Angel 2×17: Disharmony

[Review by Ryan Bovay]

[Writer: David Fury | Director: Fred Keller | Aired: 04/17/2001]

“Disharmony” is, in the style of its title character, light, funny, a little ridiculous and completely tone deaf. At least Disharmony is an appropriate name. When looking at an episode like this you have to ask yourself if it really works as something more than a standalone because, like episodes such as “Parting Gifts” [1×10] or “Redefinition” [2×11] before it, it has a responsibility to the events that transpired in the previous episodes. In this episode’s case, we have incredibly heavy fore bearers in “Reprise” [2×15] and “Epiphany” [2×16], the consequences of which need to be addressed in the episode following them, with new plot or character pieces also moved forward. While what we have here is entertaining and capable enough, it doesn’t feel quite like the right episode to follow such a heavy conclusion to the main arc.

It does have a lot of fun with its characters, though. There were a lot of little things I enjoyed here, little things like Gunn waving ‘hey sexy’ at Harmony and then getting stake-happy right after he figures out what she is. Easily my favourites are parts of the first act where we watch the gang settle back into the Hyperion Hotel. It’s a mark of a truly superior series when just watching these little moments gives you enjoyment; it’s felt like forever for the characters since they’ve been there, and they’ve been kept away just long enough by the story for us to feel like it too. The story’s made us earn that good feeling, and that’s not an easy thing to do well.

As I mentioned, one of the main hampers of this episode is its light tone. It didn’t necessarily need to be a massive plot collision or dramafest – we’ve had those already – but I don’t quite feel that a completely light, almost entirely comedic episode was the way to go following the main arc. A more somber story about making Angel earn back the trust of his friends would’ve fit better and could’ve been to effects only hinted at in the great scene where Cordelia outright tells him that they’re no longer friends, much to his sadness. Another issue to deal with is Angel’s behaviour itself, which I think breaches the out of character realm for the first time in a good while.

The main question to ask in regards to it is: Would he really let Harmony live? One can argue that, given his apologetic state, he might, but I don’t believe he could. Vampires, even of the cutest, cuddliest (and I admit, hottest, damn!) kind are still killers down to the core and he of all people knows this. The mercy Angel gives to Harmony out of his desire to appease Cordelia feels artificially generated purely for the purpose of the story. Perhaps the writers weren’t ready to make Cordy a killer, or maybe it’s like Spike in Season Two of Buffy: she survived because fans liked her and the writers got a kick out of using her

Harmony shows up again in Season Five of this show, and she’s worth every laugh. But unlike that feeling I described, her freedom feels more like a contrivance than an earned thing; I can’t for a minute believe that Angel would let her go. But, he is in sort of an odd place this entire episode. For the first time in many episodes, he’s not the central character motivating the story lines. He’s made his grand apology, but now he has to prove he’s worthy of forgiveness, and that means dealing with what his promise entailed: He now works for a company that has his name in it, and answers to Wesley.

These are facts not at all lost on his co-workers, who delight in making him suffer a bit. Xander would kill to see it: Angel relegated to coffee and donut duty, sitting at a tidy secretary’s desk. It’s the fuzzy-side-of-the-force punishment for himl; Wesley clearly holds Angel’s noble reforms in high esteem, and is just getting in good natured ribbing, which is a good sign. But not all’s well. We know Gunn will tolerate him, though not forgive him, so easily, still unable to reconcile working with a vampire whom he has now seen do terrible things and is still wary of. It’s a fact he doesn’t even start to deal with until “That Old Gang of Mine” [3×03].

And that’s not even the focus of this episode. The fractured bond between the two oldest and closest Sunnydale alum, Cordy and Angel, is the subject; their development entwined here. Near the end of “Epiphany” [2×16] it’s very telling when she tells him she’s not alright, that she has hurt feelings. All that Angel has done has been very hard on her in particular. Just as her visions started to become more painful, she was abandoned by the person she was given them to guide and forced to live a tougher life, all due to Angel’s obsession, as she perceived it. The sharpest sting of it being the abandonment itself; a painful insult by someone she valued as a close friend and heroic champion.

In the episode’s best scene, she makes it very clear to him that a little apology is not about to make that up. The wounds are too deep to be healed by anything but time, which she finds herself wishing she could turn back. This is where Harmony comes in. She represents a simpler time, when terrible images of the dead and dying didn’t rack her brain and the plight of the many helpless weren’t her responsibility; a time when she had friends who weren’t demons or demon killers (well, most of em). A time when the world answered to her. Cordelia’s reconnection to that through Harmony is so strong, that even when betrayed, she can’t be forced to kill someone who seems so awfully like her.

Little things like boys crushing on her and singing bad songs and frying the guts of Xander Harris reconnect her to the feelings of power and presence she had, which she now feels without in a world where champions betray her. However, Harmony’s existence as she is makes a few things very clear for her. Becoming a vampire limited her in many of the ways it limited Angel in S1: she can’t grow, she can’t change, and without a soul or a purpose or mission she can’t even begin to comprehend those things. She’s a reflection of Cordelia’s High School self, but almost a tragic figure, trapped in that state. And after her ‘suffocating’ relationship with Spike, she feels a need to find herself more than ever.

But, always the poular-clique, weak willed individual in general, she’s easy prey for the vampire cult who win her over by sounding good and giving her a place of acceptance, something Angel, Wesley and Gunn won’t give her. Cordy tried, but that doesn’t matter. Harmony can’t understand loyalty or empathy (abstract concepts), only childlike, instinct-driven needs: Her demonic blood hunger and her human need for social acceptance, two things a creature such as her can only find with other vampires. She’s not unlike a child, who can take comfort in friends only so far as they entertain her and abandons them as soon as the next best thing comes along. Can one blame her too much? She was made that way before she had time to shed her immature skin like Cordy did.

Angel allowing Harmony to walk I may not believe, but Cordelia I do. Her lack of a soul and her lack of a chance to grow have severely limited her; what would you do if you couldn’t grasp emotion or selflessness? Despite longing for the worship she once had, Cordelia remembers the pitfalls of that life too, and this empathy for Harmony leads to her mercy, and her affirmation of the value of her current life. However crappy it may be, she helps the helpless and is damn good at it. What she does has a purpose worth more than any ever get a chance to be, and that’s a good thing.

Once a ditz, but given the chance Harm wasn’t to grow and learn, she’s become an extraordinary person who can do extraordinary things, such as forgive. Angel’s guilt leads to the ultimate make-up gift: a pile of new, expensive clothes for Cordy. That he has the wisdom to see that the younger woman in her is the person that needs comforting (and that he has great taste!) makes the gesture far more than just material and she knows it. It’ll still take some time, but the wounds start to heal here. The final scene where they’re jumping around together like giddy kids on Christmas day is as heartwarming as it is hilarious; well earned, too. It’s been too long since anyone’s had that big a smile on this show.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Wesley’s speech as he takes over the company. Torture for Angel.
+ Cordy’s ruminations on air pockets.
+ The gay confusion. Loved Willow’s appearance: “..great big Lesbo! ….Oh, yeah? Well, good for you!”
+ Angel and Wesley’s completely wasted heroic charge.
+ The Host commenting on the irony of “Harmony’s” name.
+ The vampire pyramid-scheme cult. Good to know demons are just as pathetic and desperately in need of social grouping as we are.


* Cordelia is racked by her visions more and more. In “Birthday” [3×11] we discover that since about the time of “Redefinition” [2×11] she’s been popping pills to control the pain and lying about the seriousness of her burden.



21 thoughts on “Angel 2×17: Disharmony”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on February 21, 2008.]

    What I like the most is the fact that Angel tries really hard to please everyone, especially Cordelia.


  2. [Note: Suzanne B posted this comment on January 7, 2009.]

    Just a little side note: I love Wesley’s face when Harmony puts her chewed up gum in his book. I laugh everytime I see that scene.
    Great review, Ryan.


  3. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on July 15, 2009.]

    Interesting review! I never thought of this episode as being deep in any way or being capable of having different possible interpretations but having said that, I never saw the final scene(where Cordelia lets Harmony live)the same way you describe it here. While you describe this scene as being representative of Cordelia’s growth and ability to feel sorry for Harmony, I always saw it as an example of Cordelia’s weakness: her inability to let go of the past because of her dissatisfaction with her current situation prevented her from doing the right thing (killing Harmony and ridding the world of a harmful vampire). Acting against what she knows to be ‘right’ is an example of her being selfish. The fact that she says ‘Don’t say a word’ to Angel also demonstrates that she knows she took the wrong route of action but that her judgement was clouded by her emotional connection and history with Harmony. Maybe it was just me but I also thought that the way Charisma Carpenter acted this scene showed a sense of selfishness and disappointment in herself and her choice.


  4. [Note: Aaron posted this comment on January 20, 2011.]

    It’s true that you can’t buy forgiveness from most people, except Cordelia; even Wesley admitted in Epiphany that she’s still vain. Besides, that look on Wesley’s face in the last scene, when Angel bought Cordy new clothes, says it all. He is furious and disgusted, possibly like you are.


  5. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on July 23, 2011.]

    The Good:

    -Cordelia mistaking Harmony for a lesbian. ‘Showtime Network’ would have done a love scene here.

    -Harmony always managing to anger Wesley.

    -Boss Wesley, “Kill ’em all!”

    The Bad:

    -Harmony. She can be fun, but if she wasn’t turned it would have been better.

    -Cordelia not killing Harmony. Now she can kill people still. Or try to, anyway.


  6. [Note: istar posted this comment on December 12, 2011.]

    I love your insightful reviews, but I have to say I enjoyed this episode immensely, even juxtaposed with the serious drama and despair of the previous two. I just watched it for the first time last night, but the awkwardness of Angel making his Serious Apology amid the bizarre comedy is adorable. It shows how the world can change in unexpected ways after one character undergoes a great deal of personal development.

    The vampirism/queerness metaphor was wonderfully written and acted, and I love how Cordelia accepted and defended Harmony after she was outed by Willow. (Also, the double-entendre lingerie scene was so cute.)

    Yes, Harmony was dumb, shallow and annoying, but she craved acceptance and community so much that she started to show some real potential to be good. It was disappointing that Angel immediately excluded her–as Angelus, he had a lot of experience training fledgling vampires to be evil, so it would have been cool to see the soulful Angel training/mentoring an impressionable baby vamp to be a part of Team Good.

    The final scene where Angel bought Cordelia all the clothes was the most disturbing to me. I do love seeing Angel emote anything other than angst, but the smily happy dance was SO strange (given recent events) that I had a hard time with it.


  7. [Note: Erin posted this comment on March 18, 2012.]

    I absolutely loved this episode. It was a nice change from all the dark stuff we’ve had this episode. I loved the bit where Cordy and Harmony catch up, drunk at Cordelia’s apartment. Pure gold.


  8. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on June 11, 2012.]

    Great review and a fair grade. Harmony’s episodes are so underrated (IMO) but they’ve held up real well and still give good comedy, which is definitely not true of every Angel-does-the-funny episode. Harmony should have been made a regular from S3 cause this is one of the last decent Cordelia episodes till You’re Welcome.


  9. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on April 2, 2013.]

    Well, it’s not totally out of character for Angel to let Harm go: he let Darla go for emotional reasons. It makes sense for him to let Harmony go because of Cordelia’s emotions.

    The last scene may be shocking, but it also shows that the bond between Angel and Cordelia was strong: in this instant of joy, she allows herself to forget the betrayal, though it doesn’t mean that everything is ok between them yet.

    What was interesting is that Angel tries to regain the group’s trust the wrong way. He tries so hard that everything sounds false, hypocritical: not the way he behaved before, he was never for small talk and took little interest in their lives. On the other hand, when he has the chance to to genuinely explain what made him have an epiphany, he lies to Cordelia (sex with Darla). It shows that he still has a long way to go and I’m glad he’s not forgiven right away, because most of his actions are hardly forgivable.


  10. [Note: Monica posted this comment on January 19, 2014.]

    I feel like this episode is pretty underrated. I personally believe it to be better than all the other standalones this season, with the exception of “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been”. I rarely enjoy the episodes that spend a lot of time on humor, but I think it really works here. There are actually a lot of scenes that I laugh out loud to every time I watch. Also, I think Harmony herself is a pretty great one-time character. She’s pretty funny, and manages to be sympathetic while being evil.

    Most importantly, I think it works well with Angel and Cordelia. I loved how she was the one that was most hesitant toward re-accepting Angel, since he did hurt her the most, and enjoyed that he spent the entire episode trying to win back her trust. The episode does some pretty good character work when it came to Cordelia’s loneliness. An issue that’s been associated with Cordy ever since her first glimpse of depth in “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” back during season one of Buffy, I really like how it was brought up again. Cordelia has apparently lost all of the other friends she’s made in Los Angeles, and Harmony coming in really indicated that. Her looking back on her high school years and realizing how much her popularity’s changed, and then later realizing that she doesn’t need a weak-minded friend like Harmony seemed important for her. She’s fine just where she is, with the people she’s with. That’s how I saw it, at least.


  11. [Note: Linnea posted this comment on April 26, 2014.]

    I liked the episode alright, but am I the only one who was waiting for some recognition that Angel had been to Sunnydale following Joyce’s death? I was kind of disappointed they never even mentioned that, especially as both Wesley and Cordelia know Buffy as well.


  12. [Note: Random posted this comment on May 4, 2015.]

    I just realized something for the first time while watching this — I actually find Cordelia and Wesley annoying right now. It particularly bothers me because the Jossverse shows tend to be good at continuity, and the post-Epiphany dynamic seems to be ignoring the fact that Angel not only gave both Cordelia and Wesley jobs, he literally saved them from starving and gave them a purpose. Yet none of them seem to recall this amidst the resentfulness and high-handed moral superiority they direct toward Angel. Hell, none of them even seem to care whether Angel was going through legitimate personal issues in the period where he separated himself from them. Instead, they blame him for their own problems. Wesley’s snide remark about getting gut-shot was what crystalized my realization. Since Angel neither gut-shot him nor put him in the position for that to happen, it comes across as incredibly self-centered and petty.

    And given that Angel as a character doesn’t even break my top 7 or 8 favorite Jossverse regulars (the four original Scoobies, Anya, Oz, and Faith are definitely ahead of him in my personal hierarchy) , this problem had to be pretty blatant to attract my annoyance. I dunno. The entire aftermath of this arc just felt like the writers wanted to introduce this dynamic for drama without thinking through exactly what it said about Wesley and Cordelia. Gunn, incidentally, gets a pass from me because 1) he wasn’t quite as spiteful as the other two; and 2) he didn’t really owe Angel anything he hadn’t already repaid by helping Angel out at other times.


  13. [Note: Alex W posted this comment on September 12, 2015.]

    Technically, Angel saved Cordelia from being eaten by a vampire in the first episode of Angel too.


  14. [Note: Noah posted this comment on September 12, 2015.]

    It seems doubtful to me that this was anything other than the intended effect. Remember when Buffy ran away from her friends, how spitefully and hatefully and irrationally they piled up on her? I agree its aggravating, but it seems to be in character and completely true to life. Many people seem to think the the writers weren’t aware how unbearable Cordelia became during S3. Again, I think that’s exactly what they were going for.


  15. [Note: Noah posted this comment on September 12, 2015.]

    I would add, however, that Wesley and Cordelia have given a lot to and for Angel, and his actions were quite monstrous (though they actually seemed to have a bigger problem with him firing them than locking the lawyers in the wine-cellar.


  16. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on September 14, 2015.]

    I agree – if a little reluctantly – that this is very true to life. Gunn I can understand, because early on he bought into his self-assessment as ‘muscle’ and viewed things very black/white. The situation is flipped in S3/4 when Wesley is the one outside the group, not Angel, and Gunn is very pally with him. So Gunn I can forgive, but not Cordy/Wes because they should know better.

    I remember particularly disliking Buffy’s treatment at the hands of her friends. Xander just emphasises how unlikeable and annoying the character can be and Willow acts very unusually (setting up a girl date with Buffy then deliberately not turning up) when you consider what the character is generally like in the early seasons. Buffy is not my favourite character in the setting but she gets kicked about town here. Her mother doesn’t help either, but then terrible Joyce parenting isn’t anything new.


  17. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on September 14, 2015.]

    Reading this made me think about how different characters touch different people on these shows. For me, only Giles and Willow from the four original characters are interesting. Xander is too irritating, unfunny and unlikeable. I’m sure many people are the opposite, but I just don’t see it. Nobody ever confronts Xander on his flaws, his naked hatred for Angel just because Buffy loves him and not Xander or his inability to see what everyone else sees and accept that Angel/Angelus were not the same ‘person’ (or effectively so. It’s obvious that they are they same person but with radically different perceptions, motivations and drives. Xander however chooses not to admit this). I mention this because it’s such a flawed motivation for the character and it just goes on and on until Anya turns up to be irritating too.

    Buffy herself simply…makes it hard to like her as time goes on. I had no problem with her S2/3 (though her weird passive-aggressive side pops up when she gives Wesley a dressing down late in S3). Over time though, she develops deep-rooted problems that make the character very human, but difficult to feel sympathetic toward. By the time ‘Empty Places’ comes along, you’re wondering why it hasn’t happened sooner.

    My favourite characters are all in the same bracket and I wouldn’t rank them in any particular order, other than I like them. Whenever these top ones are onscreen, I enjoy it, and it does include villains:

    Angel, Spike, Giles, Willow, Jenny, Drusilla, the Mayor, Wesley, Illyria, Gwen, Lilah, the Beast

    Other characters that might not be my faves, but they’re fine anyway:

    Buffy, Faith, Riley, Tara, Oz, Cordelia, Doyle, Fred, Lorne, Gunn, Harmony, Lindsey, Wood.

    These characters I actively dislike and/or find deeply irritating:

    Dawn, Xander, Connor, Anya, Eve, all members of the Trio in Season Six, most of the Potentials (Kennedy especially).

    Anya shouldn’t really be in the bottom group, but she’s simply too irritating despite being quite funny. The main issue for Anya is her expositionary dialogue, which comes across as forced, too convenient and condescending. If she’d been written slightly better, we would’ve got a sense of over a thousand years of experience (if not wisdom). Instead, we get matter-of-fact statements that often imply expertise in areas such as witchcraft and demonology – despite Anya never really showing any true expertise in either beyond casting a few spells. The other character that shows knowledge that you’d expect for their age is Angel – despite being far younger than Anya, Angel comes across as genuinely knowledgeable and experienced. I’m not sure how much of that is writing and how much acting. Spike is also a fairly old character, but what I like about him is that he clearly spent his years having fun, not book learning.


  18. [Note: Poltargyst posted this comment on February 16, 2017.]

    What a fun episode. With all of the heartwrenching grief going on on Buffy at this point, I’m glad for a fun episode here.

    I like Charisma’s facial expressions any time she’s talking to Harmony. Funny.

    The happy dance at the end, Angel with a big grin on his face was too much fun.

    I just have to say too, what kind of stupid pyramid plan was that???? Each vampire turns two humans and brings one to eat? Pretty soon, there will be too many vampires and too few humans, and then what will they do? I always figured that’s why vampires don’t turn humans often. You need enough humans to be able to continue to feed off of.


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