Angel 3×10: Dad

[Review by Ryan Bovay]

[Writer: David H. Goodman | Director: Fred Keller | Aired: 12/10/2001]

“Dad” is another episode of S3 with strong, emotionally resonant themes that fails to intellectually engage on the level of the average episode of other AtS seasons. With the exception of the previous episode (“Lullaby” [3×09]), much of this season has that weakness. However, that quality alone does not damn an episode. What does “Dad” in despite its good-intentioned heart is not its main theme, but its plot. The story topic in this episode isn’t bad, but how what happens in exploration of it is contrived and sometimes even insulting; a description I don’t often use in regards to any installment of a show this good.

I wrote a fair deal about the disingenuous attempt to make the birth of Angel’s son seem important via outside interest in my review of “Quickening” [3×08]. The problem there, much like here, is that it’s intrusive and forced. Rather than seeming like an organic development, the many demon groups that we are supposed to fear by proxy of the characters are mindlessly shoveled in as plot devices. They lack in interesting motives, historical context and personality, so we have no reason as an audience to fear them as threats to the stability of the characters or their environment. A plot so preoccupied with them is therefore ineffective because we (rightly) suspect they will be easily dispatched.

Much the same, Wolfram and Hart seems neutered and pathetic under the command of Linwood Murrow in comparison to last season. I find myself missing even the eerie Nathan Reed from “Blood Money” [2×12] and “Dead End” [2×18]. With the primary motivation for the characters (surviving their enemies) is uninteresting, and the jeopardy into which they are placed predictable and contrived, the ability of the plot to perform is severely hindered. But what truly cripples it is the downright insulting mislead during the climax, which asks us to honestly believe that Angel could leave his friends this way. After all the work done in S2 to so tightly solidify this group, to suggest ut beyond asinine. One only needs to have watched the show to know why.

Perhaps it would’ve taken Lindsey to know best, but one would suppose that Wolfram and Hart would know their enemy well enough without him to suspect a trick (especially since they have so many files on him); alas, the plot requires them not to. However, the most fatal miscalculation in the ‘twist’ used to clear up the episode’s main monster threat is how badly it conflicts with the themes of the episode and of the season. S3, like S2, is very multi-faceted. It explores responsibility, destiny, free will and family, with this episode focusing on the latter of all of those. This season in particular the writers have been more strongly harping that Angel Investigations is a family unto itself.

These people have fought, lived(/died), and grown together a great deal. In the wake of his promise to Darla last episode is Angel’s drive to protect his son, and it’s an emotion we sympathize with because it’s been earned by what came before. However, so has the tight bond of Angel Investigations. And so to predicate the salvation of one on the abandonment of another is a mislead doomed to failure because the of bonds within the group that have already been so well established. While I understand the point the point the writers were trying to make, without convincing evidence to suggest that Angel could betray his friends so easily, the twist is far too much of a stretch to be plausible.

What slightly redeems the weak points of the plot are the themes behind it. Usually I look at an episode as a combination of a theme and plot rather than doing a dissection, so I can avoid getting purely analytical and forgetting fan love in my reviews. But given where this hour’s strengths and weaknesses lay it seems fitting. The gaggle of enemies that pursue the baby, in spite of their problems as plot devices, help to strengthen Angel’s connection to his son in an important way. It would’ve been very easy for baby Connor to become a token sympathy card, but the writers do a commendable job of making us emotional about his fate simply because almost no one else is.

Everyone is hunting this child for their own purposes (Holtz, for revenge) while Angel and his friends are the only people on the planet who are interested in saving the child’s life so that he actually may live. The small character moments concerned with this are where the episode briefly shines. At this point in the series Angel is his most human, reflected in the scene where he shows his vampire face to Connor; it’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. To seek redemption for evil he built a family around himself to help others so that they don’t have to suffer as they do. And for the first time that family has a future that goes beyond mystical immortality.

Holtz, on the other hand, seeks revenge for the evil against him, and with Justine and his troop of vampire hunters he will later on use family to his own selfish ends to make others suffer. But Holtz can’t see family as anything but blood-relation and a traditional raising, and while establishing a connection with Justine may be seen as a step up from using demon mercenaries, it’s still purely for his own benefit. He heard what Angel said in “Lullaby” [3×09] and has cast off being Sahjahn’s puppet for his own favour. As the arc progresses, Angel’s bond with his entire family becomes a weapon for Holtz just as his vampire hunters and their attachment to him do.

My favourite scene of the episode, free of the problematic dreck, is Cordelia’s simple illustration of the pure necessity of others to the individual. Connor will want to play out in the sun one day where Angel can’t go. This isn’t a limit on Angel’s humanity, but rather clearly demonstrates it; like any other person there are things he can and can’t do. His group isn’t just a band of demon hunters in how they help him, and directly breaching this subject makes Cordy and the others family for Connor the same way Angel is, as they can help him with Connor too. I enjoy this scene not only for this particular statement, but in retrospect of where we’ve come from to get to it.

Angel went from being a mystical, detached drifter with a heavy heart of gold to a champion with an objective purpose (becoming human via the Shanshu prophecy), and finally to a truly selfless humanitarian. And now at last it seems he’s getting his just rewards; it’s a bit depressing watching this knowing that they won’t last. But for now, he’s happy and whole, and enjoying this triumph alongside Angel Investigations is a strong enough highlight to keep “Dad” from falling all the way into the fire.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Angel’s “my #######.”
+ The big board of enemies.
+ The latest appearance of Sahjahn. This guy, for his lack of depth, is very entertaining.
+ Lilah’s comment on Angel’s name: “What kind of wussy name is Liam anyway?”

– Linwood making baby-talk.
– Angel talking to the baby in the car. Even before we knew the baby was a fake, this scene felt hokey.


* Both Angel’s and Holtz’s uses for their new families come heavily into play later in the season, with Holtz using his to take Angel’s in “Sleep Tight” [3×16], and Angel using his to avoid going back down a dark path in “Forgiving” [3×17].
* Sahjahn finally loses patience with Holtz. In 3×15: “Loyalty” [3×15] and “Sleep Tight” [3×16] he allies himself with Lilah against both Holtz and Angel to try and kill Connor.



24 thoughts on “Angel 3×10: Dad”

  1. [Note: Tobias Drake posted this comment on May 2, 2007.]

    Another nice bit of foreshadowing is in Angel’s threat to Linwood; when something bad does happen to Connor, in 3×17 Forgiving, he does indeed go after Linwood.


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

    Ah! Right you are. Funny I forgot to put that in, since I have the whole line in my quotes section. Thanks.


  3. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on June 8, 2007.]

    I actually caught a re-run of this yesterday. I thought interesting and funny. Holtz is frightening but not as frightening as in Lullaby.
    I saw this episode for the first time. But you`re right, the baby talk was kinda strange.


  4. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on July 24, 2007.]

    I liked the Baby talk. It was pure silliness, but it was fun.

    As for the episode as a whole, it’s a little like Showtime, great characterisation, some great humour but a cracked, contrived plot in places. Still, it funnily felt more satisfying than the plodding arc-openers prior to Lullaby did.


  5. [Note: Scoobasteve83 posted this comment on December 19, 2009.]

    What I recognized when I watched this ep for approximately the gazzilionst time is, that this is the first time we see a vampire smile. Of course there’ve been vampires in this series smiling before, but never out of happiness or the state of mind Angel’s in, when his trying to make baby Connor stop crying.


  6. [Note: JammyJu posted this comment on April 5, 2010.]

    Totally agree Ryan, after the whole arc we went through in Season 2, it felt really contrived to have Angel just abandon his friends all over again.

    Wolfram and Hart also feel really inept here as well, Lilah is the most interesting personification of the company, but she’s still all talk.

    Unlike the beginning of the season where they put Cordelia in real jeapardy.

    A shame this episode is as weak point in the season, after the amazing episode previously.


  7. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 3, 2011.]

    Only thing I agree with is that the prophecy about Connor being an open secret (so every malevolent demon gang out there seems to know about it) doesn’t match the things we know about that prophecy.

    “But what truly cripples it is the downright insulting mislead during the climax, which asks us to honestly believe that Angel could leave his friends this way.”

    Sry but that’s nonsense, no one wants you to believe it, they just wanted the guys at W&H to believe it. And that obviously worked. And even if Angel was really serious about it you would still miss the point (as usual ^^), because then the main problem would be that it wouldn’t make sense for the rest of them to stay in the hotel instead of just fleeing with Angel.

    And about W&H, sure, they are weak and that Angel can just walk in there is downright insulting to the viewers. But please stop pretending that these idiots were more than onedimensional cardboard villains before. Because here you would be insulting your readers… “intellectually” and all. ^^


  8. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 3, 2011.]

    General problem with all of Ryans reviews:

    He is reading waaaaay too much into this show. When he hears some onedimensional evildoer talk about how evil is inside everyone of us Ryan writes some kind of philosophical essay about good and evil instead of just ignoring that cheap and obvious bait and concentrating on plot, characters (most of them very uninteresting before S03), drama, humor and how everything worked together. Sry, but nothing in this show is deeper than in any drama TV show I saw in the last decade. Heck, “intellectually”, other shows like Breaking Bad or The Shield would wipe the floor with the shallow bullshit Angel sells us as meaningful.

    These are no reviews, because they rarely care about the entertainment qualities of all this as a TV show. “Intellectually”, Angel is a much less compelling show than Buffy for example, because the things it deals with have nothing to do with the lives of any of us. There are no “heroes” in this world, there is no good and evil and I don’t care about redemption for a 150 year killing spree (Angel isn’t even to blame for it, as Giles said about Jesse, it wasn’t him, it was the thing that killed him).

    But what it means to grow up, take responsibility for your live, support the people you care about and not become a selfish asshole (hint: listen to your friends and family) IS meaningful and beyond that Buffy showed me that there are actually many people out there who I can relate to, people with the same sense of humor and the same humanist mindset. I became kind of a cynic (the usual disappointed idealist ^^) before watching Buffy and the show really helped me to regain my faith in mankind, at least a little.

    Angel is far far away from that kind of impact, even now in S03 where I start to like the show.


  9. [Note: Alex posted this comment on October 3, 2011.]

    Keaton, all of your recent comments have just popped up in my RSS feed, and I have to say that I don’t think you need to be quite so rude. You have some interesting thoughts on the episodes and you clearly don’t agree with a lot of Ryan’s views, which is great – it’s good to have some interesting debate on here. However, you don’t need to get so personal. If you think these reviews are just a load of pretentious ‘fanboy bs’ then why are you even reading them, let alone commenting on them all?

    Also, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but Ryan is no longer reviewing Angel, as of the first few episodes of Season Four. The reviews are being slowly completed by a bunch of us from the community here. If you think you can do a better job, then why don’t you volunteer?


  10. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 3, 2011.]

    Sry, I know it came out wrong. I guess my main problem is that I really would love to read Angel reviews but I can’t find many websites offering those. And if, these websites rarely offer more than a short column per episode.

    I read all of mikes reviews when I watched Buffy before and although I didn’t always like his approach to focus on the characters and their development (I would rate Buffy S01 way higher than him for example, it is just great comedy and has very good chemistry between the scoobies, which is more than enough to make me happy), I still loved his reviews and I think he made good points. Here at Ryan’s I find reviews concentrating on questions I don’t care about and a lot of flawed logic. It just disappoints me, that’s all.

    Nearly everything Ryan wrote this far contradicts what I was thinking about the show and that just annoys me. I am even more annoyed by the constant allegations that he was seeing would be intellectual rewarding. Believe me when I say that I already typed in a lot harsher comments but deleted them again. So all this putting intellectually in quotation marks and the other taunting I was doing is the politest way I can comment on these reviews.

    But you are right, my behavior was a bit rude and I’m sorry to have brought such bad vibrations in here. So if mike or whoever is responsible for this website now wants to delete my comments (except this one please^^) I can understand that.

    about the review-writing:

    Sry, but I’m not a native speaker. But I guess the “given” instead of “granted” and the “identify with” instead of “relate to” already gave that away. ^^ so I doubt that I would be eloquent enough for such an effort.

    Heck, writing these angry comments already is difficult enough for me. 😉


  11. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 4, 2011.]

    Btw, when I say it annoys me I don’t exactly know if I’m more annoyed by Ryan’s interpretation or by the show itself. Guess I just wanted to come here and read some deeper analysis which explains me why I hate S01 and S02 that much. But there is nearly no analysis in these reviews, just a lot of unconnected random thoughts that constantly wander off the topic. It’s like if you would watch a random cheap daily soap and see two people standing together in awkward silence and then someone writes a review in which he praises the show for its great portrayal of existentialist loneliness in postmodern society.

    And when I read about all the love for S02 in particular it is difficult to stay calm. 😉

    But I don’t really want to discuss any of it, because it’s no fun to talk about something you didn’t enjoy. I even would have to rewatch some of that crap so no no, thanks. 😉


  12. [Note: Alex posted this comment on October 4, 2011.]


    Firstly, I think it was good of you to apologise. I understand that you weren’t just trolling or trying to wind people up, and I also know what you mean about it being difficult to tell whether it’s the show or the articles which you don’t like. Generally I enjoy Angel, but some of the episodes just don’t work for me, and when you read a positive review of an episode you hated it’s sometimes hard to stay calm! Have you watched the whole of Angel, right up to the end of series 5? The reason I ask is because these are ‘retrospective’ reviews and often look at the earlier episodes in the wider context of the episodes which come after them.

    I think it’s also important to realise that everyone’s interpretation is different. Just because you (correctly or otherwise) think the writers meant for something to be taken in a particular way, that doesn’t make it wrong for someone to interpret a scene differently. For example, we’ve had some debate recently on the forums about the Fred/Wesley relationship, and in particular we’ve been discussing Fred’s feelings and at what point she starts to like Wesley. Several of us have different opinions on this. Now, I’m sure the writers or Amy Acker could come along and say ‘actually, we wanted to show that Fred started liking Wesley in episode X’, but I don’t think that would invalidate all the other interpretations from people who’ve picked up on different things in the various episodes.

    Similarly, just because you consider something to be just a plot device, or just played for humour, doesn’t mean that other people can’t look into the wider implications of it, or examine what it means for the characters and the rest of the story. You might not agree, but please don’t dismiss the right of others to discuss things as they see fit. That’s what makes this website so great, and for someone to come along and dismiss it all as intellectual nonsense is kind of counter-productive.

    It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on some of the other reviews written as part of the ACP, if you generally have a problem with Ryan’s. You’ll find the style of the later reviews is quite different, and perhaps you’ll find a reviewer there who’s more to your liking 🙂


  13. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 4, 2011.]

    “Have you watched the whole of Angel, right up to the end of series 5?”

    No, I am commenting on episodes I just saw. Before the end of S02 I read some of Ryan’s reviews now and then and left them uncommented every time. Everyone seemed pleased, didn’t want to disturb that. ^^

    Could have left it that way but as I wrote, I like most of S03 this far so I wanted to talk about it. Noone even seems to know the show here in Germany, heck, most people didn’t even see Buffy, although many have at least heard of it (and are convinced it’s be just another stupid teenager TV show).

    Generally, watching it in German isn’t that much fun anyway, language barrier and all, you just can’t translate all those puns, so here neither Buffy nor Angel will become a hit anytime soon.

    Did you know than in the German dubbed version of Buffy the subheading isn’t the direct translation of “the vampire hunter” but something like “under the spell of the demons”? That makes the title of the show even more ridiculous than in English so nobody with self-respect who wasn’t persuaded otherwise would even bother watching it.

    And of course you’re right with what you’re writing about respecting other people’s opinions, that’s out of the question.

    I’m just not the most patient guy in the world and if someone talks my ear off by philosophing without solid cause (at least I don’t get the reasoning sometimes) I grow impatient very fast. But that’s just my problem and I could put it in a nicer way too.

    So I’ll stop attacking Ryan (who doesn’t seem to read any of this anyway if I understood you correctly) and concentrate on commenting on the episodes more.


  14. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 4, 2011.]

    Sry, double comment.

    Btw, I’m watching the Ballet episode right now, incredibly fun so far.

    “Can’t fight Kyrumption.” XD


  15. [Note: Alex posted this comment on October 4, 2011.]

    Oh, are you watching on DVD? If so then you must watch the deleted scene with the lovely Ms Acker doing some ballet!


  16. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on October 4, 2011.]

    Keaton, I don’t generally delete comments unless it ventures into the realm of personal attacks, spam, or just plain nonsense. Some of your previous comments were pretty aggressive in tone though, so I’m glad you’re going forward a bit more relaxed about it (thanks, Alex).

    Unless you specifically want me to delete your other comments, I’ll just leave them there for the time being.

    And, yes, that deleted scene with Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof is pure comedy gold. 😀


  17. [Note: Erin posted this comment on April 15, 2012.]

    I loved in this episode the bits where Angel did the whole Baby Talk thing with the Teddy. ‘Daddy likes the milk!!’ ‘Teddy likes it too’ Hilarious.


  18. [Note: Odon posted this comment on April 22, 2012.]

    Surprised no-one mentioned the scene where Holtz watches Justine fight a vampire in the graveyard – an obvious BTVS reference and nice way of showing that under different circumstances these two would be the heroes of the story.


  19. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on June 5, 2012.]

    I have only gotten to 4.03, would like to avoid spoilers, so I won’t be reading the rest of these reviews until I have finished every episode (which I will), but I felt had to check out the discussion of this review to see if anybody mentioned these two words (which I found on the TV Tropes page for this episode’s recap under “Stealth Pun”): Baby Boomer


  20. [Note: Fm posted this comment on January 21, 2013.]

    Always thought angel having a child would trigger the loss of his soul… The curse is “perfect happiness” … Wouldn’t that be what one feels when they become a parent especially when the possibility if giving life was such an impossibility to begin with? Just a thought…


  21. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on January 21, 2013.]

    Maybe as long as he was terrified of everything that could go wrong, even if not on the surface, he wouldn’t get as happy as when he and Buffy had escaped from the worst monster they’d ever seen and wasn’t focused on danger anymore.Which I’d think Cordelia would’ve remembered when she told him to “stop worrying”


  22. I might have thought, given their long history, given that she was the mother of his child, that Angel might have some feelings about the demise of Darla, but you couldn’t prove it watching this episode. Are we just sweeping her death under the rug then?

    Am I supposed to know who Justine and her sister are? Because I don’t remember them, but they are presented like I’m supposed to.

    It was interesting seeing Justine playing Slayer, stalking vampires in the graveyard. Over and over in both Buffy and Angel we see that regular humans with enough training or experience or gumption can beat vampires in a fight. But vampires are supposed to be superhuman. They have super strength and speed. I’m not sure a normal human should really have a chance in a fight against a vampire. When normal humans can beat vampires, it cheapens the threat they represent. And if normal humans can beat vampires, what do we need slayers for?

    And there’s Connor crying and whining his way through this episode like he will cry and whine his way through so many others. Couldn’t they have just given him to the vampire cult? I really hate Connor.


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