CONTENT WARNING: MENTIONS OF PEDOPHILIA, CHILD MURDER
In every generation, there is a chosen one. No, shit. Wrong show. What am I supposed to do, now? I guess I’ll just have to recap every episode Angel with an eye to the following themes:
- Angel is still a dick.
- Cordelia is smarter than everyone.
- Sex is still evil.
- Sunlight isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was in Sunnydale…
- …but its danger is certainly inconsistent.
- Vampire/demon rules aren’t consistent with the Buffyverse.
- Xenophobia and cultural stereotypes abound.
- Women are disposable and unrealistic.
- Vampires still @#$%ing breathe.
- Some of this stuff is still homophobic as fuck.
- Blondes, blondes everywhere
- A lot of this shit is really misogynistic.
The Big Damn Angel Damsel In Distress Counter: 7
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.
WARNING: Just like with the Buffy recaps, I’ve seen (most) of this series already, so I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So a blanket spoiler warning is in effect.
We open with the messy-haired blonde (#11) from the credit sequence running down an alley. A guy catches her and says a bunch of threatening stuff about her humiliating him or whatever. Just like, generic abusive man stuff. She tells him that someone is going to hear her scream, but he laughs it off because they’re in L.A. and nobody gives a shit about poor people.
Unintentional social commentary.
Anyway, Angel shows up and beats the guy, then rescues the poor, vulnerable blonde, who’d made a deal with Angel to get rid of the abuser. Then, we hear a familiar voice narrating the scene from above:
Spike: “[breathy, high pitched voice] How can I thank you, you mysterious black-clad hunk of a night thing? [cowboy voice] No need, little lady! Your tears of gratitude are enough for me. You see, I was once a badass vampire but love–and a pesky curse–defanged me. And now, I’m just a big, fluffy puppy with bad teeth. No, not the hair. Never the hair. [breathy, high pitched voice] But there must be some way I can show my appreciation. [cowboy voice] No, helpin’ those in need’s my job and working up a load of sexual tension and prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough. [breathy, high-pitched voice] I understand. I have a nephew who’s gay, so– [cowboy voice] Say no more! Evil’s still afoot, and I’m almost out of that nancy-boy hair gel I like so much. Quickly, to the Angel-mobile. Away!
Spike continues to monologue about the Gem of Amara (though he calls it the Ring of Amara) and how he’s going to kill Angel. He does this while smoking a cigarette so #12. Smoking is still evil, but I’m more concerned with the #10 on display up there. For some reason, the writers seem to believe that implying Angel is gay is the height of comedy. I don’t know why. There are two homophobic slurs in there, for god’s sake. This also ties into the uncomfortable woobification of Spike as both of these series go on; he has some extremely homophobic dialogue that everyone kind of goes, “Oh, that Spike!” and laughs off.
After the credits and a commercial from Turbotax that implies we’ll have to keep paying income tax for years after we die, we see Oz drive his van up to the building that houses Angel Investigations. Inside, Cordelia is psyched over the success of their first paying case:
Cordelia: “Everything is going according to plan! See girl in distress, see Angel save girl from druggie stalking boyfriend, see boyfriend go to jail and see…invoice!”
This line has inspired me to keep a running total of people who actually need Angel’s help. So far, it’s all been women, right? So, I’m adding the Big Damn Damsel In Distress Counter. Every time Angel rescues a woman, I’m going to add her. And maybe sometime I’ll get a chance to add him saving a man. I’m only counting Cordelia and Kate once a piece, but it’s worth noting that Cordelia is going to need saving over and over again.
Cordy can’t understand why Doyle isn’t as excited about their first invoice, and he points out that just printing it out and mailing it doesn’t guarantee payment. Cordelia doesn’t grasp the idea of someone not paying their bills, though, so she’s undeterred. You’d really think with that whole IRS thing that happened to her family, she’d be more cynical.
When Oz walks in, that really boosts Cordy’s mood. She calls him the embodiment of all things Sunnydale (which isn’t really that great a compliment) and tells him they have a lot of catching up to do, but she only asks him two questions before the conversation awkwardly fizzles.
Huh. I wonder why he didn’t tell her that Harmony is a vampire now.
Cordelia and Doyle take Oz down to Angel’s apartment, where Oz wastes no time getting to the point of his visit. He gives Angel the Gem of Amara and tells him that Buffy sent it. This really knocks Angel back, while Doyle is freaking out and insisting that Angel put it on. Doyle explains the ring’s powers–render a vampire completely impervious. Oz tells Angel about Spike’s quest for the ring and how Angel is supposed to keep it safe. And then Cordelia points out that Buffy didn’t send anything other than the ring. Not a letter or a message or anything. That bums Angel out pitifully.
Doyle: “Come on, I’ve got something that’ll boost your spirits! Why don’t you put it on, and I’ll stake you! It’ll be fun!”
Angel: “Maybe later.”
I like that he says “Maybe later,” and not “no.” It gives me hope that somewhere, buried deep within Angel, there’s still a dude who likes to party and do dumb shit and says “Hold my beer.”
Although in his human partying-and-doing-dumb-shit days it would probably have been, “Seize thou mine tankard of ale and steady it, for I stand upon the precipice of tomfoolery!”
Doyle says he’s going to go get a drink to celebrate Angel’s new toy, with or without him. And Oz and Cordelia go along. Because this is only episode three of this spin-off, so we need time to see Angel being Very Sad And Alone™. He goes down into the sewers, which look a lot like the Sunnydale sewers, and hides the ring in a crack between some bricks.
Not in his apartment.
Where are the weapons are.
And he is.
So he can watch over the ring.
He puts it.
In the sewer.
Between some bricks.
BUFFY COULD HAVE DONE THAT YOU DUMMY!
Seriously, she sent the ring to him to protect it, and he’s like, “Yeah, I’ll just chuck it in the sewer, the sewer full of vampires because we basically treat any underground tunnel like those weird hallways under downtown Houston.” Great thinking. I mean, do I think some vampire is going to check every brick in the sewer? No. But what if they have some magic bullshit to detect other magic bullshit? What if a thousand what-ifs, because this is a wild and free universe of paranormal woo?
Way to drop the fucking ball, dude.
The next morning, Doyle is hung over:
Cordelia: “I think the trick is laying off the ale before you start quoting Angela’s Ashes and weeping like a baby man.”
Doyle: “Hey, that’s a good book.”
Guys? In case you couldn’t tell yet, Doyle is Irish. Get it? He drinks a lot. He loves the most bleakly depressing memoir of Irish poverty ever penned. He’s about six seconds away from singing “Irish Republican Army” and passing a hat around for donations to the cause. I swear to Christ if he references “the troubles” I’m going to write a lot of hate mail I’ll need a time machine to send. Doyle is quickly sliding into the very embodiment of #7.
In Angel’s underground Tai Chi studio of sadness, he’s brooding and sweating and moving slowly when the phone rings. He picks it up and like, you know he’s hoping it’s Buffy, right? But it’s the girl from before the credits. Her abusive ex has been let out of jail “on a technicality,” and she’s frightened. Angel tells her he’ll be right there.
Angel arrives to help her, only to be sucker-hit-in-the-face with a pipe. Spike tells him to give up the Gem Of Amara, but obviously, Angel responds by throwing him into a car. Spike mocks Angel for being a vampire detective:
Spike: “What’s next? Vampire cowboy? Vampire fireman? Vampire ballerina?”
First of all, “ha ha, you’re like a girl” is a #10 as well as #13: A lot of shit is really misogynistic. It not only equates being “girly” as something horrible a man should avoid but it also falls in line with Spike’s whole “gay men are like girls” brand of homophobic insult.
They have this big fight scene, both of them talking tough about who is and isn’t going to steal/protect the gem, and Cordelia and Doyle show up.
Spike: “Cordelia? You look smashing! Did you lose weight?”
Cordelia: “Yes. You know, there’s this great gym on…hey!”
This is a thing I love about Buffyverse creatures. They’re evil and hell-bent on world domination, but they still interact on a human level.
Angel tells Cordelia that she needs to go hide out at Doyle’s apartment because Spike will be back and now he knows to look for her. She’s like, why can’t I go home, and Angel is like, trust me, you have to stay with Doyle because you’ll be safer.
Than you would be with me.
In my underground bunker.
Where I have all these weapons.
And a ring that makes me literally invincible.
GODDAMNIT ANGEL WE HAVE BEEN OVER THIS.
Angel tells them that his plan is to find Spike before Spike can get the jump on him again. During daylight hours, Doyle helps by calling around to all of his weird paranormal connections while Cordelia wanders around, refusing to sit or put her purse down due to the filth of the place.
Cordelia: “I mean, how can you live like this?”
Doyle: “Well, I didn’t until last week. Then I saw what you did with your place, and I just had to call my decorator.”
Cordelia: “No way, my apartment is nowhere near this yucky!”
I swear to god Doyle’s apartment is just Cordelia’s apartment shot from different angles.
Here’s a place where Angel doesn’t live up to Buffy: set design. I realize that the show is set in a major city, but a lot of action is taking place in very generic locations that could have been pulled from any show on television at the time. Contrast Angel Investigations with the Sunnydale High library. Or the bunker from Supernatural. Or the dormitory in The Magicians. You get a sense of location from the individuality of the designs there. On Angel, any scene could be happening anywhere once you leave Angel’s lonely basement. All of the other locations, from bars to streets to apartments look exactly the same.
Huh. That’s probably why there aren’t as many screencaps in the Angel recaps as in the Buffy ones.
Doyle gets a call, but it’s about money he owes someone. He asks Cordelia about how bad Spike is and she tries to downplay it. He sees through her nonchalance. They know they’re boned.
In broad daylight at another, less generic aparment––this one has a kitchen pass through!––Heather, the blonde from before rejects Angel’s suggestion that she stay at a shelter for her own safety. She says she’s craving her abusive exboyfriend the way people crave “rock” and the way the line is written and delivered is so cringey and unnatural that you know the people who wrote it were like, “No, this sounds way more gritty and urban than just saying ‘crack’.” Angel warns her that if she gets back together with the dude, she’s going to end up dead.
Angel: “It’s either go for the easy fix and wait for the consequences, or take the hard road and go with faith.”
He clarifies that he’s not a Jesus person, he means faith in herself.
I’m shocked at how sensitively the scene plays out when contrasted to the way Buffy treats domestic violence. On Buffy, a girl being hit by her boyfriend was depicted as stupid for not leaving. On Angel, a girl being hit by her boyfriend is given gentle encouragement. Way to evolve, Buffyverse.
Back at Doyle’s apartment, Cordelia is giving him a rundown on how terrible Spike is when Angel calls. Doyle has to answer pretending to be a pie restaurant since he owed all his contacts money and has to hide out now. He tells Angel about a lead he got:
Doyle: “Yeah, well, listen, Manny The Pig said he didn’t know aything about a vampire called Spike.”
Doyle: “Yeah, well, he said that before I mentioned anything about Spike.”
Through this entire conversation, Angel is trying on a bad-ass forearm mounted retractable wrist knife thing that, you know, would be great for self-defense if you were trying to protect, IDK, a ring? A human employee? I suppose you could also put them in a totally unmonitored sewer tunnel and an apartment with absolutely no security.
Also, we never see him use this handy weapon in any of the shit that goes on henceforth.
Doyle sends Angel to a dive bar called The Orbit Room. This is my favorite thing ever because when I lived in Grand Rapids, there was a bar there called The Orbit Room and Rob Zombie or GWAR always seemed to always be playing there. So, I guess demons at The Orbit Room are plausible, right? Anyway, Angel goes down to the bar and GWAR is not there, which is unfortunate because that would be a hell of a crossover. What ends up happening is that Angel just tosses a few dudes around and Manny The Pig is like, no, I can’t tell you anything or he’ll kill me and then immediately folds at Angel’s first threat.
Note to demons: Manny The Pig’s snitch switch is more like a hair-trigger.
Angel finds Spike in the alley, feeding on some blonde woman (#11). He lets her go and runs away, and Angel tells her to run, so ding, add one to the damsel counter. My favorite part of this scene is that she turns to run away and Angel stops her to hold onto her shoulders and growl, “Run.” Dude. She was running. You just held her up.
Angel chases Spike into an alley that dead-ends in a chainlink fence. While Angel talks tough, a dude comes up behind him and wraps a chain around his throat. I feel like Angel has completely forgotten who Spike is. Spike has never been the guy who gets his hands dirty. We’ve always seen him surrounded by henchmen. If he doesn’t have henchmen, he deputizes whoever is handy. He even got Angel and Buffy to work with him in “Lovers Walk.” Spike is never alone. Surrounding himself with other people is one of his survival tactics.
Anyway, the guy with the chain chokes Angel. You know. The vampire. Who doesn’t breathe? (#9)
Back at Doyle’s house, we’re running into yet another time issue. When Doyle told Angel about Manny The Pig, it was daytime at Doyle’s apartment. The scene with Spike takes place at night. Now, Doyle and Cordelia are sitting by the phone, during the day, in the same clothes they were wearing in the scene before. This is either a continuity error or a characterization error, because no matter how dire the predicament, Cordelia is going to have changed her clothes. She’s not that different from how she was in Sunnydale.
Cordelia is worried that something might have gone wrong since it’s taking Angel so long to get back to them, but Doyle says Angel is probably out enjoying the sun and surf with his new ring. The fact that he has the ring is what reassures him. After all, he’s invincible when he’s wearing it.
So…it probably would have been a good idea for him to have worn it, huh?
If he’d been wearing it, the henchman couldn’t have choked him unconscious. Oh, yeah. That happened. Angel, a vampire, was strangled into unconsciousness and only wakes up at the beginning of this particular scene. So, uh. Yeah. That was a #9 above.
Spike brags about how neat his torture guy is. The guy, Marcus, isn’t just an expert torturer. He’s also a pedophile, something Spike seems particularly enthused about. Remember that when Buffy entrusts her teen sister to Spike for safekeeping in season five of Buffy.
Marcus opens Angel’s shirt to marvel at his abs or something and says:
Marcus: “Over two hundred years of living and so little external damage.”
Yeah. That’s called…being a vampire. They heal from shit. We’ve explicitly seen this happen on Buffy. You know, the show this one is spun-off from?
I know we’re only three episodes in but I feel like this show forgets that its main character is a fucking vampire. Did the writers not watch any Buffy at all? Did no one brief anyone involved in any part of this production on what vampires are or do? I mean, you’ve got this torture scene taking place in a warehouse lit by a giant, sunny window:
I mean, come on. Yeah, it’s visually interesting and gives them the opportunity to do a cool lighting effect, but these are vampires. Why on earth would they pick this particular location? Not just because of the window letting daylight in, but because do you really want someone to stroll on past and look inside and see all of your torture business? This isn’t amateur hour! Spike just led a successful excavation of a Sunnydale cemetery right under the Slayer’s nose! He hides underground! He hides in abandoned, windowless factories! Spike knows what he’s doing until he gets to L.A. and apparently becomes a total n00b.
Marcus the torturer isn’t just interested in physical pain. He examines Angel’s heart and sees that he’s been in love. He also sees that Angel has a soul, which means he has something to lose. Still, it’s not the psychological aspect Spike is interested in, so Marcus gets to work impaling Angel with red-hot pokers while Mozart plays on a suitcase record player in the background.
Torture apparently brings Angel clarity about his own damn show, because he has this exchange with Spike:
Angel: “You hired a vampire. What do you think he’s going to do with the ring when he finds it, huh? Hand it over to you?”
Spike: “Good lord, why didn’t I think of––oh, half a mo, I did! I hired a guy who doesn’t care about the ring or anything else on God’s green earth except taking blokes apart one piece at a time. It’s called addiction, Angel. We all have them.”
Right, and your guy’s addiction is molesting kids…and those are generally out in the daytime…so having a ring that lets him go out would be helpful, right? Even Marcus is listening to this whole schpiel like, “Can you believe how dumb this guy is?”
There’s no reason that Spike needs to tell any of his henchmen the entire plan in the first place. Come on, man.
Spike taunts Angel about how Buffy got her heart broken by the asshole she slept with at college and calls her Slutty The Vampire Slayer (#13). On the one hand, I’m glad Buffy is out of her toxic relationship with Angel. On the other hand, I’m pissed that Buffy going on with her life after Angel intentionally removed himself from it is being mined for his Man Pain.
Leaving Angel in Marcus’s questionably competent hands, Spike heads to Angel’s apartment and starts ransacking the place looking for the ring. Despite having all sorts of sharp tools and scary, carving up people stuff, Marcus decides to take a gun and start shooting holes in the ceiling to let in beams of sunlight around Angel while monologuing about liking the innocence of children.
So, like, your torture plan is to make it impossible to get near your victims without hurting yourself in the process? That’s fucking brilliant, Marcus.
While Spike is still tossing Angel’s apartment, he runs into an obstacle.
Cordelia: “When you’re through giving the place the full Johnny-Depp-over, I hope you have the cash to pay for all of this.”
Spike warns her that she’ll be dead before she can shoot, but Doyle cautions Spike that there’s more to him than meets the eye. So, if Demon!Doyle can take on a vampire, why hasn’t he been doing that all along? Anyway, Spike tells them that Angel dies at sundown if they don’t bring him the ring.
Are you guys ready for another continuity error? Because I for sure am!
Here’s Marcus in front of Angel, lovingly stroking his torture implements that he never uses anyway:
And then, after a shot of Angel’s feet scrabbling for a broken piece of wood Spike dropped in front of him earlier, we see Marcus again:
And he’s just turned around from his tools, in front of Angel.
The editing on this show so far has been…not the best.
Angel manages to get ahold of a rudimentary stake, holding it between his feet. Marcus doesn’t notice. And we’re apparently supposed to not notice when Marcus pulls out one of the pokers impaling Angel’s shoulder without putting a hole in the shirt it’s gone through, but whatever. Like I said, editing. When Marcus gets close enough, Angel swings his legs up to drive the stake through his heart. Unfortunately, Spike has picked that moment to turn up and he stops him. Then Spike steps in and decides to take the torture into his own hands, and we cut to the outside of the building while Angel screams.
At Angel’s apartment, Cordelia and Doyle have almost given up on their search for the ring when they remember how much Angel likes going into sewers. They head down and start looking around.
Cordelia: “Okay, this is not a needle in a haystack. This is a needle in Kansas.”
While she walks ahead of him, Doyle surreptitiously shifts into his demon form and sniffs around. This leads him to the broken brick where Angel hid the ring. They go to meet Spike in the broad god damn daylight. They demand to be taken to Angel before they’ll hand over the ring. He complies, and they throw the ring into the warehouse, telling him to fetch it. Then they tell him to let Angel go, and he asks if they really thought that was how the whole thing was going to go down. But our heroes had a plan, and that plan was Oz crashing his van into the warehouse. Doyle and Cordelia get Angel loose from his shackles. They load him into the van and drive off, leaving Spike to look for the ring, which is no longer there.
Guess who has it?
Marcus. The henchman Spike was so sure had no interest in the ring, despite being a pedophilic murderer who just needed the ring to allow him easier access to his targets.
After the commercial break, Spike is pissed. He wrecks up Marcus’s shit, monologuing to no one:
Spike: “Son of a bitch! I do the work. I do the digging. Fight off a Slayer, drive to L.A., hire the help, and what do I get? Royally screwed, is what! Well, that cinches it. No more partners. From now on, I’m my own man. Lone wolf. Sole survivor. Yeah. Look out! Here comes Spike! The biggest, baddest mother––”
Then he wanders into a sunbeam from one of Marcus’s bullet holes and sets himself on fire.
Meanwhile, Marcus is strolling around a beach boardwalk, enjoying the sun and the playful shrieks of children. Cordelia, Doyle, and Oz are trying to figure out how to save Angel, since a hospital is right out.
He’s a vampire.
Am I the only one, out of all the characters, all the writers, the people who actually made the damn show, who remembers that?
I’m also apparently the only person who remembered that the fireplace poker through his shoulder was on the left side, but the hole in his shirt is now on the right. This is like reading a really good book with every other word misspelled.
Angel tells them to turn around because a vampire pedophile is not going to just stroll around preying on kids on his watch, daylight be damned. Marcus is approaching a group of scouts when Oz roars up the pier in his van. He hits Marcus, sending him flying through the air, and Cordelia jumps out to tell the kids to run. Oz shoots Marcus with a crossbow, which, you know, I thought it was pretty clear that he’s invincible, so it doesn’t even slow him down. Doyle runs up on Marcus and throws a punch, but again, invincible, all-strength-no-weakness vampire, so Doyle gets knocked the fuck down. That’s when Oz throws open the side door and Angel leaps out, into the full sunlight. His super obvious stunt double coated full-body in super obvious gel runs, on fire, at Marcus and tackles him off the pier and into the sea. They emerge in the shade of the pier and fight it out. He pushes Marcus onto a jagged piece of wood, immobilizing him long enough to get the ring off his finger. Impaled through the heart and with no ring to protect him, Marcus dissolves into ash. Angel puts the ring on and emerges into the sunlight, where he walks in wonder along the beach where despite the van that just sped through a pedestrian area just feet from them, resulting in a flaming dude tackling another dude from the pier under which they then have a fist fight until one of them dies, again only feet from them, humans are peacefully going about their business.
Look, I get that California is a laid back kind of place. But…that laid back?
Even more bizarre is the fact that Cordelia, Doyle, and Oz just stand there and look on as Angel basks in the sunlight for the first time in centuries. I get it, it’s a really cool moment, but to all the people on the pier, it looks like Oz just attempted vehicular homicide. And the van is still parked up there. Presumably, someone has called the cops and taken down the license plate number. Maybe it’s time to haul ass out of there and like, lay low for a while?
Anyway, later on, Angel and Doyle stand on the roof in front of a beautiful blue-screen sunset and discuss what’s going to happen with the ring.
Angel: “I’ve thought of it from every angle. What I figure is, I did a lot of damage in my day. More than you can imagine.”
Doyle: “So what, you don’t get the ring because your period of self-flagelation isn’t over yet? I mean, think of all the daytime people you could help between nine and five!”
Angel: “They have help. The whole world is designed for them. So much that they have no idea what goes on around them after dark. They don’t see the weak ones lost in the night or the things that prey on them. And if I join them, maybe I’d stop seeing, too.”
That’s poetic and everything, but like. Maybe if you feel that strongly about it, just don’t go out in the daylight. Plus, this is the third episode and there have already been numerous times that you’ve had to go somewhere during daylight hours. The ring would probably make that more convenient.
The Gem Of Amara is one of those plot devices that can either strengthen or weaken a story and for some reason, the writers of Angel chose to weaken it. I get it. It’s hard to write conflict for an all-powerful hero. He would automatically win every fight. There would never be a sense of danger. That’s why there has to be a damn good reason for the hero to refuse invincibility. “I might forget that monsters exist” is not a good reason when the hero is a monster himself. A better reason would have been something like a history of The Gem Of Amara making its bearer go power mad, like Tolkien’s One Ring. If Angel has this ring but knows it comes with the risk of possibly losing his soul and becoming evil again, that’s a reasonable motivation for not using it. That’s something an audience has no choice but to accept, especially if the hero has been evil in the past. Then we’ve got a weapon that’s powerful enough to seemingly solve all the hero’s problems but that can’t be used without irreparably damaging the hero and making him the problem, himself.
A great example of a character faced with this dilemma is Simon from Adventure Time. During the Mushroom War, Simon had to make the choice to use his all-powerful crown to protect Marceline. In making that choice, he erased himself entirely and became the Ice King. Simon ceased to exist within him because of the ultimate power the crown gave him. It makes him a villain, but a tragic villain. If Angel were faced with the same choice, it would be understandable that he would reject it because he already knows what it means to be evil.
As the sun sets, Angel takes off the ring and smashes the gem, destroying its power. As they walk inside, Angel says that with a little more torture, he would have given up everything from the ring to Doyle’s mom. Then he asks Doyle how his mother is…DUN DUN DUUUUUHN foreshadowing and the episode is over.
This was just a really weak episode, you guys, for all the reasons mentioned above. And the effects are bad even by early ’00s standards. I feel like a lot of problems in this first season come from outright laziness. “This show is spun off from a massively successful cult hit, so we don’t have to try.” Maybe it’s unfair of me to feel that way, but Angel never seems to get the attention to detail and story that other Whedon shows do. It feels like it was just assumed that it would be a hit no matter how much work went into it.
At least Spike learns his lesson about henchmen.