[Review by Ben]
[Writer: David Fury | Director: Jefferson Kibee | Aired: 04/30/2003]
What compels people to do the things they do? Is it destiny? Free will? And at what cost? These are the questions that haunt every character throughout Season 4 and they all come to a head in “Peace Out” [4×21]. With “Home” [4×22] being much like an epilogue or a bookend to the season, “Peace Out” [4×21] has the job of effectively wrapping up all the major stories and themes, which it does remarkably well, but not without some problems.
The heart of this piece is Connor, who is possibly the most divisive character in the entire series. Personally, I love Connor and this episode is a marvelous showcase for him and possibly one of the most tragic episodes of the series because of him. Connor is the perfect summation of the concept of free will versus fate. Here, Connor chooses fate because he can’t deal with the difficult truths in his life. Over and over again, Connor has been fed lie upon lie and has jumped from so many different people. While this may not seem like a truly awful thing at first glance, it is because of this that he does not have any true connections to people.
Connor was torn away from his first family by Holtz in “Sleep Tight” [3×16]. Worse still, he was taught by Holtz to not trust Angel, his own father, and so he will always be cut off from him in some way. Then, he is ripped away from Holtz, his second family, in “Benediction” [3×21], and Angel tries to ruin his memories of Holtz and convince him that Holtz was a bad man. In addition to this, Holtz used Connor to get back at Angel, thus making him even more cut off from people. After he sent Angel to the bottom of the ocean, however, he finds a third family in Gunn and Fred and he is yet again ripped away from them, this time by Angel. He is literally kicked out of his family by Angel and left to wander the streets. Angel, his only living blood family, leaves him to fend for himself on the streets of L.A. This is how Connor begins to perceive what people usually do and how families act towards one another, which motivates all his actions all the way up to “Home” [4×22].
Connor’s desire for a family is what leads him to where he is now. He has lost everything and has no connections to the world so the one thing he hangs onto is the only person who he believes truly cared for him: Cordelia. With Cordelia and Jasmine, he feels like he finally belongs in the world because he is accepted into her inner circle. Jasmine even says to him, “Your devotion and sacrifice has made a difference.” Jasmine makes him feel like he is important and has made a difference, which is the opposite of what his previous families have been like. While we never saw him in Quor’toth, we know that Holtz was never so kind and caring to him. He gave him tests and made him fight for his life on a daily basis. Angel treated him like a little child who didn’t know anything and he eventually even kicked Connor out onto the streets. Connor holds onto Jasmine because he thinks she would never dream of doing that to him.
Connor’s connection to Jasmine all comes back to the loss Connor has been through and his desire to just be happy. It’s all Connor wants. To be part of a family; to feel appreciated; to live a happy, normal life. These are all things that he feels Angel and company have denied him. In a chilling moment, Connor screams at Wesley, Fred, Gunn, and Lorne for fighting back against Jasmine. He thinks they are less interested in saving the world and more interested in feeling like they are making a difference. Connor points out the fact that they are trying to save the world and look, someone’s gone and done it, but they keep fighting because it’s all they know how to do. He finally lays it into them when he explains, “You’re all alone now…all of you. You’re the ones left out in the cold. You don’t belong.” This statement is both a powerful reflection on Connor’s views on the world and also perhaps a true statement about Angel and company. Angel Investigations was created by people who were alone in the world and were just trying to make a connection. Going back to that in Jasmine’s utopia is an absolute nightmare for all of them. Once again, they are left in the cold. For Connor, this is also a very significant comment because it quickly summarizes his motivation. He finally feels free and at home, and when Angel Investigations tries to ruin that for him, just as they have done time and time again in his mind, all he wants is revenge. He wants them to feel how he feels: alone. It’s a great scene and a strangely affecting one, too.
The fight scene at the beginning of the episode is also very exciting and well done, although it is far too short. It feels like it is rushed due to time constraints and just a way to get from point A to point B when it could be done in a much more interesting and meaningful way. But the small part of the fight we get is very exciting, tense, and chaotic, just as it should be. I really like Connor’s line that now he “has no choice but to kill you” because it shows that he is really giving himself up to Jasmine and he is clearly letting himself be a puppet. He has convinced himself that Wesley, Gunn, Fred, and Lorne are spouting lies when it is very clearly Jasmine who is the liar. Connor doesn’t want to see her lies, though — she’s easier.
The most interesting part of Connor’s journey throughout the episode, however, is definitely his fall from Jasmine’s grace. The first thing that makes Connor question his place in Jasmine’s family is her not allowing him to destroy the family that ultimately rejected him, which I find very interesting and ironic. He tries killing Wesley and Jasmine tells him to stop, which is the first decision she makes that Connor questions. His desire for revenge, to feel validated in his feelings of comfort, is so strong that it makes him turn against Jasmine, even if only for a moment.
It goes farther when he is kept away from one of the only people who have made him feel like a person that matters. While it’s true that Connor was never really connected to Cordelia, since she has been possessed the whole time, the only thing that matters is that Connor thinks he is. The Cordelia that Connor cares about and the Jasmine that has been feeding him lies are really just one in the same but Connor doesn’t realize that, so he wants to see Cordelia badly. He wants his family to be whole again: Connor and Cordelia as the caring parents to Jasmine, their beautiful child. Jasmine refuses to tell Connor where Cordelia is, though, let alone letting him see her. To Connor, this is unacceptable. In a way, Jasmine is attempting to destroy Connor’s new family by shutting him out from Cordelia. Due to this, Connor begins to accept that the lies are everywhere and that there truly is no escape from them. To be free from the pain, you have to be dead.
While the concept is beautiful and the downfall of Connor is truly heartbreaking and intriguing, the actual execution of it all ends up being a tad clunky in the first half of the episode. Jasmine’s scenes with Connor end up being a bit too talky and a lot of the tension just disappears during them. Some of that might be attributed to Vincent Kartheiser’s lack of chemistry with Gina Torres, because this story works perfectly in every scene where Kartheiser and Torres don’t work together. Both do exceptional work on their own, but together it just falls flat.
I can excuse most of this, though, because there are only a few scenes that feel like this and there are so many other great scenes throughout the episode. For example, the scene where Connor confronts the men who have transported Cordelia is really great and a wonderful example of how dark this kid really is. He really flips out on the men and smiles as he does it. Connor is really breaking down now and his line, “So tell me and I’ll crush your windpipe,” is telling.
This all leads to the mesmerizing scene in the cathedral, which is one of my favorites of not just the season, but also of the entire series. Connor’s monologue over Cordelia’s comatose body is beautifully written and acted to perfection by Kartheiser. I know people give him a lot of grief over his performance on Angel, but this scene is just remarkable and a true triumph. It also outlines Connor’s entire journey through the series and helps the viewer sympathize with him. Throughout the series, Connor has always been kind of an annoying kid who just gets in the way and doesn’t understand the world around him. But sometimes, we fail to realize why he is the way he is and this scene does just that. Also, there’s Connor throwing the guards through the cathedral doors. That’s always fun.
Like I mentioned before, Connor doesn’t understand that Cordelia has really just been one in the same with Jasmine. Connor wants to live in this great new world with his family, with Cordelia, but Jasmine’s very existence destroyed the possibility of living a happy life with Cordelia because Cordelia is Jasmine. This is a very important point that Connor’s monologue makes clear. Jasmine’s manipulation of Connor makes it impossible for him to live the life he wanted. As much as he wants to believe her, he can’t because she has, just like everyone else, taken away the people he has considered family.
The other very significant portion of his monologue is in direct contrast to Angel’s speech in “Epiphany” [2×16]. Angel fights because there is nothing else he can do, but Connor doesn’t see the point in that. Connor is tired of the endless fighting, never-ending pain, and torment that comes hand-in-hand with the endless fight. Connor sees Jasmine as an easy way out and a way to just make the pain stop. He wants to “stop fighting” and he then goes on to say, “I just wanna rest.” At this very moment, Connor is done with the world and its problems. He wants to be purged of all his hate and anger, just like the rest of humanity, but he can’t. Where Angel fights in order to save souls, Connor lays his sword down and gives up. He really loses all hope here and he finally recognizes that his entire life has been built upon countless layers of lies. Connor understands this, and his recognition of that is so devastating to watch. His last line during that scene gets me every time because of how heartbreaking it is. In reference to Jasmine’s lies, he says, “I guess I thought this one was better than the others.”
Angel’s story throughout the episode, in the alternate world, is a bit more problematic in some ways, yet still also interesting in others. The CGI effects used to create this alternate world are pretty awful and cause its scope to end up being rather narrow. Usually, I wouldn’t focus on special effects, but it does kind of limit the universe they are trying to create to just one room in an old temple. This is a minor quibble, though, so I’ll move on.
Angel comes across the Guardian of the Word and the Keeper of the Name, the former of which is tiny and somewhat annoying, the latter of which is downright terrifying looking. Angel and the Guardian of the Word have some amusing back and forth but things get more interesting when Angel begins to fight the Keeper of the Name. We learn more about why Angel is fighting and what he is fighting for, which makes for a very effective sequence as it is intercut with Connor deciding that the world just isn’t worth fighting for. The demon’s comments could just as easily be applied to Connor. He says, “You can take away her power but you’ve already lost everything.” The demon is obviously referring to Connor, but in Connor’s case, this could apply to Cordelia or just his desire for a family. When Connor loses this, he gives up and just becomes numb to the world around him. Angel, as seen in “Epiphany” [2×16], just keeps fighting and it doesn’t matter than he has already lost so much.
Angel isn’t just fighting for justice or for his world, but also for Connor. The demon’s mistake, however, is thinking that Angel is fighting for Connor because he wants his family to be complete again. The demon says again and again that Angel won’t save Connor and that he is going to lose him, too. In the end, it’s true. Angel doesn’t save Connor and he becomes lost in the world, which leads to his actions in “Home” [4×22]. But, again, Angel recognizes that it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t win. The most powerful part of their entire scene is when the demon shouts, “He will never love you,” and Angel just says back to him, “Doesn’t matter.” Angel has to try to save Connor and he has to try and let Connor make a decision for himself. Angel isn’t fighting to save Connor’s soul, but instead to save his will. And, in a way, Angel succeeds. Angel’s actions allow Connor to see the world for what it really is, to see people in their violent and selfish glory, and then make a choice. It might not be what Angel had wanted, or even anticipated, but Angel brought back free will to Connor.
The fight between Angel and the Keeper of the Name was not only revealing, but exciting to watch. I love the idea that the only thing that can destroy Jasmine is her name, because she presents herself as this grand all-knowing entity that is really just above names and the humanity associated with them. The realization that she does, indeed, have a name is a nice way to shatter the façade that she creates. It also works because it is a reminder that she is not a perfect being that always succeeds. The name is from the other universe, where she failed to bring world peace. It is also just a great touch to have the Keeper’s mouth sealed shut and adds another level of suspense to an already dense episode.
This is where the episode’s two plots come together and it all leads to a very exciting conclusion. Jasmine’s press conference is interesting because it works as a contrast to Holland Manner’s speech in “Reprise” [2×15]. Here, Jasmine reassures people that they will see a world where there is no war or starvation because everyone will be working together in harmony. This is clearly a false message when it is compared to Holland’s speech, where he argues that all of the evil in the world comes as a result of the people in it. If everyone was good and kind to each other, they wouldn’t be people. They’d be angels. In this episode, Jasmine has done just that. By exterminating free will and creating world peace, she has essentially gotten rid of all the people in the world and put false angels in their place. This leads us to perhaps the most interesting question the entire season offers us: are people worth it? If this is what people do to one another, do we even deserve free will?
When Angel returns, he shows the world Jasmine’s true face and it creates mass chaos. Once again, people have the choice to do whatever they want, and it leads to destruction and panic. Jasmine tries to reassure them and make them stay with her by telling them that it’s all a lie, which I think is a wonderful touch since the real lie is the world she has been offering them for the past few episodes. She also calls to them and says, “Please don’t leave me.” I think this adds a lot to Jasmine as a character because it shows that she, too, is dependent on other people and her connection with them. It really brings her arc full circle due to her effect on the loneliness of Connor, Angel, and the entire gang.
The following sequence offers what I think is some of the best writing, acting, and directing of the season. The fight between Angel and Jasmine is one of the best of the series, making great use of the setting and also having a real emotional stake to it. Angel is literally fighting for his right to choose. Plus, there’s fire, electrocuted people, and flying cars. All in all, it’s a very exciting fight and a worthy conclusion to this four episode arc. I also just want to take a moment to give praise to Gina Torres, who truly knocks it out of the park in this scene. She has been doing great work as an all-knowing God, but she is just terrific as this fallen higher power. The small things like her voice cracking as she yells at Angel are what make this scene so powerful. There is so much rage and desperation in Jasmine that Torres portrays beautifully here.
The debate between Angel and Jasmine is very well written and the way that Fury makes Angel look like the bad guy is exceptional. Jasmine really has an excellent point here when she says, “look where free will has gotten you.” Angel thinks that free will is what makes people who they are, and perhaps that’s true, but is it really worth all the pain it causes? Jasmine doesn’t think so and that’s perfectly understandable. Jasmine wants to end the pain and adopts the policy that the end justifies the means. Thousands of people may have died because of her but she has also saved billions. She eradicated disease, poverty, war, hatred, jealousy, which are all just a part of human nature. Jasmine is possibly the opposite of Wolfram & Hart and yet Angel still fights her. She recognizes that “the world is doomed to drown in its own blood,” just like Holland Manners showed Angel, and she works so hard to try and fix this.
The only thing Angel can ever do is hope to save a few souls and help people one at a time. He knows he can never accomplish his goal but he tries anyway, even if it won’t truly accomplish anything substantial in the end. His resistance to Jasmine reveals just how much he values people’s ability to change and better themselves. He has worked hard to help other people change, like Faith, and he has also worked so much to try to change himself, and he views the act of seeking redemption and trying to become better as much more significant than any actual realization of that goal. Angel even tells Jasmine, “All we can do is try to make up for it.” This idea is crucial to the philosophy of the show, and these ideas are what propel Angel to his suicide mission in “Not Fade Away” [5×22].
Also, when Jasmine questions what Angel has done, he just responds that he did what he had to do. He denied paradise simply because he could, but at the same time, he is denying everyone else the choice. I have to wonder how many people in the world are in Connor’s shoes, so defeated and tired that they would rather choose the inability to choose as long as they lived in peace and happiness for the rest of their lives. Angel denies them of that choice, too, because of his own ideals. This all goes back to what Connor said earlier. Angel and his friends fight just to fight, like that’s the only thing that has meaning in their lives. To Angel, yes, maybe that is the purpose of his life. To fix the world in whatever way he can. Other people don’t have the will to do that.
I also think it’s interesting to note that throughout the episode, people refer to Angel as something that is less than human. The Guardian of the Word repeatedly calls Angel “dead thing” and Jasmine calls him “vampire.” Despite the fact that Angel isn’t truly living, he identifies himself as a part of humanity. After Angel says that free will is what makes people human, Jasmine shouts to him that he is not human, to which he replies, “Working on it.” Angel desperately wants to become a real person, and his connections with people and his desire to be better than who he is now helps him become one.
The concept of love is also brought up again and again throughout the episode, both as a follow-up to the events of “Sacrifice” [4×20] and as a precursor for “Home” [4×22]. The main idea that the episode tries to convey is that love is sacrifice, which was first brought up in “Sacrifice” [4×20]. Angel fights till his last breath in the other universe due to his love for Connor. He knows that Connor will never love him, but that is not why he fights. He fights expecting nothing in return. This idea carries over to Jasmine, as well, who claims that she loves this world and that she truly cares for it. She got rid of free will not to rule people, but instead to fix people. She even shouts, “I sacrificed everything I was to be with you.” Once again, love is sacrifice.
Jasmine’s outrage at the cruelty of the world is very similar to Dark Willow and her motivations at the end of Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her realization about how awful people can be to one another makes her believe that the only way she can make the world a better place is by getting rid of people altogether. To Jasmine, the answer to whether or not humans are worth the trouble they cause is a resounding no. Jasmine’s turn against humanity could have very easily been rushed or sloppy, but it instead feels perfectly reasonable and the episode almost forces the audience to sympathize with her. In some of the other episodes in this arc, the problem with Jasmine was that it was hard to see her as anything other than evil, especially once she began eating people. Here, however, her reasoning is very understandable and the pain that Gina Torres’ portrays helps make her a more three-dimensional villain.
The one major fault I have in this episode is Jasmine randomly kissing Angel during their fight. To me, this really brings their scene and their entire episode down. It really makes no sense to me and it is used as a way for the writers to help explain Connor’s turn on Jasmine. In my opinion, it was completely unnecessary. I think Connor’s motivations were clear and his turn very logical. The kiss was just gratuitous and another way to have Angel take away the person Connor loves. I absolutely hate that moment and it is the one glaring mistake in an otherwise incredibly strong episode.
Back to the good, though! At the end of the episode, we see how low Connor has really gotten. I don’t think he was lying when he told Jasmine that he still loves her, but I don’t think he believes that she loves him back. I think Connor loves many people and wants to believe in them, but after all he has been through, he just can’t. Deep down, I really believe that Connor still loves Angel, but he has been so hardened and torn away from people so many times that he can’t open himself up anymore. Whenever he does, it always ends in despair for Connor. I really love that Connor is the one that ends up killing Jasmine because it marks Connor killing the lie that he had been following. From now on, Connor is just done.
This is very clear when Connor runs away from an injured Angel screaming his name. He is no longer willing to try to connect with anyone else. Like Jasmine, he has witnessed the horrors of humanity and how the people that are supposed to be closest to you can still do horrible things and hurt you. Connor decides that the only way to fix the pain is to close off from the world; to stop caring. Angel even comments that “his face was just blank.” Connor has nothing left in the world and he feels like no one cares about him. He walks away from Angel and his last chance for a family in a situation eerily similar to the end of “Sleep Tight” [3×16], with Angel crawling on the ground and huge fire raging behind him. He gives up his family in the same way he was ripped away from his first one.
I also want to say that the cliffhanger in this episode is really great. I know that I was really shocked the first time I watched the episode and saw Lilah in the Hyperion. It’s great to see her return since she is one of the most interesting characters on the show and the idea that Angel has done exactly what Wolfram & Hart wanted is very intriguing and a great way to move into “Home” [4×22] and Season 5. What a great ending.
The rest of the characters, like Fred, Gunn, Wesley, and Lorne, unfortunately have very little to do throughout the episode. Fred has a chance to stand up to Jasmine early on in the episode, which is a great follow-up to “The Magic Bullet” [4×19] and Gunn has a strong moment where he successfully breaks them out of the cage saying, “Never give up. Never surrender.” Gunn’s statement harkens back to the idea that Angel Investigations will never stop fighting, no matter how tough it gets and no matter how pointless it seems. It is them against the entire world, but Gunn keeps fighting. The only other significant point for these four in the episode is their manipulation of Connor. They plant the seeds of doubt in Connor’s head about Jasmine and they effectively begin the end of his new life with her. Though it may be unintentional, Fred, Wesley, Lorne, and Gunn all contribute to Connor’s decision to give up on the world.
“Peace Out” [4×21] is an example of everything that Season 4 of Angel can accomplish when it is firing on all cylinders. It has a huge scope, a very suspenseful and tense ending, and also wonderful character development with great, sweeping themes. In some ways, it functions as the finale of Season 4 and with all the discussion on fate versus free will, it feels right. For a finale, it still could have worked a little better, but as an exploration of humanity, free will, and the price that they cost, it works beautifully.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ The parallel to “Sleep Tight” [3×16] in the final scene between Angel and Connor.
+ Angel trying to electrocute Jasmine.
+ The Keeper of the Name’s mouth being sewn shut.
+ The direction. The shot of Connor running out of the cathedral is stunning.
+ The reporter forgetting to ask her question because she was just so stunned that Jasmine knew her name.
+ Jasmine ordering the people to kill Angel right after she says she wants a peaceful world.
+ The sign on the cathedral saying, “God is nowhere. Jasmine is the way.”
– Beginning the episode with a peaceful LA and moving down to the chaos in the sewers. This feels a bit too on the nose.
– “Mmm. Time for my close-up.”
– The CGI for the other world that Angel visited; just awful.
– Jasmine channeling herself through the unconscious guards in order to reach Connor. It was too cheesy for me.
– How did Jasmine not realize that Connor had gotten to Cordelia sooner? Or did she just not care?
– Why would Jasmine keep Fred, Gunn, Lorne, and Wesley alive? They were just threats to her and she had no reason to save them.
– I know I mentioned it in the review, but it deserves to be repeated: Jasmine kissing Angel!
* Lorne saying, “That’s all folks,” just as he does at the end of Not Fade Away.
* The Guardian of the Word tells Angel that he will lose Connor and that he will never love him. This happens in “Home” [4×22], where Angel actually kills Connor.
* Angel fears that since Connor has given up, he could do something really bad, which he does in “Home” [4×22] when he takes a store full of people hostage.