Angel 5×08: Destiny

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Fury and Steven S. DeKnight | Director: Skip Schoolnik | Aired: 11/19/2003]

One of the most curious things about “Destiny” is how misleading the title is. This is not really — as one might expect — an episode about the concept of destiny and how it applies to Angel and Spike. In reality, it’s kind of the other way around; it’s about Angel and Spike and how they use – or ignore — the concept of destiny. This affects their perception, personality, and history, all of which go into shaping how these two vampires see the world.

This is an episode that is anchored by the century-plus old conflict between Angel and Spike. When thinking about the purpose of “Destiny,” a series of questions come to mind: (1) where does the animosity between Angel and Spike originate from, (2) why has this animosity persisted throughout the years to the point where they care enough to fight over the Cup of Perpetual Torment, and (3) where do the two of them go from here? I think addressing these questions will reveal a lot about who these vampires are nowadays, and what their most stark differences are. So let’s start digging!

The origin story of this conflict is finally revealed and it proves to be an excellent and consistent addition to the mythos behind the original ‘Fang Gang.’ I was completely stoked by the direction my mind was pulled when I started really breaking down some of these flashback scenes. Spike’s early notion that Drusilla is his “destiny” makes complete sense considering that his personality as a human was that of a socially removed, wannabe poet, and closet romantic. Although William’s romantic notions are more understandable than Angelus’ slow-burning psychological torture, they’re not necessarily that much better. There’s a certain possessive quality to labeling another person as your destiny – as if they belong to you and they are meant for only you. Not only is this belittling to Drusilla, in this instance, but it’s actually quite self-belittling as well – that William so lacks self-awareness and self-confidence that he requires another person to make him worthwhile. His use of destiny in the present shows just how much he’s grown, as he will come to see personal growth and self-sacrifice as his destiny rather than a woman.

Angelus, of course, mocks William for all of this and uses Drusilla to satisfy his desires on a whim. Drusilla is partially insane and doesn’t particularly seem to care about any of this either way. He not only mocks William, but Angelus taunts him too by taking Drusilla from him and laughing at him for his monogamous romantic tendencies. Angelus tells William that, as vampires, they are free to take whatever they want whenever they want it. What Angelus fails to see is that William wants Drusilla, and he wants her pretty much all the time, and Angelus’ behavior is a clear violation of his desires. This brewing conflict makes it all the more interesting that, before the disagreement over Drusilla, they appeared to be quite chummy with each other. Angelus was looking for another protégé to instruct in the art of evil, but instead got a personality that wasn’t suited to his tastes in the slightest.

If there’s one moment when William turns into Spike, it’s catching Angelus putting it to Drusilla. In short, Spike sees this as Angelus beating him out for Drusilla’s attention. The Spike persona is, at least initially, built in part to piss Angelus off as a response to this event. Spike then immediately drops his tutelage under Angelus in favor of a risky high-octane personality. He does this as a way to keep Drusilla in his favor and further distinguish and distance himself from Angelus. As we see in “Fool for Love” (Buffy, 5×07), he succeeds at this goal by causing a wake of chaos behind him that stems from his new “fists and fangs” personality. Angelus likes to play the long-term psychological game, thinking of it as an art form, and Spike’s presence becomes a direct affront to this way of un-life. Thus, a deep rivalry is born, and Drusilla is never far from the center of it.

After Angelus gets a soul and disappears off the map for nearly a hundred years, Spike is left to roam free and bond with Drusilla all that much more. This brings us up to modern times where, in Buffy Season 2, Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus are reunited for the first time in over a century. In the latter half of this Buffy season what is it we see happen in the dynamic between these three? Angelus loses his soul and what’s one of the first things he starts doing? He begins pulling Drusilla away again, both taunting and mocking a temporarily disabled (in a wheelchair) Spike! Naturally this makes Spike furious and is the primary reason why he works with the Slayer rather than trying to kill her. Spike’s temporary alliance with Buffy existed purely as a means to get Drusilla back from Angelus and stick it to him one final time.

Only it didn’t quite work out like Spike wanted it to, did it? Angel ends up coming back from hell with a soul again, and worst of all Drusilla ends up leaving Spike because of a new subconscious attraction to Buffy – an attraction that only had the opportunity to develop because Angelus forced his hand. In a way, Angelus wins again. It’s also worth noting that all of this sets a sequence of events into motion that eventually leads to Spike fighting for his soul so he can be the kind of man Buffy might actually be able to come to trust and love. Wow. The fact that this complex history all fits together coherently is actually quite impressive and exciting. I feel like throwing out a little ‘weeeee!’ Okay, I’m good now.

So, okay, we’ve figured out why the rivalry between these two vampires exists. But now that they both have souls and have grown so much, why in the world do they fight so violently over this Cup of Perpetual Torment (a.k.a. Mountain Dew!)? Well, this is quite the interesting question. From what I can tell Spike has a lot more reason to fight for it than Angel does. Firstly, Spike’s more recently been ensouled, and more recently been close to Buffy. The prospect of becoming human again feels more palpable to Spike and would mean an even stronger opportunity to have a real life with Buffy. Secondly, Spike really does think himself better, and more deserving, than Angel for the Shanshu reward. Spike fought for his soul while Angel had it forced upon him in vengeance. The fact that Angel is now working for Wolfram & Hart is further proof of this to Spike. Finally, Spike simply hates Angel and doesn’t want him to ‘win’ again like he did time and again in the past through Drusilla. Spike wants to take this reward from Angel.

The tables have really turned from their early days of knowing each other. This change is exemplified by Angelus showing his control and confidence in the past by freely sticking his hand in the sun, but then recoiling from the cross in the present while – in a powerful moment – we see the opposite is true of Spike (“I’m nothing like you”). This change makes it easier to see why Angel has little invested in beating Spike. Angel doesn’t even really believe in the Shanshu prophecy anymore! Sure, in “Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco” [5×06], we see him take another look at it with a bit of renewed hope, but his heart just isn’t in it anymore. A part of him feels that he doesn’t even deserve it! Angel, as he told Spike in “Hell Bound” [5×04], feels that nothing they do can make up for the destruction they caused as soulless vampires. And since Angel takes full ownership of the crimes of Angelus, this leads to him feeling like he has no real chance at the Shanshu prophecy even if it’s a real thing. Interestingly, even as soulless vampires, Spike showed far more capacity for reflection and change than Angelus ever did.

The key here is that Spike has a major philosophical difference with Angel in regard to the responsibility they have for their soulless crimes; Spike knows he wasn’t the same person then and didn’t have the moral conscious capable of unselfish behavior – of truly knowing the difference between right and wrong. Despite how haunted he can still be by the memories of what ‘he’ did in the past, he doesn’t generally beat himself up over it much because he recognizes that wasn’t the same person that he is now – the soul changes everything.

In Season 7 of Buffy, Buffy plays a huge role in helping Spike realize this, and ends up being the driver of a lot of what Spike ends up telling Angel here in “Destiny.” I’m particularly reminded of her fabulous speech to him in “Never Leave Me” (7×09), where she tells him “You think you have insight now because your soul’s drenched in blood? You don’t know me. You don’t even know you. Was that you who killed those people in the cellar? Was that you who waited for those girls? … Listen to me. You’re not alive because of hate or pain. You’re alive because I saw you change; because I saw your penance. … Be easier, wouldn’t it, it if were an act. But it’s not. You faced the monster inside of you and you fought back. You risked everything to be a better man. And you can be. You are. You may not see it, but I do.”

It’s actually fairly ironic to me that Angel’s only comeback to Spike’s sharp jabs about his motivations is that the whole soul grab was just “to get in a girl’s pants.” I say this is ironic because Buffy’s relationship with Angel was largely one of blind teenage notions of eternal romantic love, whereas what Buffy had with Spike — post-soul — was a relationship not of romance and lust, but of mutual respect and a more altruistic form of love. Not to say the Angel relationship didn’t have its moments of this, but it isn’t one that was fueled by it.

Beyond how culpable each vampire feels for their past crimes, Angel also has real reason to doubt the meaning of prophecies in general after everything he’s seen. Too many are manipulating or misleading to ever fully trust them. So, knowing all of this, I really think the only real reason Angel bothers putting up a fight for the Cup is simply because he doesn’t like Spike and doesn’t want to be beat by him. I think it’s obvious now that Spike’s motivations are far more compelling than Angel’s, which is why Spike gets the symbolic victory (and real Mountain Dew) – he really did want it more.

So where does that leave these two going forward? Well, for Spike, it gives him his first real goal with a soul beyond helping and learning from Buffy. This is precisely why we’ll see him hitting the streets, helping the helpless, just like Angel did back in “City of” [1×01]. Is Spike likely to repeat Angel’s trajectory and eventually become what Angel is today though? I really don’t think so, as their thoughts on their culpability to their respective pasts and their core personalities remain starkly different.

For Angel, the events of “Destiny” leave him the most devastated and lost he’s been in a long time. What’s his purpose? What good is he doing? Is he now part of the problem? All of these are questions that “Soul Purpose” [5×10] and the rest of the season will attempt to explore in more detail. It’s safe to say that Spike beating him to the Cup is massively deflating for him, at the very least. This epic fight constitutes the majority of the last half of “Destiny” and is far and away the best part of it. Sadly, though, the same can’t be said for the first half of the episode.

For all the great writing Spike gets during the big fight, it’s quite surprising how poor it is earlier in the episode. Let’s start with Spike continuing to holler out that he staked his mother while she was trying to shag him. All of that history was incredibly personal and private to him in Buffy Season 7, yet the writers have him throwing it around here on Angel like it’s the most casual thing in the world. This is just poor characterization.

An extension of my distaste with that line is Spike’s behavior shortly after becoming corporeal again. Within seconds of this Spike almost forces Harmony into having sex with him. Would pre-soul Spike do this? Sure, I can see it. But post-soul Spike? It’s a really hard sell, especially considering the fact that Buffy’s still out there and doesn’t even know he’s not all fried up. After everything we saw out of Spike in Buffy Season 7 – the quiet humbleness — this behavior comes across as really forced.

This is a problem that pops up occasionally in Season 5 – where the writers just don’t seem to have a consistent grasp on how to write an ensouled Spike. There wasn’t a second of Buffy Season 7 where I didn’t see and feel the weight of Spike’s soul and how that impacted his entire demeanor. Too often Spike is short-changed his depth in exchange for comedy here in Season 5 — some of which is admittedly quite funny — but it’s frankly not the sort of trade that makes me all that happy. I’ll leave more discussion on this to the Season 5 Review.

Beyond the characterization inconsistencies, the biggest problem I have with “Destiny” is its plot. Now, I’m the first to say that plot isn’t all that important in relation to the characters, and that holds true here, for the most part, but the everyone-goes-psycho apocalypse plot is just awful. It has absolutely no weight, is over-the-top (Eve describes it as “the entire universe thrown into catastrophic turmoil”), and only serves as a distraction from what we’re really interested in: the conflict between Angel and Spike. I really wish this plot wasn’t there or, at least, was pushed even further into the background. The episode leads us to believe all the chaos is caused by the Shanshu prophecy being ‘confused’ or something now that Spike is corporeal, causing the entire universe to begin spiraling to its doom. What overblown nonsense! It’s so ridiculous that it actually does impact my enjoyment of the good stuff. It doesn’t help that it has such a large presence too.

As the episode wraps up, we get the reveal that Lindsay, with snuggle-bunny Eve’s help, is the one pulling some of the strings around the office lately. This revelation, and what comes of it, ends up being pretty underwhelming to me, I have to say. Not only is their ‘plan’ really convoluted, but I can’t help but feel they short-change the depth that Lindsay left the show with back in Season 2. Although he comes off a little more interesting again towards the end of the season, this whole revenge plot against Angel strikes me as both petty and pointless. I’m mostly saddened that Lindsay comes back on the show for such uninteresting reasons, which makes that final reveal kind of a letdown.

So what’s the final verdict on “Destiny,” you ask. Well, when you really break it down, the first half of the episode is so plot-heavy that I honestly found myself kind of bored this time around. It’s a real shame that this drags down the explosive material with Angel and Spike in the second half. In the end, though, that epic Angel and Spike fight with all of its associated insights, barbs, and revelations, really does still make this quite a memorable episode of Angel. While “Destiny” misses greatness, it’s got enough greatness in it to hold it up despite some otherwise awful material. And I gotta tell you: the Mountain Dew reveal gets me every single time.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Spike having a blast in one of Angel’s cars, singing and then mocking Angel on the phone.
+ The old opera house is a great setting for Angel and Spike to have this epic smack down.
+ The fighting itself: well-choreographed, intense, and thrilling. Obviously it’s the character drama beneath it that makes it soar, but still a great effort on the technical details too.

– Am I the only one who thinks it’s a little lame the way Spike is made corporeal? I mean a flash of light out of a cardboard box? I know their budget was cut this season, but damn.
– Why does Eve have to talk to everyone like they are pubescent adolescents, especially considering the fact that she’s the one that most closely resembles that description? Calling the gang “kids…” thrice, and saying things like “we’ve got trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for prophecy” just makes me cringe. This episode is worse than all preceding it in this regard — Eve’s dialogue is just one awful line followed by another awful line. I’m just not used to hearing this much bad dialogue on these shows. Sigh.
– It’s kind of odd how we haven’t seen Sirk since “Home” [4×22], even in the background. Then we find out he was working with Eve and Lindsay to hatch a confusing plan. Not the most exciting character, I must say, although he had potential.
– Although I feel it works within the context of both episodes, we’ve got two in a row now that have used a fake-out mechanism at its climax. Can’t say I’m a big fan of that.
– Wesley was not in this episode.


[Score]

88/100

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32 thoughts on “Angel 5×08: Destiny”

  1. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on July 19, 2012.]

    You know Mike, I thought I was usually harder on hokey plots than you are, but not this time it seems. When I watch “Destiny” I hardly notice there -is- a plot because there is so much other stuff happening.

    This episode brings Angel and Spike and their relationship full-circle, and that’s what I love best about it. If you watch Buffy season 2 after this, it makes complete sense. If you watch it before this, it still makes complete sense. That’s craftsmanship. That’s what makes this episode a great addition to the mythos.

    Of course, you’re quite right about the plot barely being worthy of being called a contrivance. And yes, Spike’s initial actions are impossible to justify by any reading of the character. My gut said this episode was an easy A, but that may well be because the latter half exorcises memories of the first. Your score fits better.

    Still. Character development. Flashbacks. Some of the best one-liners. The coolest fight in the entire Whedonverse, except possibly that in “The Gift.” I can’t help but -love- this episode.

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  2. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 19, 2012.]

    I agree with you Iguana. The good stuff definitely holds a whole lot more weight than the bad stuff, but my real sticking point for the score is just how present the plot is in “Destiny.” It takes up the majority of the first half of the episode (I even looked at the clock), is boring as hell, and is annoying to go back to every time it happens in the second half. Between that and the characterization issues, it’s all enough to rob the episode an A-range grade.

    But the Angel and Spike stuff is A+ material, hands down. Just fabulous. It’s a shame the rest of the episode couldn’t keep up.

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  3. [Note: Anonymous posted this comment on July 19, 2012.]

    I’ve always thought of Eve as one of those “joking & comedy, not menacing” antagonists, like Skip. Whenever she says something like “we’ve got trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for prophecy” (a reference to The Music Man, for those who don’t know, although I’ve never seen the movie) I view it as almost a “fun loving” antagonist. That’s just my view on Eve’s comments–and as I’ve said previously, I like Eve.

    Also, my personal view on the con “Wesley is not in the episode” seems more of a minor preference rather than something that should be a con. Like how I always felt Drusilla should be in more episodes; that’s not a con of the series, just a personal preference.

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  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 19, 2012.]

    Anonymous, the section is listed as Minor Pros/Cons, which means everything listed there isn’t a huge deal. This is why it’s not mentioned in the core review.

    Also, the comparison to Drusilla isn’t really all that relevant considering Wesley is a main character on Angel whereas Drusilla is a secondary character at best. The reason why it’s a minor con is because Wesley’s my favorite thing about Angel, so when he’s not around it’s unfortunate.

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  5. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on July 19, 2012.]

    Huzzah! glad to see a new review, was interested in this one to read your thoughts on Spike post-Buffy7. You didn’t disappoint; i’m betting that’s one reason it took some doing to write…

    Spike (as Marsters always points out) was always blowing with whatever wind came out of the writer’s-room (from M.o.t.W to wacky neighbour to eventual Scoob status) so evening out his character/essential personality against his developing backstory and growth was always a challenge.

    Drawing a critical bead on him and the episode AND the season of Angel he’s wound up in – not the easiest of tasks, i bet!

    i guess i like the episode a little more than you overall (and season 5 as a whole a LOT more judging from the team reviews so far in), but i appreciate the effort, time and insights you always bring to the table; “In reality, it’s kind of the other way around; it’s about Angel and Spike and how they use – or ignore — the concept of destiny.”

    that’s a fresh take for starters.

    And you are right (IMO) about the immediacy of things for Spike whereas Angel’s drift (from Buffy, from Cordelia, from his son, from a clear evil to fight) really starts taking a toll on the guy from here(ish) in the run up to the finale.

    Lindsay; his little arc from revenge to joining team Angel mirrors Spike, ironically.

    So; i don’t see any material in this ep as ‘awful’ and i love the gear change from the hilarity of the car chase phone-call to the “you made me a monster” weighty and dark – but that’s subjective on my part.

    Enjoyed the read – thank you for posting it and i hope you get to relax a little now!

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  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 19, 2012.]

    Thanks for the comment, wytchcroft!

    First off, I’ll say that I’m also a little surprised by how much less I’m liking the first half of Season 5 overall after rewatching it myself and reading everyone’s reviews. Under a closer microscope, it’s a little more repetitive and inconsistent than I remembered it.

    With that said, I really think you’ll see the scores pick up quite a bit from “Shells” onward. I’d be really surprised if that didn’t happen, but you never know.

    I’ll be wrapping up my guestage Angel reviews with “Origin,” hopefully not too long from now. So only a little relax time! 🙂

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  7. [Note: Brachen Man posted this comment on July 20, 2012.]

    *Holds head in hands and cries*

    Just kidding. I am a little disappointed that one of the best episodes of Angel season 5 didn’t recieve a perfect score, but at least it wasn’t another F.

    One minor nitpick I have with the review is that I don’t think the ‘end of the world’ plot where everybody goes crazy that you think hampers the episode was actually what it appeared to be. Based on the reveal at the end, I always took it to mean that it was Lindsay who orchestrated everything in order to make them think the Shanshu confusion was causing the world to end. In reality, all the crazy people, being cut off from the white room, etc. was just one of Lindsay’s magic tricks that Eve helped sell to the gang.

    In fact, I think that was the case for the entire first half of the season. Lindsay and Eve were just using magics akin to those tattoos of his to cut off the Senior Partners from the LA branch of W&H so that they had free reign to string everybody along (especially Angel and Spike) and put the pieces in play for the endgame in “You’re Welcome”.

    I don’t know if that puts this episode in a different light in terms of plot, but I thought it was worth stating.

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  8. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 20, 2012.]

    Oh, I know Lindsay and Eve were the ones pulling the strings there (in concert with Sirk). But how pointless it is, how overblown it is, and how much of the episode it takes up all remain problems that bog the episode down. Throw in Spike’s early poor characterization, and you have a recipe for less than an A.

    The Angel/Spike stuff is awesome. There’s no argument there. Sure I could have ignored the first half of the episode in my final grade, but that’s just not how I grade things. For a P, the whole episode — start to finish — has to work. The whole package has to be there. If I were grading based on how good the best scenes in an episode were, I’d have given “Beneath You” in Buffy S7 an A+, which it more clearly doesn’t deserve. As much as I may have wanted “Destiny” to be deserving of an A+, it simply isn’t. 😦

    Still a really good episode though!

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  9. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on July 20, 2012.]

    Wow, I had completely forgotten about the “end of the world” plot. But isn’t this a situation sort of like “Awakening”: Lindsey and Eve create a scenario that panders exactly to how Angel (and maybe Spike) views himself in the world? He gets to save the world AND prove to everyone — including, most importantly, himself — that he’s a true hero deserving of the redemption that Shanshu offers him? He might have been starting to not believe in the Shanshu like he used to, but this seems to show that he still clings to notions of having a grand (and ultimately good) destiny enough that others can use it to manipulate him.

    Regarding the Spike/Angel dynamic that this episode explores, I agree with everyone that it’s fantastic. I’m also curious what folks think about what Spike says to Angel here:

    SPIKE: ‘Cause every time you look at me… you see all the dirty little things I’ve done, all the lives I’ve taken… because of you! Drusilla sired me… but you… you made me a monster.

    ANGEL: I didn’t make you, Spike. I just opened up the door… and let the real you out.

    (Spike picks up the cross that burned Angel before and swings it at Angel, knocking him across the room. Spike holds the cross in his hands.)

    SPIKE: You never knew the real me. Too busy trying to see your own reflection… praying there was someone as disgusting as you in the world, so you could stand to live with yourself. Take a long look, hero. I’m nothing like you!

    I agree with Mike that Spike has an easier time than Angel accepting that his soulless vampire self is someone different from his ensouled self. But I think this is also because soulless Spike wasn’t as cruel as Angel, or at least he believes that he wasn’t as innately cruel. And ensouled Spike also seems to struggle less against his inner demon than Angel does. I can’t imagine Spike having a “beige” phase analogous to Angel in S2 for example. I think these are also reasons why Spike has an easier time forgiving himself.

    On a final note, totally agree with you about the Spike characterization. The not-really-consensual sex with Harmony was weird and disturbing. For viewers who watched Buffy S7, it’s really jarring. For viewers who didn’t, is this supposed to make them *like* Spike?

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  10. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on July 20, 2012.]

    Very good point, Fray.

    Left to himself Spike would have been an entirely unremarkable little vampire. He’d have killed his old critics, a few people around his hometown perhaps and then puttered around doing whatever. Gone to see the world perhaps.

    He’d have been a soulless vampire, yes. A killer, yes. But not the scourge of Europe.

    Angel was the one who killed in ways such as to impress even other demons. And he pushed Spike to join him, first as a protégé and then as a rival.

    I agree that Angel has a much harder time accepting his vampire past because it was so much worse. He was the instigator, the ring-leader and the orchestrator of all those incredibly vile deeds. And if Angel was so much worse than a regular vampire, surely some of that must be because of his human side? Whether or not you believe it is, it must be something that has occurred to Angel during his brooding sessions. And it’s probably one of those things he tries really hard not to think about.

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  11. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 23, 2012.]

    Wow, what a great review, Mike. I loved how you picked scenes from season 2 and season 7 to make it match here because they are intertwined and I love it.

    And that speech from Buffy really resonates here. I just love how everything is intertwined and comes full circle. And the fight is awesome!!

    About Spike not feeling as guilty as Angelus, I also thought of that as Angel having more to redeem himself for. He made his victims suffer much more, he tortured them and took pleasure from it while Spike just killed, like he says to Wood in LMPTM that it was how things were, slayer vs vampire, kill or be killed.

    btw, mike, you said that you had trouble reviewing this episode and made several drafts. Exactly what was the most difficult part for you?

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  12. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 23, 2012.]

    It was mostly a structural problem, buffyholic. My first draft was more scene-by-scene and picking apart individual lines, but that wasn’t working for me this time. What I had down was too disconnected and sloppy — more stream of consciousness rather than coherent argument. It took me a little while from there to realize what the episode really boiled down to: the rivalry between Angel and Spike — how it formed, why it’s here now, and what it means for the future. That’s the point where things clicked for me a little better and then the review started flowing much more smoothly.

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  13. [Note: Alex posted this comment on July 23, 2012.]

    Brilliant review, Mike. I can see how this would have been a tough one to review; when it’s good, it’s really really good, but all the (fake?) end-of-the-world stuff is pretty lame.

    Spike’s soul being a prize as opposed to Angel’s being a curse is very important, I think, and marks a HUGE difference between the two of them. Even while still a vampire, Spike managed to get to a point where he was ready to receive his soul and actively sought it out. I think that’s why the souled and soulless Spike don’t really seem all that different.

    If Spike lost his soul tomorrow, it would of course change him, but it wouldn’t be the big Jekyll-and-Hyde change that we see whenever Angel loses his soul. Angel’s now had to be cursed three times, against his will, to get his soul back. It’s got to sting for him to know that Spike actually chose something that he himself had to have forced upon him.

    Silly as it may sound, I’ve never really thought about all the time that Angel spent taunting Spike in BtVS Season Two, and in all the flashbacks, and how it connects with their relationship in this season. You made some really fascinating points about that. Spike may be pretty irritating to Angel throughout Season Five, but it’s nothing compared to the way that Angel’s treated him over the years. Even though they didn’t have souls at the time, it does seem like Angel has an especially nasty side which goes beyond regular vampire nastiness. I don’t think we see enough of Liam to be able to explain where that comes from, though.

    As for Spike’s general behaviour early in the season… yeah, you have a point. As much as I enjoy his amusing quips and his flirting with Harmony (I have a bit of a soft spot for them as a couple) I agree that his character deserves far better. I do think, though, that his more mature, humble self only really came out in BtVS Season 7 when Buffy was around. He could still be a bit petty and/or unpleasant to other characters, e.g. Xander or Andrew, and I think Angel in particular just brings out the worst in him (and vice versa). But I agree that they take it too far, and he deserves to be more than the annoying, drunken, shagging Englishman at this point.

    Finally, I’ll just say that I never understood why Spike had to be incorporeal in the first place – it just felt like a delaying tactic and I don’t think it added much to the plot or to his character. And it was pretty poorly executed, too – he has no trouble sitting on chairs or standing on floors but has a habit of accidentally falling through walls? Lame.

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  14. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on August 4, 2012.]

    Mike, i just read your editorial and i’m sorry you won’t be doing any more AtS S5 reviews (what, no Damage? *sob*). Not that you don’t have a keen and capable team weighing in of course.

    good luck with the coming project, i look forward to the reading!

    but you’ll be missed till then is all.

    ‘best

    wytch

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  15. [Note: Heather posted this comment on September 17, 2012.]

    You know, the sucky characterization the writers had for Spike – along with reading a lot of nifty fanfic – has left me with curious, that maybe the writers had something planned for Spike in a Season 6 that never happened. Specifically, the amulet he wore in Buffy’s finale, which killed him but saved the world, was powered by his soul… and now that he’s back he only *thinks* he still has it. That maybe the amulet actually destroyed his soul, allowing for the regression in behavior. Because you’re right – going after Harmony? Spouting off about his mother (which frankly I can’t even see him doing without a soul)? None of that makes sense from the guy we saw in Buffy’s 7th season.Eeeh. I just don’t know.

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  16. [Note: Alex posted this comment on September 18, 2012.]

    Heather, on balance I think sadly it probably is just sucky characterization rather than the clever seeds for a future plot, but wow, what a good idea!I love the idea of Spike no longer having a soul, but still thinking he has one and staying ‘good’ as a result! It would raise so many really interesting questions about the nature of a soul, and what having one actually means. That’s something that AtS often touches on, but never really explores in detail. I find that Harmony’s presence on the show makes me think about that a lot, e.g. her line “I don’t have a soul, I have to try a lot harder” in Harm’s Way.As for the ‘sucky characterization’ itself, I don’t think these things actually bother me as much as they do some of you, but I do see where they’re coming from. I found Spike running off with Harmony perfectly understandable, after months of frustration and the giddiness of being recorporialised (he’s just downed his first taste of blood in ages right before he grabs Harmony). But I can see why you don’t like it – it’s really not what we’ve come to expect from Spike after S7 of BtVS.

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  17. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on September 18, 2012.]

    I rewatched this recently and the sex with Harmony scene wasn’t as bad as I thought. I mean, Spike’s still being an asshole, but he’s not as pushy as I’d remembered.Interesting idea about the soul, but I think the Buffyverse writers did maintain a harder line than that regarding the meaning of having or not having a soul. They blurred the line plenty, but never outright erased it. Spike doing good and discovering he only thought he had a soul would have been erasing the line.

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  18. [Note: Dave posted this comment on November 9, 2012.]

    Lost the second part of my post. I adore how it’s made clear that Angel is the stronger, keeping up with the mythos of stronger Vampire = older. However, Spike is a smarter fighter.

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

    Personally, I don’t mind the Spike/Harmony thing as much because Harmony looks a lot like Buffy to me, so Harm being the first person Spike tries to sleep with (and considering that he had previously complained about not being able to do it himself as a ghost, how long has it been for him?) reminds me of when the fake Swami made Angel realize that him and Buffy, however personal it got later, started as a Darla rebound.Plus, even if Spike did think he had a soul when he didn’t, it would look more like Harmony trying to be good but not having the human empathy to remember how. And wouldn’t he recognize that he felt more like S6 than S7? Yeah, I’m with you on this one: bad idea.

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

    I got to say I was really cheering for Gunn while he was choking Eve. I’m surprised she wasn’t saying “That’s a good choking. Who’s a big boy then? You’re a big boy. Yes you are.” Her baby talk is really annoying, but then again so is she so it kind of works. She really makes me miss Lilah. Her last name is probably Adams just to have more irony.

    I like how Spike wanted it more and really blames Angel for his past. The fight scenes were great and all the interactions between Angel and Spike made the episode for me. The rest of the episode was pretty basic.

    Mountain Dew is a cup of perpetual torment. I quite like it. If it was diet something or Dr Pepper I’d agree.

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  21. [Note: Charlotte Heloise posted this comment on November 11, 2013.]

    I was kinda surprised and a bit disappointed that both Angel and Spike made comments about Buffy that seemed quite disrespectful. Talking about ‘getting in a girl’s pants’ and ‘when I was putting it to her’. I guess I should see it more as how men can revert to machismo in these kinds of encounters and don’t really mean to objectify/minimise Buffy but it still felt a bit off to me.

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  22. [Note: Person posted this comment on April 6, 2014.]

    You know if I was purely an Angel viewer, who hadn’t watched Buffy, I’d probably dislike Spike to a great deal–I’m not even kidding! (Which is saying a lot, he is my favorite character) To a viewer who hasn’t watched Buffy, they’d often be wondering what makes Spike better than Angel, they’d also be wondering how is he a vampire with a soul. I’ve often felt that Spike acts a lot like a soulless vampire than one with a soul on AtS Season 5, atleast in the episodes i’ve seen till now (my first time around!), as Mike said, you could always feel the weight of his soul in Buffy S7, but here he just comes off as a forced, comedic presence which disturbs me because Spike is sooo much more than that. Hell, I’ll even go as far as saying that he’s one of the best, most well developed characters I’ve come across. So this is a huge letdown. His forcing of Harmony to have sex with him, especially after the horribly mean way he treated her when he was a ghost, it just doesn’t add up. Would pre-souled Spike do this? As Mike said, absolutely. But ensouled Spike? I don’t buy that for a second.
    Just makes me sad sometimes, wish they’d handled him better.

    I for one, think it’s awesome that Mike noted Wesley not being in this episode as a con, lol, I always happen to like episodes he isn’t in a little less (being biased, I know…) And I completely agree with the B+, but only because the plot and the first few scenes with Eve and Spike were bad. However, the Spangel fight and well, everything Spangel tbh, was gold.

    I dislike Eve, she fails to hold my interest and by the way she was talking it was so predictable and obvious, I had expected her to turn out to be evil. I actually liked Lindsay, especially because he had a small change of heart and left in Season 2, his character had gotten some decent closure–I just hope that he has a good reason to be back.

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  23. [Note: Person posted this comment on April 6, 2014.]

    I also, gotta agree to Charlotte, that stuff was quite disrespectful to Buffy. And, HELLO? It’s Buffy. She could beat both Angel and Spike into pulp, no problem! If Buffy was around during the fight she would’ve probably kicked both their asses for talking about her like that, I can almost imagine her rolling her eyes and going all, “Really!? Guys?”
    Hey! That could be a good fanfic! Anyway, while I did find that disrespectful, I didn’t find it out of character for Spike–it’s just the way he talks! And he can be pretty petty and downright vulgar when he wants to, but he doesn’t mean it, it’s just kind of built into his personality by now according to me, so him talking about ‘puttin’ it to her’ is probably just his twisted way of stating facts, but for Angel, on the other hand, it did seem out of character, he’s proven more than once his outright respect for Buffy and how much he supposedly ‘cares’ and ‘loves’ her, also, he’s not one to talk down about a woman like this, atleast not with a soul, it was surprising that he said something like “get in a girl’s pants” about Buffy, out of all people.
    Guess jealously makes you do crazy things.
    Well, despite all that I totally love anything involving Spangel. Is it weird that I ship them? LOL.

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  24. [Note: Toony posted this comment on June 1, 2014.]

    I always thought it was lame at the start the way Spike walked into the door and collapsed like he was hit by a car.

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  25. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on June 1, 2014.]

    Although it is definitely a minor con that Wesley is not in this episode, there *is* a really good reason for that:

    Alexis Denisof took the week off to marry Alyson Hannigan. 😀

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  26. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on July 8, 2015.]

    Agree with much of the review. I find this episode troubling to watch, because it’s two of my favourite Buffy characters slugging it out and the violence is really quite brutal, but then these two were never going to pull punches with each other. I think both would draw the line at killing each other, but that’s about it (and Spike even refers to this!) It’s also a nice nod to Buffy’s line in ‘Chosen’ that one day she will put them in a room together and let them wrestle it out. With oil.

    Firstly, the plot isn’t weak – we knew an examination of the Shanshu prophecy from the perspective of Spike (and Angel’s reaction to that) was coming. What alarmed me was how quickly everyone swallowed the explanation for the strange events – a universe-shattering reaction of doom should’ve made them think a little more. But this is the Buffyverse and apocalypse scenarios appear to happen quite frequently in California, so I guess we can understand them buying it. Perhaps Wesley not being in this episode lined up well – of all the Gang, he is the one most likely to scrutinise Sirk’s interpretations and possibly uncover the deception. I also thought Wesley might have picked up on the Cup of Perpetual Torment being a car journey away from W&H. None of the others even seem to realise that this is awfully convenient. The plot may feel weak and hokey – but it was made up and played on Spike and Angel’s insecurities. It did exactly what it needed to. Plot and character need to intertwine and this isn’t the first time I’ve read a review for Buffy/Angel that tosses the plot aside as inconsequential and tries to focus solely on the character work. These are great shows that use plot AND characterisation to great effect with surprising regularity.

    I do love the plot introducing the idea of the source of Spike’s hatred for Angel and their long rivalry. It does fit well with S2 and Drusilla’s seeming drift from a crippled Spike to a gleefully evil Angelus. For Spike, Angelus was first a mentor and then a hated rival. Remember Spike’s glee at Angelus’ return in ‘Innocence’? He is starting to rebel against him again even in the same episode when he asks why Angelus hasn’t killed Buffy (and even has a dig at him for ‘not being in the game for a while’, and that vampires still kill people). Drusilla’s part in this is central but also subtle – Drusilla was ‘made’ in more ways than one by Angelus (who has always considered her ‘his’ masterpiece, with Angel considering her the worst thing he ever did), but in turn made Spike, whose romantic views conflict in the worst ways with Angelus’ artistic, creative ones. Where Angelus destroys, albeit in creative ways, Spike only does so if the person interests him (like Slayers) or gets in his way.

    I don’t find his being incorporeal a problem. Had they restored him immediately it would have massively cheapened his sacrifice in ‘Chosen’. Even when restored, Spike eventually decides he won’t tell Buffy he isn’t ‘dead’; he would rather she remember him as she does now – something approaching a hero. It is a little jarring that he immediately decides to shag Harmony after becoming physical again, but I actually think this is in-character for Spike. As I’ll mention below, ‘Spike’ is a choice made by William over a hundred years ago and isn’t something related to his having or not having a soul. Spike wants Harmony because she’s a) to hand, b) someone he knows finds him attractive and c) someone he can easily brush off later. Because soulful Spike is still Spike, he can do things like this and beat Angel half to death later on, because that’s how he is.

    The examination of the two vampires and their soulful/non-soulful natures is exposed very brutally across the episode. Angel’s biggest fear is not that Spike is the ‘vampire with a soul’ mentioned in the Shanshu prophecy, but that Spike with a soul is ‘better’ than him. It’s also true that Angel is suffering from burnout at the minute…he no longer wonders when he’ll get the Shanshu reward, but whether he even feels he deserves it any more. He’s wondering why W&H have offered them the LA branch with no strings and whether this means they’ve all collectively crossed the line (which certain Buffy characters believe they have, if based on reactions in later episodes). He’s also just given up his son – twisted sociopath he may be – to give him a chance at happiness. Angel isn’t in a great place right now and doesn’t really get his mojo back until ‘You’re Welcome’, but at a high price. Spike has none of these strings and cheerfully does consider himself ‘better’ than Angel, so it’s no surprise when he races off immediately to ‘claim’ the cup. In his way, he is fulfilling the prophecy AND taking something from Angel, which suits Spike just fine.

    With Angel, the soul or lack of it gives him a true Jekyll & Hyde persona. He has always spoken as though he committed the acts in his past himself, as if Angel/Angelus are the exact same person with key differences. This is why he tortures himself so much and has done for over a century – he feels remorse for what ‘he’ did. With Spike, he views his souled self as very distinct from his unsouled one, despite their being only very subtle differences between the two. Spike is much more comfortable (rightly or wrongly) with the idea that when evil, he had no conscience and can therefore not be expected to feel too much remorse, though he does still feel it to some extent. He was a vampire and he did what vampires did. What helps Spike in that regard is that Spike never committed the kind of acts Angelus did. Angelus wanted a protege, but ultimately Spike was in terms of carnage a much more ‘regular’ vampire. He and to a lesser extent Drusilla were into ‘life’ and its pleasures (blood, fighting, sex) rather than the ‘creative’ and ‘cultured’ perversions that Angelus and Darla were into. Darla is also a useful fourth POV in the whole Angelus/Spike/Drusilla dynamic – she is shown in flashback to have been a vicious vampire (though not as much as Angelus) and when ‘ensouled’ by her pregnancy shows she is capable of remarkable love. Her personalities seemed equally disparate as Angelus, which perhaps shows that Spike is the special case here. His personality is ideally suited for the soulful vampire condition by the time it occurs, and Angel isn’t best pleased that it took Spike a matter of months to achieve what took Angel 90 years (and that was with help).

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  27. [Note: wendy posted this comment on November 12, 2015.]

    do not know if anyone will see this, but I want to give my opinion on something that maybe we overlook one of the conversations between Angelus and William, when William finds angelus and Drusilla are having sex.

    angelus says this:
    Just do not get it now, do you?
    Well, you’re new … and a little dim. So let me Explain to you how things are now. There’s no Belonging or deserving anymore. You can take what you want, have what you want … but nothing is yours.
    Not even her.

    Who knew that one day this would come back to him
    I think this applies to the famous prophecy and the cup
    maybe it was not met to be for spike, perhaps is not talking about him, is not about who deserves it more its about who wants it more

    spike clearly wanted more than Angel, even Angel it recognizes in the end of the chapter, I guess that this was another burden for angel in the way to redemption

    P.S sorry for my grammar i’m a fan from Mexico

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  28. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on November 22, 2015.]

    Good catch. You’re right, that’s a very important parallel. It pretty much frames the larger themes of Angel and Spike’s relationship—and their role-reversal in the present.

    The cup-prophecy is a lie, but I don’t think that detracts from the motif. The point isn’t which one of them deserves the cup. Nobody deserves it, because it’s meaningless. (And isn’t that a neat little metaphor for the series’ theme as a whole? The meaning of life turns out to be a theatre prop filled with mountain-dew?) And because it is meaningless, the only thing that matters is what the characters do to create meaning for themselves.

    Angel is looking for the destiny he feels he lost. Spike is forging his own destiny, deciding for himself what his goals are and how best to achieve them. Of course he’s going to win.

    In the past it was the exact opposite. William believed life was following the script he’d always dreamed about. Angelus was writing his own, and enforced it through strength. His victory was likewise inevitable.

    And your English, of course, is fine. Welcome to the site! Check out the forum if you want to discuss more.

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