Angel 5×07: Lineage

[Review by Iguana-on-a-stick]

[Writer: Drew Goddard | Director: Jefferson Kibbee | Aired: 11/12/2003]

Roger: “What did you just do?”

Roger is cool, slightly exasperated but resigned that his son has messed up again and that he will need to undo the damage.

Wesley: “Maybe I know what I’m doing. Why can’t you trust that?”

Wesley is frustrated, trying to prove himself harder and harder, trying to get through to Roger, trying to get him to see who he is today, not who he was ten, twenty years ago. He must realise this is futile, but he cannot stop trying. Together, these two little lines, variations on which occur throughout “Lineage,” neatly frame the main conflict of this episode.

Fathers and sons on a Joss Whedon show. This is not going to be pretty. It is one of the oldest and most common subjects in literature, but even then Whedon’s take has a reputation for being a bleak one. There are a few good mother figures in the Whedonverse, but only Fred has a truly warm and loving father. For the rest we have Buffy’s Hank (neglecting his children even after the death of his wife, so he can be with his secretary in Spain), Xander’s Tony (drunken and abusive) and Angel’s unnamed father (whom we only ever see criticising his son). And then, of course, we have Roger Wyndam-Pryce.

“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” [1×14]: “All those hours locked up under the stairs and you still weren’t good enough. Not good enough for Daddy, not good enough for the Council.”

This is the first thing we learned about the past of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Some more details have followed, but Wesley’s troubled relationship with his father remains the defining influence in his life. When he first showed up on Buffy he was an arrogant buffoon, but even then one might guess at the insecurity this is meant to conceal. On Angel we see how it is Wesley’s lack of confidence in himself that is his biggest stumbling block.

Roger Wyndam-Pryce himself remained a shadowy presence behind the scenes throughout the series. He was never seen, but occasionally Wesley would drop a revealing hint, and in “Belonging” [2×19] we heard Wesley’s end of a telephone conversation with him. If we regard the Roger appearing in this episode as just a robot, he never features on the series at all. Many viewers must have wondered for four seasons what he was really like. I know I did.

So when Roger first steps on the stage in “Lineage” he carries with him a certain weight of expectation. Though this is Wesley’s episode, Roger is the second-most important character in it and as such he has the power to make or break the episode as a whole. Fortunately, Roy Dotrice pulls it off with assured ease. Roger himself is not fleshed out in any great detail, and the character we see is in many ways the stereotypical overbearing upper-class English father, but Dotrice depicts Roger with such conviction and Alexis Denisof’s reactions are so true to life that their interactions not only work in this episode but do justice to the entire arc of Wesley’s father-issues.

At this point it should, of course, be addressed that the Roger we see actually is a cyborg. I feel that for all intents and purposes we can assume that Roger-the-Cyborg is the same as Roger-the-man. Firstly, his own son is convinced this is his real father. Secondly, otherwise the entire episode would be pointless. This is about Wesley and his father, the cyborg bits are there to avoid upsetting the network or some such concern. Ultimately I do not think the cyborg-revelation weakens the episode in any significant way, not like it did in the Buffy episode “Ted.” “Lineage” works where “Ted” didn’t because the writers make it very clear that Wesley did think it was his father, and sees his actions as completely equivalent to killing the real Roger. If anything, the cyborg reveal robs Wesley of any closure he might have gotten from killing the tyrant that dominated his life, and leaves him with all the guilt and none of the release.

Because this plotline was abandoned, we can only speculate on how the cyborgs could imitate Roger so perfectly. Psychological profiles, as they put forward on the show, don’t cut it. Those would have given us the BuffyBot. Magic was involved in some way, and the cyborgs are human enough to be able to act, but I cannot help but feel that Roger himself or at the least people close to him who knew him very well must have been involved in some way. The old Watcher’s Council seems like the prime candidate for a force of indiscriminate evil-eradicators. It is a pity this was never explored on the show.

Though Roger’s interaction with Wesley is the body of the episode, there are a few other plot-lines here. A few minor scenes aside, these too are about Wesley. This truly is his episode, and that is a good thing. So far he has spent Season 5 unsuccessfully flirting with Fred and providing generic back-up for Angel. Here, we not only get to see his background explored in far greater depth, but we also see important developments in his relationships with Fred and Angel.

Fred and Wes make a good team in the opening, his failure to provide her with a gun aside (though she could have brought one herself if she wanted to be self-sufficient). For the rest of this episode, however, Fred mostly appears to be uncomfortable. She tries to be a supportive friend to Wesley, but she hates to be put between him and his father or between him and Angel, and twice she takes the first available excuse to extract herself from the conversation. Thrice, if we count her leaving with Knox at the very end. She only appears confident and at ease in the opening scene and afterwards when she’s berating Wesley’s parroting of Angel’s patronising “Keep Fred Safe” attitude. I do not think “Lineage” marks any great change in Fred’s relationship with Wesley. She stays close to Knox, likes Wesley as a friend but is generally uncomfortable around him. In fact, in this episode Fred has no real development of her own at all. In what gets to be an unfortunate pattern she is merely used as a device to increase Wesley’s pain and provide a point of conflict between him and Roger and Angel.

Angel’s distrust of Wesley after the mind-wipe has been hinted at in a few episodes before. In “Lineage” it comes to a head. We see how much their relationship has changed since the early seasons: Angel acts like a boss berating a recalcitrant and untrustworthy employee. Even back in Season 1 when Wesley was new and unproven Angel would never have talked to him like that. In Season 2 and 3 Wesley was nominally Angel’s boss. Season 4 Wes would never take this kind of treatment from Angel; in all their confrontations there Wesley holds the upper hand with ease. Now, with his memory gone, Wesley is the loyal and trusting follower again, but Angel still has all the resentment and anger over Connor’s kidnapping and treats Wes accordingly. Counterpoised with his father’s appearance this does not make a pretty picture. Angel is treating Wesley just like Roger does, blaming him and criticising him unfairly, and Wesley takes it without complaint because this is what he is used to. It is interesting that Angel never questions the mind-wipe, never seems to feel guilty for what he did to his friends. It takes Eve of all people to point out how unfair it is for Angel to hold the actions Wesley has forgotten against him.

Angel’s key development in “Lineage” is that he sees first hand Wesley’s determination to do the right thing and loyalty towards him. He always knew that Wesley meant well, but here for the first time since “Sanctuary” [1×19] perhaps he sees Wesley make one of those hard choices and have it work out in Angel’s favour. Unlike Roger, Angel makes a real effort to put aside his resentment and accept Wesley again near the end of the episode, although his speech sounds a bit like he is trying to convince himself as much as Wesley. Still, it is a nice moment, though the lasting impact does not seem to be that big.

Unfortunately, though this plot-line is important in the larger scheme of things and the juxtaposition of Angel and Roger as the authority-figures in Wesley’s life makes for a very interesting theme, the execution of Angel’s part of the arc leaves something to be desired. Eve’s speech to Angel and Angel’s speech to Wesley at the episode’s end feel rather heavy-handed and unsubtle. Fortunately it is very much a secondary part of the episode.

This all brings me back to Roger and Wesley. Unlike Angel’s speeches, their interactions feel very realistic and true to life. Mystical texts and evil law-firms aside, the general flavour of their scenes will be instantly recognisable to many viewers. From the point Roger walks on to the stage (at the most awkward moment possible) we see Wesley thrown off his equilibrium. Literally; he stumbles and bumps into people from sheer nerve, just as he used to back in Season 1 or on Buffy. But where there it was played for slap-stick comedy, here we feel his awkwardness and embarrassment.

We immediately see confirmed that Wesley can do no good in his father’s eyes. His mistakes are pounced on, his justifications are ignored, and his achievements are belittled. Some of Roger’s criticism at least makes sense. Some is completely spurious (“What do you think you’re doing? I had attack priority.”). All of it is intensely petty. Roger is one-upping his son in a way that probably reveals some insecurity of his own, some need to prove himself wiser and stronger, but that does not reduce its effects on Wesley. In fact, it is Roger complimenting Wesley that puts the latter sufficiently off-guard for Roger to strike him unconscious with a single blow. I cannot help but conclude that the uncharacteristically kind words must have been deliberately out of character as a distraction.

Before that blow, the entire middle half of the episode is taken up with relatively low-key exposition and character-scenes. One might expect that to make the episode feel slowly paced, but this never is the case. The conflict in the middle half may be mundane in origin, but it remains more compelling than any Aztec warrior demon could be. Still, once Roger’s true colours are revealed and the conflict between him and Wesley becomes externalised the tensions racket up for the final act, culminating in the pivotal rooftop scene.

It is one of the best on Angel; one of the most tense and powerful in the entire Whedonverse. Stark and harsh: no scenery, hardly any colours. Everything comes together here. Just picture the actors as they are placed in the scene: Angel lying down, powerless, needing the people around him to keep him from being a helpless plaything of the parties seeking to control him. Fred kneeling by him, not actually doing much of anything as is unfortunately all too common on this show. Roger being just as smoothly competent enslaving the CEO of Wolfram and Hart from his own headquarters as he was dressing Wesley down in front of his friends. (”It is, by the way, a pleasure to meet you, too.”) And finally Wesley himself, gun in hand, the tension running through him only matched by the strength of his control as he confronts them. (”Not Quite. Hello, Father.”) Over it all is the sound of the helicopter coming to take Angel away, its searchlight strafing over the characters and giving it all an even colder and more forlorn look.

Wesley still pleads with his father, and it is not about Roger’s actions either. What Wesley wants, even now, is his father’s trust. What hurts Wesley is not Roger’s betrayal, but that he did not trust his own son enough to even consider asking for his aid. Even though it was Roger who treacherously used his son to get at his son’s friends, Wesley is the one who has to justify himself, the one who can’t be trusted. It is yet another telling moment. Clearly this is not about Angel at all, but about father and son.

The scene is reminiscent of a Mexican stand-off. Only in this one none of the parties seem ready to kill, not quite yet. Cyborg or no, Roger argues with his son, continues to belittle him, threatens him, but does not just attack, no more than he killed Wesley down in the library when he had the chance. He says he is prepared to kill Wesley and no doubt he is, but he does not do so. Likewise, Wesley pleads and moves to counter Roger’s plans, but rather than attacking his father he makes sure to foil Roger in a way that only places his own life at risk. He never even threatens his father, not even at the very end. No matter what side they are on, he remains Roger’s son. Until, of course, Fred enters the picture

Wesley shooting his father is one of the most powerful, visceral scenes I have ever watched on television. For the past 35 minutes we have seen what this man is to Wesley, we have seen the pattern of their relationship laid out in painful detail. All that time, Wesley has only weakly argued against his father, offered the occasional sarcastic retort, but never any threat of violence, never any overt show of hatred. Even in defiance he never sought to dominate his father. And then this.

We are conditioned by the television and films we watch. We have seen endless confrontations such as this, endless guns being pointed at hostages, endless terse negotiations held and threats spat out under the threat of violence. This is different. The moment is not spun out, we hardly have the chance to realise just what new low Roger has sunk to when Wesley has already opened fire. It takes a mere few seconds, but it feels measured, deliberate, each shot ringing out clearly and distinctly. After the first few shot the camera turns to Wesley. It is his reaction that we see, not Roger’s death-throes. That he is dead cannot be doubted. This is Wesley killing his father, deliberately, in cold blood, by ten shots to the torso.

The morality of this action of course is subject to debate. The show offers no judgement save the characters’ own: Fred and Angel try to tell him he did the right thing. Wesley is disgusted with himself. We see him stumble off to vomit as soon as the enormity of what he has done hits home. His control collapses only then, when the danger is over and his father is dead. This is typical of who Wesley has become: a man who will allow himself no weaknesses, and is thereby rendered strong, but brittle.

For myself, I think Wesley was more than justified in killing Roger. In the scene itself I cannot help but be swept up by the power of the moment, feeling Wesley’s catharsis along with my own as he shoots Roger again and again. It is a unique blend of violence and control, a cold-bloodedness and practicality that is very rarely seen in TV heroes. This scene leaves me awe-struck every time I see it. I also like the decisiveness. Our television usually celebrates moments of red-hot passion and shows endless botched killings in the interest of increased dramatic tension, the villain resurfacing again and again because the hero did not simply make sure to do a thorough job. All too often I have mentally shouted at a character to just kill his enemy and be done. In this regard the scene on “Lineage” is a breath of fresh air.

At the same time I very much understand Wesley’s disgust, because the taboo of patricide aside, he will never be certain just what motivated him in that decisive instant. The threat to Fred, yes. That was the trigger. But how often must he have thought about this? How often did that little boy locked up in that closet under the stairs think of his father dead? How often during this visit did Wesley yearn to prove himself stronger than this man whose weight has so long tried to crush his life? I do not believe Wesley would ever have harmed his father had Roger not threatened his friends, but the very violence of Roger’s execution, the sheer volume of fire, these things hint at tensions long held in check finally breaking free. Or, alternately, something feared for so long that when you finally lash out it is with overwhelming panic-fuelled force.

The episode does not end on that roof-top. Had it not allowed time for a suitable denouement “Lineage” would not have ended nearly so well. Wesley has to come to terms with what he has done. It does not happen in these last 6 minutes, but we see him try to make a start. Knowing Wes, it will be a long time before he forgives himself, if he ever will.

Taken as a whole, Lineage is a strongly character-centric episode with great tension running through it, good action scenes, some very dramatic confrontations, very good acting, good cinematography and the occasional bit of scathing wit. The plot, in typical Whedon vein, serves the characters and not the other way around, but this hardly matters. A few niggling details aside, this character-study of Wesley is as good as it gets. More disappointingly the Cyborgs are never followed up on, though the series being cancelled must have had much to do with that.

“Lineage” still exerts its influence on things to come, but more than a foundation for future developments it is a capstone episode. In many ways it finishes Wesley’s back-story. From Wesley’s initial regression to nervous fumbling to that final confrontation on the roof, it shows us where Wesley came from, and how far he has left that behind. It shows us clearly what an immense and destructive influence Roger was on Wesley’s life. It shows where Wesley’s hard and ruthless streak originated. It puts into perspective how much of Wesley’s efforts to prove himself over the seasons were in the end about proving himself to his father. And finally, it shows how all of Wesley’s efforts are ultimately for naught.

Wesley is a better man than his father ever was. He is more competent and more determined, having lost everything and achieved success from nothing time and again. Though both can be ruthless and both can focus on the big picture, Wesley is never petty, never cruel without a reason. Just like his father, Wesley is not terribly empathic, but he still manages to show more caring and compassion than Roger ever did. Wesley has no doubt achieved more in the battle between good and evil than any dozen Watchers back in England. But Roger is still his father, and as long as his father does not see his accomplishments, does not acknowledge them, Wesley will on some level always be in his shadow.

Nothing shows this better than the beautiful final scene. Wesley, with some effort of will, picks up the telephone and calls his father, wanting to just talk to him for what must be the first time in years. Like that other conversation back in “Belonging” [2×19] we only hear Wesley’s side of it, but it is clear that he is immediately subject to a barrage of criticism and suspicion. Wesley’s tone is conciliatory, he tries to reach out, but he cannot get a word in edgewise.

Wesley has just shot his father.

And nothing has changed.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ The first scene does a great job of reminding us how far Wesley has come in terms of competence and self-possession. It makes for a marked contrast with what follows as soon as Roger shows up.
+ Wesley’s first reaction on seeing Roger is to ask if his mother is well. When he calls, both his mother and his father ask him if something is wrong.
+ Roger covers all the clichés of parental visits: he tells embarrassing childhood stories to Fred and asks Wes about his love-life.
+ Only for a Watcher would such an embarrassing childhood story involve attempting to resurrect a bird. Roger’s derision to the contrary, the story is actually rather sweet.
+ Wesley only ever refers to Roger as “Father.” Every time they speak his greeting is “Hello, Father.” He calls his mother “mum.”
+ When confronted with a dead parent, Wesley stumbles off to vomit in a scene eerily reminiscent of Buffy doing the exact same thing in “The Body.” Eerie, because the circumstances could not be more different.
+ Continuity: Spike suspects Pavaine when the power fails. Apparently he still bears some mental scars from that episode.
+ Continuity: Lilah and Wesley’s collapsible swords are referred to.
+ Continuity: Wesley tortures the cyborg in the same way he did the bookie in “The Ring” [1×16] or the junky in “Release” [4×14]

– Spike’s lines ring false in half his dialogue. Why on earth would an upper-middle-class Victorian Englishman, either the product of or highly familiar with the public school system, find the concept of “Head Boy” surprising or amusing?
– His line at the end about killing his mum after she tried to shag him is a particularly dire offence against characterisation.
– Fred once again serves as a male-angst-generating plot-device.


* Roger calls Angel a puppet of the Powers and Wolfram & Hart. In “Smile Time” [5×14] Angel gets turned into an actual puppet.
* According to Eve, Angel expects Wesley to betray him again the next time the greater good appears to require it. This happens in “Origin” [5×18] where Wesley goes against Angel to break the memory spell, and to a lesser extent in “Time Bomb” [5×19] where Wes works to save Illyria without Angel’s permission.
* Though it is never explicitly referred to again, Wesley’s trauma here must have contributed to his eventual collapse and death.




49 thoughts on “Angel 5×07: Lineage”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    Very good review. And you made me look at this episode with an even broader mind. This episode is one of S5´s best. And I agree with the analysis of Roger/Wesley and even Fred. I have some problems with the early episodes of S5 and one of the reasons is that they seem to have their characters (mainly Fred) regress.

    Really good work. Are you gonna review some more?


  2. [Note: JammyJu posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    A very well written review.

    I especially liked your analysis on Angel’s interaction with Wesley, and the way he treats him because of past events in season 3.


  3. [Note: Patrick posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    Yeah, very good review. I saw you were up for a couple of more episodes, looking forward to it.

    “In what gets to be an unfortunate pattern she is merely used as a device to increase Wesley’s pain” – tell me about it. When I think about it, I like Fred in those episodes where she gets to do something, as opposed to the ones where she’s the object of affection/pain. Now, on that note be glad I don’t review “A Hole in the World”. 🙂

    One of the things that irks me about this episode is that is has to end in violence. Couldn’t Wesley simply foil his father’s plan? Couldn’t Roger simply drug his son? No, Roger has to be an evil robot that knocks Wes out and then gets shot ten times. And in the process Fred becoming the damsel, again, after explicitly starting the episode with her wanting a gun and wanting to be treated not as such.

    Other than that, I enjoy this episode a lot.

    “a man who will allow himself no weaknesses, and is thereby rendered strong, but brittle.”


    “Wesley has just shot his father.

    And nothing has changed.”

    are just perfect. Also, great work with the continuity notes, I don’t know if I had remembered those, or even known which episodes to look at.


  4. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    Great review! You captured perfectly Roger and Wesley’s dynamic! And I’m very glad you said a word about the atrocity of Spike’s lines in the ep!

    I think it’s with this episode that I wonder the most what is the extent of the memory change occuring in Home. How much of this Wesley comes from his developpment in season 3-4? Because there really is a difference between his ruthlessness in Lineage and his toughness in the early seasons.

    I also ask the question about Fred. Does she remember the Seidel disaster from Supersymmetry? If she does, well you said it, Fred’s merely a plot device this season, because how in hell wouldn’t she be shattered by what did Wes on that roof and how in hell would she fall for him? If not, well that’s a shame too.

    I actually think the conclusion of this episode is a bigger cop-out than Ted’s end. In the end, it doesn’t matter so much too me, I love Lineage to pieces. However, I was fervently in favor of the way Ted’s end (honnestly they couldn’t pull that trigger this early for the main character,it’s too huge, it would have transform the show unnaturaly). But with the lack of following impact when they were no reasons for it in Lineage (different show, different character, no need to preserve his innocence) I think the cop-out (if we were to call it a cop-out) is slightly more important.

    Mike, I really like the idea of Platinium badge! For me it works really well with this episode. I would give it the highest score of a scale but I don’t find it perfect!


  5. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    Yep, two more reviews coming. And I’m very glad people so far like this one. It was fun to write this, to really try and get under the episode’s surface.

    Patrick: Agreed on Fred. She’s good in “Supersymmetry,” or even in “Harm’s Way.”

    I do think it was inevitable that violence came along. Wesley killing his father was the ultimate symbolic gesture that could be made. And that’s why I do not think the end is not a cop-out. Because the killing being fake made it -not- be about violence in the end. Roger-the-cyborg is shot. But Roger-the-Father is not. Cyborg Roger proves himself to be an unambiguous villain, but Real Roger remains to be dealt with. It doesn’t -end- in violence, those pistol shots come earlier. It ends with that telephone call. It ends with a son who still tries to reach out to his father, still burdened with years of neglect and derision and now with a truck-load of guilt on top of that. The violence changed nothing. Like I said in the review, I think Wesley may even have suffered less had it truly been his father. Because now he knows what he can do, and will never be able to see or talk to his father again without that knowledge.

    I think it can be seen as symbolising how violence cannot solve even a horribly destructive relationship like this, how killing a tyrannical parent does not free one. It’s a similar theme as in Darla’s words to Angel in “The Prodigal” after the newly vamped Angel has killed his father.

    DARLA: But his defeat of you will last life times.

    ANGELUS: What are you talking about? He can’t defeat me now.

    DARLA: Nor can he ever approve of you… in this world or any other. What we once were informs all that we have become. The same love will infect our hearts, even if they no longer beat. Simple death won’t change that.

    ANGELUS: (looking a little distraught) Love? Is this the work of love?

    DARLA: (smiling) Darling boy. So young. Still so very young.

    Still, agreed on Fred’s role in it. I don’t notice it much because I’m watching Wesley, but in that scene it’s troublesome how she only checks on Angel and does not seem to react to the danger of the situation at all, how she is utterly passive. Though perhaps it can be explained away by her relating to her own father and just not getting how these two can be seriously prepared to harm one another.



    The memory wipe indeed is a sticky issue. I definitely see a strong regression in Wesley here in his relationship to Angel, but his confidence in his physical abilities has remained unchanged. He still John-Woos it with the best of them in season 5. That makes sense though; skills and muscle-memory doesn’t work the same way as knowledge.

    For Fred, I imagine she recalls the Seidel incident without any distortion. After all, it was completely unrelated to Connor. We know Wesley remembers what he had to do to Lilah in “Salvage” so we know not all memories are gone. But Fred seems to have completely forgotten her reaction to Wesley and Lilah being involved.

    I think it is most logical to assume that people remember an altered version of reality. Wesley still remembers Lilah, but not kidnapping Connor, so there must be some sort of replacement memory that explains why they got together. The main work was about Connor so he changes a whole lot, the others change less but possibly regress a bit. It’s possible that their memories of those final days in the hotel when they were all working together are just hazy or vague and that this is attributed to Jasmine’s mind-tricks.

    On the whole I’m not too enamoured of the memory wipe. It creates a lot of ambiguity in a bad way, it allows a lot of possibly wonky characterisation that can be hand-waved away as: “The memory-wipe changed things.”

    I do think “Lineage” uses it very well in exploring Angel’s distrust and Wesley’s loyalty and renewed follower-attitude. This is followed up on in “Origin.” The effect on Fred and Gunn however is completely ignored.

    I have to say though that I do not see how remembering the Seidel killing would change her opinion of Wes shooting his father. I don’t see the situations as being similar at all. Gunn killed Seidel to protect his idea of Fred’s innocence. Wesley killed Roger because Roger finally crossed the line that allowed Wesley to see him as an enemy. Whatever Wesley tells her later, Fred was the trigger, the excuse, but not the reason. Perhaps she was the only trigger sufficiently strong for Wesley to take that step, perhaps a direct threat to others might have been sufficient, but I imagine she recognises that it was not that much about her.


  6. [Note: Patrick posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    DarthMarion: I think the memory loss is best handwaved, though how awesome would it be if all Wesley remembered was him getting his throat cut and Angel trying to kill him afterwards with the whole gang abandoning him?

    I think the killing of Seidell in Supersymmetry is still a little bit different because Gunn went against Fred’s explicit wishes there, but still…


  7. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    Oh I agree the Seidel incident was very different. However from Fred’s point of view the extent of this difference isn’t great. She doesn’t grasp Wesley and Roger’s relationship. So what does she see? She sees that the second Roger (his father) put a finger on her, Wesley kills him with great violence. And frankly if the decision to shoot him was rational, I don’t see the huge amount of shots as a practical call like you did, I see it as a visceral response from a disturbed man. Because Wesley is, since a long time and maybe since childhood. I agree with you when you beautifully said that Wesley was better than his father, it doesn’t mean Wes was balanced. Since season one we see that he’s always on the verge of irrational hero complex and with the years he became less and less balanced.

    In Fred’s shoes, it would have been a cold shower for me. Not like Gunn’s actions in season four, but still very cold. Wesley was letting himself being a target one minute before, so it’s easy to guess what a powerful trigger it was that Roger threatened her of all people. However, I can work with the concept that she tries to avoid all this with the idea that it was a cyborg.


  8. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    I think it’s both. He’s making sure of his father’s death, and all those years of fear and frustration are exploding.

    You’re quite right that Wes isn’t terribly balanced and it gets worse as the seasons pass. That’s why at the end of this episode Fred leaves with the (apparently) simple and sane Knox, rather than stay with Wes.

    And you are quite correct that it only makes Fred and Wes’ hooking up at the end of “Smile Time” more unrealistic. It pretty much came out of the blue even by itself, but I hadn’t considered how given her previous attitudes it seems quite out of character for Fred to be interested in someone as unstable as Wes.

    I’ll have to touch on that in the “Smile Time” review, though I’ll gladly leave the bulk of the analysis to the poor fool who volunteered to take “A hole in the World.” (That’d be Rick. If you read this: Good luck.)


  9. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    Yeah, maybe it’s both!

    A hole in the world makes me so confused I’m really looking forward to Rick’s take on it!

    You’re doing Smile Time? Fun fun fun!


  10. [Note: Rick posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    I am pretty dumb for picking A Hole in the World, but at least it won’t be as tough as Not Fade Away. What moron volunteered for that one…oh….well then…


  11. [Note: Michelle posted this comment on August 25, 2010.]

    You really did a great job, Iguana. You and Patrick both are making me nervous about taking my turn at bat!


  12. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on August 25, 2010.]

    Thanks for all the positive feedback, people. It certainly makes writing this even more fun.

    Though for those who want to see “Smile Time” that’ll be a while. “Unleashed” is up first. Though Patrick has already covered the most salient point in his review above. 🙂


  13. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on August 27, 2010.]

    Great review of a great episode, Iguana! I’ve only seen this episode once so your descriptions really helped me remember the scenes as you analyzed them; thanks for that. Looking forward to the rest of ’em.

    For some reason I completely failed to notice that Drew Goddard wrote for Angel. Or maybe I just forgot. Anyhow, he’s got an impressive list of fantastic final season Buffy and Angel episodes on his resume.


  14. [Note: Pete posted this comment on August 30, 2010.]

    “His line at the end about killing his mum after she tried to shag him is a particularly dire offence against characterisation.”

    Huh? Why exactly do you find it offensive? He only stated what happened. That’s all. His exact quote: “Don’t know if you know this, but, uh… I killed my mum. Actually, I’d already killed her, and then she tried to shag me.” I don’t find any of that dialogue out of character.

    And also Spike was in school like 100 years ago. Do you think that he remembers such things as “head boy” anymore?


  15. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on August 30, 2010.]

    Yes, he’d remember the concept. Ask your grandparents or great-grandparents if you have them about their schools. People remember their youth clearly, most of the time. And a concept like that is simply common knowledge in England.

    “Lies my Parents Told Me” established that killing his mother was one of the biggest post-vampire traumas Spike experienced. Even at the cost of the First being able to influence him he would not fully cooperate with Giles in working through this trauma and would not tell anyone what it even was about. If he finally managed to come to terms with this it required him to convince himself that she had been just a demon at the end, something that very probably was not true. We never saw him tell anyone the full story of what happened there, not even Buffy.

    It is horribly out of character for him to just lightly tell an almost-stranger about this as if it were an amusing or relevant anecdote. The way he tells it rings very false with how it is treated in LMPTM. Even if Spike no longer feels as much guilt and shame as he did before he would never treat the episode this lightly, he would never share this vulnerability with Wesley in such a careless fashion.

    And it’s also out of character for Spike to be so clumsy and unempathic. Angel, yes, he does that. But even pre-soul when Spike tried to comfort someone, say Dawn, he was sensitive and trying to get through to the other. It’s a world of difference with Spike-telling-Wes-his-mum-tried-to-shag-him. Spike isn’t flippant in cases like that.

    So yes, I stand by my statement that this scene is a dire offence against characterisation.


  16. [Note: yippers6 posted this comment on September 4, 2010.]

    i loved the comment about the whole thing where they were reporting stuff and spike reported about wesley being head boy


  17. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on September 6, 2010.]

    Rick, how is “A Hole in the World” tough to analyze? Fred gets infected. She dies. It’s a great episode, but much like “The Body” there’s not much more to it than that.

    “Shells”, on the other hand… that one could be challenging.


  18. [Note: What? posted this comment on May 8, 2011.]

    Dude, A Hole in the World is easily one of the most thematically dense episodes of Angel they ever did. There’s plenty for a reviewer to work with, not to mention all the important character beats and crazy film techniques that they could address. The thing is so packed with ideas (a few of which even work!) that I would be disappointed if the review were shorter than this one, and this a long (and excellent) review.

    As for The Body, I point you toward its wikipedia entry, which is about ten times as long as the average entry for a Buffy episode: The thing is dense as all get out and provides PLENTY of fodder for discussion.

    I really enjoyed the review, by the way.


  19. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 12, 2011.]

    Glad to hear it, stranger.

    And since my next review -is- going to be “Hole in the world” the results should be… interesting.


  20. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on August 18, 2011.]

    The Good:

    -Getting to meet Roger, even if he is not the real one.

    -Wesley still trying to please his father.

    -Wesley saying how he beat out ‘everyone dying in an explosion’ as biggest failure.

    -Wesley just pumping the fatherbot full of bullets with no expression.

    -Angel and Wesley speaking after.

    The Bad:

    -Are the robots people or robots or half-half.

    -Not having Wesley actually kill his father.

    Notice that Wesley is not surprised when he sees his father turn a gun on him. He even agrees that his father would kill him over Angel. What screwed up relationship would have a son believe his dad pulled a gun on him.

    Wesley:”No. The perception is I’m weak. That’s why that went for me.”

    Angel:”They’re wrong. You do what you have to do to protect the people around you. You do what you know is right, regardless of the cost. You know I never really understood that. You’re the guy that makes all the hard decisions even if you have to make them alone.”


  21. [Note: JMK posted this comment on October 8, 2011.]

    “Lineage” is one of my favorite episodes of the series, as it finally fleshes out the whole inferiority complex that racked Wesley during the beginning of the series. The way roger belittles and picks at every little thing, truly shows how Wesley became such an insecure man. Imagine never being able to satisfy the very man that you try to model your life after, its maddening and frustrating. The moment that Wesley shot Roger, was incredibly jaw dropping and one of the most powerful moments of ATS.

    Furthermore, I felt that the end scene between Angel and Wesley was a missed opportunity in some aspects. Wesley and Angel’s relationship, so to speak, was one of the most interesting aspects of the series. I feel that the writers missed an opportunity to link Wesley and Angel together, as both of them went through similar situations(overbearing fathers). Additionally, there should have been more blow-back from the mind wipe decision. The writers seemed to brush that off, even after briefly exploring it during earlier episodes and fleshing it out in “Origins”.


  22. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 19, 2011.]

    Liked the episode, but didn’t love it.

    I am in fact one of the people you mentioned who dislike the revalation that Roger was a cyborg.

    When I read here that they never explain where these cyborgs came from and what they wanted with Angel’s will (not to mention that the “psychological profile from the watcher’s Council” explanation doesn’t make sense) then even start to dislike the episode a bit.

    Other things that bothered me:

    Angel and the team fighting the cyborgs completely on their own inside the W&H building (no security or shamans or whatever?)

    Fred leaving Wesley at the end after he showed her how much he loved her by shooting his father without thinking twice (no more words neccessary imo) – I love Fred but what she does here is just completely wrong.

    That episode would be much better if it was in fact the Watcher’s Council attacking Angel and if it was Wesleys real father. They managed to not completely screw it up, made Wes call his father at the end in a really sad scene, but it still is disappointing.

    Except that I don’t have any criticism towards the episode, Spike for example was not ooc, he was a cynic and the behaviour doesn’t change over night just because he got a soul. He might have a trauma regarding his mother but he might have found closure (she was not his mother anymore when she said those cruel things to him) and btw it is still Spike, not some pitiful, weepy ponce. If he wants to make jokes about his past he just does that. 😉

    “Why on earth would an upper-middle-class Victorian Englishman, either the product of or highly familiar with the public school system, find the concept of “Head Boy” surprising or amusing?”

    As I said, I’m no native speaker but the first time this title was mentioned I had the impression that everyone around Wesley thought of it as a dirty joke (made the “A lot of effort I don’t mind saying” part reaaaaally funny).

    Sry if I’m completley wrong there and if this is too dirty for this website but I actually laughed when Spike made fun of that title.


  23. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 19, 2011.]

    About Fred being afraid of Wes like some of you suggested:

    After my second viewing of the end of the episode I changed my mind about that part. At first it seemed like a very noble deed to save her, but Fred didn’t know what kind of person Wesleys father really was and the scene on the rooftop was nowhere long enough for her to understand Wesleys trigger happy behaviour (his undying love for her that also made him let her go with Knox at the end of the episode without objecting is not enough as I first believed, not in this case).

    Now I think she reacted just right, being afraid of him seems natural in this situation. Maybe she wanted to be there for him before because she wanted to believe he already knew about the cyborg before shooting it. So she got even more afraid when he confessed that he didn’t know that.

    It seemed very clear to me that his father was a heartless and cruel guy (but Fred can’t know that of course), but since it was just a robot and Angel and Wesley didn’t do more than speculate that it might have the same personality as Wesleys !estranged! father (don’t care anymore what Wes says, he doesn’t know his father anymore). Now to me it all seems to be kind of a chamber play about Wesley and his father issues and doesn’t have anything to do with his real father.

    Keeping that in mind it is a great piece of tragedy, because over the course of the episode Wesley was led to that point where he shot his father for his beloved Fred who he didn’t want to put in danger again and certainly not for that sadistic father who just broke his heart and showed him that he didn’t mean anything for him (at least that’s what Wes believed). Still a bit overreacted (shooting Roger in the shoulder might have worked too), but I can feel for him. Of course he never will be able to explain that to Fred, ultimatively losing his last shot at her. Tragic, as I said.

    So I start to even accept/like the cyborg part even if the explanation is lame…

    But I also start to think that I completely disagree with most of your review.

    Well, no offense! 😉


  24. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 21, 2011.]

    Btw, just saw “Destiny” and I’m completely blown away by this episode!

    Hope someone will write a review for it soon. 🙂

    Every scene fun, every line a hit, countless hilarious puns, great continuity (Spike drinks his nose blood again for example, Spike’s and Angel’s personalities, just everything), hilarious Spike/Angel scenes, Dru was in it, making Spike jealous again (elevates this masterful episode even more), I really don’t know where to begin to praise the episode.

    Of course the goblet has to be in Death Valley, lololol! XD

    Oh and the fight between Angel and Spike was just kick-ass!

    And then, at the end, Angel is self-pitying as usual!

    And wait, newsflash, W&H are still evil! … Ok, duh!

    Everything all just fits together so perfectly in this episode, love it, love it, love it to death! (I usually don’t use that many exclamation marks so it really means sth when I do. ^^)

    Imo it is very obvious that Joss Whedon concentrated on the show in S05 again, it’s much much much … much better than anything that happened in the last seasons.

    Have to watch the rest of the season and I think on future rewatches I will skip to S05 everytime. It’s just so much like Buffy, perfect …

    See, I’m nearly starting to drool here. But it just makes me happy, finally I can enjoy what I started to watch the show for in the first place, more of Buffy.

    Cheers! 🙂

    Why exactly did they cancel it again? o.O

    Btw, do the Englishmen really use the term “get pissed” for getting drunk? Now that’s weird … 😉


  25. [Note: Alex posted this comment on October 21, 2011.]

    Yes, we really do say ‘pissed’ to mean ‘drunk’! Never really thought about it being weird before…


  26. [Note: Keaton posted this comment on October 21, 2011.]

    Just chuckled my way to the end of “Soul Purpose”.

    Seriously you have to write reviews about these episodes soon. And I’m fairly sure it continues to be that good, only hits, no misses, no logic flaws … It does stay that good, doesn’t it?

    I mean there are puns everywhere and with Harm and Lindsey two very likable characters are back, all could be just shallow, but it isn’t, with all the signs of impending doom all over the place.

    Boy, am I eager to see what will happen to Angel and Spike!

    The fun thing about S05 is that is is very amusing without being silly or hurting the story development (late season Buffy style, yeah!), all in character (and that’s even better than Buffy … WOW!) (for example none of the main chars has any sympathies for Harm, even after her redeeming deed at the end of the last episode, very consequent and great continuity) and despite that, most of it is very funny. For me at least.

    I will stop ti spam here and only write comments to actual existing reviews in the future, just had to tell someone. 😉


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

    Fine review, damn fine! 🙂

    On the ‘Head Boy’ issue; we don’t know too much about Spike and his schooling but he was not a fast learner (a ‘quick study’ as he puts it) and he remembers at least one occasion of being (or feeling) mocked/punished, “dropped my board in the water – sure to be caned (etc).”

    It’s also quite possible that he never finished school – when did his father die? That may have forced him to leave or to change (to lowlier) establishments.

    Spike uses amusement to cover rage, it’s definitely in-character.

    And Head Boy is, in any case, a typical negative image (like prefect) of the toadying and ninny-like sort that Spike may still have Wesley pegged as (not really seen much of Wes has he) and which, certainly in public, he uses his Spike persona to repudiate.

    Maybe William was a Head Boy!

    Angel trying to convince himself is true enough, he spends 20-ish episodes doing just that in regard to pretty much everything until he makes his big decision…

    As for that final scene, i’m with you; it for sure is no cop out. One of the most powerful moments in the series.


  28. [Note: Xavier posted this comment on June 18, 2012.]

    This episode reinforces what a long way Wesley has come from when he was first introduced as an arrogrant, clumsy, and annoying watcher back in Buffy S3. It’s great to see his character develop so much. I’m proud of him. (Yes, I know how this sounds)


  29. [Note: Rob posted this comment on August 29, 2012.]

    You must not watch many shows outside of Buffy and Angel if you think that scenes such as the rooftop one, and/or such great character depictions, are a rarity on television. Because they really, really aren’t.


  30. [Note: Sue-bob posted this comment on September 15, 2012.]

    Have to agree on the my-mum-tried-to-shag-me-so-I-killed-her line. This really jarred for me when i watched, possibly because i only just finished BtVS season 7.

    For me, this jokey line contradicted the tone of Lies My Mother Told Me and how Spike felt about this important moment in his season seven development. Spike, perhaps through hurt pride, never confided this event (even to Buffy) when leaving the issue unresolved would leave him under the influence of the Big Bad and obviously loved his mother very much.

    The line felt more like a writter name-checking an event they’ve read about rather than having seen the episode (although when I first felt this I didn’t know DG was the writer).


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

    I agree with Sue-bob, and several of the rest of you — Spike would never have made such an off-hand comment about his mother. He’s always so reluctant to bring her up at ALL, because she’s always been sacred to him; probably more so now that he has a soul, and can realize more fully what vampirizing her did: that he ‘sent away’ her good and truer self and invited in a demon to take advantage of her body, her memories, and her knowledge of her son. “Here, demon, have Mummy’s brain to feast upon!” Yeah. Not something he’s okay with acknowledging. Then again, I don’t know if he’s come far enough to be able to comment like that because he *can* separate the demon from his mother. What if he’d been about to say something like, ‘of course, she wasn’t really my mum, any more than that cyborg was really your dad,’ but Wesley interrupted him?I think it’s so horribly sad that it’s Roger’s praise of Wesley which throws him off-balance so completely. He’s *never* had it, *ever.* 😦 I also thought the last line was very memorable/quotable. When Wesley is on the telephone, and can hardly squeeze three words at a time between his father’s criticisms, the last thing we hear him say is, “I just… wanted to call… and… see how you were.” As in, not just check that his father’s still alive, but also see HOW he is… if he’s still as critical and belittling, if he really IS how the cyborg portrayed him… if a conversation with Roger might help Wesley separate him from the horrible experience he’s just had. But no. The cyborg really did act just “how Roger is.”


  32. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on September 28, 2012.]

    Very interesting thoughts, people. Glad to see you all still reading and commenting.Anne: great insights on that final scene. I hadn’t quite considered that, but I think you’re right.


  33. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on November 10, 2012.]

    Do you mean that in a good or bad way: “horrific attempt at an excellent episode” or “excellent attempt at a horrific episode?”


  34. [Note: Dave posted this comment on November 10, 2012.]

    Sorry for the lack of clarification there, Ryan. I meant it entirely in how the episode impacted me emotionally.


  35. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on November 16, 2012.]

    Also, I don’t think that the connection between Wes and Gunn as murderers makes Fresley as unrealistic as it sounds. Gunn helped Fred murder somebody that she was angry at, however justly, and didn’t seem to care very much. Wesley was willing to die to avoid killing his father until Fred was explicitly threatened, and he at least he had the decency to be visibly disgusted with himself when he finally did have to.


  36. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on January 19, 2013.]

    I wondered about the memory wipe with the first scene. The guy says he used to make collapsible swords for Wesley which we saw in season 4 when he was working with a new group. He only left the Hyperion and the gang to fight with others because of the Connor incident so I wonder what the reason is he thinks he left them to go his own way. He is probably racking his brain trying to figure out why he left Angel to be a loner. Maybe he thinks he did it because of Lilah.

    Anyway, I still find it creepy that Wesley believes that his own father would murder him in cold blood. I love how there is no pause between the bot threatening Fred and Wesley unloading the clip on him. This is one of only a few instances in the Buffyverse that a gun is useful.


  37. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 27, 2014.]

    I really don’t see a big difference between Ted and this episode. Both Wesley and Buffy fully believed they’d killed a human and responded appropriately. Angel’s series has always been described as darker than Buffy, so it seems they could have had Wesley kill his real dad instead.


  38. [Note: Seele posted this comment on January 27, 2014.]

    Well, one difference is that Ted attacked the Summerses because he was evil, not because he thought that they were evil, so there was a bit more ambiguity in this one.


  39. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on November 1, 2015.]

    I was watching a bit of this episode on Netflix due to being reminded of it in the AV Club comment section of The Zygon Invasion (I think you can guess the scene) and probably due to the high-speed provided by my current University building or whatever I was able to enable the HD option for a bit for the episode for the first time and I got to say it looks damn crisp. The HD is just another bit of awesome to add to this season. They really need to get it out on Blu-ray, though it might be unfeasible given that it’s the only one in the Buffyverse that can be at this point (and given the poor reception of Buffy HD it might take a while).


  40. [Note: OffHandComment posted this comment on January 26, 2016.]

    A comment about Spikes “Head Boy” dialogue.

    I went to a school like that, and it has been around for many hundreds of years- certainly pre-Victorian. In terms of continuity, Spike’s added a 1980’s spin on Head boy. But if you watch Harry Potter is a pastiche of school in Britain view from the “expensive” end.

    This was an excellent review and I too would like to know what plot lines would have been explored regarding the source of the cyborgs!!


  41. [Note: Paula posted this comment on February 21, 2016.]

    You forgot to mention in foreshadowing how Spike says that having sex with humans is common because of the Buffybot


  42. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on February 21, 2016.]

    That’s not foreshadowing, though. That’s a callback. It’s a funny line, but not that significant.


  43. [Note: Pandorita posted this comment on April 27, 2016.]

    Great review, but you left out the quotes a very important one, just right after Roger stops the cyborg bomb from detonating:

    Angel: What happened?
    Spike: I can explain. Apparently, when Percy here was younger, he used to be known as “head boy”. (smiles exultantly)
    Angel: Yeah, I already knew that.
    Spike: (looking dissapointed) Right. I have nothing else to report.

    I laughed my ass off with that!


  44. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 10, 2016.]

    I actually mentioned that bit… in my minor con section.

    Would have loved the joke if Spike was an obnoxious American. Xander would have had a field day with it. But considering Spike’s background I just don’t see how it would even register as weird or unusual for him.


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