In case you're confused as to why this isn't the "Bargaining: Part 1" review, that would be because the airing schedule of the two shows started to get complicated once Buffy moved to UPN while Angel remained on the WB. Thus, I'll be reviewing the episodes of Angel S3 and S4 and the episodes of Buffy S6 and S7 in their original airing order.
Written by David Greenwalt
Directed by David Greenwalt
It’s season three, and we’re in the hotel. Fred is lurking in a corridor like a frightened mouse. In come Cordy, Wes, and Gunn. Cordy doesn't understand demon-worshippers. Also she’s ready for a nap. They’re all a bit depressed that their lives are so consumed by their work. It’s been three months since Pylea, and Angel has been in Sri Lanka that whole time, dealing with his grief over Buffy. Fred has been hiding in her hotel room most of the time.
Angel’s peaceful Sri Lanka monastery getaway has turned into a battle against demon monks. Angel kills the demons, regretting that he didn’t take Gunn’s advice and go to Vegas.
Season 3 opening credits! Fred is in them!
Cordy tries to get Wes or Gunn to set the rat traps in the hotel. They both dislike rats, which Cordy finds ironic considering that they fight demons for a living. Also, Angel’s back! Hugs all around! I love it when there are hugs all around. He tells them about the demon monks, and then he gives them all souvenir presents. He got Gunn a shrunken head thing, Cordy a necklace, and Wesley a rare 16th century dagger. Angel asks about Fred. He’s going to go pay her a visit.
Fred has written all over her walls in her room, and she’s still rather frazzled and out of touch. She’s very excited that Angel’s back, though. So excited that she’s a spaz about talking to him. She invites him in. The writing on her walls is a bit worrying. She’s very anxious to make sure he’s not leaving again. She’s written “listen” over and over on the wall, because she’s listening to hear the click when everything makes sense in her head again. He tries to convince her she’s safe to come out of her room now.
His assurances are somewhat undermined by the sound of Cordelia screaming. It’s vision time. Vampires are attacking people at a college dorm party. Angel, Wes, and Gunn leave to go deal with it, and Cordy curls up on the floor, crying.
The guys don’t make it to the dorm until after the vamp attack. Angel pursues the vampires on foot. There are four vampires in a car with two humans, and a blonde vamp chick offers to let the boy go if he says they can kill the girl. He agrees to the offer, disgusted by his own cowardice. Angel attacks, and Gunn and Wes catch up in the car a few seconds later. They stake three of the vampires, including the blonde chick—who recognizes Angel (well, Angelus) before she turns to dust.
Cordy is at her apartment. Her head still hurts, so ghost Dennis runs her a nice hot bath. She takes some prescription pain pills and gets in the bath. She’s trying to relax, but the phone rings.
Flashback time! And what the hell, Netflix? No setting labels again? *aggravated sigh* We’re in Marseilles in 1767. Angelus and Darla are rampaging with James and Elizabeth, a pair of vampires who are completely besotted with each other to the point that Angelus and Darla find it annoying. Elizabeth is the blonde vamp Angel just dusted in the present. The four of them are on the run from Holtz, and Angelus and Darla don’t appreciate how much of a stir James and Elizabeth have been creating. James wants to stay and fight Holtz, but Darla and Angelus think he’s a moron. They tell the story of when Darla abandoned Angelus in that barn. Elizabeth notices a gold heart locket. She likes it. James steals it for her. She was still wearing it in the present when Angel staked her. And now, here come gens d’armes on horseback, followed by Holtz.
Angel has been telling the team this story, and they’re riveted. They’re pretty sure that if Elizabeth was still wearing the locket, then James must be around here somewhere.
Sure enough, James is in a parking garage, very upset at the news of Elizabeth’s death. He doesn’t appreciate that one of his minions ran away and let Angel kill Elizabeth. He throws him into the sunlight.
Angel looks at the locket. It has black-and-white photos of James and Elizabeth in it. He can tell Cordy wants to talk to him, so he’d like her to get on with it. She doesn’t want Angel blaming himself for Buffy’s death. And since the two shows are on separate networks now, they’re being very careful not to say her name. Cordy hopes Angel’s not beating himself up too much for not being there to help Buffy fight and either save her or die with her. Also, she wants the rest of the Holtz story.
Flashback resumes! Darla and Elizabeth have already fled, and Holtz wants Darla’s location before he kills Angelus. Angelus taunts him about how much fun it was to kill his family. Holtz punches him a few times, then pulls out a stake. Angelus doesn’t feel like dying for anyone, so he promptly betrays Darla and Elizabeth’s location. James is furious, and he attacks Angelus. In the confusion, Angelus manages to get away. James leaves him in an alley, torso full of arrows.
In the present, James barges into the office of a doctor who clearly isn’t human, as he apparently sheds his skin on a monthly basis. James demands something called “the cure.” Which seems to involve open-heart surgery. James doesn’t need any anesthetics.
Lorne is singing at Caritas, which has been rebuilt since the incident with the portal and the Plymouth. Some couples are enjoying the music. Gunn and Wes are there waiting for someone, and an old demon doesn’t appreciate them yapping over the music. Gunn and Wes are waiting for Merl, who finally arrives. He’s not happy to be working for A.I. again, but he’ll do it as long as he doesn’t have to deal with Angel himself. He tries to jack up the price for his information, so Wesley starts taking the money back, one bill at a time. Bahaha. Merl confirms that James is in town.
Angel tries to gear up to go fight James, but Cordelia rearranged his weapons cabinet. Cordy wants to go with him because she thinks if she goes home, James will be waiting there to make her a hostage. Aaand hunting down James won’t be necessary, because here he is in the hotel. Angel and James fight. Angel tells Cordy to run. Then Fred comes out, proud of herself for being out of her room, but Angel tells her to go back in. Haha.
Lorne tells Wes and Gunn about the demon doctor James reportedly went to see. He’s some kind of collector.
The phone rings in the hotel, where angel and James are still fighting. Cordy tries to help by throwing things at James’s head and tossing Angel a stake, but James catches it. Angel manages to get it away and stake James, but he doesn’t turn to dust. He comes after them again. Angel kicks him into the sunlight in the lobby, and that doesn’t work either! Angel and Cordy flee into the sewer. Angel tries to lay a false trail with his blood, and James seems to fall for it.
Cordy wonders if James could have something like the Gem of Amara, but Angel’s pretty sure there was only one of those. The tunnel shakes, and Cordy freaks out and grabs Angel. It’s just the subway. Then her phone rings. It’s Wes. He has news about James. James is invincible because the demon doctor removed his heart. However, without it, he’ll just die after six [insert unit of time]. So maybe they can just wait him out! Or not, here he comes.
They flee into an in-use subway tunnel, then get on a train. James arrives only in time for the doors to close in his face, but he grabs onto the end of the train. Angel can tell he’s coming, and James is intrigued by the way Angel seems to be protective of Cordelia. James thinks he can hurt Angel by killing the woman he loves. Yeah, nice try. She died three months ago. James scoffs at the idea that Angel loved someone completely, because if he really did, he would’ve died too. Okay, Romeo, if that’s what you think true love is. Angel fights James using a pair of crutches (Cordelia catches the guy who was using them before he can fall). James gets in a few last digs about the nature of love before he turns to dust.
Later, at the hotel, Angel comes down after having another chat with Fred. Cordy wants to know how he’s doing, really. Angel’s okay, but that’s the problem. He feels like it’s a betrayal of Buffy and what they had that he can be okay if she’s gone. Cordelia disagrees. Continuing to fight and help people isn’t a betrayal of Buffy; it’s the best way to honor her memory. Speaking of, they have another case, which they march out to take care of.
Meanwhile, at a bar in Puerto Cabazas, Nicaragua, Darla is waiting to hear about a shaman she’s looking for. The guy who brings her the info wants to have a drink with her. She wouldn’t mind a drink. Of his blood! She grabs him and drains him, then has a lime wedge. Then she gets up to go and holy crap she is hella pregnant.
“Heartthrob” is a decent enough season premiere. Not an episode you’d rewatch outside of a full series marathon, though. The flashbacks are very clever. On the surface, they appear to merely be providing backstory for James and Elizabeth for this one-shot episode, but they’re also reminding us of Darla and giving us our first glimpse of Holtz. I’ve gotten to the point where I always suspect that a character presumed dead (with good reason) but repeatedly mentioned and shown in flashbacks is definitely going to show up at some point in the present, so it’s hard for me to tell if that strategy was ever actually subtle, but I think it might have been in this case, since the focus wasn’t on Holtz (aside from how intrigued the A.I. team was by the story). What I really like about this episode is that the entire plot is essentially Angel dealing with Buffy’s death. This is a spin-off series that has had fewer and fewer crossovers in the two seasons since it began, and now the parent series isn’t even on the same network, but they recognized how important Buffy still is to Angel—this episode needed to happen in order for the characterization to remain genuine. We also get Merl back, when it seemed like he might have just left for good. And the slow process of integrating Fred into the team has begun. Cordelia’s visions are still getting worse.
James/Elizabeth is contrasted against both Buffy/Angel and Angel/Darla. What James and Elizabeth believed to be true love was actually extreme codependency. Committing suicide upon losing your love, or even just ceasing to function indefinitely—that’s more like an addiction than a relationship. And Angel/Darla...I’m not even sure how to describe them, but they’re definitely not a functional relationship either. Buffy and Angel loved each other deeply, but they weren’t selfish enough to choose their relationship over the people who needed their help. At the beginning of Buffy S3, Buffy eventually figured out how to keep being the Slayer after Angel was gone (and then she got him back), and now at the beginning of Angel S3, Angel is having a very similar struggle. I also really, really like the scenes with Angel and Fred. I pretty much love everything where Angel is being like a protective big brother. He’s like that with Faith and Cordelia, sometimes he was a bit like that with Willow, and now he’s like that with Fred too. It just gives me warm fuzzies.
We get a big long scene showing us how much Cordelia is suffering because of the visions, but she doesn’t say a word about it around the rest of the gang. Instead, her focus is on Angel and how he’s dealing with Buffy’s death. This is a very different Cordelia than the one in “I Will Remember You,” who only cared how the Buffy/Angel drama would affect her.
Wesley’s role is fairly minor here. He seems to have held down the fort well while Angel was in Sri Lanka, but we don’t get much detail about it.
Gunn, too, has a minor role. It’s fun that he’s not embarrassed about his fear of rats. It’s a very reasonable fear to have. It seems like Wesley and Gunn collectively represent normal A.I. casework, which Angel is ready to dive back into by the end of the episode.
Hi, Fred! Welcome to the character analysis section! Fred needs hugs. She’s the only one who doesn’t get any hugs in this episode. Boo. The bit where she tells Angel she’s waiting for the click in her brain where everything makes sense again is just wrenching.
“What do you say, Angelus?”
“I’d say you’re an idiot, but I’d just be repeating myself.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.