[Review by Ryan Bovay]
[Writer: David Greenwalt | Director: James A. Contner | Aired: 04/24/2001]
“Dead End” does us our final service for the main arc of S2 by tying up the last loose ends and sending off one of its major players. Like an episode such as “Happy Anniversary” [2×13] (which was also written by David Greenwalt), it doesn’t do anything remarkably profound but is so sharply written, funny and charming that you can’t help but enjoy it profusely. The resolutions to Lindsey’s character arc were satisfactory, if not particularly incredible; more of a quite denouement to the horror that was his life with Darla. It’s also great fun to see Angel Investigations really back in action now, taking on a real case for the first time since “Untouched” [2×04].
The healing bonds of the gang are explored again, if to a bit of a lesser extent. What’s most important here for them is a test of Angel’s patience and re-commitment to his mission: Helping the helpless. The twist is that this time, the ‘helpless’ is Lindsey. These two have always been interesting nemeses for one another: One justifiably concerned with power and intent on accumulating as much of it as possible. Another concerned (usually) with helping people make life worth living one person at a time; at one time for the goal of redemption, but now simply for the purpose of doing the good itself. While it’s as inevitable as in a black-man/white-man cop movie that these two are to team up, squabble, and solve the case, the results are worth watching.
It isn’t the formula-defying stuff you usually expect from a Whedon show, but with Greenwalt writing we get a full serving of sharp, hilarious dialogue and entertaining character moments, like Wesley exercising his leadership to role to make Angel do all the work; oh, bureaucracy. The particular charms of David Boreanaz and Christian Kane make their otherworldly odd couple work well too, as they play every situation with all the reservation and frustration these two characters would clearly hold for one another. We get a simple monster of the week plot, in which Wolfram and Hart, favouring Lindsey over Lilah for an upcoming promotion (the one hinted at in “Redefinition” [2×11] ), mystically gives Lindsey a new hand. But nothing from W&H is ever free.
He soon finds the hand has a mind of its own, and runs into Angel, who is following a similar case about a man’s eye, at Caritas. As I said: It seemed a little too inevitable, but for what it’s worth, it works. Both Angel and Lindsey are characters at important crossroads following their experiences with W&H and Darla. Both were played by the firm for greater purposes and were ravaged emotionally by what was done to/by Darla. Angel was incensed by having her redemption stolen from him, and Lindsey by how he was kept in the dark and restricted from fighting a person hell-bent on torturing and killing him.
It’s a fair bit more than that too. Lindsey’s entire existence has been defined by hating and opposing Angel. It was professional in “Five by Five” [1×18] and “Sanctuary” [1×19] and got extremely personal after “To Shanshu in LA” [1×22], wherein Lindsey lost his hand to Angel’s scythe. And every day since then his disability has been a constant reminder of why and how much he despises this one being. Falling for Darla was, in some small way, a love for what he could have that Angel couldn’t and when he lost her to him he nearly went out of his mind with pure rage (lucky he did it after Angel had his epiphany). He’s concerned with power; his, and has never had any regard for the Senior Partners’ plans for Angel, defying them several times for his own agenda (“The Trial” [2×09] , “Blood Money” [2×12] ).
Even with Darla gone and Angel returned to his crew, Wolfram and Hart recognize what the plastic hand represents and with his new one, for a short time, Lindsey begins to move on; he plays guitar again, and he continues solving legal cases extremely well. But the possibility of the evil behind it irks him to the core, so much so that he goes to Caritas. As a person, Lindsey is selfish, power-hungry and vengeful, but unlike Holland Manners he has never been downright evil. His very reasons for staying at Wolfram and Hart in 1×21: “Blind Date” [1×21] were noble: Holland convinced him that by accumulating and managing the world’s power, Wolfram and Hart did a good thing with its existence.
He has always had the potential for good and for redemption and with the lessons of Darla behind him and the reminder of his hatred for Angel taken away, it starts to surface. He now has a reminder of his problems with Wolfram and Hart: how they’ve meddled, lied to him, protected his enemies and betrayed the woman he cared about. But what’s most important is that when his hand begins writing “KILL” he can’t ignore it. The shadiness and the dubious origin of a seemingly perfect hand are too much for Lindsey to simply carry on ignoring, and that makes it different then his simple conscience-induced panic in “Blind Date” [1×21]. The discovery of the ‘parts’ lab is long-time-coming nail in the coffin.
It’s not a life he can live anymore. He’s honest when he tells Angel that he’s not about to start singing show tunes and preach his moral salvations. However, giving up the power he’d taken years to accumulate and made huge sacrifices to attain simply because it is the right thing is a significant turn for him. But, he can’t do it without screwing his bosses back just a little and his triumphant exit from Wolfram and Hart is hysterical and just a little scary. He gives Lilah her due, giving his oldest rival what he knows as both credit and damnation in her promotion and sets off for parts unknown, leaving Angel with some telling advice about W&H that he later uses against Angel himself in S5.
It’s clear Lindsey won’t change in every way. He’s still excited by the prospect of a battle with his old bosses and when he eventually comes back he’s looking for the keys to power, and for revenge against Angel. But for now, living without evil is enough, even if he’ll be pestered by cops for awhile. That particular sendoff gift from Angel is absolutely the most perfect thing he could’ve done given the situation, saying a lot about who he is now and what he’s prepared to do, forgive and live with in his own fight against evil. He gave a questionable man a second chance, but never forgot who he was or how to non-murderously deal with him.
Two final people to note are Cordelia and Wesley, the first of whom is having a problem similar to Lindsey’s: A part of her that was not meant to be a part of her, one that is a constant reminder of evil in the world, is weighing heavier and heavier. We’ve seen some of the effects on her persona that it’s had as of late, as have her friends, but here it becomes much worse. The visions are now a handicap not only socially, but physically and emotionally; she can feel the pain in her head and in her heart, which is a terrible way to have to live.
Worse than that, and as discussed in “Disharmony” [2×17], despite her self-fulfillment in helping the helpless, she longs for more carefree times and having such a constant, heavy responsibility is beginning to wear her down. Her bonding with Angel when he buys her all that food is absolutely heartwarming; it’s exactly what she needs and she’s starting to see that she can count on him again. And then there’s Wesley, who despite taking a good lead on the case this episode, isn’t quite ready for the toughest responsibilities that command brings. Deferring a problem to Angel was funny, but telling. Both his problem and Cordelia’s are addressed in the upcoming Pylea arc.
While a little disappointing, this episode didn’t really present me with high expectations and didn’t try to fulfill them. It’s quite solid, if not quite what it could have been. But as “Disharmony” [2×17] showed, perhaps what we needed after all the darkness these characters have been through was a few more laughs.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Angel buying Cordy three meals of food.
+ Christian Kane’s singing at Caritas. This was actually a song he wrote for his band Kane.
+ Angel freaking the parole officer out; “Can’t you just taste the butter fat?”
+ Angel screwing with Lindsey: “Why don’t we just fight?”
+ Lindsey’s final meeting with W&H. Flawlessly hilarious in every moment.
+ Angel’s goodbye gift to his nemesis. “COPS SUCK.”
– Cordelia going soft on Lindsey over his performance. After everything that’s happened I sincerely doubt a good singing voice would earn clemency.
* Cordelia’s visions continue to get worse here, as we saw in “Disharmony” [2×17]. In “Birthday” [3×11] we find out 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. In the Pylea arc (“Belonging” [2×19] to “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb” [2×22] ), literally becoming a princess gives her a better perspective on her duties and their worth.
* Lindsey says the key to Wolfram and Hart is to make them play your games, and returns in Season Five to just that, manipulating Angel with the interest of taking him down and controlling W&H through the Circle of the Black Thorn.
* Wesley, as mentioned, still leaves some of the ickiest and toughest parts of leading to Angel, even though he’s taken over the team. In the Pylea arc, he too changes: being the only one with the tactical skills to lead an assault against a tyrannical government, he overcomes his leadership anxieties.