Angel 4×08: Habeas Corpses

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Jeffrey Bell | Director: Skip Schoolnik | Aired: 01/15/2003]

Season 4 of Angel is frankly a bit of a mess. It’s at times an ambitious mess, particularly from a plot and theme perspective, but it still doesn’t really hold together very well. “Habeas Corpses” encapsulates elements of this mess, which ends up being a nice illustration of the season’s larger problems. The one element that comes through this jumble unscathed is Wesley, a character who single-handedly manages to sustain my interest in Season 3 and Season 4 when little else will.

Before getting into the character stuff, though, let’s start with the plot for a change. The happenings in “Habeas Corpses” are both epic and utterly mundane at the same time. The plot is epic in the sense that the newly arrived Beast tears apart Wolfram & Hart (W&H), injures Lilah, kills Gavin (okay, nothing involving Gavin could be considered epic, but it’s hilarious nonetheless), and even sucks the life-force out of the little girl in the White Room! At first glance seeing W&H torn apart like this is pretty shocking, but upon deeper reflection it is instead representative of the downward slide of this once intimidating organization both as a threat and as a remotely interesting presence on the show. This slide began in late Season 2 with the exit of the charismatic Lindsey McDonald and the fascinating Holland Manners, only leaving Lilah to hold our interest and investment in the organization. And I feel the writers even vastly underutilized her.

So while there is some novelty to seeing a once intimidating organization so easily brought down, it doesn’t really surprise me one bit in the grand scheme of things. When you take away the novelty, though, all that’s left is your basic slaughter-fest, zombie flick double feature. The only tension and excitement that exists is built on top of the mystery surrounding the Beast. Once we know all the answers, though, there’s not anything else this plot exists for. This highlights my biggest issue with “Habeas Corpses:” it mostly services the larger plot of the season rather than either theme or character. It’s not like the Beast himself has any kind of personality – the guy’s a giant rock with a face! He makes for some pretty damn sweet fight scenes, but even those get repetitive after the first few. Besides, nothing’s going to top the exhilarating rooftop fight in “Apocalypse, Nowish” [4×07] anyway.

I find the plot of “Habeas Corpses” to be competent enough in moving the pieces of the season forward and being able to hold my attention, but its lack of purpose beyond these goals is troubling. The character work fairs better but is sadly also a mixed bag. Where Wesley and Lilah are concerned, I’m quite interested – thrilled even. Where Connor’s concerned, I’m somewhat interested. Everything else is uninteresting (Cordelia/Angel), shallow (Fred/Gunn), redundant (Wesley/Gunn), or non-existent (poor Lorne).

A big problem that plagues all of Season 4, on a character level, is Cordelia’s possession. There’s just no way around addressing the problems this creates for the entire season. For one, we’re robbed of any further development for what was once a vibrant and exciting character (at least until “Birthday” [3×11]). Furthermore all of Cordelia’s interactions with everyone are all lies. This becomes the most problematic when it comes to Angel, who still harbors love for her (which was always unconvincing to me, but that argument is for another day).

Here in “Habeas Corpses,” this problem is reflected in Angel’s anger and confusion towards Cordelia after seeing her sleep with Connor the previous night. Angel’s feelings and reactions about this are all very believable but I, as a viewer who knows what’s up already, have a hard time caring. None of these feelings have a lick of lasting relevance outside of moving the plot forward, despite how it appears on first viewing. There are no repercussions for Cordelia for anything she does because that’s not Cordelia. There are no repercussions for Angel’s interaction with Cordelia either because… that’s not Cordelia. And since the villain uses Cordelia’s voice and memories in making us think it’s Cordelia, we’re even robbed of a villain with a unique personality! All in all: argh!

A specific scene to illustrate this problem is when Angel leaves Cordelia behind at the hotel when going into W&H after Connor. Angel’s motivation has nothing to do with her safety, as inviting Fred to come with them proves, but is rather steeped in anger towards to her. With the retrospective eye, though, we know this anger to be misplaced and actually fairly pointless. With the element of surprise gone, all that’s left is seeing a character I used to care about being used in the service of an extremely uninteresting villain (until Jasmine’s arrival).

Although “Cordelia” doesn’t make for a very compelling villain, I will admit that her psychological manipulation of Connor does intrigue me to an extent. Before I get into that, though, I want to firmly state that the entire Connor/Cordelia relationship is messed up beyond belief and I would have vastly preferred the show not go this route at all. With that said, it is totally believable that a possessed Cordelia would do pretty much anything it wanted and that Connor, not remembering ever being taking care of by Cordelia the year before, would find himself easily swayed into bed with her. While ‘believable,’ it doesn’t change how contrived the purpose of this act is, but that’s more of a discussion for “Inside Out” [4×17]. Putting aside all my concerns regarding why all of this happening, how it affects Connor does offer some pretty significant relevance to where he ends up in “Home” [4×22].

Connor, a boy raised in a hell dimension by a man displaced in time and consumed by vengeance, arrives back in the world a confused teenager with a built-in hate towards his real father. By the kid’s very nature it’s bound to be difficult to relate to him and reality certainly reflects that. With that said, I do have some real sympathy for Connor here. Pretty much from the outset of getting her memories back (thereby activating the Beastmaster) Cordelia targets Connor with deadly precision, preying on his troubled history, insecurities, and sexual naiveté. In “Apocalypse, Nowish” [4×07] she uses the Beast’s arrival and connection with Connor — which she completely manufactured — to bring the kid closer and closer to her. Once the rain of fire began, her performance was enough to get Connor to do the deed she needed him to do.

With the deed done, we see Cordelia immediately pull away from Connor physically but not emotionally, continuing to call him “special” and that it was “something we both needed.” No, Cordelia needed it happen but Connor doesn’t know any of this and is simply being used. This maneuvering on Cordelia’s part is really the first shot in an upcoming volley of brainwashing to get the kid to protect her at all costs until Jasmine is born. Connor puts his faith in Cordelia, despite all his internal reservations, because he feels he can’t ever give his full faith to the vampire father he was raised to despise. This is why, when the little faith he still had was wilted away by the end of the season, Connor has nothing left to believe in and opts for suicide (“Home” [4×22]). It’s actually quite a tragic ride for the kid, albeit one in which he could have turned around at multiple points. It’s hard to place too much blame on him, though, as his life has been built on a foundation of manipulation.

If there’s one extremely compelling aspect to “Habeas Corpses” it’s definitely the saga of Wesley and Lilah. Their scenes together have consistently been a highlight thanks to how they tie together a compelling story with great acting, writing, and character development. Their relationship, as we knew it at least, comes to an end here. This ending, though, is a key moment of growth for the both of them. When Lilah comes over to Wesley’s place, first seeming to show genuine concern for his well-being in the light of the apocalypse and second for another night of rough passion, he turns her away. The main question is why? Why now? Wesley tells her that a “day of reckoning has arrived” in which he has realized it’s time to draw a line between good and evil. That’s a plausible motive, but there’s a lot more to it than that and Lilah knows it. She rebuttals, “and the girl of your dreams just happens to be on [the side you’re choosing].”

Wesley claims his choice is not about Fred but about “right and wrong,” but I only partially believe him. Wesley’s always had his own insecurities, jealousies, and trust issues that often influence his motives. It’s these very flaws that led him down the path to where he is now. This is why Wesley cannot be considered a white knight by any definition: he’s been tainted by black and as Lilah so eloquently puts it “Funny thing about black and white — you mix it together and you get gray. And it doesn’t matter how much white you try and put back in, you’re never gonna get anything but gray. And I don’t see your Texas-gal-pal wearing that color.” Wicked, Lilah, but wickedly true. I will say, though, that I do believe in the possibility of redemption and forgiveness to the point that, while you’ll never be completely white again, you have enough white to where the gray is no longer noticeable and is only a part of your history rather than what defines you now. That’s what I feel Wesley (and, heck, even Lilah) should be striving for. I think Angel knows something about this subject too.

While for Wesley this “break-up” is a turning point towards an overall healthier (although perhaps lonelier) direction, it’s initially the opposite for Lilah. In losing her connection with Wesley Lilah has failed both professionally (getting him to join W&H) and personally (as they had a real connection). What the Beast does to W&H, though, fundamentally changes her outlook on everything. When the Beast strolls in, tears apart her career, and then hunts her down, all that she has left is possibly the only real connection she’s ever known. Oh, she’s still as self-determined, independent, and feisty as ever, but without all the material trappings to cling onto anymore she can no longer deny that she does care for Wesley. This change is not lost on Wesley when she tells him that Connor is still trapped in the building. At this point Connor is meaningless to her, so why bother even telling Wesley unless she knew that it mattered to him and cared enough to share? The answer shows us a spark of new life in Lilah, and perhaps the first spark of a redemptive path that she sadly won’t have much time left to explore.

What ultimately makes me rejoice so much about Wesley and Lilah is the influence they have on each other. Before being with Wesley, a case could be made that Lilah was nearly soulless in her pursuit of career, power, and materialism. If we take the white and black metaphor further and figuratively place white as Wesley and black as Lilah, their union made a whole bunch of gray. Now that they’re no longer together that gray doesn’t just disappear — they can’t simply separate back into black and white. No, now they’re both gray and closer to each other than ever. There’s no denying that Wesley has rubbed off on Lilah and that she’s a better person for it after that sewer scene. Unfortunately for Wesley, I think the opposite can be said of him. Tragic though it may be, it sure makes for one hell of a story. At the very least, this experience gives them both new insight into who they are as people. In this regard, I actually see some parallels with Buffy and Spike’s tumultuous relationship in Season 6 of Buffy.

“Habeas Corpses” touches on other character dynamics too, but these are far less interesting. First there’s the continued road bump in the Fred/Gunn relationship that arose out of the events of “Supersymmetry” [4×05]. Am I the only one who has absolutely no investment in this relationship? It hasn’t shown us anything new about either character, let alone actually evolving them. The bulk of their interaction is simply empty mush and, with the recent Professor Seidel snag, some empty irritation. Their relationship has more relevance to Wesley than it does to them! I think this is largely due to how underdeveloped both Fred and Gunn are as characters in general. I admit that I liked the subtle reference to their tension in the scene where Gunn’s repeatedly tapping his pencil on a book. It’s a small thing that ends up annoying Fred only because she’s annoyed with Gunn altogether in the moment. This is well presented, but that doesn’t change the fact I don’t really care about the source of that tension.

To round out our character dynamics, we’ve got Wesley and Gunn. While their conflict is more compelling, as it’s steeped in a lot of history (the whole kidnapping saga front and center) and mutual jealousy (surrounding Fred), “Habeas Corpses” thinks we need to be reminded of it every time they’re in the presence of each other. I counted at least four times Gunn barks at Wesley – two of which were after Angel told him to can it. The episode totally fails at having Gunn’s resentment seem natural and well integrated into the story. Rather than forward or enlighten these issues, the episode is content to wallow in them ad nauseam.

Although I don’t feel that “Habeas Corpses” has a very strong uniting theme, I will say that it makes a clear point that when it really matters this group of people, with all their selfishness, jealousy, resentment, confusion, and anger towards each other, still come together when it matters. When Wesley delivers the news of Connor’s situation in W&H, the group still manages to rally together enough to rescue him. As Angel said, “we’re here for Connor,” sidelining his current emotional preoccupation. I think it all boils down to the conversation between Wesley and Lilah about white and black, good and evil, selflessness and selfishness. All of these characters are able to show us both sides of the coin, which reinforces the point that they’re all tainted – they’re all gray.

At the end of the day I think it’s obvious that I’m not wild about “Habeas Corpses,” but it is a reasonably fun episode to watch and does sport a few fantastic character beats involving Wesley and Lilah, so it’s certainly not without merit. Unfortunately, though, its disparate character threads only loosely tie together, most of which aren’t terribly compelling to begin with. Beyond the plot pieces being moved forward and said character beats, the rest of the episode lives in the irrelevant, redundant, and uninteresting.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ The pre-credits teaser is awesome. Angel’s reaction to Cordelia and Connor sleeping together is exactly what the audience’s is – it sums up my feelings about this development in ways that nothing else could.
+ Great acting from Stephanie Romanov when Lilah pauses to consider if she really wants to make another pass at Wesley after being told it’s over.
+ The completely irrelevant and uninteresting Gavin getting a death befitting him… twice! We’ve got him covered in toilet rolls for the human death, and then Gunn finishing the job on Zombie Gavin. This gave me quite the chuckle.
+ Lilah’s last stand against the Beast with a handgun, and Wesley being there to help her out with a grenade. I’m not sure how Lilah let the slow-moving Beast corner her like that though.
+ The moody lighting in W&H during the Beast’s siege.
+ How imposing the Beast looks compared to the gang in the White Room.
+ Lorne looking into his drink and wondering if he’s imagining everyone suddenly appearing in front of him.
+ Angel’s matter-of-fact bluntness to Cordelia about her new relationship with his son at the end of the episode. I’d like it even more if any it had lasting implications for anyone but Connor.

– Gunn asks out loud, “What the heck was that?” Wesley responds, “Zombies.” Gunn snaps back, “Thanks for that, Captain Obvious.” Uhh, what? Is this piece of dialogue as weird to you as it is to me? If it was already obvious, why did he ask the question? A bit of sloppy writing there.
– Why did Gunn stay back to fight off the zombies after Fred got the door open? Then, after staying behind in the middle of a bunch of zombies, how did he survive that many of them? Then, how did he open the door with a table locking it down? I’m confused by the logistics and, ultimately, the point of all of this other than failing at manufacturing an action sequence with the threat of collateral.
– I know Fred’s smart in physics, math, and such, but I still don’t buy her being able to do stuff like knowing a manual bypass to a shut-down command for a W&H elevator via its circuit board.
– The whole “answer is among you” tidbit isn’t really all that interesting once you already know what’s going to happen. It’s a plot device that allows Angelus to come out, prance around, and do nothing other than conveniently rid the gang of the Beast. Yawn.
– The White Room girl sending them all home is awfully convenient.


[Score]

71/100

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23 thoughts on “Angel 4×08: Habeas Corpses”

  1. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on July 1, 2011.]

    Hey Mike,

    Great to see more reviews up. Did you find it as hard as I did to review just a single episode of season 4? I found it damn hard to do without first addressing a lot of what came before and will come after. If you only review bits and pieces of this season… it’s hard to be coherent, since it’s all so meshed together.

    One or two assessments I disagree with. Guess about who it is. 😉

    You wrote: “While for Wesley this “break-up” is a turning point towards an overall healthier (although perhaps lonelier) direction”

    Far from it. After breaking up with her Wesley is as selfish and manipulative as ever, pushing hard for a relationship with Fred while utterly ignoring either her or Gunn’s feelings in the matter and bringing back Angelus for what are very dubious motives quite possibly linked to his desire to replace Angel’s leadership role in the group.

    I’d say the turning point for Wesley is Lilah’s death in “Calvary.” That’s when he starts acting for the good of the group, trying to save and bring back Angel instead of striving for self-aggrandisement in the process of fighting evil and stops pursuing Fred. (Admittedly, in large part because she’s disgusted by the whole Lilah thing. But before he didn’t let small things like that stop him.)

    As for Lilah, I think she admitted to herself she cared about Wesley a long time ago. She’s just too proud to admit it after he snubbed her in his apartment at the start of the episode. Not to mention the humiliating dressing-up-as-Fred-and-being-told-to-keep-on-the-glasses thing. It seems very likely to me that at that moment down in the sewers she was going to say she loved him, but since she knows what his reaction would be she doesn’t and instead shares the bit about Connor.

    Would she have found or tried to find “redemption” had she not been killed by Cordy/Jasmine? I doubt it. I don’t even really see her try after the destruction of Wolfram&Hart. She gets desperate, sure. She’s direction-less and purposeless. (In fact we don’t see her again until “Calvary.”)But Lilah never apologises for what and who she is, she never regrets any of her decisions. I think “Home” demonstrates that she would stick to her path regardless. This doesn’t invalidate her feelings for Wesley though. It’s a part of what makes them so fascinating to me.

    I also doubt that Wesley’s “darkness” in this season derives from Lilah. Yes, they influenced each other. But we already saw Wesley torture a man back in season 1. We already saw him coolly send men to their deaths in season 2. It was always there. He had his throat cut and all his friends abandoned him, and that’s why he is the person he is in most of season 4. If anything I suspect it’s his father’s influence, through example or through genes, that set him on this path. No matter how troubled their relationship Wesley is his father’s son.

    Note that Wesley never compromises himself for Lilah’s sake. The only times we see him have to choose between Lilah and his mission it is his mission which wins without a moment’s hesitation.

    I do agree that the relationship brings out the humanity in Lilah, making her a “whiter” character. Not to mention a much, much more interesting one. I agree that she was underutilised in earlier seasons. But I think it -also- brings out the humanity in Wesley. Just compare Wesley’s interactions with Lilah to his interactions with everybody else early in the season. And then Lilah’s interactions with Wesley and with everybody else. They mirror almost exactly. This is not the tired old cliché of the hero being dragged down by the femme fatale. They’re both in a dark place and they both derive comfort and human feeling from their relationship. This is not Wesley falling down and Lilah climbing up and them meeting in the middle. This is two people who have both already fallen in different ways and help each be a bit better, a bit lighter.

    Wesley just thinks that if he ever redeems himself, as he intends to do, there will be no place for Lilah, only for someone like Fred. That is why he breaks up with her. Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps not. But I think he ends up regretting it.

    Anyway, heh. It should be obvious which parts of the episode I remember. I agree with the rest of the review. Habeas Corpses has: Stylistically impressive scenes of Beast-wrought destruction, zombies, and Wes&Lilah. The rest I forgot about.

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  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 1, 2011.]

    Mike, great job. Your review is dead-on in its weaknesses and strenghts. And I am glad you focused a lot on Wes and Lilah because they really are one of the most fascinating things on S4. And I especially love the whole speech about black and white.

    Keep up the good work!

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  3. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on July 1, 2011.]

    Nice review! I agree with you overall about the episode, though Iguana might be convincing me about Wes & Lilah. Actually, I don’t think I can recall well enough to comment.

    Like Iguana, I’m finding it hard to review isolated episodes. I have my initial notes for “Awakening”, which is much more stand-aloney than “Habeas Corpses”, but I still feel like I need to rewatch the episodes before and after…

    As for Fred and Gunn, I find myself in the minority group that likes and cares about their relationship. But I think that’s more because I always found their individual personalities to be compelling (especially Gunn) and WISH that the show would do more with them. I completely agree that the unraveling of their relationship serves Wesley’s development far more than it does either of theirs, and that the fundamental problem is that the writers don’t do much with either character individually. Which is really unfortunate. Also, I don’t mind how sweet they were with each other. They’re both compassionate, caring people, and they had genuine affection for each other. It doesn’t seem unrealistic or over the top or anything like that, not to me. Of course I wish there was more to their relationship than that, but that doesn’t make the affection in itself bad.

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  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 1, 2011.]

    Iguana, great points! Here’s my response to each:

    [quote]Did you find it as hard as I did to review just a single episode of season 4?[/quote]

    Yes, absolutely! I did watch every episode from, I think, “Benediction” onward to prepare for this review though — I wanted to at least have some fresh context. Nonetheless, since ‘I’ haven’t talked about any of the preceding issues before, some of that contextualization had to be necessarily brought along into this review. I’m guessing it won’t be quite as bad for my review of “Release” though, as it’s not too far off from this one.

    [quote]Far from it. After breaking up with her Wesley is as selfish and manipulative as ever, pushing hard for a relationship with Fred while utterly ignoring either her or Gunn’s feelings in the matter and bringing back Angelus for what are very dubious motives quite possibly linked to his desire to replace Angel’s leadership role in the group.

    I’d say the turning point for Wesley is Lilah’s death in “Calvary.”[/quote]

    I actually agree with what you’re saying here. My intent in the review was to point out that breaking it off with Lilah was a step in the right direction for Wesley, even though his motivation for doing it is a mixed bag, which is why we didn’t see him continue walking in the right direction for a little while longer.

    [quote]As for Lilah, I think she admitted to herself she cared about Wesley a long time ago.[/quote]

    I’m not as convinced by this as you are. I don’t recall there being much evidence that she is truly self-aware about her affection for Wesley until that sewer scene. I think it’s there, but not something she’s willing to fully admit to.

    [quote]Would she have found or tried to find “redemption” had she not been killed by Cordy/Jasmine? I doubt it.[/quote]

    I think you’re right: I doubt it too. But telling Wesley about Connor was what I’m calling a “spark” of redemption. It may not start the car, but it gives hope that the car may be able to start when there had prior been little or no evidence.

    [quote]But I think it -also- brings out the humanity in Wesley.[/quote]

    I see their relationship as largely negative for Wesley, as it gives him an outlet to indulge in some of his more self-destructive tendencies. It’s certainly “human,” but I’m not convinced Wesley is better off throwing caution to the wind and sleeping with the enemy.

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  5. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on July 2, 2011.]

    But how is his relationship with Lilah self-destructive?

    What I think many people miss is the huge shift in the relationship that somehow occurs off-screen between season 3 and 4. At the end of season 3 the relationship is pretty much as you depict. Lilah is trying to get him to switch sides, she challenges him and provokes him to jolt him out of his stupor, they fall into bed together out of… well, self-hatred and self-destructive tendencies where Wesley is concerned, boredom and attempted manipulation and the thrill of the illicit where Lilah is concerned. This is the Lilah that’s playing mind-games non-stop and the Wesley who’s determined to spend his days in a drunken haze locked up in his flat, after all.

    Is it a good idea for Wesley to go there? To start sleeping with her? I quite agree with you that it’s not.

    However, against all hopes and expectations it does not turn out that way. It does not end up being self-destructive and negative. Somehow they find a connection where neither of them expected any.

    At the start of the next season, after they’ve been together for a summer, their entire dynamic has shifted. No more insults, their struggle for dominance has turned playful, affectionate. Wesley no longer is self-destructive, instead he is very cool, collected, in control. He runs his own demon-hunting business in a very no-nonsense, all-business fashion. But it is -his- business, not Lilah’s. He hasn’t joined W&H, and Lilah has stopped trying to convince him. She still pries for intel, but that’s all. And there’s no doubt that Wesley’s business is the same as it ever was. He hunts demons, saves kidnap-victims, rescues Angel, takes over Angel’s clients when he saunters off to Vegas. Wesley has become a harder and more ruthless man than he was, but he is still on the same side.

    So where is Wesley’s Lilah-induced fall? Where’s the self-destruction? At the start of Angel season 4 Wesley is cold and businesslike with his associates, cold and resentful with Angel and the rest, unctuously and manipulatively ingratiating with Fred. But none of those attitudes stem from Lilah, or at least I see no reason to assume they are. They feel very much like Wesley to me. On the contrary: he’s only genuine and relaxed when he’s with her, talking to her. He actually laughs around her. That’s why I say she keeps him human. She keeps the bitterness and resentment from turning him into his father, from becoming completely obsessed with his job, his mission, and proving Angel wrong. She provides an outlet, yes. But not for self-destruction. It’s certainly a sight better than than the drunken haze he was in -before- Lilah took an interest. (See season 5 for evidence on how long he can keep that up unaided.)

    I think he does much the same for her.

    Would Wesley have ended up in a better place if he had not taken up with Lilah? We can’t know for certain, but I strongly suspect he’d have been off worse. He’d have kept drinking to drown his pain, he’d have been more reckless and even colder than he was. With nothing left to lose or care about he might even have wound up dead like he did in season 5.

    Regarding Lilah’s feelings: I never really considered her to be in denial about them at all. The evidence isn’t too explicit either way, but I consider it from the character’s perspective; why would she be?

    Wesley denies that Lilah is anything more than a physical relationship because to him it is a horrible breach in his old world-view. He’s sleeping with the enemy, having -feelings- for the enemy, for someone who is — by most definitions of the word — evil. If he is who he believes himself to be, he can’t have feelings for her. So he pushes them down, shies away from the very thought that more is there. (Witness him shutting up his own mental projection of Lilah in “Salvage.” There’s a nice and literal depiction of denial if ever there was one.)

    But for Lilah the relationship is no such thing. Nothing dark and shameful. Why would she deny her feelings? She may be evil and working for W&H, but that in no way precludes loving and caring for specific individuals. It’s troublesome that Wes is a do-gooder white-hat, but on a certain level I’m sure it’d appeal to her sense of irony. She may have to hide it from her bosses, but that is business as usual at her workplace. She doesn’t have to hide it from herself. The point is that loving Wesley does not in any way challenge or damage Lilah’s self-image and faith in herself, while loving Lilah does shake up Wes in this way.

    And if Lilah didn’t acknowledge her feelings… why is it always her making the overtures? She’s the one who comes to apologise for their falling out in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.” At the start of this episode she all but begs him to stay. She humiliates herself by offering to pretend to be Fred, knowing Wesley would choose her over Lilah. Why on earth would a very proud woman like Lilah do that if she wasn’t very clear about what Wesley meant to her?

    As for Lilah telling Wes about Connor: I see what you mean, it -is- the first selfless thing she’s done. (though it doesn’t cost her anything either.) But I see it more as… as Lilah realising that this is it, this is the end. He’s leaving and this is her last chance to confess.

    She doesn’t. She’s humiliated herself enough and putting her feelings out there in the open, well. She won’t, she can’t. So instead she tells him about Connor. But not to do a good deed. I think she means for Wesley to understand by this that despite everything she still cares about him.

    For me to see it as a “spark” of redemption it’d need to be something more active on her part, an actual action she takes. And not a gift to a lover who’s leaving her.

    (Good discussion by the way, Mike. I foresee a fight coming up when it’s time to write the Wesley chapter in the season 4 review. ;-))

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  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 3, 2011.]

    Mike and Iguana, what a great discussion, indeed! Next time, I do an Angel rewatch I´m gonna have so much more info to sink my teeth into.

    And mike, cannot wait for your take on “Home”.

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  7. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on July 3, 2011.]

    Nice work (as always). As usual, though, I don’t have much to say about the episode since “Angel” S4 is basically a blur (and a not-very-good one) outside of the Angelus episodes and the pair of great episodes that bookend the season. So I too am very much looking forward to your “Home” review, as it’s one of my favorite eps of the series.

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  8. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on July 3, 2011.]

    Excuse me… it’s a not-very-good blur “to me”. Forgot that part. I know there are plenty of people who think it’s great.

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

    The Good:

    -The Beast killing everyone in Wolfram & Hart. Too bad Linwood was already dead.

    -Gavin finally got a good character interaction.

    -Wesley and his hand grenade.

    -How the employees contract goes into death. Not sure how zombies would help productivity.

    -The Beast looking so imposing over the gang.

    The Bad:

    -Angel’s ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude to Cordelia. Ego alert! Ego alert!

    -The Cordelia/Jasmine scenes still not making sense, even in re-watch.

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  10. [Note: monchy posted this comment on August 31, 2011.]

    Mike and Iguana, great discussion, I think! Then again, I’m very partial to the Lilah/Wesley relationship, and I find it to be one of the most compelling things about S4.

    Now, as to wether Lilah represents a falling down for Wesley, I’m going to have to agree with Iguana. The great thing about these two, I think, is that this relationship is never sold as some kind of perfect, happy-ending kind of deal, but it manages to be very real, which is precisely what makes it important in my eyes in the area of Wesley development. The Fred thing is a true obsession for him, an idealization of the kind of woman that’s supossed to accompany him in his path, but really, do we ever see them have an interaction outside of case-related stuff?? I’ve always wondered if they ever sat down and had a cup of coffee. Which, I just don’t think they did (not even when they finally get together in S5, but that’s an entirely different thing).

    So, the thing is, Lilah, black, white or gray, is real, is there, and is someone that Wesley knows and who knows him back, and that’s why I think it helps Wesley hold onto his humanity rather than turning into a total emotionless robot. Personally, I think this is very clearly summed up in their final scene in “Home” when Lilah tells him that it means something that he tried. Because it does.

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  11. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 9, 2011.]

    You and I have very different tastes when it comes to Buffy and Angel. lol. You love Dawn, I think she’s a total flop. You enjoy the Buffy/Spike dynamic, I think it is part of what destroyed the series, notwithstanding the undeniable chemistry and acting of those two actors. You are not sold on Angel’s feelings for Cordelia, I think DB sold it in spades (Whatever folks want to say about Boreanaz’s acting, the one thing he does is sell his romantic/sexual interest in someone, whether it’s Darla, Buffy, or Cordy). I love the idea of C/A, you obviously don’t.

    I do agree however that I did not enjoy Cordy’s change into Saint Cordy after Birthday, particularly throughout the whole Connor storyline in season 3. Maybe the writers felt they had to turn her into a champion to make her a better partner for Angel. But they were wrong. Cordy/Angel sold itself.

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  12. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 9, 2011.]

    Not to turn this into a Buffy discussion, but while most of what you’ve said, x factor, is generally true, I think saying that I “love Dawn” is very much your personal interpretation of my feelings towards the character rather than a reflection of what I’ve actually said.

    I like (not love) Dawn, most of the time, yes, because I appreciate the purpose she serves in the overall narrative of the show, and how she serves as another important metaphorical piece of who Buffy is at that point in time. Dawn’s existence makes Buffy a richer character, and since Buffy is the character that I’m most captivated by, I can’t not appreciate what Dawn brings to the table.

    As a character in of herself, she has her moments, but I’d say she’s one of the Buffy characters I have the least love for. This is mostly because I think she was a little underdeveloped by the writers in places. There aren’t any central characters on Buffy I don’t like at least a little though — it’s a part of why the show is so special to me.

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  13. [Note: SueB posted this comment on December 24, 2011.]

    Regarding Cordelia’s manipulation of Connor, I have the following thoughts:

    Motivation:

    – The back and forth appears to be to keep Connor off-balance. If she had rewarded his “happy puppy” look with affirmation then he would have been more confident in their relationship. By withdrawing her affection she makes him crave her approval even more.

    – The “what the hell did I do?” morning-after look was clearly for the viewing audience and makes no sense in-character IMO. If we were already in the know, she would have been privately smiling smugly because she got what she was after and then gone on to reject Connor so as to confuse him. So, I’m a little disappointed they had her pull that look because it’s OOC for evil Cordy. There is no one there to see her make that face. A better “look” might have been one of a deep sigh, close her eyes and then press on with the speech. This would be more consistent with a evil being trying to abuse her future minion to ensure his future devotion and perhaps showing a smidgen of regret. The same applies to the “Oh God!” when Angel tells her to get out. You could argue that Angel might here her words but really it’s an OOC moment for evil Cordy if no one witnessed it.

    – Winding Connor up that he was connected to the Beast: clearly done but for what purpose? Just simple tearing down of Connor’s psyche or to isolate him from the group? Do you think she knew he was going to W&H or was that a happy coincidence. I’m not sure.

    I think Connor is deeply worried he himself is an evil creature. I think the events in this episode support that.

    Prior to this episode:

    1) Holtz called him the bastard son of two demons but he didn’t know what he was

    2) Angel expressed disgust that he would take vengeance in the way he did. (And Angel’s opinion does matter to Connor IMO).

    3) Evil Beast Jack-In-The-Boxes at his birthplace (as arranged by Evil Cordy). And the Beast DOES look like the devil as Holtz would describe him to Stephen.

    4) Evil Beast does not kill him or Cordelia although he kills just about everything else he runs into.

    In this episode:

    1) Evil Beast shows up where he is at. Like he is following him when I suspect taking out W&H was always on Cordy’s list.

    2) Evil Beast calls him “Connor”, so he knows his name. As Wang Che told Jack Burton, “That’s not good.”

    On a completely different note:

    – I think the Zombification of the Employees was a W&H failsafe and I find that deliciously sinister. Of course “zombies” are slow and dim-witted so it wasn’t a very good fail-safe but it was still interesting IMO.

    So, presuming Cordy wants Connor to think he’s connected to the Beast. I’m thinking she’s trying to get him confused about “right” and “wrong”. It’s pretty hard to define yourself as “evil”. Later when she says those concepts don’t apply to her and Connor I think she has attempted to lay the groundwork with this “you are connected to the Beast” red herring.

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  14. [Note: Dave posted this comment on November 12, 2012.]

    A fantastic end to the Lilah/Wesley tryst. Just as the genuine feelings are setting in, the agendas dissipating. One of the most fascinating couplings in television history, in my opinion. The implications of every conversation, every sentence, is miles deep.

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  15. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on January 10, 2013.]

    SueB: The look Cordy gives at the start also confused me more. It’s like Jasmine took over her body to do the deed and then let Cordy take over in the morning. Or Cordy is in control until a later episode. Or Jasmine is in control the entire time from ‘Spin the Bottle’. I am really, really confused.

    I still hate Angel in this episode. He didn’t get the girl he (plot device) ‘loved’ so he acts like a spoiled child. Really bad characterisation.

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  16. [Note: Miss Jay posted this comment on February 12, 2013.]

    Personally, I don’t particularly like the A/C romantic relationship – especially naming it “love” so easily. However, since it has been deemed love, I have zero problem with Angel reacting the way he did after observing Conner and Cordy. It’s not a good or righteous or heroic attitude. It is however normal, relatable, understandable, and yes very human.

    Also, I agree with Iguana’s assessment of Lilah & Wesley. I do think he was able to journey through a very dark period much better with her in the picture than he would have otherwise. I am undecided though whether telling him about Conner was a gift as Iguana says or if Lilah is on the road to redemption. Perhaps a little of both.

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  17. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on August 30, 2014.]

    To round out our character dynamics, we’ve got Wesley and Gunn. While their conflict is more compelling, as it’s steeped in a lot of history (the whole kidnapping saga front and center) and mutual jealousy (surrounding Fred), “Habeas Corpses” thinks we need to be reminded of it every time they’re in the presence of each other. I counted at least four times Gunn barks at Wesley – two of which were after Angel told him to can it. The episode totally fails at having Gunn’s resentment seem natural and well integrated into the story. Rather than forward or enlighten these issues, the episode is content to wallow in them ad nauseam.

    Excellent point here, I find these interactions aggravating.

    This is however one of my favorite episodes. I enjoy the suspense inside W&H, especially before the zombies start massing, and of course it’s great to see W&H torn to shreds, a surprising development the first time through.

    I also like the White Room scene, whereas I didn’t like the one where Angel first visits that room. That one seemed really gimmicky to me, so I love that here the team finds the Beast crushing the life out of her and that they get teleported out of there quickly without having to endure a bunch of prophecy crap. The moment after where Lorne looks into his drink is one of my favorites of the series — an old gag, but it makes me laugh every time.

    Lastly I enjoy the Wesley and Lilah sequences, great to see Wes finally take a stand but that he also comes back for her, plus the discussion about black and white, again one of the better moments in the series.

    Cordelia? I never really cared about her anyway. The sooner she’s gone the better for everyone. During her scenes I have a tendency to check my Instagram feed, so perhaps they don’t bring the episode down as much for me. I’d give it a B, maybe even a B+.

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  18. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on August 30, 2014.]

    Also, MikeJer, I’m sure you discuss this elsewhere on the site, but it does seem that your grade here makes sense primarily as a repeat watcher grade — for someone who’s already been through the series recently or enough times that they remember all of what’s coming next.

    For the first time viewer, there’s a lot of suspense, surprise and mystery in this episode, and we are still thinking Cordelia is Cordelia, so the concerns about how Jasmine makes this stuff irrelevant don’t come into play.

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  19. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 30, 2014.]

    Critically Touched is specifically about retrospective reviews. All the reviews on the site are intended to be focused on looking at the material from that perspective. 🙂

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  20. [Note: guttersnipe posted this comment on January 22, 2015.]

    I think a definite minor pro comes in the form of the ever-so-slight cut to Wesley as Fred rushes over to them, hugging Gunn. Denisof’s inner wince is marvellous.

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  21. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on September 11, 2015.]

    That might be the intention of the site, but judging from a lot of S4 reviews, you’re viewing something retrospectively that (for once) was done for in-the-moment viewing and not aimed at the ‘I’ll catch it on DVD after reading the plots online’ market. Too many viewers, especially these days, wait and read reviews beforee watching a series. I was spoilerised many times by idiots that couldn’t discuss or review things an hour after watching them without mentioning every detail of the plot.

    S4 is very bold, and it’s one Angel’s better seasons. Angel for me wasn’t hit and miss, like Buffy it has one all-round bad season – Season Three, which is the worst of the bunch while still being quite good. (Buffy’s dodgy season is Season Six – I disregard S1 and it always gets a free pass to the bottom for me. Like it or not, I find it more interesting than S6. It actually has villains).

    The overriding point is that S4’s plot is one long connected arc unlike anything else in the Buffyverse. I also once read somewhere (yet to confirm) that the majority of the story takes place over a few weeks as opposed to months for every other season on either show. It was both intended for the viewers at the time and for marathon viewing. Picking one random episode to review and complaining that you already know what happens, making everything irrelevant, is very manipulative. When I rewatch S4 at any time, I love it. I don’t care that I know the Beast’s motivations and who his master is, it’s still AWESOME when he is onscreen. Every time I watch the season I have to remind myself of Jasmine/Cordelia’s motives as I go, and re-figure out what I’ve known before. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a sign of a compelling and complex plot…just as Jasmine is a compelling and complex villain. When you take everything into context it all fits. Everything she has the Beast do fits and she finally releases Angelus only to underestimate him, which scuppers her plans a little and means she has to ensure he’s killed to avoid Angel returning.

    Far too many times, I read comments like: ‘it was so muddled’ ‘I didn’t understand’ ‘it didn’t make sense’ when referring to this season. Well, bad for them – it DOES make sense if you bother to watch and actually think about what you’re seeing onscreen.

    This invalidates most of the ‘problems’ with this episode. It exists as part of a larger structure while also pushing the characters forward. I particularly like the Wesley/Lilah plot because of its delicious complexity. When he finally rejects her here, it isn’t a redeeming event, but it puts him on the path. He remains selfish and mainly interested in Fred, but eventually this character will get close to her (only to have that happiness so cruelly ripped away). Wesley finally gives in to the darkness (in the metaphorical sense) in late S5. Fred is really the main thing he cares for and desires. Impressive character arc – this arguably began in ‘Sleep Tight’ and only really ends at the climax of the whole series.

    I don’t have massive problems with Gunn being so aggressive towards Wesley. It’s completely in character – when Angel was the one who ‘betrayed’ them and he was pals with Wes, Gunn was very snappy and disrespectful to Angel. Now the roles are reversed, but Gunn (who isn’t a massive thinker, in his own words) sees things as black and white. At the minute, Wes is on the wrong side of Gunn. What is a shame is that this is all erased later in ‘Home’ to get rid of Connor in everyone’s memories – though it does lead to a rather gutwrenching moment for Wesley when he gets all of those memories back.

    I find the Cordelia comments unreasonable. Part of the plot of S4 is that she isn’t Cordelia and likely hasn’t been since the end of ‘Spin the Bottle’. While this does rob her of character development, it’s part of the plot/arc of the season that they had to adapt to. Various people have commented that Charisma Carpenter was causing issues with production, from rumoured drug problems to actual pregnancy revealed very late. From the perspective of the show, the Cordelia plot makes sense. She’s the Big Bad of the season, and manages to convince everyone that she’s not and is normal. Her manipulation of Connor is insidious, consistent with his character, and gut-wrenching for Angel. I’ve yet to read one criticism of this plot angle anywhere that doesn’t boil down to ‘I didn’t like what they did to Cordelia’. I felt for her character, but that doesn’t mean I dislike S4.

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  22. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on September 11, 2015.]

    Agree with the reasons for why Dawn exists and that she was underwritten. She was however a deeply irritating character that usually did nothing but complain and BE irritating. Much as they develop Anya’a role poorly by ensuring her development is only tied to Xander except when she’s being given a piece of exposition. I understand that after Giles/Wesley, the most likely characters to know about a given situation are Angel and Anya, given their ages. Anya however is given this dialogue as exposition and delivers it in a very condescending manner (I especially dislike her flippant comments regarding Dark Willow’s power level and how she won’t teleport, only ‘go airborne’ – she’s referring to the (likely) most dangerous witch on the continent!). When Boreanaz delivers such lines, he usually does well to portray someone who is actually remembering something he knows.

    All in all though, Joss and his productions were very good at finding intensely annoying actors/characters. I’ve never known any other show like Buffy/Angel for the sheer number of them. How he managed to not do it on Firefly is beyond me.

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