Angel 3×22: Tomorrow

[Review by Ryan Bovay]

[Writer: David Greenwalt | Director: David Greenwalt | Aired: 05/20/2002]

“Tomorrow,” like S3’s premiere episode “Heartthrob” [3×01], in every way encapsulates what I both love and hate about S3. Here is an episode with extremely strong characterization for some of its players, and little or none for some others. It has powerful dramatic moments and some sharp, intensely written dialogue. It also lacks the thematic complexity of this series’ better episodes; not even major barnstormers like “Reprise” [2×15], but resonant, layered episodes like “Benediction” [3×21] or “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?” [2×02]. In going for a gut punch, S3 has been negligent in massaging our minds as much as S2 did. But that’s more to be addressed in my comprehensive season review.

The major problem with the season finale, besides the fact that it is way too tepid to be a season finale, is the sheer, stunning contrivance of one of its major plot decisions. Swooping Cordy’s fate up off the Earth at so random a time and place, and for seemingly no good reason other than to deprive our principle characters of happiness, just plain pissed me off. I see the basic dramatic merit in it, and knowing what I know of the PTB’s plans in S4 I understand why it was done, but that doesn’t save it in my eyes. It is so out of the blue that it’s insulting.

Ellen Sandler, a sitcom writer, once used a Hebrew saying to highlight one of the key principles of writing fiction: “Mah Nish Ta Nah.” A question asked during the Passover seder, it means: “why is this night different from all other nights?” When a writer generates an event, they must ask ‘why’ in a very specific fashion. They must justify an event’s exact place in the chronology of the story in order not to make us question the plausibility of the event. Cordelia’s ascension, considering the reasons given for its timing, could’ve happened at any point in the series after “Birthday” [3×11]. Skip told her as much when he said that the Powers That Be have chosen her to be a higher being because of her courage.

Cordelia chose to keep the visions, become half-demon, and fight alongside Angel to help the helpless. Since Skip tells Angel Investigations that Cordy becoming half-demon was a necessary event in “Inside Out” [4×17], he solidifies the assertion that any time after “Birthday” [3×11], in which Cordy was made half-demon, would’ve been fine in the powers’ eyes to bring Cordelia up to their level. So when she began to ascend I found myself sick at the contrived nature of it all. The Whedonverse often likes to heap suffering on its characters; Whedon and Co, not unwisely, believe that suffering builds human character. Moreover they choose to highlight suffering in their writing because unlike cowardly TV programs, they realize that real life contains it. A lot of it.

But at answering the Mah Nish Ta Nah for this twist, the episode fails miserably. It was done only – only – to compound the cliffhanger situation, and to further cause pain and suffering for the characters. One might almost call it needless. And I am not a fan of violence, or any other horrible thing, being artificially generated for dramatic effect. This problem loses the episode a great deal of points; I’ve already spent almost half the average length of a review talking about it. But “Tomorrow” does have some strong material; the Connor storyline could’ve merited this episode an 80 without this one main problem in the way.

When last we left Connor, he’d found Holtz’s body and concluded that Angelus was to blame. Holtz’s suicide, which Justine helped make him look like a murder at the hands of Angel, poisoned Connor against his biological father. In an act I called evil on the grounds of being totally devoid of anything loving, Holtz took Connor’s empty, clean-slate mindset – his chance to start over fresh in our world – and used it to drive a hatred of Angel even deeper into the boy. The most interesting part of this episode begins with Connor’s death-glare at the end of the teaser: He wants to do much more than just kill Angel.

Despite most of the main storyline with Connor and Angel being way too light both in terms of thematic complexity and dramatic intensity (damn I sound pompous!), the dark undercurrent to it makes even the happiest scenes intriguing to watch. In contrast to much of S4, Connor is a fascinating character here. As he desecrates Holtz’s body, he promises to hold true to what he’s been taught: to protect good and vanquish evil, which means ‘destroy Angel’ in his black-and-white mind. So fundamental are these beliefs to Connor that he doesn’t hesitate for a moment to chop the man he believes to be his father into pieces, since he was ‘bitten’ by a ‘vampire’ and could rise again.

When he went to the Hyperion and asked to be trained, I found myself thinking ‘game on.’ And yet, Vincent Kartheiser as Connor again impresses me with his subtle use of body language throughout the episode to intensify the uncertainty. Every compliment, every gesture and every scrap of good will towards Angel is a lie; this much the story insists on. Yet one can’t help but wonder what’s really going to happen, and Kartheiser sells that all on his own. There is one moment in the episode that stands completely on its own: when Angel takes him to a drive in movie and we can see wonder etched on his face.

Is it a sense of discovery, something joyous he’s found in this new world? Maybe. But what they watch is an action film in which good is ‘good,’ evil is ‘evil’ and men are ‘men.’ The stereotypical action film features men who kill coldly and with no afterthought, so perhaps that’s where Connor connected to it. It’s an excellent scene to think on. Meanwhile, Angel has never been happier, and is so aglow in his joy that he has no idea that when he trains his son, he’s training the boy how to beat him. He has never been happier in the entire run of this series, and it shows as he hums, whistles and smiles his way through the hour.

When Lorne tells him that his affection for Cordelia is truly a shared thing as his parting gift, it seems as though all the stars are at last aligned for our central character. This is when Connor decides to make his move. Unlike the plot twist in Cordelia’s plot, this is a logical time and place for the story to swerve. Connor, who has been able to bury his grief and even feign befriending the creature he believes killed someone he cared for, picks the moment that could represent perfect happiness for Angel to drag him down. Literally. He even said he wanted to be like Angel, who he sees as a cold-blooded killer.

The final scenes of the season, for the flaws of this episode, left me filled with wonder and a desire to see what comes next. Since what comes next is the fantastic episode “Deep Down” [4×01], that’s an especially good thing. The fight between Connor and Angel is painful to watch, and it choked me up to see Angel forgiving his son even as he prepared to tie his father’s fate to a very ghastly resting place. A permanent, water-logged grave is truly a devious and terrifying punishment for someone who can live forever. In a sequence fit for a better episode, Connor and Justine sink Angel to the bottom of the ocean in the hopes of squelching their grief.

Justine is pure hatred over the loss of her friend – the pain she’s chained herself to – and Connor is pure tragedy, and they both get what they need to move on by depriving the world of a good person; it’s unsettling to watch. The season ends on Gunn and Fred, who’ll no doubt be wondering what the hell they’re supposed to do tomorrow now that everyone’s gone. In contrast, Wesley makes it entirely clear in an incredible pair of scenes where he’s going: nowhere that has anything to do with his old friends, because he’s done with Angel Investigations. Bonus points for this line: “I wasn’t thinking about you when you were here.”

It’s kind of sad to think that this is David Greenwalt’s last episode on the show as a writer or a showrunner. From S4 on he would not be a part of it at all. Likewise, I mourn the loss of Cordelia, who, because her character is body-jacked by Jasmine in S4, will technically not be seen again until “You’re Welcome” [5×12], in which she actually dies. Her resolution to the season makes me angry, even if it seems like a semi-logical endpoint for a woman who’s made the ultimate transition from irreconcilable material #####, to a truly selfless champion. Letting go of her shallow relationship with the Groosalug was the last step.

Again there’s also the problem of Fred, Gunn and Lorne being vastly underused (I’m of the opinion that after leaving in this episode, he should’ve stayed gone), and designing yet another episode to be setup for more things to come. There’s been way too many of those episodes this season. Regardless, it’s still been an interesting one, and I look forward to the next. See you there.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Wesley’s continuing downslide.
+ Angel whistling, and later humming.
+ Fred and her popcorn.
+ Gunn and Angel on Linwood not being human.
+ Fred poking Angel with the stake. “Not perfectly happy, I hope!”

– The Phantom Cordelia. What the hell? Really, uh, what the hell?
– More stupidity from Wolfram and Hart.
– Everything – everything – to do with Cordelia’s ascension. Especially the cheesy effects. Ech to it all. Ech. Ech. Ech.


Foreshadowing

* Connor targets Angel out of grief over Holtz’s death, claiming to serve ‘good’ and wanting to vanquish ‘evil.’ This viewpoint is affirmed in “Deep Down” [4×01], in which we see that he’s stayed with Fred and Gunn at the hotel and has actually bonded with them.
* Wesley is thoroughly done with Angel Investigations, and even when invited back by Angel in “Ground State” [4×02], he refuses, only coming back when he’s pulled in by Fred and an impending apocalypse (“Supersymmetry” [4×05] and “Apocalypse, Nowish” [4×07] respectively).


[Score]

60/100

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23 thoughts on “Angel 3×22: Tomorrow”

  1. [Note: rick posted this comment on September 14, 2007.]

    Agree with all, but the score.
    -Lorne sucked s4, but s5 redeems him greatly
    -Episode has crisp dialogue and plot excepting the travesty of Cordelia, which I feel does not merit a low 60 (considering you’ve rated other mediocre episodes much higher, ahem Expecting and Carpe Noctem)

    Like

  2. [Note: WorldWithoutShrimp posted this comment on September 17, 2007.]

    Personally, I think that Ryan was right on with the score. This is an example of one element of an episode being so bad that the rest of the episode, no matter how good, cannot save it from mediocrity. I do agree that Lorne was good in S5 though.

    Like

  3. [Note: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner posted this comment on February 2, 2008.]

    – The Phantom Cordelia. What the hell? Really, uh, what the hell?

    I’m pretty sure this was intended to be Cordelia’s vision of herself talking to Skip. Each line was taken from that exchange (except one, “Maybe on some level I’ve always known it’s true,” which probably ended up being cut for time). I think this was the powers trying to warn her about this encounter. Of course, as per usual, they remain maddeningly vague and, given Cordy’s reflection on her feelings for Angel, she can only see this as an affirmation of what’s foremost on her mind.

    The timing of the ascension wasn’t a problem for me; by virtue of being a plot point on a TV series, naturally it’s not going to happen until an optimal ratings period. As for why it didn’t happen sooner after “Birthday,” it seemed pretty obvious that Cordy had to do this willingly and freely. As Skip said, all she had to do was say yes. But look back at the episodes immediately following “Bday” – she’s unsure of what her new part-demon state entails. She repeatedly worries she’s going to grow horns and a tail or that other such side effects will manifest. She wasn’t going to take such a radical step as ascending to another plane of existence until she felt at ease with the transformation she had already gone through. And I think that point came in the previous episode, when she “healed” Connor.

    Her resolution to the season makes me angry, even if it seems like a semi-logical endpoint for a woman who’s made the ultimate transition from irreconcilable material bitch, to a truly selfless champion.

    I would argue that she wasn’t quite selfless. In her discussion with Skip, very little is actually said about how her ascension will help in the struggle as opposed to staying earthbound. He makes a vague reference to the fight taking place on multiple planes but doesn’t go into any specifics other than, “You’ve outgrown this one.” In fact, his plea to her rests entirely on flattery. “You’ve outgrown this,” “You’re a higher being.” There’s a clear point when he’s gotten through to her, when, based on the awed look on her face, her assent is clear: it’s when she echoes, “I’m a higher being.”

    Cordy has indeed grown from the shallow, self-absorbed Sunnydale High homecoming queen. She does now think about others’ pain and puts easing that pain above her own wellbeing. But she’s still proud. And Skip seems to have a sense of that pride and plays off of it masterfully. One of the dangers of being a champion, an activist, an instrument of change is believing not that you have a mission but that you are the mission, that it could not possibly go on without you. And even if only for a moment, Skip touched something akin to that belief in Cordy, and thus ensured her downfall. Despite all of her growth over the previous six years, the character came to a tragic end in this episode, ultimately destroying herself and, over the next season, very nearly her friends and arguably the world, due to a fundamental, well-established character flaw. The more I think about this, the more I love how her “real” arc ended, her appearance in S5 notwithstanding.

    But I agree about the ascension FX. Pure limburger.

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  4. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on March 12, 2008.]

    I was terribly disappointed with this episode, especially for what they did with Cordelia. In my opinion, they ruined her character and it´s a shame that the “real” Cordelia will only show up in S5.

    Like

  5. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on March 7, 2009.]

    Part of the timing of Cordelia’s departure, and her pregnancy with Jasmine in the next season was due to the fact that she really was pregnant, I’m thinking.

    I mean, they started clothing her in very loose, billow-y clothing even towards the end of Season 3, and her face put on some considerable weight during Season 4.

    Also, there’s a TV movie called “See Jane Date” that Charisma made a bit after all this in which she is much heavier than she used to be. I’m assuming she was still carrying baby weight.

    Of course, I could be wrong about all this. I’ve never really looked up anything to confirm it.

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  6. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 21, 2009.]

    Does anyone here watch Charmed? Because at this point I’m wondering who copied who. Because nine days before this aired, the season finale of S5 of Charmed aired, and Leo ascended to become a higher being, an Elder.

    Coincidence? Possibly.

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  7. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on February 5, 2010.]

    Why Cordelia? No really, why? I liked her scenes with Skip up until she floated up into the sky, then she lost me. Even though Cordelia has grown so much in the past three years, I really don’t buy that she would sacrifice herself in this way to be a Higher Power, no matter what she has been through. Realistically not many people would have the courage or, perhaps, stupidity, to agree to leave earth given the chance.

    Saving grace: Fred and her interpretation of a vampire from ‘Cats’. How adorable can she really be? Especially the secong growl.

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  8. [Note: AJD posted this comment on February 26, 2010.]

    The reason they left Cordy’s ascension until now was because of the final test – leaving without being able to tell Angel her true feelings. She’s only just realised her true feelings for him, so the ascension couldn’t happen before this episode.

    Wasn’t that made fairly obvious?

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  9. [Note: dthmtl posted this comment on May 4, 2010.]

    The image, or rather the juxtaposition of images is key. The sum of Angel’s past sins caused his figurative descent into hell while Cordy was ascending to heaven. Yes, it was cheesy as presented, but it felt right. We are a total of our actions and this was the representation of that concept. The sinner fell into darkness of the abyss and the angel raised into the light.

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  10. [Note: debisib posted this comment on November 26, 2010.]

    I feel like a lot of people are looking way too far into the ascension. It just seems like, after watching Cordelia become a better person over the last years, Skip acknowledged that he could use her inherent selfish pride that shes always had against her. Telling someone who has always been self centered, that because they have been a good person for 1/8 of their life they earned the right to be a ‘higher being’ seems like a pretty good idea. They will buy into it because you are telling them something good about themselves… and knowing Cordelia, her mind would believe it in a heartbeat.

    And let’s keep in mind, it was all a trick. No one is disputing that she desserved this. The bad guys dont even think she was deserving… just an easy and well placed target. imo

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  11. [Note: Jonny posted this comment on December 13, 2010.]

    I don’t know what it is about re-watching this episode that irritates me more – the direction they take Cordelia from this season on or the Angel/Connor interactions. I disagree with Ryan here. On repeated viewing I just don’t find the Connor/Angel stuff that gripping, at least not compared to the scenes with Lilah and Wesley. Wesley is still the most interesting person here. Lilah is let down by never having any vulnerabilities – I miss Lindsay who was a much more complicated character. (Or Harlan who was much more threatening – I agree all the bite has gone out of W&H).

    I hate what they do with Cordelia from the point where baby Connor arrives. It seems like they decided Cordelia was not going to show affection for anyone else apart from Angel after this which is completely contrary to the way they have been there for one another up to that point (apart maybe Gunn for Angel until the pivotal episode when he chooses between his old and new loyalties). I understand that the message is the tight knit gang is a thing of the past but why does Cordelia get portrayed as not caring for ANYONE apart from Angel. On repeated viewing I find it very disturbing and it tends to undercut the power of the scenes between her and Angel for me. Plus, poor Groo, what a way to dump him!

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

    First I agree on Fred, Gunn and Lorne being underused. But maybe there are to many players present in this show, dunno.

    Then I also hated the timing (and the execution too) of Cordy’s ascension. One reason was that “Mah Nish Ta Nah” Ryan wrote about, it just didn’t fit into the episode. Maybe it will make sense later in S04 but I didn’t watch that already so it just annoys me now that I watched that poorly implemented bullshit.

    And that’s all it was, Cordy didn’t do anything “good” when she was in that higher plane, she just sat on some glowing cloud and seemed bored. If all that was meant to be funny, sry, but I couldn’t laugh about it.

    And there wasn’t even a need to do it, she already was stuck in traffic and so she easily could have missed the rendezvous. So her ascending didn’t really influence the main story that much, at least for now.

    And I disagree on the purpose, her leaving didn’t increase the suffering that much. Angel didn’t know of it until he was rescued and she came back soon after that. And none of the others was close enough to her so really “suffer” because of her disappearance.

    Finally even the audience didn’t suffer because we all knew what happened to her.

    Well, besides that it was a solid episode imo, they built on the awesome setup prepared in the last episode so it’s no surprise that this three-arc-finale was pretty good.

    Like

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

    @ Nathan.Taurus:

    “Fred and her interpretation of a vampire from ‘Cats’. How adorable can she really be?”

    answer: without limit ❤

    about Wesley and Lilah (completely forgot about them):

    I still don't know what to make out of this so I'll reserve my judgement for later.

    But I have to admit that their relationship made me curious again, not about Wesley (still a moron, what does he expect from Angel? forgiveness? sympathy? Go **** yourself, Wes!) but about Lilah and W&H. Finally there is a person at the top of "special projects" who isn't just a boring run of the mill villain. Maybe W&H will even grow motives sometimes soon (not just being evil but power-hungry and reckless like Lilah would be a start), I'll never lose hope. 😉

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  14. [Note: SueB posted this comment on December 31, 2011.]

    I was really surprised when Wesley said “I wasn’t thinking about you when you were here”. I was like “Damn! Wes that is cold.” I was also surprised the show went to that level of twistedness in their relationship.

    I agree that the Cordelia ascension was really poorly thought out. It amazes me how the show can be so hit and miss sometimes. At least they could have offered up something lame like “you’ll do more for Angel up there then down here”. Something to entire her other than random greater good.

    Awesome visual of Connor/Justine as the box sinks.

    Like

  15. [Note: Blakeyamc posted this comment on January 30, 2012.]

    “I see the basic dramatic merit in it, and knowing what I know of the PTB’s plans in S4 I understand why it was done, but that doesn’t save it in my eyes. It is so out of the blue that it’s insulting.”

    It does seem out of the blue, but I don’t believe the PTB had anything to with Cordelia’s ascension. This was all orchestrated by “Jasmine”, so she could use Cordelia’s now half-demon body, to give birth to herself in S4. Jasmine, is not a PTB. The only time, that I can think of, the PTB makes any sort of appearance, besides the visions, is in BTVS “Amends” and in ATS “inside out”, where Darla appears to Connor.

    This is a sad episode for me, because this is the last time we see Cordelia, as herself, until a brief, but powerful, appearance in Season 5. We never see Cordelia in season 4, except in “Spin the Bottle”.

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  16. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on January 6, 2013.]

    #15 – I loved the Wesley line to Lilah. She is evil after all.

    The Good:

    -Fred being a vampire. Had not seen it for 18 months but it still makes me smile.

    -Groo leaving. He didn’t add anything to the season.

    -The final moment of Angel’s box sinking into the darkness.

    The Bad:

    -Cordelia should have got visions of Angels fight before leaving her apartment.

    -Cordelia having more than just visions. C’mon, a bit much with the goddess complex.

    -Angel and Cordelia loving each other as more than friends. Not everyone has to have feelings for someone they work with. Never bought it and never will.

    -Cordelia’s ascension. I don’t have the words.

    -Image what happened when Skip un-freezed time again on the freeway and everyone smashed into Cordy’s motionless car. I think it is explained next season but it could have been a massive accident…. just like this episode.

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  17. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on January 6, 2013.]

    Ah, but Angel was only in danger of being in a box for a few months, she was in danger of giving birth to Jasmine, so the Powers tried (stupidly) to warn her “when you start saying something like this, you are a person in danger, RUN AWAY”Unfortunately, the PTB suck. “WELL, THAT WAS HELPFUL!!”

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  18. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 25, 2014.]

    I can see Angel being attracted to Cordelia but not for the obvious reasons. Cordelia is like a light-weight version of Buffy. They both start out as shallow, popular girls (though we only see hints of Buffy this way) and grow into powerful women helping the good fight. But Cordelia’s shallowness and vanity are still present and not very deeply buried. It almost seems like the tried to turn Cordelia into Buffy to provide a love interest for Angel.
    And Cordelia should’ve realized that if Buffy wasn’t made a higher power no way would TPTB give that honor to someone with so much more evolving to do.

    Like

  19. [Note: Monica posted this comment on February 11, 2014.]

    I’m not defending Cordelia being swooped up into the sky at all, but I do love the shot of Cordelia shining, ascending into the sky while Angel sinks to the bottom of the deep, dark ocean. I feel like if the timing were justified this episode really wouldn’t have failed the way it did..

    I don’t know, when I get to this episode on my rewatch I’ll probably comment again.

    Like

  20. [Note: Stian Buhagen posted this comment on May 2, 2014.]

    I noticed right before Cordelia gets swallowed by the light I hear a faint “Jas..”. Sounds like someones about to say Jasmine!

    Like

  21. [Note: Annie posted this comment on July 28, 2014.]

    I just watched the episode (I’m a late watcher for these shows). I liked how Fred poked Angel with a stake to check he isn’t that happy or else he turns evil scene. Cordy’s ascension was a bit cheesy and didn’t have much of a purpose in why she is ascending up for? I totally agreed with the concept of Angel and Cordy falling in love with each other wasn’t believable in a heart felt way. It sounded like the characters were saying those lines because it was in the script. The idea was initiated in “Waiting in the Wings” episode, but I felt it was like at the moment thing where the thought of it will “pass over” when other events come into play. (Like Xander and Willow had a kissing session moment, but it ended platonic afterwards and they were back to being friends) I read from forums, people make these comments on every little Angel and Cordy moment like it was a “romance” thing. I saw Angel and Cordy’s interaction like family members (either siblings or Cordy is the mom and Angel is the kid – ep Fredless, where Cordy is patching the team members from the big insect fight and when she said, “Angel, it’s your turn.” Angel responded, “oh yay, it’s my turn” He hops off his stool and awaits to be patched up by mommy Cordy)/best friends. In some way, Lorne was the one that kept pushing the idea that there is kyerumption between the two leading Angel to dig if there is more to their relationship. (Lorne and Fred were at the same dimension before so the way they think is pretty different in how I saw it) Angel and Cordy were better off as best friends/sibling relationship. If Angel gets happy with Cordy, do we want to see the whole “we can’t be together” crap like in Buffy?

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  22. I saw Angel when it originally aired, so I have an idea what’s going to happen on my rewatch now. Now I knew that an Angel-Cordy romance wasn’t going to happen. In real time though, Joss sets us all up. Oh, look, our characters are going to find true love and true happiness. I’m so happy! And then Joss runs over our hearts with a steamroller yet again. The ONLY reason for Angel and Cordy to have a romantic liason set up is to set us up for heartache.

    FU, Joss, FU.

    Like

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