Angel 1×12: Expecting

[Review by Ryan Bovay]

[Writer: Howard Gordon | Director: David Semel | Aired: 01/25/2000]

“Expecting” is an average episode, mostly because of an uninteresting plot that fails to deliver on its on most interesting issues by the end. Where it’s redeemed and finds much of its likeability (yes, I really liked it) is in its importance to the characters and their development. It again visits the great metaphor upon which S1 has been so brilliantly launched (life in your twenties), while going into some even more heartfelt and somewhat unexpected territory: Family. Being a Whedon fan, I of course had no doubt that these different characters were destined to overcome their quirky differences and work together to fight evil (gee whiz, pop!), but this episode provided something more than I expected and it was all the better for it.

By now the Fang Gang have been through a few well rounded ordeals; Cordelia and Angel more than Wesley, but even he’s been in a couple of tight spots with them by this point. So, they’ve bonded, and it’s entirely expected that the guys brotherly grill Cordelia on the nature of her date as she’s set to go out to a trendy club with her girlfriends to meet some guyfriends. Note the word ‘brotherly.’ What writer Howard Gordon is going for here is easily noticed, but not hammered down repeatedly either (thank you for that).

Their attitudes are of note too. Wesley chides her actions like the middle child of a family, viewing her partying as irresponsible and a distraction. Angel, the wizened elder brother, accepts it and sees it as a natural part of being her age, and a phase to be gone through. This is interesting not because of the difference of opinion, but how their opinions are exactly of one mind when the unthinkable happens. Cordelia hits it off greatly with Wilson Christopher, a photographer, at the bar, invites him back to her place and wakes up the next morning eight and one half months pregnant.

Wesley immediately dumps his condescension for deep and genuine concern, personally comforting her, just as much as Angel does. The episode’s strength is here, in its heart. The best scenes are with the group functioning as a family unit; when they discover Cordy is pregnant, when Angel hits the bar (see quotes) and the firing range, and when the trio discusses the whole ordeal back at the office in the last act (a particularly touching moment; see ‘quotes’ again). The metaphor is not as interesting as some of the others that have been used so far, but it puts the characters just where they need to be, since an unwanted pregnancy is one of the hardest trials a family can endure.

And boy is she lucky to have these two for brothers. Angel’s explosive personality is useful here, fueled by his affection, he handily tracks down Wilson who, with a group of other power-would-be’s, have been serving as a surrogate for a demon that needs humans to hatch its children. Wesley’s deductive powers come in handy fighting the demon too, and he takes good care of Cordelia throughout the episode (and gets knocked around for it, again). As a plot device, the pregnancy is effectively used to test the bond of this ‘family;’ this young, surrogate, on-its-own gaggle which more often than not, would fall apart. Now, they’re only made stronger, as Cordy realizes how safe she really is with these two.

It’s at episodes like these that I reflect on what I like best about Angel S1 in comparison to S3 or S4: Every little bit counts. Not every episode is amazing or even very very good, but near every single episode is relevant. There are only two episodes that come to mind when I think of unimportance in S1 (“I Fall to Pieces” [1×04] and “She” [1×13] ), and even those have their charms, if smaller by comparison. S3 and 4, on the other hand, have many more less-relevant or completely irrelevant episodes, and S3 in particular, despite a smoothly working arc, fails to grab interest at many junctures. You can likely guess where I stand on S5.

What keeps “Expecting” from standing out in the anthology that is S1 is its cowardice when it comes to the toughest issues presented. Cordelia’s pregnancy functioned well enough as a device, as I said, but it failed elsewhere. The most terrifying thing about an unwanted pregnancy for young people is the consequences. One loses their social life, education, career prospects, savings – one’s life is altered in a drastic and frightening way that can’t be rectified easily. The only “easy” way out is, to put it bluntly, abortion, which is sort of what the show does; aborts the plot.

The demon linked to the human mothers was extremely lame (though Wesley trying to fight it was almost worth it), and there were no real consequences; it was killed and the babies were destroyed, and almost everything went back to normal. This is kind of an insultingly nonchalant view on abortion too, since most anyone who goes through one will tell you that it’s not a quick, happy recovery process afterwards. Despite the demonic nature of the ‘children,’ Cordelia was forced to have an attachment to them, so you’d think that would linger a bit. It would’ve been more interesting and respectful to see her spend a couple of episodes in a funk, if only a light one.

We’re left with a tighter and stronger Fang Gang, but little else comes of this episode and if it weren’t for that saving grace of development this whole thing would have slipped into irrelevance. It just takes too easy a road out on too tough an issue, leading me to the opinion that if the writers could not have come up with a better way to encapsulate the concept into a single episode, it should’ve been scrapped.

One more thing that I did like was the continuing establishment of the link between the underworld and sex. Vampires themselves were originally created as metaphors for the dangers of sex; cautionary tales for promiscuous young women who enjoyed late night rendezvous’ with dark, mysterious men. Except, in this series, the vampire is the good guy (another kick to the cliche’s head!), and he’s the provider of safe haven from the dangers of those types of men that early writers cautioned us about. I guess he’s more human than he thinks, and a really good big brother for all of it, too.

I guess sex is just bad. Or, maybe Joss Whedon just wasn’t much of a ladies man. Angel and Buffy, Buffy and Spike, Faith, the siring of any vampire (very sexual, as evidenced by both BtVS “Becoming, Part I” and “Fool for Love” ) – apparently sex is just plain evil! What a nuanced cautionary-tale of a series. By and large this was a watch-able, entertaining and at moments, touching, episode. Flawed, but by no means useless.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Wesley’s axe hitting the wall.
+ Angel and Wesley bursting into the wrong house.
+ Cordelia and Wilson’s dating conversation.
+ Angel’s badass takedown of the ‘loser surrogates’
+ Wesley ‘putting em’ up’ to try and intimidate the demon.



22 thoughts on “Angel 1×12: Expecting”

  1. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on March 6, 2007.]

    Yes another chapter in the ‘sex is bad’ book. (I believe the season 8 comic will have yet another instalment on the subject). Your reading is interesting, I never saw this episode as a metaphor for unwanted pregnancy rather than a rather touching comment on the nature of trust. Cordelia gets punished for trusting to easily, then saved by the real trust that exists between her, Wes and Angel. I always enjoy this one.


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

    I also agree that the plot is lame but I like a lot because of how the characters work and what they are trying to say. Wes, Cordy and Angel feel like a real family. Great review, again Ryan.


  3. [Note: Red posted this comment on July 28, 2008.]

    They do feel like a family and it IS very sweet, but… especially in the end scene where Cordy says: “I learned that I have two people I trust absolutely with my life. And that part’s new.” I really felt that these were words that should have been said to Angel and Doyle. Cordy didn’t know Wes so well yet (and Doyle had just barely died) so this family, although it was made to feel very natural in the sense of the series, actually felt a bit phony, because to my mind, it was just too early.


  4. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 8, 2009.]

    Red, I kind of agree with you, because I think it *should’ve* been said to Doyle, but I don’t think it *shouldn’t* have been said to Wesley. Also, I don’t know if you’ve seen Buffy, but Cordy did know Wesley from before.

    I would’ve given this a B-minus or a B, Ryan. I don’t think this was meant to be a metaphor for abortion. It may have come out like that, but I’m not sure that’s what Joss and Gordon meant. I saw it as a trust thing, kind of like Tranquility did (above comment).


  5. [Note: Jher posted this comment on July 27, 2010.]

    You do have to give a little credit to the writers on the “sex is bad” front where this episode is concerned. Cordelia immediately jumps to that very conclusion, saying “I’m being punished” but Wesley is there, as the voice of the writers I believe, to reassure her that she is not. Cordy didn’t do anything wrong in this episode. She went out, met a guy, and had a nice time. The fact that some people are very good at earning your trust only to abuse it was the point here I think. This is reinforced for me by the demonstration of true trustworthiness we see from Angel and Wes. Sometimes you get burned trusting, but its worth it to have friends like the two of them.


  6. [Note: mordcordy posted this comment on August 20, 2010.]

    just a little side note, i was loving Angel’s line of “I hate it when they shoot me”. nice nod to the prev ep

    also reminded me of “I hate it when they drown me” from Buff.



  7. [Note: JMK posted this comment on September 22, 2010.]

    I thought that this episode was absolutely hilarious and touching in some aspects. My parents are huge fans of Wesley, so my mom totally lol’ed when Wesley and Angel burst into the wrong house and Wes was like: ” WHERE DO YOU LAY YOUR EGGS?” HAHA. May not be the best episode, but it was still enjoyable.


  8. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on November 7, 2010.]

    Wow, and I loved this episode.

    The start was hilarious, the end was hilarious, the writers had their tongues firmly in their cheeks with the sex is bad part, and I at least found the middle section scary. (So I scare easily.) Charisma Carpenter was terrific, and Wesley is beginning to become interesting.

    To judge by the ratings, that means that I’m going to LOVE the next episode “She.”



  9. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on November 8, 2010.]

    Anybody else notice the degeneration of tall, handsome, popular, successful males in the Buffyverse?

    At Sunnydale High, they were merely thoughtless. At UC Sunnydale, they were insulting cads. In L.A., on Angel, they are murderers. Tough life for a young lady in Buffyland who likes ’em conventionally handsome. I’m thinking the ladies should start dating the ugly guys.

    Side note: I read a review elsewhere that reads Cordelia’s line to Christopher Mark (or whatever his name is) about this being the first time ever she’s done something like this as indicating that she is a virgin. Well I suppose from what we’ve seen on the Buffyverse shows, only her relationship with Xander, that this is theoretically possible. But between the character being a popular girl who doesn’t exactly dress like a schoolgirl and the fact that Charisma Carpenter was about 30 when this show was shot … nope, I can’t suspend my disbelief. I’m saying it’s the first time she’s invited a guy to stay the night at her place, that’s what she means.


  10. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on January 10, 2011.]

    John: I think she means it’s the first time she has invited a man inside her own place. She tells him this to show she is not easy. My guess, anyway.

    Cordy didn’t jump into sex and waited until the third date as was mentioned with the friend saying before the night, “3rd times the charm.”

    Trivia: Both Buffy and Cordelia were used by men through sex within 9 eps of each other.


  11. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on June 8, 2011.]

    A sort of foreshadowing: Wesley defeats the demon with a bullet shot through the barrel with liquid nitrogen.

    He proofs here to be a vey skilled gun shooter.

    This comes in handy in a few future episodes.


  12. [Note: Rob posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    Please tell me this show gets better. I’ve watched Buffy three times through now. I figure there’s no putting off Angel, but I just can’t get into it. The whole thing seems shallow, and these melodramatic moments like the end of this episode…

    Is the writing worse? Or is it just that I don’t care for these characters at all? I’m hoping I can at least make it to Fred.


  13. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    Rob, although I’m far less enthused overall about the characters on Angel (in relation to Buffy), I can assure you that the show does, in fact, get a whole lot better. Even towards the end of the first season you’ll begin to notice an improvement and the second season is generally very well done. I think you can make a more complete judgment on the show after you get through Season 2.


  14. [Note: Rob posted this comment on December 17, 2011.]

    MikeJer, thanks for the encouragement. I’ve made it through Sanctuary now and am finally warming up to the series. It helps a lot that Wesley’s becoming a stronger character. I guess it’s hard when you’re starting with a team of the negative characters from BtVS.


  15. [Note: Odon posted this comment on February 25, 2012.]

    It’s implied in BTVS “Phases” that Cordy isn’t a virgin; she’s making out with Xander in the local teen parking place and talks of “coming here to do things I can’t tell my father about because he still thinks I’m a…good girl.”

    And as for the episode “dropping” the demon-as-metaphor of unwanted pregnancy, it’s made clear at the end that was never what this episode was about – it’s about the importance of “family” (surrogate or otherwise) sticking by each other whey it’s needed.


  16. [Note: Dave posted this comment on November 7, 2012.]

    I near enough pissed myself laughing at Wesley nailing the wall with his axe. The doddering giggling then *WHAM*!. Priceless.


  17. [Note: Monica posted this comment on October 19, 2013.]

    I actually really enjoy this episode, and don’t understand the extreme hate it receives from by certain people (I’ve heard it called the worst episode of the entire series). Sure, it’s not the most interesting plot, and I agree that it, at the end, wasted what could have been a poignant reflection of abortion, but it truly emphasized the close bond and family-like connection between the three (yes, even the newcomer Wesley).

    For starters, I think the entire first half of the episode is really good. It was nice to see Cordelia have some sort of life with friends, and, for the short time she has to actually do this, go out like a nineteen-year-old (with a fake I.D.?) living in Los Angeles. It’s refreshing to see her dating and doing things that normal people do, since at this point in the series, she’s the closest thing to a normal, grounded person. But most importantly, the focus on the threesome is just touching. Angel’s defensiveness over Cordelia when Wesley begins to berate her over neglecting her duties is adorable, and the initial use of the pregnancy to indicate that Wesley does indeed care for her was handled very well. Not to mention Cordelia’s little speech that she gives to them at the end of the episode, which truly shows the love and unity they share, which is something that I loved since I felt it really differentiated Angel Investigations from the Scooby Gang. Here, they all have a mutual bond, where the Scooby’s have relationships that vary heavily from each other.


  18. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]

    Wesley’s attitude about Cordelia neglecting her duties to go out and party mirrors Gile’s attitude in regard to Buffy in the early season’s of BtVS.


  19. [Note: S posted this comment on June 7, 2014.]

    Agreed. Also — the scariest part of an unwanted (or even wanted) pregnancy isn’t *always* the post-baby consequences; pregnancy itself can be a very scary thing, as can birth. I think this episode does a good job with that. I also don’t think that Cordelia mourning the loss of her demon-babies would make sense; she became attached bc she was manipulated into doing so. The logical emotional fallout would be a lasting sense of violation.


  20. [Note: Pamplemousse posted this comment on December 5, 2014.]

    I thought this episode was really weak, not only the plot but also the comedy. Also, I know I probably shouldn’t take that kind of thing seriously but the gratuitous and unoriginal joke about the French makes me a bit sad in a show that’s usually so smart.


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