Angel 4x12 Review: Mr. Brightside
Written by Jeffrey Bell, Steven S. DeKnight, and Mere Smith
Directed by Bill L. Norton
The episode opens on that shaman guy who removed Angel’s soul. He’s casting bones or something, and we can hear fighting outside. Then his guard gets tossed in, unconscious or dead. He sighs; this is exactly what happened the other day. Connor, Wes, and Cordy stride in. Wes explains about Angel’s soul going missing. They suspect the shaman, but he claims he had nothing to do with it. He can tell it’s still in the sacred jar, but not where the jar itself is. The only way to restore Angel’s soul is to find that jar.
Back at the hotel, Angelus is mouthing off, pretending he wants to be good now, because he knows they lost his soul. Gunn is playing with his brand new flamethrower. Nice. He thinks it was a mistake to bring Angelus back in the first place. He and Fred argue a bit about it, and Angelus weighs in, needling Gunn about hitting Fred, and how Fred probably likes Wes because of the accent. Then he describes how he’ll kill Fred. She looks a bit queasy.
Lilah walks into the basement where Angelus is, holding a crowbar. Crap. She doesn’t seem terribly impressed by him, which annoys him. She’s noticeably the worse for wear since the Beast’s attack on W&H. She wants Angelus to stop the Beast. Angelus isn’t sure he wants to, and he wonders why Lilah is so keen on it. She’s definitely bitter/angry about the Beast destroying W&H, since they’re also bad guys. She’s lost everything, and every single one of her colleagues is dead, even the ones who weren’t in the building when the Beast attacked. She thinks Angelus is the only one who can kill the Beast. He’s listening.
Fred and Gunn are talking about the fight between Wes and Gunn that resulted in Gunn elbowing Fred in the face. Fred doesn’t blame him for hurting her, but she does blame him for attacking Wes. Gunn still thinks that was very justified, and he also definitely knows about her and Wes kissing. He thinks there’s clearly nothing he can do to be good enough for her, so he breaks up with her. Cue Wes, Connor, and Cordy returning. They swap stories of their lack of info or leads, and then Gunn finally notices that Angelus has company.
They all race downstairs. Angelus tries to grab Lilah’s crowbar, but can’t reach, and Gunn tranqs him. Lilah flees into the sewers, and Wes chases her while the others make sure Angelus is still secure. They wonder what Lilah’s up to and why the Beast hasn’t killed her. In the sewers, Wes catches up with her. She’s not healing well from the nasty puncture wound from the Beast. Apparently Lilah was faking when she offered to release Angelus. She just wanted info out of him or something. And she wants her usual standard of living back. She doesn’t do well living in sewers.
Wes notices that Lilah has Reinhardt’s Compendium, a book he’s read, and he notices that her copy has a whole passage on the Beast, unlike his own. That’s because she got it from a different dimension. It occurs to him that all info on the Beast might have been wiped from this dimension—memories, texts, everything. Something is hiding the Beast from anyone who could pose a threat to it.
In the hotel, the others are discussing the possibility of Lilah being the one behind the Beast. Fred is skeptical. Gunn thinks maybe the Beast has minions. Angelus wakes up. He thinks they’re all idiots. The Beast is the minion. They should look for its boss. Angelus taunts them for not thinking of it. The beast was all about raw destruction when he met him, not the kind of big picture stuff he’s been up to lately.
Wes and Lilah get back to the hotel. Everyone immediately demands to know where Angel’s soul is. She doesn’t know. Wes defends her from their accusations. She’s desperate and has nothing, so she’s not the one behind any of this. Wes reveals the bonus passage in Lilah’s book. As soon as Wes and Fred start working on the text, Gunn bails irritably to go guard Angelus with that flamethrower.
Angelus tells Gunn he admires how he’s so content to stay the same and know his place. Gunn listens angrily for a couple minutes. Angelus needles him about Fred some more, then reveals that Angel actually did figure out what the two of them did to Professor Seidel. He didn’t know for sure that Gunn was the one who killed him, but Angelus asks the right question to poke the truth out of him. Angelus suggests that maybe Fred is more interested in Wesley because he’s so morally gray compared to Gunn, and even killing a guy didn’t make Gunn dark enough for her. Gunn sends a blast of fire his way, but he skips out of range, laughing because he knows he got to him.
Wes tries to cheer Fred up when she can’t find any other solutions for getting Angel’s soul back. Wes apologizes for the fight with Gunn. He wants her to pass that on to Gunn, and she reveals that they broke up. He seems very awkward about that. He can’t muster any sympathy over the breakup, but he’s glad it was mostly not his fault. It definitely looks like he wants to kiss her, and she might just let him, but then Cordy and Lilah walk up (the latter having been provided with a shower and a change of clothes since last we saw her). Wes volunteers to go swap places with Gunn.
Lorne arrives with more bad news. No leads on Angel’s soul. Lilah votes they sic Angelus on the Beast. Cordy points out he’d probably kill all of them before taking a whack at the Beast. Cordy thinks Lilah is too afraid to feel any hope. Lilah says she believes in herself, and that’s all she needs, and why on earth should she feel hopeful right now when there’s the Beast, his mysterious boss, and nobody can save them because Angel’s too busy being Angelus.
Cordy gets a vision in the middle of Lilah’s cynical rant. She knows how to get Angel back! These white-eyed visions are very unsettling. Fred comes downstairs to tell Wes about Cordy’s vision. Fred unleashes some feisty comebacks at Angelus because she doesn’t give a crap anymore. Angelus says he can see why she’s so interested in Wes, and then he drops the bomb about Wes sleeping with Lilah for half a year. She tries to act like it’s not her business and it doesn’t bother her, but she flees.
Connor and Gunn are in a forest, digging up something called a soul-eater, which was buried two centuries ago by the Chumash. Its skull is the main component of Cordy’s spell. This thing is still alive, and it attacks them and busts out of its coffin. It moves with blurring speed, and tries to suck Connor’s soul out. Oh, so I guess it’s a cross between a Dementor and a ninja. Gunn takes that opportunity to chop its arm off and then its head. Why didn’t the Chumash just dismember it? It keeps writhing around, so Gunn stabs it some more.
The Beast is paying tribute to his master. He offers a dagger forged of his own bones. Wait, seriously? Which bones could he spare for that?
Fred and Cordy have been retrieving more yucky ingredients, including talons off avian roadkill. Connor and Gunn come back with the severed head, very pleased with themselves and actually getting along. Aww. Cordy double-checks her vision. It needs to be a skull, not a fresh severed head. Wes has them go remove the soft tissue. They’re a bit less happy now. In comes Lilah with snark. Lorne is particularly unhappy to see her, and he makes a threat before leaving the room.
Wes is surprised Lilah is still hanging around, but she’ll basically side with whoever seems like they might win. Or when Team Evil pokes a hole in her guts. Fred comes in, but then quickly leaves when she sees Wes and Lilah standing beside each other.
Angelus really doesn’t want them to try this spell, and he tries to talk them out of it by pointing out it’s obviously black magic. Lilah thinks this will probably go badly. The A.I. team ignores Angelus and carries on with the ritual. Fred makes a lame retort to Angelus, and when Lilah makes fun of her, she snaps at her much more sharply. Angelus suggests that maybe Angel let them get rid of his soul because he had given up on this fight and on them. They start the ritual. It’s definitely a creepy one. It shakes the hotel, then makes a glowy light come out of the skull. Everyone wards it off with their talismans, so it goes to Angelus and swirls around him. The skull explodes and he falls to the ground.
They all watch Angel(us?) to see if it worked. He immediately apologizes, particularly to Fred for grabbing her. Fred and Cordy think it worked, but Gunn and Wes want to make sure by having Lorne read him. He seems very confused, but eventually sings a line of “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” (that line). Lorne squints a bit, then lights up. It’s Angel! Yay! He hugs Cordy. Connor is just thrilled that Angel’s back. Angel doesn’t want them to let him out, in case that spell was temporary. He tells them to knock off the in-fighting and work together. Angelus was lying; Angel hasn’t given up on them. Lilah rolls her eyes. Angel hands out assignments to everyone. They all seem heartened and motivated. (Except Connor, who’s determined to be annoyed.)
Cordy thinks Angel’s being a coward by staying in the cage. Sure, maybe it’s a good safeguard, but then he won’t have to look anyone in the face after what he said to them. She convinces him he can risk coming out of the cage, and she unlocks it. There’s something off about his awkward smile. As soon as the cage is open and Cordy turns her back, Angelus drops the act. Cordy kicks him and gets inside the cage with the door shut between them. He slams her against it and drops her, unconscious, on the ground. He heads upstairs.
Fred is working in the office when Angelus appears with unsettling suddenness. Fred is confused that he’s out, but he convinces her nothing’s wrong. She apologizes for being so jumpy and assures him she’s not afraid of him after what Angelus said. He is deliberately just a little bit creepy, but not enough to tip her off. Then he asks for a hug. There’s a noise across the lobby, and she looks over. When she looks back, he’s gone. The noise was Lilah dropping the coffee she made (on Angelus’s orders). Angelus tells the team he has a mission that’s too dangerous for them to help with, and then he leaves. They finally notice that Cordy is unconscious in the cage downstairs.
Everyone’s gearing up to go hunt down Angelus while Cordy nurses her wounded head. They aren’t planning to capture Angelus, but to kill him. Angelus is roaming the streets, but it’s already a vampire free-for-all out there, so he can’t find any human pedestrians, which majorly irks him. At the hotel, Cordy laments how she fell for Angelus’s trick, and how it makes no sense that the spell didn’t work.
Angelus is back! Lilah shoots at him, but misses, and also, why is she using a gun? Cordy shoots him with a crossbow, but he catches it and throws it into her leg. He gives Lilah a ten second headstart before chasing her down, and he plans to come back for Cordy.
Connor is tracking Angelus by scent, and he notices that it ends not too far from the hotel. He and the others realize Angelus must’ve doubled back, and they do the same.
Angelus is stalking Lilah in a way that recalls how he stalked Jenny Calendar. Except Jenny didn’t have an axe. He jumps out at her just when she thinks she’s evaded him, and he takes the axe. She tries to offer an alliance. He lunges at her, and she manages to vault him over the stair rail. She runs away down the corridor, then someone grabs her. Cordy. Lilah doesn’t suspect a thing when Cordy suddenly stabs her with the Beast’s bone dagger.
I like “Calvary” a lot, even though I have no idea why it’s called that. Calvary/Golgotha was the site of Christ’s crucifixion, and aside from how Golgotha means “the place of the skull” and there’s a creepy skull in this episode, I really don’t see the connection. Title weirdness aside, it’s a good episode because instead of focusing on the boring villain (the Beast), we have more fun with Angelus screwing with everyone, and Lilah’s back, being awesome right up until Cordy shanks her. Fred and Gunn are now over, but Fred is unlikely to immediately move on to Wes because now she knows he’s been sleeping with Lilah. Maximum awkwardness and unhappiness in the group. The amount of Connor angst is down to a minimum, as is Cordy’s participation. All the most interesting and least irritating characters have most of the screentime, so on the whole, it’s a good one. Also, it's a relief to finally have Cordelia's horrible characterization retroactively explained by her being the Big Bad. The mystery of the Beast's boss was very interesting, but I don't think it would've worked as well had it been dragged out longer than one episode.
I wonder if anyone fell for Angelus’s Angel act when this first aired. I’d say it was mostly convincing, much like Angel’s Angelus act in “Enemies.” The tell there was the way Angel gave Buffy a really tender look when he was pretending to chain her up. The tell here was the way Angelus laid the self-flagellation on just a touch too thick. He doesn’t understand emotions like remorse and love, so he naturally wouldn’t be able to mimic them perfectly. It is a little alarming, though, how good he was at being the leader and getting everyone back in good moods again after all he did to tear them down. He really is a master of manipulation.
It’s finally official! Cordy is the villain. I wonder if anyone saw that coming when it first aired. Did they just think she had become incredibly unlikable? Were they trying to figure out who was behind the inside job on Manny, and not specifically honing in on Cordy?
Gunn thinks he’s been doing everything he possibly could to be the best for Fred, does he? Well that’s absurd. The guy Fred fell in love with didn't have serious, disproportionate anger issues. He was sweet and romantic. Instead of lashing out at everything Fred paid attention to that wasn’t him, he should’ve been communicating with her and finding out how to make things right. And obviously he shouldn’t have killed Professor Seidel. If he’d gone against her wishes and handed Seidel over to the police, she could have forgiven him for that much more easily than for killing him so that she wouldn’t have blood on her hands.
Fred doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and she feels miserable that her affections are changing. She tries very hard not to be judgmental. It’s interesting how she goes from struggling to keep everyone happy even though she’s unhappy to just not giving a crap after Angelus drops the Wes/Lilah reveal. Her feelings for Wes were at least partly responsible for her and Gunn’s breakup, and now that’s suddenly much more complicated, and she’s just done.
Although Connor does act a bit bummed about Angel supposedly coming back, he’s clearly also aware that this is irrational. There’s a hint of grudging acknowledgment that having Angel around is much better than having Angelus. Also, him fighting alongside Gunn was seriously adorable. Why couldn’t he get along with him like that over the summer? They have so much in common. Gunn is probably the one Connor can relate to best after Angel, and Angel is somewhat disqualified because of the complicated mess of emotions there.
Wesley and Lilah continue to be similar to yet far more intriguing than Buffy and Spike. Like Buffy, he’s holding fast to his resolve to not resume the sexual relationship. Like Spike, Lilah has oversimplified the reasons why they didn’t work out. She’s a bit petty towards the subject of Wesley’s true affections, and Wes is sympathetic and regretful that he had to hurt her. It’s so fascinating! But now she’s dead, so we won’t find out if she could’ve eventually had a fully fledged redemption arc due to his influence.
“I thought you would’ve escaped by now.”
“I would have, but it’s Thursday, so um, everyone who should be in the weekly briefing is, um, dead.”
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The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.