Written by Mere Smith
Directed by Michael Grossman
We open in Wisconsin in 1985. A car pulls up to a private school. A couple brings their daughter there. They’re very rich, and they’ve made a large donation so that Gwen can go to school. Her parents seem loving but rather distant. The headmistress warns Gwen that she’s not allowed to touch anyone. She’s bundled up rather thickly. Later, we see other kids playing. They’re...less bundled up. She pulls off her glove so she can eat her lunch, and a kid comes up to her with his toy car. He decides she doesn’t look like a freak so he wants to share his car with her. Gwen reaches out to take it. The headmistress sees and yells for her to stop, but too late. When she touches the car in the boy’s hand, there’s a huge electric shock, he goes flying, and the car is reduced to a twisted lump of melted metal and plastic.
In the present, Fred and Angel are at Cordelia’s apartment, packing things up and getting it ready for the landlord to start showing new tenants. Dennis the ghost has no leads on Cordy. Gunn is there too. He and Fred have still failed to get any help from Lorne. They know about her abandoned car, but that’s it. Fred is still really angry about Connor, and she gets really impatient when Dennis keeps unpacking. She doesn’t believe Cordy is gone forever, but she definitely won’t be living in this apartment anymore.
Wesley is fighting a demon with...a new crew? Angel shows up to offer his help, but Wesley just managed to slice a demon in half just below the shoulders. Dang. Mad swing. He’s been solving cases with this new team. Angel is impressed. He thanks Wes for rescuing him. Wes doesn’t want to talk. Angel doesn’t have a problem with Wes anymore. He might consider apologizing for trying to smother him to death. Just a thought. Wes gives him the file containing everything he’s managed to dig up on Cordelia. He thinks she’s still alive, but not in this dimension. Angel could try contacting Dinza—Wes couldn’t, because he’s human. She’s a super creepy demon, but she knows things. Wes leaves.
Angel checks out this Dinza’s lair. Which is a big chamber in the sewers. The door vanishes as soon as Angel gets inside. Dinza is really fond of doing that thing where you tap someone’s shoulder and then duck out of sight. Dinza’s whole deal is that she has an affinity for lost things. She knows about Angel’s time lost in the ocean. She tells him Cordy doesn’t need him, but if he insists, he can find her by getting his hands on something called the Axis of Pythia. She won’t trap him there forever, but only because he hasn’t lost quite enough to interest her. Yet.
A chick in a red and black leather outfit that even Faith would’ve found daring comes striding up to a guy at a restaurant, drawing many gazes on the way. This chick is after the Axis of Pythia too. She feels her client is screwing her over because the item is worth way more than what he’s paying her to steal it. Oh hey this is the little girl from the prologue, Gwen. She grew up to be a master thief. She fries his watch (which she stole without him noticing—quite the feat for an electrokinetic who automatically fries anyone she touches) to spite him, then leaves him with the bill for her drink.
Cordy is still up in shiny lights dimension. She’s watching the A.I. team look for the Axis of Pythia. Fred has drawn a cute sketch of it. Angel has drawn a much more elaborate and photorealistic one, which makes Fred all embarrassed by her stick figure drawing. She’s jealous and indignant about Angel’s artistic skills. She’s found out the Axis is being held at some kind of black market auction house with tons of security. Angel’s confident in his heist abilities. Fred seems really highly strung at the moment, but she’s down for planning a heist. Angel’s impressed with how much she’s grown. Angel thinks of a list of things they might need, and we see Gwen using all that stuff herself, then pausing to apply lipstick.
Lilah and Wes are having some more sex while Lilah has a minute away from work. Or, at least, aggressive foreplay. She knows about Justine now. Wes doesn’t care. Lilah suggests maybe she’ll do something about Connor. Wes just keeps going with the foreplay.
Gwen is well on her way to getting the Axis when Angel, Fred, and Gunn show up. Their actions compromise her heist a bit. She’s like a precision instrument, and Angel’s a jackhammer. Fred’s the mastermind behind the heist, sending Gunn and Angel to do specific tasks. But they’re on Gwen’s radar now. She’s not happy. Angel does that aerosol motion sensor beams thing, but a metal gate drops down before he can do his best Catherine Zeta-Jones impression. Gwen lowers through a vent in the ceiling, doing her best Tom Cruise impression.
Fred and Gunn realize at almost the same time that they have competition for this heist. Gwen uses her electrokinesis to bend the motion sensing beams up and out of the way. Then she gets in and out of the actual vault with the Axis in about a minute. Gunn catches up, but Angel still can’t get the metal gate up. He tries to ask Gwen nicely for the Axis. She thinks that’s funny, and that Gunn’s hot. Angel just wants to borrow the Axis long enough to look for Cordy. Then she can have it! That intrigues Gwen a bit, but only to the extent that she will keep mocking him.
Alarms go off, the gate goes up, and Gwen tries to flee. Gunn grabs her by the legs, and she electrocutes him. Fred comes running up in time to see him hit the ground, eyes open but blank. Angel checks for a pulse (as if he needed to) but finds none. Gwen has a flashback to that kid she fried at private school. She swats Angel and Fred out of the way, then zaps Gunn some more until his heart restarts. Angel tries to stop Gwen from fleeing, but Fred needs his help with Gunn, who needs a hospital.
Connor is out wandering L.A. He finds a sort of camp of homeless people. Lilah is watching him from a nearby bridge, but Angel shows up right behind her. She thinks Angel’s method of punishing Connor is hilarious. But Angel isn’t there for Connor. He’s there for Lilah. He thinks W&H either hired electro thief girl or one of their clients did. He wants her to do some digging for him, and in return, he’ll let it slide that she was anywhere near his son. Also, he can smell that she and Wes have been having sex. With that fun observation, he leaves.
Gunn looking at a strip of tape from a heart rate monitor or something, being rather glib about his brief brush with death. Fred is much more upset about it, and about his glibness. This is kind of the final straw. She’s been trying so hard to hold everything in A.I. together as half of their people left or vanished, and now she almost just lost her Charles. She starts crying, and he gets up and hugs her.
Gwen is on her way...somewhere, about to get on an elevator. Angel sneaks up behind her and she notices his lack of a reflection. They fight. She’s a pretty good match for him, but she can’t fry him like she could anyone else. She eventually gets her bare hands on his chest, which starts his heart beating for the first time since...well, since “I Will Remember You,” but in this timeline, since 1753. It’s such an overwhelming moment that he kisses her? Okay, sure.
Big bars lock in place, trapping Angel and Gwen in the elevator. They’ve just been caught by the guy who originally hired Gwen. He doesn’t appreciate her utter inability to be discreet, which is the kind of thing that would get people who hire her in big trouble. So he’s going to kill her. Hence the big plexiglass bars locking her and Angel in the elevator. Except...they seem sorta far apart? Like, why can’t Gwen just dive between them? Angel probably wouldn’t fit, but she’s really skinny, and the elevator doors are still open on the other side of the bars.
The doors close, and gas starts coming out of the ceiling. Angel gets her to tell him where the control panel is behind all that plexiglass and he starts punching his way to it while she tries not to breathe too much of the gas. She thanks him for that kiss. He gets through, and he grabs her hand and the wires, transmitting the charge through himself. The doors and bars open. Gwen is unconscious, but Angel can handle the client and his goons. Also, Gwen is up now. She’d like to deal with the client in a very fatal way. Angel talks her down, by punching the client instead. She seems a bit regretful that he’s not available to date, but doesn’t stop him from taking the Axis.
Gunn and Fred wait outside Angel’s room while he uses the Axis to look for Cordy. He comes out and walks past them. Inside, the Axis gradually stops glowing. They follow him to the lobby. He did see Cordy. All higher being-y, happy, and warm. He’s pretty sure this is permanent. Angel still misses her, but he’s happy for her. So are Fred and Gunn. They’re not going to try to get her back. They accept that she’s where she’s supposed to be.
The camera pans out and up and then does an extreme Google Earth zoom out, up to Cordy, who is extremely exasperated that they’re not going to be helping her leave.
I like “Ground State,” for the same reason I like “Untouched”: there’s a chick with superpowers! And between Gwen Raiden and Bethany Chaulk, I definitely like Gwen best. She’s a sassy, confident super-thief. So cool. And electrokinesis is such a fascinating power. So many potential applications, and she uses so many of them! This one also gets points for being a much better heist episode than “The Shroud of Rahmon.” It does help when none of the heist participants are being driven insane by a weird death sheet. One thing that’s annoying is how very inconsistent the Buffyverse is about vampires and electricity. Hasn’t Angel and/or Spike been tased before? Maybe electricity can’t kill Angel, but it should still make all his muscles seize up like it would a human. And what was with him and Gwen kissing? His heart suddenly beating shouldn’t make him automatically snog-attack someone. Weird. But it’s still a better ship than Angel/Cordy.
Angel continues to act pretty much the same way about getting Cordelia back as he would if he only considered her his dearest friend. And what he, Fred, and Gunn do when they find out where she is makes the Scoobies’ actions in “Bargaining” even harder for me to accept. Angel didn’t just go yanking Cordy back to Earth all willy-nilly, he checked, and once he knew where she was and that she was (seemingly) happier there, he let it go.
Cordelia is still bored up in Higher Power land, but why would Angel think that she was so happy if she’s actually bored and frustrated? Is he just really bad at interpreting rays of emotion light?
Gunn is strangely impatient with Fred when she gets so upset over him temporarily dying. What’s up with that? It makes sense that he’d be so flippant about the experience, though. He was more or less like that about getting stabbed in “Waiting in the Wings.” His own wounds don’t bother him; it’s when the people he cares about get hurt that he gets serious.
Fred seems to have a certain amount of pessimism that only comes out when she’s under considerable strain. And she’s been under that for three months straight, now. Now that Gunn’s aware of it, hopefully he’ll be able to give her the emotional support she needs.
Well, Connor is homeless, so there’s that.
So Wes is clearly doing better than he seemed last time. He has a crew! He’s solving cases and fighting demons! And he still considers Angel a crucial part of the fight against evil, even if he’s not willing to fight side-by-side with him anymore. Is he just too proud to go back to A.I.? Too ashamed? Too bitter? If the ball was in his court last time, then that’s even more true this time, because Angel came with a white flag.
“Gwen, that is a $20,000 watch.”
[Gwen zaps it into a lump of metal] “And now it’s surrealism.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.