Written by Steven S. DeKnight, Elizabeth Craft, and Sarah Fain
Directed by James A. Contner
Wes takes the very beaten up Faith back to his apartment. Then he gives her an ice pack for her jaw. She’s quiet until he offers further help. She just wants a shower. He’s not certain she’s okay after nearly getting demolished by the Beast. She goes in the bathroom, undresses (which looks painful because of where her clothes are stuck to her skin with blood), and then has the most memorable Shower of Angst I’ve ever seen, punching practically Wesley’s whole bathroom wall to rubble.
Angelus is at that demon bar again. A vampire waitress brings him a tumbler of blood that some vamp chick bought him. He’s been regaling a table of vamps with the tale of using the Beast to beat up a Slayer and then killing the Beast. A demon mouths off about how that was a fine job he did, because now the sun’s back. Angelus goes over to put him in his place, but gets interrupted by a sinister deep voice in his head.
None of the other demons can hear the voice, so Angelus looks pretty weird talking to himself. It’s Evil Cordy, using a mystical voice scrambler so he won’t recognize her. She’s annoyed he killed the Beast. Angelus goes out into an alley, which is occupied by vampires and willing bite victims. Evil Cordy keeps talking until Angelus realizes he has her to thank for being soulless. Still doesn’t mean he’s interested in working for her.
Before she can try persuading him, Connor comes into her room in the hotel, so she has to hang up the little mental phone call. Connor has a blanket for her. She’s very good at playing the part of helpless pregnant lady.
Angelus is annoyed at the abrupt end to the conversation. The nearby junkies are interested in trying whatever drug he’s on.
Connor tells Cordy about how Faith is doing since the Beast beat her up. She tells him he’s finally going to have a loving family, now that they have a baby on the way. But he shouldn’t tell anyone else. He’s upset about that, but she claims it’s just because the rest of the team would be afraid, since the baby is growing so fast. At no point does Connor think this is suspicious.
In the lobby, Gunn, Fred, and Lorne are getting ready for another visit from Angelus by arming up with tranq guns. Connor comes downstairs and Fred aims at him by reflex. He stops any of them from going to see Cordy and pretends she just wants soup. Fred wonders uncomfortably if they’re still together. Lorne can’t really read the situation. They’re also worried about Faith’s ability to get Angelus back so they can get Angel back.
Faith is all done with her shower. She apologizes for destroying Wesley’s bathroom. He needs to know she’s really in the game. She says she is. He doesn’t seem convinced. How’s he going to find out for sure?
Angelus pulls a jump scare on Fred at the hotel, and he claims he has a talisman that makes him immune to the sanctuary spell. He’s here to get info out of her on the Beast’s master. He grabs up all the research she has spread on the table. She tells him he’s out of his league, then notices the MADE IN CHINA on his so-called talisman. She smashes a vase over him and tries to shoot him with the tranq gun, but first gets Lorne and then gets the book Angelus holds up to block with. Connor emerges to attack him, but gets slammed by the sanctuary spell himself. Angelus finds that fascinating. He makes one parting threat to Fred, then heads out.
Wes and Faith are arriving at that very moment, and they run into Angelus in the garden-y entrance area. Faith attacks him and Wes prepares to shoot him, but he quickly gets Wes by the throat. Angelus dares Faith to try getting to him before he can snap Wesley’s throat. They remain in a standoff long enough for Gunn to run out and toss her a tranq gun. Angelus tosses Wes down and bolts. They lose him.
Connor runs back to Cordy’s room, panicked over her safety. She’s just in the bathroom, suffering a bout of morning sickness. He tells her about Angelus and how he took everything they had on the Beast’s master. She’s definitely not happy about this. He’s reluctant to talk about the sanctuary spell slamming him.
Downstairs, Fred is beating herself up over falling for Angelus’s trick and letting him get away with all their research. Gunn is reassuring, and very glad she’s okay. It’s a fairly tender moment for them. Life-threatening situations always seem to generate those. Wes has decided they need to use more serious weaponry than tranq guns to subdue Angelus. Like shotguns! Awesome. He assigns Gunn to guard the hotel, cautions Fred in case Angelus shows up with a real talisman, and heads out with Faith.
Faith starts laying out her next game plan, but Wes interrupts with a dry remark about how she let Angelus get away just now. She doesn’t appreciate that, but he’s not done. He tells her she can’t hold back with an opponent like Angelus; she can’t let him get leverage on her.
Angelus is sitting in some swanky rich dude’s parlor, but this guy hasn’t helped him find any info on the Beast’s master. He’s already been torturing the guy, but he casually punctures one of his testicles with his thumb out of frustration. He really doesn’t enjoy the Beast’s master talking in his head. So of course Cordy starts it up again. She’s furious with him. She claims she knows every move he makes before he makes it (which is why she didn’t know he’d been at the hotel until after Connor told her—that’s actually incredibly reassuring). Wait apparently this is a supernatural bookstore. It really looks like a parlor in a mansion. Weird. In any case, the dude Angelus was torturing has scarpered.
Cordy is still trying to get Angelus to work for her. He still doesn’t want to, but she threatens to shove his soul back in and reduce him to being Angel’s dark impulses again if he doesn’t do what she wants. This is an extremely effective threat. He hates the idea of getting the soul back more than anything. So, practically biting his tongue the whole time, he surrenders.
Fred is still upset about how things went with Angelus. She wishes she’d been braver. Gunn thinks she did just fine. Fred wants to talk about them. She apologizes for what happened with Wesley. Gunn says that’s not what it’s really about. She admits she misses him, and she wants to go back to when things were good between them. He clearly does too. They kiss. It doesn’t last very long. The spark seems to be gone. He heads out to go patrol the area. They’re both rather bummed.
Faith is beating up that demon Angelus intimidated at the demon bar. Wes points a shotgun at the first vampire who tries to interfere, and he sits back down real quick. The demon doesn’t want to talk, until Wes casually blows the face off a different demon about to jump him and Faith. Then he starts talking a lot. He says Angelus was bragging about his exploits until he started talking to himself. He points them in the direction of the back alley where Angelus went next. They go out there. Several junkies are still lying about. Faith is super weirded out by this. They get jumped by a vampire, and Wes manages to stake him.
At the hotel, Connor is in the bathroom, trying to find out if he can vamp out or something. Cordy finds him. She knows he’s trying to figure out why he got smacked by the sanctuary spell. For the second time, she redirects the subject to their baby. He should be okay with being “special,” because so is she, and so is the baby. All he needs to worry about is keeping her and the baby safe. She sends him downstairs to do recon on what the rest of the team is up to.
Faith tries to help one of the junkies, but she’s still high and doesn’t seem to think she needs any help. Wes explains how people like her shoot up, then let a vampire feed off them, so they both end up super high. Faith slams the girl up against the wall and tries to get info on Angelus out of him. She smacks her a bit, but gets nothing out of her. Wes takes a turn. He is definitely the bad cop. He stabs her in the arm. Based on the track marks on her arm, he can tell she’s been there for days; she definitely saw Angelus. While Faith watches, horrified, he gets the information he wants out of her. He lets her go, and she collapses in pain. Wes isn’t remotely apologetic; he was careful to avoid the arteries.
Faith still isn’t okay with this. She thinks he crossed a line. He thinks that’s hilarious, considering how their last encounter went. He insinuates that he feels safer around her with the shotgun in his hand. He mocks her pretentions to redemption. He says she’s sick, can’t be trusted, and will definitely go bad again. Eventually, she gets angry enough to attack him, at which point he reveals that he’s been goading her deliberately to try getting her in the game. She still doesn’t want to risk killing Angel. She’s determined to find a different way.
Lorne is finally awake again after that accidental tranq dart from Fred. He’s glad to see the sanctuary spell worked, and he even has a lead for them! He recognizes the fake talisman Angelus had. It comes from the shop of a demon named Maury. Gunn has Fred call Wes with that update immediately.
Wes and Gunn arrive at the so-called shop. Did the cinematographer or the set designer or whoever completely forget what shops look like? This one looks like a half-finished cathedral on the inside. They find Maury dead, but then Angelus comes strolling up. He knew they’d show up there because of a tip from the Beast’s master. Wes fires at Angelus with the shotgun, but misses. Angelus grabs the gun and throws Wes down the scaffolding next to where they are. He fires the shotgun at Faith a few times. She evades as well, then tumbles down the stairs.
He catches up to her at the bottom and reminds her of the time she tried to get Angel to put her out of her misery. He makes her tell him she doesn’t want to die, then fakes her out with the gun, ejecting the remaining shots instead of firing them. He does want to kill her, but not so easily. They start fighting. In the rubble of some scaffolding, Wes is coming to.
Angelus has the upper hand with Faith, who still hasn’t recovered from the Beast almost killing her. He makes a horrific necrophilia joke, then tosses a jab at Wes about how he always screws up. But then, who wouldn’t have screwed up with Faith, since she’s just as bad. Faith doesn’t rise to his taunts. She throws a dagger into his gut, then attacks. She does better this round. Angelus leaps up into the scaffolding and does the trick where he psychs her out from different directions, talking about how much it sucks pretending to be someone you’re not, pretending not to be in pain from your past. Then he attacks again.
They fight in the actual scaffolding now. It’s pretty cool. Lots of big leaps and small platforms. Angelus tosses her down. He’s back on top, amused by how easy this is—is she sure she doesn’t want him to kill her? And he’s still needling at her about how the new Faith is fake, and she won’t be able to stop herself from slipping back. Only when he says she’s just like him does she start fighting back with real anger fueling it. She beats him to a pulp. She won’t take that crap from him. She has changed. Fair enough, but Angelus kicks her legs out from under her, grabs her, and bites her, intending to turn her into a vampire. End credits!
I bet that was a wild cliffhanger back when this first aired. Did the promo for the next one ruin it? I’m gonna find out. Whoa, sweet! They totally set it up as if Faith dies and comes back as a vampire. That is a quality promo right there. So yeah, unsurprisingly, I quite enjoy “Release.” It’s another strong entry in the Angelus arc. Faith’s stuff is still gold, and her dynamic with Wes just keeps getting more interesting. They are such a fascinating pair. More on that in his section of character analysis. In the less awesome subplots, we have Fred and Gunn trying and failing to get back together, and seeming to give up, so, it’s for sure over now. And we also have evil Cordy continuing to manipulate Connor, which just makes me feel bad for him. It’s frustrating that too much else is going on for the team to have any time to spare on why the sanctuary spell activated against Connor. What does that mean? As the child of two vampires, is he like a human with a vampire demon inside him? That would be about the same as a Slayer, except Slayers have prophetic dreams but don’t really have super senses. I’ve always sort of figured that being alive would make a huge difference to the behavior of the vampire demon. A dead body can’t produce its own blood to sustain the demon; hence, bloodlust. But a live body makes blood, so the demon has everything it needs, and its biggest evil impulse is totally neutralized. What would be really interesting would be if the sanctuary spell worked against Slayers too. Faith needs to try smacking someone in there.
The one thing Angelus hates more than taking orders from someone is having a soul. I can’t remember if I already talked about this, but I’ve seen people make arguments that Angel clearly isn’t as good as Spike because Angelus never wanted a soul but Spike fought for his, and episodes like this one really highlight to me how ridiculous that idea is. I think if Spike knew what Angelus knows about what having a soul means, he never would have tried to get it. To me, Angelus’s hatred of his soul just proves how much of a difference it makes. As does Angel’s willingness to be killed rather than risking Angelus going free. Angel and Angelus loathe each other. If William’s soul and Spike’s demon can get along, that sort of just strikes me as both of them being a bit wishy-washy. Also, I think evil Cordy has it wrong about how the whole Angel/Angelus split works. If Angelus was really a voice inside Angel’s head, then why would Angel feel responsible for Angelus’s actions? It makes much more sense that Angel is merely plagued by vampire urges he constantly has to suppress, so it feels like the evil is coming from him, not some split personality inside him. Besides, if Angelus were distinct enough to have his own voice, then the whole thing about how his mind didn’t exist when all info about the Beast was wiped from this dimension wouldn’t make any sense.
That evil Cordy isn’t omniscient is extremely important information to know. I’m not sure I remembered that. Her misunderstanding of the inner workings of Angel/Angelus, her need for Connor to bring her information, and her lack of knowledge of Angelus’s movements even if she’s focused on him—those all indicate that there are significant gaps in Jasmine’s control. As good as she is at manipulation, she’s basing much of her maneuvering on educated guesswork, and things can slip by her if she isn’t paying close enough attention.
Gunn has really been sidelined a lot lately. His arc this season has been all about his relationship with Fred, his animosity towards Wesley, and his general feelings of inadequacy because he’s “just the muscle” of the group. Now that he and Fred are over, with closure and everything, and the hostility seems to have vanished between him and Wes, he’s down to just having the general insecurity. I still don’t understand why Gunn’s crew hasn’t been involved in any of this. Surely if Gunn thought he wasn’t valuable enough to this team, he’d spend more time with his old team, where he’s more sure of his own value?
Fred wishes she were braver, while Gunn wishes he were smarter. It makes sense that they were drawn to each other, because they each have the qualities the other believes they lack themselves. I agree with Gunn, though; Fred wasn’t giving herself enough credit. Maybe she didn’t feel very brave, but it takes some kind of courage to have the presence of mind to spot “made in China” on the murderous villain’s little trinket.
I’m actually interested in Connor’s angst about who/what he is, but nooo, the focus has to be on his and Cordy’s horrible demon spawn. It’s interesting, though, that he’s not scared or nervous about the idea of fatherhood. It’s like he’s a medieval warrior or something. Having a child isn’t a frightening prospect, it’s just normal, like going to battle is normal.
The last time Wes and Faith were together, she tortured him half to death and wanted to die, while he refused to break. This time, he’s the one torturing people and hating himself, and she actually seems to have pretty solid moral footing. Wes has this super pragmatic approach to everything, which is very impressive but also a bit questionable sometimes. I think Wes was Lawful Neutral when he first showed up, went through a Lawful Good phase until probably about when he got shot in S2, but has gradually been moving towards Chaotic Neutral ever since. He’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if it’s incredibly shady. He’s actually a lot like Angel in S2 when he went dark now, including the part where he’s been all lone wolf for a while.
“Hey, you’re preaching to the guy who ate the choir.”
“Hahaha, break his head open! See if there’s any candy.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.