Written by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt
Directed by Bill Norton
Angel is in his room in the Hyperion, looking out at Los Angeles. Cordy and Wes are cleaning up the debris left by the former occupants of their new office. Gunn has been out putting flyers for the new agency on people’s windshields. Only trouble is, their phone doesn’t work. Wesley fiddles with the wires. While he doesn’t succeed in getting the phone going, he does succeed in cutting the power for the whole office.
Angel goes to sleep, and then is woken up by the sound of someone singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” It’s Lorne, enjoying the acoustics of the lobby. Angel is very annoyed. Lorne is here to let Angel know that the world will be ending on Thursday night. In case he’s interested. Lorne gives Angel a piece of his mind about Angel’s recent business practices and general lack of hospitality, but Angel would prefer that he skip to details about the end of the world.
So Lorne tells the tale, which is 70% complaining about the ineptitudes of his new bartender and only 30% relevant information. A regular, if intensely dweeby and unremarkable human came to sing at Lorne’s bar. He sang “All by Myself,” and it knocked Lorne out, literally. The guy’s future—and everyone else’s—just stops by ten o’clock Thursday night. Lorne wants Angel’s help to find and stop this guy from doing whatever he’s going to do to end the world. Angel is reluctant to work with Lorne thanks to the less-than-stellar track record of Lorne’s missions. They decide to check out other karaoke bars to see if this guy just happens to be a karaoke fan.
Cut to the UCLA campus, where the unremarkable dweeb is working on intense spacetime math equations. A couple of other science-y types are watching him work and snarking at each other. Unremarkable dweeb is trying to work out a way to isolate a moment in time, but quantum entanglement is posing problems for him. A pretty redhead arrives. Her name is Denise, and she’s the unremarkable dweeb’s girlfriend. Somehow. Their interactions are utterly devoid of chemistry. Maybe because he’s a physicist. (I’m sorry. I’ll go sit in the Bad Pun Corner for fifteen minutes and think about what I’ve done.) They’ve got their one-year anniversary date the next night. Denise leaves with physicist chick.
Angel and Lorne don’t find the unremarkable dweeb, and they’ve been to seventeen karaoke bars so far. Ouch. The bartender is pretty nice, and he’s totally fine with Lorne being a demon. He’s seen the unremarkable dweeb a few times. He comes in and sings pathetic loner songs every now and then. Lorne has the bartender sing a bit so he can get a clear picture of the unremarkable dweeb in his head.
Unremarkable dweeb is still working on his math. He turns on his machine, which, if he’s plugged in the right equation, should suspend a drop of mercury in an isolated moment of time. It fails, and he’s very bummed. He leaves. Some demons are lurking in his lab. They seem to believe this guy is the one who will bring about the end of humanity. One waves a magic scepter, and the unremarkable dweeb’s equation changes on the board.
Cordy has brought every candle she owns to the new office to take the place of electric lighting, and she’s trying very hard to remain optimistic. Wes and Gunn would appreciate it if she acknowledged how sucky the situation was. Virginia shows up with a gift basket and champagne for them. She has more optimism for them! Wes greets her with a kiss. She found them a client! A very rich client with a demon harassment problem. They’re very excited.
Unremarkable dweeb comes back to his lab and sees the new equation on the board. Rather than being upset that someone screwed with his work, he eagerly plugs the new equation into his machine. The mercury stops in midair! He has successfully created his quantum pause button. He sprints out of his lab screaming “YEEHAW!”
Angel and Lorne are at UCLA’s library, and shenanigans music is playing. Lorne is going to have to pretend he’s the new mascot while they investigate on campus. Angel gets a huge pile of books from the librarian. Student and faculty records, I guess. The demons from unremarkable dweeb’s lab are there too.
Girlfriend Denise and the science chick are chatting somewhere on campus, not realizing that unremarkable dweeb is coming within earshot. Ah, apparently his name is Gene. She wants to break up with him because of the utter lack of emotional connection. She feels bad about doing it now, at their 1-year anniversary, so she’s going to wait until after the anniversary date is over—including sex. Science chick agrees this is her best option, and that the whole thing sucks. Gene walks away, dejected.
Lorne has found Gene in the faculty books. Angel pretends to be someone looking to award Gene with some grant money, which gets him the location of Gene’s lab. The end-of-the-world demon attacks Angel just when he’s about to head out in search of Gene.
Who has brought his mopiness back to his lab. He intends to use his quantum pause button to stop his girlfriend from breaking up with him. Crap.
Angel fights the demon, with some counterproductive assistance from Lorne. The demon eventually runs away, but not before yelling some stuff that tips Lorne off to his membership in a sect of demons who believe in prophecies about someone who will end human life. Lorne and Angel think Gene must be a real criminal mastermind.
Gene is setting up his quantum pause button equipment in his own apartment...around his bed. Gross. At his lab, Angel and Lorne question one of the physicists from earlier, who tells them about Gene’s attempts to stop time. If Gene’s experiments succeed, he could create a pocket dimension of paused time. Without proper containment, the field could potentially spill out and pause everything.
Gene is finishing up the preparations for the big anniversary date while Lorne and Angel race to his apartment. Lorne wants to know how much Angel really cares about the prospect of the world ending. Waging war against W&H and seeking vengeance isn’t nearly as fulfilling as his mission to help the helpless was. Angel eventually starts talking, once Lorne humming to himself gets too annoying. He feels like he’ll never be able to atone for everything he did before he got his soul, and now an entire evil law firm full of very skilled lawyers is dedicating its endless resources to driving him nuts. It’s too much to deal with. He thought Darla could find redemption, and then W&H took it from her, and now Angel has to kill her again. He didn’t want to put Cordy, Wes, and Gunn through that, which is why he cut them loose.
Before they make it to Gene’s apartment, they get attacked by more demons. Quite a few more. Denise has arrived at Gene’s apartment.
Wes, Cordy, and Gunn have succeeded in killing the demon for the client Virginia set them up with. They also discovered that the demon was hired by one of the family members. Ahahaha, this case has turned into a Sherlock Holmes story. ...With demons. Wesley runs through the facts and reveals the identity of the murderer while Cordy enjoys some hors d’oeuvres. It’s all very dramatic and hilarious. The murderer was Aunt Helen! Gunn is very impressed with our Mr. Holmes.
Angel tries to fight his way through the demons, but more keep coming. Lorne helps out with a hilarious paralyzing high note that shatters glass. They eventually defeat all the demons and continue driving to Gene’s apartment.
Gene and Denise are having extremely stilted conversation at dinner. Why is this a relationship Gene wants to hold onto? It’s about as romantic as a 19th century English political marriage. They go to the bedroom, and, still with zero chemistry, start with the undressing and making out. Neither of them seems to be enjoying it.
Angel and Lorne have arrived, but Gene and Denise are having sex now, and demons are guarding the building. Gene turns on his machine, and succeeds in freezing himself and Denise right at the, uh, peak, of the breakup sex. Again, gross. The demons fiddle with the machine to remove the boundaries of the containment field, and it starts growing. Rather rapidly. Other people are getting paused in neighboring apartments. Angel fights his way through the demons and shuts the machine down just before the containment field can reach it and him.
The field shrinks back down to nothing, and Gene and Denise unpause, much to Gene’s disappointment. I hope he remains forever alone. Weirdo. Denise breaks up with him.
Later, Gene, Angel, and Lorne are all sitting at Gene’s table. Gene had no idea he almost ended the world, and he’s very sorry. Lorne gives Angel a look, like, it’s time for him to do his hero pep talk. Angel starts talking about how love is a fire that burns you to the bone and turns you to ash. Lorne takes over, and does a much better job. Life is like a song. The changes can be hard, but that’s what makes it music instead of just noise. Angel and Lorne stay for some beer. Lorne compliments Angel on making a human connection, and Angel starts feeling bad for kicking Wes, Cordy, and Gunn out.
Well, they’re having a pretty good time right now at their candlelit office. They’re having a party, in fact. A client arrives, asking for their help. From Angel, specifically. Some of the glow of their recent success fades. Aww, Angel misses them and they miss him. Does that mean it’s time to get the band back together?
I don’t like “Happy Anniversary” very much, and it’s entirely because of the stupid Plot A with Gene and Denise and freezing time. I really don’t like that plot. The acting wasn’t great from everyone portraying the one-shot characters, and while the idea of freezing time using quantum physics is kind of cool, it doesn’t fit very well with the urban fantasy genre of the show, and the fact that Gene was going to use it to prevent Denise from breaking up with him by pausing them in the middle of their breakup sex is just nauseating. He’s a completely unrelatable and unlikeable character. But everything else in the episode is totally fine. Watching Angel work with Lorne (mostly against his will) for an entire episode is a ton of fun, and I wish the subplot with Cordy, Wes, and Gunn doing that case for the rich family could have gotten more screentime, because that was hilarious. As much as I don’t like the things I don’t like in this one, I wouldn't skip it. There’s enough great stuff to make the episode worth it. I think the very best of that is everything Lorne says to Angel (and to Gene, for Angel’s benefit).
Angel seems to be losing momentum in his war against W&H. He’s not protecting anyone anymore. He’s not following the guidance of or holding himself accountable to a higher power anymore. Revenge doesn’t seem to be a very effective motivator for him. As easy as it was for him to slide back into his very asocial approach from the beginning of S1, he wants to feel like what he does means something, for him and for other people at the end of their rope. Part of him definitely misses that and misses working with his team.
Cordelia’s ability to be optimistic in the face of extremely bleak circumstances is very impressive, and I kind of wish Wes and Gunn hadn’t shut her down. Things did get better very shortly after she was bouncing around the sad, dark office with her candles.
Can Wesley be a fumbly, awkward Sherlock Holmes more often? That was amazing. And it’s moments like that one that continue to bring out his leadership qualities.
Gunn seems to be much more involved in the Angel-less Angel Investigations than he was with the old setup. Putting flyers on cars, hanging out in the office in his downtime—he didn’t do that when everyone was working out of the hotel with Angel. Maybe he feels like Wes and Cordy need him more than Angel, Wes, and Cordy did, so he’s stepping up.
“Seventeen karaoke bars. I need to lie down and scrub out the inside of my head.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.