“The Thin Dead Line”
Written by Jim Kouf and Shawn Ryan
Directed by Scott McGinnis
Angel pulls up to the hotel and goes inside. It is, of course, sad and empty. He shoves a bunch of papers off the desk and onto the floor.
At their office, Wes, Gunn, and Cordy are fiddling about, hoping they’ll get a new case soon. Particularly Wes. They still haven’t come up with a new name for their Angel-less detective agency. A lady comes in with her daughter, looking for Wes and, why hello there, actress who plays Cami on The Originals.
The lady is rather stern and unpleasant, but she’s here on Virginia’s recommendation. Her daughter has an eye in the back of her head. She got grabbed and bitten by something the day before, and this is the result. The team is definitely taking the job.
Elsewhere, a couple of kids are running from something. Cut to Anne’s shelter, which has been rather crowded lately. The kids hammer on the doors. Anne reminds them that nobody is allowed inside after curfew, but they’re terrified of whatever’s chasing them, so she takes pity on them. It turns out that the thing chasing them is a cop.
Merl is packing his bags when Angel shows up very suddenly in his lair. Merl is about to leave town, but he tells Angel about a big meeting at W&H the next night. Merl is mainly leaving because he doesn’t appreciate Angel’s treatment of him. He guilt trips Angel about firing the team.
At the shelter, Anne makes sure everything stays running smoothly despite the flood of new kids. She goes to talk to two who showed up after curfew. They’re reluctant to tell her what they were running from, but eventually they admit that it was the cops. Anne isn’t happy about that, but the boy explains how the cop was super violent even though they weren’t doing anything wrong at the time. Anne has an idea of who she can call for help.
Surprisingly, she’s talking about Gunn, not Angel. She shows up at the new office. Apparently she and Gunn go way back and are good friends. (I SHIP IT.) Wes and Cordy introduce themselves, and Gunn introduces Anne. She tells them about all the cops terrorizing homeless kids lately. Gunn plans to go with Anne back to the shelter while Wes and Cordy keep working on the case of third-eye girl. Before they leave, it comes out that their agency is Angel Investigations. Anne tells them about her misadventures with Angel. They’re hopeful at first, then disappointed (particularly Cordy) when she says all he really wanted was to screw W&H over. When Anne and Gunn leave, Angel is watching from a nearby rooftop.
They get to the shelter. Angel is still lurking. Inside the shelter, more kids have horror stories about recent police brutality. Gunn asks Anne to give him a minute with the kids. She heads off to do some paperwork, and then Gunn demands to know if they’re taking advantage of her. They swear they’re not. The police are just out of control. Outside, Angel seems to have heard enough. He walks away, and then gets accosted by a policeman who quickly gets violent. Angel fights him, and he keeps spouting Miranda rights like an automaton while he fights. even after Angel kicks off his head. Then his body goes all green and corpse-y. Zombie cops! Fun.
Gunn introduces Anne to some of the guys on his old crew. He’s annoyed they didn’t tell him sooner about the psycho cops, but apparently he hasn’t been spending much time with those guys lately. There’s a frosty moment, but then they get past it because what they’re doing is more important. The plan is to catch some of this psycho cop action on film.
Angel shows up at Kate’s precinct. It’s the warmest they’ve been with each other since before her dad was killed. She’s been working on the homicide cases from Darla and Drusilla’s actions in “Reunion.” Angel wouldn’t know anything about that, would he? Angel informs her that he just killed a cop. Who definitely wasn’t a normal human. He shows her the badge he took off the zombie cop. She looks the cop up. He died six months earlier.
At the new office, Cordy is trying to convince Gunn on the phone that she and Wes should back him up on his insane plan to bait the psycho police and film it, but he hangs up on her. Wes is staggered by how dumb that plan is, but Cordy isn’t surprised, because Gunn took Dumb Planning 101 from Professor Angel and aced it. They decide to focus on the third eye case, but then immediately go help Gunn instead.
Angel and Kate visit the grave of zombie cop. Angel can tell it’s empty. They check out some other police graves, which are also empty. When Angel tells her his theory about an army of zombie cops, Kate freaks out and runs over to her dad’s grave. He’s still in the ground. It’s okay. She starts crying. Seems like she’ll be helping Angel put a stop to this.
Cordy and Wes arrive at the shelter, hoping to intercept Gunn before he sets out with his suicidal camera crew. Too late. Wesley takes off in the direction Gunn left, and Cordy stays to help Anne. She is extremely indignant when she sees some of the homeless kids wearing her clothes, but she thinks it just means the clothes weren’t one-of-a-kind, not that Angel donated her actual clothes. A rather shady guy by the name of Jackson shows up just when Anne’s locking up. She doesn’t want to let him in, but he comes in anyway. Jackson goes over and harasses one of the kids Gunn was talking to earlier. I think the implication is that he was the kid’s drug distributor back when he was a dealer. He’s a real criminal. Wearing a big smile, he threatens to kill him—but not at the shelter, of course.
Gunn and his two crew guys are walking along looking for some cops to film when they arrive at the boundaries of gang territory. A cop comes walking up and does the same thing as the one who ran into Angel: immediately tries to arrest them without giving a reason for it. Gunn tries to get him to explain why he’s arresting them, but he just gets more menacing with his nightstick. Wesley comes running up to vouch for Gunn, and the cop shoots him! Holy crap!
Gunn wrestles the gun away from the cop, but the cop has another one. One of the crew guys grabs the first gun and shoots the cop. Then they all panic. They help Wesley up (he’s definitely going into shock). The cop sits up again, and they freak out even more. They flee. The cop calls for back up, and the voice on the other end of his radio asks if there are any loose ends. Uh oh.
Gunn, his guys, and an extremely pale Wesley make it to an empty alley. Gunn calls Wes an ambulance while the other guys keep watch. Angel and Kate arrive at the precinct of the zombie cops. It’s pretty deserted. The cop at the precinct doesn’t want to give them much information.
Wes is in serious trouble, but the ambulance arrives while he’s still conscious. Gunn rides with him to the hospital. Well. Not quite that far. They get boxed in by police cars, and the driver goes out to see what the problem is, only to get shot multiple times by the zombie cops. Gunn drives the ambulance out of there, and they manage to get to the shelter. Anne lets him, Wes, and the paramedic in. The cop who shot Wes drives past and informs his radio that they have full containment. The guy on the other end tells him to get backup and then kill everyone inside. But quietly—no guns.
Cordy helps the paramedic with Wes while Gunn helps Anne and the kids barricade all the windows and doors. Also, Gunn isn’t happy to see Jackson there. Gunn blames people like him for crap like racial profiling, and he doesn’t appreciate how dismissive he is about Wesley’s condition. They have to get Wesley to a hospital or he’ll die, but there’s no way they can get through the zombie cops, who are now moving in for the attack.
Angel comes into the office of the police chief who ordered the attack on the shelter. He’d like a word about the zombie cops. The chief’s response is to shoot Angel three times in the chest. Angel vamps out and attacks him.
The zombie cops have the shelter surrounded. They quickly rip the bars off the windows and start trying to batter their way in. Jackson tries to escape out one of the doors, but gets attacked, and then saved by Gunn. He’ll be a good little helper now.
The police chief refuses to tell Angel anything and ducks into a secret room off his office. The room is full of dark magic stuff and little shrines for all of the zombie cops. Angel follows him in and starts looking for the thing that binds the spell. By the time he figures it out and smashes it, the zombie cops are storming the shelter. They all collapse and revert to their decomposed states. Nasty.
Gunn and Cordy would like Jackson’s help getting Wesley back to the ambulance, but he ditches them. With all the zombie cops out of the picture, he feels like it’s time to reestablish his drug business. Ugh.
Angel visits Kate again and tells her the zombie cops aren’t a problem anymore. It may not be so cut-and-dry, though. She shows him the crime reports from their precinct. Crime there was through the roof until the zombies started doing their thing, and then it became almost nonexistent. It’s about to go back to its old levels. Yay? Angel and Kate both kind of hate their work right now. Then someone drops a new case on Kate’s desk. It’s the case of Wesley getting shot.
Wes is in the hospital. Gunn’s sitting there when he opens his eyes. I love scenes with Wes and Gunn.
Angel is lurking outside Wesley’s room. Cordelia finds him there, and she’s not happy to see him. She tells him to leave. Too bad she doesn’t know he’s the reason they weren’t all killed by zombie cops. He leaves.
I definitely wouldn’t put “The Thin Dead Line” in any top five lists—probably not even in any top ten lists, but it’s not a bad episode. Of all the Buffyverse episodes that attempt to deal with tricky social issues, it might actually be one of the better ones. Police brutality is terrible, but so is crime. That’s why Jackson is included. If it was just an episode about police attacking homeless kids (especially the non-white ones), it would have been very one-sided, but because he’s there, we’re reminded that there are real criminals the police try to protect us from. It’s a good example of how the right choice isn’t always easy to find, which fits right in with where Angel is. Is saving the innocent one at a time more effective than stopping the organization that’s hurting so many of them? Or is “effectiveness” even the point? Do the ends justify the means?
This episode is a very significant one for Angel, but not in the most obvious ways. Merl gives him information about W&H, but instead of following up on that and continuing his vendetta, he goes to check up on what his team are doing. He spends the entire episode working the zombie cop case for their sakes. Last time, he worked with Lorne because Lorne dragged him into it. This time, he actually goes to Kate and enlists her help. I’m not sure he’s ready for a full reconciliation with the team by the end when he goes to the hospital, but he definitely wants to make sure they’re okay. If Cordelia had been welcoming rather than angry, he might just have come back. But she turns him away. The one who’s been with him since he first started the good fight. It’s as if the good fight no longer wants him, which leaves the war against W&H.
It’s kind of heartbreaking to see how Cordelia has lost her faith in Angel. He left her, Wes, and Gunn out in the cold too long, and now Wes has had a close brush with death. From her perspective, all of this was entirely avoidable and therefore entirely Angel’s fault. We already know she doesn’t forgive betrayal easily, because no matter how much Xander attempted to apologize after cheating on her with Willow, she refused to accept it. At least, until he bought her a prom dress. Maybe Angel should look into that when he’s ready to get back in her good books. But Cordy’s anger at Angel aside, this episode is a good showcasing of how much her focus has shifted from herself to others. She’s constantly asking how she can help and trying to make herself useful.
Wesley is chomping at the bit to take more cases and to make the Angel-less agency well known and effective. He gets rewarded for his gung-ho attitude by getting shot in the gut. At least he and Gunn are totally bros now.
This episode is the first time in a while that we and Gunn are reminded of his old crew. He’s been spending all his time with Cordy and Wes, but he does still have other obligations. I absolutely love that he and Anne go way back.
“All right, look, the plan is simple. I want you to roll the camcorder, wait for the cops to hassle us.”
“How do you know they will?”
“’Cause we’ll be the ones walking while black.”
"Is this morphine? Well, it's bloody lovely." [giggles]
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.