“That Old Gang of Mine”
Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Fred Keller
At Caritas, Angel is solemnly apologizing to someone. Darla? Nope, Merl. Also, he’s reading off index cards. Merl doesn’t appreciate that, and he gets up to leave. Cordy intercepts Merl and Wesley tries to convince Angel to apologize more sincerely. Angel invites Merl to punch him. When he does, it activates Caritas’s magical barrier against demon violence. Bahaha. Merl storms out. Or, well, he would, but he needs a ride home. Gunn obliges.
Merl goes into his lair, but someone is already there, and Merl is terrified. He ends up splattered all over the walls.
Gunn is dreaming about Alonna’s death, and he wakes up yelling her name. Hey! Gunn’s place! Boo, we don’t really get to see it. Angel has invited Gunn to Merl’s lair, where his remains are still splattered. Wes is there too, helping Angel look for leads. Gunn doesn’t understand why they’re trying to solve the murder of a demon. Because Merl was harmless, that’s why. What the—why is Angel wearing leather pants? That’s Angelus’s thing. Angel’s annoyed that Gunn took so long to show up, and Wesley sends Gunn home.
Gunn drives his truck over to pay his crew a visit. Some guys are waiting to attack intruders with weapons, but Gunn wins. Rondell strolls out to greet him, then introduces him to the newcomer, Gio, from Florida. Gio is an incredibly unpleasant jerk, and it’s worse because his attitude is very jovial. He gets in Gunn’s face about working for a vampire. He insinuates that maybe Gunn is a vampire too.
Angel is trying to convince Cordelia to chat with Fred. She’s reluctant because Fred is still crazy, but eventually agrees. Angel is very indignant to discover that his name is on the list of Merl’s enemies. Cordelia seems to think Angel’s choice of pants count as a reason she was justified in putting him on the list (he’s still wearing leather pants).
Rondell has Gunn’s back, but he wishes Gunn came around more often. He thinks Gunn’s withdrawal from the crew started with Alonna’s death.
Angel and Wesley are following another lead, but it ends in an apartment splattered with demon remains, just like Merl’s lair. They expect whatever they’re looking for is probably very bad news.
Cut to the sewer, where a hulking demon is making its way down a tunnel, accompanied by horrible growling noises. Or...it’s just slurping a Big Gulp. First impression aside, this guy seems like a harmless dweeb, but that doesn’t matter to the guys chasing him. It’s Gio and a large portion of Gunn’s crew.
At the apartment where Angel and Wes found the remains of the second demon, Wes has found the head of an arrow—clearly from the same crossbow Gio’s been wielding all episode. Gunn arrives. He still doesn’t understand why they’re trying to solve the murders of some demons. Is the killer really doing something wrong? Wes isn’t entirely sure, but he does know that the killer isn’t making distinctions between harmless demons and evil ones. Gunn steals the evidence bag with the arrowhead in it, then heads out to check his street contacts.
Next, Gunn confronts Rondell about the arrowhead and the apartment splattered with demon remains. Gunn thinks Gio has gone rogue and done this stuff on his own, but Rondell already knew about it and the whole crew was in on it. Rondell doesn’t see the problem with attacking a demon; he considered it a necessary preventative measure, and he’s very pleased with their work. Also, now they’ve got assault rifles. He invites Gunn to come on their next hunt. Gunn declines. On his way out, he runs into Gio, who continues to be a smug little scab.
At the hotel, Wes has noticed the missing evidence bag, and Angel nudges Cordy because Fred is coming downstairs. Cordy reluctantly follows her out to the courtyard to chat with her. Cordy invites Fred to go out for a fun evening on the town with her. Fred does not think this will be fun, but she’s too polite to decline.
Gunn broods in his truck for a bit, then comes back to the hotel. Angel’s there. Gunn asks about the progress they’re making on the case. Angel thinks there’s a pattern to the attacks. Whoever’s doing it is having fun. Gunn wants to find Wes. He, Cordy, and Fred are at Caritas, where Fred is singing “Crazy.” When Gunn shows up, he pauses to look affectionately at Fred before going over to the bar. Awwww. Lorne starts reading him, and Gunn wants him to stop it.
Before Gunn can decide if he’s going to talk to Wesley or leave, gunfire erupts in the club, and Fred gets splattered with the insides of a demon who was walking past the stage. Gio, Rondell, and the crew are here to massacre the demon patrons. And to generally riddle the place with holes. Lorne and Gunn duck behind the bar. Wesley rescues Fred from the stage and brings her behind the cover of a table with Cordy.
The crew have killed most of the patrons already, so they stop firing. Gio calls Gunn out, and Gunn stands up. Rondell takes Gunn’s presence in the club as confirmation of the crap Gio’s been saying about Gunn. He’s on the demons’ team! Wes stands up to defend Wesley. Lorne stands up too and some guys grab him. Wesley has figured out who’s done all the killings, and he doesn’t appreciate that Gunn hasn’t shared his intel. Rondell wants to shoot Lorne, but Gunn steps in front of him. The crew was never about going on the offensive, it was about keeping people safe. Wesley reminds Rondell of the time he got shot protecting him, Gunn, and George. Gunn asks them to at least let Cordy and Fred leave, but Rondell decides only one can leave. And that one gets to bring Angel back so the crew can kill him too. Cordy reluctantly goes. The demon patrons who are still alive are terrified.
At the hotel, Cordy very much doesn’t want Angel to go along with Rondell’s plan, but Angel sends her to go visit the Furies, who can lift the anti-violence spell at Caritas, leveling the playing field a little.
Gio is treating everyone else at Caritas to some very horrible karaoke. Gunn knows the plan is that when Angel shows up, the crew will expect him to be the one who kills him. The mike goes out, so Gio shoots the karaoke machine. Lorne read Gio while he sang. He knows what happened in Miami to drive Gio to California. Something he did resulted in the death of some girl who trusted him. Gio punches Lorne.
One of the demons tries to run, but they catch him and beat him back. In the struggle, Gunn gets hold of a gun (ha). Gio points out that the demon that just tried to escape eats babies, so why’s Gunn aiming at Gio? Gio has a theory: Gunn spends so much time hanging out with demons because he wants to be one. And maybe he let Alonna get vamped because he wanted her to turn him too, or because he was feeling incestuous (I’m not entirely sure which one Gio is implying). Gunn gets so angry at Gio that he shoots the baby-eating demon.
Angel’s here! And sure enough, Rondell would like Gunn to prove his allegiance by staking Angel. Wesley protests: Angel has a soul. Gio doesn’t care, but Wesley insists that Angel’s soul makes him better than Gio, because he didn’t have free will when he killed people for fun. Gio did. This isn’t enough to change Rondell’s mind. Angel vamps out. Gunn can deal with him being a vampire or he can’t; he needs to choose.
Cordy has found the Furies, who are three floating chicks who finish each other’s sentences. They’ve invited her in and are pouring her tea. They go way back with Angel...as in...they’ve apparently slept with him. When the heck did that happen? They remember him very fondly.
Gunn drops the stake. He won’t kill Angel. Not because he considers him a friend; he doesn’t. Well. I wasn’t expecting that. Anyway, he won’t kill Angel because Angel has the right idea about the mission. Rondell, Gio, and the rest don’t. Gio decides that the only way he’ll let anyone leave is if they prove themselves by killing Angel. Fred volunteers. Gio hands her the crossbow.
Cordy is losing patience with the Furies. They claim that she can’t pay this debt; only Angel can. And that would be because they only accept payment in the form of sexual favors. Ew.
Fred points the crossbow at Angel. Gio explains how to aim it at his heart, but then she turns and points it at Gio’s neck instead. She explains in a very rambling way that shooting him in the carotid artery will definitely kill him. Angel tries to get her to point the crossbow at him again. She doesn’t want to. Gio grabs her and tosses her aside. Wes catches her. The spell goes down! Angel starts fighting the crew.
Gio is yelling at everyone, but one of the demons, which previously had just been trembling in a corner, transforms into a huge monster and bites his head off. Then Rondell kills it.
The fight is over. Wesley is sympathetic about Gunn’s divided loyalties, but he’ll fire him if he ever withholds information again. Wes gets into a cab, leaving Gunn behind with Angel. Angel’s okay with what Gunn said about him. He needs the people on his team to be prepared to kill him if they have to, so it’s good that Gunn doesn’t feel friendly enough towards him to ignore the safety of others.
“That Old Gang of Mine” is a very necessary episode for Gunn, but it’s not a stand-out in terms of quality. The dilemma Gunn faces is very similar to the one Angel spent most of S2 facing. When we fight evil, do we do it for the sake of having something to fight or for the sake of protecting the innocent? When Gunn led the crew, they did the latter. Since he’s been spending most of his time with Angel Investigations, the crew has leaned towards the former. It wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that more of the crew gets killed when they’re being this reckless, and not all demons are evil. In the end, it’s not what people are, but what they do that matters most. Angel is doing good; Gio is leading Gunn’s old crew towards doing evil. If things continue in the direction this episode leads, then maybe protagonist-centered morality won’t be a major problem for the show after all. However, I’m not sure having Rondell and the rest attack innocent demons was a very effective way to deal with Gunn’s loyalties being torn between them and A.I., and that’s where this episode has its biggest problems. In the Pylea arc, the implication was that Gunn would be able to find a balance between his crew and A.I., not that he’d have to choose one over the other. And if his crew is going off the rails without him, then it’s even more important for him to get them back on track. Instead, he just ends up choosing A.I. (in a rather rocky fashion) and the crew is never seen again in the show.
Angel is a bit of a dork in this one, but it’s much more endearing than it was at the end of S2. I think I could handle it if he continued to be this kind of dork every once in a while but spending most of his time being awesome. And awesome he is. I love the way he handles Gunn’s lack of trust. He doesn’t want to be a villain ever again, but he’s realistic enough to know it could happen, and Gunn’s wariness is therefore very reassuring. Also, what the hell is the deal with the Furies? When would Angel have slept with them? The only time that makes sense is after he slept with Darla, because that was when he realized that his curse wouldn’t break by having sex with just anyone. But he was pretty busy working cases with the team right up until everyone went to Pylea, and he found out about Buffy’s death and took a sabbatical to Sri Lanka immediately after that. Are the Furies immortal? Did he run into them decades ago?
Cordelia’s reaction to Fred really supports my theory about the A.I. team being a much more effective found family than the Scoobies. Cordelia doesn’t particularly like Fred, but she’ll make an effort because they’re in this together, and she is extremely reluctant to abandon her to the care of Gio. I think one of the reasons it doesn’t always seem like Wesley is the boss is that Cordelia interacts far more often with Angel than she does with Wesley.
Well, I was waiting to see if Wesley’s leadership role would come between him and Gunn, and now it has. Also, this seems to be the first episode in a while in which Angel and Wes have gone to investigate leads together. I like that, but I wish it didn’t have to be at the expense of Gunn’s friendship with Wes and his I guess wary alliance with Angel. It’s starting to look like Wesley might develop feelings for Fred too, which can only make things between him and Gunn worse. He’s very protective of her in this one, but it mostly looks platonic so far.
Gunn’s crush on Fred grows, but that’s pretty much a side note compared to his main dilemma. In all this time working with A.I., it seems he hasn’t really dealt with the notion that some demons are good. I think his policy has been to always kill vampires (Angel being the exception as long as he continues to prove he’s not evil) but to hold off on other types of demons until he knows they’re a threat to humans. He wouldn’t necessarily have stopped someone else from taking a much harsher line against demons, and he still has reservations about working with demons, but this episode forces him to come to terms with the idea that demons can be innocent victims and humans can be monsters. Not only does he not see things in such black and white terms anymore, but he can’t work with people who do.
Fred has now ventured all the way out of the hotel! Yay! Also, I love how fiercely protective she is of Angel. She hasn’t really made much of a connection with Cordy, Wes, or Gunn yet, but Angel is her hero and she will destroy anything that threatens him.
“Ask yourself this: if I had killed Merl, would I have brought doughnuts?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.