Angel: The Series

Season 4

Apocalypse Nowish

Habeas Corpses

Long Day's Journey



Apocalypse Nowish


The Metaphysics of "Apocalypse Nowish"

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.

The Beast: Swarms of rats and snakes, birds pelting down from the sky. Walls dripping with blood. These are portents which herald the arising of the Beast, a tall, horned creature with super-demonic strength and a penchant for mass slaughter.

Psychic dreams and visions: In a dream, Cordelia sits on the bed watching "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" on TV. Connor kneels beside her. "The thing in my dreams," she tells him, "it's real." Connor stands up. A deep voice resonates from where he is standing: "I know." Cordelia looks up. The Beast is standing before her. He grabs her by the throat. Later, while awake, Cordelia goes into convulsions. Her eyes go milky white. She sees horns rising out through broken pavement. She warns Angel that something is clawing its way up through the bowels of the Earth "to slaughter us all."

The Wolfram and Hart psychics have the memory of reading Cordelia they stole from Lorne's brain, but they can't make any progress deciphering it. Every time they try to explore it in their minds, their brains explode. Lilah explains to Angel that this is what would have happened to Lorne if he'd tried to analyze what he saw.

Cordelia has her memory back--she remembers her life in Sunnydale, her move to Los Angeles, and her some of her time as a higher being. She remembers wanting to coming back home, wanting to have a human life again, and she remembers experiencing things on a broader level--being able to experience Angel's history as Angelus, for example. Yet she can't shake the feeling that she knew more about the danger that is coming when she was in the higher dimension. And there are other memories she still can't get in touch with. Like why she was returned to Earth.

Is Cordelia still half-demon? The one thing that Cordelia doesn't seem to have are her demon "powers"--the spontaneous inner glow that allowed her to remove the sluks from the Hyperion and heal Connor's Quortoth trauma. Her visions, while powerful, are not painful, so it is possible she is still part-demon.

Evil and Good in "Apocalypse Nowish"

What could scare Wolfram and Hart? An apocalypse that didn't start in their boardrooms. Lilah is reluctant to give Angel the information they stole from Lorne's brain, but Angel convinces her it's better for both of them if she does. He can sense her fear of what's coming, and that's how he knows the impending apocalypse is not Wolfram and Hart's doing. Lilah stands to win whether he succeeds or fails at using the information she can provide. The evil of The Beast vs. the evil of Wolfram and Hart:

Evil isn't a monolithic force in the Buffyverse - there's a whole lot of factions that fight each other as much as the forces of light (KdS, 11/19/02 10:43).

Deep down: The Beast rises out of the ground in front of Cordelia and Connor. He picks up Cordelia by the neck. Connor tries to fight him, but the Beast bats the young demon-fighter around like he was an ordinary boy. Then he reaches for Cordelia again. "Stay away from her!" Connor screams. The Beast drops Cordelia, stands up, and then shoots up into the air, away from them. Is Connor connected to the Beast?

As the apocalyptic portents start to mount, Gunn tries to locate Fred, but can't find her. Before he and Lorne can start a search, Wesley arrives, suggesting they work together. Then Angel returns with the information Wolfram and Hart extracted from Lorne's brain. The men search for some meaning to the pages of jumbled criss-crossing glyphs, symbols, and archaic words. And then Gunn sees it. It's in the shape that the words form together. The gang assembles the pages like a puzzle, and finally see the shape--a giant square with two internal diagonal lines. It is the "Eye of Fire", the ancient alchemical symbol for fire and destruction.

Meanwhile Lorne, who has been manning the A.I. phones, marks the locations of the disturbances they've logged on a map. The locations form a square as well. In the center of the square, at the axis of its two internal diagonal lines is the The Kimble Building, where a night club--"the Sky Temple"--caters to the young, vain and beautiful. In this "shrine of the flesh", the Beast has created a square out of the bodies of the dead. He stands inside it, holding one of his victims high.

Angel, Gunn, Lorne and Wesley each attack the Beast using swords, cross-bows, axes, and guns. But even Wesley's shotgun doesn't slow this creature down. Brute strength isn't going to destroy it. Neither is fighting it one at a time. When Angel tries to stab the Beast with a wooden stake, the Beast thrusts the stake in Angel's throat. "Do you really think she's safe with him?" the creature taunts. He throws Angel off the high-rise building. Then he slams his fist down in the center of his square. Fire shoots out and ignites the bodies. A giant pillar of flame soars into the clouds. The clouds rain down fire on the city.

When Angel recovers from his long fall, he heads to Connor's to see if Cordelia is safe. There he sees his son and his beloved together in bed.

Unanswered questions: Why did the Beast taunt Angel about Cordelia and Connor? Did he know what Angel would find when Angel went to Connor's? And why send him there to see it?

Moral Ambiguity in "Apocalypse Nowish"

Lilah has issues with Wesley's still-beating infatuation with Fred. When Wesley gets home from work, he finds Lilah in his apartment in pig tails, glasses and a school-girl outfit doing a cheap imitation of his favorite physicist. Lilah insists that she "knows" the real Wesley better than the "pure, good" Fred ever will. And though Wesley doesn't want to humor her jealousy, he does respond to her outfit, insisting that Lilah keep on the glasses as they begin to have sex on the couch.

Gunn and Fred are still working together, but intimacy is awkward for them now. And when they finally talk about it, they don't get far. Gunn tells Fred that he killed Seidel to prevent her from becoming a murderer. He tells her that that "isn't who she is." But Fred feels he took away her right to make her own moral choices. And in the process, he has proven that he can be a murderer. Fred leaves the Hyperion and goes to the diner where she and Gunn have regular breakfasts. She stays there all day. Later, when the fire begins to rain down on them all, Fred is trapped there, unable to reach Gunn by phone.

Cordelia: The return of Cordelia's memory hasn't made it easier for her to readjust to her life on Earth. In fact, it seems to have only made things worse. She drifts between Angel's world and Connor's, igniting feelings in both of them that only make father and son more estranged. Her apocalyptic visions have made her listless and fatalistic. When Connor insists that Cordelia was returned to Earth because she's important, Cordelia briefly regains focus and sets out to find the location where the Beast will rise. But her resolve is gone again when the Beast easily defeats her and Connor.

Connor, bruised and broken from the fight, worries that he and the Beast have a connection, and that the destruction the Beast will cause is somehow his fault. When that destruction finally begins, Cordelia makes no move to go out and fight it. The heroic spirit that would once have sent her out even knowing the odds seems gone. Instead, she choses to comfort Connor by responding to his sexual desire for her, something she claimed to be uncomfortable with in "Supersymmetry" before she regained her memory.

[T]he seeming "lack of desire" on Cordy's part. As they were going through the love-making, I didn't sense any passion, desire, etc. from her. It seemed like she was going through it, gamely, because she had to. Maybe ...the PTB, or whoever, is controlling her at this moment.... I think either she might have been controlled here by external forces, or those external forces planted the idea in her head (Rob, 11/18/02 9:59).

Cordelia's motives: "Everything happens for a reason"

Habeas Corpses

The Metaphysics of "Habeas Corpses"

The Beast: In the wake of the rain of fire, Los Angeles city authorities decide that earthquakes and meteor showers caused the wide-spread destruction. But the Angel Investigations team knows differently. Fred tries to research the Beast, cross-checking what they know of him against prophecies, but is unable to come up with anything. Cordelia informs them that the Beast appeared in the exact spot where Connor was born. Gunn points out that that alleyway is behind Caritas, a "hot-spot" for portal activity.

Now the Beast is loose in L.A. He rampages through Wolfram and Hart, ending up in the White Room, an interdimensional space that can be accessed through the Wolfram and Hart elevator. There he attacks the ancient and evil Mesektet. He places his hand over her chest and draws a black energy from her body.

Zombies: Hundreds of Wolfram and Hart employees die at the hands of the Beast, including Gavin. But they don't stay dead. They rise again and attack the Angel Investigations gang. They are zombies--mindless animated corpses that do the bidding of whomever raised them. But the master of these zombies is unknown. Wesley speculates that Wolfram and Hart itself might be responsible for them. It may be part of their protective "lock-down protocol" that whomever dies during a raid on the building will rise again to kill off the attackers. Fred suggests that the Beast might have created these zombies to kill off anyone that remained alive after his massacre.

Killing zombies: The only way to kill a zombie is to stop its brain activity--e.g., chop off its head, crush its skull.

The Red Girl (Mesektet): Angel hopes to convince the red girl to help the gang escape Wolfram and Hart. Fred hot wires the elevator. Angel uses his keen artist's visual memory to punch in the code that will give them access. They materialize in the White Room to find Mesektet wounded on the floor with the Beast looming over her. The red girl points at them and says weakly, "the answer is among you." The Beast approaches the gang. Before he can attack them, Mesektet mumbles an incantation, stretches her hand out, and sends the gang back to the lobby of the Hyperion hotel to fight another day.

The meaning of Habeas Corpus

Evil in "Habeas Corpses"

The Beast:

Lilah: "Any idea what this thing wants?"
Connor: "Everybody dead."

Wolfram and Hart want an apocalypse; the Beast wants an apocalypse. Should be a match made in hell, right? But the Beast isn't interested in joining forces. He seems only interested in death, whether it is the death of the innocent citizens of L.A. or a building full of corrupt lawyers. But the Beast's attack on Wolfram and Hart has a purpose beyond a gruesome trail of dead bodies. The Beast is also after the red girl, Mesektet.

Why did the red girl save the good guys from the Beast? Well, the Beast has made an enemy of Wolfram and Hart, and what's left of the evil law firm (the Senior Partners, offices in other dimensions, and Lilah, at least) needs someone to stop the Beast. But should we trust an entity like Mesektet to have only pragmatic motives in saving Angel and his friends?

Moral Ambiguity and Philosophies Represented in "Habeas Corpses"

Angel sees Cordelia and Connor making love and grows dejected and angry. But he doesn't talk to Cordelia about it; all she gets from him is a mysterious hostility. When Angel finds out his son is trapped in Wolfram and Hart with the Beast, he sets aside his anger at Connor and leads the others to save him. But he doesn't take Cordelia along, and it's not chivalry. He is punishing her. Certainly, Angel is jealous, but he is also afraid that Connor can replace him in Cordelia's heart. Connor has all of Angel's good traits--honor, bravery, strength--and none of his bad traits--the inability to go out in daylight, a sadistic dark side, a pesky curse on his soul that prevents real intimacy. Angel finds his son alive in Wolfram and Hart and embraces him with relief and love. But when Cordelia and Connor are both safe back at the hotel, Angel bitterly demands that they leave. He lets his fear push them away.

When Cordelia wakes up the morning after the rain of fire, she is aghast. She slept with Angel's son! Connor gives her a happy puppy smile. He assumes they have something special together. Cordelia needs to let him down easy. But instead of telling him she did what she did out of fear and the need for comfort, she reminds him that she has romantic ties to Angel and that a demon rose in the spot where Connor was born. Connor assumes, not unreasonably, that he is being rejected because of her greater love for Angel and because of his alleged connection to the Beast.

He heads over to Wolfram and Hart hoping to get answers about exactly what that connection is, about why he exists and exactly what he is. Lilah is delighted to finally have the miraculous vampire spawn in her clutches, but it's not that easy to turn Connor into a lab rat. And they don't have time to chat about the boy's existential crisis, either. The Beast arrives and Connor goes after it, determined to kill it. But his weapons and fists are useless. The Beast calls Connor by name, then throws him into a wall.

More on Cordelia's motivations for sleeping with Connor

Wesley: When Lilah comes to check up on Wesley, he tells her that his perspective has changed. He can no longer sit on the fence, fighting on the side of good while flirting with evil. True evil has arrived in L.A., and Wesley must chose a side. Lilah argues that she has seen his shades of gray. In her own amoral muddle, she believes that Wesley has decided to "choose sides" in order to win the heart of Fred. Wesley cannot seem to convince her that this choice is not for his own gain.

[I]t seemed to me [that Wesley] had come to the realization that even when it seems that everything is grey, everything is mixed up, there is still a very fine line that divides good from evil. That it's a mistake to say "oh, it doesn't matter what I do because it's all just shades of grey anyway." That, it seems to me, is what Lilah has done.... Yet, oddly, that itself is a very black-and-white stance. ["]Life isn't perfect, so there's no hope whatsoever and nothing matters, I might as well be out for myself and screw everything and everyone else["]. I think that Wesley is coming from a different angle--in a way, the only way he can justify what he did to the baby Connor and what Angel and AI have done to him in return is to hold onto the belief that even within a largely grey world, it is still possible to discern good from evil. The line may be almost indistinguishable, but it's there, and he sees that he is just over the edge on one side and Lilah is just over the edge on the other (leslie, 1/16/03 11:09).

Later, Lilah runs into Wesley while escaping the Beast. Wesley has learned about the Beast's invasion of Wolfram and Hart, he implies, from someone he has watching the firm. The building has now been completely shut down. All entrances and exits and windows are sealed. Wesley helps Lilah escape through a secret passageway in the third-floor supply closet. In the sewer below, he instructs her to leave town and change her name. But is Wesley all about fighting for good and saving people? When Gunn stays behind to fight zombies while Fred and Wesley escape, Wesley barricades the door behind them, trapping Gunn with the zombies. Is he hoping the monsters will finish his rival off? Wesley has on several occasions chosen to sacrifice the few to save the many, and this might be yet another example of that.

Lilah is moved when Wesley comes to save her despite all the things he said. When she is safe in the sewer, she tells Wesley that Connor is trapped in the building above. Is Lilah finally behaving like a decent human being for once in her life? Or is it love for Wesley? Or is she trying to keep Connor alive until (what remains of) Wolfram and Hart can go after him again?

Long Day's Journey

The Metaphysics of "Long Day's Journey"

The Ra-tet

According to Rhinehardt's Compendium, The Ra-tet is a mystical order of five enormously powerful beings who are "totems", or symbolic manifestations of the Egyptian sun god, Ra. Each represents one of the five stages of Ra's journey across the sky. Together, they represent day, or daylight. The Beast is systematically killing the totems and retrieving the talismans that each carries within his or her body. With the talismans, the Beast will perform a ritual to blot out the sun and cast darkness on Los Angeles, and eventually, the entire world.

Each of the Ra-tet also represents a point along the continuum of good and evil, with the morning totem being the most benevolent and the evening totem the most malevolent.

1. (Sunrise) Ma'at appears as a female "white magic" (i.e., benevolent) shaman who resides in Los Angeles. The Beast tears her heart out of her chest.

2. (Mid-morning) Ashet is a being composed entirely of light encased within a male human shell. Ashet comes to the high-class thief, Gwen Raiden, seeking powerful amulets to protect himself from the Beast. Gwen doesn't retrieve them for him, and the Beast punches his fist through Ashet's torso and retrieves a metal wing from within his glowing body.

3. (Noon) Manjet appears as a badly-dressed, horny, middle-aged man. He is the "neutral" totem--a blend of the good and evil traits that exists in every human being. Like the others, he is immortal unless ritually murdered. Angel and Gwen take "Manny" to Gwen's deceptively luxurious home in the not-so-good side of town and lock him in a vault to protect him from the Beast. But during Cordelia and Angel's guard shift, Manny is killed, and the orb talisman is removed from his head.

4. (Afternoon) Samkhet appears as a skinless saber tooth tiger and lives in a cave in Death Valley. Angel and Gwen go to its dwelling in order to find it and protect it from the Beast, but when they arrive, it is already dead. Later, they discover that another metal wing has been torn from its shredded body.

5. (Sunset) Mesektet appeas as an evil young girl who likes to wear red. Before her death, she served as the "conduit" between the Earthly contingent of Wolfram and Hart and the senior partners. Without her, the firm is cut off from its superiors. Before the Beast killed her, he took a black energy from her body.

The ritual to blot out the sun: The Beast goes to Connor and Cordelia's to use their living space as the location of his ritual. He attaches the two metal wings retrieved from the Totems together and places the glass globe at the top between them. Then he expels the black energy from Mesektet out of his mouth and into the orb. He chants:

Ket sahv Ma'at
Ket sahv Mesektet

Finally, he drips blood from the heart of Ma'at onto the orb.

Amun Samkhet
Vesh ra'at Manjet...

The sky starts to dim. Connor and Cordelia look up to see streams of black streaking across the sun and blotting out its light.

The sun has not been destroyed. Its mass remains for the Earth to circle around. Its combustion continues. But visible rays of light no longer reach Los Angeles. This is similar to what happens during a solar eclipse, when the moon passes in front of the sun. This analogy to an eclipse gives us an idea of how people in Los Angeles can see the sun "disappear" while people in other regions do not. The moon passes in front of the sun from only one vantage point on Earth at a time, not all of them. In the case of this spell, however, the blackness blocking the rays of the sun will eventually cover the entire solar sphere, and the sun will not be visible from any spot on Earth.

Lost memories: When Cordelia was a higher being, she experienced Angelus' past first-hand, but later forgot most of what she'd seen. Now, a "memory" of that past is returning to her. It comes back in bits. First, she sees the Beast talking, but can't hear what he is saying. There is screaming in the background. Later, she sees the Beast talking again, standing over the victims of a massacre. Cordelia tells Angel that she is experiencing this from the point of view of whomever the Beast is talking to, and it is someone who feels "familiar". Finally, she hears what the Beast is saying. "You're a worthy adversary. But our strength is useless divided. Join with me, Angelus." This is one of Angelus' memories, Cordelia says. The Powers that Be must be jogging her lost memories of the higher dimension, and presumably, giving her information the gang can use. But Angel doesn't remember meeting the Beast.

Evil and Good in "Long Day's Journey"

The Beast's reasons for being on Earth have been murky, but the effects of his actions are clear. The Beast has blotted out the light of sun, an important source of life to plants and animals. The lack of sunlight will also make human beings virtually defenseless against demons and vampires, creatures that normally skulk in nighttime shadows.

After Manjet's death, the Angel Investigations team goes to Connor's apartment because his apparent connection to the Beast provides their best way of finding the creature. And indeed, the Beast is already there. He tosses Connor around and throws him out a four-story window so that he can set up his ritual. The gang is determined to stop him. Angel and Gunn's job is to keep the Beast distracted while Wesley and Fred read an incantation to create a portal to banish the Beast. Meanwhile, Gwen tries to destroy the talismans the Beast is using in his ritual. Cordelia stays below to look after the wounded Connor.

Their plan fails. By the time the Beast falls into the portal, his ritual is already complete and the sunlight has started to fade. And the Beast reappears quickly. He says to Angel, "I told you once. You need not be my enemy." The Beast picks up the orb and swallows it, then leaves. When Cordelia tells the others about the "memories" of Angelus that have returned to her, the gang concludes that Angelus knew the Beast in the past. And Angel may have a connection with him now--when the last Totem was supposed to be under Angel and Cordelia's guard, someone knocked out Gwen's home surveillance and in some way arranged the death of Manjet.

It would appear that Angelus' memory is the key to finding out more about the Beast and his plans. But how can they retrieve that memory? Wesley makes a startling and somewhat rash suggestion: they need to talk to Angelus, unfettered by Angel's soul.

Moral Ambiguity in "Long Day's Journey"

"I swear. Like father, like son. The two of you have cornered the market on teenaged snits."

There are no two better brooders than Angel and his son. Connor is brooding because the city is falling apart and he believes it's his fault. He thinks Cordelia and Angel blame him for it as well. He wants to go to the hotel to find out what they've learned about the Beast. Cordelia explains to him that they can't return to the hotel because Angel is angry at them both for sleeping together. Then Cordelia proceeds to go over to the hotel by herself.

Angel is moping in his room, trying to get his mind off Connor and Cordelia's tryst by researching the Beast. While Lorne is sympathetic with him, though, Cordelia has regained her patented insensitivity. She tells Angel that he needs to put his hurt feelings aside and concentrate on leading the team in going after the Beast. Which Angel proceeds to do, in his own bumbly way. But Cordelia has hurt him, and he wants her to know it. He parades Gwen in front of her as he leads the electrifyingly attractive thief off to track down Samkhet. And Cordelia responds accordingly, accusing Gwen of colluding with the Beast to kill Manny and calling her "supertramp".

Gwen is a thief and not used to offering information, at least not for free. So she doesn't think Angel and company should blame her for forgetting to tell them about the talisman the Beast took out of Ashet's body. And she does fight diligently on their side against the Beast, with time left over to throw a little sympathy Gunn's way. Gwen intuits that Gunn and Fred's relationship is a little rocky right now, and she realizes that that's why Wesley's attraction to Fred is more than a minor annoyance for Gunn.


The Metaphysics of "Awakening"

Removing Angel's soul: In order to remove a vampire's soul, one must know how the vampire in question regained their soul in the first place. In Angel's case, gypsies cursed him with a soul so that he would feel remorse for all the people he'd tormented and slaughtered. And the curse had a "happiness clause" which stated that if Angel were to experience a moment when remorse no longer plagued his thoughts, he would lose that soul (note on Willow's resouling of Angel and the happiness clause).

However, creating circumstances like those that happened when Angel lost his soul the first time seem unlikely. The Beast is ravaging Los Angeles. Connor is angry with his father. And even if Cordelia were to sooth Angel's over-hanging brow with a romantic, soul-wrenching roll in the hay, Angel would be so filled with angst at the knowledge that he was doing this to become Angelus that he might not be able to perform, much less get happy. The only way for Angel to experience true happiness would be if his life was going a hell of a lot better than it is.

Or for him to believe that it is.

The ritual to remove Angel's soul: Wesley arrives with Wo-Pang, a shaman from the Order of the Kun-Sun-Dai. They are dark mystics who have the power to extract souls and restore them again. Wesley's plan is to turn Angel into Angelus long enough to convince him to tell them what he knows about the Beast, and then turn him back. Connor and Gunn prepare the steel cage that they will keep Angelus locked up in. Wesley straps Angel's arms and legs to a table inside the cage.

Wo-Pang brings out the muo-ping, a glass container with a cork stopper at the top. It is the receptacle that will house Angel's soul in the interim and allow them to restore it. The shaman enters the cage and it is double locked behind him. Angel is instructed to close his eyes and not speak. The shaman touches Angel's forehead with his fingertips. In Mandarin he incants:

wo qing qui
wu xin zi li.

kun, zhen, xun, kan, li

ci wo tong ling
ji fao muo li

The shaman opens his eyes. His irises are blood red.

wo hao zhoe
juo xin ze

wan cheng
ta de zi yuan

Wo-Pang removes his hands. Angel falls into a hallucination so vivid and consistent with his real life that it becomes reality for him.

Angel's perfect day doesn't start out perfect. The shaman that was there to take his soul tries to behead him instead. But his day gets better. Wesley apologizes for almost getting Angel killed. The two of them begin to feel the bond they once had together. Wo-Pang turns out to be an acolyte of the Beast, with hints about defeating the Beast tattooed on his body. Cordelia's eyes go white with a vision that leads the gang to a sword that will kill the Beast if it pierces his brain. They face deadly obstacles trying to retrieve it. A near-brush with death sends Cordelia into Angel's arms. Connor finds them kissing and attacks his father. Then Cordelia tells Connor she isn't his, and never was.

Back at the hotel, Angel prepares to go after the Beast alone. He tells his friends that he appreciates what each of them has done to help him. Their loyalty to each other is what will make them succeed. The Beast appears. He and Angel fight. The Beast breaks the sword. Connor comes home and keeps the Beast occupied while Angel sneaks up behind the Beast and skewers him with a shard from the sword. The Beast turns to dust in a flash of light. Connor runs to his father. He tells Angel that he could always sense that Cordelia loved Angel. He is happy just being a champion. The others return to see the Beast defeated. Wesley and Gunn smack hands in victory.

Angel can't go out into the sunlight he restored, but there's no place he'd rather be than alone with Cordelia. She is beautiful and kisses him sweetly. Angel resists, but Cordelia persists. He deserves this. They deserve it. They make love. Angel's happiness crescendos. But then he freezes. He can feel his soul slipping away. He cries out.

Suddenly, he is back on the table in the cage in the basement.

"Illusion becomes reality," Wo-Pang says.

On the table, Angelus laughs. The muo-ping glows.

Moral Ambiguity in "Awakening"

Angel's real day


"You're the reason that my life sucks!"

Connor is back in teenaged mode as far as his father is concerned. Angel is the one who apparently has a connection to the Beast. Angel is the one who, in his mind, is keeping Cordelia from him. And he isn't giving Angel the benefit of any doubt when Angel claims not to remember meeting the Beast nor how to fight him. As far as Connor is concerned, there is no difference between Angel and Angelus. A father-and-son reconciliation is a long way off for these two.

Angel: When Wesley suggests that they find out what Angelus knows about the Beast by talking to Angelus, Angel is desperate for a different plan. The last thing he wants is to become Angelus again. He sings for Lorne, hoping that the anagogic demon will be able to extract the information from him. But Lorne gets nothing useful. Finally, Angel decides that with Angelus sufficiently chained down, they might be able to learn something useful after all. He agrees to have his soul removed. He pulls Connor aside and assures him that he is Connor's father, not Angelus, and that he loves him. He asks Connor to protect their friends. And then he instructs Connor that if anything goes wrong, Connor must kill him. Connor agrees.

Ethical Quandaries in "Awakening"

Should Angel's soul be removed?


There are numerous arguments against bringing Angelus back. Cordelia gives one: Angelus may not even cooperate with them. Even if Angelus was an enemy of the Beast, he may not feel motivated to tell Angel's friends what they want to know. After all, once he did, they would just return his soul.

Another reason not to remove Angel's soul is the danger Angelus poses. He tormented Buffy and her friends, both physically and emotionally. And the person who usually defends Angel's loved ones from danger, Angel, would not be there. Of course, Wesley and the others plan to take every precaution to prevent Angelus from hurting anyone. But every precaution may not be enough, especially in protecting Angel's friends from Angelus' special brand of psychological torment.

Another factor Angel wants the others to take into consideration is his own right to self-determination. It is his soul his friends would be removing. They would be turning him into something he once was and no longer wishes to be. By all rights, Angel should have the ultimate say over what is done or not done to him. A simple "no" should be enough to end all arguments. Would Wesley have tried to remove Angel's soul forcibly if Angel had decided not to cooperate?


One argument for bringing Angelus back, made by both Gunn and Wesley, is that the Angel Investigations team has no other plan. In every attempt to fight the Beast, the Beast has had the upper hand. No weapons they have used against him, physical or magical, have made a difference. The books they have consulted have no information on the Beast. The only lead they have is Cordelia's memory-vision, which indicates that Angelus once met the Beast long ago. Since Angel cannot remember this meeting, they only have the hope that Angelus will. Otherwise, the people of Los Angeles, and soon, every living thing on Earth, will die. They need to know what Angelus knows.

Angel reminds Cordelia that Angel is apparently a danger to his friends all by himself. The Beast apparently knows how to get Angel to do things and later forget that he's done them. Of course, that's nothing compared to what Angelus himself could do with all his faculties in tact. Cordelia notes that Angelus and the Beast seem to think alike. They are both intelligent, forward-thinking creatures. Even if Angelus didn't know the Beast's plan, he could probably figure it out. "What is it about evil that jacks up the I.Q. points?" Cordelia asks. Angel leaps to his feet, ready to go through with Wesley's plan.

Philosophies Represented in "Awakening"

Angel's dream represents the ultimate impossible fantasy for an existentialist, and Angel's world is definitely a very existential place. ...Wes apologises and reestablishes Angel's leadership, Cordy gives herself up to Angel and discounts Connor's feelings, Connor gives up Cordy and accepts his role as Angel's pupil and son. [Angel] has his life put back together by other people. Which, existentially speaking, is impossible. No one can help you through your own existence....

I don't think we should be so harsh with Angel's fantasies, though. The episode shows succinctly how human Angel is; and, implicitly, how the heroic ideal is something he strives for, rather than something he is. ...Angel (a champion) fights good for the specific purpose of redemption and/or humanisation, whereas Buffy (a hero) fights and repeatedly lays down her life because she feels she has to. The hero has a kind of moral security which I don't think the champion does.... The champion is an instrument of the PTB; perhaps a hero, as in mythology, is a part of the Powers....

Rather than simply his subconscious getting its way, the fantasy removes all of the existential barriers that prevent Angel from achieving his fantasy Roles.... [T]he roles Angel perceives himself in (a trinity of Leader, Father and Lover) [are] affirmed by other people and ultimately pay.. off as Angel becomes these things. But the point is they're roles - they're not what he truly is, because no one fits into an external ideal. These roles are things Angel uses to avoid coming to terms with himself. With Connor, for example, he doesn't want to talk to his son, and to act like a father - he just wants to become Ideal Dad....

Angelus' laughter at the end of the episode is the perfect ending for me; he's laughing at Angel, for believing in a myth, and at existence itself for once again proving that life is absurd and doesn't follow along heroic paths....

But I don't think Angel is as self-deluded and self-centred as the dream makes him seem.... It's not the case that the dream represents Angel's thoughts, but rather his absolute ideals. It is, after all, a fantasy, and no one's fantasy would include (for example) Angel eating humble pie and accepting Wes as an equal. The dream removes all the barriers that, consciously, Angel is aware of. In reality, Angel is a lot more cynical than the Angel in his dream; he's cynical about the powers that be, about his quest and his own redemption, and about his own role as a champion.

He's already been granted everything he wanted once, way back in Season 1, and he turned that down out of a sense of duty and a realisation that, in life, things are never as simple as the basic hero's journey. Angel is... an existential character who's aware of himself; that's why the dream is such a complete fantasy (slain, 1/30/03 19:21).


The Metaphysics of and Philosophies Represented in "Soulless"

The apocalypse: Los Angeles is falling apart. Without the sun, crime--both human and demon--is rampant. Not even boy slayer Connor can keep up with the sheer number of bads strolling into town. And the Beast continues his own grisly rampage as well. One of his primary targets is the Svea(r), a mystical order of Nordic priestesses who once banished him from the Earthly plane. These priestesses are all descendants of the powerful Freyan priestess, Svea. And some of them live in a town just outside Los Angeles.

In 1789, the Beast apparently tried to recruit Angelus to kill the Svea because a spell was protecting these women from him. Angelus declined, and just as the Beast was about to kill him for it, the Svea banished the Beast. Now the priestesses' descendants are dead, although it's not clear the Beast could have done it. At some point, Angel's memory of this 18th-century encounter was apparently removed so that the souled vampire would not remember how to defeat him. But Angelus has this memory. He tells Wesley about the Svea. But it is too late to save the priestesses and their family. The only thing the gang gets from their visit to the Svea household is an incantation that Wesley believes is the original banishment spell.

Angel's soul: The gang puts the muo-ping with Angel's soul inside the Hyperion safe while they interrogate Angelus. Later, when they decide they've learned everything that Angelus cares to tell, they go to retrieve it. But the receptacle is gone.

Are Angel and Angelus the same person?

They share the same memories. They share the same body. More often than not, they talk about things the other one did as things "I" did. But Angel and Angelus also like to disavow each other--Angel is that pathetic do-gooder, Angelus is a monster who isn't "me". What is the relationship of Angel and Angelus?

Theory 1: Angelus is the "real" person, the soul is only a ball and chain.

"Angel's just something you're forced to wear." --Connor

This theory is similar to the notion that chipped, soulless Spike is merely "a serial killer in prison". Any good deeds Angel does are suspect because he has been coerced into them by the presence of an externally imposed "behavior modification" device--in his case, a human soul. Just as the Initiative used pain to turn Spike into a "big fluffy puppy" against his "true" will, this line of reasoning goes, the gypsies (or Willow) did the same thing to Angelus. But given the chance, Angel would be as vicious and deadly as any vampire. This is what Connor wants to believe.

Theory 2: The soul contains the essence of the "real" person, the demon is an addiction or disease to be cured of.

"You're nobody. Just a disease. And Angel can't wait to be rid of you." --Cordelia

If this theory is correct, then the real Angel is the human man we met in I Will Remember You--no vicious blood lust, and no special demon powers, either. Angelus, on the other hand--the demon inside him--is a pathological "condition" that once ruled the body like a puppet-master and now lingers, hidden, inside the man Angel. Angel must fight this disease everyday, and he succeeds. But for the moment, the "real" Angel is sitting upstairs in a jar, once again letting the disease rule the body and erroneously believe that it is itself a person.

Theory 3: Angel and Angelus are the same person--the presence or absence of a soul simply brings out different aspects of this person's character.

What does the Buffyverse soul contribute, or not contribute, to a vampire, or a human being, for that matter? The only way to answer this question for sure would be to get a straight answer about the nature of the soul in the Buffyverse. And that's not exactly forthcoming. But elsewhere, I have presented two somewhat contradictory pictures of the soul that have been implied on the show(s).

(a) In the first picture, the "soul" is the personality, conscience and conscious awareness of the human person. An unsouled vampire, therefore, is not that person. He or she is a facsimile, a human body possessed by a vampire spirit parading around with the original human's memories and believing it is that person. But it is not. It is a different person at the core, a human corpse possessed, an "unholy monster". This is essentially Cordelia's theory (#2 above), which she no doubt learned from Watchers like Wesley and Giles.

(b) On the second theory, the soul is the conscience of the original human being only. When the soul is removed, everything else that makes that person who they are remains--their personality, their consciousness, their memories, their body. The vampire, thus, is that same person, minus a conscience and with the addition of a vampire physiology and its concomitant blood lust. On this theory, Angel and Angelus are the same person--they are both our old friend Liam, with all his life experiences in tact, his good points encouraged by the presence of a soul, his bad points urged on by the demon within. The heroism, the awkwardness, the rage, the sadism.

They are all Angel.

Angel clearly feels that he is responsible for Angelus. At least in terms of his guilt. He likes to psychologically separate himself from Angelus, but if he really believed that, then what is he atoning for? (manwitch, 2/01/03 7:10)

Evil in "Soulless"

Angelus: The Beast is able to rain fire on the city and rip people apart with his bare hands, but a very different enemy sits in a cage in the basement of Angel Investigations. This is the enemy that knows them, the enemy that can crawl under their skin and into their hearts and eat them alive. And he does, one by one. Picking them apart, exploiting their weaknesses. Waiting for his moment. The moment that one of them will make a mistake that will allow him to escape.

Moral Ambiguity in "Soulless"

Wesley treats Angelus like something of a celebrity. He's been friends with Angel for years, and yet the unsouled version of his friend is the notorious fiend he psyches himself up to finally "meet" in person. But Angelus is no infamous stranger. He knows Wesley as well as Wesley knows him. And he goes straight for the insecurities. He reduces Wesley's heroism to a desire to impress Fred. He taunts Wesley with descriptions of Fred and Gunn's intimacies. He reminds Wesley of his failures with his father, and in Sunnydale, and with Faith, and with Connor. Wesley, for his part, has done his Angelus-prep. He has a calm block for almost every jab Angelus makes. But Wesley can't lure Angelus into telling him the Beast's secrets. Wesley doesn't have anything Angelus wants.

Fred and Gunn: Angelus knows he's on not-so-candid camera; he knows the others upstairs can hear everything he says. So taunting Wesley is two-for-one. Or, actually, three-for-one. Although it seems that Angel never pays much attention to Gunn and Fred, Angelus proves otherwise. He lets them know he's been a distant voyeur to their most private moments. And he digs into Gunn's insecurities about his lack of authority at Angel Investigations. Then he goads the hot-headed Gunn into dropping his weapon in a fool-hardy attempt to save Fred. How might Angelus have hurt Fred if Wesley hadn't appeared with the tranquilizer gun? Does it matter? Wesley saving both of them from their own mistakes is humiliation enough for Gunn.

But Angelus doesn't stop there. He uses this pair's troubles as a wedge to throw the entire team into chaos. Fred finds Wesley upstairs in the office and tells him that there is nothing wrong with his feelings for her. "Yes there is," Wesley replies, and he pulls Fred towards him and kisses her. Fred responds briefly and passionately, then pulls away. Gunn enters a few beats later, and instantly grows suspicious. A fight erupts between the two men. Fred yells at them to stop. Wesley and Gunn trade blows. Cordelia and Lorne step in and try to help. Down in the basement, Angelus laughs. "That was fast," he says.

While the others are distracted with the fight, Connor sneaks downstairs to confront his vampire father. Their relationship gives Angelus the perfect opening. He knows Connor's insecurities are all about family. He instantly negates the love that Darla and Holtz had for Connor. Then he ridicules Connor with the fact that the woman he wanted for his lover is the closest thing the boy has to a mother.

But the familial bond that Connor is most interested in is the relationship of father and son. He tells the vampire in the cage that he, Angelus, is Connor's real father. And that his attitude towards his father has never changed--he wants the evil demon dead. Angelus seizes on this immediately. He knows Connor is impulsive and reckless. He knows Connor's hatred of him is deeply personal. Connor could be manipulated into opening the cage. Then Cordelia comes down and orders Connor upstairs. Connor doesn't like being told what to do, but for the moment, the disgruntled mama's boy obeys.

If Connor tells himself that Angel isn't "real"[, that he] is an "illusion" (something Angelus "wears") then he can kill him and not be restrained by his love for that "illusion". ...he will be free of the feelings that tear him in two. [A]ny love he has felt for Angel must be marred with a feeling of betraying Holtz. Now, with Angelus, Connor is presented with an opportunity to take Holtz' vengeance for him and not suffer guilt at killing a father who obviously loves him. Of course he surely would feel guilt, but I doubt he knows that (Ixchel 3/05/03 17:26).

Cordelia comes to Angelus with a deal--if he tells them what he knows about the Beast, she'll let him do anything he wants to her. But mostly what he wants from her is humiliation. And pain. Angelus has already told her friends that she slept with Connor. And though he suspects that Cordelia is bluffing him with her "deal", he'll play. If she keeps her promise, he'll get Angel's beloved for a plaything. And if she reneges, well, his revenge will be that much more sweeter and self-justifying.

And Cordelia does renege. She agreed that she would give herself to him in exchange for what he knew. But when she returns later, she claims that it was in exchange for what he knew if they were successful with the information. And they weren't. So now they have no use for Angelus. Cordelia taunts him with the fact that they will soon restore his soul. But Angelus shows no fear.

Angel: the Series copyright © 2002-03 The WB Television Network.
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This page last modified 10/26/03

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