Angel: The Series Season 5
|Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 7 BtVS/season 5 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.|
Cordelia's last breath: While in her coma, Cordelia has a vision of Angel in pain and sees strange glyphs painted on walls and tattooed on flesh. Shortly thereafter, Angel gets a call telling him Cordelia is awake. He and Wesley go to her room to find her alert and healthy (not to mention hot).
Cordelia explains that she remembers everything that happened last year up until she went into her coma, including Connor. But she was not in control during that time. Jasmine, a rogue Power-that-Be, "hijacked" her mind and body in order to give birth to a body of her own, and all of Cordelia's actions--good and evil--after she returned from the higher plane were Jasmine's doing.
The other Powers that Be owe Cordelia one for what happened, and she doesn't waste it. Cordelia, who is in reality still upstairs in her bed near death, has been allowed to spend one last day in a deceptively physical form to help her friends. But at the end of that day, Cordelia gives Angel a kiss and leaves. Shortly after that, Angel gets a call telling him Cordelia is dead, and that she never woke up from her coma.
Crossing dimensions: What do you do if you're an evil Wolfram and Hart client guilty of racketeering and you need to escape to some place where neither your goody-two-shoes lawyers or the authorities can track you? Kill five holy women (in this case, nuns) and arrange their bodies in a square with a bisecting diagonal line. This is part of a ritual to open a gateway to another dimension and jump bail.
The glyphs on Lindsey's torso and on the walls of his apartment are runes derived from the Enochian alphabet. Used in a particular way, they conceal the wearer from being viewed remotely--by higher powers, seers, or modern surveillance techniques. Lindsey also has some enhanced abilities he picked up in Nepal, including super strength, telekinetic powers, and the ability to transform objects, like turning a knife into a sword.
Unanswered question: If the glyphs hide someone from higher powers, how did the Powers that Be know to send Cordelia a vision about them? It is possible that they sensed the presence of the runes, but not what the runes concealed. Given the runes' proximity to Spike and Eve, the Powers decided to warn Angel through Cordelia.
Removing the glyphs: Wesley and Fred gather ingredients into a bowl, including Woodbury lichen and a Danbeetle skeleton. Lorne burns incense. They sprinkle the ingredients in the bowl with the arterial blood of "an unclean" (a demon, in this case, Lorne). Wesley incants,
Fabula mundi, Sanguis incesti, Vincula solve, Invisa revela
while Fred sprinkles more ingredients into the bowl.
The glyphs rise off of Lindsey's torso and dissolve. A dimensional portal opens above him. He is drawn up into it and disappears.
to Eve, the Senior Partners keep
a creature frozen down in the basement of Wolfram and Hart, a
creature specifically designed
to destroy Angel should he fail to stay
"under the Senior Partner's thumbs". Lindsey goes
to Wolfram and Hart. He finds a demonic employee in the basement
with a crystal embedded in his neck.
He kills the demon and puts the crystal into a control panel that
will awaken the fail-safe.
Stopping the fail-safe: Angel, Spike and Cordelia go down into the basement. While Spike fights off zombie guards, Angel fights Lindsey, and Cordelia tries to turn off the fail-safe. Cordelia presses random buttons on the control panel and accidentally triggers the fail-safe. A huge cylindrical canister marked with mystical glyphs rises out of the floor. Cordelia removes the crystal from the control panel. The fail-safe returns to the floor.
Changing reality and memories: While Wesley and the others apparently remember "higher being" Jasmine, no one remembers Connor except Angel, Eve, and Cordelia. But why should Cordelia remember Connor if no one else does? For months, Cordelia's mind was submerged by Jasmine. When Jasmine was finally born, Cordelia's mind could not find its way back to control of the body. Cordelia was still in this state when the Senior Partner's spell occurred.
Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Quandaries in "You're Welcome"
Wolfram and Hart: stay or go?
"It's status quo. Evil wins. Because instead of wiping it out, we negotiate with it. Or worse, for it."
Angel has had enough of the moral ambiguities of working for Wolfram and Hart when he discovers five dead nuns killed by one of the clients they freed on bail. He's ready to quit.
But is quitting that easy? Gunn points out that the Senior Partners will probably not let the Angel or any member of the gang just leave. They have their own plans for Angel and his friends. And even if they did allow one of them to leave, the members of ex-Angel Investigations made certain bargains when they agreed to join. These bargains would be null and void. In Angel's case, leaving Wolfram and Hart could mean undoing the wrinkle in reality that put his son in a new life and erased all memory of Connor in the minds of his friends.
Gunn argues that they "knew what they were getting into" when they decided to take Wolfram and Hart's offer. And in some ways, this is true. They knew they would get powerful resources in the fight against evil, and they knew they would have to fight against the temptations inherent in wielding those resources. They also knew that their employees were supplied by Wolfram and Hart. But did they really know, before they showed up for their first day, that they would have to make the old clients of Wolfram and Hart happy as well?
Well, now they know, and now they have to live with that, or not live with it, and accept the consequences of either choice.
Gunn is the most fervent supporter of staying. He believes they're doing good there, more good than they ever did as Angel Investigations. He also got life-changing new talents and abilities as a result of joining Wolfram and Hart. Angel wonders if Gunn's desire to hang on to the power, prestige and increased self-esteem of being head of the legal team is biasing Gunn's assessment of their situation.
"He knew... knew what he had to do. Didn't compromise. Used his last breath to make sure you'd keep fighting." --Cordelia, on Doyle
Angel is the most fervent supporter of leaving Wolfram and Hart, until Cordelia shows up and passes judgment on her friends' "deal with the devil". Then he does an abrupt about-face, defending their choice to come where the power and resources are. When Cordelia accuses him of being seduced, Angel tells her about the desperation for Connor that lead him to make his decision. But Cordelia can tell that Angel isn't O.K. with his situation as he claims to be, and she doesn't approve of any deal that let the Senior Partners "rape the memories of your friends who trust you".
Cordelia hasn't come to convince Angel to stay or go, however. She has only come to help him remember why he fights, to remind him who he was, and to help him do the right thing, whatever he decides that is. Angel decides to stay at Wolfram and Hart. Cordelia doesn't approve of that choice, but she gives Angel renewed faith in his ability to beat the system.
|Cordelia is her old self--blunt, plucky, and ready to fight that evil--the Cordy we knew before she was whisked off to the Higher Dimension. She even has her old faith in the Powers that Be, despite the fact that that faith was what allowed her to be duped by Skip and Jasmine in the first place. While none of her friends blame her for what was done in her body the year before, does Cordelia have any culpability for what happened to her?|
[A]ll her actions since Slouching were those of some kind of proto-Jasmine impersonating her... [Hence], the most that Cordelia can be held responsible for is allowing herself to be taken in by Skip in Birthday and Tomorrow. I think that she was motivated primarily by the desire to do good, but failed to ask certain questions because of her ego-driven assumption that it was perfectly natural for her to be offered apotheosis (KdS, 4/20/03 13:58).
Lindsey now has Spike playing "Champion of the Powers" to the tune of his "visions". And when Eve warns Lindsey about Cordelia's return, Lindsey sends Spike out to kill her, telling him that Cordelia has been taken over by a soulless big bad. Spike tries to bite Cordelia to see if she is a demon. When Angel stops him, Spike tells them about "Doyle". From his description, Angel and Cordelia realize that Lindsey MacDonald has returned.
But what is Wolfram and Hart's former golden boy up to? Lindsey is a human with a soul; he knows the difference between good and evil. But he is driven by a desperate need not to be powerless.
"Either you got stepped on or you got to stepping... and I swore to myself that I was not going to be the guy standing there with the stupid grin on my face while my life got dribbled out..." --Lindsey, "Blind Date"
Lindsey was always interested in power, the kind that ensures you'll never be vulnerable again. ...does he just want to make sure that whoever wins, he'll be a winner too? (Arethusa 11/20/03 10:36).
Lindsey let that need bring him to Wolfram and Hart after law school. Then he let that need drive him back to Wolfram and Hart again after he gave in to the brief sting of conscience. Finally, he left the law firm altogether when he realized he couldn't get what he wanted playing by the Senior Partners' rules. Now he has returned with a scheme to get the better of his former bosses. And hurt Angel in the process. And is Lindsey telling Eve everything? It doesn't seem so.
After Angel sends Lindsey packing to the Senior Partners, Eve isn't a whole lot better off. The gang determines that she has been helping Lindsey. And if they know it, the Senior Partners do, too.
Why We Fight
The Metaphysics of "Why We Fight"
The Demon Research Initiative: The origins of The Initiative go back at least as far as World War II, when the U.S. government began to do research on vampires and demons. It is unclear what prompted this research. Did the U.S. start their investigation independently, or was it in response to similar research by the Germans? Was the goal of the research from the very beginning to use vampires and demons as offensive weapons, or was it only to develop methods of self-defense against the sub-terrestrial menace?
Regardless, the early Demon Research Initiative kept tabs not only on demon species, but on specific well-known demons as well. They knew enough about Angel to believe they could recruit him to help them with a special mission: investigating what happened aboard a T-class German prototype submarine deep in the ocean.
The Prince of Lies is a fairly old vampire, not as old as The Master or perhaps even Kakistos, but old enough that his appearance has begun to change like these other ancient vampires.
Did VampLawson have a soul?
Evil in "Why We Fight"
Ship of fools: It's 1943. A group of American sailors has captured a German U-boat that they have been ordered to take to U.S. soil. But something sinister is aboard. The Germans aren't just making superior submarines. They are experimenting on vampires, trying to discover what makes them tick in order to create a demonic soldier. The Nazi SS captured Spike, a Russian named Nostroyev, and an ancient vampire who calls himself "The Prince of Lies". They put them in boxes and were shipping them via submarine. Spike managed to free himself, then broke the other two out. Together, they cut a bloody swath through the German crew and their American captors.
Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Quandaries in "Why We Fight"
In the 1940's, Angel is living a marginal existence in the United States, keeping his distance from other vampires and humans as well. Then he is approached by the military. Angel isn't looking to be a hero. He also isn't given much choice. The government knows what he is. They know how to detain him, and how to kill him. They send Angel out into deep, hostile waters to investigate what happened to an enemy submarine they believe may have been compromised by its vampire cargo.
What were Angel's orders, exactly? Angel never makes this clear. After he arrives at the submarine, he convinces the vampires not to kill the rest of humans, and he does not kill any of the vampires until they disregard this directive. Did the U.S. government tell him to bring the vampires back alive? In the end, Angel allows both remaining vampires--Spike and VampLawson--to escape. Was Angel told to retrieve the Nazi experimental data and reports? Also not certain, despite the fact that he has Spike burn the experimental report. When Lawson questions Angel's choice not to kill the "monsters", Angel just tells him to follow orders. He asks Lawson to trust that he will get them all through "safe and sound".
Lawson was rather aware very early on that Angel was using him. Their early arguments are very much about that topic - Angel flat out tells Lawson that he's going to use him to fulfill a purpose and orders without really explaining to Lawson what those are. It's not entirely dissimilar to Angel's own interaction with the PtB (Dlgood, 2/12/04 11:23).
Then the submarine is struck by depth charges, knocking out the propulsion motor. Only Lawson can get the U-boat engine started again. But when their German prisoner escapes and stabs him, that one hope lays dying. Angel's dilemma is clear: if Lawson dies, the sub will remain trapped at the bottom of the ocean. The humans will die of oxygen deprivation, and the mission will be a failure. But Angel knows only one way to help Lawson live. Turn him into a vampire.
Angel makes his choice.
When the submarine surfaces, Angel gets it and the men to the US coast, then jumps ship and goes underground.
This episode was .. a great lead-in into AYNOHYEB, as it explains Angel's frame of mind in that episode, and why he was so reluctant to help anybody (Rob 2/12/04 10:46).
Angel: What do you want, Lawson?
Lawson: The same thing I've always wanted. To understand.
Sam Lawson was a navy officer who believed in Mom, apple pie and the Stars and Stripes. Until he met Angel. Ensign Lawson was willing to do whatever this mysterious emissary from the military powers-that-be asked if it would help get his men and their captured submarine home. All he asked in return was to know the reason for Angel's orders and actions.
Sixty years later, Lawson appears at Wolfram and Hart, a bitter vampire. He binds Angel's friends with wire that will snap their necks with just a little tug. He wants to hurt Angel for turning him, but revenge isn't ultimately what he's after. Lawson understands the trade-off Angel made. One person damned, and in return the allies to get their hands on an important piece of German technology that might turn the course of the war. So where does his desperate desire to hurt Angel come from?
For sixty years, Lawson killed and tortured, as vampires do, but, he says, "through it all, I felt nothing." Why is this significant? We know that vampires take pleasure in hunting, killing, maiming and hurting. But this pleasure arises from more than mere physical instinct. Most vampires seem to be born with a "psychological clarity", a connection to their vampire state and a belief in the joys of evil. Even if they don't think about such beliefs consciously, they act on them; they feel at home in their demonic state. Not so for Lawson. Six decades of torture and death, without feeling this connection. Ordinarily, vampires only lose this connection when they regain a soul. Did VampLawson retain his soul after he was sired? Angel sired Lawson when he had a soul. Did Lawson keep a bit of his soul as a result? Angel doesn't think it works that way. But he can't say for certain. This is the one and only vampire he created when he had a soul.
Regardless, Lawson, a man who demanded higher reasons in life, ironically got none when he became a vampire. And for that, he has returned to kill his sire. Or perhaps to motivate his sire to kill him.
Eve has disappeared. Neither tactical sweep teams nor mystic locators has been able to find her. The gang assumes she has been nabbed by the Senior Partners, just like Lindsey was. The Partners don't take betrayal lightly. But Angel worries because he and his team don't know for certain what has become of either Lindsey or Eve. The gang's usual way of getting such information at Wolfram and Hart was Eve. Gunn tells them he will look into establishing a new liaison to the Senior Partners.
Can one fight evil by compromising with evil?
[W]hen Spike, the nazi, Lawson and Angel are talking about the Nazi experiments on demons, etc. Lawson does this whole speech about how the US would never do something like that, how you can't fight evil by doing evil. To me that absolutely paralleled the Gang's journey at W&H and the compromises they chose to do (work with Evil clients, kill employees, etc.) to have all the resources they think they need to achieve their goal to fight evil. Same situation than the US government using Nazi/Evil technology to win the war or Angel siring Lawson and making a deal with Spike to get the submarine back to the Army. Compromises with Evil. That kind of stuff has to leave you tainted somehow and I think that's what Lawson represented. Tainted innocence. He had all these simple ideals about Good vs. Evil (maybe what the A Gang used to believe as well) but now everything is grey and even the "good guys" (the US, Angel) make deals with the devil to supposedly do good.
But strangely when I look at it, I'm reluctant to say who's right and who's wrong: Lawson's beliefs at the beginning were admirable, but very naive too; in the complex world we live in, we all HAVE to compromise to survive and do a bit of evil to do a lot of good, make hard sometimes cruel choices for the greater good. But at the same time, Angel's choice to live in the "belly of the Beast" (interestingly, this expression was also used to describe Nazism; I believe it's a quote by Brecht) can't be right. Like Spike says: "You can't change it; it changes you." So not an easy dilemma: live in a world of dreams and idealism or a world of gray areas and ugly compromises. If you work for W&H or the US government, can you keep your ideals, your integrity? Will you lose who you are, what your "purpose" is by letting the larger corporation/machine control your choices? I sense what this episode was trying to tell us is that there is no cut and dry answer or maybe that the answer is somewhere in the middle and something that Angel will keep struggling with for a while (Antigone, 2/12/04 10:08).
The Metaphysics of, Evil and Good in "Smile Time"
Draining the life-force: There's an "epidemic" among children in L.A. They are alive but unconscious, with macabre smiles on their faces. There seems to be no physical explanation for it. But there is a mystical one. A group of demons has taken over the children's television show, "Smile Time". During the show, one of the demons, in the form of a puppet, approaches the camera and tells a specific child to touch the television screen. When they do, the child is drained of their life force.
The life force of the children is stored in a repository called "the nest egg". The mercenary demons plan to sell this life-force--replete with its childhood innocence--to other demons. It is unclear whether it will it consumed like a drug or used by demons to disguise their own evil, or possibly both. After Angel and the gang begin to investigate the show, the signal strength of the television broadcast increases exponentially. Fred hypothesizes that the demons intend to go after their entire audience at once and then get out of town.
A cloaking spell carried in the television show's music is responsible for hiding the demon's on-screen activities from adults. As long adults hear the music, they see only normal activity on the screen. When Wesley mutes the sound, he notices a change--one of the puppets talking directly to the audience, although he can't hear what is being said.
Human puppets: The human employees of the studio where "Smile Time" is taped have been turned into mindless living zombies, from the camera men on down to the janitor. All except the creator of the show, Gregor Framkin. He still has his mind in tact, but he is powerless. The demons have turned him into a flesh-and-blood puppet with a hole in his back, unable to do anything except what his puppet masters guide him to do.
The puppet show: The mystical "nest egg" device is also responsible for maintaining the demon's puppet forms. When Angel goes to the studio after hours, he follows a throbbing rumble to its source in a hidden back room. On the wall is the "nest egg". The eggs cracks open and a light flashes. Angel looks into the light, then is thrown across the room. When he gets up, he has been transformed into a puppet version of himself.
Unanswered question: Why did the nest egg turn Angel into a puppet, but not the Gregor Framkin?
Because the Nest Egg was what the demons used to turn themselves into puppets as camouflage. Presumably it was set to work automatically in case any of them suffered disguise spell failure and needed a rapid recharge. When Angel went into the "don't room" it detected his demon part and enchanted him, but the puppeteer was human and wasn't affected (londonkds, 2004-06-05 1:55).
Breaking the nest egg: To defeat the demon's plans, the gang must break the binding magic on the nest egg. This will release the children's life forces, reverse the puppet transformation on Angel and the demons, and break the spells on the television signal and the studio employees.
While Angel and Gunn fight the puppets, Wesley and Fred go after the nest egg. Wesley incants:
Aperi, rumpe, solve, reveni
The nest egg starts to open.
Aperi, rumpe, solve, reveni. Refer quod furatum--
A puppet-demon attacks Wesley. Fred reads the the spell:
Aperi, rumpe, solve, reveni. Fractae, omnia vin--
Fred stops the spell and shoots the puppet. This allows Wesley to get the upper hand. He pulls out the puppet's horn, killing him. Meanwhile, Fred returns to the spell:
Omnia incantamenta fracta. Omnia incantamenta fracta. Aperi, rumpe, solve, reveni.
The egg explodes.
Moral Ambiguity in "Smile Time"
Self esteem is for everybody
Self-esteem is for everyone
You can dream of being anybody
But self-esteem is how you get it done.
Or if that doesn't work, you can just make a deal with a devil.
Gregor Framkin is the creator of Smile Time. A year ago, when the show's ratings hit an all-time low, Framkin made a deal with some demons to bring it back up to number one. But he didn't read (or more likely, understand) the small print on the contract, and now the demons have taken over the entire show. And him.
Gunn: For the last week, Gunn's legal knowledge has been fading. He still has his in-born smarts, but he can't do his job with his former level of competence. Gunn returns to Dr. Sparrow, the doctor who did his original "neural path modification" and demands to have the procedure re-done. The doctor tells Gunn that his insurance won't pay for the procedure. The Senior Partners gave it to him because they wanted him to have it, and if he's losing it, then they want that, too.
Gunn is determined not to lose what he had. The skills and knowledge have given his life new meaning. Dr. Sparrow offers him a deal. If he gives Gunn "the permanent upgrade", Gunn must help him retrieve an ancient "curio" being held up at Customs. At first, Gunn refuses. Then the doctor "reminds" Gunn of who he used to be: "The ignorant street muscle, the high school drop-out."
The next time we see him, lawyer-Gunn is back, and he's untangled the legal mystery behind Smile Time.
What was it Gwen said to him last season? "They've really done a number on you, making you think you're only muscle." ...He thinks it even more now than before. ..."I won't go back to being what I was.". "Flowers for Algernon" indeed. And the Senior Partners did that on purpose, I suppose, so that they could get exactly this outcome.
...Gwen once brought out the best in him, and it's not so different from what he is now: an intelligent diplomat who sees his way through tricky situations. What W&H gave him was the knowledge and perhaps some articulation. ...Some people were wondering if Gunn's brain alteration also changed his mind, like some kind of subtle mind control. It wasn't necessary. W&H nailed him perfectly (ljash, 2004-02-19 3:29).
Angel: Nina the werewolf is back for her monthly stay at Wolfram and Hart. And she isn't just motivated by her desire to keep the rest of L.A. safe from her claws and teeth. She has a crush on the firm's CEO, and it's got Angel in a panic. He fears the happiness clause, of course, but he also believes he's not "emotionally useful" enough to get--and keep--the girl.
Once Angel becomes a puppet, however, things change. Puppet Angel freely expresses his anger at Spike (something he's wanted another crack at since Destiny), and is ready to go after the bad guys with gusto. Wesley theorizes that the spell that turned Angel into a puppet might have also affected his ability to deal appropriately with stress. However, Angel is freer with his positive emotions as well:
Puppet!Angel actually seemed more free emotionally than Angel. He was able to give Fred (Fred's knees, actually) a big hug in gratitude, open up a little to Nina, and confess that he's trying to pay more attention to the people around him. He's always been embarrassed about being a vampire; becoming a puppet seemed to be the last straw in humiliation. He's finally able to overcome that emotion and ask Nina out. It's a big step for Angel. It doesn't matter that he's a puppet. What matters is what he thinks of himself, what he does with his life, and how he interacts with the people around him.
...It's the man who will do anything to make his tv show a success who becomes [the real] puppet (Arethusa, 2/19/04 12:30).
Fred went out with Knox a few times, but eventually decided that her employee has been working at Wolfram and Hart "too long". She's known about Wesley's interest in her for a while, but didn't do anything about it. But now, something has changed. She's looking at him in a different way. When Wesley fails to notice her new interest (after several "signals"), she kisses him.
The Metaphysics of and Good in "A Hole in the World"
The egg demons reproduce by vomiting up crystals that attract the microbes around them and mutate them to form eggs. The gang has found a nest of these eggs in a cave and destroy the hatchlings with flame-throwers, swords, and guns.
An ancient stone sarcophagus with a circular iris on top is delivered to Fred's lab. The sarcophagus is impenetrable to lasers and imaging beams. Fred is drawn to it, and touches one of its purple crystals. The iris opens and shoots a gust of air into Fred's face. Wesley's department has no information about the sarcophagus. Eve tells the gang that if it is not in Wolfram and Hart's records, then it has to have come from the time before humanity walked the Earth. She tells them they must seek answers at "the Deeper Well". With his source books, Wesley finds information on the Well and Old Ones.
The Deeper Well
"There's a hole in the world. Feels like we ought to have known." -Spike
The Deeper Well is a narrow tunnel that spans the entire diameter of the Earth, from Cotswolds in England at one end to New Zealand on the other. It is the burial ground for demons known as "the Old Ones". Its entire length is filled with coffins just like the sarcophagus delivered to Wolfram and Hart. The sarcophagus escaped this graveyard prison. Spike and Angel travel to England and find the entrance to the Well in the trunk of a tree. They fight off several fierce warrior guards and meet Drogyn, the primary keeper of the well for the last several decades. Drogyn is not fond of questions, because he is unable to lie.
The Old Ones: Before humans walked the Earth, our planet belonged to a group of pure demons known as "the Old Ones". The Old Ones were powerful, and fought amongst each other. Over time, non-demon species (including humans) appeared on Earth, and the Old Ones were driven into other dimensions. The corpses of the dead Old Ones that remained on Earth were interred in coffins and stored in the Deeper Well. A guardian was placed over them because the Old Ones don't always stay dead. Special magicks can bring them back to life.
Illyria was a monarch and warrior during the era of the Old Ones, both widely feared and widely loved. Its native form at the time was a huge, many-armed beast. Illyria was murdered by its rivals and buried in the Deeper Well. Illyria's sarcophagus disappeared from the Well a month before its arrival at Wolfram and Hart. Drogyn speculates that the sarcophagus' disappearance was part of an escape plan hatched by Illyria thousands of years in the past.
When Fred touched the sarcophagus, the demon's essence was freed. It entered Fred, and began to transform her from the inside out, melting her internal organs and hardening her skin like a shell. When this process ends, her body falls to the ground and begins convulsing. Then "Fred" rises to her feet. Her hair, eyes, and the edges of her face are vibrant blue. Illyria has returned.
Defeating Illyria: Drogyn explains that Illyria can be drawn back to Its resting place. All that is required is for a champion to bring the sarcophagus back from its present location to the Well. Illyria will follow. The catch? Illyria will fight the entire way back, trying to find refuge in every human It passes between Los Angeles and England. Hundreds of thousands of people will die.
The physical form of the Conduit to the Senior Partners has changed. When Angel met the Conduit in Season Three, it was a creature, Mesektet, who appeared as a little girl in red. Later, Gunn saw it as a panther. Now, it takes the form of Gunn himself. Gunn has come to the Conduit to make a deal to save Fred's life. But the Conduit isn't interested in Gunn's requests for favors. Nor is it willing to make a deal--Gunn's life for Fred's. The Conduit already has Gunn's life.
Feigenbaum, Master of Chaos
Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Quandaries in "A Hole in the World"
Knox: Fred has always been a little distrustful of her mild-mannered lab head, mostly because he was employed at Wolfram and Hart long before it was run by the good guys. Nevertheless, she gave him the benefit of the doubt and even dated him. But despite all Knox's protests to the contrary, he is an acolyte of evil. Specifically, one of the few followers of the ancient demon Illyria. Knox cares about Fred more than than any woman he's ever met. So much so that he believes she is worthy to be the vessel of Illyria. He has the sarcophagus of Illyria delivered to Fred so that her body will be taken over by the demon.
Fred is dying at the hands of an ancient violent demon. And though she fights to save herself--and the world--from this creature, Fred's body soon succumbs to Its demonic transformation. The responsibility for saving her then falls solely to her friends. But Fred's friends aren't the same kind of heroes they used to be. Being at Wolfram and Hart has changed them. Although their ends are still good, the means they use to achieve them have become considerably more morally ambiguous.
Gunn is desperate to find a way to help his former lover. He tries the Conduit, he tries the Wolfram and Hart healers, he even works with Knox to find a scientific solution. Then, when he discovers Knox played a part in Fred's possession, Gunn goes after Knox--violently. But Knox was not the only one who played a part in Illyria's return.
Los Angeles was the location of Illyria's ancient kingdom. When Illyria was freed from Its ancient prison, It was supposed to teleport to Los Angeles, but in the long millennia since its reign, the continents had drifted, and it ended up outside the continental United States. Its sarcophagus was then held up at Customs. Until Gunn helped get it out. Gunn is stunned by his role in endangering Fred. All he wanted from his legal abilities was the chance to do real, far-reaching good. But his desperate desire for this end lead him to choices that resulted in evil.
In anger, Gunn knocks Knox out with a metal canister. Then he stops, looks to see if anyone is around, and hits him again.
Lorne, the demon with a heart of gold, has usually never gone after one of the bad guys with anything more harmful than a high note. But when the gang finds Eve hiding among the protection runes in Lindsey's apartment, Lorne hits Eve to coerce her into singing for him.
After Wesley finds all that his books will reveal about Fred's condition, he spends the rest of his time at her side comforting her as she deteriorates. But until he put Angel and Spike on the right path, Wesley was anything but a comfort. When he discovered an employee that wasn't working on "Fred's case", he shot him in the leg.
Spike and Angel are both determined to save Fred. Spike, because Fred has become a friend to him. Angel because he is determined not to lose another friend the way he lost Cordelia. Last year, he was ready to kill Cordelia to prevent the evil inside her from entering the world. But he faltered, and Jasmine was born. Jasmine's birth put Cordelia in a coma from which she never recovered. Angel doesn't want the same thing happening to Fred. Angel has a way to draw Illyria out of Fred and bind the demon. All it requires is the probable sacrifice of a thousands. Knox believes Angel will let Fred die. Angel's choice
Gone: Fred isn't possessed, her spirit is gone. It was completely destroyed in Illyria's resurrection (at least according to Dr. Sparrow). The essence of the demon Illyria has taken over her body--what's left of it. All of Fred's internal organs, including her brain, have liquefied. Her body is nothing but a shell. Illyria is now "bound" to this shell, and could not return it to Fred' spirit even if it still existed.
Is Fred really gone? Jennifer A. Hudson on Illyria and Post-Modern Identity
A tribute to Fred
"Soul": This term has been used inconsistently on both BtVS and AtS. Typically, a Buffyverse "soul" is the same thing as the "conscience" or moral compass, which is only one aspect of the human psyche. Other times, the term is used to mean the entire psyche, including the consciousness, memories, and emotions, which together survive physical death (also called the "essence" or "spirit" of an individual). In "Shells", the latter meaning is intended (to avoid confusion, however, I will use the term "spirit").
It has been established that Time in the Buffyverse can proceed at different speeds. Illyria's ability to manipulate time seems to be a variation on this. When she uses that ability, she exists in a faster time frame than the rest of the world. She can walk at a normal pace and cross much greater distances than the gang, who are in the normal time frame. She uses this to escape Wolfram and Hart and evade Angel and the others when they attack her.
Objects in the faster time frame can appear blurred relative to the slower time frame, or even become completely invisible and insubstantial. Illyria used the manipulation of time frames to hide her temple, Vahla Ha'nesh, in the millennia after her death.
Wesley discovers Illyria's time-bending power when he finds a reference to "a series of conclusively timed intervals" in the glyphs on Illyria's sarcophagus. The crystal Wesley breaks off of the sarcophagus is, he hypothesizes, the "focal point" of the sarcophagus--an important source of Illyria's powers. This is why Angel is able to use the crystal to enter Illyria's time frame and stop her.
Illyria's temple Vahla Ha'nesh was located in the land that would one day become Los Angeles. It remains there to this day, hidden. Illyria and Knox go to the location of the temple, a building with a marble floor. Illyria raises her hand at the "gateway". The gate doesn't open. Knox explains that Wolfram and Hart have locked the entrance. Luckily, he has brought a "skeleton key"--a set of bones that he puts in piles on the floor. Illyria raises her hand. The gate starts to make noises. The bones disappear.
Illyria rushes towards the gate, hand out. The air ripples and the gate opens. Illyria enters. Wesley also jumps in before the gate closes. Illyria finds her temple is in ruins. Her army of doom that was entombed with her and that was supposed to join her are not there. It is unclear why they were unable to rise with her. It is possible they couldn't wake from the dead when the temple was opened because Wesley stole the crystal from Illyria's sarcophagus.
Everything Illyria knew is gone.
Wolf, Ram, and Hart: Illyria speaks of "The Wolf, Ram and Hart" as if they were a species of demon (or perhaps a few demon individuals) that were alive in the days of the Old Ones, when the human race was in its infancy. At the time, they were only a little stronger than the vampire (that is, pretty weak by demon standards). They are much stronger now.
Evil in "Shells"
Illyria: Long ago, the demon Illyria was feared and worshiped by demons on the Earthly plane. Now It is back, and has discovered that the planet has been overrun by lowly humans. Illyria is dismissive of the gang when they attempt to talk to her about Fred or stop her from proceeding with her plans. This monarch of the Old Ones wants to rid the Earthly plane of the human plague and once again rule over the demons. Illyria goes to her temple to revive her demon army.
Knox has worshiped Illyria since he was a boy, and as an adult, worked to bring the Old One back to life. When he succeeds, he becomes her Qwa'Ha Xahn, her priest, servant, and guide. He encourages her in her quest to wipe humanity from the face of the Earth. Is this betrayal of his own kind a play for power in the new regime?
Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Shells"
Reactions to grief
Lorne is feeling guilty because he wasn't able to read Knox properly, to discover he was malevolent. Lorne's powers haven't been working well for a while now (e.g., he was unable to read Framkin in Smile Time).
Angel: When humans die in the Buffyverse, they don't always stay dead. After Angel refuses to let thousands die to save Fred, he becomes determined to reunite Fred's spirit with her body. But Angel's plans are derailed--first, when Giles informs him that Willow is not available to help them and then when the gang discovers Fred's spirit has been destroyed. So Angel decides he must protect the rest of humanity from Illyria.
Gunn continues to try to find a way to save Fred, from torturing Knox for information to offering to give back his legal abilities in return for Fred's life. But it is too late. Gunn tells the gang that what happened to Fred could have been avoided if the sarcophagus hadn't cleared Customs, but doesn't tell them about his role in it. Then Wesley overhears Gunn talking about it with Dr. Sparrow, the doctor from Wolfram and Hart. Wesley condemns Gunn for not telling them about what he did while they still had a chance to save Fred. Later, Gunn admits to Harmony that he did whatever he had to to get his legal abilities back because he was weak. He wanted to "be somebody he wasn't". He wanted to belong. "I don't know where I fit," he says. "Never did."
Gunn and Cordelia made the same mistake. The unwillingness to give up an extraordinary supernatural skill, for fear of going back to being "ordinary," nobody special, in both cases led to their own destruction and that of others. It also goes back to Willow's fear in S6 (starting in S5--even earlier, really) that if she doesn't become a standout witch and use her magic, she'll have nothing to recommend her. The skill becomes the anchor for the person's identity, and a combination of hubris and fear makes them unable to give it up, or understand that keeping/using it may have disastrous consequences (Plin, 3:15 pm March 7th, 2005).
"I've been unreasonable, because I've lost all reason."
Wesley hasn't been exactly stable for a while now, but the loss of Fred has pushed him over the edge.
When Angel asks Wesley to help him stop Illyria, Wesley agrees. He is there when Illyria discovers her temple and followers are long dead. He is drawn to the confused and lost Old One in Fred's shell, and offers to be her guide in the human world.
Illyria may seem like a typical apocalyptic baddie, bent on the destruction of human civilization. But Illyria is sensitive to human emotion even before she has any regard for humans themselves. When she discovers that her kingdom--that all she knew--is gone, she is overwhelmed and lost. She realizes that she must find a way to live in the world as it is, and there is a human willing to help her--if she forgoes killing his kind. Illyria knows that Wesley's connection to her is based on the fact that she walks around in Fred's body and has fragments of her memory. Theirs is a relationship built on mutual confusion, mutual loss.
Spike: When Angel suggested that Spike leave Wolfram and Hart's Los Angeles office and become a rogue agent out in the world--anything to get Spike out of his hair--Spike was agreeable. He doesn't much like Angel, either. But after they work together to try to save Fred and stop Illyria, Spike decides to stay. He believes he is contributing to something important where he is. He believes a fight is coming that is going to be even bigger than the fight with Illyria, and he wants to help.
Philosophies Represented in "Shells"
The meaning of life
"We cling to what is gone. Is there anything in this life but grief?" --Illyria
Humans and demons--all living beings in fact--have had their share of suffering. And it is in the nature of sentient beings to ask why this happens, to ask if there is any higher meaning to our suffering. Some people see it as a test, something they must endure to prove their worth in this life, or to earn an existence beyond death where they will not suffer. Other people decide that there is no higher meaning to suffering; it just is.
One reality of life is that we cannot know for certain that there is any definitive answer to the question--Is there any meaning in suffering? All we can do in the here and now is try our best to avoid it or defeat it for ourselves and other people. And hope that we can fill our lives with joy and love.
The question that remains is, if life is nothing more than a short span of years in which we try to avoid suffering and find love, is that enough to make life worth living?
The Metaphysics of "Underneath"
Eve is a "child of the Senior Partners"--a being created by them to do their bidding. As their liaison, her job was to watch Angel, report what she saw to the Senior Partners, and pass messages back to Angel from the Partners. In exchange, she received many privileges, including immortality. Despite her origins, Eve cannot tell Angel much about the Partners themselves. Such information, if she has it at all, is locked in some inaccessible part of her mind.
Marcus Hamilton, Angel's new liaison to the Senior Partners, has super strength and durability. He presents Eve with a contract in which she agrees to relinquish her job and her immortality. She signs it.
The Wolfram and Hart holding dimension Lindsey is in may look like a suburban paradise, but it is a nightmare world where the same events occur moment by moment, day after day: Lindsey wakes up. He goes out to get the morning paper. He tutors his son in the geo-strata. His wife sends him down to the basement for a light bulb, and there a demon rips his heart out. Then it happens all over again. Angel, Spike, and Gunn take the company Camaro to find Lindsey. The car drives them through a dimensional portal that looks like a concrete tunnel. As in Pylea, the sun in Lindsey's prison-dimension does not harm vampires. The men enter Lindsey's house, but he does not remember them or his real life until the pendant around his neck is removed.
Lindsey's "family" (and the ice cream man) attack the men with machine guns, trying to stop them from escaping. Lindsey and the others run down into the basement looking for another portal known as "the Wrath". The basement is a torture chamber, the lair of a demon who torments whomever lives in the Senior Partner's suburban "penalty box". The Wrath is located in the furnace, but the door is bolted with a mystical lock. The only way the present resident of the house can escape through the Wrath is if someone else takes his place. Gunn dons the pendant Lindsey had worn. The Wrath opens. Gunn tells them that as soon as his memory is gone, the door will close. They must leave without him. Angel, Spike and Lindsey return to the Earthly plane.
Gunn is now trapped in the holding dimension, living the same events Lindsey did, with no memory of his real life.
Evil in "Underneath"
The Senior Partners
"[F]or us, there is no fight. Which is why winning doesn't enter into it. We go on no matter what. Our firm has always been here, in one form or another. The Inquisition. The Khmer Rouge. We were there when the very first cave man clubbed his neighbor. See, we're in the hearts and minds of every single living being. And that, friend, is what's making things so difficult for you. See, the world doesn't work in spite of evil, Angel. It works with us. It works because of us." -- Holland Manners
Wolfram and Hart's raison d'être is not, and never has always been, the evil of destruction ("apocalypse"). Their evil is the evil of corruption. They don't want the end of the world as we know it. They want to maintain the world indefinitely for the benefit of evil. Their job has been to defend and support those who gain from the exploitation and abuse of the innocent.
What Wolfram and Hart needed from the good guys most of all is their complacency.
For years, Angel and his friends were the thorn in their sides--one soul at a time, Angel, Doyle, Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn and Fred saved people from the monsters--human or otherwise--who preyed on them. And these heroes couldn't be harassed or frightened into stopping, nor corrupted by favors or appeals to their darker urges. The Senior Partners needed to dangle something more meaningful in front of their nemeses--the chance for Angel to undo past mistakes and save someone he loved, and the resources to make a real difference against evil.
And why shouldn't it be possible to change the system from within, to corrode and transform it--to "corrupt" evil for the benefit of good? But every move Angel and his friends have made against one source of evil has only been possible through compromise with another source of evil. They're breaking even at best. And all the while, the Senior Partners continue to run the rest of the firm under the old rules.
[Angel] must play a game of legal give-and-take with the forces of darkness...that's the big issue, because heroes don't do that. Look at you now, says Cordelia to Angel. Wolfram and Hart has him right where they want him, smack dab in the most morally ambiguous place he's ever been. He's been so consumed with the Senior Partners' plans for him that he's been distracted from the Senior Partners' plans for the people he's supposed to protect. People who fight evil, even those who once loved and trusted him, now see him as being on the other side. And maybe most importantly, he's now two men down from when they first came to Wolfram and Hart (three, if you count Cordy). Fred is gone. Gunn is gone. Wesley is anguished.... Lorne is teetering (BrianWilly, 4/16/04 14:53).
Moral Ambiguity in "Underneath"
Eve has betrayed her creators, and is hiding from them among the protection glyphs in Lindsey's apartment. But the Partners find her, probably by keeping tabs on the comings and goings of Angel and Spike. The glyphs on the walls fade and Eve is exposed. Eve begs Angel and Spike for protection, and offers to help them get information about the Senior Partner's plans. She tells them that her lover, Lindsey, is alive and imprisoned, and that he can tell them what they want to know if they help him escape. In the end, though, Spike's strength and Gunn's legal maneuvering cannot protect Eve from the Partner's new liaison.
Lindsey's motives are still uncertain, but one thing is clear--he's not playing on the Senior Partner's team. He has spent the years since he left Wolfram and Hart studying these mysterious powers--what they are, what they want. Enough so that the Senior Partners see Lindsey as a threat. But not one they can simply dispose of. They are keeping their former employee imprisoned until they have need of him for their own plans.
Lindsey: "The key to Wolfram and Hart: don't let them make you play their game. You gotta make them play yours."
Angel: "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." - Dead End
"You're playing for the bad guys. Every day you sit behind your desk and you learn a little more how to accept the world the way it is. But here's the rub. Heroes don't do that. Heroes don't accept the world the way it is. They fight it. ...The world keeps sliding towards entropy and degradation. And what do you do? You sit in your big chair, and you sign your checks, just like the Senior Partners planned. The war's here, Angel." --Lindsey, Underneath
|Angel is starting to regret his choice to come to Wolfram and Hart, and for good reason. His friends are dropping like flies, and he is not convinced that they would have come to Wolfram and Hart in the first place if it were not for him. And now Lindsey is telling him that he is exactly where the Senior Partners want him: distracted from the real evil in the world by his attempts to use Wolfram and Hart's resources to fight evil. It's not easy getting the "Champion" lecture he once gave to his wayward son from an enemy. Lindsey has reminded him of everything he's forgotten. Maybe there is a way to work within the system to change the system. But Angel hasn't found it yet. He's losing the fight, not winning it.|
If Wolfram and Hart's "apocalypse" is the never-ending corruption of the world, have they finally succeeded in getting the Vampire with a Soul to fight on their side?
Gunn: Angel tries to convince Gunn that his guilt over Fred's demise proves that he is a good man. He didn't intend what happened. But Gunn can't get past his remorse enough to resume his job at Wolfram and Hart. He gives Angel advice about how to protect Eve and rescue Lindsey, but when he leads Angel and the others to where Lindsey is being held, his hair and dapper suit are gone. He knows that Lindsey will not be freed from hell unless someone takes his place. Gunn stays behind to enable the others' escape.
I'm not entirely certain we can assign completely selfless motivations to Gunn's suburban hell switcheroo. ...[H]e sits awhile in Wolfram and Hart's penalty box, receiving what he must believe is an appropriate punishment for his sins. ...[But d]id Gunn do the best for all concerned in this case by pulling the switch with Lindsey? If he'd thought about the situation more carefully, couldn't he have found a way to get Lindsey out and NOT deprive Angel of his peerless legal knowledge? ...Gunn's need for penance is a key motivator here (16 Apr 2004 14:44). ...He doesn't want to be lawyer-guy anymore. Every time one of those obscure legal factoids floats through his brain, he probably wants to tear his head off. In switching with Lindsey, he gets to obliterate himself. But ...Charles' wish for self-negation is an indulgence Angel and the gang can't afford (cjl, 2004-04-16 10:47).
Wesley has accepted responsibility for the demon Illyria, but keeping an eye on her is torment. He tries to convince her to leave the Earthly plane so that he will no longer have to be in the company of a demon with Fred's face. But Illyria is trapped here. She fears if she goes anywhere else in her human shell, she will only be prey to demons who once worshiped her. Yet she cannot bear being here, either. Her kingdom and the world she knew is long gone; weak and mundane humans rule the Earth. She and Wesley are stuck with each other.