Angel 4×22: Home

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Tim Minear | Director: Tim Minear | Aired: 05/07/2003]

Before I sat down to watch “Home” again for this review, I recalled having a largely positive impression of the episode. It contained no more Jasmine, Lilah’s return, a fun plot twist, Wesley being awesome, some pounding drama, and a bittersweet ending. What’s not to love? Well, after looking a lot more closely at it, there’s plenty not to love. Not to sound too disparaging I will say that I still love most of what’s on that list of positives I laid out. “Home” definitely offers plenty to enjoy. But, unfortunately, a deeper reading of the episode leaves me in a far more unsettled place than I originally anticipated.

With the exception of “Not Fade Away” [5×22], none of the season finales on Angel are particularly brilliant. Maybe Buffy spoiled my pants off, but every time I get to an Angel finale there’s always a bit of a letdown. “Home” juggles quite a few different threads, and not all them mesh together as well as I’d have liked. As interested as I am in what’s wrong with Connor, for example, his story here feels out of tone from everything going on over at Wolfram & Hart. I’d call this an example of my broadest issue with the episode. The real problems lie in the details though.

It all begins with a wonderful little segment that basks in Lilah’s brief return. It’s a treat how this scene is played. Now, with me being me, the first time I saw this scene I had actually the opposite reaction. It was something like, “oh come on! Keep dead people dead, please!” Now my feelings lie somewhere in between. Personally, I never cared for the whole Wolfram & Hart perpetuity clause, as it always rubbed me as a cheap way for the writers to bring back past dead characters any time they wanted to. Fortunately this has been used only sparingly (Holland Manners and now Lilah, if I recall), and the dead don’t seem to stick around for very long it seems, but it still takes me out of emotional reality of the world the writers are trying to create. They really should have stuck with the Buffy law that you can’t bring back people — as they were — that died a natural (i.e. non-supernatural) death. If you tried, they’d come back as deformed visages of what they used to be, or simply zombies (a la Zombie Joyce in “Forever”).

This objection aside, I did enjoy this sequence, and am pleased with what they do with one last opportunity to utilize Lilah. It’s, necessarily, a little bit exposition heavy, but the gang’s reaction to what Lilah has to say combined with her usual biting wit comes off as a breath of fresh air after all the apocalyptic plot-heavy chaos that often plagued Season 4. I just love the complete and utter disbelief — the minute of silence — that is their reaction to the news that Wolfram & Hart has offered them their Los Angeles branch.

Despite how fun and wacky the concept of this is, and I do enjoy it on that level, I have to take a moment to think about whether this makes a lick of sense from a story and character perspective. The truth is, I’m just not convinced that Wolfram & Hart would actually do this, nor am I convinced Angel’s team would agree to it. It feels far more like a writer’s move rather than something that seems necessitated by the characters and their respective journeys. When Fred eventually tip-toes out of the hotel towards the limo and meets up with everyone else, I just don’t feel that this is something these people would be seriously considering.

Now, I understand that some of them have a good reason to take the tour. Angel is hopelessly looking for Connor and Cordelia, Wesley’s trying to free Lilah from her eternal prison, Gunn’s unsure of who he is altogether and seems simply curious and, well, both Lorne and Fred aren’t really characters with enough depth to them for me to even speculate as to what their motives could be. With the possible exception of Gunn, none of these motives are reasons to actually stay there beyond the tour. Take the tour and try to use the situation to their advantage? Sure. But actually agree to the deal? Come on. Not that anyone explicitly agrees to the deal – Angel does that for them. Lots more on that later!

Season 4 was filled with melodrama that only rarely felt earned. It’s my understanding that at this time in the show’s run there were a lot of external pressures on the show to keep it on air. One of the compromises for a fifth season was to accept a budget cut and to make the show more stand-alone. Knowing this while listening to Lilah’s offer causes me to, unfortunately, see the writers’ hand far too clearly in the story. Did Angel need a change of pace and location after all the craziness of the last couple seasons? Sure, I can see several good arguments for that. But this particular move felt too calculated for me, despite some of the great things that came out of the concept in Season 5. With all that said, I do love the idea that Wolfram & Hart says ‘thanks’ to the gang for ending Jasmine’s happy slave state, which puts them in a very awkward and funny spot.

It turns out that the core of “Home,” from a character standpoint, is very representative of my feelings on the show as a whole up to this point. Let’s do a brief rundown on how each major character is treated by the episode. To start with, we’ve got Fred and Lorne. Fred gets tempted by an offer to lead a cutting-edge science laboratory. She meets Knox, and that’s about all Fred has to do in the episode. Lorne? Well, he gets lured away by a bunch of famous people on a list, and then ends the episode singing joyously about wanting to work for Wolfram & Hart. Do I have a good grasp on Lorne and Fred as people right now? Not in the slightest. Both characters have been under-developed for the past two seasons, and I can certainly feel the effect of that here.

What about Gunn? Well, Gunn’s whole journey in this episode is specifically about the fact that both he and the writers don’t know what to do with him. Wesley? Well, per usual, we get a complex character doing something both exciting and nuanced. And then we have Angel, who is doing what he feels is right and making giant decisions for everyone around him without their knowledge or consent. All of that is true in “Home,” and all of that is true up to this point in the series. This is all to say that I consistently wish Angel handled its characters better overall, because they’ve all got a lot of potential but are all too rarely given juicy development to work with. But enough generalizations already; let’s get into the thick of the details. I’ll start with Gunn, migrate to Wesley, and then wrap up with Connor and Angel.

When Gunn goes on ‘the tour’ with his flirty guide he’s about as clueless as the audience is in why Wolfram & Hart have any particular interest in him. At one point they walk by a security office and it’s not surprising that this is where Gunn thinks his stop is. Throughout the season he has consistently looked at himself as only “the muscle.” He doesn’t seem to think he’s good at much of anything else, and that’s something I don’t think is true. We’ve seen glimpses of him breaking out of that mold and being comfortable with himself. Seeing him all dressed up and enjoying the ballet back in “Waiting in the Wings” [3×13] and blending in nicely at an upper scale party in “Players” [4×16] both showed (among other examples) that he has a lot of potential to be much more, if that’s what he really wants for himself. As Gwen says to him in “Players” [4×16], “I need a suave guy who can handle himself in a tight spot,” and the episode then proves he’s capable of becoming that all by his lonesome. I don’t mind Gunn’s central character issue, but it’s just so rarely developed and he’s got nothing else going for him. Even sadder is that even he thinks he’s not cut out for more without special help, and that’s truly unfortunate.

To me, the reasoning behind this is mostly attributed to the fact that the writers never really had a handle on the character and are simply at loss with what to do with him. When looking back on his entire journey from “War Zone” [1×20] onward, all that’s really there is ‘letting go of his old neighborhood to fight for a vampire’ and ‘am I just the muscle?’ A fairly superficial relationship with Fred and a consistent bitterness with Wesley over that relationship are thrown in as distractions, but the underlying simplicity of his character arc cannot by hidden, and I think the writers knew this. What they do with him in Season 5 is a cheap way to shake up the character. While I don’t particularly like how the writers got Gunn to this place, I won’t deny that his Season 5 arc is far more compelling than anything he’s been given before.

Gunn’s scene in the White Room is at least somewhat interesting though. I mean, it’s very light on content, but I like the sort of spiritual calm that comes over him as he comes to an understanding with whatever power exists there. I also appreciate the foreshadowing of Gunn being more at internal war than ever before when we see a reflection of him in each eye of the ‘big cat.’ In Season 5, we’ll see Gunn literally fighting himself in that very White Room. Here in “Home,” though, nothing of his future is tangible.

Wesley, on the other hand, is nothing but tangible. He has tangible motives and a tangible end to his relationship with Lilah. The one thing that’s not so tangible is why he accepts Angel’s decision that they all work at Wolfram & Hart, particularly after Lilah spent several episodes trying to lure Wesley to work for the company to no avail not too long ago. I guess I’ll just have to chalk it up to the newfound memory loss. Thanks, Angel! His reason for taking the tour, though, is quite moving and true to character. Even before the tour, actually, as the quick barbs between them return almost immediately. Lilah tells him, “it’s okay lover, I never felt a thing.” Wesley’s response, “I’m sure that’s true,” actually causes a faint hint of hurt in Lilah’s eyes signifying that it’s, in fact, probably not true, at least in regard to their relationship.

During the tour Wesley meets Sirk, who he quickly deduces is a former Watcher before punching him out so he can sneak his way to the Wolfram & Hart archives to find Lilah’s contract. I love his single-minded determination to help Lilah and, of course, his overall awesomeness. When he finally makes it there and finds the contract, the two of them share one final corker of a scene together. Wesley discovers that he can’t destroy the contract — it’s self-replicating and eternal! Crap!

The pain on both of their faces at this reality really gets to me. Lilah was genuinely moved that Wesley attempted this and, for a change, isn’t coy about that fact. A more subtle point underlying what Wesley discovers turns out to also be a consistent theme in the Buffyverse: actions have consequences. As Lilah said, she knew what she was signing up for. Now she must accept the consequences of her poor choices in life. Although I find Lilah an interesting character and was really rooting for one of those gradual shifts to the brighter side of the moral landscape, I can’t ignore the choices she made and the evils she committed — all, may I remind you, as a human being with a soul. Does she ‘deserve’ the severity of punishment she’s going to be getting? Well, that’s not for me to decide. But, while I’m sad her life got cut short before she had the opportunity to turn things around, I can’t say she didn’t know what she was getting herself into.

I will truly miss the notable presence Lilah had on the show and, particularly, her ever-evolving and fascinating relationship with Wesley. That was one hell of a combination, and one I frankly wouldn’t have minded seeing a lot more of. Have I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of the decision to let Cartoon Cordelia kill her? Sigh. This scene is the high point of the episode for me – I love it unconditionally.

Although ‘All Things Wesley’ is always the preferred place to be on Angel, I have to admit that the end of Connor’s story was actually quite moving too. In “Peace Out” [4×21] Angel tells the gang, re Connor, that “I’ve never seen him like this. He wasn’t hurt or angry, he just… killed her. And his face, it—it was just blank, like he had nothing left.” The Jasmine arc is the last straw — or lie — for Connor’s life as it was. It all comes crashing down on him in the pain that is all too abundant in this world of ours. Free will has never felt so horrible for these characters. All of this is, of course, setup for what Connor does here in “Home.”

There’s an interesting little scene slipped in early with a cop on a rooftop. This guy is overwhelmed by the loss of Jasmine’s love, and initially Connor shows him sympathy. But after Connor tells him to go home, the officer remembers he had a family and pulls out a photo of them. This moment is effective in two ways. First, it symbolizes the terrifying scope of Jasmine’s influence. This man appears to have entirely forgotten about his family in Jasmine’s wake. Second, it ignites Connor, who has been trying to hold onto any kind of genuine connection his entire life. So it makes sense why he is repeatedly agitated at the slightest hint of a false gesture of affection between people.

I want to take a moment here to say that the Jasmine arc has some intriguing things to say in regard to the concept of free will, the nature of humanity, and organized religion. My thoughts on these messages are complex and far reaching, but wholly out of place in a discussion of “Home.” I’ll just say that while I think Whedon makes a lot of good points, I don’t entirely agree with all of his conclusions. That’s definitely a discussion for one of the Jasmine episodes, or the forums.

Connor’s centerpiece scene, all season really, is between him and Angel in that sports store. This also happens to be the emotional centerpiece of the entire episode. When I first saw that Connor was in a sports store of all places, it felt extremely out of place. This just isn’t the sort of setting I’m used to seeing on Angel and, at first glance, it’s a pretty strange place to have a dramatic stand-off with hostages rigged with explosives. But then I started thinking about it a little more and realized that maybe it’s actually the perfect place for Connor’s old life to end. This place represents everything Connor never got the option to have. It reminds him what his life has been like, even back in our dimension: no consistent family unit; no games; no sports; no hope; no light; no future. This kid has had a horrible life on the scale of which is genuinely hard for me to even imagine. And without any consistent friend or family that’s been looking out for him, who’s going to be there to help him when he needs it?

Now, I truly do believe that Angel wants to be there for Connor, and always has. But it’s just too late, or so Connor believes (I personally believe it’s never too late to turn things around). There has just been too much deception; too many betrayals; too much fighting; too much chaos for him to believe in a bright future for himself. As much as I like to occasionally question the acting and the writing around Connor, I don’t question the fact that I still feel for what he’s gone through, and sympathize with his situation. One question to ask is ‘why rig Cordelia with explosives too?’ I think the answer to that boils down to the fact that, even though real Cordelia wasn’t in the driver’s seat, Connor still feels betrayed by her — that she somehow allowed all this to happen, wasn’t by his side like she promised, and that maybe her proclaimed love for him was also a lie.

This whole background is what makes the conversation between Connor and Angel so emotionally charged for me. At first Angel thinks this is all just Connor being devastated over Jasmine’s false love, but it turns out the situation is far worse than that. Connor not only knew about Jasmine’s true identity from the start, but he also felt absolutely none of that magical Apple-style love that washed over everyone else. Rather than looking at this pragmatically — after all, he is her ‘father’ and that’s probably why he could see her true nature — Connor takes it personally, thinking that he’s not even capable of feeling love. That’s also what makes his little jab at Angel all the more pointed: “Heh. I guess I really am your son. ‘Cause I’m dead too.” Ouch.

When Angel tries to apologize for not being there during Connor’s upbringing, Connor angrily yells back “do not say you’re sorry!” More telling, though, is the somber and knowing follow-up, “it doesn’t fix anything.” It’s clear that Connor accepts Angel’s apology — it just doesn’t have meaning anymore. Connor claims that Angel didn’t love him enough to prevent Holtz from taking him away, and this is where Connor steps into self-indulgent territory. It’s still totally understandable, but it’s also entirely unfair to Angel, particularly with the way time moves differently in hell dimensions. There’s really not much else Angel could have done to prevent the outcome that happened.

Connor goes on to say that “there’s only one thing that ever changes anything. And that’s death.” While that’s a pretty fatalistic viewpoint, it’s one that has some legitimacy, at least for those left behind. It often takes great pain, tragedy, and sometimes even death to get people to really evaluate their lives – mind, body, and soul, and the choices therein — and to actually make active changes for the better. Sometimes, even those changes are fleeting. It takes someone of strong character to really look inside, identify the damaging influences, and then make a change that sticks. I don’t believe it has to be death that sparks this process, but for some people it often does.

Connor’s right when he says that “you can’t be saved by a lie.” One of life’s biggest struggles is building a family around you that genuinely cares about you and your well-being. Some people don’t get that out-of-the-box, from their blood relatives, like they should, and that’s truly a shame. In these situations, it’s important to build a surrogate family of good friends and colleagues to lean on and, hopefully, one day have the strength to build a strong family of their own and break the cycle of loneliness, abuse, and neglect, thereby starting a new family tradition that will last generations. But, sadly, Connor has given up.

When Connor asks Angel to “prove” his love by killing him, and Angel appears to do it, I’m a bit torn. I get the impression that Angel has already made the deal with Wolfram & Hart to give Connor new memories and a different family. If he hadn’t yet, then that would put this moment in a very different light. But did Connor have to ‘die’ to get the spell to work? Did Angel just do it to grant his son one final wish? Regardless, I think Angel believed he was doing this to save Connor, despite the fact that what we see at the end of the episode isn’t the Connor we – or even Angel — knew. This is a truly bittersweet end to Connor’s life as we knew it. For Connor, it’s pretty much entirely bitter though, as only Angel gets any satisfaction out the deal. Kudos to both actors in this scene though — they really nailed it.

And now we move onto Angel. Oh Angel. I think what best sums up my thoughts about Angel in “Home” is what he says early on to Gunn: “You want to get into that limo when it gets here? That’s up to you. It’s not a decision I can make for you, for any of you, but know this: before the ride’s even over, before you even cross through their doors, you’ll be corrupted.” Now let’s fast forward to the end of the episode: “I already took it. Executive decision.” Really, Angel? Really? But wait, it gets worse! Fred then asks, “Who’s Connor?” Angel talks a big talk, but when push comes to shove he really seems to have no problem with doing just that: making executive decisions for other people. Whether it’s something he forces onto someone — remember what he did to Buffy in “I Will Remember You” [1×08] — or something he does that significantly impacts the lives of those closest to him, Angel shows a consistent disregard of their opinion and, how ironic is this, their free will.

As is quickly becoming obvious, I have some major issues with Angel’s behavior in this episode, and they are issues that run through who Angel is at his core. I’m not sure whether to rejoice or recoil from the fact that he is being entirely in character while doing what he does in this episode. I’m just getting started on picking apart Angel, but I will say that “Home” still manages to elicit genuine sympathy for him in his plight to help Connor from his own self destruction, and that this plight does help inform the motivation behind this particular decision. But there’s a big gap between something being understandable and something being acceptable.

First, though, let’s back up a bit and discuss Lilah’s sales pitch to Angel. One thing that concerned me a bit was to hear Lilah giving Angel the same speech, almost word-for-word, that he gave Connor back in “Deep Down” [4×01]. How in the heck would Lilah know what Angel told his son in private? This rubbed off as far too writerly for my tastes. Lilah’s argument, though, that the world doesn’t need an “unyielding champion,” but rather someone who can compromise and beat the system from “within the belly of the beast,” is certainly a compelling one, but one that all-too obviously can’t be trusted. I appreciate the setup and how this very argument thematically sets up the first half of Season 5.

Angel didn’t take the tour to discuss the finer points of how he can do the most good, though, and Lilah knows it. He wants intel on where Connor and Cordelia are, but it turns out that the intel finds him. Seeing Connor on that screen holding up a store is not a surprise at this point to us, but it’s still a bit of a shocker to Angel. Although we don’t know for sure what Angel means until the end of the episode when he says “I will never be a part of this. Not the way you’re hoping. Now let me tell you what the deal’s gonna be,” it’s really here, with Lilah, that he makes the giant decision for Connor and all of the people he claims to be friends. Let me just express how utterly unacceptable this is — repugnant even. I totally get Angel’s motivation here — to give Connor a clean slate, to have the best chance at reviving Cordelia, and maybe even buying into the thought that he can actually impart change from within — but was wiping everyone’s memory of Connor, and the associated events that happened around him, really necessary? Did Lilah demand this, or did Angel request it? It is total overkill and entirely unnecessary either way.

There are people out there who talk about how offensive it was over on Buffy that the monks that created Dawn altered the memories of everyone they needed to so they could insert her into Buffy’s life and protect the Key. I agree that what those monks did was reprehensible, even if the motives behind it were also understandable. But there’s a huge difference between what those guys — who are not, note, the lead character of the show — did and what Angel does here. With Dawn, the Scoobies’ memories were tampered with, yes, but they are added to rather than fundamentally changed. Everyone discovered what the truth was within a few episodes of everything changing, too, whereas here on Angel we’re looking at people who are fundamentally different than the people we knew before Connor was ripped out of their memories. Wesley, for example, isn’t even remotely the same person he was before this happened. He’s effectively reverted back to the person he was before “Sleep Tight” [3×16], which was well over a year before.

With the Dawn comparison, no information about their lives was lost. Everything that happened on Buffy up until Dawn’s arrival still happened — every emotion; every event. New memories were simply added on top of what was already there to create a place for Dawn in their home and hearts. This is fundamentally different than what Angel does here with Connor. Angel’s team aren’t the same people they were anymore. That’s the big difference. And it’s a huge one, not only for the characters, but for the show as a whole. We now have to essentially re-learn who these people are next season. Our connection with all of them, sans Angel, is shattered. This bothers me quite significantly. Is it in character for Angel? Absolutely. Is it a horrible move for the show? Yes.

All of this makes me look at Angel as a person in far less esteem, and it creates problems for the start of Season 5. The first time I saw the scene at the very end of the episode, it struck me as bittersweet. But now, I find it a little more on the disturbing side. Seeing Connor as a well-adjusted kid looking forward to his future, with a loving family around him, is a real joy to see, no doubt. But this feeling quickly fades by realizing that the person inside that home that looks like Connor isn’t actually Connor — it’s some construct made by a demon that is in Connor’s body. As if we haven’t seen enough of that this season. Maybe something of Connor’s original self, or soul, is still locked away in there, but don’t mistake Angel’s actions as a gift to Connor – he did this for himself.

In a way, Angel ends up proving Connor’s point that the only truth is death. Angel’s living a lie with this fantasy in which he can be at peace over Connor. I really want to be there with Angel, smiling at the happy family dinner scene, which itself is a direct reference to his hallucinated dinner scene in “Deep Down” [4×01]. I think Angel really believes that he’s done some noble thing for Connor, and that he’s the one that has to suffer exclusion from this happy family. But, in reality, is this moment not simply another hallucination? I think it is, personally, and it betrays Connor’s most basic wish in life: to end the constant lies. It’s not until “Origin” [5×18] where reality gets to come crashing back down and we get our characters back with their original memories and will intact. It’s not until then that all these lies are finally rectified. And how ironic is it that it will be Wesley that will be the one to do it. God, I feel so very bad for Wesley, who is almost certainly the biggest victim of Angel’s actions.

To bring this to a close, I’ll say that I enjoyed most of “Home.” There were some great character beats, the Wolfram & Hart twist is wacky fun albeit not entirely believable, and it certainly gave me a truckload to think about. On the other hand, Angel drove me up a wall while Fred, Gunn, and Lorne were left out to dry. I may find Angel’s motivations understandable, and I may sympathize with his helplessness to make things right for Connor, but I find his memory wipe decision really tough to swallow. “Home” is a solid book-end thematically to what was stirred up in “Deep Down” [4×01], and it serves as a decent end to a crazy season, but at the end of the day it just doesn’t quite pull it all together for me.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ That panning shot across Lilah’s upper face when Angel says “she’s still dead” is fabulously creepy.
+ How Stephanie Romanov plays that “lifetime” line in the opening. Hilarity perfectionized!
+ It’s nice to see Gunn showing Wesley a little sympathy over seeing Lilah again.
+ The way Fred hugs that assault rifle like it’s a teddy bear is quite amusing.
+ Although obviously convenient for the Angel production team, I still really love the necro-tempered glass.

– I know Whedon loves to reuse actors, and I love that loyalty, and Jonathan Woodward is a fine actor, but casting him as Knox — a recurring character — on a show that shares the same universe as Buffy, where he very memorably appeared as Holden Webster in “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07] during the same year is just too much suspension of disbelief for me. He sounds the same, looks the same, and I just don’t buy it.
– Fred walking into the science lab and seeing what looks like a freaking portal opening up, and instead of jumping a little she gives off an excited “WOW.” Not the best use of continuity there.


[Score]

80/100

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49 thoughts on “Angel 4×22: Home”

  1. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    Great review. But that’s not what’s surprising. (I’ve read the rest of your reviews, after all.) I’m more struck by how exactly you match my own views on this episode. The good, the bad and the Angel. I particularly agree with your views on Gunn, Lorne and Fred. Okay, and Wesley. And Angel. Did I mention how you matched my views exactly?

    To be fair some of the problems aren’t just this episode’s fault: if the first half of season 5 had done a better job of exploring why Fred and Lorne joined and if the effects of the memory-wipe had been addressed in-depth and consistently a lot of the issues here would’ve vanished. I think that’s why I enjoyed this episode more the first time I watched it; I still expected this stuff to be sorted out. That’s why retrospective reviews makes sense, though.

    One final note on Lilah, since I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t comment on her scenes with Wesley: One of the things I appreciate most about her is how she is an unapologetic villain who yet is a layered human being. It’s a somewhat unusual character-type, particularly for female villains. And nowhere does this show better than in this episode.

    Wesley finally lets on that he cares about her, finally admits it to her face (albeit not in so many words) and it means the world to her. But… not only is he unable to save her, she doesn’t -want- to be saved. Doesn’t need to be. She’s exactly where she intended to end up all along. Does she deserve an eternity of servitude to Wolfram & Hart? I’d say she does, since she chose it with open eyes and never regretted that choice. (Also, I’d like to believe that for W&H lawyers “hell” doesn’t involve any suffering as long as they’re useful to their masters.)

    In a way she and Wesley are just as uncompromising in their commitment to their causes. Of course, Wesley’s cause is altruistic and hers is anything but. It shows how they both fitted so well together, and why their relationship couldn’t work in the long run barring one of them changing completely.

    But all that aside, it’s the single most bitter-sweet and beautiful moment on either series to me. Okay, that’s partially my bias talking since I can come up with a dozen contending scenes from the top of my head. But to me, this one takes the cake.

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  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    Amazing review, Mike. I was dying to read your review on this episode and you nailed it. The good and the bad aspects, although I must admit that you´ve opened my eyes to some of its bad aspects, something that I´ve never thought about or maybe I just didn´t want to admit to its flaws because I love this episode so much and so it has made me blind to those flaws.

    I agree with your views on Gunn, Wesley/Lilah (simply the best!), Angel and Connor. I also agree that we never get to see the reasons why Fred and Lorne joined and how underused they were this season.

    I also have to point out that I really don´t like the beginning of season 5 and what it regresses the characters which I see now it all comes back to this episode and the memory wipe.

    Thanks, Mike, for a great review and for opening my eyes more!!

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  3. [Note: StakeandCheese posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    I agree with everything except the grade. I guess I just find the fact that Angel is not a totally sympathetic protagonist interesting rather than disturbing.

    I also agree that Wesley was the biggest casualty of the mind wipe. By the end of S4 he had finally accepted himself and escapes his hero complex, only for Angel to reverse over a year of growth and revert him to the same man who saw it as his duty to Connor for the greater good without telling anyone, because it was his burden to bear. The man who would smash the Orlon Window without hesitation. Rather than being annoyed that Wesley lost all this growth, I found it fascinating to see him try to cope with being “de-developed” I guess that’s why I still like it in retrospect. I would probably give it an A- because, while it has it’s flaws, it is a great episode that effectively sets up my favorite season of Angel.

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  4. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    I like it too that Angel is a controlling kind of character to the point of it being disturbing. I like the idea of the memory-wipe, or would have if it had caused more actual conflict and been fully explored in season 5.

    However, I’d still knock this score down because of what Mike describes as the heavy hand of plot-requirement visibly steering the characters. The episode never manages to sell me on Lorne, Fred and especially Wesley joining. It very much feels like they -have- to agree because that’s where next season needs them to be. That’s definitely enough to call this episode “flawed” because character-consistency is my (and I think Mike’s) number one requirement for a story.

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  5. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    I don’t mind so much that Angel’s actions are deeply problematic, Stake, although it’s probably not my favorite move for a lead character in a season finale, but more so that it effectively regressed other characters in their development. If it was just Angel being problematic and not spoiling development for other characters, it wouldn’t be nearly as bothersome to me as it is, at least on a meta level. Also, like Iguana said, Season 5 doesn’t end up adequately confronting this serious issue, which makes “Home” left holding the problem bag. Throw in the plot and tone issues I had with the episode, and the score gets dragged down to a low B.

    In a nutshell: What Iguana just said.

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  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    Oh, and thanks for the comments everyone! This review was a tricky one, so I’m glad it seems to have come together well. 🙂

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  7. [Note: StakeandCheese posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    I always assumed that Lorne, Fred and Wes joining Wolfram and Hart was some sort of mind-juju (to use a technical term), not their own free will. I guess it’s a YMMV thing for the effects of the de-development, I thought it was handled fairly well in Origin as Wesley ponders the ramifications of the mindwipe. Gunn, Fred and Lorne hadn’t really received enough development for it to feel like a step back for me. (of course that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms). To me, one of the most compelling parts of Season 5 is Wesley trying to deal with being undeveloped, and that couldn’t have happened without “Home” (And neither, in my opinion, could Wesley and Illyria’s relationship, if S4 Wesley got over Lilah, he would have been able to get over Fred).

    but hey, to each his own.

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  8. [Note: Brachen Man posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    The thing is, while it’s true that what Angel did was nigh-unforgivable, Wolfram & Hart are still the ones who manipulated everything. They knew that after the last episode Angel was at such a low point, and they could’ve made any bargain with him they wanted because he was just that broken. I don’t think Angel would’ve gone out and sought these people had Lilah not presented the offer.

    Don’t mistake this as me defending Angel. I still think he should’ve been strong enough to realize that he was being given blatant lies. I also called his actions ‘nigh-unforgivable’ up there. I think the writers wrote Angel as accepting the offer out of convenience and not out of truth to character.

    To say that Wesley’s scene with Lilah was the best in the episode is giving it too little credit. Alexis Denisof did everything in this season so masterfully that I don’t know why he didn’t get his own show.

    One last note. While I still disagree with the actions of the monks on Buffy being acceptable in any way, at least I get to have the knowledge that Mike finally called something from season 5 reprehensible. 😀

    Like

  9. [Note: StakeandCheese posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    Brachen, are the monks’ actions unacceptable because of their violation of everybody’s minds, or because they brought Dawn into existence?

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  10. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 2, 2012.]

    Fab review, Mike! You’ve now inspired me to get on and write my review of Conviction. I agree with everyone who’s said that the real problem with the mind-wipe is how it’s handled in the next season. This episode definitely seems different when viewed for the second time, when you’ve already seen Season 5, because at this point it still seems like the consequences of the mind-wipe are going to be explored fully later.

    I didn’t have a problem with Lorne’s motives for joining. He’s not really the most well-developed character, but it seemed plausible to me that he’d be rather tempted by the possibility of meeting all his favourite starlets. That, and the fact that he used to run a bar which equally welcomed humans, demons and even W&H laywers is enough to convince me that he’d be able to keep an open mind about the whole thing.

    But I do have more trouble explaining why Fred and Wesley would agree to it. It’s true that they’re both lured in with the possibility of getting back to what they love doing. Fred’s given her big shiny laboratory where she can get back to her physicist roots, and Wesley’s shown an enormous library where he can put his Watcher training to good use. So it’s not completely implausible, but I tend to agree with Stake that it feels like there’s some ‘mind juju’ going on.

    And as for the appearance of Lilah – I’m going to have to disagree with you, Mike. I love the Wolfram and Hart perpetuity clause. It’s such a horrible creepy idea. When you work for W&H, not only can you not quit your job, you can’t even escape by dying. It only works because it’s not abused, though. If Lilah had started popping up as a recurring character in Season 5 then I would have had a problem with it. But used now and again, I find it really effective. Having said that, I do have to agree that having Wesley appear in After the Fall as a ghost (or whatever he is) takes away from the impact of his death – or at least it would do, if I didn’t take the comic continuations with a giant pinch of salt. I also agree that the scene with Wesley, Lilah and the burning contract is one of the best in the entire series.

    Great job, as usual, Mike! What are you reviewing next?

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  11. [Note: StakeandCheese posted this comment on March 2, 2012.]

    My biggest problem with Wesley being in the comics was that I don’t believe that the Fang Gang would sign contracts with a standard perpetuity clause

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  12. [Note: Runawaymarbles posted this comment on March 4, 2012.]

    Can I just say that you summed up my feelings on the Dawn vs Connor situation perfectly? (And reminded me again how much I dislike Angel. XD)

    Now excuse me, I’ll be off re-watching the scene with Wesley and Lilah

    Like

  13. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on March 5, 2012.]

    Also the last scene between Connor and Angel is stunning!

    Angel throws the knife in Connor’s leg.

    He then grabs him (see screenshot).

    Angel: “I really do love you, Connor.”

    Connor: “So what are you gonnna do about it?”

    Angel: “Prove it.”

    Angel then cuts him.

    Like

  14. [Note: peter posted this comment on March 20, 2012.]

    Since the reviewer said that the memory wipe makes people forget the events surrounding conner , would that mean everything wes did (kidnapping conner etc) he would forget and everyone bar angel would forget about the beast and jasmine ? and what about gunn killing that professor

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  15. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 20, 2012.]

    Does Wes forget about kidnapping Connor? All evidence in Season 5 points to ‘yes’ (I think his neck scar from Justine even disappears). How the whole Jasmine debacle went down, or if it even did at all in their memories, is fairly murky and not touched on well at all next season. Stuff that was more tangential to Connor, like that professor, I *think* still happened. But, in the end, it is never clearly explained precisely which important memories were retained and which were removed. Only the major events that Connor was directly involved in are confirmed to be gone, at least that I can tell (based on what I can remember at the moment at least).

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  16. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 20, 2012.]

    Peter, I don’t think there’s a definitive answer as far as who forgets what. Wesley (and the others) must have forgotten about Connor’s kidnapping, since they don’t remember Connor. But it’s never made clear how much they remember about Jasmine and how she was defeated. They definitely remember something about her, since she’s referenced in You’re Welcome, but interestingly she’s never actually mentioned by name. There are a couple of moments where people possibly seem a bit confused when they talk about the past couple of years, but to me there’s nothing obvious enough to indicate how much they’ve really forgotten.

    My interpretation is that they remember everything that’s happened over the past few years, but with Connor edited out of it. So Gunn would remember killing the professor, since that didn’t directly involve Connor. But Wesley wouldn’t remember kidnapping Connor. But then that throws up some awkward questions, such as: does Wesley remember being ostracised from the group? And if he does, why does he think it happened? I don’t think we’ll ever be able to answer that, which is one of my biggest issues with Season 5.

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  17. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 21, 2012.]

    Ha, you got there just a few minutes before me Mike, and we said pretty much the exact same thing.

    The only episode where I remember Jasmine being mentioned is You’re Welcome, and she’s not discussed in enough detail to make it obvious how much they remember. Angel says something about ‘the thing that possessed Cordelia’, and Cordelia says ‘I hope you kicked its ass for me’, at which point there’s a bit of an uncomfortable silence which prompts Cordy to ask ‘is everyone OK?’. That silence could be a) because they’re still feeling a bit conflicted about the whole ‘ending world peace’ thing, or b) because Angel’s remember of Connor (who did the ass-kicking) or c) because Wesley can’t quite remember how Jasmine was defeated, and Angel’s feeling awkward about the memory wipe. Who knows?

    Then later, Wesley and Cordelia talk about Lilah’s death, and Wesley says ‘you didn’t kill Lilah’, indicating that he still remembers at least the fact that Cordelia was possessed by something. But there’s no confirmation that he remembers Jasmine explicitly, or how she was defeated.

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  18. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on June 4, 2012.]

    I’m not sure that some of the shoe-horning and character motivation obviousness and oddness isn’t actually the writer(s) mocking the production process, the studio and the audience somewhat;

    “Gee, see what a relief this is after all that blood and thunder before? (And it really, really is) Look, look at the flash-ey (not flashy). Look how the studio – oops, I mean Wolfram and Hart, view our fabulous and complex characters! Laugh and wail – as we do!”

    Especially as Minear (grand teller of the tall commentary and one of my favourites on the show) likes to rib on Joss for the goalpost change going into S5.

    This ep definitely DOES play like a pilot for S5 (including that it’s fresh, and funny) and something of a line is drawn between it and the seasons before. If there had been the expected S6 then a lot of the criticism might be invalid – who knows, the shadow knows.

    Ah well, I absolutely agree… to some extent – well, that is Fred; Magic Bullet.

    After that episode there is no way in hell (ha) that she would high-step so gleeful into the belly of the beast, no matter how shiny the lab or doe-eyed the assistant.

    Wes: I can buy his desire for closure and straight up lying to one and all with the intent to get in and out and not hang around, would have gotten away with it too… but then cometh the pesky mind wipe*. And we do get Lilah, which make up for the manner of her dispatch and is the best season-upping reappearance since Giles in BtVS S6.

    Yes, what Angel does here is genuinely very disturbing (as in wrong) – but then his rationale and actions often are (Wesley ditto).

    These days though, (post BtVS S8) I just can’t bring myself to care. What I do care about is David Boreanaz here actually not channelling the Shatner for once and putting in one of his best performances as Angel, certainly for S4 and probably up until You’re Welcome (though his whole fifth season style benefits from being Marsters-charged).

    As per – this was another fine review you sucked me into! Can’t fault it, just have a few opinions on the episode (which is one that I love and don’t really know why,) that I wanted to whine about, and having done so…

    *Hand Waves*

    *Given the late-date cancellation it’s amazing that S5 explores the consequences at all, testament to the real effort by the staff to tie up as much as possible. (Can be a bumpy ride witness Dollhouse season two).

    Like

  19. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on June 8, 2012.]

    Curse you and your horribly insightful and addictive website(s) and reviews! 😀

    i’m also glad that you mustered the Scoobs to finish reviewing the series here in Ryan’s absence

    Like

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

    I’m obviously just catching up but I also wanted to comment on this review.

    Lilah. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. And I totally believe she actually loved Wesley despite what both of them said. How I wish she’d show back up in the comics.

    Speaking of comics……Comics spoilers ahead….don’t read if you don’t like…..

    Connor’s faux memories have taken another hit. When Buffy destroyed the Seed at the end of S8, magic was lost. We learned in the most recent comic that Connor’s memories were lost and are now like a movie he watched but not his life. And the Reilly’s lost the memories completely (although debatable, the current thinking is they do remember Connor but not his childhood).

    ………..end of comic spoilers……………….

    I also loved the final scene between Angel and Connor. The DVD commentary indicated it was an intense shoot. I think it really shows in the performances. My pet theory on why Connor got a new life is that Whedon realized that really, he probably tortured Connor more than any other child character…. perhaps he felt he owed Connor a happy life since the one we saw on screen was so utterly miserable.

    Great review as always.

    Like

  21. [Note: Jen posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    I just finished watching it. I totally agree with you on the point that Angel’s action is kind of ironic. He gives Jasmine the big speech about taking away people’s free will and choices, and here he is doing exactly the same thing to his son and his friends. Poor Wes, suffer that much for nothing. I don’t know if he does this only because he wants to feel better or for letting Connor to have a better life. However it is a bit selfish to me though.

    On the whole, I don’t like season 4 really. The plot just doesn’t work for me. Too much chaos and sick things. And the triangle of Angel, Connor and Cordelia, can this be sicker. First of all, the Angel and Cordelia thing is just not right for the series. I just can feel that there is romantic love between these two. And then I don’t understand how Connor falls for Cordelia just like that. Not to mention he knows there is something going on between his father and this woman. Well, it’s just opinion though.

    BTW, great review! Very insightful and profound. I really like your words that analyze the scenes where W&H tries to sell the deal to the characters.

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  22. [Note: Anne posted this comment on September 28, 2012.]

    Thanks for such a great review! I think all of your assessments were very fair and thought through, and I loved hearing you go into so much depth on the Connor-Angel relationship, especially pointing out that Angel has, in essence, changed Connor’s entire life into one big lie, despite Connor’s desperation for truth. Great points comparing Dawn and Connor, as well. The things you mentioned about the behind-the-scenes issues with writers and show renewal do seem to shed a LOT of light on the choices that were made! I agree that the deal with Wolfram and Hart doesn’t strike me as plausible, at least not AI’s acceptance of it. I *can* see the Senior Partners thinking it would be something of a lark to toss the good guys in there and see what happens, with several backup plans in case they actually managed to succeed at anything. However, I can’t reasonably believe *any* of the characters being effectively tempted to *take* the deal. I liked how you put it: “With the possible exception of Gunn, none of these motives are reasons to actually stay there beyond the tour. Take the tour and try to use the situation to their advantage? Sure. But actually agree to the deal? Come on. Not that anyone explicitly agrees to the deal – Angel does that for them.” I feel like the “temptations” of the deal really downplay the characters’ intelligence. Fred is attracted to the lure of a high-tech lab, Lorne to meeting celebrities and schmoozing, Wesley to the potential of more knowledge and resources (I suppose; assuming he had a reason beyond trying to free Lilah that would have enticed him to stay), Gunn to a flirty guide and an offer of being “special,” and Angel to brainwashing his son. Come on, now. Angel has to realize that rewriting Connor’s life is the biggest lie, yet. And everyone else is tricked by the “ooh, shiny!” factor? Mmm, nope. It makes for a faulty plot foundation when the characters have to be stupider than the audience for it to work. We KNOW W&H are evil! We KNOW you shouldn’t trust them! Of COURSE they’d try to tempt you with a fancy giant laboratory and magical tomes!I’m also irked by Gunn’s portrayal in Seasons 4 and 5. I feel like the writers are continually making Gunn into a lame stereotype that contradicts his earlier self. Not only do people keep dubbing him “the muscle,” despite the fact that he’s no more muscle than Angel or Wesley (whose magic is also often just another form of offensive weaponry; but who wears the sleeve-stakes? Not Gunn!), they also make him like, “Hey, maybe I’ll stay for a hot chick!” I understand his assumption that they might stick him on security detail, but I still don’t understand when he began to see *himself* that way. He’s a fighter, sure, but a thinker, too, on a team where pretty much everyone doubles as both! Plus, as Fred pointed out when she was first attracted to him, he is a kind, humane person, more reluctant to hurt another human than anyone on the team except maybe Lorne; he’s always been a good moral compass, and very grounded, in touch with and attached to the world in ways that the others haven’t been (at least, not any time in recent memory). WHY is he suddenly so insecure, and so manipulable by flirtation and flattery? And then he gets a black panther. I was pretty sure that when Connor had the line “there’s only one thing that ever changes anything. And that’s death,” he wasn’t talking about death changing this world. I got the sense that he meant, “this world is full of pain and lies and it *can’t* be changed, so the only way to escape the pain and lies is to die.” Which also explained his willingness to kill not only the hostages, but Cordelia; he’s still using his Jasmine-justification here, that somehow it’s not reprehensible murder but in fact a sort of mercy to let people leave this world. I very, very much appreciate and agree with your thoughts on Angel making that choice for Connor and for his co-workers. Angel has some very difficult-to-like aspects to his personality, and yet I feel like he could have become a lot more likable if the writing had made him aware of his flaws and let him grow as a result. But, just as he prevented his friends from learning and growing from their mistakes, he also shackled his own growth with this move. He never even properly grieved the loss of his son, and now he can’t, because no one else even remembers Connor. Instead, he’s effectively severed himself still further from others, putting him in as bad a place as Season One. Phew! Lots to say. I enjoyed reading this so much! In closing, I think this was one of your best and most eloquently-stated points: “Connor’s right when he says that “you can’t be saved by a lie.” One of life’s biggest struggles is building a family around you that genuinely cares about you and your well-being. Some people don’t get that out-of-the-box, from their blood relatives, like they should, and that’s truly a shame. In these situations, it’s important to build a surrogate family of good friends and colleagues to lean on and, hopefully, one day have the strength to build a strong family of their own and break the cycle of loneliness, abuse, and neglect, thereby starting a new family tradition that will last generations. But, sadly, Connor has given up.” I think the whole cast suffers from this situation. After everything began to fall apart in Season 3, they never really resume building their surrogate family. Not that they shouldn’t have to struggle, but I absolutely miss their closeness and their attempts at expressing support and affection which were so present in the first couple of years. I think that’s part of why Wesley/Lilah is so compelling; their twisted, unacknowledged attempt to truly connect is just about the only effort anyone’s making at that point in time! No matter how messed-up, it’s heartening to see people still trying to form human intimacy, when everyone else is off doing their own thing — or nothing.

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  23. [Note: Birth posted this comment on July 8, 2013.]

    **Comic Spoiler**

    Supposedly everyone regains their memories of Connor in the comics (or their memories revert completely back to what they were originally all together)if I remember correctly.

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  24. [Note: Buffster posted this comment on March 30, 2014.]

    You know, when I first watched this episode I was just so refreshed by the fun, shiny stuff that I got blinded by it. In a super crazy season that I’ll be honest I didn’t enjoy much up and until the last few episodes, this was a good addition and a breather from all the violent, risky, plot lines they had thrown around throughout season 4. However, I got burst out of the bubble when I read your review, which made me look at the episode from a totally different light, and I can see most of the flaws that you pointed out.

    Maybe after watching BTVS, some of us just expect waay too much out of other shows, especially other Whedon shows like Angel, but I always felt like the characters of Angel just weren’t well rounded enough. Angel himself, sometimes, pissed me off majorly. Connor was sick and tired of being fed lies, and what does Angel do about it? Feeds him the biggest lie yet, despite what Angel thinks he’s doing, he ISN’T saving Connor, or giving Connor the life he always wanted, he’s making his whole existence a lie, and what’s worse?

    He’s doing it by the means of Evil Incorporated, for god’s sake, Angel spent like 3 and a half seasons trying to get rid of W&H and now he joins them? Connor may seem happy, but that isn’t the truth, that’s not his real family or his real life and it never will be, when I first saw the episode I found this noble of Angel, but now if I think about it, this is one of the most selfish things he’s ever done. He gave Connor this fake life full of rainbows and unicorns to make himself feel a little better, but the truth of this remains that he failed him, he failed his son and he can’t accept that.

    This is just one of Angel’s many flaws, another thing that I couldn’t stand is Angel accepting the offer, “They have good resources!” I didn’t even like the fact that the others fell for all of this. They think accepting this offer will help them save more people, but while it’s shiny on the outside, all that glitters is not gold. Angel Investigations should know this better than anyone. Like Buffy very rightly states in one of the episodes in Season 7, “You can’t fight evil by doing evil.”

    This is something Angel or the rest of the gang didn’t think about, fighting evil with evil is just not the way to go. This, and the fact that these people now don’t even remember Connor exists making them completely different people are my biggest complaints with this episode. Despite all the horrible things these characters had to endure the past few episodes, their choices and their hardships were what molded them into what they are today, unfortunately, taking their memories away is a real down step for their character development, and makes everything that they did over the course of season 4, pointless.

    Anyway, this is why I always chose Spike over Angel when it came to it, I’ve never been able to totally devote or relate to Angel in the long run, he just isn’t as layered or as interesting. Worst of all? He is unable to accept his flaws. I’m going to make my way to watching Season 5 as soon as I’m done with the last 4 episodes of Buffy, everyone says Season 5 is one of AtS’ best seasons, I’m a little scared they’ll ruin Spike’s character, hopefully not, when I heard Spike and Harmony are added to the regular cast of the show, I was more than excited to watch it.

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  25. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 30, 2014.]

    Season 5 may well be the best season of Angel, but it’s not without its flaws. The opening run of episodes are quite boring, in my opinion, and the focus on Spike detracts from some of the other characters, mainly Wes and Fred. However, from about the halfway mark it really picks up and delivers the strongest 10 episode run in the whole series.

    Be warned, though – these reviews will likely be very spoiler-ific, and this is a season with quite a few big events you want to go into blind.

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  26. [Note: Buffster posted this comment on April 3, 2014.]

    I really hope they didn’t ruin Spike’s character by forcing him onto Angel, JUST TELL ME THEY DON’T RUIN HIS CHARACTER, that’s what I feared most…He’s one of the most amazing characters on Buffy and I don’t know what to expect of him from Angel S5, but I heard the earlier plot lines are boring, and don’t do justice to the show or to Spike, or even to the other characters. That’s what kinda scares and dissapoints me.

    Anddd yess, I’ve heard quite much about season 5 being the best season of Angel, and I’ve already witnessed the biggest spoiler–Wesley’s death in the last episode! Oh, god. How am I going to be prepared for that one?!

    Oh well, will just have to wait and see!

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  27. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on April 3, 2014.]

    For the first run of episode, Spike’s character is quite bland, even superfluous, and the amount of attention spent on him comes to the detriment of Wesley and Fred. However, I would disagree with anyone who said AtS S5 ‘ruined’ Spike. His arc improves considerably later on, and his final scenes rival the end of “Chosen”.

    Also, I went into “Not Fade Away” (the final episode) fully spoiled thanks to an evil friend, and I would still consider it to be easily the best hour of the show. Take that as you will.

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  28. [Note: research-kills-demons posted this comment on May 29, 2014.]

    Aside from the larger themes you already mentioned, thanks for pointing out Fred’s reaction to the portal-opening in the lab. No way would she have been stoked about that!

    I thought the scene between Connor and Angel in the sports store was superb, particularly Vincent Kartheiser– BUT! The one thing that detracted from it was the very set-up: the idea that someone who has only lived in this dimension/modern times for like a year with zero education in any technical skills or science would be able to rig up all these people with explosives. Ridiculous!

    I’m sure a similar scenario with Connor holding innocents hostage could have been written in a way that was more true to his background. I mean, it just seemed so unlikely that he would know how to do that. It’s not like he’s been spending his time online reading up on explosives.

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  29. [Note: Dobian posted this comment on August 29, 2014.]

    I just finished watching this season yesterday. While I actually did enjoy season 4 more than a lot of people, it had some very big transgressions, and ended with one. The whole mind wipe that Angel engineered was a cheap trick, much like the possession of Cordelia. Anytime writers allow a character to assume godlike control over other people over events without earning it through the story, it’s lazy storytelling and a cheat on the audience. Classic example – Pam’s dream, that erased an entire season of Dallas. In the case of Connor’s retcon, by wiping him from the minds of the people who knew him, it also leaves gaping holes in their memories in general, since much of what they experienced was tightly woven around Connor. How do they explain those gaps? It also denies those characters the opportunity to reflect on all that happened, since the arrival of Jasmine was directly because of Connor and Cordelia. Writers do this sort of thing so they can avoid having to address it in future plots. They can just pretend that it never happened since the characters don’t remember. I have to lower my mark for this finale significantly on this alone.

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  30. [Note: B posted this comment on October 21, 2014.]

    The mind swipe is offensive but is it out of character? Personally, I don’t think it is. Angel wants what he thinks is best for Connor and if that means erasing his memory from his friends minds so be it. He did the same thing in I Will Remember You. Angel always does what he thinks is in everyone’s best interest. Can you really blame him?

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  31. [Note: B posted this comment on November 24, 2014.]

    I don’t understand why his friends couldn’t know about Conner or why he made the deal?! Would knowing he made his executive decision because Conner was going to kill himself, Cordy, and a bunch hostages be too painful of a memory for them to handle?! I don’t think so, I think it was him wanting to spare himself the shame and pain of admitting that he couldn’t save Conner without making a deal with the devil. Which is why he’s so depressed and goes on his suicide mission in Not Fade Away because he thinks the Senior Partners could have done something to prevent the events of season four from happening, maybe I’m reaching with the last one but this show does make you think doesn’t it,lol.

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  32. [Note: Val posted this comment on November 25, 2014.]

    Oh my God, THANK YOU for calling out the Knox thing. I love that actor, but not cool, guys. And it would’ve been easily rectified by a coy line about him having family in Sunnydale or something. Just throw us a bone here.

    And just where did Connor learn about explosives?

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  33. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on January 3, 2015.]

    I think your point about death in the Buffyverse in regards to the Wolfram & Hart personnel is a little misguided since a) Reprise came before all the supernatural death rules from Forever onward were established and b) They are a pretty powerful organization that could probably circumvent the rules a little especially since they seem to have a strong amount of control in what they do probably because of the contracts, plus it helps to get the living to do what they want.

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  34. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 3, 2015.]

    a) It still comes across as inconsistent, regardless of the order in which the Buffyverse’s rules were established.
    b) Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it as a storytelling device. Bringing characters back cheapens the finality of their deaths. It takes a lot of time and work to earn doing such a thing (e.g. Buffy Season 6).

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  35. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 3, 2015.]

    It’s never really explained how the W&H people come back from the dead, but it -is- strongly implied that they aren’t resurrected as such. They still have the wounds that kill them, for one. And there must be a reason they don’t stick around that long. There are a lot of explanations for the standard perpetuity clause possible that don’t contradict Buffy’s rules at all.

    If I had to come up with an explanation, I’d say that it’s simply because W&H control several hell dimensions. Employees signing up with the firm lose claim to their souls, which after death go to a W&H hell/afterlife. There, they can then obviously continue work. And for brief periods of time they can come back to earth to run errands, but they’re more like some kind of glorified zombie or revenant than an actual living person. They don’t get resurrected at all. Therefore, no rules breach.

    Of course, I could be completely off-base. But I like that W&H can pull stuff like this, and because it is established how much the firm can do (Just think of Lindsey’s endless series of death in the Holding Dimension) it doesn’t stretch my credibility at all that they can do this too, even if it’s never clearly explained why.

    Nor do I think this cheapens storytelling, because the characters never actually come back to the show. They act far more like “ghost of christmas past” types. They appear as a omens, giving warnings or messages to the living. Just… wearing suits and talking legalese rather than moaning and rattling chains.

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  36. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 3, 2015.]

    Adding this:

    Also consider Wesley’s behaviour with Lilah’s contract. Clearly, he’s not talking or acting like he thinks Lilah is actually back for good. He seems to think burning the contract will release her from her state of un-life. “You’ve suffered enough. I want you to find some peace.” That doesn’t sound like something you’d say someone who came back to life.

    Oh, and finally: both this show and its precursor are about vampires. People who die and come back to a form of life. This happens all the time. The W&H thing, story and theme-wise, is a lot more similar to people turning into vampires upon death than Buffy’s resurrection, or what Dawn attempted with Joyce.

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  37. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on July 28, 2015.]

    I guess it should be acknowledged that this was in fact the send off of sorts for Tim Minear who I think we can all agree was Angel’s best writer. The guy cranked out a lot of great episodes in his time from the Epiphany two-parter, to Sanctuary, to some of the stronger Season 3 entries. Essentially he was what Ben Edlund was for Supernatural or what Vince Gilligan/Darin Morgan was for The X-Files the guy that consistently delivered quality and generally became a big talking point among the people who’ve seen these various shows. Kinda interesting that arguably Angel’s best season (5) did not include anything from him but he at least laid the groundwork and I imagine that he would have been a grand prescence if he had stuck around, though the new guys in that season proved to be most useful. Haven’t seen much outside his work with Whedon but let us hope he’s doing well.

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  38. [Note: Noah posted this comment on July 31, 2015.]

    I adore this episode, and I have to say it would probably have gotten an A+ from me. Tim Minear was definitely the best Angel writer, although Joss Whedon and Steven DeKnight both did excellent things.

    As for other things done by Minear, well, I think there’s a show that he created, ran, and directed being reviewed on CT.

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

    The point is moot, really. Lilah is dead, and they firmly established that W&H contracts can extend well beyond death, as shown with Holland Manners. I’m not sure how anyone who had seen the episodes in question could think she’d been resurrected.

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

    [All of this makes me look at Angel as a person in far less esteem, and it creates problems for the start of Season 5. The first time I saw the scene at the very end of the episode, it struck me as bittersweet. But now, I find it a little more on the disturbing side. Seeing Connor as a well-adjusted kid looking forward to his future, with a loving family around him, is a real joy to see, no doubt. But this feeling quickly fades by realizing that the person inside that home that looks like Connor isn’t actually Connor — it’s some construct made by a demon that is in Connor’s body. As if we haven’t seen enough of that this season. Maybe something of Connor’s original self, or soul, is still locked away in there, but don’t mistake Angel’s actions as a gift to Connor – he did this for himself.]

    I have big issues with this statement and it sums up my problems with the whole ‘memory-wipe’ controversy.

    Connor, because of his upbringing in a demon hell-dimension, is a borderline psychopath. He is so horrifically damaged emotionally that he considers a suicide bombing that kills many people to be preferable to his own continued existence. We need to stop being sympathetic with Connor and maybe compare him to a person like this in real life – a murderer that borders on the fanatical at times, far too easily swayed by people (Cordelia) that he doesn’t actually know. By this point Connor as a person has proven that he cannot function as a person. But I guess this is preferable to him being happy, right? Rather a murderer than someone given a chance at a normal life? Connor wouldn’t have gotten better, it was rooted in his nature. He hated Angel and his core perceptions had all been honed in a HELL dimension, fighting demons for his very survival.

    When the spell is done, Connor is still Connor. Angel has just exchanged his memories for a set that results in a non-psychopathic murderer. If this had been anyone else, I’d agree that it was ‘mind-rape’ or some other silly melodramatic term. However it happened, punishment was coming for Connor. Jasmine got what she deserved and Connor was next. Angel clearly knew he had to either change him, or kill him – and he couldn’t do that to his own son. He’d rather he had a normal life, the one Angel had imagined when he was a baby. As a father, I’d do the same damn thing. To paraphrase, Angel is most definitely doing this for Connor, not himself. If Angel had asked for what he really wanted, he would’ve been Connor’s father in the fantasy too. Instead, he makes another self-sacrifice and gives up his son completely so he is never exposed to the life that follows Angel around. In reality, he is not being selfish at all – it really fits with Angel’s constant themes of self-sacrifice and wanting a ‘normal’ existence but intentionally stepping away from it to make it better for others. It’s the same thing that drove him to give away his mortality in ‘I Will Remember You’. These sacrificial traits are rooted in the very character of Angel that has been built up over the previous seasons on Buffy and 1-4 of his own show.

    For the others, it’s almost as easy. Removing a very specific set of memories does not make someone a different person. It makes the person very slightly different. Changing Connor was the only way, but Angel maybe goes a step too far in assuming his friends wouldn’t be able to handle him just excising him out of their lives. Maybe Angel just wants the whole thing forgotten. Connor hurt a lot of people and I think this is Angel’s way of fixing that. Look how positively it affects the group and how negatively it affects Wesley when he reels in shock when his memories return in ‘Origin’.

    It certainly doesn’t mean they are different people. The events of S4 still happened from their POV, just slightly differently. The spell edits Connor out of everyone’s mind, but doesn’t change the arrangement of events (much like the Monk’s spell in Buffy – I’ll come to that). We know he wouldn’t remember kidnapping Connor, so the estrangement from AI would still have happened, just differently. He still would remember Cordelia, Jasmine, the Beast, Angelus, the Rain of Fire, Faith…removing Connor from those events doesn’t make them magically not happen. Some people seem to think everything prior to a certain point was erased..but nobody suddenly holds up their hand and says: ‘it’s 2004, right? Cos I don’t remember 2002 or 2003!!’

    I think you have to stick by your point or admit that it’s more grey than you say in the review. The monks do exactly the same thing to all of Buffy’s friends – they insert whole new blocks of text into the narratives of their lives! How is changing someone’s memory to remember a non-existent person different to changing someone’s memory to forget a person that did exist? They’re both hugely changing…from a certain POV. From others, they aren’t. Neither the Scoobies nor AI characters’ change noticeably after either spell. Everyone is the same. They’ve just had careful edits made.

    I don’t think there are many differences in either spell (assuming in both cases the results were achieved by just a single spell). I suppose the big difference here is, the Scoobies shake it off quickly when they find out. No cries of ‘mind rape, mind rape! Am I the me I was before?!’ from them – they just get on with it. Wesley and Connor are the only ones affected in ‘Origin’, and the effects are different. The most important thing? Connor remains well-rounded. What Angel did finally healed his broken psyche, allowing him to both have his full memories back AND be a good person as well. The old Connor was heading for an early death. This Connor is a good lad and finally gets what Angel has done for him. For such an irritating character in S4, this is brilliant resolution. I love the scenes in the finale even more.

    For Wesley, well he is initially shocked. But he doesn’t change. He’s already been destroyed by Fred’s death. It shows what we knew all along: Wesley is Wesley whether he remembered Connor or not. He is the same person regardless.

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  41. [Note: Robert posted this comment on January 23, 2016.]

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the “fake” prophesy from season 3 actually turned out to be true, in that “the father will kill the son”. Rather ironic when you think about it, since Connor’s old life ends when Angel “kills” him in the sports store.

    I also had a problem with the whole “perpetuity clause” thing. Mind you, I absolutely loved Lilah and equally loved Wesley’s attempt at trying to rescue her from her contract, but my question is more about why anyone would willingly enter into such a clause if it meant spending eternity in hell? I could understand if Lilah got something significant out of the deal, like Angel did by taking the deal with W&H, but other than having a nice home and “pretty things” as she says in an earlier episode, what else did Lilah get when she was still alive? Seems to me that eternal damnation is a high price to pay just to have a few years of owning “pretty things”.

    I also think that killing Lilah was a huge mistake, as it would have been intriguing to see her joining the Fang Gang, thus inverting the whole dynamic between her and them. I’m not sure I could have stomached seeing a “Jasmine-crazed” version of Lilah, even if it was temporary, but since the gang was going to W&H at the end of the season anyway I think it would have made sense to keep her alive as part of the gang. It would have created extra tension in season 5 between Wesley and Fred with her around, and she would have been a MUCH better liaison to the senior partners than Eve.

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  42. [Note: Viv posted this comment on July 12, 2016.]

    Yeah, I totally agree with this.

    Do I think Angel’s choice (with us not knowing all the details, but really, it’s still very ah overbearing of him no matter if he knew the details of the deal or not) wrong? Yes, but I also think it was right to do what he could to finally give Connor peace of mind. If (honestly, seemingly minor minus to Wesley) edits to his friends memories are the cost, so be it. I do think there’s a selfish element to it, but like IWRY, ultimately I think it stands that he was trying to do the selfless thing. Angel certainly has a patronizing, father-knows-best attitude but he’s had that since the days of Angelus and in comparing his soulled vs soulless actions of similar vein you can see how the attitude remains but the level of selfishness vs selflessness changes.

    And honestly, being an only child vs having a sibling would make a HUGE difference in a person. Lol, I always found it interesting that in sort of symbios with her growing up and learning to make big sacrifices, Dawn’s creation also just naturally took away some of Buffy’s ‘only/lonely child’ umm selfishness? I hesitate to use the word because I love Buffy and think she’s truly selfless, but I felt the change. But I digress. The Willow/Tara thing has also been brought up, and for me, the problem isn’t inherently in the mind wiping (which is wrong!) but that Willow selfishly does it to keep Tara by her side, which makes Tara’s further consent to sexual acts void (as would she really be down to a little cunning linguistics if she was in the same place as she was pre-wipe, trying to pull away from Willow?) and makes Willow a rapist and an abuser … that to me I a truly evil example of memory removal for selfish gain. If Willow had just blanked her memory to hide her growing isues then broken up with Tara, I’d still find it wrong, but forgivably so. And then she tried doing it again!

    Anyways, what it comes down to for me is that memory wiping or altering is always wrong (and I would have certainly understood if Wesley and Connor had been angrier about it and so wish that the rest of the gang had learned too … it does Angel good to be taken down a peg every now and again, keeps him honest) intent and the following actions are what tip things to either forgivable or despicable for me, and so I can forgive Angel his actions.

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  43. [Note: Random posted this comment on January 17, 2017.]

    I’m not sure if it’s been emphasized enough, but I think we are meant to infer that Angel’s deal was to wipe “old Connor” from everyone’s memory, not just those who actually knew him. It’s really the only logical reason for that mass suicide bombing scene, after all. Connor is now known to everyone with a TV (and computer, even before Youtube blew up…er, got big) and not in a good way. He’s a known terrorist, not to mention known (on a more local level) as the father of the abomination that sent L.A. into a state of riot once her true nature was revealed. From a writerly perspective, that scene really makes little sense — an intimate fight in some pestilential sewer would be far more natural if the only purpose of the mis en scene was to set up a poignant dialogue and final defeat of Connor. But they make it a public affair, not only in terms of the news cycle but in terms of how the world will now perceive this teenage psychopath willing to slaughter innocent people rather than just putting a gun to his head in private. While this doesn’t excuse the fallout of Angel’s decision, it does contextualize it in a far less personal way. Remember, too, that Lilah was very insistent that the deal had to be made then and there. He walks out the door, it’s over. This urgency compounded with the urgency of, well,Connor about to murder a store full of men, women,and children (THINK OF THE CHILDREN IN A NON-IRONIC SENSE!!!) implies that Angel’s deal was done in urgency with little brooding time to work out the far-reaching consequences.

    Or, to put it in a more personal way — the person you love more than anyone in the world is suicidal, homicidal, and likely to have hell rained on him/her by all governmental, police, and media forces in screaming range. Somebody makes you an offer: you can save him or her, and the most efficient way to do so is to effectively rewrite history to change the circumstances. Do you take it? That, I suspect, was Angel’s choice. Not to mindwipe everyone, but to rewrite a very ugly, very messy, very complicated history to save his son. The rest, the ethical and moral and practical considerations, he never really understood how far-reaching they would be. Partly because he can be quite dense on occasion, but mostly because he didn’t have the leisure or luxury of doing so and still managing to save his son in time. It’s not like he had any reason to believe W&H could actually resurrect Connor once the bombs blew him to a million shreds of bloody flesh, after all.

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  44. Good-bye, Connor! Woo-hoo!

    Poor Angel. All he wanted was to raise his son, and now he can’t and never will be able to, and it’s not like he can have more kids. 😦

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