Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Tim Minear
Angel is sitting in his room, drawing a sketch of Darla. It’s very good. Wesley lurks in the doorway, which Angel notices without looking. Wes doesn’t want to bother him, he just wants to make sure he’s fine. Angel says he is. He walks in, hoping to get Angel to open up about whatever’s occupying him. Angel says there’s nothing. Wesley takes a couple of steps farther and crunches on the mass of crumpled and/or loose drawings of Darla scattered all over the floor, effectively making his point.
Darla, meanwhile, is sitting in a chair in an apartment, looking exceptionally frail, bleeding from her hands. Lindsey comes in and sees that she shattered a huge mirror. Seems Angel was right about how her conscience would start eating at her soon. She’s still bitter about Angel claiming he never loved her. She thinks she and Angel are soul mates (as in cell mates, now that they share the thing that makes their lives suck), then laughs crazily.
Oh hey, we get a time and location stamp on a flashback in Netflix for once. Thanks, Netflix. It’s 1609, and we’re in the Virginia Colony. The camera pans up from a bowl of blood to an arm with a leech on it. That arm would be Darla’s. She’s looking very ill and has a sore on her lip. Someone heavily shrouded in a cloak, but with a very familiar voice enters her sick room. Darla thinks he’s a priest and wants him to leave. He’s not, and he doesn’t. He knows she’s a prostitute and doesn’t mind. She doesn’t feel very repentant or pious, which seems to be what he was hoping for. He shoos the physician and maids away and lowers his hood. It’s the Master. He sang to her the previous night, and now he intends to make her a new vampire. She’s not afraid of him, and she doesn’t cry out when he bites her.
Angel has a plan that Cordy thinks is crazy. He wants to find Darla. Cordy suggests that he track her by scent. Gunn, however, thinks there’s going to be a paper trail from W&H to Darla’s housing, so Cordy gets on that. Angel thinks they should focus on places with good views, since Darla loves those.
Flashback! It’s 1760, and Darla is presenting Angelus to the Master in the sewers of London. Angelus is rather bored and unimpressed being all seductive with Darla when he should be showing the Master respect—also, insulting the Master’s face. The Master is starting to feel like killing him. Angelus, while getting beaten up by the Master, tells Darla he can give her much better than a life hidden in the sewers with the Master. To the Master’s surprise, Darla picks Angelus and leaves with him. The Master sneers; there’s no way that relationship will last more than a century. Hahaha.
In the present, Angel learns that the name “Darla” is too modern to have been her human name, which means he never knew it. Wes still hasn’t found anything about her location, and he’s not entirely sure they should find it. He thinks the reason W&H brought her back as a human was so they’d have a better chance of controlling her. Angel isn’t thinking about anything else; what if he ignores something important because he’s so focused on Darla?
Lindsey leads Darla into his office. She’s still very frail-looking. Holland joins them and pulls Lindsey out. Lindsey seems very concerned about her well-being. Out in the hall, Holland scolds Lindsey for bringing Darla to the office, but Lindsey tells him about her possibly self-destructive behavior. Holland seems to have expected this, but not quite so soon. Lindsey isn’t happy, especially when Holland doesn’t offer a solution, merely warning Lindsey to remove sharp objects from his office.
Flashback! It’s 1880 in London. Darla thinks it’s a shame they killed such a pretty man; they could’ve turned him. Drusilla is with Darla and Angelus now, and Darla doesn’t seem overly fond of her. Drusilla is a bit unhappy herself, because Angelus is too preoccupied with Darla to give her any attention. Angelus suggests that she make a new vampire, then. She likes that idea. Then William comes bonking into them, having left that party after Cecily’s rejection. Unlike in the “Fool for Love” flashback, they don’t just walk away, ignoring William like the rest of the world (from his perspective); they turn and watch him go. Drusilla’s found her target. Darla scoffs, since William seems like a complete loser to her. Angelus agrees, and they walk off together, laughing. They don’t think she’ll actually turn William. Surely she’ll pick someone else.
Wes and Cordy have found Darla’s likely address. Angel is skeptical, but Cordy has already found out for certain that it’s Darla’s place by calling the apartment manager and pumping her for information with a cunning sob story. Angel wants to go there right now, but Wes thinks he and Gunn should go. Angel really wants to go himself, but Cordy points out that the destination is in the sunniest part of town, and it’s 1:00 P.M. Hahaha. Wes leaves.
Darla is still in Lindsey’s office. He comes back. She can’t remember what her name was before she was Darla. She doesn’t remember anything at all about the time between when Angel staked her and when W&H brought her back. She wonders who they brought back. The dead girl from 1609 or Darla? Who is she? And why hasn’t Lindsey kissed her yet if he’s been wanting to so badly. Because he respects her boundaries, that’s why. She thinks that’s funny. Life’s too short to be cautious all the time. So he kisses her. Then she kind of ruins the moment by saying Lindsey doesn’t want to screw her; he and W&H want to use her to screw Angel. They start making out, and then she bites him on the neck, almost hard enough to break the skin. She’s losing it. She needs to know who she is. Also, she can feel herself dying, and she thinks it’s her soul that’s killing her.
Now we’re in Romania in 1898. The freshly cursed Angel is staggering around by himself, utterly miserable, while Darla is trying to convince the Gypsies to undo the curse. She tries to bargain with the elder. She’ll spare the lives of his remaining family members if he gets rid of Angel’s soul. But then Spike pops out of the caravan where said remaining family members were hiding, face covered in blood, and lets out a loud belch. So much for that plan. Darla sighs and snaps the elder’s neck. Spike and Dru are having fun killing Gypsies, but Darla definitely isn’t.
In the present, Angel and Cordy are looking at the photos Wes and Gunn took at Darla’s place. It’s totally trashed. All the mirrors are broken. Angel thinks it’s because of her conscience. She can’t abide the sight of her reflection, knowing everything she did. The phone rings, but Angel doesn’t want to take the call right now because he’s arguing with Wes. So Cordy loudly tells Darla that Angel can’t come to the phone. Angel immediately comes to the phone. Darla knows Angel is the only one who knows what she’s going through. She’s terrified. Then Lindsey comes into the office. She begs Angel for help. Lindsey wants her to hang up. She backs away from him, holding the phone over her heart. Angel can hear heartbeat over the phone. She tells Lindsey he can’t help her; only Angel can, and she has to go to him. She whacks Lindsey over the head with the handset, then tries to get past the guard. Angel hears a gun fire.
Lindsey and Holland are reviewing the security footage, in which the guard got shot and Lindsey helped Darla get out. Holland isn’t happy with the way Lindsey is letting his emotions control him, so he takes him off the case. They’ve already picked Darla up, and Holland plans to terminate the project. Lindsey doesn’t like the sound of that.
Angel is on his way out of the hotel to go rescue Darla, and he’s wearing a brown coat for some reason. It looks horrible with his black shirt. Maybe he wasn’t just being glib when he said he wore black so he wouldn’t have to worry about matching. Angel can’t just leave Darla to fend for herself. He wants to make sure she doesn’t have to go through the whole new soul experience alone, like he did. Cordy protests that Angel isn’t alone, but I’m pretty sure he was talking about the first ninety-nine years of his curse, in which he was very much alone. And the first thing he did after he was cursed was to seek Darla.
Flashback! We’re in the Boxer Rebellion again. This time, the focus is on Darla and Angel rather than Spike and Drusilla. Angel creeps up behind Darla. He’s tracked her from Romania all the way to China. She left a fairly obvious trail because she wanted him to find her again. Then she pins him to the wall with a dagger to his throat. She still hates his soul; maybe she’ll put him out of his misery. I think this is my favorite of her period costumes.
Angel offers to try making their relationship work again. She’s hesitant, but she wants Angelus back so much that she’s willing to give it a shot. They snog.
In the present, Lindsey is heading to his car when Angel appears out of nowhere and loops a leather cord around his neck. But there’s no need for painful coercion; Lindsey was in already the process of calling A.I. for help finding Darla before W&H can kill her. Angel doesn’t trust Lindsey, but Lindsey tells him the location where he’s reasonably certain they’d take Darla to kill her. Angel lets Lindsey go. Lindsey hates his guts.
The flashback resumes. Angel, now in much nicer clothing, is looking for Darla in the rioting streets. Instead, he finds a missionary family of four (including an infant) cowering in an alley. One of the Chinese boxers rioting against the Europeans in China tries to attack them, but Angel knocks him out. They’re still afraid of him. He backs away from them, then goes towards Darla. She’s having a blast. She looks down the alley, but Angel tells her there’s nothing down there, so they head in another direction. They run into Spike and Dru just after Spike killed the Chinese Slayer.
With the added context, it’s obvious that Angel’s seeming envy of Spike’s accomplishment is actually his discomfort with all the blood being shed by his little vampire family. From Spike’s perspective, Angelus just stood there while Drusilla looked down the alley, but in this version, Angel turns around, anxious to make sure Drusilla doesn’t find the missionaries. The whole time, Darla is watching Angelus with narrowed eyes. We get a different version of the same power shot of the Fanged Four. This time, the focus isn’t on Spike, and there’s a new shot of Spike holding Drusilla, bridal-style, while they kiss as he walks. Their intimacy and Spike’s triumph over a Slayer is sharply contrasted against the distance between Angel and Darla. Her belief that they can have the whirlwind back while he has a soul is waning.
In the present, some armed W&H goons toss Darla out of the back of a van and are about to shoot her.
In the China flashback, Angel returns to Darla’s apartment. She demands to know where he’s been. He says he was out feeding. On rats, she wonders? He denies rather unconvincingly, reminding her that she’s seen him kill humans. Yes, but only criminals. Vampires kill the innocent. Spike—who Darla still thinks is a moron—killing a Slayer while Angel was protecting humans from her is the last straw. Now she wants him to prove himself to her by killing the missionaries’ baby. She already killed the rest of the family.
In the present, Angel comes roaring up in the Plymouth to rescue Darla. He beats up the armed goons, then checks on her. She got tossed against the wall in the fray.
At W&H, Lindsey notices the guard who got shot in the scuffle earlier looking completely healthy and shaking Holland’s hand, despite the fact that Holland told Lindsey arrangements had already been made to cover up his death. He suspects shenanigans. Holland and Lindsey go into Lindsey’s office. Lindsey doesn’t appreciate being played. Holland thinks it was necessary. Darla had to believe W&H wanted her dead so that she’d be genuine when she ran into Angel’s arms and so that Angel would trust her. Lindsey doesn’t get what their plan is. Holland’s reply is too cryptic to figure out, but there’s definitely a longer game here.
Darla comes to in the hotel. She seems peaceful for the first time all episode. Cordy takes issue with her calling Angel “Angelus,” but Angel asks her, Wes, and Gunn to give them a moment. She touches his hand. She’s very grateful to have someone who understands, and she’s sorry he never had that. She’s also sorry for everything that’s her fault. She needs Angel. Up until this point, it seems very touching and promising, but then we and Angel learn that she wants him to turn her into a vampire again, and make the pain stop that way. Angel backs away. This is what she meant by him helping her. He won’t do it. He won’t make her heart stop beating when he wants his own to beat more than anything. She’s only seeing the downsides of humanity, and she thinks turning him into a vampire was a gift. He disagrees. She didn’t save him. She damned him. He won’t do that to her.
Just like, in 1900, he wouldn’t kill the missionaries’ baby. He decided Darla’s disgust was an acceptable price to save an innocent’s life, and he grabbed the baby and fled.
In the present, Darla flees the hotel. She doesn’t want him to look for her again.
“Darla” is a fantastic episode. I would definitely say it’s the stronger of the “Fool for Love”/“Darla” pair, which probably has something to do with Darla being a much more sympathetic character than Spike. But it’s also about the setup. W&H’s plans make them so much scarier than they were before. The many layers of intrigue to their plans in this episode actually helped me figure out part of why I regard Angel S2 as one of the strongest seasons of the entire Buffyverse, but Buffy S5 as one of the most forgettable. Glory is a frightening villain because she’s stronger than Buffy. W&H is a frightening villain because it is extremely cunning and has unlimited resources. W&H makes you worry that your own actions might be furthering its purposes because it's so good at weaving its webs around you. Glory is a single unstoppable force, but W&H is everywhere. They knew Darla’s mental stability would begin to deteriorate because of her soul, they knew Lindsey would develop feelings for her, and they maneuvered everything perfectly so that neither Darla nor Angel would see their true purpose. Also, the flashbacks are great. It’s particularly fun getting to see the Master again, but the slight differences in the flashbacks this episode shares with “Fool for Love” are fascinating. They really highlight how myopic Spike’s perspective is, for one thing. And there’s brilliant parallelism between the Boxer Rebellion scenes and what’s happening with Angel and Darla in the present. Angel sought Darla out when he was freshly soulful, and now Darla seeks Angel out. Angel wouldn’t kill an innocent child to earn Darla’s approval in the past, and now he won’t turn Darla even if she hates him for it.
If Angel has had an unhealthy obsession with Darla (largely of Darla’s own making, with that dream powder stuff) up until now, then this episode seems to be the turning point. He goes from spending all his time sketching pictures of her to rescuing her from W&H (or so he thinks), to refusing to turn her and letting her run away. He might still be spending too much time thinking about her, but it’s in the right way now. He wants to save her, even though he sees her as the one who damned him.
I really appreciate how fierce Cordelia is about making sure nobody mistakes Angel for Angelus. This is a very different perspective than the one she had in “Revelations,” when she was part of the intervention group chewing Buffy out for keeping Angel’s return from hell a secret. She knows him now, and she knows there’s a very large difference between those two sides of him.
As much as I love this episode, I’m kind of annoyed that we didn’t actually get to see Wesley and Gunn doing recon at Darla’s apartment. We still haven’t had a scene with just the two of them, and now it’s the first time we know they’re spending a significant amount of time together, but we don’t get to see it? Not cool. What if that was the moment that they first hit it off? What if there are inside jokes now? One of the next few episodes had better make up for this.
One of Gunn’s qualities that often gets overlooked is that he’s very clever. Most of the time, he channels that into being an effective leader of his crew, but he’s the one who figures out how to track Darla down.
“We stalk the surface to feed and grow our ranks. We do not live with the human pestilence.”
“I’ll be honest; you really couldn’t with that face, now, could you?”
“Drusilla! The camp. Go on, kill things!”
“He shall be very cross if he finds we had a lovely mass slaughter without him.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.