“Shiny Happy People”
Written by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
Directed by Marita Grabiak
Angel and Connor are still kneeling before Gina Torres’s character, who finds their surroundings wonderful. She thanks Cordelia for all she did to bring her into the world. Angel is ashamed for trying to kill her. He feels he deserves punishment. Gina Torres takes his sword from him and tells him his suffering will end. He braces himself for the blow, but instead, she vanishes.
At the hotel, Fred is picking up the clutter of research in a frantic sort of way. Lorne wants her to calm down. Down in the basement, Gunn and Wes are dismembering Skip with a buzz saw. Fred is very upset about the Beast’s master choosing Cordelia as its vessel instead of someone who was already evil, and she’s worried about Angel having to kill Cordelia, and she’s worried the baby might already be born. Lorne is struggling to keep track of her train of thought. They both wonder if Angel would really kill Cordelia to save the world.
In comes Connor, and Fred storms angrily over to him, holding a sword. He’s very placid, claiming he only wants to put away the knife he was using. Fred and Lorne are very confused now. Angel comes in too, and he’s also placid and weird. He brought Cordelia and laid her down on the couch. They notice her lack of pregnant belly (and Gunn and Wes have come upstairs by this point). Angel and Connor aren’t doing a good job of explaining about Gina Torres because they’re too enamored to be clear. Eventually, they get around to describing her as adult human-shaped and very beautiful. Wes and Gunn go to grab weapons, but Angel gingerly takes them away, explaining that they need to find Gina Torres so they can worship her, not kill her. *snort* I’m getting the impression that David Boreanaz really enjoyed filming this one. Fred, Gunn, Wes, and Lorne are very troubled by Angel and Connor’s behavior.
Wes tries to remind Angel of all the things they know Gina Torres is responsible for, but he seems untroubled by them. Also, Gina Torres is here in the hotel now. She found herself a better outfit than that brown blanket from the meat locker. The whole gang kneels down in front of her. Wesley is the lone holdout, but a few seconds later, he’s kneeling too and asking for instructions.
Cut to Cordelia’s room, where the team is still in awe of Gina Torres as they make sure the comatose Cordy is comfortable. Wait, how about putting her in a hospital? Gina Torres tells her origin story. She was one of the powerful beings that walked the earth before mankind existed. (So, an Old One?) Eventually, a bunch of them went evil and turned the earth into a hellish place, but she and the others fought back. Then man came forth. She hoped they would be the ones to save the dimension. She talks like she’s the only higher power who wanted to actually do something about the suffering on Earth, which is why she figured out a way to get herself a body. So she arranged for Connor to be born. She explains that Angel and Darla earned Connor’s life when Angel went through the Trials for her. He didn’t get the life he asked for (Darla’s), but he did get a life.
Wesley’s theory about all the crazy apocalyptic stuff that’s been happening lately is that it was all birth pains to bring Gina Torres into the world. Really? You’re just going to wave it away like that? Not cool. Angel wants to know if Cordy will wake up. Gina Torres thinks yes, but not until after they destroy the obstacles in her path. Which, so far, are just the evil demons in the city, so that seems okay.
At a bowling alley, a vampire is bowling with a dude’s severed head. Another vampire isn’t impressed. They’re all a bit bummed that they came all the way to L.A. only for the sun to be back. Vampire #2 is confident that something big and exciting is about to happen. Well that’s true, because here comes the A.I. team to kill all of them while Gina Torres stands by and observes. She invites Fred to sit down with her as the others fight. She does so. Gina Torres wants a name for her character, and Fred feels overwhelmed by the prospect of choosing one. Gina Torres seems to think it’s important that she not be the one to choose her own name. A vampire claws her arm while they’re talking, and Fred blames herself. Gina Torres tells her not to worry. (‘Tis but a scratch.)
Angel runs after the vampire who attacked Jasmine. He chases him out onto a crowded restaurant patio, where he knocks into one of the diners, possibly scraping him with the fingers covered in Gina Torres’s blood. (Nice continuity there. I never caught that before, and always just assumed that guy was randomly immune to Jasmine’s thrall.) Angel stakes the vampire in full view of all the diners. The rest of the team joins them. As soon as Jasmine arrives, they all start to kneel. She tells them to honor each other. And hello there, Lily Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries. Wasn’t expecting that. Whenever anyone sees Gina Torres, it seems like the pain of all their problems gets wiped away and all they care about is her.
The dude that vampire knocked over and scratched emerges from the crowd, holding a knife, tears in his eyes. He, unlike the rest of them, is not enthralled by Gina Torres. Quite the opposite. He feels compelled to try to kill her, so he makes an attempt. Angel stops him and starts punching him over and over. Gina Torres eventually stops him. The man is crying. He can’t understand why no one else can see what he does. She strokes the side of his face. He cringes. She has Wes call an ambulance for him. She tells the crowd and the A.I. team that men like this one, who are full of fear, will always be alone, while they, her worshippers, will have each other! Yay.
Back at the hotel, Gunn and Wes are discussing possible name options for Gina Torres. Wes is thinking something along the lines of a complicated Greek goddess name. Gunn just wants to name her after his grandmother, Helen. (Ooh, wait, was this the Helen who raised him and Alonna, according to the comics?) Fred comes downstairs, lamenting her inability to get the bloodstains off Gina Torres’s shirt. Wait, why is she even bothering? The sleeve got shredded by the vampire’s claws. The shirt is ruined even if it isn’t stained. Gina Torres tells her not to worry about it, because pain is an exciting new sensation for her. Fred still feels guilty and will not be deterred from her task. Gina Torres thinks they all take their senses for granted.
Gina Torres notices that both Gunn and Wes love Fred. She thinks this love should unite them, not create a rift between them. Connor comes over to tend to Gina Torres’s wound, but it’s mostly gone by now. He asks why that man tried to attack her. She appears not to know. She thinks it’s the effect of hatred, which leads her to the courtyard to talk to Angel. She very much likes the smell of the jasmine flowers in the courtyard. He’s ashamed of attacking that man at the restaurant. She tells him there’s no shame in trying to protect her. He’s terrified that her presence is making him happy enough to lose his soul, maybe. She tells him that it won’t matter soon. They’ll banish all the evil soon, including what’s inside him. He’s amazed, perhaps incredulous, at the idea of eradicating evil. She names him her general and says she has faith in him. He’s even more amazed.
The rest of the team is gathered at the railing overlooking the courtyard. She’s very proud of all of them. Next, we get a montage of them kicking demon butt and taking names set to her voiceover. Except Fred, who is still frantically trying to get that stain out of the ripped shirt.
A newscaster reports that after several weeks of badness, things are suddenly turning around. AAAAAAAAAH. WHAT IS ANGEL WEARING?!
He should never wear colors that light and shiny. Ever. I mean, I know it’s actually plot-related, unlike every other terrible wardrobe decision in these two shows, but still. *shudder* Lorne has a surprise for Gina Torres, and he takes her upstairs to see it. Fred joins the others, showing them the shirt. Which she actually replaced, because even though she scrubbed it until her fingers bled, she couldn’t get the stain out completely. Or, you know, un-rip the fabric. She cries, feeling like a complete failure. Angel and Wes try to comfort her. She’s particularly upset because Gina Torres isn’t in the room. Her absence is painful.
Lorne’s surprise is the room he’s set up for Gina Torres. It’s very lovely and glamorous. He leaves her to enjoy it, and then she notices Connor waiting outside. He joins her. He’s glad to know why he exists, but he feels like he doesn’t deserve to feel this happy. She disagrees. She tells him they’re going to change the world, and that it’s his turn to be a champion. An anxious Fred comes in to explain about the shirt, but when she looks at Gina Torres, all she sees is a rotted face full of worms. She’s completely horrified, and she tries to play it off as that she’s just upset over the shirt still. Everyone comes in and tells her it’s okay; Gina Torres is right there! She should be happy! If they were all right in the head, they probably wouldn’t have fallen for her act, but they’re not, so they do, and she gets out of the room okay.
Fred goes to Cordy’s room and holds her hand. She wishes Cordy would wake up so they could talk about the scary crap she saw before Gina Torres’s character took over her personality. Angel joins her in the room. Luckily, he didn’t hear anything that would make him suspect Fred. He’s still rhapsodizing about Gina Torres and beauty. He can’t believe he tried to kill Cordelia. Fred gently tries to prod him out of his thrall. It doesn’t work.
Next, Fred goes to the hospital to see the guy who tried to attack Jasmine. The lady at reception isn’t very convinced by her stammer-y insistence that she’s a relative of the guy, but when she sees Fred’s real concern, she softens. He’s in the psych ward now. She slips inside after a doctor walks through the restricted access door. She finds the man and asks him if he was crazy before he met Gina Torres. She thinks she knows exactly what he saw. She describes it. He turns to look at her, warning her not to let “it” touch her. Because the side of his face Gina Torres touched is now gross and dead-looking. He desperately wants to be free so he can go try to kill Gina Torres again. Fred thinks that’s a little extreme. He says they’ve been called for this. She doesn’t like that; she’s not the protagonist, Angel is. She thinks their best chance is to make more people see the truth. Her phone rings and she leaves. He yells after her not to trust anyone.
When Fred gets back to the hotel, random people are all over the lobby. Gina Torres’s fanclub. Lorne tells Fred that Gina Torres went for a stroll and all these people followed her back. Fred finds Wes. She needs his help. She asks him if he trusts her, even if she’s going to tell him something he doesn’t want to hear. He says yes. She tells him about going to see the man who attacked Gina Torres. She admits that she saw the same thing he saw, and she describes it to Wes. He says he believes her. She’s so relieved that the man was wrong about how she couldn’t trust anyone.
Gina Torres comes to the balcony overlooking the lobby, flanked by Angel and Connor. Wes says he’ll help Fred, and then he goes over to talk to Gunn. Off Gunn’s expression, Fred knows Wes was lying. Wes then goes up to talk to Gina Torres, while Gunn goes to tell Lorne. Fred grabs weapons out of the weapons cabinet and shoots at Gina Torres with a crossbow. Angel dives in front of it. Then Fred takes Lorne hostage with a dagger to the throat and threatens him if they don’t let her go. Gina Torres tells her there’s nowhere to run, and Fred flees. The rest of the team is shocked. Fred drives out to the edge of the woods outside L.A. and has a good cry.
Back at the hotel, the team is still reeling from how “Fred is evil.” Angel wants to find Fred. He’s beating himself up for not figuring it out sooner. Wes is surprised she would go see that guy at the hospital. They agree that the only way is to kill Fred, but Gina Torres wants to try to reverse the “hatred” that’s infected her first. She wants them to wait until the next day to look for her, because her reach will be much longer by then.
The next morning, Fred is getting breakfast at a diner. A morning news show is on, and Gina Torres, whose character has finally been named Jasmine, is the special guest. Fred is horrified. Everyone else in the diner drops to their knees as Jasmine tells the exact same origin story she told the A.I. team. Fred walks out of the diner, realizing she’s even more alone than she thought. The camera pans out as Fred walks away up the street, passing a random guy who glances inside the diner and sees the TV, upon which he drops to his knees too.
For all the screwed up nonsense it took to get us here, I actually like the Jasmine arc. It’s nowhere near as fun as the Angelus arc, but I tend to be fascinated whenever the Big Bad’s plan is essentially world peace via the elimination of free will, since that’s essentially the strategy my church believes Lucifer got kicked out of heaven for proposing. (Is that what other churches believe happen? In some ways, it kind of seems appealing on the surface. I think the Jasmine arc does a pretty good job of exploring it. The absence of suffering seems like a plus, but without it, joy becomes meaningless. Also, we’d never learn or grow if we had nothing to struggle against. Pair that setup with Fred being the first character to snap out of it, and it’s probably going to be something I’ll enjoy watching. I love how when people become immune to Jasmine’s thrall, they don’t just stop feeling the warm fuzzies, but they become filled with horror at what she’s doing and at the very sight of her, which is also the appropriate reaction to the idea of losing your free will.
Angel’s reaction to Jasmine’s happiness brainwashing is intriguing. He’s actually afraid of happiness. That’s so sad! And what does Jasmine mean, he doesn’t need to worry about Angelus getting loose? Did Willow fix the loophole, or is this just part of Jasmine’s power? If the former, then maybe tell some people about that, Willow. If the latter, FREAKING FIX ANGEL’S CURSE ALREADY, GOOD GUYS! How can you just placidly consign your friend to a life that must be devoid of joy or else? Especially now that you’ve met his evil alter ego? Why is happiness-proofing his curse not a major priority? Just because he seems comfortable with his misery doesn’t mean you should just leave him to wallow in it. Jerks. (Mostly it’s the writers I think are jerks, because it’s not the characters’ fault they weren’t discussing something so obviously important.)
Aaaand we’re back to Gunn having nothing new to do. Bah.
I don’t think I really paid attention the other times I watched this to how resistant Fred is to taking charge when she’s the only one no longer brainwashed. First she tries to get Angel’s help, then she tries to get help from the man at the hospital, and then Wesley. Unlike Willow, who is kind of her Buffy counterpart, Fred doesn’t want power. She’s comfortable as a side-kick and team player, so being forced into the role of the hero is very daunting for her. But now she has little choice but to rise to the occasion. I can’t wait. She’s come a long way from the crazy girl living in a Pylean cave, but this is a very new challenge for her.
It’s so sad that Connor feels like he doesn’t deserve happiness. He’s never really had happiness to begin with, considering the environment in which he grew up. Also, it just occurred to me, looking back on Connor’s behavior this season, that the soul cleanse thing Cordy did to him at the end of S3 might not have been such a wonderful thing after all. All her demon powers post-“Birthday” were most likely Jasmine’s powers, and Jasmine’s endgame was to be born. Maybe Cordy thought she was purging Quor’Toth from Connor’s system when she did that, but I think she was inadvertently planting the seeds of his attraction to her. Because after she did that to him, despite her claims about the effects, he really only stopped being aggressive towards her, but it didn’t change his behavior with anyone else.
Wesley’s taste in names is kind of atrocious. That’s pretty much the only thing we really learn about him in this one, since he’s all brainwashed.
“We don’t want to kill her. We just want to find her so we can worship her. That’s all.”
“She’s amazing. You’ll go nuts.”
“Yeah, that’ll definitely help us relate better.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.