Angel 4×12: Calvary

[Review by Iguana-on-a-stick]

[Writer: Jeffrey Bell and Steven S. DeKnight and Mere Smith | Director: Bill Norton | Aired: 02/12/2003]

The early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured an uncomfortably large number of scenes where the Scooby Gang was sitting in the library listening to Giles explain the mythology of the latest Monster of the Week. Exposition such as that is an unfortunate necessity in a fantasy show where the audience does not implicitly know what rules govern the world. The problem with exposition is that it just is not inherently interesting to most of us. Why would we care about the weakness of a fictional demon to certain high-pitched noises? It is a testament to the acting talent of Anthony Steward Head and the writers’ skill in interspersing this dry and dull material with Scooby-irreverence and witty Buffy-speak Buffy didn’t collapse under the weight of its own exposition.

Unfortunately Season 4 of Angel has no Anthony Steward Head to shoulder this burden. Worse, it is not about a single Monster of the Week whose strengths and weaknesses we need to know. The season features the longest, most complicated over-arching plot any of Whedon’s shows ever attempted, building on and resolving many events and plot-points from as early as Season 1 (e.g. Cordelia’s visions). No wonder the “Previously on Angel:” recap at the start of the episode spans more than a minute and reminds the viewer of no less than 18 different plot points. Early in the season there was still the occasional episode with a more stand-alone side-story or two, but since “Apocalypse, Nowish” [4×07] plot has reigned supreme in Angel Season 4.

In this vast and complicated story of unborn gods, false prophets and apocalyptic disasters “Calvary” is one of the keystones, a turning point in the slowly unravelling mystery. We learn that the Beast is just a minion, that (presumably) its master has erased all references to and knowledge of the Beast from this dimension, we see Angelus escape from his containment. Finally, and most shockingly of all, we discover that the oddly-behaving Cordelia is in fact the true villainous master-mind; presumably possessed in some fashion. It’s hard to claim that “Calvary” does not keep the plot moving.

As a rule I do not mind television that builds on the strength of its plot and events. I can be enthralled by a mystery full of surprising twists even if it comes at the expense of character-moments and cinematography. Unfortunately plot has never been the strength of Whedon’s shows. The revelations may have been surprising on first watching but as plot developments go they don’t exactly dazzle the audience with their inventiveness. Moreover, the way in which they are delivered tends to be pedestrian. More than almost any episode, “Calvary” is filled with exposition. A typical scene shows the following: Between three and five members of Angel Investigations are standing in a rough clump taking equal-length turns to speak little pieces of exposition, sometimes with a bit of diction more typical to the character but generally just feeding the audience lines so things can keep moving forward at an acceptable pace. It feels dull and stilted in their mouths.

GUNN: Lilah or not, something is doing the Beast’s dirty work.

CORDELIA: It would explain how giant lava boy could tiptoe past us to take out Manny.

CONNOR: And butcher that family, those priestesses.

FRED: Even though Lilah’s evil, I don’t see her hacking up all those people.

GUNN: OK, maybe it’s not just her. Maybe…maybe the big bad Beast had minions doing his dirty work.

ANGEL(US): Morons. The big rock doesn’t have minions. It is the minion!

The information may be new and important, but the way it is learned is very artificial. As a mental exercise, swap the names in front of these quotes around. Imagine it is Cordelia talking about the beast’s dirty work, Gunn talking about giant lava boy. Can you tell the difference? Do the character voices suddenly sound off? In my opinion it makes no difference. Only Angel’s line has to be said by him, the rest is utterly generic. The scene is also contrived. Why are they even discussing this in front of Angel’s cage? Why does he even volunteer this information? With material like this, it is no wonder that the actors sometimes seem tired and uninspired this season.

I blame the material rather than (most of) the actors because when “Calvary” allows for some character scenes they shine. It is in this episode that refers to the love-triangle plot with Wesley, Fred and Gunn. I was never too fond of this story and it has been dragging on longer than I’d like, but when the latter two actually break up the emotion feels real and believable. These two never were a world-shaking love, but they had a rapport that has long since been lost. The scene where Wesley makes his move on Fred is even better. He conveys a somewhat off-putting intensity that Fred doesn’t really know how to deal with. Later, when Fred learns about Wes’ relationship with Lilah, her nervous and confused discomfort is again nothing like the apathy that reigns in the exposition scenes and goes to remind us just how good an actress Amy Acker is. It is also conveyed almost entirely by non-verbal cues, a welcome change in an episode that has an awful lot of people standing around talking. Wesley likewise never comments on his lost chances, but we can clearly read his anger and disappointment in the odd unguarded facial expression.

Performances aside, the episode paints none of these characters in a flattering light. Wes is ruthless and manipulative in pressing his suit, Gunn is insecure, defensive and aggressive in defending his relationship and Fred is passive, expressing no real opinions, making no decisions and mostly just existing as a prize to be fought over by the boys.

There is of course nothing wrong with characters behaving badly, and in part it works here quite well. Wesley’s depiction is part of the arc that started in “Waiting in the Wings” [3×13] and reveals important information about his character. We know where he’s coming from and can understand why he acts like this. It’s rather less clear where Gunn is getting his new-found insecurities, though with hindsight we at least know Gunn will go on an interesting journey because of them in Season 5. Fred, finally, seems to get no development at all past “Supersymmetry” [4×05]. Rather than analysing Fred’s character-flaws we’re left analysing the writer’s characterisation-flaws. Both Fred and Gunn sometimes seem like pawns in the unfolding story of Wesley’s struggles and trials.

Between the turgid exposition barrage and the criticism of the love triangle it would seem I have little good to say about “Calvary.” Fortunately, there is one very significant up-side that makes this hour of television memorable: Lilah Morgan. Though by no means her last appearance, this is the last episode she is alive, the last time she is the independent, active figure we’ve come to know since “The Ring” [1×16]. “Calvary” is her swan song, perhaps the largest amount of screen-time and character-development she’s gotten since “Billy” [3×06]. She uses every second of it.

Lilah’s attitude is the proverbial breath of fresh air stirring up the over-solemn ranks of the protagonists. She drifts through the halls of the Hyperion like a fool at a medieval court: at liberty to say the things and voice the thoughts none of the others can admit even to themselves. Her cynical attitude and barbed comments provoke just about everybody (except Wesley) and spark much needed fire and energy as everyone deals with her in their own way. The quotes at the end of the review are telling enough, but even they are only half the story. The other half is told by Lilah’s vast assortment of knowing looks, smirks and sceptically raised eyebrows, mellow tones, slightly obvious sarcasm and barely concealed amusement. And yet this is only the surface layer: it is all a mask, her final clutching attempt to maintain at least a façade of superiority. Underneath she is a lost woman, one who has lost everything she held dear and is now forced to take sanctuary with people who justifiably hate her. The mask breaks in one very memorable and raw outburst of bleakness and despair:

“You don’t get it, do you, twinkie? I’m what I believe in. And you think I got this far by sticking my head in the sand? The Beast that eviscerated me has a boss, and that boss is going to end life as we know it, and nobody is coming to save us! Not Angel, not the Powers that Be, and not the forty-damn-second cavalry! So if anybody has scales on their eyes— it’s you.”

Stephanie Romanov’s face transforms in this scene. Her voice breaks with passion and an ugly sneer replaces her usual control. Yet it is equally true to the character she plays. This is the Lilah we have come to know and hate (or love) in her years as a recurring villain on the show, in all her aspects. It is a worthy farewell, and a sheer joy to watch.

However, where Lilah’s personal arc – such as it was – comes to an end in this episode, her relationship with Wesley does not. In fact, the two most significant developments and revelatory scenes from his side of the story are still to come. Lilah had already made her position clear: she loves him, but wasn’t going to change for him, and wasn’t going to abandon all her pride and throw herself at his mercy after he made his choice.

It is Wesley who is shaken most by the developments here. We learn in “Salvage” [4×13] just how conflicted he is about Lilah and their relationship. He was the one who chose to pursue the (pure, noble) girl he thought he ought to love instead of the (evil, unrepentant) woman he had been having a relationship with. He thought he could save Lilah from the Beast and send her off into the sunset (or sewer) to tidily wrap up that chapter in the story of his life. It turns out reality doesn’t comply with his script.

For a couple who just came out of a messy break-up they’re curiously comfortable with one another. There is the odd moment of awkwardness, and some of the distrust and resentment is still there. When they are alone they are subdued, a bit melancholy perhaps. Yet for the most part they turn to one another in understated but telling ways, acting as a team without seeming to think about it or even realise it. The scene where they return to the hotel shows this best: the whole of Angel Investigations is unpleasantly surprised to see her – they are hostile and suspicious. Yet Wesley defends her against all accusations and Lilah carefully deflects attention away from him when the others are getting too close to truths he does not want revealed. Curiously enough this is probably the first time they have stood together like this in public.

The relationship is over. It was an unlikely beast to start with, as they regretfully point out in the sewers at the start. But unlike Fred and Gunn, their rapport is anything but lost. In “Salvage” [4×13] Wesley will have to decapitate Lilah’s dead body. “Calvary” shows us clearly why he will have such a difficult time doing that.

So far I have talked very little about Angel. The reason should be obvious: he’s still locked in a cage for most of the episode. Soulless Angel – or Angelus as he’s being called now – remains far less compelling than his Buffy incarnation. Yes, there’s malice here. Yes, David Boreanaz still hams it up. Yes, he still says things that are beyond cruel. But the feel of freedom, the glee, the sense of fun that pervaded Angel when he went on his rampage in Buffy Season 2, are all missing. Perhaps it is the lack of Spike and Drusilla to act as his foils. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s locked in a cage and not allowed to do anything except spout the same kind of insults over and over. Except that’s not true. He escapes at the end of this episode and still accomplishes next to nothing. No, in the end I think that the evil Angel(us) worked on Buffy precisely because it was Buffy’s story, and he made an amazing antagonist and foil. It was the hero of the story he was striking out at with those lethally aimed barbs. It was Buffy’s story of ‘true love’ that was suddenly, shockingly turned on its head.

Angel Season 4 tries to recreate the dynamic, copy the trick that worked so well the first time around. But it falls flat. I’ll just let the character speak (from Buffy Season 2’s “Passion”): “It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank… Without passion, we’d be truly dead.”

That’s what missing in this appearance. Angel doesn’t have a motivation. He is the protagonist of his own story now. The series is about his journey of redemption, so without his soul he just drifts about; aimless, passionless. Sure, he’ll kill his former friends and co-workers if he gets the chance — it’ll be fun. But I never get the impression he cares much either way. It is entirely unlike the situation with Buffy, where the passion remained just as strong but was turned against her.

The execution here is flawed as well as the concept. It’s mildly funny to see Angel ranting and raving at the lack of victims on the darkened streets of Los Angeles. It doesn’t, however, make him feel like a very effective threat. Physically, he’s a disappointment. When he first revealed himself Cordelia actually managed to knock him back with a few punches so she could get to safety from the cage. Even when he goes after Lilah, who seems to be holding her own in hand-to-hand combat, it isn’t nearly as scary as when he’s chasing down Jenny Calendar. Yes, Lilah is a survivor and yes, Lilah has come a long way since we saw her play second fiddle to Lindsey back in Season 2, but if she manages to kick your scary super-villain down some stairs and throws a bookcase on him, something is wrong. Verbally, the comparison is equally unfavourable. When Angel tears into Buffy for being a lousy lover not worth his time it cuts to the bone. In comparison, his threatening to rape Fred to death seems just crude and makes him seem disgusting rather than actually threatening.

Lorne and Connor are limited to a few cameo appearances this episode and Cordelia as we know her doesn’t really exist anymore, which leaves us with no more characters to discuss. There is, however, quite a lot of plot left.

The fake-ensoulment spell works well as a plot-device and gives the side-characters something to do. Cordelia’s vision is timed awfully conveniently and the whole thing smacks of a deus ex machina, so the revelation that it was all a trick makes the whole sequence far more appealing in retrospect (or, as Lilah succinctly puts it: “Dud ex machina. There’s a surprise.”). Angel pretending to have his soul back is a lot of fun, especially when he manages to do it convincingly. His motivational speech to the crowd is actually better than anything the “real” Angel has managed this season. His scenes with Fred, on the other hand, are the one point in the episode where he truly feels creepy and threatening.

The final scenes following the discovery of the ruse don’t work quite so well, unfortunately. While going after him immediately makes sense, it was awfully sloppy (of the characters, or the writers?) to just leave Cordelia (and Lilah) behind without any way of defending herself. They could just have dropped them off at someone’s home where Angel was not invited. It feels particularly contrived that Fred joins the posse, something she almost never does on this show. Likewise, the big shocking revelation-scene at the end where Cordelia/Jasmine stabs Lilah seems off. It is far from clear what Cordelia/Jasmine’s motivations are. Why kill Lilah in the first place? Is it because her cynical speech about self-reliance goes against everything Jasmine stands for? Using the Beast’s dagger to do the deed is even stranger and harder to justify as being in character. One could posit that it is for the purpose of some ritual but this is never stated. I’m left with the impression that it was just done to make clear to the audience that Cordelia is in fact the Beast’s master.

In the end, “Calvary” showcases much of the best and the worst of Angel Season 4. On the up-side Wesley’s character arc continues to impress on all levels, Lilah’s last hours of life are a true highlight and the plot continues to be highly complex and multi-layered. There are a number of shocking revelations, a few surprising twists and the episode is very important to the seasonal arc. On the downside the episode threatens to collapse under the weight of its own mythology, it reeks of turgid exposition that sap the life out of the plot and the characters, and Angelus’ second major appearance continues to disappoint.

Is it a good episode? A bad one? It is hard to say. It is either. It is both. One final thing speaks in its favour: the writers were not playing safe with this season; they were not making episodes by the numbers; they were trying to do things on a truly grand scale and would end up going down some highly unorthodox but daring roads. At times the episode bores me and I am always aware of its flaws, but even discounting the great character-work for Lilah, Wesley and Fred I cannot actually dislike “Calvary.”

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Continuity: The Soul Eater was apparently buried by the Chumash. We’ve seen them on Buffy in “Pangs” .
+ The opening scene with Wu Pang the Shaman chanting and ignoring the sound of his guards being beaten up in the background almost exactly mirrors the one in “Awakening” [4×10]. His exasperated mutter: “Must acquire better guards.”
+ Gunn and Connor work well together, they have a certain kind of understated easy camaraderie as they deal with the Soul Eater — a nice moment for them in an episode that doesn’t give them much content.

– The title of this episode seems rather contrived. “Calvary” was the hill the crucifixion took place; the “place of the skull.” But how does that bear any relevance to the story we see here? Usually Angel episode titles make more sense than this.
– Wesley implies that ‘Angelus’ is much smarter than ‘Angel.’ How does that make any sense? Even if their personalities are different they have the same brain.
– The scene where the Beast presents Cordelia with the dagger (all 22 seconds of it) felt very much tacked on.


* The dagger the Beast gives to Cordy here is the weapon Angelus will use to kill it. Chekhov’s knife?
* Angel mocks Gunn by implying he’s just the muscle. “You know what I like about you? You play to your strengths. You know what they are, and you stick to ’em. You don’t find that much these days. Everybody always trying to expand their horizons, actuate their potential, and all that other touchy-feely crap. But not you. You don’t try to change… because you know your place.” Of course, in Season 5 this is exactly what Gunn does. He’ll end up regretting it deeply.
* Cordelia goes white-eyed and possessed just as Lilah is finishing her speech: “So if anybody has scales on their eyes— it’s you.” Her words take on a number of different meanings because of it: Cordy literally looks like she has scales on her eyes while possessed. And she is possessed by the bad-guy of the season, so the shocked delivery of “it’s you.” is really apt.



27 thoughts on “Angel 4×12: Calvary”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on May 7, 2011.]

    Great review. You sure highlighted the strenghts and weaknessess of this episode, especially how Angelus is treated. But I gotta say Lilah is really the best part and Stephanie Romanov is a delight to watch.

    I crack everytime she says this line:

    “This is just like being at work, except suits by Liberace” and her speech about being in it for her is amazing as well.


  2. [Note: Miscellaneopolan posted this comment on May 7, 2011.]

    God, I love Lilah. Thanks for paying her due tribute and thanks for the insightful and well-written review.

    Another great Lilah one-liner whipped out following ‘Angel’s’ inspirational speech: “I can’t believe we didn’t slaughter you people years ago.”

    Oh, wow. For the longest time I thought that the title of this episode was “Cavalry” and that it referred to Lilah’s line about how no one was coming to save them. I can’t spell. Thanks for clearing that up.


  3. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 15, 2011.]

    Wow. I don’t even remember most of this episode. All I remember is that the Angelus arc is one of the high points of an otherwise awful season, along with the fantastic opening episode and the season finale. So I’m betting I liked it. And while I agree that Angelus here has nothing on Angelus in “Buffy”, I still loved this storyline just because of how good David Boreanaz is at playing Angelus.

    Still, Faith’s return is when things really start to pick up.


  4. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on July 16, 2011.]

    I really like Angelus and how he talks to Cordelia. The look he gives her after she fires the arrow at him made me smile.

    The reveal of Cordelia being bad was surprising and shocking, unfortunately, there was no little points previous where we could add it together and understand her actions. It just came out of the blue.

    I’m not sure how her visions work. Are the PTB giving her the visions or Jasmine? In ‘Long Day’s Journey’ she was only given snippets of a scene which would point to The Powers That Be as Jasmine would give her the complete scene in one go. Confusing.


  5. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on August 27, 2011.]

    Another tid-bit to make the whole Angel/Angelus thing even murkier.

    Connor: “Why doesn’t Angel remember?”

    Fred: “Because his mind wasn’t here when the spell or whatever was cast, right?”

    I had suspected, because of ‘Eternity’ that Angelus is always inside Angel and he doesn’t have to lose his soul for him to emerge. But this would mean Angelus would not remember also because he was in Angel. Although, Fred does ask not tell.

    Angelus: “-Now there’s a girl who takes advantage of her opportunities.-“


  6. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 16, 2011.]

    Hey, great review, Iguana-on-a-stick (Doc Morbid there with you? ^^)!

    I agree with every single word of it which is kinda new for me on this site. XD

    In fact I even start to like Wes again, don’t think his arch is that well done, but it has redeeming qualities for me. Wes stopped to be Mr. Righteous since he started that affair with Lilah, so I don’t feel the urge to punch him in the face every time I see him on screen anymore. ^^

    Still don’t forgive him stealing Angel’s son instead of sharing that prophecy with someone (doesn’t even have to be Angel, but that would be nice of course). Didn’t make sense, no matter what the writers did to the characters to make me accept it (for instance changing Angel into an obsessed father who ignores his duties).

    Ask yourselves, what would you do, if you read a prophecy (unlikely, granted) about a friend murdering his own child? Would you a) tell him everything and help him to find a solution oder would you b) steal the child under his nose without leaving behind a letter? I think the answer is obvious.

    Ok, what else? …

    W&H and Lilah, I am very disappointed about how that story unfolded. Seems I was right all the way from season 2, the W&H story never was leading to anything interesting, they were nothing more but a sorry excuse for a villain, only there to keep Angel and the gang occupied throughout the seasons.

    But I still miss Lilah, wished she had more influence on that useless lawfirm of evil. She somehow seemed like a female version of Angelus to me (selfish, ruthless, evil in a chaotic, nonorthodox way (someone playing AD&D games here? ^^), only a little more human and vulnerable but with the same snarky attitude and devilish mind. In fact in this show I feared her more than Angelus, who was nothing but words.

    And I liked her for her weak spot for Wesley, added some layers to a character that would be a little too onedimensional without it.

    Ultimatively I am watching S04 for the main arc only right now, not for the characters, which is kind of odd for a Whedon show and makes it hard to distinguish from all the other serial shows doing exactly the same thing that is done here (misusing and wasting characters (Cordy ;( ) to propel the plot, not to tell a meaningful story about them).


  7. [Note: Kristen posted this comment on January 22, 2012.]

    I’m so happy to have found your reviews. And to have a place to celebrate and grumble about episodes!

    My biggest grumble about this one… Angelus doesn’t seem at all like the Angelus we know. I assumed the entire episode that Angel was faking it, though I couldn’t figure out why that would be. But he wasn’t nearly as twistedly sarcastic and evil as he usually is. Just kind of mildly annoying and mean. And WAAAY too cooperative and helpful with the info! Just for the chance at boinking Cordelia he’s willing to talk? That makes no sense at all. Why would he ever think she would go through with it? And why would he care? The real Angelus would assume he could get out of the cage, and have his way with her WITHOUT the agreement.

    My second biggest grumble about this one… why does Fred suddenly change her hairstyle and clothing about 2/3 of the way through the episode? Everyone else appears to be wearing the same stuff. Except maybe Gunn and Connor– but they went out to hunt some skeleton head. The big change in her looks had me further assuming that this was another dream sequence or something. It was just too abrupt.

    Anyhow, so rotten writing there. But the reveal at the end was pretty darn cool. I remembered enough from my on-again-off-again watching while the series was on to know it was coming eventually. But it was still pretty powerful.


  8. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on February 3, 2012.]

    You know, I had never considered the “Angel is faking it” explanation because the whole shaman business in “release” otherwise would’ve been unnecessary. But otherwise I rather like it as an explanation for the endless fount of lameness and disappointment that is season-four-Angelus.

    Pity you weren’t right.

    I also have to admit that I never even noticed that Fred changed her clothes and hair… oh well. Good point on it being weird continuity wise.

    Anyway, glad you like Mike’s site (note that 90% of the Angel reviews aren’t mine.) Lots of food-for-thought here.


  9. [Note: Miss Jay posted this comment on February 15, 2013.]

    Thorough review Iguana, you make and defend some excellent points. All in all I think I enjoyed Angelus a little more and Lilah a little less that you, but not enough to argue over. I did like Lilah calling Cordy “Saint Cordelia”. And Lilah’s line about holding hands and singing hymns reminds me of Kennedy’s line on Buffy (7.15 get it done) ” Now what? We hold hands and chant Kumbaya or something”

    I am with you when you say many of the lines were so generic they could have been interchanged by any cast member and made no difference, oddly enough except for the one scene you used as an example. In fact while I was watching it, I thought to myself that it was appropriate they gave the line about the family to Conner. (Since he was so disturbed by the massacre in Soulless)

    And I do hope they explain later how on earth Lorne didn’t read Angelus correctly. Since this is a retrospective review, and you didn’t mention it – I am guessing they must. (When it aired I caught about 1 in 3 episodes of S4 & S5 of Angel, so I know all the main plot points and these reviews aren’t spoilers for me but I missed all the details I am now catching on rewatch).


  10. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on February 15, 2013.]


    Lilah is a character who grows on me. I like her lines more on every re-watch, it seems. Angelus in this incarnation has the opposite effect. The flaws seem more obvious over time.

    As for Lorne’s mistaken reading: I’m not sure if it was ever stated in so many words, but I always assumed that was what Possessed Cordelia’s whole ritual was about. To make it appear like Angel had a soul.

    They discuss it in the next episode but Cordelia immediately changes the subject.


  11. [Note: nao posted this comment on February 15, 2013.]

    Seems more that the spell was directly destinated to Lorne.
    It leads to the plotpoint in the Gunn’s episode in which Lorne must go through a ritual to get his skills back. (a ritual which also lead to trap Jasmine, before she kills him)


  12. [Note: aces42 posted this comment on November 10, 2013.]

    I disagree on a whole lot of levels, Angelus on Buffy was good but Angelus here is EVEN better, before it was about dismantling Buffy and her foundations but now it’s about dismantling EVERYBODY. Double entendre’s, misdirection, cynicism and manipulation at his core every time Angelus speaks. His words to each character is poignant and meaningful to their own arc and his conversation with Gunn was near flawless, Fred also getting the remark of being raped to death was supposed to be disgusting, nasty and cruel as this is coming from at least the image of a man that rescued her, who she has an attraction too as well as idolization for his champion status. Angelus is destroying all that and twisting up that image with every word. I feel at this point he is literally the embodiment of the season 5 premiere Conviction. While he is a master of evil, it was usually always based off someone else (his own father, impressing Darla, torturing Buffy, etc) I feel the writers are now finally having Angelus embrace Evil just for the sake of it, He truly believes in evil. He is no longer tied to anything and can just go berserk, Angelus isn’t aimless cause he is no longer tethered by anyone’s will, Angel has been the leader of is world and his own people for years now and Angelus enjoys breaking up that world, destroying what Angel loves, finding his own way, making his own choices & allegiances(or lack thereof, hence destroying the beast and bringing back the sun accidentally to his much loved annoyance) almost a reboot in a sense. It’s all about chaos and how much he can create in a New York minute.

    Also Angelus is all about the hunt, the chase. While trying to kill Jenny, he messed around a lot and got absurdly tripped up by an obvious mop cart and when a door slammed in his face, it took some effort for him to open it up again. Angelus purposely messes up, even to his own detriment (especially showcased against Faith) he enjoys the journey rather than the end result, at times he may not even see one. Drusilla is one of eternal torment that he caused, Dana the mental slayer is a work of art to him as her depth of insanity and mental degradation is almost endless is a masterpiece in his eyes. (Spike remarks to this as well and comments that Dana will always be a monster) He smiles and is happy that he got kicked down that stairs and a bookcase is falling on top of him, he’s taunting her the whole way through and is visibly annoyed, well slightly, that she dies so quick in the next episode, he’s probably thinking that Jenny lasted longer at this point. It’s all about the chase and the hunt for Angelus.

    Angelus is done exceptional and i wished Angel did not get canceled and got sixth season as he may have returned, because these writers were at their best writing for Angelus & added so many layers to him that Buffy never did, it’s truly a crime that we wasn’t able to see more of him after the rest of these handful of episodes or at least another flashback in where he’s in full on killer mode, the comedy ones with him and Spike are incredible as well.


  13. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on November 10, 2013.]

    While I agree with you on the fact that Angelus did an excellent job of bringing many of the gang’s problems to the forefront, I don’t think his effect on the viewers (or maybe it’s just me) was as powerful as it was on BtVS. To me, Angelus on Buffy was a lot more subtle and, most importantly, more personal, adding to his frightening image. You said that on Buffy, Angelus was all about dismantling Buffy herself. I agree with you on that, but one of the things that made it scary was that, in his attempt to dismantle Buffy, he managed to severely traumatize everyone close to her. In Angel, he attacks everyone at once, as you said, and, although the impact of this approach was as effective (or, in some cases, even more effective) at damaging the entire group, it was not as effective on the audience, I don’t think (and if this is true, you are an exception). In attacking Buffy, Angelus managed to isolate her, effectively cutting her off from her friends and family, and that, in my opinion, is far more terrifying than severely damaging an entire group.


  14. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on January 26, 2014.]

    The most annoying part of this episode for me is how good Angelus is at faking being Angel in the cage, when the viewers don’t realize that the spell didn’t work, and how poorly he is at faking it in the scene with Fred. The whole thing reeks of “now that the viewers know who he is, let’s make his scene with Fred extra creepy by having him change how he acts.” Which annoys me to no end for some strange reason.

    Yes, I realize that a possible explanation is that now that he’s out of the cage, he doesn’t need to act like Angel anymore, but I’m not buying it.


  15. [Note: Robert posted this comment on May 16, 2014.]

    I feel like the writers missed a great opportunity by killing off Lilah, just as she was integrating with the Angel gang. It would have been far more interesting had she stayed on. As a minor point it would have created a new triangle between Fred, Wesley and Lilah. But more importantly, as the reviewer smartly pointed out, Lilah was a breath of fresh air in a season that was so plot-heavy that the endless exposition scenes with the Fang Gang tended to drag down the action. Having a different voice (Lilah’s) would have been a way to mix up the dialogue as witnessed in this ep. Also with the development that happens in the finale with Wolfram & Hart, Lilah would have been the perfect fit to take over the same role that Eve took on in season 5 (and would have been more intriguing as well). Of course I know they needed a big shocking killing at the end of the ep to pull off the whole “Cordelia is evil” reveal, but I wish it hadn’t been Lilah. Oh well…


  16. [Note: research-kills-demons posted this comment on May 24, 2014.]

    So sad to see Lilah’s end!! She really was a delight throughout this muddled season, and it was great to see her come into her own at W&H after her earlier insecurities and desperate competition with Lindsey. Her relationship with Wesley was also so much more interesting than pretty much any of the other pairings on the show.

    At this point in the series I would much rather see Cordelia dead (even if she wasn’t evil) than Lilah! Cordelia became blah before the Jasmine arc even started :/

    Also, I agree with Kristen that the Fred hair/wardrobe change was distracting. Like suddenly she decided to curl her hair in the middle of this? Oddly conspicuous.

    Anyway, great review!


  17. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on May 4, 2015.]

    Among this episode’s many flaws, in my opinion, is the way in which Angelus gets out of the cage. Obviously he needed to get out eventually–but it needed to be a result of his cleverness and the gang’s mistakes. Sure, it was sort of cool how he pretended to have his soul back–but its success relied on the cheat of Lorne misreading him for unexplained reasons, and even then, he opts to stay in the cage (?!) and it’s ultimately faux-Cordelia, not one of the gang, who lets him out. All very disappointing!

    Also, once out, he starts behaving very strangely. I mean, okay, fool the gang by doubling back to stalk those left behind in the hotel–fine. But then, once there, he finds Lilah mysteriously killed by someone else, and what does he do? Pretend to be the one who killed her, then take off into the night without actually killing anyone. What was the point of all of this?

    Throughout the entire Angelus arc this season, in fact, the show seemed very squeamish about actually having him kill anyone. He beats up on demons, kills the Beast (conveniently and implausibly enough), but I don’t think we see him kill even a single human being!


  18. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on May 5, 2015.]

    To be fair it would a lot harder to have the main character kill a guy on this show as opposed to the side character he was on Buffy. Maybe that’s a bit cowardly but they never had Buffy kill a good guy on her show maliciously so I think we can cut the writers some slack.


  19. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on May 6, 2015.]

    I’m not a fan of how writers, with some being pressured or forced by studio executives, are afraid to supposedly “taint” the titular character(s) by having them do something extreme. It doesn’t taint them at all, on the contrary, it makes them very much human. It’s sometimes necessary to develop a character, especially one as extreme as Angel is. His entire characterization revolves around his capacity for evil, so being afraid to show what that evil entails is extremely problematic.


  20. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on May 6, 2015.]

    I guess there’s also the fact that there is another Big Bad in the way and it would be harder for Angelus to be able to really get in any real evil with them around. Probably why it was a lot easier for You-Know-Who in the beginning of Supernatural Season 10 to kill some people since he was more the main focus in that segment. And even in that case the guy killed was an ass. Granted at the end of Season 4 a good guy intentionally killed a relatively decent person for their purposes but that doesn’t tend to get brought up too much anyway.


  21. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on May 6, 2015.]

    Sadly, the Winchesters – as flawed as their characterization can be – are better developed in regard to their capacity for unspeakable cruelty, something we all possess but mediums tend to downplay in respect to the titular character(s) (as opposed to a[/] titular character such as Willow), even the Whedonverse with Buffy and Angel.


  22. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on May 11, 2015.]

    Titular character or no, Angelus needed to actually hurt/kill people, both to justify all the hype about how bad he was and to make the whole story involving bringing him back actually work as a story. And anyway, even with a soul, the series had not been afraid in the past to show Angel doing really dark things when the story called for it.

    But even putting all that aside…seriously, what was the deal with him in this episode? Why did he give up on stalking and killing the rest of AI just because he found Lilah dead? Why run off into the night? And before that–why opt to stay in the cage when the others were ready to let him out? He had no way of knowing that “Cordelia” was operating with a different agenda and would soon let him out regardless… None of it made any sense to me.


  23. [Note: Uni posted this comment on August 31, 2016.]

    Angelus’ theory about the beast not being able to all of a sudden get smart is kinda hypocritical. I mean, just look at how much smarter BtVS S2 Angelus is than AtS’ season 4. Just something I found kind of humorous.


  24. Nice review, very insightful.

    “Soulless Angel – or Angelus as he’s being called now ” makes it sound like the name Angelus is new. By Season 4 of Angel, hadn’t Souless Angel been called Angelus for a long time?

    I like Angelus, I like the gusto with which DB plays him. I like the reputation for evil they built up for him in BtVS and Angel. When Angelus escapes the cage, I am truly on the edge of my seat. And yet, he doesn’t do as much evil as it seems a guy with that reputation should. In BtVS, he had plenty of opportunity to kill Joyce and all the Scoobies. I know he killed the woman in the alley and the classmate of Buffy’s and Jenny, but he could have done a lot more. Killing Willow’s fish? How about killing Willow? In this episode, why does Angelus just saunter out of the hotel rather than kill everyone associated with Angel Inc. escpecially given how hungry he is? I guess I will accept aces42’s explanation. For Angelus it’s all about the hunt, and there was no hunt opportunity until he came back to the hotel for Lilah.


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