Angel 4x20 Review: King of Hearts
Written by Ben Edlund
Directed by David Straiton
The team tries to talk Connor down and make him see that Jasmine is brainwashing everyone. He won’t listen. He’s on Jasmine’s side. Angel slams the door shut on Connor to give the others time to flee. He doesn’t personally expect to make it out alive. Connor snarls through the door that he ‘s finally part of something, so he won’t let that end. Angel breaks through the door and starts beating Connor up? The team pulls the car around and tries to figure out what to do for Angel, but then Angel chucks Connor down on the hood of the car and gets in. I guess he knocked Connor out because they were never going to escape if he was still conscious? They drive away as Jasmine strides out of the hotel amid a horde of her followers.
They drive out of town while listening to unsettling news reports about Los Angeles becoming Jasmine’s capital city and the churches in town renouncing God in favor of Jasmine. Yikes. They turn it off. They don’t know what to do, and they have very few resources.
Jasmine invites more people into her room, where they strip down. She goes all glowy and green just as Connor wakes up. He loves her so much. She passes her hand over him and heals all his wounds. He tells them what the team tried to do to him. She tells him to rest, but he wants to run and fight Angel and the others. She isn’t worried because she’s getting more and more control over and access to her followers. They’re like a hive mind now, and she can sic people on the team.
Wes pulls into a gas station. There are a few people around, who are clearly Jasmine fans. This is the best they can do. Gunn punches out a guy who already stuck his card in to pay for gas and swipes the nozzle. The guys all guard the car while they gas up. Jasminites approach, speaking in her voice about how the A.I. team hurts her just by existing. She talks about how her influence is spreading via radio. They get enough gas and peel out, but cops are pursuing them.
Back in the hotel, Jasmine is laughing, very confident in her ability to apprehend them. The team abandons the car and heads into the sewers. Luckily for them, Angel knows the tunnels better than anyone under Jasmine’s control. However, they still have no plan, and Gunn for one is starting to lose it from frustration. Fred worries about Cordy. Through a grate, we see the red eyes of some kind of demon.
Connor is sitting with Cordy when Jasmine comes to visit. They know Angel and Fred used Cordy’s blood to free Wes, Gunn, and Lorne. Jasmine calls it “deceitful, cowardly magic.” And we all know how much Connor hates magic, so it solidifies his distrust of them. Jasmine sends Connor out of the room so she can be alone with Cordelia.
Angel is in a rather cynical mood, which Lorne and Fred don’t appreciate. Wes is trying to get past his post-Jasmine slump. They all are. They still remember how wonderful they felt being enfolded in her love. It occurs to them that it’s kind of weird that Jasmine had no name even though she’s super ancient. Angel and Wes suddenly fall through the floor. Gunn grabs Wes in time, but Angel’s down a level now. A band of apocalyptic sewer-dwellers surrounds the others up in the main tunnel, and a kid aims a sharpened stick at Angel. They’re very suspicious of Lorne, and then Angel kind of confirms their suspicions by leaping out of the hole. His team starts fighting the band, but Angel calls them off. These people don’t even know about Jasmine. They’ve been underground since the rain of fire. Also, one of them knows who Gunn is, which helps. There’s definitely a monster crawling around down there, though.
Connor goes back to Cordy’s room, only to find Jasmine in there alone. She had Cordy moved. He doesn’t appreciate her doing that behind his back. A flicker of doubt, perhaps? Definitely. He’s hesitating before following her now.
The sewer band leads the A.I. team to their base camp, which is a large, fortified room in the tunnels. They don’t even know the sun is back. The little kid introduces himself to Angel. He’s Matthew. Angel goes around checking all their defenses. Matthew’s parents were killed by vampires. Angel uses their clean water pipe to wash Connor’s blood off his knuckles. The guy Gunn knows says they’ve been underground for two weeks. Wait, seriously? It’s only been at most two weeks since the sun came back? That was seven episodes ago! This timeline is so screwed up. The demon in the tunnels has been killing them off one by one. Angel would like to go kill it. Everyone else is up for that. They can’t do anything about Jasmine, but they can kill the heck out of this thing.
Jasmine gets off the phone with the governor of California, who has happily ceded control of the state over to her. She’s about to expand her influence far beyond the boundaries of Los Angeles. She’s so happy about freeing the world of their woes and loneliness. She’s looking forward to living with Connor in the swankiest palace ever. Connor likes the sound of that, but he isn’t happy. She can sense it, and she wants him to give her his pain so that he can fully assimilate. She digs her fingernails into his palm as she tells him to give it all to her. He agrees. The fingernail wounds on his hand transfer to hers, then heal.
The A.I. team and the sewer band go to the last place one of their guys was snatched by the monster. Another one gets grabbed, but Angel jumps after him and gets him back. Unfortunately, he’s still vamped out when he returns, and Matthew freaks out and runs away. Then Fred gets grabbed, so Angel, Wes, and Gunn attack the thing. Gunn and Fred run after Matthew to stop him from reaching the surface. Wes is gone too, though.
That’s because he got grabbed by the demon, which tosses him against a wall somewhere. It snarls at him “we loved her first.” Huh. Back in the main tunnel, the band turns their weapons on Angel. The creepy demon bug thing is still whining about how Jasmine left its people for Earth. Wes realizes what it’s talking about. It hisses at him for presuming to give her a name. It feels that’s reductive. Then it heads over to a wall, where it’s been filleting a vampire, who is still alive. It says that love is sacrifice.
Fred and Gunn keep chasing Matthew. Fred mentions rats, which freaks Gunn out. He’s still super bummed to be post-Jasmine, but he’s determined to follow Angel’s advice and be all cold and analytical now. Fred doesn’t like that. She wants to fight for more than the right to be dead inside. He finds that ironic given how she acted leading up to Professor Seidel’s murder. She contradicts him. She didn’t turn off her feelings, and she can’t stop feeling horrible about that. And she prefers that to being an empty shell. They continue looking for Matthew.
Angel and Lorne are the only ones left to deal with the sewer gang, who now super don’t trust Angel because he’s a vampire. And Lorne’s word doesn't count for much with them. Instead of explaining that he’s a good guy, Angel informs the leader that he could easily disarm and kill him before he could thrust his stake forward.
Fred and Gunn reach the surface, where they keep looking for Matthew, careful to avoid being spotted by anyone. Down in the demon’s lair, Wes asks it why it isn’t worried he might escape, since the place is wide open. Wes keeps chatting with it. It’s from an older world. It has a portal-opening device, but it warns Wes not to use it unless he wants his lungs to burn out in one breath over there. What it’s doing with the vampire is “flesh magic,” which is older than words, and which it hopes Jasmine will notice so she’ll come back to its people. It scoffs at the idea of words, and lets slip that Jasmine only cares about one word. The vampire wakes up, very grossed out by what the demon is doing to him. The demon is surprised he’s still alive, and it rips his tongue out when he tries to cuss at it. The demon isn’t a fan of Angel, since he attacked him with a sword. It scoffs about how Wes and inhabitants of this dimension in general are very loose and free with their names. It thinks that’s why they’re weak. Wes realizes that this must be true of Jasmine. The only word she cares about is her real name. The demon is furious with him for talking about this. Bingo!
Fred and Gunn find Matthew. He’s amazed to see the sun. They try to explain about Angel and convince him to come back to the tunnels, but he starts yelling for help, so Gunn knocks him out. *wince* Fred’s kind of in shock over that, and Gunn tells her to grab Matthew’s feet. Really? Why not throw him over your shoulder? That would be a much less awkward way to carry him.
Instead of quietly mulling over his suspicions about Jasmine’s name, Wes keeps asking the angry demon about it. It says only the high priest of his people knows the name, and it’s going to kill Wes now. But here comes Angel! He attacks with a sword. Out in the tunnel, Lorne is giving sensitivity training to the sewer band about being nice to nice demons. Fred and Gunn return with Matthew, and Fred stammers an apology which alerts the rest of the band to the fact that they had to physically subdue him to bring him back. Before unpleasantness can ensue, Matthew wakes up, laughing in Jasmine’s voice. Crap. Matthew/Jasmine talks to the other sewer band people, taking them over. She sics them on Fred, Gunn, and Lorne, who try to flee, only to be cornered by Connor/Jasmine and a whole squad of military-looking dudes.
Angel fights the demon. It stabs through his guts and out his back. Ow. Wes attacks it, giving Angel an opening to stab it in the throat with one of its own broken claws. It dies, pledging its body to Jasmine with its last breath. Wes tells Angel what he learned from the demon and shows him the key to its dimension. As they talk, the others are running from Connor and the army dudes. Angel can sense badness nearby. It’s mutual; Connor can sense Angel too. The rest of the team makes it to the room with Angel and Wes. Wes realizes that words don’t activate the dimensional key, blood does. So he dabs some blood from his head wound onto it. It opens a portal. Wes tells him the atmosphere is toxic to humans, so Angel is the only one who can go. He’s very reluctant to leave them all, but they convince him he has to. Wes hands him the key, and in he goes.
Back in the sewer, it’s a full-on battle between the rest of the team and the army guys. All the wounds the team inflicts on them appear on Jasmine’s body and then heal, while she laughs. Yeah, those guys are going to be pretty hard to kill. Meanwhile, Angel has arrived in a world with an unsettling color palette that is just crawling with those bug demons.
“Sacrifice” is another strong episode in the Jasmine arc. I love the theme, which is right in the title. Love is sacrifice. Connor sacrifices his pain to prove his love to Jasmine. Angel sacrifices his own safety and then the chance of saving Connor for the sake of the rest of the team. They all feel like they have no choice but to sacrifice emotion in order to get out of this alive, and in the end, they’re willing to sacrifice themselves so that Angel will have a chance of finding Jasmine’s weakness. There are good moments for all of the characters, and there’s a nice balance between Jasmine’s increasing power and reach and the glimmer of hope that she might have a weakness.
Angel claims that “hearts get in the way.” This could be him blaming himself for not being able to swing his sword fast enough to stop Jasmine from being born. Surely it was his feelings for Cordelia that stayed his hand a second too long. And his concern for Connor nearly got the rest of the team killed in the hotel. He has a lot of good reasons to feel like emotion is a handicap, but he’s clearly still trying to convince himself it’s true, instead of really believing it. He instinctively saves Matthew, he threatens—but doesn’t hurt—the sewer band, and he’s very reluctant to leave his team to fend for themselves as he goes alone into the other dimension. Hopefully he’ll have an opportunity soon to see that love isn’t a liability.
For the first time in at least a season, we get a connection to Gunn’s old crew! Hooray! It really does round him out as a character, to have these links to people outside the team. And his and Fred’s conversation about Professor Seidel (even though it probably gave Matthew enough time to be infected by Jasmine) was a very crucial one for both of them. He’s apparently been under the impression that she wasn’t haunted by what they did, and that he’s been going through all the guilt and remorse alone. Not so!
Fred gladly slips back out of the foreground now that she’s got the rest of the team back around her. With Cordelia out of the picture, though, she has kind of become the heart of the group. She’s the one most reluctant to shut down her emotions and just coldly get the job done. She doesn’t like leaving Cordy and Connor behind, she doesn’t like hurting Matthew to get him back into the tunnels, and she especially doesn’t like that Gunn thinks she felt nothing about killing Professor Seidel. The others are trying not to feel instead of feeling empty at the absence of Jasmine’s love, but Fred is fighting for all that they felt before Jasmine bulldozed over it all. And she’s right, because Jasmine wants everyone to think that the only alternative to her way is emptiness. It’s not true. What she offers is mindless bliss, whereas true joy is only possible if it is earned, and if it’s just one of many possible emotions.
It’s really sad how Connor is clinging so tightly to Jasmine because what she’s doing is the first time he’s ever felt like he’s been a part of something. If that was what he wanted all along, then maybe he shouldn’t have done absolutely everything he could, from his actions to his attitude, to push people away. (Also, maybe it was a mistake for Angel to kick him out instead of trying to get him participating in Angel Investigations work.) It’s not unlike Dawn’s behavior in S6. Do teenagers always do things incredibly counterproductive to what they want?
I doubt any of the characters but Wesley would’ve been able to get the right info out of the demon and figure out what it means. Angel probably could have, but he’d have fought and killed it before it said anything useful. Go Wes! I think he’s officially back on the team. He and Angel haven’t had a conversation like that since S3, before the episodes started dividing the character arcs into Wes/Fred/Gunn and Angel/Cordy(/Groo) stuff.
“And that's why when we use words like ‘ugly-ass’ and ‘beastie,’ we can sometimes do more damage than we intend to. It ain't all about sticks and stones, my young friends.”
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In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.