Angel: The Series

Season 4

Deep Down

Ground State

The House Always Wins

Slouching Towards Bethlehem


Spin the Bottle

Deep Down


The Metaphysics of "Deep Down"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 6 BtVS/season 4 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

Vampire senses: When Fred, Gunn, and Connor go to the lair of a vampire, she's nowhere to be found. Or so it seems. Connor hones in on her almost immediately, hiding up against the ceiling. Yet another fun vampire-skill inherited from Mom and Dad.

Vampires and eating: Vampires can survive indefinitely without feeding, but a lack of blood can have a deleterious effect on their higher brain functions. If Angel had been down in the ocean's depths for longer than he had, he might have become severely retarded or insane.

Cordelia, higher being

Evil in "Deep Down"

Lilah's record at Wolfram and Hart is spotty at best, but she has one thing that the Senior Partners value--a potential for real evil. They are impatient with Linwood's fearful "wait and see" policy concerning Angel's whereabouts and what-to-do-about-Connor. Lilah stages a coup in the Special Projects division, beheading Linwood and taking over as Division President. Never underestimate this bad babe.

Moral Ambiguity in "Deep Down"

Angel is trapped at the bottom of the ocean, starving, his skin pasty and cracked. He has no company but his own thoughts. He dreams of a happy dinner, all his friends together as family. He dreams of the night on the beach with Cordelia the way it should have gone. He dreams of fighting at Connor's side. But his dreams turn into nightmares. The dinner fades, leaving him only with Connor's betrayal; he feeds on Cordelia, crazed with hunger; he kills his duplicitous but beloved son.

Fred and Gunn are Angel Investigations now, balancing helping the helpless with a desperate search for Angel and Cordelia. Fred's got a tough new edge after a summer of fighting vamps and demons. She's honed her skills with the crossbow and stake, and develops plans for the agency's missions. But when Fred finds out about Connor's betrayal of Angel, we see another new side of her. She uses a stun-gun to subdue the preternaturally strong Connor when she confronts him. Then she uses it again simply out of hurt and anger. Ouch.

Connor has taken up Angel's invitation for a home at the Hyperion hotel. Fred and Gunn are now his surrogate parents, training him in life and fighting, giving him a home and discipline. But Connor is hiding the truth about Angel's whereabouts from them, and his role in Angel's disappearance. When Connor finds out that Gunn and Fred have located a witness to Angel's disappearance, he kills the vampire before she can talk. Unfortunately for Connor, though, Wesley soon tells Fred and Gunn what happened to Angel. And when Angel returns to the hotel, it's time for Connor to face the music. Angel understands that Connor's actions were partly motivated by Holtz' and Justine's manipulation. When Connor tells Angel truthfully that he had nothing to do with Cordelia's disappearance, Angel simply kicks Connor out of the house.

Wesley continues to bang the enemy while he secretly conducts his own search for Angel. He believes that Angel is "necessary" for the Good fight. Which means Wesley's still on the side of good, even if his methods are a bit on the edge. For one thing, he's keeping Justine bound and gagged and locked in his closet when she's not helping him drag the ocean floor. And he's withholding information from Gunn and Fred that Justine told him months ago--namely, what happened to Angel and Connor's role in it. Wesley locates Angel, nurses back his strength, and returns him to Angel Investigations. But that's as far as he'll go for his ex-friends.

What's up with Lorne?

Philosophies Represented in "Deep Down"

Angel's philosophy of good

(to Connor) "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be. You're not a part of that yet. I hope you will be."

More on Angel's philosophies of fighting

Ground State

The Metaphysics of "Ground State"

Electro-girl: Gwen Raiden is a freak. Since childhood, she has had to lead a sheltered existence, touching no one and being untouched because of the electrical charge contained in her hands. She can bend light beams, attract lightning, and zap objects and people, and it's not entirely clear even she knows how she does it.

Fan speculation on Gwen's powers:

Electric fish, like the electric eel, electric catfish and electric ray, has what's known as an electric organ. This electric organ has cells, electrocytes, that have been excited by electricity. Just like when someone moves their arm or leg, the "mutant" can control these electrocytes by sending an electrical impulse through her nervous system to the particular organ tissue, stimulating it to work it's "magick". Turning them on releases a portion or all of the energy stored in them. The electrocytes become asymmetrically polarized, much like a series of connected batteries, releasing their stores. How many of these electrocytes she has, determines how much power she can generate. Placement of these cells also determines any possible emission points she has (VampRiley, 18 Oct 2002 13:44).

...the scene where Gwen bent the light beams... I ...think she knew [her explanation] was bogus and was merely being sarcastic (Robert, 10/14/02 20:41).

[Why Gwen's electro-shock didn't disable Angel while tasers do] ...Tasers don't stun with electricity--heck, they run off 9/V batteries. They stun by modulation. Regular people can deal with far more shiock than a taser gives (SingedCat, 10/31/02 15:13).

The Axis of Pythia is a two-foot high metal arch on a marble base. It was forged from the tripod of the Delphic Oracle, the three-legged golden stool in the temple of Apollo at Delphi where the priestess sat while giving responses to those consulting the Oracle. Among its many mystical powers is the ability to find entities across dimensions. Angel uses the Axis to locate Cordelia.

Dinza is one of the "Elusian Mysteries", a dark "demi-goddess of the lost". This winged, bat-like creature knows about all the things that have been lost and where to find them. Over the summer, Wesley located her lair, but only the dead can enter it. It is up to Angel to ask the untrustworthy goddess where to look for Cordelia. Angel passes through the portal into her realm. She tells him to use the Axis of Pythia. Dinza also has a penchant for trapping the dead in her presence for eternity, but she does not trap Angel because he has "so much more to lose", and she wants to witness this.

Unanswered question: If Dinza is so untrustworthy, should Angel have trusted what he saw through the Axis of Pythia?

Other dimensions: What dimension is Cordelia in? It is a place that Angel describes as follows: "There was all this light around her. And the light seemed to be made up of pure joy... and warmth." Wherever she is, Cordelia isn't joyful. She doesn't seem to be fighting the good fight, which is what Skip told her she would be doing. She merely watches her friends' lives, unable to participate in them.

Unanswered question: If that's all she's up to, why did the Powers that Screw You Be go to such trouble to take her there?

Moral Ambiguity in "Ground State"

Gwen isn't an evil person, just one brought up in isolation. She finds it easier to deal with people through their fear of or attraction to her--which she is used to--than through true connection. She's now a thief-for-hire, using her abilities to carry out high-tech heists. When she accidentally kills Gunn while stealing the Axis of Pythia, she flashes back to a time in her childhood when she caused the death of a classmate, and feels remorse. She resuscitates Gunn before making her get-away.

Fred continues to plan the missions at Angel Investigations. She analyzes the security system of the vault at the auction house, then comes up with a plan to steal the Axis of Pythia. The gang follows through on the plan up until they cross paths with Gwen and she gives Gunn a real-death experience. Even though Gunn is brought back to life safe and sound, Fred crumbles. She has been feeling the pressure of holding Angel Investigations together, and her boyfriend dying on her watch is just a little too much.

Wesley has started his own demon-fighting business, one based closely on the Angel Investigations model. He also helps Angel locate Cordelia. This doesn't stop Lilah from crawling all over the chiseled-jawed demon hunter, though. And Lilah's open admission of her evil errands (e.g., her designs on the unprotected Connor) doesn't stop Wesley from, well, offering to warm up Lilah's south pole. Neither appears to hold out any hope of converting the other to their own side. Sleeping with the enemy seems to be the turn-on in this relationship. But it's an electrical attraction that's inherently unstable.

Angel: Three months under water can give a guy a new perspective, and Angel's M.C. Escher perspective is making him a lot more mellow.

The House Always Wins

The Metaphysics of "The House Always Wins"

Stealing destinies: When audience members chime in during Lorne's Las Vegas show, he reads their destinies and reports them back to his bosses. Or make that his captors. Lorne's faboo new singing-and-seeing career is part of a scam to steal people's futures. After the show, the individuals are given a magic game chip. In a flash of mystical energy, the person's destiny is stolen and imprinted onto the chip. They take the chip into a "Spin to Win" game room where they have the (alleged) opportunity to win a million dollars at the turn of a wheel. But the house always wins. The chips are collected, and the destinies are held and later sold on the black market to people who want to change their lives. The victims themselves become ambitionless, with no new purpose or direction to replace the one that they lost.

Destinies, an alternate theory: What was being stolen from the audience members? In the Buffyverse, prophecies are open to interpretation, destinies can be realized and then turned on their heads, and psychic visions can be vague or incomplete. Angel's destiny is certainly fuzzy, even as far as Lorne is concerned. So maybe it wasn't people's futures being stolen after all. By sucking out someone's ambition, you can guarantee that a person will never achieve what they might have in life. In that case, what Lorne helped return to the casino's victims was lost ambition. And if that's true, well, the old saying would have applied to anyone who bought one of these "destinies" on the black market--caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.

The heavenly dimensions: Is Cordelia's misty-magic land the same dimension that Buffy was in after she died? In Tabula Rasa, Tara said that Buffy could have been in "any one of a zillion heavenly dimensions". Since Cordelia went physically into the dimension she is in, and Buffy's body died and remained on Earth while her spirit went into the heavenly dimension she was in, it is likely that Cordelia is NOT in the same dimension that Buffy was in. Plus, Buffy wanted to stay. Cordelia definitely wants out. She begs an unhearing Angel to save her, but when she is returned to the hotel lobby in L.A., it isn't Angel who brought her back.

Connor's identity crisis:

Vampire: "Nothing human can move that fast. What are you?"
Connor: "Don't know yet. But I know what you are."


Every teenager has identity issues, but Connor Steven Holtz Angel has them in spades. Teenagers are normally more vexed with the question of who they are than what they are. But Connor struggles with both questions.

What is Connor? This is easy on a purely descriptive level. He has most of the advantages of being a vampire--supernatural strength, senses, and fighting skills--without the downside: avoiding sunlight, a one-note liquid diet, and well, having no soul. But he's not a vampire. He's a super-naturally enhanced human being. Does he have demon in him as well? This is unclear. The only thing remotely resembling him in the world is a long line of teenaged human female warriors, and he isn't one of those. For one thing, he's in a boy-way. And for another, Slayers tend to have human parents who can't kill things with their bare hands.

Which raises another perplexing issue. Connor isn't even the same species as his parents, technically speaking. He shouldn't even exist. And yet he does.

Who is Connor? What Connor wants to be and how he feels about what he is are at the crux of the Who is Connor? question. Questions about who you are are usually answered by some mix of life experience and choice. Connor clearly revels in being a warrior. But that vocation was also a necessity created by his upbringing. Connor should have been raised by his loving natural father in the relative safety of Los Angeles, but he was raised by one of his father's oldest enemies in a dangerous hell dimension. His life up until now has been defined by "things that I killed."

But that's not going to be enough any more. Somehow, two vampires, one with a soul, parented Connor into existence. Connor needs to find out how that happened, and if there was a purpose behind it, and whether or not he wishes to serve that purpose. And though Angel might not have the answers himself, Angel lies at the center of the answers to these questions.

Evil and Good in "The House Always Wins"

Casino owner Lee DeMarco's motives aren't hard to figure out. Basic human greed and the willingness to ruin other people's lives for his own gain.

Angel enters the "Spin to Win" game room to investigate the listless casino patrons he has met. He is given a chip. Angel throws the chip away, but the chip goes into play and Angel becomes another victim of the casino's ploy. Meanwhile, Fred sneaks into Lorne's hotel room. Lorne has been waiting for them to rescue him for weeks. Fred helps him escape. Lorne, Fred, and Gunn find Angel numbly playing slot machines. Gunn asks Angel to hold off their pursuers while they get the car. But after Lorne explains the Spin-to-Win game to Gunn, he realizes Angel is under its influence. The three are captured and taken to the casino manager, who threatens to kill Lorne's friends if he doesn't continue to help them.

Cordelia watches all this from on high. She knows that Angel isn't likely to wonder where Gunn and Fred are on his own, so she gets him into the casino owner's office by making him win a jackpot he should not have won (how she does this isn't clear, since we don't know the rules of her dimension). And how does Angel manage to overcome his lack of ambition to fight the bad guys? The victims of the Spin-to-Win game are not completely without ambition. One assumes they have enough ambition to eat, go to the bathroom, sleep, and play the slots perpetually. Angel may have no "future", but he still has vampire instincts and a basic love for his friends. When he sees Fred threatened by a gun, his vampire comes out. In the subsequent melee, Lorne breaks the swirling ball of destinies with a baton and they return to their original owners.

Moral Ambiguity in "The House Always Wins"

Lorne has a sticky moral dilemma--help ruin people's lives or live with the death of innocent women? He chooses the former, but he longs to escape the entire situation. And when he gets a chance to give back everything that's been stolen, he takes it.

Angel and his destiny: There are many prophecies that claim to give the destiny of "the vampire with a soul". Setting aside the complicating fact that there are now two such creatures and assuming the prophecies refer to Angel, what do we really know about Angel's true destiny? At the end of season 1, Wesley found a prophecy that said that Angel would someday be rewarded with humanity after many battles and monsters. Angel took this to heart.

In season 2, Angel was gung-ho to achieve his "destiny" and win his humanity. He decided that his destiny was to defeat Wolfram and Hart in an apocalyptic battle or die trying. But he didn't defeat them. Instead, he discovered that Wolfram and Hart's evil was ancient, pervasive and perpetual. Angel lost faith in the idea of a grand plan and of his own destiny in it. In a world where Wolfram and Hart could not be defeated for all time, he decided, "the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world."

As far as Wolfram and Hart are concerned, Angel's destiny is an open question. He is slated to be a "key player" in the "coming apocalypse", but they do not know if Angel will be on the side of good or evil. They try to nudge him towards the side of evil. And Angel nudges back. But Angel himself is less concerned now with destiny and even redemption. What is important for him is the present--namely, reconnecting with the people he loves, Connor, Cordelia, even Wesley. It may have him a bit distracted from his mission to help the helpless, but with all the evil in L.A., it won't distract him for long.

The Wesley and Lilah dynamic

It's about power, trust and vulnerability.

...[Lilah]'s a woman trying to make it in a man's world, a human trying to make it in a demon's world. ...I think it's very difficult for her to keep up the facade of strength all the time. Human beings, even evil human beings, need contact with other humans. They need to be able to trust someone, anyone. ...a sexual relationship without emotional connections is something Lilah can use in order to have that connection with another person, to allow herself to be a little vulnerable.

She can also play the power game in this relationship because the power she has and the power that she can give to him will not impair or impact her life, or at least she thinks it won't. ...She can never do this in her Wolfram & Hart world, it is too cut throat-literally! ...She knows that [Wesley] is just as vulnerable as she is. So, while she can drop the facade of strength and solitude she also does not have to worry about whether or not she can regain her power.

Wesley has the same need for trust and vulnerability ...but for different reasons. ...He cared more deeply for his friends than he has likely cared for anyone else in his entire life, and they turned him away. Regardless of whether or not he was deserved of their treatment of him, it wounded him deeply. So Wesley has learned that the more you care, the more you can be hurt. His need to feel a connection is the same as Lilah's, regardless of how superficial that connection may be. ...With Lilah, he doesn't have to share himself emotionally in order to have that connection with her. This is why he can submit to her power over him. He also holds the same power in return. Again, the playing field is level.

The classic no strings attached relationship. It is never that simple though. I am sure that in time the connection that they share will begin to mean more to them. It is inevitable (Cecilia, 10/21 9:15).

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

The Metaphysics of "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"

Memory loss: Cordelia is back, although it is unclear how or why. She appears in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel without any memory of her friends, her life, or her own identity. She still retains memories of non-personal things like numbers, animals, and flossing, however (more on the selectiveness of memory loss).

The apocalypse? When Cordelia sings for Lorne, the anagogic demon looks greener than usual. But his reading is a vague jumble of images. Despair. Torment. Terror. Book of Revelations stuff. "Evil's coming,", is all he can tell Angel. "And it's planning on staying."

The phrase "Slouching towards Bethlehem" comes from the final line of the poem "The Second Coming" by W.B. Yeats:

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

The poem depicts a different version of "the second coming" than is typically given in the Book of Revelations. Yeats imagined the second coming as the ascension of an "anti-Christ" who would overthrow the 2000-year era (gyre) of Christianity once ushered in by Jesus and replace it with another long cycle of history. Yeats' "rough beast" is usually interpreted by scholars as the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century (Adolph Hitler's Nazism would be an example of a totalitarian movement, although Yeats himself wrote the poem just after World War I and the Russian Revolution). Yeats' poem thus deals not with "the end of the world" in some final way but with the death and birth of cycles of history, which are apocalyptic in the sense that they are marked by upheaval, chaos, and change.

Extracting memories: When the gang return from helping Connor and Cordelia, they find Lorne bound to a chair and gagged. Wolfram and Hart found out that Lorne "read" Cordelia. When Lorne wouldn't talk, a demon burrowed inside his skull and extracted the entire memory of Lorne's reading from his brain so that Lorne no longer has it.

The invitation to vampires: How did Angel get into Connor's new place? We know from Gunn's old digs in War Zone that an invitation is necessary in an abandoned building that has been turned into someone's home. And there isn't a no-invitation-required loophole when the vampire in question is your blood relative, either. Is it possible that Connor gave some sort of implied invitation, an off-hand comment to the effect that his father is welcome to come over any time? Nothing on camera, and fairly unlikely as well. So how did Angel do it?

[1] "someone" or "something" let him go in even when he wasn't invited by Connor. Why? Well, why was Connor born in the first place? It's obvious that the PTB or someone else wants him alive and kicking. If this theory was right, it wouldn't be the first time. Just remember that is not clear how Angel saved Kate in "Epiphany".

[2] Angel didn't need an invitation because Connor is not human. ...I think he is the only (first?) one of a completely new [super-naturally created] species. ...a demon even when he has many human characteristics (S.A. Vera, 26 Jan 2003 00:01)

Evil in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"

Wolfram and Hart have set their sites on Cordelia because she spent the summer in another dimension and might have had contact with the Powers That Be. The powerful law firm wants to know what she knows. They send two black ops agents to kidnap her, but Angel and Cordelia fight them off. Later, the firm decides that Lorne is a better target, since Cordelia has lost her memory. Lilah dupes Wesley into sending the gang off to a distraction (a special ops team attacking Cordelia at Connor's) so that Wolfram and Hart can get Lorne alone.

Moral Ambiguity in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"

Connor lives by the seat of his pants, which is the only way he knows how to live. He has made his home amongst taxidermy mounts of magnificent animals, and rigs this space with booby traps to protect against potential enemies. But there is a tiny piece of (semi) civilization that belonged to the feral young man once or twice, and might someday again. After saving a close-knit human family from vampires, Connor sneaks into the Hyperion Hotel to spy on his own estranged family.

He sees Cordelia and later saves her from a vicious people-eating monster that is lurking in the hotel. When Cordelia asks him to take her away from there, Connor leads her to his make-shift den and sits guard while she sleeps. Her vulnerability brings out the fierce protector in him. Eventually, he crawls into bed beside her. He wakes up when his acute vampire-like hearing tells him that someone is in the building. The Wolfram and Hart black ops team attacks. Connor and Cordelia fight them off, but they are outnumbered. It's a losing battle until the rest of the family arrives.

Angel's kept his vampire identity a secret before when he wasn't sure what kind of reaction he'd get, and he had mixed results (see Buffy vs. Kate). This time, however, Angel hides all the supernatural details of his life. He means well; he doesn't want to scare Cordelia. He also wants her to get to know him as a person before she finds out he's a vampire. Understandable, but Angel's plan is doomed to fail. The Angel Investigations office isn't exactly the kind of place where the supernatural stays hidden. And the lying doesn't endear Angel and the gang to Cordelia. The truth is the only way to protect her in a world as dangerous as theirs. So Angel must resign himself when Cordelia tells him she wants to stay with Connor. Still, he trusts his son with her. Should he?

Cordelia is uncertain how to feel about the life she apparently had. It's more than just a big black hole to be filled with details like cheerleading and friends. It has frightening realities like giant demon snakes, visions of horror and blood-shed, fighting, and an evil ninja law-firm after her head. It's all a little much, so Cordelia takes the first kind hand that's offered to her to get out. Or so it would appear. Connor is more honest with her, and Cordelia has always been brutally honest and demanded honesty in others. But is that Cordelia's only reason for trusting him? She fears that something bad has happened or will happen. And she also feels an instinctual trust of the boy, even though she doesn't know why. Is she acting on some subconscious knowledge about Connor's identity or destiny?

Lorne is getting his business going again in L.A., and the first client he sees is a human-like monster "addicted" to eating people. When the monster goes after Cordelia, Angel isn't happy. Why would Lorne let such a creature into a hotel full of his human friends?

The Hotel is Angel's domicile. Lorne is staying there under Angel's good graces. Unless Angel said - fine let dangerous demons into the rooms above, I think Lorne may have been out of line. He could have counseled the client elsewhere. Especially considering the fact that Cordelia has no memory right now (shadowkat, 10/28/02 10:56).

Wesley loses a bet: he's the first one to call what he and Lilah have a "relationship". But what sort of relationship is it? Lilah receives a call in the middle of the night and goes out into the hall to answer it. She knows Wesley will try to overhear, and he does. He discovers that Cordelia is with Connor, and that Wolfram and Hart know it. Wesley goes to the hotel and warns Angel that Wolfram and Hart are trying to kidnap Cordelia. Later, Wesley realizes that he has been "played". Wolfram and Hart's real target was Lorne. Lilah points out that her plan depended on Wesley not trusting her; it was crucial that he be "keeping his eye" on Lilah, waiting for information he could use. And, she points out, it was his choice to betray her. Now Wesley has another choice. Continue his "relationship" with a woman who would hurt people he cares about to get what she wants, or leave.


The Metaphysics of "Supersymmetry"

Voynok demons are gray, scaley and have nine lives. Which means that if you want to kill them and have them stay dead, you have to kill them nine times. Time-consuming. Professor Seidel summons the demon with a short spell:

Barathrum copeo lacero
Increptio imanis barathrum copeo lacero

The demon keeps Angel occupied just long enough to, well, be totally unable to prevent Professor Seidel's death. A bit of poetic justice in that one.

High energy physics

Fred has gotten back into physics. She's had an article on "string compactification theory" published in a physics journal and has been asked to deliver a talk the Los Angeles Physics Institute. She tells her friends that if she hadn't have been sucked into the portal to Pylea, she never would have come up with her theory.

Supersymmetry... we usually call it SUSY in our circle of high energy physicists. ...According to [Dr. Julius Wess, one of the founders of SUSY theory]... SUSY is the only possible theory which can connect internal symmetry (matter) and external symmetry (space-time). [The] universe... consist[s] of matter and space-time. Matters are divided into two, interactions (natural forces, like electro-magnetic-weak-strong force, they are all bosons) and substances or we sometimes call it matters (like quarks and leptons and they are all fermions). ...SUSY is symmetry which can convert fermion to boson and vice versa...[t]hus unify[ing] matter and interactions. If we apply it to bigger symmetry (we usually call it Supergravity or SUGRA), all the physical matter and space-time can be unified, which is not [a] full theory yet (Sang, 11/03/02 22:21).

Supersymmetry : [the] symmetry between boson and fermion. Also used as a symmetry between matter and forces, substances and space-time.

string theory : [the] theory that the elementary object of our world is [a] one-dimensional string.. which has two basic properties, tension and length. Matter (photon, electron, quark.. etc) can be interpreted as the excitation mode (vibration) of the string.

Superstring theory : string theory which has supersymmetry. This is considered a "theory of everything". Though there are 6 different string theories. (Sang 11/04/02 12:35)

Dimensional portals: While Fred is giving her physics talk, a portal opens above her head. Tentacles reach out and gather her up. Later, Fred sees a series of mystical symbols on her ringing cell phone display. A portal opens near her and Wesley. Professor Seidel knows about spells and probably used some to open these portals. So Fred returns the favor and opens a portal of her own:

Klyv mat chyvma klyva chyt!

It isn't clear where Seidel was sending Fred or vice-versa, but neither place looked fun.

Evil and Good in "Supersymmetry"

Academia is hell: For years, Oliver Seidel has been arranging for brilliant scientists like Fred to be sucked into hell dimensions where their achievements can't overshadow his. He has five such disappearances to his name, and when Fred returns, he's out to rid himself of her again. But it is not clear how he sent her to Pylea in the first place. Did he put the book she read near the dimensional hot-spot in the library? Did he casually suggest she read the book back in the days when she was naive about dimensional magic? Regardless, Professor Seidel is a cowardly man, unable to deal with the pressure of competition, nor the nastiness of murder.

He played for keeps knowing that where he was sending his victims would do what he didn't have the stomach for, kill off those he resented and envied (Rufus, 11/04/02 15:00).

After Fred's near-abduction, Angel recreates a rudimentary lecture-hall "scene of the crime" in the Hyperion lobby to match his own vivid mental picture.

I saw it as a visual device, to illustrate what Angel was seeing in his mind, not implying that Gunn could actually see it also. ...When Gunn turns to where Angel points, he is trying to play along as well, try[ing] to see what part of the room each person Angel's talking about, was standing. By parlor trick, he meant the ability to remember an entire room full of people and what each were doing (Rob, 11/04/02 7:08).

Angel's an artist, so he probably has a very good visual memory, as well as heightened senses (JM 11/04/02 5:20).

Gunn recognizes the name on one audience member's t-shirt. He and Angel find the man at a comic book shop. The man has been investigating the disappearances of five scientists. Angel goes online and finds out that Seidel is the common denominator of all the missing scientists. Meanwhile, Fred has discovered a magical text hidden among Seidel's physics books. Inside the book is a drawing of the tentacled creature that almost abducted her. She concludes that Seidel is the man responsible for her entrapment in Pylea.

Cordelia hangs back when Connor takes her out to hunt vampires. But when a vamp attacks, Cordelia knocks the weapon from the vamp's hand, roundhouse kicks him and stakes him in the heart. She doesn't need protection, she realizes. Whoever she was before, she's still that woman.

Moral Ambiguity in "Supersymmetry"

Why was Wesley willing to help Fred?

Wesley knows exactly what Fred is capable he brought that out of her in "Billy". Fred may seem like a fragile twig, but push her and she goes to a dark place, and in that place she formulates a systematic solution to her problems. Wesley knows this first hand, and he is willing to allow her to make that choice to reach for darkness (Rufus, 11/05/02 23:11).

Maybe because she wants something from him at last. Maybe because he's intrigued by this side of her... Maybe because moral ambiguity loves company (SingedCat, 11/05/02 14:45).

Oedipus Vexed: Cordelia moved into Connor's home to get some space from Angel and company. But her presence is having an effect on this teenaged boy just starting to feel his oats. When Connor returns from the Hyperion with pictures to jog Cordy's lost memory, he brings a photo of Lorne, but not Angel. His problems with daddy clearly go beyond his anti-demon issues. Now, he's vying with his father for the attentions of a woman who used to change his diapers.

After successfully slaying a vampire, Cordelia gives Connor a kiss of glee. Connor responds with a kiss that comes from another place entirely. Later, he tries to continue their intimacy. Cordelia tells him she's uncomfortable relating to him in that way. She knows she had some sort of relationship to Connor when he was a baby, and that it all happened less than a year ago in her time. She tells him she needs space from him. Connor assumes she is going back to Angel to be with him. He throws his fist into a wall in frustration.

As if the boy didn't have enough reasons to be patricidal.

Angel's other Oedipal triangle

Ethical Quandaries in "Supersymmetry"

Justice vs. vengeance: what to do about Seidel

Gunn and Fred can't ever go back to puppy love. It'll be interesting to see how their relationship weathers this. There was a line that it was important to both of them that the other not only not cross, but be incapable of crossing. Now Fred has proven she's willing to cross that line, and Gunn actually crossed it (JM, 11/03/02 20:24).

Fred discovers that Professor Seidel, the physics mentor she admired and trusted, is responsible for her five years of hell in Pylea. She feels completely betrayed, and tells Angel and Gunn that she's going to kill him.

Arguments against killing Seidel:

  1. Gunn argues that the staff of Angel Investigations don't hurt people, they help them. He admits to Fred that in the past, he might have been tempted to do the same thing Fred is planning if he'd been in her shoes, but he has changed. Hurting people--even if they might deserve punishment for their wrongs--goes against everything they believe in. Angel acts on this principle when he goes to Seidel's office. His plan is to wring a confession out of Seidel so that there will be evidence to convict him of the scientist's disappearances. That way the legal system is responsible for Seidel's punishment, not Fred (it's not clear how this would work, though, since the supernatural details of the crimes would bring the proceedings to a screeching halt).

  2. The consequences or price of vengeance. Even Wesley, who supports Fred's actions, makes this argument: if Fred kills Professor Seidel, it is an action she will have to live with for the rest of her life. At the very least, a person of conscience might spend their life haunted by guilt. At the worst, they may justify their act of vengeance by crossing new moral lines--committing further actions they would never have committed before. In essence, performing the act of vengeance changes their moral center. This is Gunn's concern when he tells Fred, "I don't want to lose you!"

Fred presents two arguments in favor of her decision.

1. Seidel needs to be punished. Fred points out that Seidel is probably guilty of murder, and clearly guilty of sending people to hell. When she comes up with a plan to send Seidel to a demon dimension instead of killing him, she points out the poetic justice in her actions--Seidel is getting "exactly what he deserves."

2. Killing Seidel or sending him to a demon dimension will prevent him from doing the same to others. It would certainly prevent him from sending anymore Earth-bound scientists to demon dimensions.

Gunn doesn't disagree with either of Fred's arguments. The issue for him is whether Fred ought to be the one dishing out Seidel's pain. Fred insists. But does her insistence arise from a belief in either of the two arguments she's made? "It's not about what's right," she tells Wesley. She wants to feel the emotional satisfaction she will gain from hurting the man who is responsible for her trauma. When emotional satisfaction outweighs ethics in determining a person's response to being wronged, their motive is vengeance, not justice. It is not clear what Fred's motivation is here, but it is clear that she doesn't want Wesley, Gunn, or Angel involved.

Fred opens the portal to a fiery demon dimension. Professor Seidel starts to slide toward it. But Gunn prevents her act of vengeance. He pulls Seidel away from the portal, snaps the man's neck, and throws him in. The portal shuts.

Was Gunn's decision well-intentioned or patronizing?

Gunn kills Seidel not because Seidel poses a threat to others, that's Wes' rational not Gunn's. Nor does he kill Seidel because his life's in danger. He doesn't kill Seidel because he believes that Seidel could kill more people. He kills Seidel because he believes if he didn't, Fred would. He does it to spare Fred the choice, the taint on her soul. ...He doesn't discuss it with Fred at the Hyperion - he tells her to go upstairs and rest and maybe have some cocoa. He doesn't save Seidel and make Fred close the portal so they can discuss it. He snaps Seidel's neck in front of her. He makes it clear to her: 1) I can kill Seidel, but you can't. 2) I didn't trust you to revoke your decision in time, so [I] removed the problem ...Gunn's actions had to do with ...saving Fred from herself, for himself. His actions had to do with maintaining Fred's spiritual purity, which is something he cannot control or maintain nor has the right to attempt to. I would not blame Fred for resenting him for this (shadowkat, 11/05/02 14:41).

I don't think it's patronizing to try to protect someone you love from what you see as a profound danger. It might be misguided, and wrong if you are removing their reasonable right to make decisions, but it's still not patronizing. The need to protect is a primal force, that doesn't indicate a lack of respect, but instead a driving need to keep those you love safe. Gunn saw Fred's vengeance as an act that would truly destroy her, and he may very well have been right. ...Of course, what Gunn didn't realize at the moment, was that allowing his need to protect Fred inspire his own act of murder, could also destroy her. Is being responsible for someone else's act of murder easier to live with then your own act? Probably not, so it's a bad choice for sure, but not motivated by a patronizing attitude, just deep and intense love (Sara, 11/06/02 8:34).

Spin the Bottle

The Metaphysics of "Spin the Bottle"

The memory spell: Lorne reads a client and discovers within her a spell that, with the "right mix" is "guaranteed" to return Cordelia's memory "with no side effects". The spell requires the presence of six people, one of whom is the person whose memory needs restoring. The others must be, presumably, either friends or people who know that person well.

Lorne draws seven white lines on the lobby floor, each extending out from a small inner circle. This creates six "compartments" where each participant sits. He places candles on the lines. Within the compartments, he places special herbs. In the center ring is a bottle with mystic ingredients in it. The group--Lorne, Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Cordelia, Angel--hold hands, creating an outer circle. Lorne says:

We come in supplication and hope. Bring her back.

The bottle starts to spin, releasing a circle of vapor that throws each person into a drug-like stupor. Cordelia looks down at the spinning bottle, shouts out "No!", and stomps on it. The vapor dissipates. She and the others return to a normal conscious state. Cordelia has her memory back, but not all of it. It ends at the beginning of her Sophomore year of high school, months before she met Buffy or Angel. The others' memories end with their teen years as well. Wesley is back in his days in the Watcher preparatory academy; Angel remembers only his 18th-century pre-vampire days as Liam of Galway.

I thought ...that the spell was (for lack of a better word) imprinting people's memories back on themselves, starting from birth, I guess. It had restored everything up until 16 or so when Cordy smashed the bottle and stopped the process. ...Lorne was able to complete the process (PepTech 11/12/02 12:40).

Restoring the memories: Lorne talks Fred into untying him. He mixes up the potion that was spilled when Cordelia crushed the bottle and dots some on Fred's tongue. Her full memory is instantly restored. Where might the restored memories come from? Well, other than some tucked-way formerly inaccessible corner of the brain, the Akashic Records.

Psychic visions: When Lorne gives the potion to Cordelia, she becomes disoriented and has a brief vision of a red-faced beast. She runs down the hallway. She has her memory back, and she tells Angel that she needs to be alone.

Unanswered question: Is there more going on with this spell than meets the eye? The Lorne we see on the stage seems to be speaking from some future time. And he is more cynical of the spell: "But what happened during it... and what came after... ooh. I'm gonna need a bigger drink."

"The test": In an effort to make sense of why six strangers are together in a mysterious hotel far away from home, Wesley hypothesizes that they are being "tested" by the Watcher's Council. This test, normally given to Slayers at their "Cruciamentum", involves being locked in a house with a vicious hunger-mad vampire. It's a test of survival and cunning--kill or be killed. He points out the "evidence" of the maze-like hotel, the presence of the unconscious demon Lorne, and the weapons. With no better theory at hand, the gang sets out to hunt for a vampire.

Vampires and crosses

Moral Ambiguity in "Spin the Bottle"

Gunn overhears Wesley and Fred talking about "taking care of" something and realizes that Wesley helped her prepare the circumstances that lead to Gunn killing Fred's professor. Wesley's complicity brings out insecurities that Gunn has been harboring lately about his role in Angel Investigations: Angel is the subject of ancient prophecies; Cordelia is his courageous guide with her visions; Wesley and Fred study the texts and come up with the plans. So what does that leave for Gunn? That leaves muscle, he concludes, and not even the strongest muscle at that; in his mind, he is merely the hired hand.

The regression to the teenage state exposed what all the gang once were. ...Gunn has been a leader.... he had his own people on the streets, they looked up to him as a brave protector.... and he walked away from it feeling his talents better served working for Angel. But I doubt he realized how much emotional investment he had in his past leadership and how insecure being a second fiddle would make him (Rufus, 11/11/02 22:55).

Gunn's issues go beyond his imagined subordinate role, however. Wesley's status as brain-guy, he decides, led Fred to ask for Wesley's help rather than his when she wanted revenge against her professor. And, Gunn suspects, Wesley's brains give Wesley and Fred a connection that Gunn-the-muscle and Fred just don't have. Wesley responds that Fred came to him because he could do things that Gunn wasn't prepared to do, namely, bring the professor to harm. But, as Gunn replies, Wesley doesn't know what he is prepared to do for Fred. He has no inkling of what Gunn did do for Fred.

The way we were: When the gang lose their memory of all but their first 16 or 17 years of life, they make an unlikely Scooby Gang out to solve the mystery of the creepy hotel. Cordelia is her cruel, blunt and vain old self, with more interest in boys than in hunting down danger. Wesley the Watcher-in-training is an insecure spaz, trying to impress the others with his trivial accomplishments and arcane knowledge. His thunder is stolen by the impatient and suspicious Gunn, who has been killing vampires since the age of twelve. Teenaged Gunn still has the "kill-first-ask-questions later" attitude that served his survival in the streets, but that in this scenario is likely to get his friends Angel and Lorne killed. And then there is the geeky "something's out there" Fred, who seems to think danger would go down better with a little weed.

Rounding out the group is the awkward, bewildered Liam of Galway, perhaps nine years younger than the lazy drunken womanizer we've come to know. At this point in his life, Liam is a normal teenaged boy with a puritanical dad. For Liam's dad, drinking is debauchery. Lustful thoughts are sins. And he doesn't cut Liam a break for giving in to any temptations. Instead, he hangs the fear of hell over his son's head. But Liam knows his bullying father's done his share of sinning. And that hypocrisy makes Liam want to rebel just for spite. But he's not an inherently bad kid. He's polite (unless you're English), not the remotest bit blood-lusty, and keeps his sexual interest in Cordelia to himself. Then he discovers he's a vampire, the very thing the gang is hunting in the hotel. He tries to hide it, understandably. When the gang finds out, they don't give him the benefit of any doubt.

Up until that moment, Liam had been part of the group. Now suddenly he is "nothing human", and "not a person". They think of him as a monster. And if there is any uncertainty about whether Wesley was prepared to kill him, there isn't for Gunn. Liam is angry. From his perspective, they're the monsters--hypocrites--trying to kill a person who's done them no harm. And that's when the rebellion and spite thing kicks in. If they expect a monster, then a monster he'll be. He throws Wesley and Gunn off himself and corners Cordelia in the basement, enjoying the vampire thing once he realizes the power it gives him over his tormentors. But it's doubtful that Liam would have killed Cordelia if Connor hadn't intervened; nor does he want to kill Connor. That's a level of spite Liam won't be prepared to rise to until he loses his soul.

Liam's father espoused a very strong moral line which Liam both rebelled and internalised. Angelus rebelled completely by desecrating all his father held dear. Angel's conscience tapped into the internalised morality, and this combined with the depravities he committed lead to terrible guilt (Rahael, 11/13/02 6:02).

My father, myself: Connor and Angel's relationship seems to be stuck in park--a few passing words and a lot of fisticuffs. What's the deal? Well, reconciliation and understanding are never easy even in normal father-son relationships. And this duo is anything but normal.

Connor grew up a demon hunter; that's what he knows, that's what he's good at. And when he returned to Earth to kill his evil demon father, he found instead a supernatural demon fighter, a protector. In other words, he saw in Angel a reflection of himself.

Angel thus became the standard to judge himself by--someone to identify with and someone to prove himself against. Connor fears that the similarities between father and son go deeper than what's on the surface, that he might have demon in him, too. So he wants an identity separate from his father--to be better than him, physically, morally, metaphysically. In some ways, however, Connor also wants to be his father--the supernatural champion, Cordelia's beloved.

Angel, on the other hand, wants to be on better terms with his son, to have Connor look up to him. But he doesn't know where to start, how to undo eighteen years of programming. Angel wants these things not just because he loves Connor, but because Connor's love and respect will make Angel feel better about himself. Angel's father saw Liam as a loser--disobedient, sinful. Likewise, Connor was raised to see Angel as "bad". Connor's respect and admiration will prove to Angel that he is what he thinks he is, a good man, a champion. So Connor is the person Angel desires to prove himself to above all.

Angel and Conner need to do some serious relating. ...Conner has the teenager thing down pretty good--all angry and everything that's wrong with the world is your fault and I'm going to do whatever I want whenever I want and you can't do anything about it. Angel on the other hand has absolutely no idea how to be a parent. Which I can also understand seeing how his son went from 4 months old to a teenager in one week's time. The rest of us have 13 years to prepare for our babies to become angry teenagers and we still botch it up. I think Angel's so determined not to be the overbearing 'my way is the only way' parent that his father was that he's taking it to the other extreme. He's totally backing out of his son's life without trying to connect to him or guide him (Tess, 11/20/02 7:47).

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This page last modified 10/05/03

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