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The Big Damn Angel Rewatch S01E04 “I Fall To Pieces”

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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:

  1. Angel is still a dick.
  2. Cordelia is smarter than everyone.
  3. Sex is still evil.
  4. Sunlight isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was in Sunnydale…
  5. …but its danger is certainly inconsistent.
  6. Vampire/demon rules aren’t consistent with the Buffyverse.
  7. Xenophobia and cultural stereotypes abound.
  8. Women are disposable and unrealistic.
  9. Vampires still @#$%ing breathe.
  10. Some of this stuff is still homophobic as fuck.
  11. Blondes, blondes everywhere
  12. Smoking is still evil.
  13. A lot of this shit is really misogynistic.
  14. Some of this stuff is ableist as fuck.

The Big Damn Angel Damsel In Distress Counter: 8

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.

CW: There’s a suicide joke. It’s pretty dumb and throwaway, so if that kind of thing bothers you, heads up.

NOTE: I hate doing this, but if you appreciate the recap, think about tossing a little money my way via the Kofi link on the right of the page if you can We’re in a little bit of a (temporary) bind due to unforeseen bullshit. No pressure.

The sun rises over Angel Investigations, where Cordelia is ranting about the bills that are due and Doyle is casually sexually harassing her. He tells her she doesn’t look like she’s missing anything and calls her princess. Then she talks about needing a raise and this conversation ensues.

Cordelia: “A person needs… certain… designer things.”

Doyle: “Personally, I don’t think you need much in the way of clothes. But you are right and I do agree; Angel needs to start charging. He just hates bringing up the finances with the clients. He likes playing the hero. Walking off into the dark, his long coat flowing behind him in a mysterious and attractive way––”

Cordelia: “Is this a private moment? Because I can leave you alone.”

Ha ha. Doyle sounds like he thinks…an attractive man is attractive. It’s funny because that would be gay. #10 and holy shit, how do straight men make being straight seem so fucking exhausting? I don’t know if David Greenwalt is straight, but we know Joss Whedon is and they wrote this episode together. There is so damn much “No Homo!” in Angel and Buffy The Vampire Slayer overall, but it seems like the Joss-insert characters are extremely, extremely No Homo. And coupled with the relentless #13 when we’re literally only forty seconds into the episode?

We get it, Joss. You’re a big ole macho manly manly man man.

Anyway, Doyle is quick to disavow his attraction to Angel, stating that he’s talking about the persona Angel projects, which is a persona that doesn’t include asking for recompense for good deeds. They both decide they’re going to stand up to Angel when he gets to the office. He comes in, complains about the coffee (which he apparently needs to function, so it’s good to know that when I finally get turned into a vampire, I’ll still have a reason to drink coffee), and immediately says no to asking people for money when they’re in trouble.

So, I kind of agree with him and also I kind of don’t. I get not asking people in trouble for money, especially when he knows it’s his cosmic calling or whatever. But…he lived in a mansion in Sunnydale. He has a ton of random weapons and artifacts. He has a classic car. Plus, he’s lived for a long time and he’s pretty much been rich the whole time he’s been a vampire. He’s had nothing but time to save money and money has never seemed to be a problem for him. I mean, we’ve seen him buying blood on the sly, we’ve seen his big ass house full of amazing stuff…so why is he relying on Angel Investigations to pay his employees a fair wage? If his principles are going to prevent him from making money, he needs to make personal sacrifices to compensate Cordelia and Doyle for their work. Or else #1.

At the very least, his principles need to not make him unable to invest in a high-yield savings account specifically for these types of reasons.

We’re at almost seven hundred words in this recap and two minutes of screen time. You might wanna brew some coffee of your own.

Anyway, Doyle gets a vision of a woman working in an office building. Melissa Burns, who works for a paper company. Congratulations, Melissa, you are number eight on the Big Damn Angel Damsel In Distress Counter.

After the credits, a woman in an office is complaining about the birthday cake she ordered. It’s supposed to say “Penny” but instead, it says “Benji.” She decides she’s going to fix this cake…

…which she is feeding to the entire office and the birthday person…


Now, I’m not criticizing the show or the writing or anything. I’m just issuing a blanket statement in case anyone decides to get me a birthday cake and the writing on it is wrong.

It’s okay if my name is misspelled.


Anyway, they light candles and present the cake to their coworker who makes a wry comment about how great it is that her co-workers remembered her birthday and almost her name. The cake-spitter receives a huge bouquet of flowers with a note that says, “My Undying Love, Ronald.” And it freaks her out. She asks her co-workers to watch her phone and goes to the bathroom, where she takes a handful of pills. Then she heads to the parking garage alone, where Angel is lurking in the shadows. And like, I get that he’s a vampire and all, but maybe lurking in the dark and approaching lone women with a line about needing your protection isn’t going to inspire much confidence. Melissa takes his card but tells him she can’t afford private security, then quickly gets into her car and drives away.

Back at Angel Investigations, Angel can’t figure out why his approach didn’t work.

Angel: “I scared her.”

Doyle: “Sounds to me like she was scared to begin with.”

Angel: “Am I intimidating? I mean, do I put people off?”

Cordelia tells him to consider a new sartorial approach. Because…the black clothing is what’s putting women off?

You wanna know how I can tell that this episode was written by men who probably didn’t listen to the women who told them Cordelia would know that the clothes aren’t the issue?

You can probably get to that answer on your own, so I won’t waste your time.

Angel asks Cordelia to approach Melissa, and Cordelia is like, yeah when I’m getting paid to do so, I totally will. Angel says they need to be involved in this woman’s life right away and that it isn’t about money. Doyle agrees, but frames the money issue differently. The way he sees it, if Angel does stuff out of the goodness of his heart, people are going to feel indebted to him. If they pay him for his service, they can easily walk away when the service is completed. To which Cordelia responds:

Cordelia: “You’re a lot smarter than you look. Of course, you look like a r—–.”

We’re gonna add a new number here because while I don’t remember liberal dropping of the r-word in this series, I do remember a lot of ableism. So, #14: Some of this stuff is ableist as fuck.

At the ATM the next day, Melissa is surprised to get a message saying her PIN number is invalid. A man in a suit steps up from out of nowhere and tells her he’s changed her PIN number to the day they met. It’s Ronald, the stalker who sent her the flowers. She tells him to stop bothering her, but he says he’s just looking out for her. Like when she’s in the bathroom taking pills, for example. He asks her about the supplement he prescribed her since it’s clear the anti-anxiety meds she’s taking aren’t working.

Melissa: “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Ronald: “How can two people in love leave each other alone?”

Melissa: “In love? Ronald, we had one date!”

So, maybe this is directly contributing to Melissa not wanting to talk to weird dudes in parking garages. Ronald tells her that he’ll see her later that night and tries to kiss her. Cut to Cordelia answering the phone.

At the office, Melissa tells Angel, Doyle, and Cordelia about Ronald. They met when she was his patient and he treated an infected nerve behind her eye, saving her sight. She didn’t want to go on a date with him, but she felt obligated. Seven months later, he’s in full-blown stalker mode, demanding she marry him and constantly following her around. She mentions that she can feel him around her and that he can see things that happen to her when she’s alone.

Like, I know that the police are notoriously bad about dealing with stalkers, but I kind of feel like there should at least be some mention of a PPO or bungled police involvement here, considering how blatant this dude is about his stalking. This is merely from a storytelling perspective; I, Jenny Trout, viewer, know that in the real world, it’s entirely likely that this guy could easily dupe the law into believing that he’s not a danger, he’s an upstanding neurosurgeon who just wouldn’t even have time or interest in stalking a patient. However, Angel isn’t set in the real world, it’s set in its own world and we need detail to suspend disbelief––and to clue in people who fully believe that a simple call to the police will solve every problem. Angel Investigations helps the hopeless, right? So, we need to see why these people who are utilizing their services have reached hopelessness, even if that answer is often, “the system sucks.” Because the system does, indeed, suck, and that’s the theme of like, the whole entire show.

Angel says he knows Melissa needed help because he has a friend in the police department. So, right there would be a perfect opportunity to note the holes in the safety net, right? “If they know about it, why won’t they do anything?”

Anyway, Doyle takes her home (after Cordelia not-so-subtly broaches the topic of payment), and Angel and Cordy get on trying to figure out Doctor Ronald, Medicine Stalker’s deal. Angel theorizes that maybe he’s got a ghost or some kind of invisibility power, while Cordelia suggests it’s a hidden camera of some kind.

The first time I watched this episode, I thought figured it out the moment Melissa said that Ronald operated on her eye.

Here’s another thing that’s kind of clunky. Cordelia says that not everything has to have a supernatural explanation, but Angel reminds her that Doyle had a vision about it and therefore it probably is supernatural. I feel like a show that’s about supernatural crimes shouldn’t have to explain that it’s about supernatural crimes? Like, why was this an important detail to give viewers of a show about vampires, but not a detail like, “The police won’t do anything?”

Melissa goes home to her apartment alone, which kind of makes me wonder why Doyle didn’t stay with her. I mean, Ronald said he’d see her that night. Wouldn’t it be easier and safer to leave someone posted?

So, remember how I said that the first time I saw this episode, I thought I had it figured out? I was like, “Oh ho, it’s so obvious that this ghoul is looking through the optic nerve he enchanted during the surgery or whatever. He’s seeing through her eyes!”

And then we get this shot, interspersed with Melissa undressing:

Ronald's eye appears to be just an empty, glowing red hole.

And I was like, “Fuck yeah, I knew I was right! I’m always right! I am a god among men!”

But then.

Ugh, this is the worst.

Ronald's actual, physical eye is floating the air in Melissa's bedroom.
Are you kidding right now?

No, Ronald isn’t seeing Melissa’s day through her eyes. He’s sending his actual, physical eyeball floating into her apartment where she doesn’t notice it.

I don’t care who you are, how busy or distracted you may be: if you can see, you will spot a floating god damn eyeball. It’s too obvious. Too jarring. Our brains are not going to drift over an actual, physically present floating eyeball and miss it. Maybe once or twice. But not over and over and over again. This has been going on for seven months. Eventually, you’re going to notice the damn eye!

Angel goes to the police station in the middle of the bright sunny day to try and get Kate’s help. He tells Kate about Melissa, and Kate suggests Melissa may have already reported her stalker. So, we’re getting closer to a reason why nobody has done anything about this super awful guy.

Doyle goes with Melissa to her job and just intends to follow her around all day. And her boss is cool with it, I guess? Doyle tells Melissa that she doesn’t have anything to worry about, Angel has done this a lot.

Doyle: “There’s been, uh, four? And three of them are very much alive.”

And Melissa’s face goes like this:

Melissa's eyes are super wide in horror.

To change the subject, Doyle points out the picture of Melissa bungee jumping. He tells her he didn’t see her as a bungee jumping kind of person and she’s like, well, funny thing about being terrified twenty-four seven in your own home. You don’t feel the need to go out and take needless risks anymore.

I mean, she doesn’t say that, but the way the actress delivers the line, that’s what she says.

So, how does Doyle reassure her?

Doyle: “Don’t you worry. When Angel’s finished with this case, I guarantee you’ll be wanting to jump off a bridge again.”

Good job.

The suicide joke…eh. Like, it’s not all that funny, but also I have a dark sense of humor so it’s possible I’m only looking at the failure of the humor element and not finding it that offensive in another regard? I don’t know where the line is on this so…I don’t know. What do you think? Is this joke inappropriate? No big deal? Hash it out in the comments. I’ve got no strong arguments either way.

Anyway, back at Kate’s desk, Kate tells Angel the bad news. Melissa did report Ronald, but his lawyers are sleazebags:

Kate: “His lawyers. Wolfram and Hart. You know the name?”

Angel: “I’ve heard it.”

Kate: “Yeah. They’re the law firm that Johnny Cochran is too ethical to join.”


And like, I don’t mean the joke dated itself as the show aged. I mean, the joke was dated when it aired. This aired like eight years after the O.J. trial. Get it together, Kate.

Ronald not only denied everything, but he turned it around on Melissa, said she was stalking him, and got a restraining order against her! See, this is what I’m talking about! These are the details I wanted earlier in the episode! Maybe not that in-depth, but even just, “What did the police say?” “They don’t believe me. And he has lawyers.” That’s enough for viewer!Jenny to feel like the writers have got the bases of reality covered.

Kate says she can spare an officer to sit outside Melissa’s house that night, but it’s not going to be a long-term solution. Kate makes a little speech about how it doesn’t matter if Ronald goes to jail because as long as Melissa is scared, he wins. Melissa has to be strong and Ronald took her power away and nobody can get it back for her but her, etc. Which I guess would be inspirational if it wasn’t coming from a public servant who’s supposed to help her get that power back? It’s a very Lifetime Original Movie monologue but like…Kate. You’re the police. You can’t just shrug and be like, “Well, it’s all up to her.” You’re the people who deal with this. So maybe, “Oh, even if he goes to jail it’s not going to make a difference,” isn’t a great tactic. It’s like if you said, “Well, even if we catch this murderer, the victim will still be dead, so what’s the point?”

So, Angel goes to Ronald’s office to check things out. The dude has a framed picture of Melissa on his desk. And Melissa is weirdly wearing the exact same outfit from the previous scene:

Melissa is wearing a blue cardigan/sweater combo that she's wearing in the scene she's in right before this.

Like, if it’s not the same outfit/different lighting, then at the very least the costumer for the show went to Dress Barn one day and these were on sale and she got one in every color.

Angel finds a book on a shelf called “Anything’s Possible”, a New Age-looking self-help book signed by the author with “Thanks for having the “nerve” to believe.” This is what he’s looking at when Ronald comes in and demands to know what Angel is doing in his office. Angel says he doesn’t have time to make an appointment, and while Ronald is about to call security, Angel tells him:

Angel: “My wife has a malignant tumor pressing on her occular cavity. She’s going to die unless someone has the nerve to operate.”

That’s really smart of Angel to use “have the nerve.” Manipulating people is one of Angel’s better skills.

Ronald goes:

Ronald: “What you’re talking about is a very difficult and dangerous procedure. I could lose my license.”

I just wish the writers would bother to go into any detail, any at all, that would make this show plausible. Like, dude. You don’t know what kind of tumor it even is. And your lawyers are from a demonic law firm.

Oh my god, this episode is so bad. Like, I’m not looking for perfection here. I’m just looking to only have to suspend my disbelief when it comes to the supernatural elements. Don’t ask me to suspend disbelief that a neurosurgeon would be like, “Whoa, removing risky tumors? That’s above my pay grade, pal. I just let all my patients die.”

Angel picks up the photo of Melissa and asks if that’s Ronald’s wife or girlfriend or whatever. He’s like, yeah, she’s my fiancee, but hedges when Angel asks about the wedding date. Angel gets super intense about his fake wife, saying he would die for her and he’ll pay Ronald whatever it takes.

Meanwhile, Cordelia interviews another doctor about Ronald, claiming to be writing a piece for a medical magazine. Apparently, Ronald has been profiled in a lot of magazines. This doctor informs her that Ronald started out as an Orthopedic surgeon. If I have any doctors who read this blog, can you tell me if switching between those two specialties is believable? Because to a layman, the idea of someone going, “I’m good at bones, now let’s try brains!” seems…IDK. Like, when I worked at the hospital, we had trauma surgeons who changed their specialties to general surgery (one took a softball-sized tumor off my spine, thanks a bunch, Dr. Jefferson!) but like, this just seems like too big a leap? But I’m not going to hold that against the episode because ultimately, this part is written much better. Like, there are medical specifics about the fact that Dr. Ronald developed techniques that give surgeons more time between a limb being severed and successfully reattached. Cordelia, being Cordelia, then asks the doctor (who is a woman) if Ronald ever came off as a creep, and the doctor is like, uh, what kind of article are you writing?

Cordelia: “I’ve got to be honest. Uh, it may not be a very nice one. I don’t like the way he treats women. I’ll keep your name out of it, but just between us, what is the real dish on this guy?”

See, this is a part that I think a woman stuck her hand up and said, “Hey, you know, women warn other women about this kind of thing, so maybe Cordelia could look into it?” Because I don’t foresee this as being a conclusion Joss “Casting Couch” Whedon or David “Fish Rape” Greenwalt would have arrived at by themselves.

The doctor tells her:

Doctor: “He’s not very generous. He doesn’t share his techniques with the medical community at large, and a lot of what he claims he’s done is pretty radical.”

Back up. A minute ago, this doctor was like, oh, he’s made all these important advances. How did he do that if he didn’t publish his work? Like, you can’t have this renowned surgeon who has done all this good and developed all these important techniques to the point that various medical journals have interviewed him and then be like, “Oh, but he only claims he’s done this stuff and he won’t show anyone how.” That doesn’t work.

Back at the ranch, Cordelia tells Angel what she’s learned about Ronald.

Cordelia: “I don’t get it. This guy has a lot to lose. What is it about Melissa that’s got him going all O.J. here?”

What is it with all the O.J. references? This is so weird. Like, Writing Tip: Don’t use outdated references to build your joke, and don’t use the same outdated references twice in the same episode in totally unconnected ways.

Angel explains to Cordelia that Ronald isn’t infatuated with Melissa. He’s infatuated with the Melissa he’s created. Eventually, he’s gonna see the difference, get disappointed, and then she’s really in trouble. Angel has been researching Dr. Vinpur Natpudan, the author of the self-help book he found in Ronald’s office. Natpudan conducted a seminar for doctors and spiritual healers before having serious mental health issues that resulted in hospitalization. Angel emails him saying he hopes Natpudan has the “nerve” to help him with some trouble Angel is having with Ronald.

Natpudan meets with Angel in his…I don’t know, I guess I would refer to it as a luxurious castle/throw pillow showroom? If the filming wasn’t so dark, I’d screencap it so you could see what I’m talking about. Basically, it looks like Pier One and World Market crashed into each other. Angel tells Natpudan that Ronald is going to hurt Melissa, but Natpudan is reluctant to get involved. He eventually admits that he put Ronald in contact with “psychic surgeons” whose techniques Ronald was quick to learn and improve upon. Natpudan says he got out of the psychic surgeon business as a result because Ronald made him “believe completely.” But we get basically no detail as to what Ronald’s powers are, what he’s capable of, or what his weaknesses could be. It’s just, “Oh yeah, I made this guy into a monster. That was me.” If you removed this scene from the episode, the episode wouldn’t lose any important information.

Outside of Melissa’s place, Ronald is standing in the bushes, just staring through the fence. Inside, Melissa is asleep. A cop sees Ronald and tells him to put his hands up.

Ronald's hands are gone. There are stumps like he's been amputated.

Where are the good doctor’s hands? I bet you can guess.

That’s right, they are straight up assaulting Melissa in her sleep.

The officer, seeing that this dude doesn’t have hands, says he’s sorry and that the guy he’s looking for is someone else. Which, you know. Fair. If someone tells you to be on the lookout for a dude and also he’s a surgeon, you’re going to rule out the guy with no hands.

After the commercial, Melissa wakes and finds the hands feeling her up. She screams and the police officer hears her. he breaks into the apartment building and comes to her rescue, but doesn’t find anything wrong in the apartment. While he’s talking down to her like an asshole, the hands jump up and strangle him. Melissa flees and is intercepted by Angel in the courtyard. She tries to explain what’s happening, but Angel tells her that he already knows what Ronald can do. Ronald gets his hands back and we cut to later, where more officers are on the scene, included Kate, who says they don’t have anything to put Ronald at the scene of the crime. She says they’ve pulled fingerprints and if they match she can charge him. Doyle points out to Angel that it won’t matter if Ronald goes to jail because he can just get out, anyway. He also makes a remark about it being lucky that it was just Ronald’s hands but like, dude. The hands are bad enough. Don’t take me there.

Angel points out that Ronald’s willingness to kill means he’s becoming more obsessed.

Doyle: “Not putting too cowardly a point on it, but if this guy can’t be contained and can’t be killed, what are we going to do?”

I’m confused at how we arrived upon “can’t be killed.” Because I don’t remember that ever coming up. Maybe they should have included that in the scene with Natpudan.

I think my biggest issue with the writing on Angel as opposed to the writing on Buffy is the fact that it just feels like they take for granted that viewers of Angel will go along with whatever they come up with because they already know that the villains are unkillable or difficult to kill, so it can just be stated out of nowhere. But I want to know how Doyle has that information. It’s powerful information. Ultimately, I would have liked to hear it from Natpudan, a former victim whose experience will hold more weight than Doyle casually dropping “can’t be killed” into the middle of the sentence.

Angel comes up with a convoluted plot to kill Ronald: cut him to pieces, keep the pieces separated until they die.

“Excuse me, Mr. Whedon, Mr. Greenwalt?” I ask raising my hand timidly. “If the guy’s power is psychic, why not just shoot him in the head? If his brain is destroyed, he can’t use it to heal himself.”

“Security!” roars Joss. “How did this person who can see our totally bizarre plot choices get in here?”

Anyway, they take Melissa back to Angel’s apartment and seal up all the nooks and crannies so Ronald can’t get in, and Angel gives Melissa a similar speech to what Kate said earlier, that she has to be strong, not afraid, etc. Then, Angel goes upstairs with Cordelia, who wants to lecture him on how dangerous Ronald is. The phone rings and Cordelia answers the “special line” as Jensen Holdings, the company Angel made up to fool Ronald. Like, this is such attention to detail, right? So why can’t they do this in an evenly distributed way throughout the whole episode?

Anyway, Ronald tells “Mr. Jensen” that he’ll do the surgery on his fake dying wife, but they have to leave the country and he wants $100,000 upfront. Angel says he’ll bring it right over. He goes to Ronald’s office, only to find that Ronald has discovered that Jensen is a fake identity. He shoots Angel in the neck with a tranquilizer dart.

Ronald: “You’ll feel a slight sinking sensation. That’s your heart slowing down as the paralytic takes effect. Eventually, it’ll stop all together.”

What happens next? Well, while Ronald monologues about how Melissa is cheating on him with Angel, Angel struggles to breathe (#9), collapses, and the soundtrack plays the dire thrum of a failing heart.

Does anyone who works on this show know what a vampire is?

This directly contradicts the vampire lore already established in Buffy. Vampires don’t breathe and have no pulse. We know that drugs affect vampires, but how can a drug meant to stop someone’s heart hurt a creature whose heart doesn’t beat at all? This doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Back at Angel’s apartment, Ronald’s creepy fingers punch their way through a duct-taped over hole or vent or something while Cordelia and Doyle talk about doomed relationships. As much as I hate the Nice Guy trope, I actually do kind of ship Cordelia and Doyle, for reasons I’ll probably get into when Doyle dies. Anyway, Dr. Potatohead is scattering his parts all through the apartment. He lets himself in while one of his hands causes a distraction. Then he slams Cordelia against a wall and drags Doyle into the sewer before collecting all his pieces up and confronting Melissa. He’s furious that’s she’s cheating on him and tells her he’s disappointed. Then, she does the thing where she takes her power back and tells him he knows she could never love him and that he’s turned himself into a freak. And of course, it stalls him because he’s so hurt and upset.

This is another one of those major differences from Buffy. In Buffy, a long speech like this would have resulted in the killer straight up murdering her. That show turned tropes and cliches on their heads for the most part. This show falls back on them.

Anyway, in comes Angel, not dead or paralyzed at all. So, was the falling on the floor, struggling to breathe thing all theater for Ronald? Or did Angel process the poison really quickly? We’ll never know because the show assumes that we’re not going to see this as a flaw but insert the details ourselves.

Ronald throws his teeth at Angel and they fly out biting like a pair of dentures or those windup gag teeth which is NOT HOW TEETH WORK AT ALL and uses a detached hand to try to strangle him. Then, while Ronald is telling Melissa how happy they could have been together, his ear falls off. Again, why? Why is this the moment that Ronald starts to lose his powers? What is making his neck go all weird and wavy? Why is this super powerful character who can’t be killed conveniently falling apart right now?

Angel manages to get free and then hits Ronald super hard with some kind of object, knocking his head off. And that solves the problem and makes everybody safe, for the moment.

On another day, Cordelia complains about having to recycle coffee grounds (because Angel apparently won’t even supply coffee for his employees, let alone a salary) and asks if they’re sure Ronald isn’t going to put himself back together:

Angel: “He’s in twelve steel boxes buried in twenty cubic feet of concrete in L.A.’s newest subway stop.”

Ronald’s story is over and we still have no clear idea what powers he possessed or what our heroes were up against. Therefore, the conclusion is ultimately unsatisfying and none of the extreme danger we were supposed to be worrying about seems as dangerous anymore. But whatever.

The next day, Melissa comes by with a plant and to pay Angel for his services. He says he didn’t do it for the money and she tells him that he earned it. After she leaves, Cordelia and Doyle head off to cash the check and celebrate. Cordelia thinks Doyle should hurry up and have another vision so they can get paid again, and as they argue their way out of the building, Angel gazes upon the plant fondly.

So, I’m really disappointed in this show. And here’s why I think I wasn’t disappointed in it the first time I watched it (aside from the fact that at the time, I wasn’t breaking down media for fun on a daily basis): because I was one of the viewers that the Angel writers managed to dupe. I was so deeply attached to Buffy, so in the grips of fandom, that I didn’t see flaws that are completely obvious in hindsight. I was so hungry for more of the world that I could let things like, “Hey…what are this guy’s powers really?” slide. Now, I look at “Hey…are this guy’s powers really?” and I follow it up with, “Because on Buffy they would have explained all of this.” The nostalgia I have for Buffy isn’t translating into nostalgia for this show. It’s just highlighting the shortcomings. On Buffy, we would have seen Angel get up after Ronald left, clearly demonstrating that he was faking it all. On Buffy, someone would have proposed the steel box idea only to have someone else suggest shooting the guy. On Buffy, someone would have explained why just shooting the guy wouldn’t work and it would have been an opportunity for more exposition about his powers.

I have two theories about this decline in quality. One is the aforementioned “we don’t have to try”. They knew they had a built-in, loyal audience, so why bother putting in the effort? The other is that in trying so hard to be different from Buffy, they cut all the wrong things loose. They kept the casual misogyny, the Nice Guy™ character, the spooky supernatural elements, but they did away with things like…exposition. I feel like this gets better as the show goes on. If it doesn’t, don’t tell me, because I have five seasons of it to recap. But right now, I’m frustrated that incredibly tiny fixes were overlooked in what could have been a really good episode.

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  1. River

    I can’t tell you how happy I am that we are back on a “normal” schedule of your blog posts. It makes my heart so, so, so joyfull to open up the blog and see new posts. Thank you.

    August 10, 2018
  2. RaccoonLady

    I think to switc from ortho to neutro you’d probably have to go back and do a residency again, at the very least. Maybe if you had specialized in orthopedic spinal surgery it would be a bit smoother?
    As always my medical knowledge is filtered through me being in veterinary medicine, but even for us switching specialities and gettin boarded in another one would require doing a new residency and possibly some internships.
    I know my dad switched from ER doc to infectious disease specialist to medical researcher, but those fields are all a bit more connected.

    So, not impossible, but probably unlikely? He’s definitel have several years where he has o live on a significantly reduced income and douchey white guys don’t handle that well, in my experience.

    August 11, 2018
  3. Samantha Pistor
    Samantha Pistor

    I watched Angel many years ago and I might forget something. For me, the show gets really better after Alex Denisof brings Wesley back and Darla returns. The second season for me is amazing in terms of plot, and it gets better and better until the end of season three when they start to put Cordelia apart and everything ruins.

    My thing with Wesley is that the character is pure gold in terms of characterization and for me beats anyone in Buffy.

    August 11, 2018
    • Gayaruthiel

      I agree! I really disliked Wesley when he first appeared on the show, but the way he changes and grows beat up every other character. Plus, i love the tired, hopeless look he gets in the later seasons.

      August 13, 2018
  4. Ilex

    I can’t answer your doctor questions, but I work in construction, and no one measures concrete in cubic feet — it’s generally measured in cubic yards. The 20 cubic feet Angel mentions is less than 1 cubic yard. I’m very impressed that 12 steel boxes of human being even fit! And that’s not even considering how they would affect the integrity of the concrete. Or the fact that it’s highly unlikely that the concrete would be placed to a depth/thickness great enough to actually encase those boxes. Plus, exactly who would be sneaking those boxes into the fresh concrete? This is something the people doing the placement would notice, trust me.

    Had Angel said, “I hired mobsters to encase each box in Quikrete like you buy at the hardware store, and then personally drop each of the blocks in different waterways in widely separated states,” that would be fine. But somehow getting those boxes into an actual construction project? Much less believable.

    On the positive side, at least the word used is “concrete” and not “cement.”

    August 11, 2018
    • Trynn

      That’s exactly what I was wondering when I saw this. Like, how exactly did Angel GET the boxes into the concrete without the workers noticing? I know it’s a little detail we’re not supposed to think about too much, but Buffy was full of little details like that, and it made the show richer.

      Also, nitpicky: all the sets on Angel look fake, and I don’t think there’s any liquid in those coffee cups they keep drinking out of. I feel like if I was an actor, I’d want my damn coffee.

      August 12, 2018
      • Goddesstio

        The no-liquid thing is industry standard, I believe, unless the cups are see-through or we’re meant to see the liquid inside it. It’s a major pet peeve for my husband, lol.

        August 15, 2018
        • shel

          But why? It looks so obvious… I know they might have a million takes and dont’ want to keep drinking, but they can fake drink and still have water in the cup to give it some heft… or at least fill the cup partially with something that has weight that doesn’t move so it looks real when people are handling them/moving them around.

          August 15, 2018
  5. Dan

    I took the line about how “he can’t be killed” as a reference to him being a human and that they can’t just kill a human like they would a demon.

    I do think they end up being more willing to kill humans on Angel than on Buffy though.

    August 11, 2018
  6. shel

    I also feel like Angel was better than this, but maybe it’s just that this season was harder because they were still competing with Buffy and running two shows took some getting used to?? Not all of these episode have been awful so far… but this one was ridiculous.

    From a medical perspective- switching between those two specialties could be done, but would be extremely unlikely. As others have said, it would mean going through residency again, which is grueling and doesn’t pay well and sucks. Orthopedics by itself is at least 5 years of residency, longer if you do a specialty (this is after 4 years of college and 4 years of med school) Neurosurgery is an even longer program and would be another 5+ years of residency because it’s so specialized and they need a lot of OR hours to meet certifications and stuff… Clearly he isn’t doing real neurosurgery since it’s this psychic thing, so maybe he isn’t boarded in it? But then he shouldn’t be doing procedures or have any sort of ability to bill or be protected from malpractice. Though Wolfram and Hart might be getting him around that stuff…

    So while doctors do change specialties, this would be pretty far fetched.

    August 11, 2018
  7. Melissa

    Re: the suicide joke: I don’t think it’s offensive like it hurts me and makes me angry or extremely uncomfortable in the triggering way. It’s offensive like it’s annoying and disgusting. All I can think to say to it would be “ew.” Or “Do you think that’s cute and witty?” Or something to that effect. I don’t know what it takes to pull off that line as joke, but a throw away from a stranger and soon before she’s sexually assaulted is not it.
    If I didn’t stop watching at the r-word (which I have zero patience for) that might have done it. But I’m the kind of person who doesn’t feel bad not finishing something, and the supernatural stuff wouldn’t have been enough to hold me.
    Also, my name is Melissa. I’ve met maybe 2 other people with the same name, but I always, always, always see my name used as a throwaway for a bit or a hypothetical scenario, or for one shot minor characters like this. It’s really weird, my namesake is usually dead or in danger of dying, and I imagine Susans and Bobs feel the same way.

    August 12, 2018
  8. Janine

    It’s definitely possible to make a drastic switch in specialties, but like RaccoonLady said, it would take some chutzpah and a lot of re-training. I went to an OB/GYN once who was also a practicing dentist… he was old as hell, which makes sense since he’d have to practice a while to make all those years in school worth it!

    Similarly, in my field (speech pathology) you do see people cross over and re-train as audiologists or OTs — I even met someone who was in speech and retrained as a PT. Less school than medical degrees but a similar idea.

    August 12, 2018
  9. JordieBelle

    Joss Whedon’s fuckery I already knew about but what the hell did “ David “Fish Rape” Greenwalt “ do?

    August 13, 2018
    • Sarah

      I think Jenny’s talking about the buffy episode Go Fish. Greenwalt was the executive producer. I hope she is anyway cause if there’s a true fish rape story I don’t think I want to hear it.

      August 13, 2018
      • Jenny Trout
        Jenny Trout

        I thought he was the writer on it, but I just went back and checked and it was David Fury. There are A LOT of guys writing gross shit on Buffy.

        August 13, 2018
    • Jenny Trout
      Jenny Trout

      Sarah’s right, it’s about “Go Fish”, the episode where the coach threatens to let his fish monsters rape Buffy.

      August 13, 2018
  10. Lily

    I can see the flaws, and even better when highlighted by Jenny, but I would watch anything except the son of Angel/Cordy getting it on episode, because I too loved this world. And sometimes I wonder whether I excuse Doyle his nice-guyness because of the actor’s life and death.

    August 13, 2018
  11. Charlotte

    Because it came up, and with the obvious caveat that I’m just one person and only speaking for myself; I lost my husband to suicide just last month, and I honestly couldn’t give a squirt of watery shit about suicide jokes. (Fuck, I’m cracking suicide jokes all day just to get through this. I too have a dark sense of humor and it’s saving my ass right now.) Maybe other people would be hurt by this, and I’m not saying there’s any good or right reaction to stuff like this, everyone grieves in their own way, but as for me, I’m way too busy dealing with actual goddamn problems to fret about a stupid joke in a goofy TV show. It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. #twocents

    August 15, 2018
    • Sigyn Wisch
      Sigyn Wisch

      Pretty much agreed. I’m sorry for your loss.

      August 18, 2018
  12. Agent_Z

    Even if the cop saw Ronald without hands, he still caught him in the area of a house belonging to a woman that has reported being stalked and harassed. How does he know this isn’t a decoy.

    I assume Ronald is supposed to have some kind of healing factor that allows him to put himself back together when he detaches body parts. That still doesn’t explain how he died of course.

    August 17, 2018
  13. Sigyn Wisch
    Sigyn Wisch

    Meh, the jumping off the bridge joke did strike me as funny back in the day, and I was more suicidal back then.

    Um, if he got a restraining order against her, then he broke it when he sent her flowers. Protective orders go both ways, at least in California.

    Meanwhile, “as long as Melissa is scared, he wins. Melissa has to be strong and Ronald took her power away and nobody can get it back for her but her, etc.” strikes me as victim blaming on Kate’s part, like, I understand that you have control over your attitude and you control how you react to your emotions, but if I was being stalked and someone told me or my friends, “No one can make you feel better except you”, I would either punch them or start self-harming again.

    August 18, 2018
  14. Breen

    I mever caught it when I watched this episode, but your recap made it it fairly clear: This episode was p victim blamey.

    Cordelia pondering what about the victim made this fine upstanding doctor into a monster, no less than two characters saying she had to act a different way in order to not be a victim, she acts different and suddenly her stalker/abuser’s non explained power vanishes? Gross, gross, gross.

    August 19, 2018
  15. Agent_Z

    Regarding the eye.

    It’s small and can hide easily. If it can also move quickly, it’d actually be really easy for her not to notice. Human senses are notoriously unreliable in many regards. All it has to do is avoid being in direct line of sight unconcealed.

    Basically, it just needs to behave like a prey animal whenever she catches it in her peripheral vision. If she turns to look, dart away and stay out of sight. As long as her eyes don’t have a second or two of focused vision to linger on what it is, her brain will lie to her and tell her it was a fly or a shadow or something.

    September 24, 2018
  16. Rebecca

    For me it isn’t even the hand-wavey powers from the Big Bad that bothered me about this episode – it’s that Angel is CONSTANTLY IN THE SUNLIGHT. And it feels even more jarring coming from an episode which was all about the Gem of Amara and invulnerability to the sunlight and they made a really big deal about Angel walking in it. This episode, when he goes to see Kate? Broad daylight. When he’s poking around Ronald’s office? Daylight. At the end when Melissa gives him the plant, and Angel says he hopes that it likes the dark, she responds, “Oh, I think it’ll be all right in here.” And it reads like a joke about the fact that they’re standing in an extremely well-lit space.

    It got to the point where I was YELLING at Angel while he was “dying” from the paralytic going “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, ANGEL? YOU ARE A VAMPIRE.” I can’t believe that no-one working on the show ever pointed this stuff out, like hey, if we’re gonna make a big deal about our main character being a vampire, maybe don’t show him constantly walking around in the sun? Forget needing to suspend your disbelief, you need to be watching a different show not to get irritated with this stuff. Ugh.

    November 25, 2019

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