“Through the Looking Glass”
Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Tim Minear
Angel, Wes, Gunn, and Lorne all reel from discovering that Cordelia is the princess of Pylea, but this is good news! She can use her power to free them, right? Or she could order their heads cut off. But it’s cool; she only did that for the lulz. She wasn’t serious. She’s having way too much fun with this.
The constable objects to Cordelia’s apparent lack of interest in having the prisoners executed, but she dismisses everyone but the guys from her throne room. Then she expects hugs, but all they care about is helping themselves to her table of royal hors d’oeuvres. They haven’t eaten at all since they arrived in Pylea. Lorne gets why Cordy would’ve been made ruler, because he knows about the prophecy about the one cursed with sight who will restore the monarchy. Gunn bursts out laughing about Cordelia being this dimension’s messiah. Wes thinks they can use that to their advantage so they can get back to Earth. Wes needs access to the priests’ books. Also an interdimensional hotspot.
Angel hasn’t been paying attention to any of this. He’s more interested in the fact that he has a reflection here. He’s a bit upset about the way his hair looks and that nobody told him. Angel! Your hair looks amazing! Stop it! Wesley wants Lorne to go talk to Landok and the rest of his family. He brings Angel along.
Somewhere else in the castle, the priests are arguing about whether it’s a sacrilege to make a human their princess. The head priest decides they should tolerate it until something called a “comshuck.” After which they can kill her if they feel like it.
Angel and Lorne arrive at the Deathwok homestead. Lorne’s mother greets him...by spitting on him. Also, she has a long beard and a very manly voice. She’s very ashamed of Lorne. She tells him that they feasted and celebrated when he disappeared, and she has Lorne’s brother Numfar (played by Joss Whedon himself) demonstrate by performing the Dance of Joy. (Will someone please make a silly Buffyverse vid to “Safety Dance” that prominently features Numfar? Pretty please?)
Nobody remembers anything about seeing a portal back when Lorne disappeared, and Mama Deathwok is about to kick Lorne and Angel off the property when Landok strides up. He’s very happy to see Angel again (but Lorne he shoves aside). Landok gives him a very honorable introduction, and Mama Deathwok decides to throw him a feast for being such a brave and noble warrior. Angel’s confused (and Lorne is indignant) but he gets over it as soon as they start dressing him in warrior clothing and making him their guest of honor.
Cordy, Wes, and Lorne are now in the chamber where the priests were conspiring against Cordy earlier. Wes is struggling to translate the books because huge chunks seem to be missing. He notices that the book Cordy’s holding has a stag on the cover. Specifically, a hart. Wes realizes that the three books are really just one book broken into three pieces—but not like a trilogy. A single passage will start in one book, continue in the second, and conclude in the third, and then you have to go back to the first book again for the next passage.
Cordy is getting bored with all of this, until Wesley mentions that he’s finding some references to the “cursed one.” Specifically, the cursed one will comshuck with a Groosalugg. Whatever that means. Gunn thinks it’s probably dirty. He recommends asking the priests for a clearer explanation of what the books mean, but that’s about when Wes notices that the other two books have a ram and a wolf on the covers. Wolf, Ram, and Hart. Yeah, don’t be asking those priests for help. They are not your friends.
Angel is regaling the villagers with the tale of chopping Lindsey’s hand off. They’re all very impressed. Lorne is very annoyed. He wants to get back to the task Wes gave them. Angel would rather stick around and continue to be seen as a hero rather than a monster. Landok wants Angel to come back to the crowd and repeat the story of the doctor who could detach his limbs, but actually it’s time for some other ceremony. Landok decides Angel will play the central role, and he leads him away. Lorne tries to stop it, because he knows what the ceremony is. Angel does not.
Cordelia storms away from Wesley, who is apparently insisting that they abandon this whole monarchy business and get out of the castle because the priests are working for Wolfram & Hart. The priests arrive, and Gunn tries to get an explanation about the “comshuck” out of them. Wesley pretends Cordy has had a vision, so they have to be honest. The Groosalugg will be arriving soon, and the comshuck, sure enough, is a mating ritual. Cordelia is suddenly not a fan of being a princess. She attempts to convince the priests she needs to pop out of the castle for a bit, but it doesn’t work. She’s down with Wesley’s escape plan now.
Turns out, the big exciting ceremony Landok wants Angel to participate in is an execution! Angel will be the executioner, and the condemned is missing librarian Fred. Angel takes off the warrior coat they put on him. He’ll be using the axe to protect Fred, not kill her. Before he can get in a similar fix as when he and the other guys got arrested, Lorne belts out “Stop in the Name of Love,” which has all the Pyleans curled up on the ground, clutching their ears. Angel and Fred get away on a horse, but for some reason, Lorne doesn’t go with them. He just keeps singing in the square until an armored guy on a chariot clubs him with something.
Cordelia would like very much to find a dimension where nobody wants to impregnate her with demon spawn. They try to escape through a trapdoor that leads to the very nasty sewer, but only Wes and Gunn make it before the priests arrive. They lead Cordy back to the throne room to meet the Groosalugg. Wes and Gunn decide to find Angel.
Angel and Fred have ridden clear of the village. Angel sends the horse away. Fred marvels at being rescued, then bolts. Angel follows her, confused. She runs into a cave. I really like the music that plays in this scene. The cave seems to be Fred’s home. She’s written on the walls. She’s pretty unbalanced. Angel finds her driver’s license and realizes that she’s the girl from Cordy’s vision. Fred decides she’d prefer if Angel wasn’t real, because bad things always happen in Pylea. He tells her they can get back to Earth. Fred’s a bit indignant to learn that Cordy was made a princess. Angel notices that some of the words on the walls of the cave are like the words from the portal book.
Cordy is now in a gold version of her sequined princess bikini. She makes a last attempt to run away before the Groosalugg arrives. A really horrifying demon comes through the doors, but it turns out he’s just carrying the Groosalugg’s stuff. The Groosalugg is actually a rather attractive human warrior. His eyes are weird, but otherwise he looks totally normal. He kisses Cordelia’s hand. She might actually be okay with this prophecy.
Angel and Fred are trying to find someone else from Angel’s team when soldiers on horseback come riding up. Angel promises Fred that no matter what she sees next, he’s still her friend. Then he vamps out. But it’s so much worse than on Earth. He turns into a green-skinned monster with goblin ears and horns all over his face, and he tears one of the soldiers apart. Also he seems to have lost pretty much all of his intelligence. He comes back over to Fred and sniffs her a bit before racing off again.
The Groosalugg is telling Cordelia about his history of being despised by his people because of the “cow” blood in him. He threw himself into every battle and contest of skill he could find (so that at least he could have an honorable death), but alas, he won all of them! Cordy kicks all her attendants out of the throne room except for Groo. For winning all those fights, he was named Groosalugg the Brave and Undefeated. In comes the constable with Lorne, who is bound and gagged. Cordy is almost distracted enough by Groo to let the constable execute Lorne, but then she comes to her senses and orders him freed. Also, Lorne ships Cordy/Groo. Cordy shoos Lorne away so she can continue her date with Groo.
Gunn and Wes are still looking for Angel. Wes thinks something’s lurking nearby. They stand back-to-back, ready for anything. Monster Angel jumps out and attacks them. Sort of. He knocks them down, but he doesn’t really seem like he wants to fight them, otherwise they’d already be shredded. Wesley sees Angel’s tattoo through a rip in the monster’s shirt. Angel seems to have very little control. He jumps on Gunn and might be about to do some serious damage when Fred appears a little ways off. She lures Angel away with a bag of blood. He follows her back to her cave. Gunn has some nasty slashes on his chest, but he’ll be okay. Gunn treats the wounds while explaining his theory about what’s happening to Angel. On earth, Angel’s human and demon sides are fairly balanced, but in Pylea, he’s stuck with complete extremes. They’re about to go follow Angel when they get jumped by the Merry Men. Or something.
Back in Fred’s cave, monster Angel sees his reflection in some water and freaks out. He finally shifts back into human form, shaking and terrified. Fred reaches a comforting hand towards him, but pulls back.
It’s evening now, and Groo has finished telling Cordelia his story. She quite enjoyed it. However, she doesn’t feel like she can keep acting like a princess. She just has visions. She explains what her life is like on Earth. If she’s very lucky, she’ll get an acting job, but then she gets ordered around by jerks once she has it. Groo can’t imagine anyone treating someone as wonderful as Cordelia that way. As far as he’s concerned, it’s obvious that she’s a princess because she’s so beautiful, regal, and merciful. He thinks she’ll be wonderful for Pylea.
The priests are getting antsy. Their princess has asked for parchment so that she can write proclamations! It’s time to send her a message to remind her of her place.
The Merry Men—or, a gang of rogue humans living in the forest—are plotting to storm the castle. Well, maybe. They’d definitely get wiped out if they tried. Wesley tries to point out that he’s a friend of the princess, so he can personally deliver a message to her. He presents as evidence a photograph of himself, Angel, and Cordelia. The rogues think it’s a great idea! They’ll write up a list of demands and shove it in Wesley’s and Gunn’s mouths, then display their severed heads on sticks outside the castle. Oops. Gunn is regretting chosing the A.I. team over his L.A. crew.
Angel’s still pretty traumatized. He thinks he can’t go back now that Wes and Gunn have seen what he really is. Oh, Angel. Fred offers to let him stay with her.
Cordelia is still working on her proclamations when the priests bring in a large platter and order Groo out. They aren’t interested in Cordy’s royal proclamations. She’s only supposed to be a figurehead. They’ve brought their message for her. It’s Lorne’s severed head. Nooo!
With “Through the Looking Glass,” the Pylea arc continues to be awesome. It’s like the A.I. team has been plunged into the world of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only with demons. We get Numfar’s Dance of Joy, we get a much more substantial introduction to Fred (along with the beginning of her and Angel’s friendship), we get Groo being ridiculous and adorable, we get the sinister reveal that Wolfram & Hart has its claws in other dimensions besides Earth. We also get a brutal cliffhanger just when Lorne has become such an integral part of the series. It’s strange, but I actually didn’t used to like Lorne. It’s hard to imagine that now. Lorne is freaking awesome and hilarious. Fred is already a fantastic character, both sympathetic and interesting. It’s clear that she’s brilliant, but the crazy is getting in the way of that a little. More importantly for the moment, she seems to be a very good judge of character, because she trusts Angel even when given very compelling reasons not to, and it’s her assistance and compassion that brings him back to himself. We see a whole lot more of the sinister side of Pylea in this episode than the last.
On the surface, the simplicity of Pylea’s society might appear to be a good thing, especially to someone like Angel, who has been struggling with shades of gray all season and keeps getting attacked by an organization that finds diabolical ways of not directly attacking him. But below that surface is a very screwed up culture and a power system even more corrupt than the one giving him so much trouble back home. Worse, even his own inner demon takes a much scarier form here. Sometimes extremes are worse than confusing shades of gray.
It’s kind of awesome that Cordelia, who used to be a completely self-absorbed high school mean girl of no real benefit to the world, is now the complete opposite. She serves a very meaningful purpose, but she can’t seem to appreciate her own value now that she actually has it. She feels fake dressed up like a princess—just as fake as when she’s being bossed around by jerk directors on a set. Groo can see what Cordelia, despite her visions and perceptiveness about her friends, can’t perceive.
So far, Wesley has had very little success as a leader in Pylea. He wasn’t convincing enough with Cordelia, so she’s stuck in the palace, and now his negotiation skills are crap when it comes to placating the Merry Men. His research skills are still top notch, though, so there’s that. And points for recognizing Angel in his monster form based on his tattoo (even though he and Gunn both probably should’ve recognized him from his clothing, since it’s very unlikely anything native to Pylea would be wearing a black button-up and slacks).
It feels like a long time since Gunn’s had a chance to air out his sense of humor, but we see a lot of it in this one. I also like his defiant attitude towards Pyleans treating him like scum. It would be nice, though, if someone gave him a reason to not regret coming to rescue Cordelia.
“You’re most high if you think that’s gonna happen.”
“...I chopped off the evil lawyer-beast’s hand, and he screamed and he screamed, and then I left.”
“Because...you’re not real. Or I’m not real. Somebody here isn’t real, and I suspect that it’s you. So if you’re not real, then that means that my head came off back there and that I’m dead now. Dead. And with me being dead and you being not real, I can hardly be expected to have some big conversation with you at the moment because it’s just a little too much pressure, alright?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.