[Review by Alexandra Jones]
[Writer: David Fury | Director: David Fury | Aired: 02/04/2004]
I must confess to having had a total Harmony moment when I found out that this episode was in need of a reviewer. I was jumping around, squealing with excitement just as Harmony does when she’s reunited with her old friend here. And that’s because this episode just fills me with joy every time I watch it – well, right up until I start bawling my eyes out, anyway – and I couldn’t wait to start writing about it.
When I really started to think about the episode in more detail, though, it occurred to me that this is a bit of an unusual one. I think it’s great, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way. But what actually makes it great? It has a decent plot, and some decent character development, but neither of those things are, by themselves, quite enough to earn the episode the high score I’ve given it. No, what’s special about this episode is the way that it gets us to stop and reflect on way this series has unfolded over the years. The 100th episode is an important landmark in any TV show. On a lesser series, I think that we would probably have seen a ‘clip show’ in place of this episode, as an easy way to remind us of the last five seasons. But instead of resorting to such cheap tricks, Whedon and his team give us this excellent piece of television, which provides us with the perfect excuse to indulge in some serious nostalgia.
The return of Lindsey is also a great way to get us thinking about the show’s beginnings. It’s great fun to watch this and reminisce about the show’s earliest episodes. There’s no real reason why Angel and Lindsey should start discussing the Russell Winters encounter from “City of” [1×01] during their big showdown, but this conversation serves as a neat reminder of how these two first met. “Good times,” indeed. And, of course, it also invites us to think about how much has changed since then. I see Lindsey sneaking around Wolfram and Hart, on a mission to bring down its CEO, and I can’t help but remember just how different things were back in the earlier seasons. Once upon a time, Lindsey was the ‘corporate puppet’ and Angel was the one determined to bring down the organisation he represented. Now, the tables have completely turned. Of course, Lindsey’s actions seem to be motivated mostly by jealousy and a long-standing grudge, rather than by any desire for the ‘greater good.’ But we still can’t get away from the fact that Angel’s now somewhere that no one would ever have expected him to be. Even in the earlier seasons things were never really black and white when Lindsey was involved, but now they’ve become even more complicated. Is Lindsey still the bad guy? Or has he now become the underdog? If the circumstances were just a little different, perhaps we’d even be rooting for Lindsey instead of Angel now.
But while Lindsey’s presence adds some great nostalgia to this episode, it’s clear that the real star here is Cordelia herself. However, I recently found out that Cordelia’s return wasn’t the first idea for how to celebrate this landmark: the Angel team had originally wanted to bring Buffy in for a guest appearance. Now, much as I love Buffy, I am so glad that Sarah Michelle Gellar wasn’t available for this. Firstly, while crossovers are fun, Buffy was never a big part of this show and her return just wouldn’t have had the same impact for me. And, of course, there’s also the simple fact that Cordelia seriously needed – and deserved – an episode like this, after her character was ripped to shreds by the messy twists and turns of the last season. Seeing her again in this episode just reminds me how much she wasn’t there in Season Four. This isn’t just the return of Cordelia: it’s the return of the old Cordelia, who was missing long before she slipped into a coma. A testament to this is the fact that while putting together the ‘quotes’ section of this review, I’ve really had to restrain myself. It would have been very easy for me to put almost every one of her lines in there, because there are just so many classic ‘Cordelia’ lines which make me smile every time. I really struggle to think of any similar moments in Season 4.
I do think it’s a shame that, because Cordelia’s return is so brief, we inevitably don’t have time for as many reunion scenes as we might have liked: she barely says two words to Fred, Gunn or Lorne. However, I also think it’s a fair trade-off, because her scenes with Angel and Wesley more than make up for that. And I’m quite pleased that we do get to see a quick reunion with Harmony. After my review of “Harm’s Way” [5×09] it’s no secret that I have a bit of a girl-crush on Harmony, but it’s also true these two go way back, beyond the start of Angel or even Buffy. There aren’t many relationships in this series that we can say that about, so I think this moment between them is well deserved. Plus, it’s hilarious! I can’t help but giggle at Cordelia’s panicked expression as Harmony jumps on her for a big hug, clearly having forgotten the way their last encounter ended.
The interaction between Cordelia and Wesley is also great fun to watch, and really has me pining for the good old days. Wesley, who hasn’t provided much comedy for the past couple of seasons, just seems to light up when he’s reunited with his old friend. There’s a slight return of the old, goofy Wesley we knew in Season 1, who needed Cordelia to keep him in check. On a show where male/female friendships often turn into love, or at least sex, it’s wonderful to see a genuine non-romantic friendship between these two. I love that Wesley tells Cordy that she looks “really hot” (doesn’t she, though?) and I love her reaction to it. It would be awkward if Angel said it, but Wesley can get away with it. It’s also Wesley who immediately suggests that they take Cordelia shopping, an idea which clearly delights her.
Here we have two people who know each other well, and who have obviously really missed each other. I firmly believe that only Cordy could ever get Wesley using a phrase like “kickin’ it old school,” and the sheepish look on his face after he does so is absolutely priceless. It’s also quite touching that she makes a special effort to say goodbye to him, in her own way, telling him that he “still works the best mojo in town.” In fact, something about the look on Wesley’s face here has me wondering whether he perhaps suspects that Cordelia’s return isn’t quite what it seems to be. It’s almost as if he knows that he’ll never see her again after this. Perhaps I’m reading too much into that, though. Apart from his very brief romance with Fred, I think that this is the happiest we’ll ever see Wesley in this season, and it’s certainly the happiest we’ve seen him for a long time before this. I really like this small reminder of who Wesley used to be, before the events of Season 3 turned him into a much darker character.
Given that many fans of the show really objected to Cordelia’s possession in Season 4, I think it was a smart move by the writers to keep the references to it to a minimum here. It’s not ignored – I think it’s mentioned three times – but we aren’t forced to dwell on it, and Cordelia sleeping with Connor isn’t mentioned at all. This is perfectly fine with me. In fact, I find it rather funny that Jasmine is never even mentioned by name. Instead, she’s referred to as “that higher whatever” and “the thing that possessed Cordelia.” But having said that, I do really like the scene where Cordy and Wesley briefly discuss Lilah’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. Knowing Cordy as well as we do, we might have imagined her to have some fairly strong opinions on Wesley’s involvement with Lilah. But here she doesn’t judge – she now has enough insight to recognise that Wesley really did care for Lilah, however confusing their relationship might have been. When she says “I’m sorry,” it’s not clear whether she’s actually apologising for her own (very debatable) part in the murder, or whether she’s simply conveying her condolences. I like to think it’s both, and I think it’s interesting that Cordelia ends up being one of the very few people whom we ever see showing any sympathy to Wesley after Lilah’s death. It’s a great moment, and it demonstrates how much Cordy has developed over the seasons. And when watching with the benefit of hindsight, we can also see that the knowledge of her impending death has clearly made her keen to tie up the loose ends of her earthly friendships.
Of course, we can’t reflect on the beginnings of the show without also remembering our absent friend Doyle, and I can’t think of a more perfect way to honour him than to have Angel and Cordy re-watch the home video from “Hero” [1×09]. This scene is wonderful, and Glenn Quinn’s own untimely death gives it a particularly exceptional emotional resonance. You can see the genuine emotion on Carpenter and Boreanaz’s faces as they talk about Doyle, and it’s very moving to watch. While Doyle’s time on the show was fairly brief, his death was a major turning point which cemented one of the central themes: we keep ‘fighting the good fight’ no matter how difficult things get. After Doyle’s death, both Angel and Cordelia were more determined than ever to continue their mission of ‘helping the helpless.’ As they watch this video, we have to ask ourselves how much those priorities have shifted. Can Angel still fight the good fight while working for Wolfram and Hart? Have the lessons he learnt from Doyle been forgotten in the years of pain and loss? This conversation about Doyle’s sacrifice takes on an even greater meaning when viewing “You’re Welcome” for the second time. When you know what’s coming, it’s truly heart breaking to hear Cordelia say “He knew what he had to do. Didn’t compromise. Used his last breath to make sure you’d keep fighting. I get that now.” Because that is, of course, exactly what Cordelia’s doing even as she speaks.
I think it’s obvious that I really like this episode. That being said, though, I can’t quite give it a ‘perfect’ score. My biggest problem with it is that with all the excitement of getting Cordelia back on the show, certain plot and character developments don’t seem to have been thought out quite as well as they should have been. The first of these is Angel’s ‘crisis’ at the start of the episode, and the way in which Cordelia apparently helps him resolve it. The second is Lindsey’s plan to use the ‘failsafe’ against Angel. While these things don’t cost the episode very many points, in my opinion, they’re too noticeable for me to be able to ignore completely.
Let’s actually think about why Cordelia’s back. She’s apparently been sent to put Angel ‘back on track’ after he becomes disillusioned with his life as CEO of Wolfram and Hart. So she helps him “beat up a tiny Texan,” and then suddenly, Angel’s fine again. He doesn’t want to quit any more. What exactly has changed here? I can understand that fighting with Cordy by his side would remind Angel of ‘the good fight,’ but how does that make him feel better about staying at Wolfram and Hart? If anything, wouldn’t that make him feel more determined to get back to his old ways? I’ll admit that this does seem to make slightly more sense after the season finale, when we find out that Cordelia’s kiss passed a vision to Angel which sent him after the Circle of the Black Thorn. This at least goes some way towards explaining why Cordelia’s here, and why at the end of this episode she’s apparently okay with Angel staying at Wolfram and Hart. But Angel’s behaviour still doesn’t ring true for me. We know he’s been uncomfortable with his position for some time now. If anything, I would have thought that his encounter with Lindsey would have made him question his choices even more. Shouldn’t all of Lindsey’s jibes about selling his soul and becoming a ‘pathetic corporate puppet’ have stung a little? Why does beating Lindsey, whose status as one of the ‘bad guys’ has always been a bit fuzzy anyway, make him so happy? And, on that note, I must also say that I really don’t like the way he and Cordelia are so smug about letting the Senior Partners whisk Lindsey off to goodness-knows-where. Lindsey’s still human, after all, and I don’t think the thought of him suffering from unspeakable tortures should really put such a smile on their faces.
On a much more minor level, the whole idea of the “failsafe” also bothers me. It’s introduced out of nowhere, resolved far too easily, and then never mentioned again. Lindsey’s plan is quite ridiculous, when you actually think about it. Why would he go to all this trouble to use the Senior Partners’ own weapon against Angel? And, come to think of it, shouldn’t Angel be more bothered in subsequent episodes that there’s apparently a CEO-devouring monster in the basement of his building? I actually find myself wondering whether there really was any failsafe at all. It would be rather cool, and perhaps make a bit more sense, if the whole thing was simply a way for Lindsey to lure Angel into the basement with no one around to help him, so that he could show off his fancy new swordsmanship in one final showdown. This would also help explain away the fact that the promised monster never actually materialises, and the fact that after so much sneaking around, Lindsey doesn’t seem surprised to see Angel and appears to have come prepared for a big fight. However, if this is where the writers were going with all this, then it’s never made clear, and sadly I do think we really are supposed to believe that the failsafe is a real thing. And, with that being the case, having Cordy simply twiddle some dials until she manages to shut the thing down through pure luck is very silly indeed. It’s a suitably lame conclusion to a rather lame plot point.
Having said all that, these flaws are completely forgotten once we get to the final scene between Angel and Cordelia. This is such beautiful work by everyone involved that I’m prepared to forgive pretty much everything else. Now, I don’t mean to be controversial here, but I have to say that I don’t think that Boreanaz or Carpenter will ever be topping my list of the world’s best actors. I think they’re both great, and perfect for their roles in this show, but I also think that the Buffyverse definitely has some much better actors amongst its cast. But, for me, this is what makes the scene at the end of “You’re Welcome” so jaw-droppingly stunning, because they both do such a brilliant job with it and showcase abilities that I never even knew they had. It never fails to have me in tears every single time. It’s even more emotional when watched with hindsight, when we know that Cordelia is now facing up to her own death. I start to well up around the time when she says “I just wish I could be there to see it,” and the tears properly start coming at “I’ll be seeing you.” It’s that bittersweet look on her face which just gets me every time – the fact that while she’s heading towards her own death, she’s still putting on a brave face and trying to make sure Angel doesn’t have to suffer with her.
And then, oh, that kiss, followed by that phone call! Even though I’ve never much cared for Angel and Cordelia as a couple, this is a wonderful moment which briefly turns me into the biggest Angel/Cordy shipper on the planet. It’s the first time they’ve really kissed, without being under a magical influence (Cordelia’s attempt to pass on Doyle’s visions of course doesn’t count) and the music and sweeping camera really do it justice. However, my one niggle with this is that the shadows on Cordelia’s face, plus her hands and hair, mean that a lot of the kiss is actually obscured from view. I briefly wondered whether this was intentional, but I don’t really think it was, and it’s a bit of a shame. But the emotion is still there, and I’m sure I’m not alone in being devastated every time the phone rings and brings it to an end.
And then, finally, we have the gut-wrenching moment where Angel answers the phone. For me, this is one of Boreanaz’s finest moments. We’ve seen Angel dark, angry, brooding, lonely, and any number of similar emotions, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like this before. This is pure sadness: the sadness of someone who has just experienced something wonderful only to realise he will never have it again. Angel’s expression as he realises the truth of what’s happened is just heart-breaking to watch, and I really love the fact that David Fury trusted Boreanaz’s acting enough that he didn’t feel the need to put any emotive music under this moment. The silence as Angel speaks is a poignant contrast with the great musical swells during his kiss with Cordelia, and serves to further highlight the fact that she is now gone, and that he is now all alone once again. Because, while he does still have the rest of Team Angel, I don’t think that any of them even come close to the friendship he had with Cordelia. For me, that’s another one of the reasons why this whole scene works so well. Even if you don’t buy Angel and Cordelia as a couple, the scene can be just as effective if Angel’s losing a best friend rather than a lover.
To conclude this review, I’ll say that I really do think that this episode is a fitting send-off for Cordelia. While a part of me wishes that she could have come back for longer, I also think it’s kind of perfect that she only returned for this one episode. She gets to go out in a blaze of glory, while at the same time paving the way for Angel’s development and decisions in future episodes. It’s a shame that the next few episodes don’t really follow through on everything that was set up in this one: at the beginning of “Why We Fight” [5×13] everything appears to be ‘business as usual,’ without a single mention of the fact that Cordelia’s just died. But as a standalone episode, this one is a complete joy to watch and contains one of the most emotionally poignant scenes I’ve ever seen on Angel. Goodbye, Cordy! It’s been a long time coming, but I’m so glad that we finally got the chance to give you the farewell that you deserved.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Lorne obviously realises that Cordelia’s awake before Angel actually says anything. Everyone else looks anxious and confused when Angel’s on the phone, but Lorne looks knowing and excited.
+ Angel awkwardly trying to join in – twice – when Cordy starts jumping up and down excitedly in her hospital room. It makes me giggle every time.
+ Harmony punching Eve in her annoying, pouty little face. I do try to be as objective as possible, but I’m really not a fan of Eve.
+ Fred not knowing who Lindsey is.
+ Fred looks unbelievably stunning when she gives Wesley ‘the look of love’ during the spell.
+ Lindsey’s reaction when he’s about to get beamed up by the Senior Partners. It would have been so easy for the writers to give him a cheesy ‘noooooo!’ here, but instead we get something that’s much more in keeping with his characters as we know it.
– Charisma Carpenter does have magnificent breasts, but do they really need to be squeezed into such tiny, ill-fitting blouses?
– Eve’s comment about her ‘comings and goings.’ Ah! A joke rife with single entendre.
– While Fred does look jaw-droppingly beautiful, the shot of her gazing at Wesley during the spell is very clumsily pasted in, in an effort to pave the way for their budding relationship in the next few episodes. Without any explanation or context for it, it just ends up looking a bit silly.
– Eve’s expression at the end of the episode is more ‘sulky teenager who just got grounded’ rather than ‘devastated woman whose boyfriend just got sent to hell.’ Did I mention that I don’t like Eve?