Angel 1×17: Eternity

[Review by Ryan Bovay]

[Writer: Tracey Stern | Director: Regis Kimble | Aired: 04/04/2000]

Angelus, one could argue, is the single most powerful force in the fictional universe of both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel: the Series.” Most fans could only argue for a force equal in power. For “Buffy,” Angelus defined her character; having to kill her one true love to save the world was not only heartbreaking for Buffy (and for us, the viewers), it changed her fundamentally. The ramifications of BtVS “Becoming, Part II” , made her the Slayer; by having to deal with the very most difficult of choices at the highest stakes for the first time, Buffy was no longer a young girl who happened to be a Slayer. She was now a Slayer who also happened to be a young girl, and as the years went by with dangers becoming greater, this only intensified.

All her most difficult experiences, including alienation from her friends as a result of this calling, relationship anxieties with every man she touched, superiority complexes (and the inferiority complexes within them) and a great deal of other issues, can all be traced back in one way or another to her doomed love with Angel, the demon it brought forth and what she had to sacrifice to destroy it.

And if Buffy spent her life in the shadow of that demon, Angel spent his life with it on his shoulders. During both time periods of Angelus’ existence (1753-1898 and 1998), his demonic shadow, a personality that lived to defy the artless, drunken slacker he was in his human life, committed sins too many to count with deviations too horrifying and pre-meditated to name. His drunken, artless life having unwittingly led him to become a vampire, the ensouled Angel’s entire existence was one of a quest for redemption to pay for the crimes of his alter-ego. And the close proximity of Angelus, always within his mind and not too far from the surface, was a constant reminder why saving souls and connecting to them was of the utmost importance: It was all that could deliver him his soul.

(Aside from many other reasons, this is the major flaw of the Angelus arc in S4, as the demon is treated as a completely different entity within the same body as Angel, thereby violating canon and nullifying one of the most interesting and vital pieces to the necessity of Angel’s quest for redemption.)

And so “Eternity” is an interesting and unique little piece, I think. By all accounts, as a critic, I should hate it. Angelus is nothing if not a force to be reckoned with, and this goes for any writer attempting to tackle him as well. I always smile in glee when re-watching BtVS “Innocence” , visualizing Joss Whedon going mad at the keyboard with those joyously evil entendre’s, but Angelus’ importance as a figure in the Buffy/Angelverse is so crucial that his invocation must be done with great care and purpose. This is why, as a critic, I should really hate this episode. He’s used as little more than a device (even if effectively), and yet some solid writing and screwball timing keep this episode on my good side; it was definitely a surprise hit.

The plot concerns Rebecca, a young and down-on-her-luck actress who is struggling to find a niche a season and a half after the end of her cult TV show (this carries some humour for me reviewing this show after its end). When Angel saves her life by pushing her out of the way of a car, she takes an interest in him, eventually discovering he’s a vampire. This intrigues rather than frightens her, leading her to try and seduce him via the Hollywood method – with a drug – which then leads him to become Angelus. See what I meant?

There’s a moral to the story this week too, and this time it’s honesty. The episode opens with Angel and Wesley panicking, trying to escape, and we find out they’re watching Cordelia at a play. Both are patronizing her later, omitting certain facts; not exactly saying they liked it (the play) or didn’t like it as to not hurt feelings, but in fact lying in the process. And in fact, everyone is lying to each other; Oliver, Rebecca’s agent, lies to her about the attacks and her chances of getting a new role. Angel lies to Rebecca about taking her case and to his friends about his criticisms of them. Rebecca lies to Angel and Cordelia as well, but for different reasons and much worse results.

The worth of the episode comes from how the characters deal in and react to these lies, and how it characterizes them more personally. Angel is omitting truths and in some cases outright lying, however it is often out of his sense of justice. Deciding what’s best for others and how to deal with it has always been a part of his character concerning those he cares about, and so his lies to Wesley, Cordelia and Rebecca were well-intentioned; what he believed was better for their protection and/or happiness.

Rebecca is the counterpoint, lying out of a care only for herself, which is all her existence is concerned with. Unable to see the small amount of love she actually has (coming from her agent Oliver, who wants so desperately to help her that he’s willing to terrorize her), she’s as trapped in her character Raven – a forever young, popular, season-limited woman – as her fans are. That she despises them for this trait is an interesting commentary on how she views herself. And yet she clearly envies them to a point, as desperate to forever be Raven as much as her fans want her to be, and it’s for these motives that Rebecca takes an interest in Angel.

She lies to him, manipulates Cordelia into giving information on his life and his Gypsie curse under the guise of friendship, and drugs his drink with a “happy pill” based on this information, betraying him in the most underhanded of ways. The intentions of these lies are what differentiate her from Angel (selfish as opposed to selfless), and yet the writers are careful enough to make us sympathize with her, the sad and slow deterioration of her life gently revealed throughout the episode. Her motivations are never in question and even in her worst moments she invokes that sympathy, which I though was a smart move. Angel expertly sums it all up mid-transformation: “You think you want to stay the same? What you really want is to make it disappear.”

All the pain, deceit and worries of fading away become too much for her, and a life spent so long in service of only one-self drove Rebecca to this end. And what an end it was. David Boreanaz once again was a delight as Angelus and with a few good lines to back up him up too (still not as masterfully written as Whedon’s invocation, however). It was the scene the episode was built for, because Angelus is, if anything, brutally honest. In an evil way of course; Cordelia herself says of Angelus in “Soulless” [4×11] that he “lies with the truth,” which is true. Angelus’ presence here is to bring out the truth in everyone, as he cruelly recants Angel’s insecurities over his friends’ shortcomings, and terrifies Rebecca with every mannerism and gesture.

Their reactions to the ‘truth of the demon’ are the second important part of the show. Cordelia is stalwart and accepting, as is Wesley as well as brave. The truth is not always the most pleasant thing to hear, but what makes them good people and good friends is that they can take it, both of them adamant in their chastising of Angel, telling him that he needs to be just as honest as the “evil” version of himself. Angel learns this lesson well. Though, I doubt he’s ever so cruel. As for Rebecca, the experience simply overwhelms; the truth wounds her, and she is scared off to never come back. Whether this will improve her personality in the long run or not is left up in the air, but I believe such an alarming dump of cold honesty may have awakened some better part of her, and the difference of it to her false life was a giant shock to handle.

Now as I mentioned earlier, it didn’t sit right with me how Angelus was brought about. I didn’t hate the episode, but the idea that a simple drug, a man-made synthetic chemical could have the same effect as true love, and remove something as important as a soul, is downright insulting. It’s where the episode gets all of its demerits. Maybe it was just a poor understanding of the mythology and frankly, I kind of like to believe that despite the lessons learned here, this thing sort of never happened. Cheap is the value of a soul if a simple drug can remove it, and it also leads me to wonder: If it’s that easy, why did Wolfram and Hart never consider a more powerful version of the drug to turn Angel to their ‘side’, as was their plan for him from this season on?

It’s a shame that the writers couldn’t conceive something better to make Angel lose his soul, or a better plot that wouldn’t have to bring him to that anyway. As much as I enjoy Angelus in every frame, even in the deeply flawed arc of S4, the carelessness of it was just shameful. Maybe Rebecca could’ve learned about Buffy from talking with Cordelia, and slipped Angel a drug that would’ve made him believe he was with her? Would’ve sat better with me than what’s here.

Still, there’s value here and this episode is not be totally discounted. If “Somnambulist” [1×11] wasn’t enough of a reminder to the characters of the danger of Angelus, always lurking beneath the surface, this certainly did the trick.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Cordelia’s line about the ‘idiot network.’ As Whedon fans, how many times have we heard this?
+ Oliver’s second appearance. I love the use of continuity in this show!
+ Rebecca’s sultry curiousity and embrace of the notion of vampires.
+ Cordelia’s giggling.
+ Angelus’ brief, but fun, rampage.

– The entire idea of the happy pill. Insulting.


* Wesley tells Cordelia that the chances of Angel finding true happiness with an actress are slim. Though Angel does fall in love with Cordelia in S3, she is still never like Buffy to him, and we see in “Awakening” [4×10] when he says Buffy’s name in bed rather than Cordelia’s, that Wesley’s comment is, in some odd way, true.



72 thoughts on “Angel 1×17: Eternity”

  1. [Note: Dafydd posted this comment on May 23, 2006.]

    In the review, Ryan asked the question why W & H never tried to give Angel a super and permanent version of the happy drug to make him lose his soul. I’ve heard the same question regarding them using a similar demon to the one in BtVS 3×17 Enemies to remove his soul. The Shanshu prophecy requires a vampire champion with a soul. W & H want said champion on their side for the apocolypse. If Angel is Angelus, even if they could recruit him, no longer qualifies for the prophecy.


  2. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on May 23, 2006.]

    It’s an intriguing theory, but I’m not sure whether I completely agree. For one, we don’t know how much W & H actually know about the prophecy at the time, or whether they even have it, because in “Five by Five”, they simply want Angel dead, which would seem to imply they weren’t thinking long-term with Angel yet. Secondly, W & H seem throughout the S2 arc to be attempting to bring Angel out of the game by turning him dark, distracting him from his real path, but not winning him over to their side. It seemed to be more of an attempt to weaken the forces against them rather than win them over.

    Personally, I felt the drug at the end of “Eternity” was merely a rather lazy plot device to have Angelus “Back” without any long-term effects. To be honest I don’t think “Eternity” was meant to have any long-term bearing.


  3. [Note: Fallen posted this comment on May 23, 2006.]

    I agree that Eternity was definately structured around not bringing him back but instead just being a one-off and that’s why I really dislike the episode. It messes with a lot of stuff just for a cheap thrill and I didn’t think it was neccessary.

    However the prophecy clearly states that “The vampire with a soul will play an important role in the apocalypse” and turning him into Angelus would obviously make him useless.

    It wasn’t W&H trying to kill him in Five by Five it was a few lawyers working outside the system.

    And of course it all comes down to the most important aspect…the story.


  4. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on May 24, 2006.]

    As I understand it, they had to make clear to new people who hadn’t watched BtVS before (especially s.2) that angel without a soul wasn’t good company.

    because that’s the story’s premise: a evil guy turned good seeking redemption; but the important thing is to make clear, that he’s not just quite a bad guy, but something really, really to be scared of (which they destroyed by AtS. S.4), that you shouldn’t mess with that, also in terms of, why he really shouldn’t have a girlfriend, and how fine the line is, he walks.

    For me that’s one of the first AtS-eps, that worked (next to Rmwav), but tastes are different. And I have to admit, I always like the game: is he evil, is he not (until s.4: because he was all talk)


  5. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on July 28, 2006.]

    Sorry, but I couldn’t agree less. For me, Eternity is one of the low points of the generally mixed S1.


  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 28, 2006.]

    I don’t mind parts of “Eternity,” but as a whole I was never wild about it myself either. Although I think Ryan graded it pretty fairly (though I’d score it lower myself). Ryan already knows this, but I feel a bit different about S1 than he does. I feel, like DD said, it’s a really mixed season in terms of quality. It is one of my least favorite Buffyverse seasons. The lack of any sort of cohesiveness in overall arc and theme really turned me off. If I ever do my own Angel reviews, you guys can expect, overall, lower scores.


  7. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on July 29, 2006.]

    What didn’t you like about it?

    “The lack of any sort of cohesiveness in overall arc and theme really turned me off.”

    Are you kidding? Lack of cohesiveness of theme?? Angel is 95% theme for crying out loud! 😉


  8. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 29, 2006.]

    Okay, you’re right. It does have theme. But S1 doesn’t have an arc and I find the quality of the episodes a lot more sketchy than Ryan does.


  9. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on July 29, 2006.]

    It doesn’t have a blatantly obvious story arc, no, but I wouldn’t class that as a negative factor. Besides, it’s not completely arc-less. Both episodes 1 and 2 initiate sub-arcs that weave in and out of the standalones all the way up to the finale.


  10. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on July 29, 2006.]

    In answer to your question Grounded, I didn’t like the mixed bag of quality, that resulted in “She”, “The Ring”, “Eternity”, and “Expecting” plus a few episodes which disappointed slightly although generally being worthwhile. Ats seemed to start out with less of an overal arc, perhaps because it had series wide plans rather than season wide ones like Buffy.

    Overall, I think the only really outstanding episodes in S1 are Five by Five and Sanctuary.


  11. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 30, 2006.]

    I’d thrown “To Shanshu in LA” too Dingdong. I also liked “Blind Date” considerably. It’s a ‘good’ season but I wouldn’t classify it as ‘great’.


  12. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on July 30, 2006.]

    I like To Shanshu in LA, but I’ve always considered it rather overrated, and I wouldn’t classify it as standout. Nor Blind Date, even though that’s pretty good in some ways. But for me, Five by Five is still my favourite episode of Angel, and Sanctuary isn’t far behind. I actually think both are better than “Who are You”, which is definately high praise for me.


  13. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on July 30, 2006.]

    I agree She and Expecting aren’t up there, but as standalones I think Eternity and The Ring are both excellent at what they do. Not outstanding, I agree, but still good.

    Standouts from S1: City Of, In The Dark, Bachelor Party (come on – I’m a Doyle fan!), I Will Remember You, Hero, Somnambulist, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Five By Five, Sanctuary, To Shanshu In LA

    I agree with Ryan – aside from a few blips (and EVERY season of A and B has these), A1 is 80+ all the way. 😀


  14. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on July 30, 2006.]

    And yet you think S5 is poor? I can’t understand it!

    Seriously, though, The Ring is utterly predictable. Also, pretty uncompelling and simplistic at points. Eternity had potential and a good idea, but failed to explore it very well, and turned into an excuse to bring back Angelus temporarily. The standalones you listed:

    City Of, In The Dark, Bachelor Party (come on – I’m a Doyle fan!), I Will Remember You, Hero, Somnambulist, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Five By Five, Sanctuary, To Shanshu In LA

    City of is good, I agree, but I wouldn’t say standout. It introduces the main theme and concept well but is flawed by some duff bits (Doyle’s explanation of Angel’s backstory) and a few bits where style takes over too much. In the Dark is the only S1 episode I haven’t seen, so I won’t comment, but The Bachelor Party is, although undeniably entertaining, rather flawed and cliched in some respects. Hero I like probably more than most Angel fans, but it can’t be denied the principle villains are rather unsubtle in the metaphor and admittedly does bugger up continuity (not as much a problem with me as other fans, though) Somnambulist is probably one of the best episodes after Five by Five/Sancturary, but I remember some flaws in the way it was presented that brought it down slightly for me. I don’t like I’ve Got You Under My Skin. Sorry, I know it’s many people’s favourites, but I just don’t like it. That brings me to “To Shanshu in LA”. For most people, it’s one of the best finales, but I’m not sure why. It’s very good in places, and has some powerful parts, but certain areas of the story fall flat to me. The Demon never really works, and Angel’s reactions (or lack of) to his prophecied death aren’t explored enough. And although admittedly exciting in places, it isn’t really paced right.

    The main problem I have with Ats S1 is not so much the overall lack of proper arc, so much as the fact that it both goes for an arc and goes for standalones. I personally feel it should have had definate standalones, and more arc-orientated episodes, instead of trying to mix the two. It always left me somewhat unsatisfied, and didn’t really work as well as it should have. If you compare the standalones to Buffy’s, they aren’t nearly as accomplished. And the arc doesn’t move along fast enough or cover enough ground to make up for this.


  15. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on July 30, 2006.]

    I don’t hate B5, but it doesn’t have a hell of a lot good going for it either. Didn’t we just do the Glory dissection not long ago? 😉


  16. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on July 30, 2006.]

    Well, I thought Glory was the weakest thing about it, but I thought everything else was great. Glory didn’t feature heavily in most episodes until Intervention, and the quality of the rest of the arc and the standalone material was excellent IMO.AeC


  17. [Note: AeC posted this comment on October 13, 2007.]

    (Aside from many other reasons, this is the major flaw of the Angelus arc in S4, as the demon is treated as a completely different entity within the same body as Angel, thereby violating canon and nullifying one of the most interesting and vital pieces to the necessity of Angel’s quest for redemption.)

    I’d need to watch S4 again to be sure, but I always took the “distinct entity” route as more of a metaphorical distinction, a separate part of the whole that had to be subdued and brought into balance (although this treatment did initially bug me). To put it in Freudian terms, which I generally loathe although they do provide some nice shorthand, Angelus is the id, Angel’s trapped soul is the superego, and the Angel that Angelus and Faith meet in Angel/Angelus’ mind is the ego which, no longer having two conflicting impulses to mediate between, has become lost.

    It could be argued that the “separate entity” theory has some precedence in “The Dark Age” from Buffy S2. When the demon jumps from Jenny into Angel, who handily defeats it, he comments that he’s had a demon in him for a couple hundred years that’s been waiting for a good fight.


  18. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on August 3, 2009.]

    bookworm, quote: For me that’s one of the first AtS-eps, that worked (next to Rmwav), but tastes are different.

    LOL! Clearly, since i hate RWAV* from top to bottom and i think this is a very weak episode too.

    *Although top comedy points should be awarded for the dvd bonus quote; “What i like about RWAV is that it uses the idea of someone moving into their first home as a metaphor for someone moving into their first home.” Genius!


  19. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on August 3, 2009.]

    As for ‘Eternity’, Ryan you’re right to mention DB’s acting, and everyone here is pretty good – the problem is the characterisation.
    After all the episodes spent carefully developing Cordelia, visions, skill, personality – willingness to dismember dead demons etc. This story is vicious to her presenting us with an airhead bad actress who yipes a lot. It’s no wonder the fake vision gag falls so flat.

    Cordy and Wesley also spend much time telling each other things the already know they know. Grr Arrgh. Really, this should have been a lot earlier in the season.

    Rebecca Lowell. Who cares?

    And the manager… would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for those pesky –

    at which point i fling this out the window to lie next to the charred remnants of Expecting.


  20. [Note: Miscellaneopolan posted this comment on November 15, 2009.]

    There’s an interesting theory about this episode that might help resolve some of its contradictions. Some say that the Angelus we see in this episode isn’t Angelus at all, but is merely Angel with his inhibitions removed by the drug. His soul is still in there, but a combination of the effects of the drug, the suggestion that he might revert into Angelus, and the opportunity to terrorize a pretty woman combine to make him act in a way that maybe he’s been secretly wanting to act for a long time. Angel puts up a good front, but Angelus is always beneath the surface, and the seduction of evil can be powerful. Numb (but not remove) the parts of Angel that hold the evil back, and you may get something like the Angel we see in Eternity.

    Obviously, there’s a ton of problems with the theory. The writers, for one, certainly treat it as a full-on transformation, but why should we let a trivial thing like authorial intent get in the way of discussion? I kind of like it. It implies that the line separating Angel from Angelus is much less clear than we’ve been led to believe, which is miles more unsettling than a drug that somehow removes Angel’s soul.

    Of course, the show will go on to trace that line in bright-red magic marker in Season 4, but we’ll just ignore that.


  21. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 4, 2010.]

    Do the writers treat it like a full on transformation?

    WESLEY: He hasn’t really turned. It’s an illusion, not real.

    REBECCA: He bit me.

    WESLEY: Still, we might want to leave the premises for a while, just until the effects wear off.

    This does seem to agree with the “not really Angelus” theory.

    I think there’s very little distance between Angel without inhibition and Angel without soul. He is still a vampire, still has the instinct to hunt and kill, and with the drug removing his inhibitions, reverting to his other persona makes sense.

    I think it’s significant that Angel first appears to start wanting Rebecca’s blood, then gets angry at her and violently feeds her the blood from the fridge, which fits the lowering of inhibitions but isn’t like Angelus. It is only when she [i]tells[/i] him it is a happiness pill that he reverts to the full-on Angelus persona. It seems to me like Angel believes he has lost his soul whilst in the drug-haze, and with his inhibitions gone as well acts as if it is true.

    What we see on screen here seems to fit the theory that Angel really always has the potential to be like Angelus, soul or no soul, and that the soul is just what gives him the willpower and knowledge of good and evil he needs to be a good man despite his dark/vampiric impulses.

    And yes, season four contradicts this. Oh well. If there’s internal inconsistencies in the story I get to pick which version I like best and believe that.


  22. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on January 17, 2010.]

    Angel/Angelus: In the ‘BtVS’ episode, ‘Lie to Me’, Buffy tells Ford that turning into a vampire means that a demon ‘sets up shop in your old house’ and it walks and talks and remembers your life, but it isn’t you. Which would mean that Angelus is a completely different demon that inhabits Angels body all the time and it is this demon that comes out to control the body when he is Angelus.

    It has also been said on this post in ‘BtVS’ episode, ‘The Dark Age’ that Angel’s demon (Angelus) won the fight againt the one inside Jenny.

    But thinking of this, how would Angel or Liam remember what the demon did for that 145 years if Liams soul was gone and the demon was controlling the body?

    Anyway it was great to see Angelus back and mocking Cordelia. “J-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-LINE!”


  23. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 19, 2010.]

    The show is not always consistent with its mythological aspects.

    But in Dopplegangland Buffy makes the same assertion about a vampire being a demon just taking over a human’s body and Angel starts to contradict her but she doesn’t listen…

    I think the completely dualistic view of vampires is something like the Watcher Party Line, something they tell their slayers so it’s easier to kill vampires, not the full truth.

    As for the Dark Age, Angel is and remains a human/demon hybrid whichever way you interpret the evidence, and obviously his soul struggles against his demonic nature whether you see said nature as a separate person inside him or as his dark and murderous vampiric impulses he has to keep under control at all times. The story works either way.


  24. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on January 23, 2010.]

    For some reason I thought about it again and my thinking is this: Angel had his soul returned to him in 1898 with an add on curse that stated if he had one true moment of happiness, it would be taken from him. When Willow returned his soul in ‘Becoming Pt 2″ she did not include any curse so how do we know that he still has the curse?

    It has been implied in both series’ that he cannot have true happiness and the ‘happiness pill’ was just chemical suggestion as Wesley said. Perhaps it was a strong enough chemical that Angel believed it enough to relax and the demon Angelus took over his body for that short time without losing his soul. If you look at this episode that way it makes a little bit more sense.

    But wouldn’t it be funny if Angel didn’t have a curse on his soul anymore after having it returned twice (season 2 BtVS, season 4 AtS) without such add ons.


  25. [Note: Cirrus posted this comment on March 1, 2010.]

    I agree with Nathan.Taurus, I don’t think the point was that Angel had ‘lost his soul’ at any point, Angelus just sort of… took over. Which I think is a little strange in itself. It’s THAT easy to get something out that should only be able to take over when he loses his soul? Plus, this episode made it seem like Angelus was an *alter ego* of Angel. I have to admit that it’s better than Angelus being seen as a separate entity, but I still think alter ego is going a bit far.

    I would like this episode… if it weren’t for Rebecca. Why on earth would Angel want to sleep and pursue a relationship with this random muppet of a bint? He’s never shown any interest in having a relationship with anyone else so far, and yet he meets this one woman one time (saves her, actually, but that’s not exactly unusual for Angel) and suddenly trusts her.

    Bit of a sloppy episode — I don’t think Angelus and finally a love interest other than Buffy should have been covered in the same episode, and as you say, Angelus didn’t have as good scripting as on BtVS.

    Plus… Cordelia kind of annoyed me in this episode. I understand that it’s part of her character to be superficial, self-centred and air-headed, and rarely serious, but still, I have to wonder how she can be that irritating all of the time.


  26. [Note: Ishe posted this comment on April 25, 2010.]

    After watching this episode, I never really thought that Angel lost his soul at at, or even that he lost his inhibitions. After the end, I was left with the impression that he was unaffected by the drug. I thought all of the rest of it was an act. He had done this sort of thing before after all, with Faith. Plus Rebecca needed to be understand just how dangerous vampires really were. There was some collateral damage to Wes and Cordelia, so he couldn’t fill them in on everything afterward.


  27. [Note: David@Prague posted this comment on May 6, 2010.]

    Ryan, I respectfully disagree with your opinion on the drug lameness.

    Actually, it was several times said that “soul” is that part which help people to discern between good and evil – and quite frankly, thats exactly what is damaged by drugs using. No more good / evil thinking, no more conscience – just “fun” and “need” mode.

    Exactly what happened to Angel, is it not ?


  28. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on June 22, 2010.]

    I always wondered if Angel really lost his soul temporarily or if he simply decided to play Angelus in a last-ditch attempt to scare Rebecca into sanity. He’d tried reasoning with her, he’d tried lecturing her. If he just said no to her, she’d have kept trying, and it’s entirely possible the entertainment division at Wolfram and Hart would have returned her call (among other possibilities). I think it’s possible he was trying to give her a good strong taste of what she was playing with, and then when Cordelia and Wesley walked in he was stuck playing in character (as when Angel and Faith bumped into Xander in Enemies). True, afterward he played it as if he had temporarily lost his soul, but would Wesley and (particularly) Cordelia been more understanding or less understanding if he’d admitted that he was faking? We’ve seen him cover up stuff like that before – in Dopplegangland when Buffy says that a vampire’s character has nothing to do with the person he or she once was and Angel starts to correct her and then waffles.


  29. [Note: gene posted this comment on December 10, 2010.]

    how was angel able to crash through the window and save the lady when he wasent invited in yet?


  30. [Note: Neil posted this comment on December 20, 2010.]

    Not by any means a perfect episode but worth it for Angelus’ cruel but darkly amusing taunting of Cordelia’s acting ability (“Line!!!”)


  31. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on January 12, 2011.]

    gene: Angel was invited. Earlier Rebecca told Angel he could come over and watch the episode where she didn’t win the Emmy. That’s enough of an invite now for vampires.

    Headline of one of the tabloid magazines “Doctors Baffled: Baby Born Pregnant” Hilarious.

    Ah, Angel pretending to be Angelus. Always great fun to watch.


  32. [Note: GrrArrgh posted this comment on April 11, 2011.]

    Wesley: The bullets were…

    Angel: Blanks

    Wesley: No, I’m afraid the bullets were blanks

    Brill we bit between the guys


  33. [Note: Afterthebattle posted this comment on August 22, 2011.]

    Angel says Buffy’s name in “Awakening” because he associates the pain of losing his soul with Buffy. Besides, it would be pretty absurd that Angel’s vision of perfect happiness would be sleeping with Cordy while imagining she was Buffy.


  34. [Note: Josh Man posted this comment on September 13, 2013.]

    Terrible episode. Adds nothing to the characters or stories. A meandering story that doesn’t even provide a real plot. There is no chemistry between Angel and Rebecca, which ruins a large part of the supposed story. People have to come up with stretched theories on order to explain how a drug brings out Angelus. In my opinion, this is the worst episode of Angel that there is, and it may very well be the worst episode in the Buffy-verse. At least in Buffy’s worst episodes there is some redeeming qualities, I don’t think there are any here.


  35. [Note: aces42 posted this comment on November 26, 2013.]

    gravely disagree about the foreshadowing part, the only reason he muttered Buffy’s name is because the same feeling of losing his soul came about, which shocked the hell out of him cause it only happened once in all of his existence. He realized in that moment that he hit perfect happiness with Cordelia as well, EVEN IN A DREAM STATE, which says volumes. Its a shame Cordy got killed off cause she truly understood Angel and made him more happier than Buffy did

    Cordelia is Angel’s Lois Lane while Buffy is his Lana Lang
    (Smallville shoutout)


  36. [Note: Monica posted this comment on January 2, 2014.]

    One unique thing I noticed about this episode is that nobody dies. I can thing of at least one episode of Buffy that’s the same way, but I don’t think there’s another Angel episode that does the same.


  37. [Note: LoveroftheBuffer posted this comment on January 3, 2014.]

    I respect your opinion and I do agree that Cordy and him did find happiness but there love could NEVER compare to Buffy and Angels. Fair enough Buffy Season 3 their relationship was more on and off than their clothes but Season 2 their romance was epic but I do respect and admire your different opinion as it has logic


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

    Dream states are not reality. Things are often more profound and perfect in dreams than in reality.


  39. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 26, 2015.]

    Amidst all this serious talk about Angel and Angelus and the whole business of souls, I want to note how hilarious Wesley’s smug look was after he clarified that he meant “TV actresses”. You could almost hear his internal monologue going “Nailed it!”


  40. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 27, 2015.]

    I’m not sure how you feel about the the duality of his personas, but I figured this is as good a time to address it as ever.

    I think the episode works well enough on its own. Angel(us)’s brief return never struck me as contrived since it fit within the narrative (ridiculous device aside), but rather a reminder of what’s just beneath the surface.

    More then that, I feel like it’s the moment where you truly realize Angel and Angel(us) are one and the same, and it’s my belief that was its purpose. All the drug did was suppress his inhibitions, and everything we see Angel do and say here is 100% our soulful protagonist. As is Angel(us). Again, his darker persona is simply the byproduct of having no conscience. All these urges and changes in personality are suppressed when having a soul consciously and not by the soul alone but by will, because as long as Angel has a soul he’ll fight the urge to become the monster he is.

    S4 trying desperately to separate the two personas was a travesty, one that I think was a byproduct of Tim Minear’s lesser involvement due to running Firefly. Season 5 goes right back to treating them as one and the same, saying it was Angel who did all those horrible things in his past on many an occasion (almost as if just to make up for that fact).

    Angel’s character is most intriguing to me in the whedonverse even if the character itself is often mishandled. What he represents is something greater then even shades of grey: he is the embodiment of what a true human being is, an animal, even a monster, that is only held at bay by inhibition. It’s why those who lack empathy have such great capacity for inflicting pain.


  41. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 27, 2015.]

    It’s a fascinating question, to be sure. Let’s gather some evidence (and feel free to add, especially from later seasons of AtS, since I haven’t watched them in quite a while) on the issue:

    1) We know that, soul or no soul, the vampiric version recalls the human’s life and, to some extent, personality. That, at least, seems clear. All the major vampires clearly recall their human life even without the animus/anima of the soul.

    Slightly more arguably, I would say there doesn’t seem to be a clear division between the id and egos of either ‘persona’ (yes, I know I just went from Jungian archetype to Freudian psychic divisions, heh.) The critical distinction lies in the superego, the part that regulates the moral compass and self-restraint of a being. Angel clearly possesses such restraint, and when he ceases to do so (being soulless or drugged) it becomes an ugly affair as the ‘Angelus’ aspect of his personality emerges from the shackles of conscience;

    2) In BtVS’s “The Dark Age,” the vampire-demon seems to be portrayed almost as a caged entity, held in check by Angel’s human/soul quality. Eyghon seems to engage in a very literal struggle with the vampire aspect, with Angel himself seeming to have little impact on the fight, or so it appears to me, given that he pretty much just gets jerked around as Eyghon and Angel’s vampiric aspect go at each other tooth and nail;

    3) In Pylea, the vampiric aspect is portrayed as purely animalistic. Since, as you observe, and I agree, ‘Angelus’ isn’t really a distinct creature from ‘Angel’, I tend to want to interpret this as suggesting that a ‘vampire’, as distinct from the demon that inhabits the corpse, is a completely synthetic creature (as in actual synthesis, not the ‘artificial’ connotations we associate with the word nowadays.) There is no ‘Angelus’ demon simply because there is no Angelus without Angel. Perhaps we could say that the vampire-demons are, broadly speaking, simply generic templates? One vampire-demon would be much the same as any other outside of the vampiric synthesis? Though the entire relationships bears certain resemblances to symbiosis, I don’t want to call it a symbiosis per se because that implies a mutual relationship between distinct beings. Instead, if we look at the vampire-demon as something assimilated to create an entirely new organism, we reach ‘Eternity’….

    4)…where, as you suggest, the dynamic between Angel and Angelus is put into a perfect sharp relief by the fact that a simple tranquilizer can bring out Angelus despite the fact that the conditions of the curse haven’t really been met in a classical sense. Cordelia does make ominous pronouncements about ‘perfect happiness’ but she’s clearly wrong — the last time Angel experienced ‘perfect happiness’ and triggered the lifting of the curse, he didn’t revert to his soulful self after said happiness wore off. So obviously something else is being suggested here, and I think you hit on it exactly. I admit my initial reaction to watching this episode for the first time was that it was cheap. I didn’t buy it. But that was lazy of me, and you point out why — it’s entirely in keeping with everything we know about Angel.

    He’s made it clear before, and will again, that he has the urges, the desires. He has to fight them down. On one hand, that goes well with the Eyghon fight, where a semi-autonomous demon inside struggles with another demon. But it goes equally well with the idea that he’s been struggling against the demonic impulses that are part of Angel himself and let them loose that one time. Indeed, in this light, it could be hypothesized that had the Eyghon fight not crippled him physically, Angel would have presented a danger to the others in the room as he allowed his Angelus persona free rein. Luckily for them, the Angelus persona had its hands full with Eyghon and Angel retook control once Eyghon was defeated.

    I’m going to need a rewatch of S4 to talk intelligently about it. I remember it generally but have trouble narrowing it down to specifics. The whole “Angel and Angelus have a mental bitchfest at each other” was that season, right? If so, my preliminary reaction is that perhaps it’s better not to take it literally as a bifurcation of the two. Perhaps it works better as a metaphor, like the demon/angel on the shoulders trope, wherein Angel is trying to deny his darker nature and splitting them is the easiest way to show his struggle?

    Wow, this was long. I should learn to sit back and just reflect before writing. 🙂


  42. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 27, 2015.]

    The problem stems from the whedonverse’s extremely inconsistent mythology. On one hand, Giles describes it as “a demon taking shop” in the body of the person that once inhabited it. Now, you could take that as definitive indisputable proof that this is the case. However, the council over the course of BtVS proves it is willing to bend truths when it comes to its slayers and watchers. They also prove incompetent on more then one occasion. Circumstantial as it may be, I think its fair enough evidence to give merit to anyone who doubts the explanation. After all, feeding their “soldiers” in the fight against evil anything but good and evil being white and black, respectively, would hinder their control over the situation.

    On the other, Angel and especially Spike prove that the demon and the man are very, very closely related. The only question is: is the man the demon itself.

    Spike would suggest so in every way. The souless Spike sought out his soul. The soulful Spike never once said it was the demon who did this, he always refers to it as having been his decision. The soulful Spike also acts almost entirely the same once the control over him by The First is severed, save his feeding from humans. He never refers to “Spike the demon” as anyone but himself, ever. He even keeps the name, unlike Angel, and although he has guilt doesn’t seem to rattle in it. If the demon were a different entity, William would have seen it fitting to note this. After all, if your soul is floating around somewhere in the ether, and your soul is you in its entirety, there’d be no reason to act as though it was his decision to regain his soul. It would have been the demons, not his own.

    S4 is where even Angel himself refers to Angel(us) as something different, an entirely different entity. Angel keeps calling the demon “Angelus” while Angel(us) keeps calling the human “Angel.” They try so hard to separate the two personas, or “egos,” and make them seem completely unrelated. Even the rest of the gang does the same. But the most jarring perpetration is when Jasdelia threatens to put Angel(us) “back in his box,” describing him as being conscious under the surface trying to claw his way out, and Angel(us) looks legitimately frightened. Needless to say, I absolutely loathe the dark persona of Angel (aside from his role in “Souless”) that is portrayed in that season.

    Now, I have to mention the comics since “technically” canon, ugh. The comics make it clear the demon is a separate entity at least at some point. In the summaries I read, Magic is at one point severed from this dimension, meaning when vampires are sired the demon can’t travel dimensions and enter the body (resulting in zombie-like creatures instead). I… really, really hate that. Like, real bad. That’s the best way I can describe it. So, I simply choose to ignore it or would rather believe that if that IS the case, that the demon “traveling dimensions through a bite and drinking vampire blood” (ridiculous even for this universe) completely assimilates itself with the human thus making them one and the same.

    Otherwise, if taken at its most likely implication, the demon simply takes on all personality traits (as you mention) and Liam’s capacity for evil was always a part of him. They are two different entities, but both have the same capacity for evil.

    Except that doesn’t explain Spike or why they both refer to each other as having done those terrible deeds in the past, not the demon, in season 5. So round and round we go. All we have is interpretation since again, the lore is highly inconsistent.


  43. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 28, 2015.]

    Inconsistent mythology is enough to drive a person crazy. We’re expected (by whom? well, okay, not actually expected) to attempt to rationalize all the various clues, formulating a cohesive set of rules in retrospect while the writers may very well be just making it up as they go along, either out of laziness or out of the need for narrative convenience. As viewers, it falls on us to fanwank the inconsistencies for as long as we can before throwing in the towel and just admitting that the show-runners are fallible. And so they are.

    Frankly, I think Joss and co. were victims of their own unexpected success. They had this mid-season pick-up based on a movie whose original vision had been pretty badly butchered by meddling studio execs. I’m not sure they really planned fo the possibility that this MotW metaphor show would span 7 seasons and add a spin-off series that spanned 5 more seasons. At some point — and I’m guessing right about the time they envisioned “School Hard” and its fairly literal changing of the guard as Spike dusts the last major connection to S1 vampire mythology — Mutant Enemy had to develop a long-term strategy…and that strategy had to include a plan to make vampires more interesting than the quasi-religious fanatics of S1 droning drearily on with every cliche in the Evil Inc. handbook. Even the character of Angel was famously intended to be a limited run, if not an actual one-off. Other than him, it was apparent that S1 BtVS vampires were extremely simple creatures. While the Master had personality and humor, he and his minions were, for all intents and purposes, classic horror villains with a touch of mysticism, which worked fine for TV landscape that had yet to encounter the possibilities Mutant Enemy would go on to explore. But they were, by and large, a burdensome and boring lot, relegated to either vicious monsters (the common rabble) or melodramatic villain archetypes like Luke and, to a great extent, the Master. Even Angel was, at best, little more than an iteration of the unknown stranger offering cryptic warnings and the element of mystery to give the viewers something to wonder about. That is, a plot device (and I expect most fans know he wasn’t actually intended to be a long-term character when first introduced. He was, actually, kind of an asshole in the first couple of episodes. I think lots of people forget that.) Hence the inconsistency was, perhaps, inevitable the very moment the show got picked up for a full second season. There was immediately pressure to create a more complex and relatable mythology, especially since Joss has always been obsessed with having his finger on the contemporary cultural zeitgeist. He just couldn’t do that while sticking with a 30s Universal or 70s Hammer vampire ethos. In terms of S1, they didn’t need to be complex since they were essentially the Other, the outsiders that gave Buffy her raison d’etre. But the whole Bangel thing took on a life of its own (thanks, in no small part, from the still-young and shiny Internet) and people began discussing the show in terms of how it tapped into a deeper metaphorical world. Now vampires were even more part of the metaphor, not just as examples of otherness, and demanded fleshing out.

    My other theory might be a bit out there, but it just occurred to me and I want to put it in writing before I decide it’s stupid and toss it into my mental rubbish heap: the change in vampire mythology is a direct result of the growing feminist awareness of the show. Before, it was all about a young girl balancing her own life with the concerns of her Watcher and the brutal dangers he was teaching her to fight. Vampires are demons. She has to kill them, no questions asked. It’s little more empowering than being told to press a button over and over again simply because that’s how things were always done. That paradigm weighs unnecessarily on the idea of Buffy as a feminist heroine. But what if she were to discover that things weren’t as cut-and-dried as the system (represented by the Watchers Council and conventional wisdom) insisted? What if Giles was wrong, not as a personal defect but simply because the system that produced him was wrong? Vampires becoming more complex would be a defining transition to greater feminist awareness because Buffy would be breaking from the restrictive ideations and discovering that the world had far more nuance than the Watchers understood. Yes, demons set up shop in a corpse, but the corpses were no longer just glorified target dummies. They were individuals, and presented opportunities for Buffy to decide for herself what the best course of action would be. In short, she becomes a true feminist heroine for a very simple reason — there are few things more empowering than leaving behind the status quo and conventional wisdom and defining the world in your own terms.

    Oh, right, the we were talking about the actual issues, weren’t we? Oops. Got sidetracked. As far as the complicity of the humans behind the vampires, it’s worth noting that only three vampires we know of — and I’m willing to bet they’re intended to represent the only examples in vampiric history — even have to deal with the issues. Angel and Spike regain their souls, and thus their sense of continuity with their vampiric selves. No other vampires ever had to confront the issues of how vampiric identity and human identity intermingle. So perhaps it can be assumed that early mythology was mistaken simply because there was literally no way to gain access to the sort of information one can glean from Angel and Spike. For all anyone knew, the original personality, as represented by the soul, was simple dualism and once it was gone, it had no further relevance even if it left behind its memories. That’s as useful a fanwank as any, I suppose. Darla is the third, and an even more unusual case. She didn’t seem overwhelmed by guilt like Spike and Angel, but there was a crucial break in continuity. She didn’t return to a still-vamped Darla. She had no actual connection to the demon, at least until she was turned again, at which point her soul also goes away again. So it would seem logical that she would have found it easier to disassociate herself from Darla the vicious killer than Angel or Spike did with their respective legacies.

    So, yeah, there’s no disagreement on the problem of inconsistency. All we can do, I guess, is rationalize it as best we can.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read, and don’t intend to read, the comics. Many of my friends love them, and I respect their opinions, but even the brief summary of plots they’ve shared with me leave me with little desire to add them to my personal canon.

    I think we’re writing more on narrow topics than the reviewers are on the entire series.


  44. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on April 28, 2015.]

    Didn’t know Angel was originally a one-off. Also apparently Nathan Fillion auditioned for the role at some point which would have been interesting. Could you imagine Boreanaz ending up being Reynolds, Caleb, Hammer and Castle and Fillion being Angel and Booth.

    I don’t recall Angel being too bad in Season 1 and while he didn’t quite have the charm that we’d see later on he didn’t really do anything too bad. Plus the whole stalking problem wasn’t even introduced until Season 2 so it’s not like we can put that into account with Season 1 incarnation only.


  45. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 28, 2015.]

    You’re absolutely right about Darla being the most awkward (I’ve had thoughts on her too, just forgot). She makes absolutely no sense for one reason. I’m not sure if this is what you’re alluding to, but IF a demon truly sets up shop when sired, and the vampire that previously occupied her body was killed, then the second vampiric persona of Darla’s could not have been the same vampiric Darla the master sired. So not only does Darla act as though it’s still her human self without a soul, having been somewhat upset over being turned, but also it should be another demon inside her. Honestly… this mythology.

    That’s why I’ll just stick to “generic demon assimilates fully with the human save the soul”, so that for all intents and purposes they are one and the same (new/old demon, whatever). Lol, that’s the best I can come up with.


  46. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 29, 2015.]

    I don’t recall Angel being too bad in Season 1 and while he didn’t quite have the charm that we’d see later on he didn’t really do anything too bad.

    I was mainly talking about the first two episodes, not the entire season. In the first two episodes, he was basically Whistler, with his cryptic comments, infuriating (from Buffy’s POV) ambiguity, and a profession of moral and physical cowardice. I imagine that if we put ourselves in Buffy’s shoes, the Angel of WTTH/Harvest would come across as taunting us. Keep in mind, this is before we knew anything about him, including the fact that he was a vampire. There was absolutely no hint of the Angel we saw in Becoming, the one that made a declaration of wanting to help Buffy and protect her. Instead, we see an Angel that seems to be on the side of good but doesn’t have any particular motivation to behave like a hero.

    And, yeah, he was originally intended to be a one-off. If I remember correctly, he was given a more permanent role only after Boreanaz was cast for the pilot that actually aired (as opposed to the unaired one.) So that would have been after the scripts for the first few episodes had been written.

    but IF a demon truly sets up shop when sired, and the vampire that previously occupied her body was killed, then the second vampiric persona of Darla’s could not have been the same vampiric Darla the master sired. So not only does Darla act as though it’s still her human self without a soul, having been somewhat upset over being turned, but also it should be another demon inside her

    Wow, nice. Not only was I not alluding to that, I actually completely missed that part. Yeah, it would have be a second generic demon, not the original, which really reinforces the point about the human’s role in the vampire personality. I mean, I suppose one could argue that the demon isn’t killed in the staking, just banished now that its human host is dust, and could thus return to the human host at a later time. But that would be pure fanwank since there’s no evidence to that effect that I know of in either series. Essentially this entire schematic reduces vampirism to little more than a viral exchange Darla comes back human, starts dying? Get Drusilla to infect her. The disease basically alters the human rather than replacing it.


  47. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 30, 2015.]

    Here’s the problem I have with the soul formulating identity in any way, metaphorical or within the lore: everything.

    The only evidence Passion gives is that Angel(us) is void of humanity when touched by the judge, with all other occasions pointing to it being nothing more then a “conscience”. This is because he is misinterpreting the meaning of “humanity.” In BtVS, humanity isn’t tangible. It’s an idea. Anyone, any being, that feels the range of normal human emotion can be described to have “humanity” in them. Emotion is a physical characteristic normally attributed to human beings, although some animals can experience emotion to a lesser degree. That’s why the metaphor “humanity” is used when describing emotion.

    Now in BtVS, the specific emotions attributed to that of the idea of “humanity” are: passion, love, empathy, fear, hatred and sadness. The reason Spike and Dru had “humanity” in them was because they felt passion for each other (you can argue love if you want). The reason the minion with glasses had it was because of his fear. The reason Angel(us) does not have it is because he is capable of suppressing those emotions. Under normal circumstances, vampires can feel the entire spectrum of human emotions (perhaps even empathy, though doubtful) but without the capacity for remorse the lighter emotions rarely surface.

    He also didn’t take into account how Angel(us) was very much like Liam when he first started out. He hated his father, thus going after him and his family first. Darla taught him to suppress these human traits by indulging in his purest of desires.

    At the moment the judge touched him, without inhibition and with complete control of his own being, he wasn’t scorched. However, we can assume he had some sort of hatred for Buffy for having made him – because he and soulful Angel are one and the same – “feel” after so long (because again, Darla taught him the joys of pure inhibition). It’s just Angel(us) can hide it whenever he chooses.

    Take Angel for instance. Though the soul makes him yearn for human emotion, he does suppress it for much of his soulful existence. This is further proof that not only did his alternate persona learn to suppress the human condition, but that the two are directly linked. He has the same capability, soul or no soul, to suppress his emotions and thus his link to humanity. And Angel’s link to humanity, or lack thereof, is a major point of emphasis on Ats, part of it being his reluctance to feel and care for anyone because he can choose when and when not to (though the soul makes it more difficult for obvious reasons).


  48. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 30, 2015.]

    I always found the Judge issue to be problematic. Here we have a being that despises “humanity” and yet he doesn’t seem particularly clear on what his own particular definition of “humanity” is. He accuses Spike and Drusilla of stinking of humanity, sharing affection and jealousy, but either can’t or won’t burn them. Unlike the jolt Buffy got when she kicked him, Spike apparently doesn’t even feel it when he jabs the Judge in the chest. A creature whose sole obsession — indeed, fanaticism — is destroying all semblance of humanity choosing not to burn it down wherever it stands without compunction or gratitude…that rings very hollow. So why isn’t his first act to take those two out? Instead, he burns Dalton, claiming he “reads” and is therefore “full of feeling.” Following his willingness to spare Spike and Drusilla, it all comes across as very “ha-ha, he enjoys reading. What a nerd!” (Dalton’s fear, while certainly a human emotion in a general sense, isn’t relevant here — he was singled out before he felt fear. He was laughing right up until the time he realized the Judge was asking for him. And Angelus himself has known fear, if his frantic race through the forest only to end up staring in terror at the gypsy man demonstrates anything, it demonstrates his capacity for fear.) So as a working definition, or even parameter, for “humanity”, the Judge’s proclamations are problematic.

    My question, then, is how far do you want to take the negation of the classic dualistic perception of the human condition (mind/soul or, in other interpretations, body/soul.) I get the impression you’re not particularly buying a Cartesian perspective within the context of the Buffyverse, but something is obviously taking place when a human is vamped or a vampire is ensouled. The two entities, demon and human, may inform each other, but there’s still a clear divide between the behavior of one condition versus the behavior of the other. There are no examples presented of a vampire not becoming ‘evil’ (however you choose to define it, whether it be active malice or passive amorality) upon the transition from his or her human state. There are a few examples of them not becoming completely ‘good’ upon being re-ensouled (the Dark Angel arc, for instance, and Spike had a couple moments of near-recidivism in S7) but, on the whole, they are qualitatively different beings to an outside observer. This sort of analysis is messy work, so I figure your perspective is complicated. I’m just curious at where you draw the philosophical lines when both assimilation and divergence are both in evidence in the vampiric paradigm?


    That was interesting. A little ad hoc, but given the difficulties in tying together all the known data, it would have to be a little ad hoc since, well, the show got quite a bit ad hoc on the subject.

    One question that has been discussed endlessly, and yet needs more discussion, is why the big 4 (Angel, Spike, Drusilla, and Darla) seem to be practically unique in the Buffyverse. Sure you had other vampires with personality — the Master, Mr. Trick, Holden, Sunny — but, on the whole, they were fairly one-note. If all vampires have some lingering “soul” in them, why are the vast majority little more than slaves to their instincts. Even ones like Russell Winters, who assimilated into human society, don’t seem to look past satisfying their own predatory needs. What is it about those four that fits into the theory presented in the video that separates them from pretty much every other known vampire in the world?


  49. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on May 1, 2015.]

    I’m not sure I understand the question to be honest. It’s not about philosophy or science, just how I interpret the use of the “soul” within the confines of BtVS. You could say I am slightly biased, seeing people as mere animals with the major difference being their capacity for empathy and control of desire, but the series lore does seem to present itself in said manner. So, I guess I will throw in some science into the mix to back up my beliefs.

    I think the only divergence, or difference, associated with the soulful vs souless being in BtVS is the conscience, which is personified by the soul. All human emotion can be felt without it. It’s just chemical suggestion.

    The reason every vampire turns “evil” or is void of common morality is because morality is an invention of humanity that is subjective. What I find moral you may find immoral, due to religious beliefs or otherwise. It just so happens that vampires as portrayed in this medium represent a majority consensus on the nature of “good” versus “evil” in the developed world. Vampires act on pure chemical suggestion.

    All vampires are, are a metaphor for a human being void of all inhibition and sense of morality. If you’re innate traits lend to things that would normally be seen as “moral” such as Spike treating the ones he cares for with compassion, even without the soul, it will manifest because the body is chemically composed to do so. You just aren’t constrained by morals forcefully set upon the self, by outside influence or otherwise. For example, if you constrain yourself from eating meat during Lent because of religious beliefs and not necessarily because of a true desire for it, it won’t manifest in your souless self. But if you legitimately say, care for puppies innately, then that will manifest. Even Angel admitted Angel(us), or himself as he refers to on this occasion despite it being Angel(us), admitted to liking Spikes poems. Angelu(us) just suppresses these innate traits, which doesn’t correlate with self control but rather just learned cognition. He taught himself to ignore his “humanity” and anything associated with it.

    Take demons such as Lorne, for example. I believe it’s stated he has no soul at some point, yet he has the full range of human emotion. He acts as though he’s indifferent, yet his subconscious that manifests itself in “Life of the Party” clearly shows he makes judgments quietly to himself. He also expresses care for the group, especially Fred when she is on the brink of death. All this would suggest that demons have the capacity, just to a lesser degree. If the demon has no innate desire to harm, then they can control their impulses. Lorne controls himself on several occasions, including when he wanted to “smack down” Lilah on one occasion for drilling into his head. This can explain how Spike controlled himself on several occasions, because his legitimate care for Buffy and unwillingness to harm her, even emotionally, manifested in him a true desire to help the Scoobies. The desire (chemical suggestion) has to be real though, it can’t be associated with inhibition due to morals or beliefs where the chemical suggestion itself does not exist.

    While Lorne’s capacity for feeling emotion is probably more akin to a dog or porpoise, a vampire has the body of the victim (or his/her own turned body which is my belief) and thus can feel all human emotion and to it’s fullest range. Just as they can still ejaculate or produce saliva and blood, they can have the chemical formulas for emotion pumping through their veigns. Matter of fact, the lack of inhibition the soul provides should theoretically exasperate the emotions of the human body. This is why they often come across obsessed about one very specific thing, and not just Spike or Angel(us).


  50. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on May 1, 2015.]

    Messed up that last bit, didn’t mean to italicize all of it.

    Also, what I should have said as far as Angel(us), is that he suppresses the humanity that speaks to his more compassionate and docile side. He allows the chemical suggestion that motivates him to enact unspeakable cruelty – something Liam must have had the desires to do but controlled himself and/or it was buried under other desires – to manifest and that’s what he acts upon. That’s his only divergence from a normal vampire: he can selectably choose which desires to embrace. It’s something the Master is kind of implied to be able to do, suppressing his desire to feed regularly and above ground for instance, and Darla was sired by him.


  51. [Note: Random posted this comment on May 1, 2015.]

    Okay, that clears up quite a bit. You’re apparently a metaphysical mechanist, then. Insomnia is why I’m replying now, so I won’t discuss at length tonight, but for now, my question would be if you essentially consider the “demon” and the “soul” exact opposites describing a common concept — a negative influence vs a positive influence on the core identity of a being, specifically an ensouled vampire in this case? That is, neither represent unique individuals in themselves, just constraints or modifiers of the individual in question. Here’s how I’m interpreting your perspective from a mechanistic, and you can tell me if I’m missing the point or not:

    We have the being “Angel/Liam”. The demon unconstrained by the soul influences “Angel/Liam” to behave in an evil fashion. The soul unburdened by the demon influences him behave in a “good” (or at least gives him the potential for such behavior when he’s not drinking and whoring). Combined in a single person — Angel and Spike seem to be the only two examples — they create conflict that normal humans and normal vampires don’t have to deal with, at least not the the same extent. Ergo, you’re not taking either the demon or the soul literally, even within the context of the Buffyverse. Am I somewhat on target here?

    (We just finished Darla, and I’m starting to remember more about the plot arc. I’m looking forward to the part where she actually, despite not having a soul, behaves in an altruistic manner. That should be a good discussion.)


  52. [Note: Random posted this comment on May 1, 2015.]

    Oh, I meant to add, so you didn’t think I was ignoring what you said, was that what it comes down to in strictly literal terms is that both are essentially chemical behavior that normally don’t coexist in equal measure in a being. So a human has the potential for both, but generally tends toward the mechanism of the soul, while a vampire goes the opposite direction, generally? And Angel, being cursed by way more thinkin’ than is good for him, deals with both more strongly?


  53. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on May 1, 2015.]

    Yeah, I think you have the gist of it.

    I am more looking at it as soul/souless versus human/demon. I believe a human without a soul, or conscience, at least in the whedonverse would act just as a vampire does save the blood craving. It all depends on what learned and innate characteristics exist in said body in terms of how they’ll act. For example, sexual orientation, which is by majority consensus in the scientific community considered to be innate (born with), would manifest in the souless individual. Willow’s vampire (another oddity among vampires) showed signs of homosexuality because unhindered by the soul it acts upon all innate desires. I can only assume that Willows soul, for a time, kept those innate desires from surfacing to the point she didn’t even know they existed. An innate desire for cruelty in Liam – even if he was unaware of it with a soul – must have been buried deep inside him for his souless self to manifest it.

    In that very same episode, where Buffy denies that the vampire is similar to the human, Angel nearly refutes that out loud before he stops himself. So that’s another example of further proof. Even Angel himself knows he’s capable from his words in “Dopplegangland” and “Amends,” the latter being where he attributes his darker desires to the “man” not the demon.

    I think the only reason for the oddities is the same reason the overall lore in BtVS is so uneven: convenience. In order for these metaphors and parallels to be fully realized the writers took heavy liberties when it came to plot cohesion in favor of characterization and theme building. So you could say that vampire #257, like most, act differently because they are devices rather then characters. We also don’t get extended time with them, so we don’t know how they do or would act if given enough viewing time. All we have to go on are the vampires who are given ample time and development, so that’s all I base my beliefs on. Again, the lore is just too uneven – even outside vampires – for me to take anything but the actual developed characters seriously.


  54. [Note: Random posted this comment on May 2, 2015.]

    That’s an interesting approach. We’re defining the characters in asymmetrical terms, then, since each one essentially teeters one direction or the other unless outside factors (like, say, Wolfram & Hart taking an interest in Angel’s personal choices) get involved. Angel is a “vampire with a soul” but can, of course, be equally well described as a “vampire who isn’t uncontrollably evil.” The former, being a specific positive attribution rather a general negative, is far more useful as a descriptive, but I’d argue that the latter is what it boils down to — his “soul” and his “demon” aren’t given equal weight in practice.

    The unspoken logical progression to what we’re talking about here, the elephant in the room, is one of the oldest, if not the oldest bugaboos in philosophy — the question of free will. For all his talk of atonement and brooding over his guilt, Angel has always been quite clear that he (and other vampires) never had a real choice. Whatever process locked them in to demon mode sans soul apparently prevents them from a substantial choice to be other than what they are (generally bloodsucking fiends). Obviously they have free will on a truncated scale. They can decide who to eat for breakfast, and whether or not the Billy Idol look works for them. But the polarities of good and evil (soul and demon, for convenient shorthand) are inherently asymmetrical, at least in the Buffyverse. People with souls span a wide range of behaviors. Buffy and Holland Manners are equally ensouled. Their moral choices, however, could hardly be more disparate. On the other hand, in terms of ‘good’ vampires (I’m sticking with them because the issue of whether other demons have souls has never even been solidly addressed in either series), we have…well, no-one, really. People can argue Spike, and many do, but I consider attributing his behavior prior to ensouling to normal human motivations to be borderline anthropomorphism on the part of the audience, more “aww, he thinks he’s people” than “wow, he’s actually a decent chap.” Regardless, the demon aspect does seem to imply a certain amount of inevitability. Not quite determinism, but something pretty close to it. Due to the inherent radical switch from human with soul to corpse with demon, vampires are pretty much the perfect case study for analyzing the structure of Whedonverse morality. They appear uniformly concerned with behaving in a manner that we would dub “evil” in humans, and only the intervention of outside forces (gypsy curse) alters that. If even Darla, who seems to adore Angelus, abandons him in the burning barn, what hope has any vampire for the ability to act in a manner contrary to the generic demon impulses?

    So the struggle between the Angelus and the Angel aspects isn’t exactly an even fight, ontologically speaking. If Angel gives into the Angelus impulses, he still maintains the capacity to redeem himself so long as he has a soul. The soul seems more foundational than the demon. It provides a framework where flipping the switch between good and evil is possible. The demon aspect provides no such framework as far as I can tell. Angelus plus soul can ignore his impulse toward good. Angelus sans soul, at least as presented in the shows’ terms, can’t ignore his impulse toward evil. So, in a very real sense, I think it could be argued that the Whedonverse is presenting vampires not simply as evil, but as the absence of the capacity for good. It’s a meaningful distinction if we’re talking free-will. Humans can be evil because they can choose to be evil. Vampires are evil because they’ve been robbed of the ability to be otherwise. That’s part of their basic definition, and, counterintuitively, I’d suggest that as a strong argument for why Angel feels guilt. No, he didn’t have a choice, but he’s still a vampire, and adding in a soul to give him free will only gives him the ability to flip the switch (or roll the dimmer, to be more accurate about the spectrum of behavior between the poles of good and evil, but the switch image is more convenient.) It doesn’t change the fact that, for 150 years, the switch was stuck on a setting that he could still flip it to. The switch was always there and remains a part of him even after being ensouled. When Angel feels unclean after being possessed by James in IOHEFY, that represents the fact that there is no inherent “on” position for the good/evil switch in the absence of a soul. There isn’t even a middling-dim position.

    The fact you bring up Willow/Gay Willow/VampWillow really makes for a fascinating case study. The idea that VampWillow, freed of Willow’s human neuroses and wallflower tendencies is willing to embrace her homosexuality speaks of the soul’s ability to offer her the choice to repress her natural urges (I call them so since I agree that sexual orientation is innate, and believe it would be categorized as neither good nor evil.) You attribute it to the removal of a hindrance, which makes perfect sense, but couldn’t it also be worded as the removal of the freedom to make the choice to repress? Both seem to work, at least by my argument here. (Obviously, if you don’t buy my argument, you won’t buy my conclusion, heh.)


  55. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on May 3, 2015.]

    I buy it. It’s just as likely that Willow chose to repress it as is the soul suppressing it since there’s no evidence to the former nor latter. It just seemed to me Willow was legitimately surprised by her attraction to Tara, albeit she didn’t try to deny it extensively either.

    So fundamentally we’re on the same page if I gather correctly. Some slight details are different, but for the most part it seems we’ve come to a reasonable conclusion and compromise about the soul and its role in the human/demon duality.


  56. [Note: Random posted this comment on May 3, 2015.]

    I think we have, and I’ve enjoyed the discussion. The main disagreement would likely be that I prefer to take the soul/demon literally, but that doesn’t make any difference in terms of the conceptual aspects of what they represent.

    We just binged several episodes today, so I’m al the way through “Epiphany.” At some point I’ll be ready to discuss the latest, especially the rather prominent Existentialist (capital ‘E’ for the actual school of philosophy) thread that seems to be taking over the series at this point.


  57. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on June 7, 2016.]

    Oh my. All this unwarranted negativity makes my head spin.

    I’m going to go into very extensive detail about this episode on the forum a bit later (tl;dr of that post: this episode is brilliant and y’all are going about it all wrong), but I want to just clear up the question that both #29 Ishe and #31 LibMax have possibly raised: is it possible that Angel was just acting with Rebecca?

    Let’s ignore that the cold open of this episode is of Cordelia acting in a play, and Angel and Wes acting as though they enjoyed it. Angel then rescues an actress, whose manager (who is acting like his favorite girl has a chance of getting a part she just can’t) has hired a guy to act like a crazy stalker; and let’s also not mention that Cordelia acts like she’s having a vision to get Angel to look after Rebecca.

    Actually, no, let’s not ignore all that and instead say that in an episode about pretense and acting, it would be more surprising if Angel was not pretending to have turned. That the episode does not outright confirm this for a gotcha moment is its greatest strength, not its big flaw. And (with all due respect to Mr. Awol Reviewer Guy) it’s kind of baffling that someone who’s watched this episode multiple times looking for thematic threads didn’t figure that out.


  58. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    I think there’s a very good reason why someone looking for thematic threads didn’t figure that out (and why most people don’t draw that “acting” conclusion): It’s not a fair way to analyze the episode.

    Thematic depth and connection are examples of subtext – things that only exist when you probe beneath the surface. But plot and character are examples of text – the surface of the episode itself. They’re the components that make the story. Thematic depth exists in that story, but can’t exist without it.

    Ergo, while plot and character developments can inform the theme of an episode, thematic development cannot inform the plot or characters. That’s an example of using subtext to understand text, which doesn’t make much sense, since the subtext wouldn’t even exist without the text.

    Had the episode given some indication – on its own merit – that Angel was faking his “evil change,” the argument may have had some credibility. But the way the story is told, there’s nothing even hinting at the idea. The idea that Angelus can be released through a “happy pill” is presented as a twist, that Angel’s “moment of perfect happiness” doesn’t need to be sexual in nature. From a story perspective, the issue relies on whether or not the viewer can buy into that twist.

    That’s a fair topic for debate. Whether or not Angel was “acting” is not.


  59. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    Absolutely none of the things I listed there are thematic. They are all things that literally happen in the course of the plot. If you would like thematic evidence, consider Ryan’s words:

    The worth of the episode comes from how the characters deal in and react to these lies, and how it characterizes them more personally. Angel is omitting truths and in some cases outright lying, however it is often out of his sense of justice. Deciding what’s best for others and how to deal with it has always been a part of his character concerning those he cares about, and so his lies to Wesley, Cordelia and Rebecca were well-intentioned; what he believed was better for their protection and/or happiness.

    This is perfectly in line with him lying about turning evil to scare Rebecca off from the demonic underworld.


  60. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    Absolutely none of the things I listed there are thematic. They are all things that literally happen in the course of the plot.

    I know. And that’s fine. The problem is that you’re taking a bunch of plot and character developments, using them to form an episodic theme, and then using that theme to completely reinterpret another character-based aspect of the episode. Which is not fine, because you’re using subtext to understand text.

    There’s nothing in the episode to indicate that Angel was faking his transformation, so saying he did because there’s a lot of other “acting” in this episode doesn’t really hold water. It makes no difference if Angel faking it wouldn’t technically be out of character, because Angel not faking it wouldn’t be either.


  61. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    I agree with Jeremy. But

    you’re using subtext to understand text

    is not a criticism because that is often the purpose of subtext in the first place.


  62. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    I mean, you can (and often should) use subtext to understand text, provided that the subtext is convincingly apparent. My point is that Bosc’s interpreting of text through subtext through other text is a pretty big stretch.


  63. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    From a story perspective, the issue relies on whether or not the viewer can buy into that twist.

    A moment of “bliss” or “true happiness” will always be a product of chemical suggestion. The only difference here is the catalyst for the body reacting in its natural way. It can either release serotonin, dopamine, etc. through sexual contact with the object of attraction or through interaction with a drug. Both create the exact same feeling.

    This is just one instance that lends itself to Angel(us) merely being Angel without a soul. In universe, it’s a demon donning his inner most destructive personality but as a symbol it’s just Liam without a conscience.


  64. [Note: Noah posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    I can see where Boscalyn is coming from. It depends how you think about Angel as a character and what the subtext is saying. Boscalyn is (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) pointing out that the show is about Rebecca wanting to stay young forever, which is a kind of acting (trying to be something you’re not, to use Simon’s phrase about another Rebecca) that has an associated price. For Angel, his immaturity cost him his soul. If Angel has at least some small amount of self-knowledge, that he would recognize, at least subconsciously, this fact about being a vampire and try to warn Rebecca away from it is plausible as a character observation and thematically. I’m interested to see how she squares that with his confrontation with Wesley and Cordelia (why is he still acting, is he testing them) and their conversation about it at the very end.

    Now, you might plausibly argue that Angel does not possess that level of self-knowledge, and that, given some strong indications in the episode that his transformation was in some way real, though temporary, and therefore a purely sub-textual/thematic interpretation where Angel is acting not literally but metaphorically is necessary. Both of these seem like plausible interpretations, although I lean towards the latter, and eagerly await Boscalyn’s defense of the former, or whatever her actual argument is if I’ve misstated it here.

    As to the text vs. subtext issue, this is really tricky. I don’t actually have an opinion on this right now, but I’m definitely going to be thinking about it.

    Finally, a big disagreement with Ryan on this episode, and an agreement with Bosc: I like this one a lot, and I don’t find the happy pill to be insulting at all. I’m not sure why to him it’s a big deal, especially since the effect is clearly temporary here, indicating that it’s not entirely[i/] real, and that happiness is truly more than brain chemistry.


  65. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    Had the episode given some indication – on its own merit – that Angel was faking his “evil change,” the argument may have had some credibility. But the way the story is told, there’s nothing even hinting at the idea. The idea that Angelus can be released through a “happy pill” is presented as a twist, that Angel’s “moment of perfect happiness” doesn’t need to be sexual in nature. From a story perspective, the issue relies on whether or not the viewer can buy into that twist.

    Well, there’s Wesley’s line I quoted earlier. (as in, I quoted it in 2010. Wow.)

    WESLEY: He hasn’t really turned. It’s an illusion, not real.

    Combined with the complete lack of glowing-eye visual effects and all the other stuff we see when he DOES lose his soul, the episode clearly indicates that it’s ambiguous whether we’re really seeing Angelus.

    But I don’t buy it as Angel deceiving Rebecca. Or at least, not consciously. I read it as the lines being his two personas being blurred due to him being high as a kite, him being annoyed with her and wanting to scare her, and her accidentally prompting him by telling him the pill is supposed to make him happy.

    As Angel(us) says later on: “They always mistake me for the character I play. They never see the real ME!”

    The thematic link here is that Angel, just like Rebecca and all other celebrities, is always playing a part, never letting others see what is inside him. The pill, with the lowered inhibitions, brings out the demon that’s hidden underneath, the one his conscience is always fighting. His true self.

    It’s not that the viewer is being deceived in this episode. We’re being deceived in all OTHER episodes, whenever we forget that he’s the monster. We forget that on some level he WANTS to be the monster. He just doesn’t let himself.

    Hence all the brooding in the dark.


  66. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    Angel(us) is one half of who he is, just as being an “actress” is one half of who Rebecca is. I don’t think it’s specifically the “real” self we see here but instead the uninhibited self. Let’s also not forget how actors and actresses are often labeled “loose,” partying and in some cases causing mischief as Angel(us) does here. What causes this? Easy access to alcohol and other drugs are often the cause. What these things bring out in us isn’t superficial but instead a part of us, normally contained by our consciousness.

    There are many ways to interpret the themes. I had a “soft” spot sort of speak for this episode since it’s the most genuine and most fun portrayal of Angel(us) on the series, but now I believe it’s vastly underrated for other reasons.


  67. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on June 8, 2016.]

    Oh, true. I was deliberately exaggerating for effect.

    The brooding-redemption-seeking Angel is just as much the real Angel as the uninhibited demon is. It’s just the side he usually keeps hidden.

    And yeah, good point on the link between actors and drugs. That definitely fits the theme.

    Overal I also like this episode quite a bit. Indeed, I think people are probably TOO fixated on the Angelus/pill thing. I mean, it’s only the last 10 minutes of the episode.

    The best part about it for me is all the early Wes/Cordy/Angel interplay. Love that. We really see the bond between them growing in these episodes, and Wesley’s lines at the end also show how quickly he’s maturing. “You walk a fine line, Angel. I don’t envy you.”


  68. [Note: Poltargyst posted this comment on November 22, 2016.]

    Cordelia really annoyed the crap out of me this episode.

    I believe I am interpreting writer’s intentions correctly by saying that Angel did indeed become Angelus. There was no evidence of Angel play acting there.


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