charge. Still DB for most of the shots. Major props. Angel gets unhorsed this time. The demon charges again, and Angel gets ready with the sword and axe strapped to his horse. He unhorses the demon, and then they fight on foot. The demon thinks he’s one after he impales Angel, and he goes to kill Jo with the Tribunal’s permission. Angel pulls the sword out of himself and “appeals” the Tribunal’s ruling by beheading the demon. Jo and her daughter are officially under the Tribunal’s protection until the baby is eighteen. The Tribunal disappears and Jo and Angel walk away.
At Cordy’s apartment, Angel decides to get rid of the whiteboard where they’re tracking cases. Wesley approves, because he feels it’s better not to keep score. I kind of think that’s silly. Unless they’re keeping track of their ongoing cases somewhere else. Yeah, they’re probably doing that. Angel has an errand to run.
Which is visiting Faith in prison! She’s happy to see him, and she’s doing alright. Someone picked a fight with her that day, and she managed to resist the temptation to kill her. One step at a time. Angel tells her about his own crappy day, including the part where he had to sing karaoke. This makes her laugh. Aww. They’re adorable. Angel likes their chances for redemption. They keep talking as the camera pans out and the episode goes to credits. Which are full of additional shots of Angel singing. *grimace*
“Judgment” is an effective season premiere. It introduces many of the elements that will be important and/or recurring throughout the season: the hotel, Darla, Lorne and Caritas, and Merl the informant. It also plays with our expectations like “City Of” does, but in a different way. In “City Of,” Angel failed to save Tina, the first person since Buffy who the Powers wanted him to help. In “Judgment,” he inadvertently kills a good demon when the Powers actually wanted him to help it protect Jo and actually puts her in worse danger until he finally manages to fix it. One of the messages of S1 was that Angel has to keep fighting even if he can’t save everyone. Looks like one of the messages of S2 is going to be that it’s not always obvious who the villains are. Much like the blind seer kids from “Blind Date,” we’ll never see Jo or her daughter again even though they clearly have important destinies. That’s kind of a shame, but I guess by the end of Angel, Jo’s daughter was only four and the seer kids were only about twelve, so maybe they were never meant to be more than one-shot characters anyway. But even as one-shot characters, they do represent the idea that Angel isn’t the only one with a destiny; rather, there’s kind of a tapestry of these people, and they can have an impact on each other in the good fight. I also love Faith's cameo at the end. It would've been really easy to leave her offscreen until they needed her for actual plot reasons, but this little reminder of how important she and Angel are to each other's desire for redemption is just beautiful.
Angel learns the hard way that he can’t let the light at the end of his tunnel blind him to the nasty stuff between him and the light. It’s been a while since Angel really had anything to look forward to, so I can’t blame him for getting distracted for a while. Also, I kind of get the impression that the Powers let Angel screw up and kill Kamal on purpose, since Angel was getting a little too preoccupied with fantasies of his future as a human and this served as an effective wakeup call. That’s a bit harsh, particularly for Kamal. I guess as long as Kamal made it to demon heaven, it’s not a completely reprehensible thing to do.
Cordelia continues to place helping the helpless at a higher priority than her acting career, which is a lovely contrast to where she was at the beginning of S1. Considering that her acting career seems to actually be picking up, that might not have been the case without what she went through in the S1 finale. I also like that she’s the member of the team who is least impatient for them to get a new office. Angel and Wes are the ones who feel bad about taking up her living room, but she hasn’t complained once.
I love that Wesley is the one who found Caritas and has been building their demonic information network. Ever since he joined the team, he’s mostly only gone out in the field as Angel’s backup, but it seems he feels confident enough now to do some independent legwork.
I really enjoy Gunn’s sense of humor and his relaxed attitude. He continues to be the most lighthearted character, which is one of the things that makes him a welcome addition to the team. He can smooth out the tension by joking with someone as if he’s known them for years, even if they’ve only just met, and he never seems uncomfortable or awkward. It’s nice.
“Maybe it’s time we pay your little stoolie a visit. Make with the chin-music until he canaries. ...I’ve been watching a little noir festival on Bravo.”
“There are three things I don’t do: tan, date, and sing in public.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.