Written by Ben Edlund
Directed by Vern Gillum
The Wrath demon in the holding dimension is torturing Gunn some more. He’s pleading for mercy. Then we hear a major disturbance upstairs, coupled with the house shaking and the sound of gunfire. Illyria appears in the kitchen doorway and comes down. She easily beats up the Wrath demon and rips the mind wipe necklace off Gunn. He’s never seen Illyria before, so it takes him a moment to realize she’s not Fred. He tells her the only way he can leave is if someone else puts on the necklace. She cocks her head. Cut to the Wrath demon wearing the necklace and cutting out its own heart. Bahahahahahaha. I love Illyria.
Wes is explaining to Angel how Illyria ended up single-handedly rescuing Gunn. He didn’t so much send her out to do that as he mentioned Gunn was in the holding dimension, and then she just went and got him out. Angel’s starting to feel like Illyria is too much of a loose cannon. Especially if she answers to Wesley and Wesley isn’t loyal to him. Oh, and they don’t know that she’s succeeded in rescuing Gunn yet. Wes thinks Illyria could be useful to them. Angel thinks she’s still at W&H because she knows there’s power there. Just then, Illyria pops out of another portal with Gunn in tow. Then she holds him off the floor by his throat. Wes cautiously explains why she shouldn’t hurt him and that they owe her a great debt for rescuing him. She accepts that with icy eyes and walks off. Angel doesn’t like this.
Gunn steps off the elevator. He’s still not wearing suits. He goes to his office and finds a mountain of paperwork and casefiles on his desk. Then he goes to see Wes, who is researching Old Ones…all over his office. There isn’t much open floor space in which to step. Wes feels awkward about stabbing Gunn, but he’s super fragile and busy. They both decide apologies would be weird. Also, Gunn has gained some perspective on minor stab wounds after having his heart cut out fourteen times. Gunn doesn’t know how to deal with the fact that he was rescued by the thing that killed Fred. Wes agrees that things are weird. His piles and piles of books are him trying to adjust. Yikes. Wes is still in deep anguish over the loss of Fred, but he’s taken it to a place of delirious humor now. Yeah, he could probably do with some time off. Gunn thinks Wes has Illyria under control, and Wes laughs.
In the training room, Illyria and Spike are sparring. Illyria does more damage, but when Spike lands a hit, she marvels that he would strike the form of someone he cared for. Yeah, he knows she’s not Fred, so he’ll hit her as hard as he can. For science! She notices that he’s getting better at fighting him, but she’s scornful of the concept of adaptation. She goes off on a self-aggrandizing speech about how the world shuddered when it met her and the wealthiest beings of the modern era are poor compared to her at the top of her game. Spike lunges at her again, and she does the time dilation thing on him and walks around to the other side of the room. He doesn’t appreciate when she does that.
Angel calls Spike out in the hall for a word. Illyria acts like she needs his permission to do so, which she grants. Angel wants Spike to stop doing these sessions, because he thinks Illyria’s learning more about them from the tests than they are about her. Illyria is suddenly in the hallway, panting, apparently disoriented.
Gunn is sitting in his office. He picks up the top case file on his desk. Lorne pokes in for a visit. He’s wearing a purple trench coat, a fedora, and sunglasses, because Angel wants him to start tailing Illyria and reporting on her movements. Wow, he’s as bad at incognito as Buffy. Awesome! Gunn asks about Wes. They agree that Wes is in a super bad place. He alternates between near-catatonia and hyper-obsessiveness on Old Ones. Angel buzzes Lorne to come up to his office.
The whole team is in Angel’s office now, discussing what to do about Illyria. Angel kind of wants to kill her, largely because she killed Fred. Wes points out that she didn’t do it on purpose. She was like an impartial disease. Angel still thinks the safest course is killing her. Wes is on board. Gunn wants to talk about W&H’s slow, sneaky apocalypse. He seems a bit skeptical of the idea that the status quo of the world is the path to the real apocalypse, but he doesn’t argue. In comes Hamilton. Apparently Illyria destroyed a boatload of company property on her way to Gunn, and Angel’s department has to pay for it. Hamilton’s annoyingly smug about it. He also has a “small task” for Angel from the SPs.
Wes is in catatonic mode. Illyria joins him in his office. She crouches down in front of him. He explains that it’s Monday and what Monday is. She considers him her guide to this time. But he’s also her betrayer. She knows he hoped that by shattering the Orlon Window, he would rewrite history and bring Fred back. She doesn’t appreciate that. She doesn’t want to affected by Wesley’s betrayal, but she is. He observes that she’s seeming remarkably human, and she appreciates that even less.
Gunn brings Angel Hamilton’s case file. They discuss Hamilton. Gunn tells him about Hamilton visiting him in the holding dimension. He isn’t happy when Angel actually needs him to say that he turned down Hamilton’s offer, but Angel’s pleased with Gunn’s determination not to play things W&H’s way. In comes a heavily pregnant woman (who is played by David Boreanaz’s wife). Hamilton’s case is some kind of demon pact involving her baby. She, Gunn, and Angel sit down at the conference table to discuss the pact. She’s quite keen on it, because these demons are making her pregnancy extremely comfortable, and they’re going to pay her a ton of money because her baby is a holy one in their religion. However, Mrs. Boreanaz isn’t the client. The demons are. Uh oh.
Illyria is in Wesley’s office. She’s musing on the strangeness of time while he continues manically researching. He notices that she seems a bit unwell. She convulses, and then she’s suddenly in the training room, where Wes is pointing some kind of arm cannon at her. Then she’s in the hallway, near where Angel and Spike are discussing her performance in the tests. Spike says the same thing from before. Huh. Looks like Illyria’s timeline is scrambled. She ends up in Wesley’s office, where she knocks a glass of water off his desk when she grabs it for support. She shoves the desk (and Wes) into the window (which thankfully doesn’t break) because she believes he attempted to murder her. She strides out of his office, leaving him bewildered.
Lorne is attempting to follow Illyria. Nearby in the lobby, Harmony tries to placate the demon clients, who are growing impatient the longer Angel and Gunn stay holed up with their Holy Vessel lady in Angel’s office. They decide they’ll have organic colas while they wait.
The pregnant lady is a bit confused that Angel and Gunn seem to be trying to talk her out of this pact. She really believes that her son will have the best possible future if she agrees to let this demon cult worship him, especially because her husband was badly injured and can’t work anymore, and the demons say they can fix him! He doesn’t even remember her right now because of the brain damage, so it’s a pretty big deal. Her emotional story keeps getting jarringly interrupted by beeps from Angel’s walkie-talkie.
Gunn goes out into the main part of Angel’s office. Angel follows him. Gunn talks about how the worst part of the holding dimension was the fake happy life, because deep down, you knew it was a big lie. Is that what they’re doing at W&H? He doesn’t think he can. Angel tries to get him to suck it up. Harmony pops in to tell Angel how antsy the demons are getting.
Wes is looking at something under a microscope. Hamilton asks what he’s doing, and Wes doesn’t appreciate the intrusion. Particularly from the SPs stooge. Turns out, Hamilton is as concerned about Illyria as the A.I. team. Wes finds that amusing. Hamilton says the SPs and Illyria go way back. They want her dead. He gives Wes a tip to look at the low-emanation scanner readouts, then drifts away. Wes checks those readouts, and there’s a big blue pulsing dot on them.
Lorne’s been made! Of course. Because he’s terrible at espionage. Why did Angel think the most vibrantly colored member of his team was best-suited for a task requiring subtlety? Illyria is not amused.
The demons come to the conference room to greet the pregnant lady with affection and enthusiasm. They make sure she’s been taking all the supplements they’ve given her. Then Angel has them sit down to start the meeting. The demons sign their stuff, and they slide the contract to Amanda for her to sign too, but Gunn thinks he’s found a deal-breaker. They’re going to feed the kid a pretty sketchy diet. Amanda seems fine with it. But then Gunn gets to the part about the “Rites of Gordabach.” Which is a ritual sacrifice. Crap. The demons and angrily interrupt before Gunn can get the entire sentence out, but Amanda seems less confident than she was about this deal. In comes Illyria. She demands to speak with Angel, and she won’t wait. He leaves with her.
In the hall, Lorne is annoyed that Angel hasn’t been listening to his walkie-talkie, but Angel and Illyria blow right past him. Illyria thinks Angel’s doing whatever weird timey-wimey crap is happening to her, and she demands an explanation, because he’s clearly a fool not to bow to her will. Angel has no idea what she’s talking about. She convulses, but for the moment stays put, temporally speaking. Angel doesn’t care. He tries to leave, annoyed, but she grabs him and demands to know what he did. She realizes this Angel is too early in the timeline to know what’s going on, so she leaves. Angel is not happy. Lorne pops over to scold him for turning his walkie-talkie off, and Angel swats his fedora off his head in irritation. Bahaha.
Angel finds Wes and Spike in the lab, hoping for an update on Illyria. Wes has discovered that Illyria is overloading Fred’s body. Soon, her power will explode out of it. Wes has the arm cannon now. It’s designed to suck power into a pocket dimension, and he can use it to siphon off Illyria’s excess power safely. All Angel cares about is if it’ll kill her. Wes says it will. Also, they can track her thanks to the energy signal she’s giving off. She’s in the training room.
Angel, Wes, and Spike head to the training room, discussing how much damage she’ll do if she explodes before they can reach her. A lot. They pass Lorne, who’s still annoyed at Angel. When they get to the training room, she’s not there. Then, suddenly she is, and she’s staking Spike in the back. He turns to dust. Wait…what? I wanted that to happen five seasons ago, not now! She convulses. Angel and Wes have the same exchange as the last time Illyria was at this moment. She throws Angel across the room and the stake she used to kill Spike through Wesley’s torso, killing him too. Then she punches through Lorne’s chest. (Would that be fatal? Does he have anything important there? His heart is in his butt.) Angel, vamped out, lunges at her, but she seizes an axe and beheads him while he’s in midair. Holy crap. So should we just rename the show Illyria? It’s only her, Gunn, and Harmony left of the main cast, and she could dispense with them just as easily as she did the other four.
Illyria smugly observes the fallen A.I. team, but then convulses and ends up back in her argument with Angel a few scenes ago. She grabs him again, but the next time she flashes through time, she pulls Angel with her, to the scene in Wesley’s office when she knocks the glass off his desk. Angel is extremely disoriented, in an angry way. He and Wes are super confused, but Illyria knows the timeline is getting messed up. She screams in pain, and ends up back in the holding dimension when she freed Gunn. She’s still bringing Angel with her.
Illyria thinks Angel did this on purpose somehow, but he’s still trying to figure out what even happened. Angrily, she explains enough for him to sort of get what’s happening to her. He says it’s not them, and she punches him across the basement. She talks about what the vampire was when she was young. Huh, apparently vampires were sparkly in the Buffyverse, during the Old Ones’ era. I guess one of them peeked ahead, saw Twilight, and put a stop to that nonsense before it could result in dreadful teen romance novel scenarios. Angel is super tired of Illyria’s yammering. He informs her very loudly that he has bigger things to worry about than her and he’s tired of her acting like she’s the center of the universe. He’s in charge here, so she needs to get out of the way.
In the middle of her angry reply, they pop to the training room, full of the ash and corpses of the team. He stares around at Wesley and Lorne. Illyria points to Spike’s ashes and describes the pathetically easy fight. Angel thinks he’s nest, but she tosses an axe onto the pile of Angel’s ashes. She already killed him. She realizes Angel is from earlier, and she can’t figure out how that’s possible.
Illyria continues to yammer about how victory is the only thing that matters to a king, while fighting down the pain of whatever’s happening to her. She thinks Angel’s morals make him weak. She scoffs at the pointless games he plays, thinking to beat W&H; to win this war, he must serve only his ambition. She screams, realizing Angel was telling the truth. Her body and her power are in conflict. She’s been through this time loop again and again, and she never realizes what’s happening to her until it’s too late. Angel points out that he might be able to fix it, since he’s a paradox. A crack appears in her face, then all over her. She explodes, and Angel gets blasted into the past, just a few seconds before he, Spike, Wes, and Lorne enter the training room.
Angel figures out what’s going on in time to shove Spike aside before Illyria can stake him. He takes the stake in the chest (but not the heart) instead and tells her to wait. She realizes this is different. Angel and Wes try to explain what’s happening to her; it’s inevitable that she’ll explode, but not that she’ll take a huge chunk out of the planet when she does. She’s not happy at being asked to die to prevent the deaths of others, and Wes reveals that his arm cannon won’t kill her. It’ll just power her down. Angel’s not happy about that. Illyria doubts Wes doesn’t mean to kill her, since he tried to do just that with the Orlon Window. Also, how’s she supposed to exist without her power? She kicks him across the room, into Angel, triggering another fight.
She slows down time, but then convulses, and it resumes. Angel tries to persuade her to take Wesley’s offer. She hates the idea of losing her power, but he tells her she can’t hold onto what she was. She can accept what she must become, or she can die. She concedes, but blames this stupid human body for what’s happening. Wes can accept that. He points the arm cannon at her. It sucks out all the energy trying to explode from her. The cracks in her face vanish and she collapses. Her first words are a haughty insult. Spike doesn’t think she’s much different, but Wes knows that’s not true.
She remains immobile on the floor, sulking, for an unspecified amount of time. Wes’s theory is that she can’t hop dimensions at will or alter time anymore, and she might not be as physically strong. Angel can live with that. He guesses Wes is going to keep helping her integrate. He doesn’t like any of this. Wes says he’s not in love with Illyria, but she’s how he’s coping right now. He knows it’s weird. He also doubts Illyria has lost her taste for conquering. Angel has changed his mind about her. He might be okay with her on the team. He repeats her scary advice about ambition. Uh oh.
The pregnant lady is seeming pretty uncomfortable about the pact now. She must’ve been listening to Gunn shout at the demons for hours. The demons don’t want to back down, but neither does Gunn. Hamilton’s trying to placate them because they’re starting to make threats of tearing W&H apart if they don’t get their Holy One. Angel comes in, grabs the contract, and announces that they’re making the deal. Sinister music plays. Gunn doesn’t understand what’s happening. Angel nods to Hamilton, says they’re here to serve their clients, and shuts himself in the conference room with the demons and the pregnant lady.
I love episodes with nonlinear time! “Time Bomb” is great. Another excellent addition to S5’s impressive résumé. It’s making me a bit bitter that there were so few fun/awesome one-shots in Buffy S5-S7 and in Angel S3-S4. Angel S5 is as packed with them as Buffy S4, with an arc as strong as Buffy S5 or Angel S2. Very impressive. And this particular episode manages to be both an arc episode and an intriguing one-shot, so bonus points. Alongside Illyria’s nonlinear story, there’s Gunn reacting to the corruption of W&H the way classic Gunn would, rather than Lawyer Gunn, there’s Wesley processing the loss of Fred in a way that’s simultaneously more amusing and more alarming than before, and there’s Angel beginning his long con against the Senior Partners.
If I hadn’t seen this before, I’d probably be freaking out over how corrupt Angel’s becoming. But he’s pulling an “Enemies” on W&H, and he’s still the best actor of all the characters in either show. The only way he can win W&H’s game is if he convincingly pretends he’s losing, and that they’re succeeding in making him one of theirs. I think the reason Angel chose to start doing this now is that he’s already lost some of Wesley’s trust. Instead of trying to win it back, he’s using it to cement the appearance of his moral tailspin to the SPs. In this episode, he loses Gunn’s trust but gains Hamilton’s, and he even convinces Illyria that he, like her, only cares for power. So it’s just Lorne and Spike left. Or maybe, bizarrely, just Spike, since Angel spent the whole episode giving Lorne menial tasks and then not appreciating him for doing them well. How trippy is it that Spike is the hold-out on whether or not Angel is still good?
Spike really is part of the team. He can work productively with both Angel and Wesley, and he’s clearly going above and beyond with testing Illyria. I’m actually kind of proud of him. I don’t think he’d make a great leader (I mean, he did fail every time he made a plan to kill Buffy when he was the head of his own gang of vampires), but when he wants to, he can be a very solid team member, as long as he gets the amount of respect he feels he deserves. And by that, I mean the amount of respect he genuinely feels he deserves, not the amount he acts like he deserves when he’s being all entitled. This Spike is quite reasonable.
Gunn is back! He has all the moral conviction of the Gunn of S1-3, but sadly, none of the chill/lighthearted attitude. He’d rather be getting his heart torn out than continuing to work for W&H, particularly with an ancient demon god wandering around in Fred’s body and with Angel signing off on horrifying demon deals. It shouldn’t be long before Gunn goes to Wes with concerns that Angel is doing a repeat of S2 on them, only many times worse. I don’t actually remember how it plays out, but I really hope that happens, because I still miss the Wes/Gunn bromance! There seems to be a surprising amount of potential for that to happen, considering the stabbing.
Illyria defines herself solely by her power. If that’s gone, then what’s left of her? Is she even still Illyria? Her dilemma is fascinating. She essentially has to choose between a glorious death befitting the greatness of Illyria and the “death” of becoming nothing, by losing her power. Wesley claims he has no influence over her, but I doubt she would have been willing to choose option two had she not spent so much time around him. The intent gaze she fixed him with when he explained what the arm cannon would do—that was trust. The act of rescuing Gunn is an interesting choice for her. She isn’t doing it out of loyalty, she’s doing it as the act of a merciful god. “See, you cretins? I have saved your friend. Am I not deserving of your worship?”
Lorne handles the silly task of tailing Illyria with remarkable grace, considering it must be very painful to see not-Fred for extended periods of time. So yeah, bit rude of Angel not even to be grateful that he’s willing to do it.
I suppose Harmony being evil makes it easier for her to relate to impatient evil clients and help them get settled when they have to wait. Yay? But seriously, she barely had more screentime in this one than in the last one. Why did they add her to the credits for the tail end of the season? She was way more involved in the first half. Not that I wanted her to ever be in the credits, but whatever.
Manic research Wesley is fascinating. I don’t really buy into the five stages of grief thing (mostly because it’s been taken out of context—it’s actually the five stages of coming to grips with your impending death as a terminally ill person), but Wesley seems to be at the “bury myself so deeply in work that I don’t have time to think about how hollow my life is” stage on his own scale, with occasional detours into the inappropriate humor stage and the abject despondency stage. Someone freaking hug him already!
“She is monumentally self-possessed. She still thinks she’s the God-King of the universe.”
“So she’s like a TV star.”
“No, nothing that bad. Bit more violent, though.”
“Curing cancer, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce?”
“Wouldn’t be cost-effective. I’m sure we make a lot from cancer.”
“Yes, the patent-holder is a client.”
“You ask me to allow you to murder me.”
“It’s not murder if you say yes!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.