Written by Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft
Directed by Sean Astin
Before we begin, I would just like to point out that this episode was directed by Samwise Gamgee. That is all.
We open on Connor fighting some vampires who came to L.A. from Arizona because of the endless night situation. Connor kills them, but there are plenty more where they came from. Back at the hotel, the team is solemnly putting Angel’s soul in the wall safe in the office. They’re all a bit queasy about the situation. Wes is definitely stepping up as leader. Wes and Cordy know Angelus’s goals will be 1) escaping and 2) screwing with them because Angel cares about them. They can’t let him get to them, or he might get out. In the cage downstairs, Angelus is singing to himself. *shiver runs up spine*
Wes goes down to see Angelus, who greets him with sardonic pleasantness. He appreciates Wesley’s efforts to get rid of his soul. Wes talks about how he’s read everything about Angelus and imagined this moment many times. (I love how neither Wes nor Cordelia counts the events of “Eternity” as them dealing with Angelus.) Angelus is happy to tell Wes anything—anything gross about his past, that is. But he invites questions about the Beast. Angelus is rolling his eyes super hard over Angel’s Indiana Jones style perfect day fantasy. Hahaha. You and the rest of us, pal. Angelus thinks Wes wants to use this opportunity to play the hero so he can get Fred, much like how Angel had to save the day before getting Cordelia in his fantasy. Wes tries to keep Angelus on topic, but that’s basically impossible. He goads Wes about Fred/Gunn. It’s appalling.
The rest of the team is watching this on camera up in the lobby. Fred and Gunn are getting especially uncomfortable. Gunn doesn’t need many reasons to be angry at Wes. Wes tries again to get Angelus back on topic, and Angelus bites, at least for a moment. He suggests that they’ve all been looking in the wrong place for how to defeat the Beast. Angelus chuckles at the idea that Wes is in charge here. Wes makes a rather transparent attempt to reverse psychology more info out of Angelus. Angelus mocks him for his failures, such as botching everything with Faith, kidnapping Connor, and falling for Lilah’s trick regarding Lorne.
Angelus moves on to the subject of Cordelia, who loves hearing this. She declines the others’ offer to turn off the camera feed. Not a great move, because the next thing Angelus says is that she slept with Connor, which no one else but Lorne knew at this point. Fred and Gunn are rather creeped out, as well they should be. In comes Connor, looking super beat up from all the vampires he’s been fighting. Even he can’t keep up. Wes comes back upstairs to get blood for Angelus. Fred and Wes volunteer to deliver it, probably because they don’t want to be in the same room with Cordy and Connor.
Angelus greets Fred and Gunn with an Othello reference. Nice. He makes some lewd comments about Fred and Gunn’s sex life (because Angel basically overheard all of it whether he wanted to or not) and needles at Gunn’s insecurity by suggesting Fred’s in love with Wes. Gunn points a crossbow at Angelus so that Fred can slowly wheel a cart with a cup of blood on it up to the bars. Yeah, this maybe isn’t the smartest way to deliver blood to a very clever psychopath. How about putting it in a plastic bottle and then just tossing it between the bars? Sure enough, Angelus grabs the cart and shoves it into Fred, which makes her fall forward, close enough for him to grab. You guys are dumb.
He continues with the crassness as he holds Fred by the throat. Gunn tries to pull him off, and Wes shoots Angelus with a few tranq darts. Wes reprimands them a bit for dropping their guard, but they’re just focused on each other. Mortal peril is very good for their relationship.
Cordy gives Connor some of Angel’s clothes to change into. He doesn’t want to stick around. He thinks everyone still thinks he’s connected to the beast. Cordy explains that it’s actually because they all know about them now. Connor thinks that’s a good thing, and he doesn’t want to do what Cordy tells him (such as not going back out to fight more).
Wes has been checking to see if the sword in Angel’s fantasy might be a real thing. It’s not. In comes Fred to thank him for the save with the tranq gun, and also to discuss what Angelus has been saying about his feelings for her. He kisses her. She kisses him back. It’s a pretty good kiss. As great as Fred/Gunn was in S3, it’s mostly just been depressing this season, but I’m not sure I’d say I’m a Wes/Fred shipper just yet, because I’m still really interested in Wes/Lilah. Gunn comes in just after they break apart, and Fred does a very unconvincing job of acting like nothing happened. Gunn isn’t placated at all. Aside from his strong suspicions that they just kissed, he doesn’t appreciate the way Fred always goes to Wes for help.
Downstairs, Angelus is listening to them fight with a smile. Even he didn’t think it would be that easy to get them turning on each other. Wes and Gunn continue shouting at each other even as Fred struggles to make them stop. Lorne tries to help Fred too, but Gunn yells at him to shut up. Gunn snaps and punches Wes. They get into a full-on fight, which Fred tries to break up, only to get elbowed hard in the face by Gunn. Uh oh. They abruptly stop fighting, and then they notice that Connor is down by Angelus’s cage.
Angelus recognizes the shirt. He’s amused by Connor’s promise to kill him, and he taunts Connor about how Darla preferred killing herself over giving birth to him. Then Angelus brings up Holtz’s suicide, which really touches a nerve with Connor. Next, he talks about Cordelia. Oedipus reference! (Finally.) Connor thinks Angel’s advice about Angelus was garbage; he thinks Angel is basically a muzzle on Angelus, and Angelus is his real father. *smacks Connor up the back of the head* Angelus slowly grins about that. He hints that Connor couldn’t take him in a fight even if he tried. That’s definitely a good strategy for getting him to screw up. He walks past the red line on the floor. But then Cordelia comes in and convinces him to go back upstairs.
Cordy turns off the camera once Connor’s gone. She’s going to offer him a deal. His knowledge of the Beast in exchange for her. He doesn’t believe her, but she reminds him the world’s ending and he’s their only lead. He’s definitely tempted. She points out that he can tell if she’s lying because Angel would be able to tell.
Apparently he took the deal, because the next thing the rest of the team knows, he’s spilling everything about the Beast. Lorne thinks Cordy used leftover Higher Power juice on him. Connor doesn’t. She’s not saying, and she eventually gets everyone to back off on the questions. They do need that info. Wes goes back downstairs to hear Angelus’s tale of 1789. He was on his way to Vienna from Prussia when he found a field full of bodies. The Beast was there. He wanted to recruit Angelus because he wanted him to kill these priestesses with the ability to banish him. The Beast couldn’t touch them, but Angelus could. Angelus said no, so the Beast punched him and was about to finish him off when the priestesses showed up and did their thing. Angelus doesn’t know what else happened, because he passed out after that.
The team researches the Svea Priestesses. Things are still super uncomfortable between Fred and Gunn, but research trumps personal issues. They find what might be a vague reference to the Beast, and Gunn finds an address for the modern Svea Priestesses.
Wes, Cordy, and Connor head over there. The house seems empty. It’s not. There are dead bodies in it. The whole family was slaughtered. So much for that lead. Cordy wonders if the Beast is psychic, since he’s so good at anticipating their moves, but Wes thinks the family has been dead for days—longer than Angel’s soul has been in a jar. So maybe there was no point in bringing Angelus back after all. Connor is deeply disturbed by the idea that a whole family could be dead for days without anyone noticing. Wes finds a banishment incantation. Connor notices a birthday marked on the calendar and runs outside to throw up. Cordy follows him. She gets how hard it is to deal with death when it’s humans, but he’s just sad because it was a family. Aww, Connor.
Vampires jump out, and Connor fights them. He kills one and then Wes runs over another with his car. They flee before even more can reach them. At the hotel, Angelus is nonchalantly singing his song again, and Fred, Gunn, and Lorne are unsettled by how calm he seems. Also, Lorne does not enjoy reading Angelus’s song, so he turns off the TV. The others get back with their bad news. Fred wonders if Angelus knows more, but Wes doesn’t think so. They all agree it’s time to bring Angel back. Connor immediately turns and heads upstairs.
Cordy goes downstairs. She tells Angelus about the dead family. Wait, how did the Beast kill them? He can’t touch them. That’s their whole thing, and the reason the Beast wanted Angelus’s help in the first place. Why didn’t the team pick up on that? Angelus thinks it’s time for Cordy to hold up her end of the deal, but Cordy reminds him that the world isn’t saved yet, so he technically hasn’t held up his end. He’s getting nothing from her. He’s not happy about that, but she says it doesn’t matter, because he’s getting his soul back in about an hour. And Angel will never let him come back. He tries to reach her through the bars, and she doesn’t even flinch. She goes back upstairs.
Wes opens the safe to get Angel’s soul jar out. By the time Cordy gets upstairs, everyone’s reeling from the fact that Angel’s soul is missing.
“Soulless” is awesome, because Angelus is so fantastically creepy and he can make everyone come apart at the seams even when they know that’s exactly what he’s doing. Watching Angelus play everyone like fiddles simultaneously raises the hair on the back of your neck, makes you feel like you need to take a shower, and makes you feel like doing an evil laugh. It’s fascinating. Fred/Gunn is crashing and burning even more rapidly now than after the murder of Professor Seidel, Wesley’s position in the group is more awkward than it’s been in a while, and Connor’s angst has cranked up a few more notches. I wonder if anyone thought, when this first aired, that they’d really be able to restore Angel’s soul that easily by the end of the episode, or did people mostly expect as soon as Wes put the soul jar in the safe that something was going to go wrong? Oh, also, Sean Astin did a fine job directing this one. There was a particularly interesting camera movement going from the lobby to Angelus's cage for the first time before the intro credits rolled, and I liked how the camera framed Angelus with the bars of the cage.
There’s really no point analyzing Angelus as a character because he’s pretty much just Chaotic Evil and super good at manipulating people. And also not terribly shy with the lewd commentary. *grimace* I’m just intrigued by the differences between him and Angel. Angel is perfectly capable of doing anything Angelus does—he knows all of these weaknesses in his friends, but he would never do those things or abuse that knowledge. When he was angry with Cordelia for sleeping with Connor, he kept that to himself and became very surly until she provoked him into chewing her out for it, but that was in the privacy of the office. Angelus pretty much called her a slut in the hearing of the entire team, three of whom didn’t have any suspicions about her and Connor. They all talk as if Angelus is smarter than Angel, but that’s not true. Angel just doesn’t flaunt it like Angelus does. I love David Boreanaz’ acting when it comes to portraying Angel versus Angelus. Nothing is the same. Posture, tone, expressions—Angelus oozes the confident air of a predator on the prowl, while Angel is quiet, earnest, and considerate.
I’m increasingly not really seeing the point of analyzing Cordelia’s characterization, because she’s been officially a Jasmine puppet ever since she got her memories back.
Gunn should probably look into anger management courses, because he is handling his jealousy issues regarding Wesley and Fred in an extremely unfortunate manner. Even though it has sort of seemed like the and Fred might’ve eventually been able to pull through after murdering Professor Seidel, he definitely crossed a line with his possessiveness and sort-of-accidentally elbowing Fred in the face while fighting Wesley.
Fred, why are you kissing Wesley when you’re still with Gunn! If you’re in love with Wes and not Gunn anymore, then break up with Gunn, wait a decent amount of time, and then date Wes. Don’t pull this kind of crap, especially not within such a small social/professional circle of people. She probably did the best after not-Cordelia at handling Angelus’s needling, though. It wasn’t pleasant for her, but she didn’t respond to it.
Connor is being a brat again, but maybe most people would be brats if they were the children of two vampires and raised in hell by a man who loathed said vampires to the core of his being. I really do try to give Connor the benefit of the doubt. He actually earns it pretty well outside his scenes with Angelus and Cordelia. His reaction to the dead family is very affecting, and his determination to protect the city from vampires is admirable. Just because he’s an incredibly angsty teenager, it doesn’t mean he’s a complete delinquent.
Wesley, why are you kissing Fred when she’s still with Gunn! You clearly want to be part of this group again, and being the cause of Fred and Gunn’s breakup will make that extremely uncomfortable! Excellent job facing down Angelus, though.
“Doing your mom and trying to kill your dad. Huh. There should be a play.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.