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
- Smoking is still evil.
- A lot of this shit is really misogynistic.
- Some of this stuff is ableist as fuck.
- Some of this shit is still racist as fuck.
- Fatphobia, staple of the Whedonverse.
- Mental illness stigma redux
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.
Welcome back, everyone! It’s been…Oh, look at that. It’s been nine months since my last Buffyverse recap. I could have made a whole person in that time. BUT THANK GOD I DID NOT.
If you only come here for the Buffy recaps and you’re like, oh no, she gave up, don’t worry! I did not. I will finish this entire recap, even when season five of Angel goes off the fucking rails. I just had to take a break because E.L. James put a new book out that needed to be dealt with immediately.
So, back to Los Angeles in the ’00s.
We open on a guy with a bag. He’s fleeing from a woman who flying karate kicks him into his open car door. The woman pursuing him is Kate, and she’s pissed off that this dude didn’t come down to the station voluntarily for questioning. I think we need to make note of the fact that she doesn’t just kick the guy once. She does it twice and slams him onto the trunk of his car.
Kate: “You have the right to remain silent. But I wouldn’t recommend it.”
I’m not sure that’s how you’re supposed to do being a police officer. I mean. I guess it kind of is, but it’s not the legal way you’re supposed to do being a police officer.
Back at the station, Kate tells him to look at pictures of various criminal doings. Apparently, this guy was seen with suspected bad guys the same day a county supervisor got murdered. Some of the guys from the station watch the interrogation through a two-way mirror and step in when Kate loses her shit and attacks the guy again. She apologizes to one of the other detectives, who says that the suspect they’re looking for is never going to be found. He says something along the lines of they don’t know anyone who can find him or something, etc. and then we cut to Angel because it’s his show.
Angel is fighting a tentacle monster, fending it off until Doyle and Cordelia arrive with an enchanted sword. After making the heroic kill, Angel gives them the sword and some instructions:
Angel: “Make sure to cut off all the limbs and both heads this time and remember to bury the parts seperately. I don’t want this thing coming back to life again.”
Then he just heads back to the office while Cordelia rages about how rude it was for Angel to leave without saying thank you for their help. She goes on and on while behind her a tentacle reanimates and seizes Doyle, choking him while she continues her tirade and we cut to the opening titles.
This cold open is probably the strongest argument a show has ever made against itself. The quick flip from cop shit that we’ve seen in a million different shows and movies to something fresh and funny and snappy highlights just how freaking weak the crime drama portions of the show are. And I’m gonna just come out and say it: Kate sucks the life out of this whole operation.
It’s not the actress’s fault. It’s the writing. Whoever developed her character was more in love with the idea of the static tough-as-nails lady cop than they were in love with the genre she goes with. Either that or they can’t figure out how to make her fit in both genres at the same time (they should have picked up pretty much any Urban Fantasy novel published around this time). Every scene that’s just Kate feels like it’s part of an entirely different show. The Whedon voice isn’t there. All the dialogue could have been pulled from any mid-’00s CBS Law & Order rip-off job. They might as well have just thrown up a title card that said, “Kate has bad guy problems now let’s get to the monsters.”
After the opening credits, Cordelia and Doyle return to the office covered in slime. And Cordelia is still pretty pissed. When Angel tries to tell her to do something, she cuts him off and says she won’t do anything until he asks them how it went with the tentacle monster.
Cordelia: “You do remember leaving us in a sewer with a giant calamari?”
Angel: “Yeah. And you’re both here. So, I assume it went okay, right?”
Cordelia: “Yeah, it went okay. Of course it went okay. Okay? That’s not the point.”
Angel: “So there is a point?”
Cordelia: “Being that it is possible to brood and show a little interest in the feelings of others.”
As Doyle points out…this is coming from Cordelia. You know things have gotten bad when Cordelia has a point about your selfishness and rudeness. Kate bursts in during the scolding and they go into his office. She shows him the picture of “Little Tony” and says outright, no shit, “He’s a bad guy.” Like, thanks. I couldn’t have guessed a guy named Little Tony who’s in a bunch of pictures the cops took might be a bad guy. Angel tells Kate he owes her a favor and he’ll look for the guy and Kate is like, yeah, no, we’re not doing favors. Also, she’s worried about getting him killed. So, they’re going to do this on the level, with payment from the department and everything.
It feels like they’re dolls someone is smashing together. There is zero chemistry between Kate and Angel. Presumably, because her entire characterization is “she’s a cop and a lady and that makes her a lady cop.”
You know who deserved this spin-off? Cordelia.
Cordelia should have gotten the spin-off.
I’m so furious because I instantly imagined this spin-off show in which Cordelia moves to L.A., gets involved in Hollywood by becoming some big-wig’s secretary, finding out there are vampires all over the film and TV industry, and has to stealthily slay vampires without a) being a Slayer or b) screwing up her chance at a big break.
But yeah. Vampire in a police procedural. That works, too.
Angel tries to be more sympathetic with Cordelia but it comes off as super insincere and anyway, they’ve got a body parts problem. As in, a bunch of them keep washing up along the California coast. Angel says they should check out tide records and Doyle is like, oh, you think this guy has a regular dumping ground and hello, Angel Investigations could have caught Dexter Morgan.
At the station, Kate runs into her dad, also a police, who is dropping off paperwork for his retirement. Judging by how cliche all the cop drama stuff has been, R.I.P. Officer Dad. The gist of the scene is that she and her father are somewhat estranged. Angel calls and we cut to him and Doyle at a pier, where they’ve found Evil Tony or whoever. Kate tells them to get out of there and let her handle it, but Angel spots a yacht pulling up, totally conspicuous. There’s obviously only one thing he can do:
He switches clothes with Doyle and pretends to be a confused tourist waiting for the ferry to Catalina. The guys don’t put up with his clever ruse for long and try to rush him along, but Angel breaks character to beat them up. Just as the police arrive, Bad Guy Tony makes a run for it. But they’ve sent everyone like he’s Jean Reno in The Professional and he gets apprehended pretty quick. Kate is furious that Angel engaged the criminals and leaves in a mopey huff because that’s literally the only thing Kate gets to do in this show. Mope and huff.
Kate takes Bad Guy Tony back to the station so she can make a fat joke:
Tony: “You been running after me for a long time, sweetheart. If I’da known how bad you wanted me, I, I might have let you catch me a little sooner.”
Kate: “And if I had known how much you needed the exercise, I might have let you run a little longer.”
It dawned on me right at this moment in the rewatch that I don’t think I’m good at calling out fatphobia in the Whedonverse. And weirdly, I think it might be my brain glossing past the things that, at that point in my life, contributed to just grinding me down. Before I disconnected my entire self-worth from the fact that I wasn’t skinny anymore after my first child, I was really depressed and had super low self-esteem due to body issues. Right around this time, I was also consuming mostly Buffy and Angel, taping them off TV and binging before binging was a thing. Then, when they came out on DVD, I did the same thing. I just stayed in a Whedonloop because I didn’t realize how often the fat jokes were coming because I didn’t realize I wasn’t a joke, myself. But I kept running back to it because it was the only comforting thing I could consume. So, we’re adding a new number to our list: #16: Fatphobia, staple of the Whedonverse.
Welcome to this super cheerful recap, everyone!
So, Bad Tony makes his one call…to Wolfram & Hart. A clearly evil dude receives a fax with Kate’s personnel file and promises Little Tony that the problem will be taken care of. It’s super sinister, even when it’s revealed after the commercial break that the Wolfram & Hart guy is gonna apparently solve the problem by getting his client transferred out of Kate’s jurisdiction due to a concern for Tony’s safety. And then Tony threatens Kate with violence and Evil Lawyer Man is all, I want that stricken from the record because my client is under stress.
I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I’m pretty sure that if you’ve been Mirandized you don’t get a mulligan on threatening an officer of the law in front of several witnesses including a court reporter.
So, here’s the thing: Kate caused this whole fucking problem for herself by being physically and verbally abusive toward a suspect in her custody. She calls him fat again (#16) in front of his lawyer. Even though the lawyer and suspect are shitty people, they’re 100% protected by the law. Which Kate should have known.
Meanwhile, at Angel Investigations, Cordelia is like, wow, awesome that the case wrapped up so fast! But Angel thinks it was a little too fast, and I agree because we’re only in like, the third bar on the bottom of the Hulu screen. He says his instincts tell him there’s something else that’s up, prompting Cordelia to criticize his instincts as they pertain to stuff like noticing her new shoes. As he explains that men don’t notice women’s shoes, Doyle strolls in and compliments them and asks if they’re new. Which, really, he’s obsessed with Cordelia, so obviously he’s going to notice. Doyle’s contacts underground told him that Tony is still planning something but nobody told him what.
Kate goes to see her father at the local cop bar. Another detective shows up and informs her that everyone has to go to sensitivity training because of her behavior with suspects in the Evil Tony case. And she still thinks she’s done nothing wrong! She gets all snarky and acts like it’s totally unreasonable for there to be consequences. What’s even more unfair is that we have to go to sensitivity training with her, where she pouts and sucks and acts all above everyone when she’s the reason they all have to be there!
I really, really do not like Kate.
The sensitivity training guy introduces a “talking stick” that’s like a giant fucking club. Nobody better give that to Kate, is all I’m saying. The guy gives it to a dude named Heath, who jokes about his childhood being beaten up by his brothers and how his single mom did the best that she could. Like, in front of all his coworkers, he’s baring his soul and shit and having this moment. And this is what happens:
Therapist: “Is there something that you always wanted to say to your mother but never could?”
Kate: “Will you marry me?”
And then everyone starts to laugh at Heath.
Fuck you, Kate. Seriously. Fuck. You.
The therapist pressures Kate into taking the talking stick. Then he lays the fuck into her in the kindest possible way, telling her that her sarcasm and toughness come from a fear of being hurt because she’s been hurt in the past.
I really don’t care. At this point, nothing can salvage this character for me. She became irredeemable the moment she started bullying a coworker at a company-mandated therapy session that’s only happening because she has no self-control.
Angel and Doyle go to meet another Italian guy while he works out. All these mobster guys hang out at the same gym, where this exercising dude overheard them planning something against Kate. Angel goes to tell Kate she’s in danger. Before he can, she apologizes for being so gruff with him and asks him to go to her father’s retirement party with her because she’s nervous about giving a speech. That’s when he tells her that she’s in danger because Tony took a hit out on her. Her response? To act out the tired joke about people in therapy analyzing others:
Kate: “Wow, he’s really acting out, isn’t he?”
Angel: “Well, yeah. He wants you dead.”
Kate: “Well, I get that. I’m just saying that he must be in some kind of pain to have to strike out at others in that way?”
Angel: “Are you okay?”
Kate: “God, listen to me. Suddenly I’m Doctor Laura. Next thing you know, I’ll be talking about ‘processing’ and my ‘inner-child.'”
Get it? Because those are therapy terms? And therapy is making her weak because mental health concerns are for weak people? And therapy is really stupid and the people who need it are all wimpy weirdos? (#14)
Turns out, the therapist guy was hired by Wolfram & Hart. Lawyer guy is worried that whatever the therapist guy is supposed to be doing won’t work. If you were wondering when the supernatural portion of this episode of a vampire television show was going to show up, it’s now. The therapist guy promises that whatever it is he’s doing is going to yield results after the next sensitivity training session. And does so in front of this mildly spooky-looking scene, complete with bubbling cauldron noises:
After the commercial break, we go to the retirement party at the stereotypical cop bar where of course they’re playing the blues because they’re working class. I feel like if you want to set your police procedural show in Chicago, you should set your police procedural show in Chicago rather than try to shoehorn Chicago cop stereotypes into Los Angeles.
Also, you should just write a police procedural so that fans who came to this spin-off for spooky stuff will actually care about this episode.
Kate is nervous about giving her dad’s speech.
Angel: “What’s the old saw? Picture your audience in their underwear?”
Kate: “Way ahead of you.”
And she gives Angel an objectifying once-over.
Can I just state for the record how happy I am that she doesn’t stay his love interest for long? Because even though I know why she’s saying this (she’s under the influence of the nefarious therapist’s emotional honest spell), there is still zero chemistry here.
Kate introduces Angel to her father, who says:
Officer Dad: “Well, good to see her out with a man. I was starting to wonder if she didn’t lean in another direction all together.”
Kate gives an angry speech, turning the whole retirement party into a scathing indictment of her father and every shitty parenting choice he ever made raising her after her mom died. She starts with how she became a cop because it was the only way she could feel close to her dad who totally shut down after losing his wife. Then she moves on to how he never treated her the way he treated the male cops, before shifting gears and talking about how nice her friend’s mom was to her and how she wanted that at home, culminating in:
Kate: “Do you realize that you’ve never told me that I’m pretty? Not once in my life?”
THE BULLSHITTERY! THE UTTER BULLSHITTERY! All of that other stuff leads into that? She lost her mother at a young age and felt abandoned by her father as a result, spent her entire life chasing after his affection and her prettiness is given the most weight in this litany of sins? Wanting to be called pretty gets to be the beat given singled out with the most weight and misery? This is total number 13. You wanna be shocked? This episode was written by three men: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt, and Tim Minear. And they sat down and they went, “You know what I bet a woman with daddy issues is really bothered most about? Not feeling like her dad thinks she’s pretty.”
I’m just gonna say that as the daughter of a person who was not a father? Getting called pretty was very far down the list of things I craved from him as a child. Like, having my biological parent feel I was in any way worthy of love was of the most concern to me, but what do I know? I’m just a woman who has experienced having a bad father. I’m gonna have to defer to THREE MEN.
During her explosion of emotion, the other detective we’ve seen a lot tells her to keep going, and when she’s done he says she’s brave. Other officers are crying, too, and some are angry that she ruined the party. They all start arguing over their various neuroses and eventually physical fights break out over who has anger issues and shit.
Because get it? Being in touch with their emotions is having a negative effect on their ability to communicate effectively with each other because emotions and mental health are silly. This episode alone is going to give us a #17: Mental health stigma redux.
Cordelia storms into Angel Investigations pissed off that she’s been called in at such a late hour. That’s when she sees Angel and Doyle in Angel’s office with Kate, who’s seemingly drunk on emotional honesty. She invites Angel to the sensitivity training and goes on and on about how wonderful it is. She tells Cordelia that Doyle has a crush on her, which, you know, Cordelia should have probably already picked up on. What’s weird is that Angel does appear to be somewhat moved by Kate’s mentions of his old soul and his deep secrets. He leaves her there with Doyle and Cordelia and goes to the big ass castle that the therapist guy lives in.
I assume it’s the same castle where they shot “Buffy vs. Dracula” because how many literal castles can there possibly be in L.A.? He’s just confronted the guy when we snap back to Angel Investigations, where Kate pulls a gun and says she’s going to go find her father. At the castle, Angel asks the therapist which demon gives him his power and the dude is involved with several. He tries to attack Angel, who transforms into his vampire-self to interrogate the guy.
The police precinct is in a chaos of empathy, resulting in one officer setting all the prisoners, including Evil Tony, free. The prisoners immediately gang up on and beat the officer.
Are we understanding that therapy is really, really bad yet? Do we get that therapy is the villain here? And that it’s funny for people in a traditionally masculine profession to share their feelings?
Angel catches up with Doyle and Cordelia who try to warn him that everything in the precinct is falling apart and Kate seemed kind of dangerous when she headed there. Angel responds by hugging them and they realize that he’s also fallen victim to the evil therapist. The talking stick is cursed. Oh, and Angel is now ashamed that he committed an act of physical violence, but in a funny way, not in a vampire-with-a-soul way.
Again, the villain of this show is a therapist and his evil plot is to make people open about their emotions. Which, by the way, is a theme that gets repeated in Buffy season six.
I’m sorry, but how fucked up are the writers on these shows that they go, “You know what would really cause the downfall of society? If we were all emotionally honest.”
Also, the reason this entire thing is happening is specifically to get Tony out of jail so he can kill Kate. This plan hinged on a lot of fucking chance. One: that she would get sensitivity training and not outright fired for beating up a suspect. Two: That a random officer would be moved to release all the prisoners. Three: That Kate would go to the precinct to look for her father, thus being in the building when Tony gets out.
This is just.
This might be the worst episode of Angel ever. If not, it’s super high in the fucking running.
Recurring Detective Man confronts Kate about the fact that he’s been obsessed with her for years and she’s never returned his romantic affection but we kind of cut away from that to Bad Tony. He recruits some of the other prisoners and they get a bunch of guns and kill an officer. Meanwhile, Angel and Cordelia and Doyle break in through a window, despite Angel’s sensitivity demanding they be more considerate of the people they’ve vandalized.
Tony finds Kate and has a gun pointed at her to make his villain speech. Angel comes in and tries to be a sensitive mediator. Tony drops his guard giving Angel an opening to take him on physically. Doyle disarms one of the henchmen and Kate shoots one. With the danger over, Angel and Kate hug it out.
Rearrested, Tony calls his Wolfram & Hart lawyer. He’s like, yeah, ha ha, we don’t represent you anymore:
Lawyer: “You shot up a precinct and attempted to murder a police officer in full view of witnesses. We can’t risk that kind of exposure.”
Tony: “You’re the one set this thing up!”
Lawyer: “We opened a door for you. The point was for you to walk through it, not blast your way out. The senior partners feel you’ve become a liability. We can’t waste valuable energy on you when there are more pressing issues at hand.”
Tony asks what pressing issues he means, and we see that Lawyer is looking at surveillance video of Angel before he hangs up the call.
Angel and Kate meet at the precinct, where she tells him that internal affairs think someone spiked the drinks at the bar. She asks him if she said anything to him, the implied being, did she say anything about liking him. He tells her no and leaves. Her father comes in and says she embarrassed him in front of everyone and he never wants her to bring it up again. Then he leaves and Kate is sad and alone at her desk.
Therapy ruined everything.
That’s it, by the way. We end with Angel having seen this whole confrontation and just walking away to sad music, as per the stipulations of David Boreanaz’s contract.
Kate has to go. This episode just made me so, so tired. The whole “therapy makes people crazier” joke was played out back in the ’80s and nothing about this episode was new or fresh. Plus, we’re once again centering a character who isn’t particularly remarkable or fleshed out. Tough lady cops with daddy issues are everywhere in media and they gave Kate approximately zero cool angles to make her stand out.
The sooner we get away from Kate (and Angel’s involvement with the police), the better.