Angel 4×11: Soulless

[Review by Sue Carter]

[Writer: Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft | Director: Sean Astin | Aired: 02/05/2003]

Angelus is back and he’s making his presence felt, even from the inside of a cage. It’s a compelling performance by David Boreanaz as Angelus rips apart Team Angel with words rather than fangs. This is a character driven piece with very little forward motion on the plot. Instead we are left wondering how the team is going to continue to function with all the bad blood in the air.

The episode starts with Connor in the role of Boy Wonder taking out vamps while going solo on patrol. After some nifty stunt work and three dead vampires, it’s clear that the city is overrun with out-of-town undead taking advantage of permanent night. Unlike Sunnydale, which is usually completely unaware of an impending apocalypse, Angel fully engages Los Angeles with this arc. The first city-wide event was the rain of fire, the next blotting out the sun, and now it’s overrun with vampires and creatures of the night. The city tries to dismiss it as both natural phenomenon and a crime wave, but even Sunnydale would have to start wondering.

The real action of the episode is Angelus taking apart each of the team members by preying on their emotional weaknesses. Cordelia called Angelus diabolical, but this Angelus is far more intelligent than any previous incarnation we’ve seen. This isn’t Angelus the mean-spirited blowhard, this is Angelus as Hannibal Lector. All the conversations are designed to sow the seeds of dissent, to agitate someone into slipping up so he can make his escape. It’s arguably a continuity error but it’s so engaging I find it easy to overlook. If we ever saw Angelus again, I’d want this version. What I find so engaging is the brutal honesty. “He lies with the truth.” But are they really lies or just observations Angel (not Angelus) has had, dished up with shocking language and embellishments to hurt? The teaser ends with Angelus creepily singing “Teddy Bear Picnic.” Like many children’s fairy tales or traditional songs, they can be pretty scary, depending on context. It’s a nice setup as each of the main characters step into the emotional woods with Angelus.

Wesley’s well-known weakness is his insecurity, but Angelus spends most of his time focusing on his infatuation with Fred. He’s particularly vulgar when it comes to Fred and fixates on her intimate relationship with Gunn. This does get under Wesley’s skin but Angelus is also playing for the camera as it rattles Gunn and Fred as well. Fred is on an innocent pedestal for many, especially Wesley, and Wesley doesn’t like the verbal pictures Angelus is drawing. Angelus’ sudden loud movements are effective in startling everyone as well. Trying to steer the conversation back to the Beast, Wesley mentions Cordelia. This allows Angelus to give the big reveal to Team Angel that Cordy slept with Connor. It’s the shock of a sordid “discovery” that further unsettles the team. Hearing it from Angelus makes it a greater betrayal. Having done enough damage for now, Angelus dismisses Wesley by asking for blood to drink. This rapid topic change shows exactly who is in charge. Angelus gave them just enough to ponder but not overwhelm. And the effect is immediate as everyone looks at Connor like he grew a second head when he comes back from patrolling.

Next up is Othello and Desdemona. Again he draws lurid verbal pictures and it’s such a drastic change from Fred’s vision of Angel as a white knight. As Angel talks about their sex life Fred is likely to wonder in the future, can Angel avoid listening? Although individual words passed the censors, the descriptive language is shockingly explicit for network TV. For Gunn, it’s not only the objectification of Fred that puts him on edge, it’s also Angelus poking at him taking orders from others. This idea of Gunn as dumb muscle has been a season long thread and Angelus pulls on it cruelly. And Angelus’ plan appears to work. He knocks Fred figuratively and literally off-balance causing both Fred and Gunn to be within Angelus’ arm reach. Wesley shows up just in time to tranquilize the demon, but the damage is done. Angelus makes them feel foolish, while testing out their defensive plans. The score is 3-0 for Angelus at this point. Later, when he hears the brawl between Wes and Gunn, Angelus is predictably pleased with himself.

Before Connor has his match with his demon father, he asserts a little independence with Cordy. She’s trying to mother him and he resents it. This dovetails nicely into the conversation he has with dear old dad. Angelus draws first blood by taunting Connor about Darla staking herself. Apparently no one had explained this to Connor before, so again it’s a shocking reveal designed to do the most damage. He then picks at the wound of Holtz’s suicide. But it’s Connor who hands Angelus the most effective weapon. Connor thinks he’s scoring a point when he says that Angel is just a mask the demon is forced to wear, but he knows Angelus is really his father. The subtle shift on David Boreanaz’s face is perfect as we see Angelus absorb this little juicy tidbit. Connor, apparently, thinks of himself as demon spawn. As someone who is potentially inherently evil. It’s a pity the show never lets Angelus exploit this further because he could have done some real damage to Connor with this knowledge. For now, Angelus is just hoping to get the hothead Connor to physically engage him. Connor is his biggest threat and he needs to take him out. But Cordy steps in and embarrasses Connor as she shoes him out. The score is now 4-0.

Realizing that a lot of damage has been done, Cordy cuts the negotiations short. Since this review has 20-20 hindsight, you have to wonder about Cordy’s motivation. She already knows that Angelus has nothing because she’s already killed the priestesses. But she needs to send Team Angel on that goose chase to further demoralize them so she tricks Angelus into thinking she’s stupid enough to offer herself as a sacrifice. Surely Angelus knows Cordy is not going to go through with it. Perhaps he relents to telling about his encounter with the Beast because he’s realized that they are not going to make another mistake to allow him out so he’s looking to change the dynamic. But it’s still one of the more clunky exchanges in the episode. Yes, hurting Cordy or Connor would be the most effective way to damage Angel but her logic really doesn’t withstand scrutiny and Team Angel knows she’s made a bargain right from the get-go.

Meanwhile the Wes, Fred, and Gunn love triangle has fully exploded. Why did Wes kiss Fred? It’s a remarkably foolish thing to do at that moment. Wes knows Angel is upsetting them. Is it because this is the first time Fred acknowledges Wes has feelings for her? Did he get a measure of hope when she wanted a one-on-one conversation without Gunn around? We know he’s lost respect for Gunn, but did he really think Fred would respond positively? I suspect the answer is yes. He wanted to see what her instinctual reaction was. Although his timing is poor, he apparently gets enough encouragement, in his mind, to blister Gunn with some harsh words when Gunn realizes something is going on. In fact, Wes appears to feel like he now has enough positive feedback to actually challenge Gunn. The fist-fight was a long time brewing and showed just how effective Angelus can be.

In another nice continuity nod, they continue to reinforce character roles as they divide up the team tasks. Gunn is left behind to guard as the third strongest warrior (behind Angel and Connor) while Connor escorts Wes and Cordy to Pacoima. It’s also classic Whedonesque writing to have all-powerful priestesses (Svears) living in a quiet L.A. suburb with a funny-sounding name. The slaughter scene had a few distracting errors (Connor should have smelled death the minute they walked in, the artful minimal blood spattering, and Wesley driving the SUV out of frame when the fight should have been right in front of where they parked). Regardless of these errors, it once again establishes that the Big Bad is one step ahead of them and that Connor has sensitivity around families. When he reacts to returning Angel’s soul, is he upset that Angel will be around or that his family is so dysfunctional?

The episode ends with the score Angelus 5 and Team Angel 0. The final exchange between Cordy and Angel is a little off, with and without hindsight. Without knowing Cordy is possessed, her dialog isn’t snappy enough to make us think she somehow outsmarted Angel. It just looks like she never really meant to go through with the bargain. With hindsight, we know her threats are for show as she has already stolen the Mou Ping with Angel’s soul. As the season progresses, possessed Cordy gets more and more humorless. It’s not a choice I particularly like and it doesn’t get better. We are also well into the second act of this season long arc and there is no victory for our heroes in this episode.

Actor/Director Sean Astin does an outstanding job at making this a creepy and disturbing episode. The lighting, in particular, is superb with Angelus often retreating into the shadows as he observes his opponents. Watching Angelus through a closed-circuit TV is bad enough, entering into the arena with him to do verbal battle is downright terrifying and having the closed-circuit view brings that into sharper focus.

In terms of season long arc, this episode shines a light on the problems of Team Angel. The true Big Bad is Cordelia and she is having a field day with this group. Their teamwork is nearly shattered and their leader is now a major problem. Once again Wesley tries to carefully orchestrate a plan but it goes to hell. Gunn sees his problems with Fred getting worse. Fred is confused by the kiss and probably has some long term questions about what Angel thinks about her. And Connor is spiraling further away from normal as he compares his demonic family with that of the slaughtered Svears.

This episode also contributes quite a bit to the lore regarding Angelus. This Angelus is not Liam without a soul. He’s matured well beyond Liam. Quoting 20th century poet W. B. Yeats (“foul rag and bone shop of the heart”), he’s been paying attention as Angel self-educated over the last 100 years and is a far more formidable foe. The nature of Angelus is often a hot topic for debate. Is Angel responsible for anything he does? Later on in “Players” [4×16], when Angel doesn’t apologize, the implication is “no, he’s not himself” but this episode really undermines that concept. Here we understand exactly how much Angel is observing his companions on a daily basis. Is Angelus an entirely separate personality drawing these conclusions or does Angel see the weaknesses in his friends but stay silent? It’s hard not to presume that some amount of the nasty snark coming from Angelus may also be the opinion of Angel.

Perhaps Angel doesn’t dwell on these thoughts and would never phrase his ‘truths’ so uncharitably, but it would be hard not to wonder whether or not Angel is always giving his honest opinion or just keeping his more divisive thoughts to himself. Angelus, however, has no filter and takes delight in verbally twisting the knife. This is a master vampire with a talent for torture. Limited by the cage he delivers a master class in manipulation. The episode maintains a consistent characterization of self-importance and not being a team member. The cruelty based in the truth is still very present. Although I do prefer this diabolic Angelus, he doesn’t last long as we see the blowhard who dreamed up the Acathla scheme come back in later episodes.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Ex post facto we see evil Cordy working the lines right along with Angelus without him knowing. She practically taunted Angel in Awakening to let Angelus loose, knowing what a mess he would make. She offers no qualifiers to her indiscretion with Connor. She continues egging Connor on to continue to compete with his father by giving him Angel’s shirt. Later she says nothing while Wes and Gunn come to blows. Cordy would normally have stopped that argument but she hangs back and lets it spiral out of control. At this point she’s pregnant so now she needs the team distracted from the bigger picture while she comes to term. Her plan is working well.
+ An outstanding outing for David Boreanaz as he channels the evil of the demon. The non-verbal facial acting and sudden movements elevated the episode.
+ Wes making a move on Fred and coming to blows with Gunn was satisfying. He’s been rather milquetoast in his interest in Fred but in this episode he blatantly, and successfully, makes a move. Fred and Gunn will never be the same.

– The road trip to Pacoima was distracting. It had the requisite fight scene and showed a potential resolution for the episode but I found myself wanting to get back to hearing what Angelus had to say.
– “Cordelia” is starting to act more out of character. Although the surprise reveal still worked in “Salvage” [4×13], Cordy’s offer to Angelus was clunky and her passiveness during the mini-brawl was off.
– The Yeats quote was a bit off target as the quote really wasn’t talking about the refuse of unrequited love. It seemed as if the writers were trying too hard to make Angelus look smart.


* We see the seeds of Connor’s eventual claim in “Home” [4×22] that he has never been loved. Angelus sows them by claiming Darla staked herself because she hated him squirming and Holtz killed himself because he was disappointed in Connor.
* Angelus also reminds us that he is not a team player and nobody’s minion. Evil Cordy fails to appreciate this fact. This foreshadows Angelus’ eventual somewhat capricious killing of the Beast.
* Well Othello DID kill Desdemona, but Gunn’s role in Fred’s death in “A Hole in the World” [5×15] is not quite so direct.




33 thoughts on “Angel 4×11: Soulless”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    Very good review, but I think you like this episode more than me, though.

    I agree that David Boreanaz as Angelus is very good but most lines just make me uncomfortable and are creepy, in a bad and cringe-worthy way. It just seems off.

    I do like how everyone is uncomfortable with each other and not exactly trusting of one another, mainly Wes and Gunn.


  2. [Note: SueB posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    Thanks for the feedback. I am a fan of character study. And I do agree that it was an uncomfortable episode — I guess I kind of liked that.


  3. [Note: Brachen Man posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    This episode was never one of my absolute favorites, but it definitely deserves some praise for such wonderful use of the Angelus character. This is probably the best episode with him this season, although I do love his interactions with Faith later on.


  4. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    Great review, though like Buffyholic I like this episode less than you. 🙂 I like the points you raise about the Angel/Angelus connection: does Angelus’s taunting tell us something about how Angel views his friends? If so, it’s obviously not the *only* thing Angel thinks about them, but it still is pretty uncomfortable to imagine from their position. This episode definitely vagues up the Angel/Angelus division more than the rest of the Angelus arc this season.

    God, Wes’s behavior toward Fred (and Gunn) is so despicable this episode.


  5. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on July 30, 2012.]

    Fray. Yeah, absolutely. Wes is dreadful here – and in a post-Billy universe pretty much creepy and wrong.

    Any irony much in him then turning around and teaming up with Faith?


    Anyway; yeah – character study i like; i just don’t entirely recognise the characters here and ultimately what lasting insight into any of them do we get?

    i get that there’s much necessary deckchair rearranging going on but…

    ach, mebbe it’s just me *grouse grouse*


  6. [Note: SueB posted this comment on July 30, 2012.]

    I both get and don’t get Wes’ motivation in this episode.

    Parts I could “get”:

    – I think Fred is giving some signals of encouragement for Wesley’s feelings. She praised him in Habeus Corpus, she went to him for retribution against the professor, and she seeks him out (looking to see Charles isn’t there) to talk about his feelings.

    – Personally I adored how sweet Gunn was with Fred but I also see that Wes and Fred are more intellectual equals and they communicate as such. So I could see how Wes could feel Fred was the ideal woman for him.

    – Wes’ give-a-shit is kinda low regarding consequences. He’s had a rough-n-tumble relationship with Lilah. He’s pushed into darker territory and I think he likes it. Kissing Fred was going for something he wanted, regardless of proprietary or consequences. Kinda fits with recent events.

    Parts I don’t get:

    – Timing Wes? Seriously, the gang is on the ropes and you go for a kiss at that moment? Why leap then? It only furthers Angelus’ agenda you dolt.

    – Uncool. Not only are you not really a bad boy, but you just pee’d where you live. Maybe the truce with Team Angel is temporary but you risk further isolation when the team needs you.

    – Fred is not property you a**. You may have accused Gunn of that but you’re actions are along the same line.

    I can somewhat accept that a completely in-love Wes sees trouble between Fred and Gunn and decides to make his case. This kiss and the timing were just not the right move IMO.

    What I learned about Wes from this incident: He’s Fred obsessed and been thinking about kissing her a lot.

    What I think they were saying about Wes: That Angelus got to him about being a failure and he decided to “go for it” despite it being a really bad idea at the moment.


  7. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    My problem is that all this doesn’t make Angelus look smart (to me) it just makes the others seem dumb. They all talk (And how!) about having to be careful of his manipulations but they (old-skool Angelus voice;) fall for it every time!

    And straight away! They may as well be the Scoobies watching Spike and Anya getting jiggy.

    Also; Angelus’s crack about Othello and Desdamona is not only cheap and dubious (i can’t off-hand remember any other such crude labelling of Fred and Gunn as a black/white couple), it’s also a fail. Wrong characters, wrong play.

    If anything, Wes and Gunn are Palamon and Arcite, the two brother knights who fell out over the love of a princess (who, like Fred, was probably a little ambivalent about the whole deal). The ever increasing divide between Gunn and Wes is a real sorrow given their comradeship in S2. And Gunn has indeed become ‘just the muscle’.

    Wes, oh Wes – bad timing? So much more; his desperation for something good and ennobling has calcified into an obsession with Fred so that his actions are from a man truly lost. Or something.

    Again, creepy since this ignores Fred as a real person.

    But nah, the whole point seems to be to show us that underneath his badass exterior Wes is still just a little boy wanting to please daddy and to get the (good) girl.

    This downplays the genuine and touching complexity of his relationship with Lilah as well as how far and how much he has changed. Irresponsible? After the Connor-baby debacle – i don’t buy it. The Wes of Buffydale and before is just one part of the adult guy (check out the upcoming interactions with Faith).

    Fred, never the spotless Lilly she’s made out to be is genuinely exasperated but enjoys the attention from the alpha-males. How lame is her response when Gunn walks in? How much more could she have done to dampen things down? I don’t blame her – but none of the three is guiltless here. But yet, again, they are also like children, like Scoobies waiting on a Giles to yell at them. What gives?

    And finally; Angelus2.0 (the walking exposition unit, so chatty of a sudden this episode) misreads Cordy like a complete amateur when even Spike can usually smell a dark entity under the camouflage. And this is the vampire Darla was so proud of? I doubt it.

    Connor though; Connor is great in this episode.

    Apologies for ranting; i went and re-watched the episode and it was… not fun. I do like your review here, sorry to disagree so strongly – and, i realise, so subjectively.


  8. [Note: SueB posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    wytchcroft, no worries! I’m glad to have someone to chat with about it and appreciate that you read the review in the first place.

    I think you are spot on about Fred. I like Fred but her actions this episode bother me. She’s not clueless but she really didn’t handle the rapidly exploding situation well.

    As for the Othello and Desdemona bit — yes, like the Yeats quote — the writers were trying to hard (or not hard enough).

    I AM surprised Angelus didn’t get that Cordy was evil. It would have been so much better if he did.

    Arg..lost potential. I actually love S4 but there are about 20 different tweaks that would have really helped. (Ok, I don’t know if we could have fixed Snidely Whiplash Cordelia).


  9. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    What kind of evil fiend doesn’t read the review even?! LOL.

    And i think your comments on Angel and Connor re; Origin add an interesting layer of parental insight as well.

    i have a passionate love/hate relationship with Angel 4, much as i do with Buffy 7. So much that’s great and so much that’s… not.


  10. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    With regard to the Othello/Desdemona comment, I don’t think Angel(us) was trying to be super literary. He was trying to get under Gunn’s skin, and part of that was playing up the (false) notion that Fred is just with Gunn so she can “slum it” for a while and will eventually move on to an academically-inclined person like herself. Given the way that class and education map onto race both in reality and in Gunn’s perception, it wasn’t such a stretch to draw a connection to the best-known doomed multi-racial couple. Most of the other ways that he taunts Gunn in this episode are racially loaded as well.

    And I agree, Wycroft, about how awful it is to see Wes and Gunn drift apart. Though it isn’t just over Fred — I’d argue it began in Pylea, when the human rebels put Wes in charge for some reason. Gunn disagreed with Wes’s strategy and Wes shut out his concerns without even listening. This dynamic continued into early S3, e.g., when Wes told Gunn he’d fire him for withholding information at the end of “That Old Gang of Mine.”


  11. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    Good point; although in ‘Gang’ Gunn needed the telling off and would have done the same to Wes had it been set in a library with a bunch of Watchers. In fact Wes having jettisoned his former colleagues so completely is probably why he’s so up on Gunn about doing the same. Nonetheless, you’re right – it skewed the power dynamic. A real shame.

    Mind, i’m with Minear on that episode. eesh.


  12. [Note: elim posted this comment on August 2, 2012.]

    I noticed in this episode that Angelus is a much better singer than Angel. Was that an oversight on the part of the writers or part of the whole “Angel and Angelus are different people” thing they introduced in season 4?


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

    One thing I think is incredibly important here is how Cordelia passes Angel’s SOUL over to Wesley, to put it in the safe. Wesley is the one who is not only protecting the world from Angelus, but protecting Angel, just as he saved him from the ocean.


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

    Also want to add that I *adore* how they didn’t change Angelus’ makeup to distinguish him from Angel, or at least not to the extent it was in Buffy.


  15. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on January 26, 2013.]

    Wow! It is only now that I find out that the director Sean Astin is the actor from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I never take much notice of the directors and wouldn’t have realised his name before.


  16. [Note: Alexis posted this comment on January 30, 2013.]

    i think the Othello/Desdemona crack was mostly about just about being racist. As fray-adjacent said, a lot of things Angelus comments about on Gunn are specifically about race. And, if he is supposed to be hundreds of years old, especially from one of the islands in what is now Great Britain, he would most certainly be racist against blacks, which is exactly what that play is about.

    I am also inclined to agree that this episode was a bit of a disappointment as far as Angelus’s intelligence goes. As wytchcroft has mentioned, it just made the Fang Gang look dumb, not Angelus appear smart, which is unfortunate and I wish could have been written a bit better, as Angelus has always been one of my favorite Buffy villains and is just terrifying in Season 2 of BtVS. Here it seemed like he was scary for nothing that he did, but sheer reputation, which would be a real confusing point for viewers who had not seen BtVS.

    I am glad you enjoyed it though 🙂


  17. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on January 30, 2013.]

    I actually read Angelus as acting racist just to troll Gunn, I just don’t think he respects any humans enough to feel that certain races are better than anybody else.


  18. [Note: Alexis posted this comment on February 6, 2013.]

    Interesting thought. That seems like a viable argument as well. I think that if Angelus was going to pick on something that he would play on Gunn’s insecurities better, though. It never seemed like Gunn’s race was a big issue to him, but I could be wrong. And Angelus would the the most terrifying internet troll today haha.


  19. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on February 8, 2013.]

    Angelus wasn’t that smart in BtVS season 2 aighter. He wanted to destroy the planet my sucking it into hell. What? Why, for Gods sake, why? What was he thinking of eating with entire planet in hell? Makes little sense. He’s not a brainiac, he’s a psihopath. Don’t get me wrong, i like him :))


  20. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on February 8, 2013.]

    Actually, the discussion for I Only Have Eyes For You (B 2×19) comes up with what I think are a lot of pretty good explanations, starting with LibMax (#6) if that helps.

    Plus, he wasn’t planning on killing everybody, he was planning on trapping them in a demon dimension for all eternity.


  21. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on February 8, 2013.]

    Wow, I just realized something:

    If his plan was to trap everybody in Hell with him, he had to have been thinking that he would be torturing people too, not just sitting back while the other demons didn’t let him join the party. However, when he escapes into Hell-A, he’s bored out of his mind with all of the good victims being taken care of before he got there.

    No wonder he was so willing to risk bringing the Sun back! Sure, he had no reason to think that the “Kill the Beast, end the eclipse” thing WASN’T just “part of Angel’s retarded fantasy,” but even if he thought that it was a real possibility, he probably started to think that just being another demon in a demon world is so much more boring than being the worst demon in a primarily human world. Which, if he ever showed up again, would raise the possibility of a Spoike-style “stop the Apocalypse” team-up!


  22. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on February 8, 2013.]

    In season 3 of Buffy, i think that it is Giles that says that every demon that walks the Earth is tainted, not a true demon (Mayor wanted to ascend and therefore become full blooded demon). There is also some talk about it in season 5 of Angel. Vampires are the worst, halfbreeds. Do you know how vampires in Buffyverse came to be? One of the last demon that was driven out from the earth bit a human and then forced him to drink his blood. I think its Giles in season one that says that. Therefore i think that even a vampire as great as Angelus stood no chance in Hell, because of all other, much more powerful demons there. He would be a lackey at best. And yeah, i’ve read the theory in “I only have eyes for you”, while interesting, i think its a little bit stretching. If you look too hard for reason, you are bound to find it. Buffy is a great show, but not everything makes sense. But if i choose to ignore Acatla, i would place Angelus at Number 1 at my favorite Buffy villains 🙂 One of the best characters


  23. [Note: Birth posted this comment on June 16, 2013.]

    As someone who watched Angel before BtVS, this is one of my favorite episodes. Why? I’ve always loved the villain who plays on emotional insecurities rather then one who physically tortures. Angelus (while I do agree the team was unusually gullible) comes across well enough to believe it. Previous episodes had touched upon everything Angelus spoke of, but none were ever really brought to light. This was his stage, his chance to open the can of worms for everyone to see and hear. It’s understandable that he’s more of a Hannibal figure as well: after all, Hannibal no longer acted like his “old” self once released in the the sequel. It’s Angelus’s defense mechanism: He prefers the duality of mental AND physical torture, but if need be he can and will do what is necessary if his situation looks grim.

    Let’s also not forget the probable frustration brewing in each of them: that they absolutely NEEDED his information about the Beast (or thought they did) while simultaneously realizing they will most likely never obtain it. Add on the fact that they all, understandably, would have had little reason to fall for such obvious mind games IF they could simply dust him and end it. But this is Angel, their boss and good friend: if they want that info, and if they want Angel to return, they are forced to listen to it. You can only be mocked and patronized about your flaws while simultaneously having them shouted out to the world for so long before you have even a moment’s emotional lapse.

    That being said, I despise the Angelus that continues through the next few episodes (save his fight with Faith). He ultimately becomes a lap dog of the cheesiest voice inside his head (who he doesn’t know is possessed Cordelia), and had nothing to show for it because frankly the team defeated him easily after that. His interaction with Connor is also short and relatively restricted to this episode. I would have liked to have seen them interact more on a character level and explore the whole “Angel or Angelus is my father” theme a bit more.


  24. [Note: Fm posted this comment on July 23, 2013.]

    Can’t put my finger on why- but the Angelus of Buffy S2 was so much more sinister and scary to me- more to do with how he was acted though I think- the way he talked, his movements and mannerisms were different then. Almost seems like boreanaz tried a little too hard this time around and didn’t quite click with me.

    Also- wondering if anyone else noticed e slight change in pronunciation of “angelus” from Bvts to AtS? ANgelus vs anGELus …. I like the og version for some reason, wish they’d remembered that.

    And as far as what he says to his friends- he knows how to spin things for his purposes, you know someone well enough, you eventually supply enough ammo to hurt them verbally in a fight using their weaknesses and insecurities- magnify this a thousand fold for ANgelus 😉


  25. [Note: Fm posted this comment on July 23, 2013.]

    Example- all his scenes with Giles when he’s got him tied and and being tortured in Becoming 2- something about how he says:

    “Hi Rupert… I wanna torture you- I used to love it and its been a long time. i mean- the last time I tortured somebody, they didn’t even HAVE chainsaws… I figure you know the ritual, you’re pretty up on these things, you can probably tell me what I’m doing wrong. But honestly, I sorta hope you don’t- cause I really wanna torture you”



  26. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 23, 2013.]

    Whedon said that the correct pronunciation was anGELus, and that he was frequently annoyed when the actors pronounced it ANgelus. But, either way, it is a bit of an annoying inconsistency… I definitely agree with you on the fact that Angelus seemed to be way creepier in the second season of Buffy, and that his mannerisms seemed to be less subtle and more out-in-your-face in this season of Angel.


  27. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 23, 2013.]

    Whoops! I forgot to put the “in reply to” thing… In case anyone was wondering, my last comment was in reply to Fm. Although, it is rather obvious… 🙂


  28. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on July 23, 2013.]

    I had the same feeling. Excuse the cliched sentiment, but it was as if Angelus had become a parody of himself at a few points. I saw on the DVD extras that David Boreanaz really got into it and started ad libbing because he loved playing Angelus so much. This is understandable enough, since his acting improved tenfold when he became Angelus in Buffy S2, but I had the feeling in watching AtS S4 Angelus that the director should have tried to rein him in and pushed him towards a more controlled creepiness.


  29. [Note: WCRobinson posted this comment on July 23, 2013.]

    I loved him as Angelus in both series. He just needed to be given more focus in S4… he should have been the series’ whole big bad. 😦


  30. [Note: Charlotte Heloise posted this comment on October 20, 2013.]

    I’d always assumed that any seeming ‘pronunciation shift’ was to do with AtS being set in Los Angeles. Like they thought it might be confusing to have a lead ‘character’ name (Angelus) sounding so much like another key ‘character’ (the city) so started really emphasising the AnGELus pronunciation. This wouldn’t have been an issue so much on BtVS where the action was almost entirely situated in Sunnydale at the Hellmouth. It might be nothing to do with this at all of course but it would make sense to me.
    Also I tended to put it down to people only knowing his name through reading it in textbooks (Watcher’s Council/ Wolfram and Hart files etc) and thus nobody apart from old vampires/demons actually know the right pronunciation!

    You’d hope he himself could be consistent though 🙂


  31. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 12, 2014.]

    That’s a good thought, Charlotte. Angelus in Los Angeles would perhaps be a bit too on-the-nose.

    As for what the correct pronunciation in-universe is, though: the original Buffy one makes a lot more sense. That’s how the Latin word is pronounced. (In the English-speaking world, at least.) It’s not like the Latin word for “Angel” is an obscure term that people haven’t used for centuries.

    But like you said, the writers probably had out-of-universe reasons to change it.

    I notice James Marsters for one sticks with the original (and I say correct) version even in Angel season 5, though.


  32. Good review!

    I know sometimes a character will say “ANgelus”, but I think most of the time on both series it was AnGELus which sounds right to me. Could it be Giles or Wes saying “ANgelus” with their British accents?

    I hate Connor. BUT….I didn’t hate him this episode. Of all of them, I thought he stood up to Angelus the best. Probably because Connor really wouldn’t mind killing Angel or Angelus. That absence of caring about Angel is probably an advantage in that situation.

    Always nice to see old characters from Buffy again, and nice to see Angelus again here.


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