Angel 1×10: Parting Gifts

[Review by Ryan Bovay]

[Writer: David Fury and Jeannine Renshaw | Director: James A. Contner | Aired: 12/14/1999]

“Parting Gifts” is the logical and necessary addendum to “Hero” [1×09], since in the time around a major character’s death there’s usually an episode or two spent dealing with the pain and consequences. Doyle was no Buffy, and so you won’t see Angel or Cordelia wailing for three weeks post-his-death, but it’s clearly had an impact and we get to see them cope through continuing to fight the good fight, and hey – Wesley arrives! This episode is pretty fun, and its strength is in the surprising competency of the plot. The writers take careful aim to keep us just off the scent of the right trail and when we do get the answers we want and need we’re not disappointed by either the execution or the entertainment milked from the situations.

Both Angel and Cordelia are left in emotional chaos now with Doyle’s passing, and they both react appropriately. Angel, despite the common misconception, does not just sit around and brood all the time. His character is not one of withdrawal, but reaction and explosion. We’ve seen it in “City of” [1×01], when Tina’s death, the loss of a necessary human connection, drove him into attack mode against the vampire Russell Winters. Here he’s lost someone even more important to him, and arrogantly takes on the Gods (or at least their figureheads) themselves, demanding that the Oracles restore Doyle’s life.

How they respond to him is a good commentary on the fallacy of many fantasy and horror shows which treat death so casually, and commonly bring characters back from the dead: “To what end? To nullify his noble death? To leave his atonement unfulfilled?” If Doyle presto’d back into existence, none of his development, history or sacrifices would matter, and that would go beyond cruel manipulation against the viewers along for the ride. It’s why shows like Buffy, Angel and Firefly always come first for me: the understanding and respect they have for their characters and decisions. I’d love Doyle back as much as Angel and Cordy would, but never in this way.

As for Cordy, she’s handling the grief exactly in character as well, lamenting how Doyle left no things of tangible value behind. Having defined her entire life and sense of self worth by what she owns (see: BtVS “The Prom” and “Rm w a Vu” [1×05] ), it shows how much she really cared for Doyle when her desire is that there be more material items of his to remember him by. She places a great value on his life, and that, to her, requires reflection in the price-marked physical.

While not as focused on Cordelia as “Rm w a Vu” [1×05] or “Expecting” [1×12], this episode is still important to her development in learning to transcend the material and put value where it belongs. She realizes, due in great part to Barney (in a really touching scene), that she indeed has the most valuable thing Doyle ever ‘owned:’ the means to the ends of his redemption. As for her new gift, Barney, in his more psychotic scene with her, perfectly outlines how she feels: guilty, in that perhaps having been grossly self-involved (here she tries to pass on the visions simply because it’s an inconvenience) and ignorant of Doyle, she may have even contributed to his demise.

Cleverly, like Angelus would have, Barney lied with the truth to manipulate Cordelia’s feelings and it did indeed strike a chord. Though not entirely happy about it, by the end of the episode she has accepted her gift as an actual gift, in part to honour her fallen friend and make up for her perceived wrong doings. And she’s not the only one looking to make amends.

In perfectly cool fashion, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce makes his first appearance on AtS. He ties in with the plot efficiently, having been tracking a Kungai demon, which he believes to be stealing the life force of other demons. At first, before we know the “demon hunter” is Wesley, Barney leads us to believe he is being trailed by a relentless killer. After we meet Wesley we then suspect the Kungai, but then later find out Barney is indeed the thief, and Wesley was chasing the wrong demon. Good twists, all of them.

There’s not a whole lot to say about ‘English’s’ first appearance, except that he’s as much fun to have around as ever, and is used very effectively, both as a counterpoint to Angel and as a character in his own right. Wesley is reacting in a profound way to what he sees as a great failure on his part (being canned by the Watcher’s council following the events of BtVS S3), having taken to the streets to fight demons and is in fact, very insistent in his mission; his personal form of redemption. He’s quite adamant to Angel about it too: “The hell you say! This demon is mine, Angel!”

Angel’s development ties in with his arrival. He’s lost a vital human connection, and the closest friend he’s had in hundreds of years, and like both Wes and Cordy, lays the burden onto his shoulders for what’s transpired. He’s regressing back into himself as a result, forcefully keeping Wesley away from the demon hunt since he blames himself for letting Doyle die. His arc is simple but important, and the realization that Wesley has skills he lacks, skills which also prove to be imperative to saving Cordelia’s life, keep him from going back to the way he was before “City of” [1×01] which is extremely important to his mission.

My final thoughts on the episode linger on Barney, who is a great, and surprisingly frightening little villain for this episode, and he makes the plot tick with ingenuity by playing us (the viewers) as well as he plays Angel and his victims. Early on he mentions the gambling/cheating use of his empathic abilities as ‘playing to his strengths,’ and he’s very right as it’s what he does. He can sense and experience human emotion but is in fact, a demon, and despite his defense of himself he really is evil, not “evil, but not EVIL.” In point of fact, he’s one of the most unrepentantly sadistic demons to appear on the show thus far.

It’s most evident in exactly how he manipulates Cordelia, one minute softly probing her to let him in and the next going on a brutal, and very cruel assassination of her character so he can put her right where he wants to. What’s sickest about it, as I’ve seen it pointed out, is that we see that he does indeed have the ability to use this power for a positive means; Cordy is absolutely glowing when Barney puts Doyle’s sacrifice into perspective for her. As a demon, he uses his gift to manipulate even those positive experiences, and that does make him really evil. That he looks as innocent and gutter-harmless as he claims to be from the outset makes the twists work too and I really liked how he fit in the story.

The entire episode is a surprisingly good capper to “Hero” [1×09], and is entertaining in its own right while paying proper respect to the dead (the previous episode, of course). I didn’t particularly like how much of bumbling Wesley we got, as I was giddy at seeing him badass in a leather coat at the near-midpoint of the episode. Still, it’s not entirely out of character, if a bit over the top and it doesn’t go into the territory of cheese. And all things considered, it was all a really fun time.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ The second appearance of the Oracles. This builds the strength of how they’re used in the season’s continuity later on.
+ Cordelia’s speaking about not going anywhere, leaving, and then accusing Angel of trying to use reverse psychology.
+ Angel getting offended by the ‘coffin’ stereotype.
+ Wesley insisting on being called a Rogue Demon Hunter
+ The demonic Auction: Twisted and funny.
+ Cordelia stalling for time at the auction; this was a hilarious way to combine her vanity and sense of self-preservation.


* Angel has interfered with Wolfram and Hart yet again, and from the reaction of the lawyer, we see it’s the last straw. They’re soon to make their presence known to him in big ways in “The Ring” [1×16] and “Five by Five” [1×18].
* Wesley, despite his failings, believes he is needed by the world and must play the lone hero himself. This is the key to his tragedy in S3, when he steals Angel’s son Connor (“Sleep Tight” [3×16] ) for ‘the greater good’ without even mentioning the Nyazian prophecy to anyone else.



15 thoughts on “Angel 1×10: Parting Gifts”

  1. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on March 5, 2007.]

    For me, this is where Angel really begins. The first 9 episodes were important in establishing the mood but now we have our core unit – Angel, Cordy and Wes. Am i right in thinking that doyle was always designed to be a short lived character and that cordy was always supposed to be the one that ended up with the visions? Is this the ep with the scene at the end of Angel cooking breakfast for Cordy and Wes? if so, that scene always makes me cry, mainly because i’m thinking of future events…


  2. [Note: Ryan-R.B. posted this comment on March 5, 2007.]

    You’re absolutely right in thinking that. Whedon himself said that Doyle’s death was planned to happen fairly quickly to shake up Angel’s world and also to help establish it as an unpredictable one, and a place where lives are always at stake. Since it’s also critical to his realization of the value of those around him, it’s a good setup.


  3. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on February 3, 2008.]

    Yeah, here we see the beginning of a family. And Ryan, you´re so right: the auction is hilarious.


  4. [Note: Diana posted this comment on January 24, 2009.]

    I’m reading all your reviews as I’m rewatching the series, and I agree with the comment that stated “this is where the series begins.” City of, a perfect episode (as you noted) sets up the world, as do the episodes that follow through Hero, but it is Parting Gifts that first contains the core group (Gunn, Fred and Lorne, though I love them deeply, are not the core). The breakfast scene does make my heart ache when I think of all that they will go through.

    As for your observations on Wesley, I must say this. I disagree with you that Wesley’s arrogance is his tragedy. On the contrary, he thinks very little of himself. He isn’t chasing demons as a Rogue Demon Hunter b/c he thinks the world needs him, but b/c he thinks it’s the right thing to do… that anyone who has seen what lies in the dark must do their part to help. He wants to battle evil, and that has been true since his Buffy days, especially when one thinks of his kidnapping of Connor as akin to his willingness to sacrifice Willow to stop the Mayor. Wesley always fights for what he thinks is right…even if it means losing everything that matters to him. That is why, despite all the changes in him, I find him consistent from Buffy S3 through Not Fade Away (and beyond– See After the Fall).

    Really enjoy your reviews. Keep ’em coming!


  5. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 4, 2009.]

    I just want to say that I love Wesley, but Joss should’ve waited another episode to bring him in. It felt like they were trying to replace Doyle with Wesley, and that could never happen. I know this episode did pay its respects to Doyle, but I feel that it would’ve made a larger impact on us (and on Angel and Cordy) to see an episode without him and without Wesley.


  6. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on July 14, 2009.]

    I definitely agree with Diana re Wesley. I think his ‘bumbling’ (as its refered to in the review) is evidence enough of Wesley feeling a lack of confidence and self-worth. He even confesses his true feelings about himself in this episode right before Angel remembers Cordelia’s vision. I don’t at all see where you get arrogant from his character…Maybe its just his pompous Watcher’s Council British accent 🙂

    I agree though with the rest of the review. Barney is definitely a chilling villain and is very intelligently inserted into the plot. One thing I love about season one is the ‘human’ quality that almost all of the villains possess. The demons and bad guys this season are far from the purpose-less killing machines that most horror shows write. They dont just kill for the sake of killing, they take pleasure in it and have agendas of their own which, to me at least, makes them a lot scarier. Barney, Wolfram and Hart, Angelus, Faith etc. are all perfect examples of this whereas the demon in ‘To Shanshu in LA'(among others, most notably in later seasons) felt so underdeveloped and steriotypical in comparison. I think this ‘human’ quality was used well as a means to distinguish AtS from the early seasons of BtVS and to support the ‘ real-life in the big city after highschool’ metaphor. I wish the writers had continued to put the same amunt of effort in the villains in the later seasons.


  7. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on December 23, 2009.]

    Regarding Wesley, (Yeah, continuing a half-year-old discussion, why not?) I’d say his main flaw is… not arrogance in the conventional sense, because as pointed out he is not, but a belief he is the one who has to make all the hard choices for the greater good. He genuinely believes in the mission, and could perhaps even be characterised as an idealist, but at the same time seems to expect it to demand the most terrible price to be paid.

    Someone somewhere, I forget who, contrasted Wesley with fellow-Watcher Giles in the following way: “Giles will do whatever he believes is necessary for the greater good, even if it comes at a heavy price. Wesley will do whatever comes at the heaviest price, believing this is what is most necessary for the greater good.”

    Therein lies his tragedy.


  8. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on January 13, 2010.]

    Wesley and Cordelia kiss again and Wesley thinks it went better than last time. It did. Wesley yelling at Barney about thrashing him to an inch of his life and then taking that inch was so, so funny to me. Just seeing his red face in anger, the most anger we have ever seen from him yet, was so great.

    I also like Barney revealing to Cordelia that Doyle trusted her that much that he gave her the most valuable thing he had…..although I see it as finally kissing her because he knows he is going to die and doesn’t realise what will happen. I don’t think that the PTB gave him the visions by kissing him.


  9. [Note: Monica posted this comment on December 4, 2013.]

    Uh yeah, she always looks hot, but something about this episode in particular. I think it’s her hair and that shirt…

    Anyway, this episode is another personal favorite of mine. The aftermath of Doyle’s death was handled perfectly, and I was very surprised with how effective the auction was, since it could have just seemed like some gimmick that undercuts the great somber emotion present in this episode. Same with Wesley’s rival, which I enjoyed. However, I would have rathered it been in the following episode so I could have seen more of the just Angel/Cordy dynamic.

    Barney also worked wonders. Not only was the fact that he was evil a great surprise, but his interactions with Cordelia were golden. I loved everything about it.

    Great episode overall in my opinion.


  10. [Note: Noah posted this comment on November 10, 2014.]

    Let me just say that I think that the scene in which Cordelia auditions for the Stain be Gone commercial is the funniest scene in the entire show. Part of it’s deep emotional effect is that it’s also quite sad – I’m still sad over Doyle, and seeing Cordelia weep for him is moving, yet laugh inducing in the context and presentation of it. We get a catharsis with a huge, hilarious joke right on top of it. And then the visions. Cordelia’s grief and love for Doyle separates her from the banal and vapid world of commercial advertising, and the vision that results from that love, from that healing and resultant understanding of Doyle’s selflessness changes her forever into the kind of person who could not be satisfied being a spokesperson for detergent. She tries to deny it at first, tries to pass on the visions, but she never will. The combination of this powerful character moment and humor is too much for me. This is one of my favorite moments in season one.


  11. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 23, 2015.]

    It’s most evident in exactly how he manipulates Cordelia, one minute softly probing her to let him in and the next going on a brutal, and very cruel assassination of her character so he can put her right where he wants to. What’s sickest about it, as I’ve seen it pointed out, is that we see that he does indeed have the ability to use this power for a positive means; Cordy is absolutely glowing when Barney puts Doyle’s sacrifice into perspective for her. As a demon, he uses his gift to manipulate even those positive experiences, and that does make him really evil. That he looks as innocent and gutter-harmless as he claims to be from the outset makes the twists work too and I really liked how he fit in the story.

    What always struck me, even more than his abilities to manipulate people through his empathic abilities, is that he might be the single most horrifying villain either show has ever had for a very simple reason — as an empath demon, he very literally understands the agony and torment of his victims. He can’t disassociate like, say, serial killers and the Nazis were said to do. As such, his empathic abilities bespeak a cruelty on a visceral level that even the most monstrous villains Angel or Buffy have faced don’t quite reach. He knows the horror he’s inflicting on a completely personal level simply because he knows exactly what his victims are feeling as they feel it…and still goes through with his actions without a second thought. The idea of somebody like that should be enough to give anyone the screaming heebies.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s