Angel 5×18: Origin

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Drew Goddard | Director: Terrence O Hara | Aired: 04/21/2004]

Angel continues its run to the finish line with another entertaining and coherent outing. “Origin” not only closes a lot of loose plot threads from previous seasons, but also does it in a way that is seamless and fun. On the deeper side we get some interesting discussions around the nature of memory and continued drama out of Wesley. This is the only Angel episode I have reviewed that I feel really puts the whole package together.

While all the individual pieces seem to work in “Origin,” I have to say that it’s not all that easy to pinpoint a clear theme or meaning in it. To kick off some thoughts, though, let’s think about the title. The main thing that comes to mind is the episode’s musings on memory and what role it plays in determining who we are – or, in other words, what’s the origin of our personhood? Is it, as Illyria suggests, just a collection of memories? Or is it more than that? Well, “Origin” explores all of this in words through the beautifully sardonic and inquisitive Illyria, and then in action through Wesley and Connor.

I’ve just got to start with Wesley, who is covered in irony and tragedy throughout most of “Origin.” The opening scene gives us an update on how he is dealing with the loss of Fred, and it’s clear that he’s channeled everything he has left into Illyria. I can’t help but love his confused fascination with her and, considering my own confused fascination with her, I can’t blame him! Still haunted by seeing a bit of ‘Fred’ in front of him every day, Wesley’s now in a bit of a drunken haze.

So it’s safe to say that Wesley’s not exactly in the best of states, and this is all without the tragic history he doesn’t remember involving Connor. For us, who still know his history, Wesley’s actions take on a suspenseful and heart-wrenching meaning that he isn’t allowed to see. For example, it simply kills me to hear Wesley say that Angel has earned their trust. Angel’s snippety insistence that he see Cyvus Vail alone tips Wesley off to the fact that something’s up. Angel increasingly ignores Wesley’s pleas to help Connor, who shows up at Wolfram & Hart after having been hit by a car and getting back up no worse for wear. The increasingly strange response Angel shows to all of this causes Wesley’s suspicions of something not-so-good happening to rapidly accumulate.

It’s in investigating Wolfram & Hart’s records that Wesley digs up some dirt on Angel, which means the entire nature of memory must then be questioned. Illyria argues that we “are a summation of recollections. Each change is simply a point of experience.” Wesley counters that “we are more than just memories.” Illyria, at least for moment, seems to hold the trump card: “And yet Fred changed the moment her memory did.”

Illyria goes on to pose an excellent question to Wesley, when he later finds out that Fred’s memories were tampered with: “Does this change your view of Fred? Is she still the person you thought she was?” It does bring up the question of whether Wesley and Fred would have coupled (forced as it was) at all had it not been for the for all the personality changes that ensued from Vail’s spell on Angel’s behalf. In short: I think not.

Although Angel’s memory spell took away a piece of who Wesley was, it didn’t fundamentally change him as a person. It instead had the effect of setting him back a couple years in his development. More than just our memories, it’s how we act on those memories that define who we are. Our memories are the recollection of these choices and actions. Removing memories doesn’t change us entirely, but it does rob us of the progress we’ve made in our life journey. So while memories are crucial in that they help us learn from our past, they don’t entirely define us. It’s our choices that define us. What Angel did to Wesley by stripping his memories is to remove awareness of his prior choices, which ends up causing him to repeat the past and betray Angel once again by breaking the Orlon Window.

Good or bad, we must be allowed to make our own decisions in life, and then accept the consequences of said behavior. To rob us of the gift of choice in our destinies is to ensure that we never have the opportunity to learn and grow from our experiences. Wesley coming to the decision to betray Angel by breaking the Orlon Window is an obvious retread of what we saw from him in “Loyalty” [3×15] and “Sleep Tight” [3×16].

The memory montage itself finally gives us a clearer picture on just what was taken from Wesley and Connor (the flashes are merged together) during the mind wipe. Most of it is what you’d expect: everything directly related to Connor, the prophecy (The Father Will Kill the Son), the throat slashing, Justine, Angel smothering Wesley, and some Jasmine stuff. The things that are a little bit of a surprise are some of the naughtier moments of Wesley’s bedroom time with Lilah, which are more tangentially related to Connor. So while “Origin” goes to clarify some of what was lost, it’s still a pretty ambiguous picture. But, in effect, all of the major events that went down in Season 3 were dramatically altered or removed.

After all of this, Wesley states that at least he knows who he is now, but Illyria questions that notion. In light of there being competing sets of memories in their heads, which ones are real and which ones are fabricated – does he really know? Wesley’s only conclusion seems to be that the fake ones — the ‘better’ ones — must be used to “endure” the real ones. This is certainly the approach Connor ends up taking (more on this in a bit). But since Wesley was already beginning not to trust Angel before finding out Angel took away some of his memories, along with witnessing Fred’s death, he simply doesn’t have it in him to really handle all of this. We’ll find Wesley to be completely scattered in “Time Bomb” [5×19]. All of this turmoil goes to hint at his ultimate fate.

The one thing that gives me pause in all of this is Wesley saying the fake memories were created for a reason. This rubs me as a bit unconvincing because I really think he should be a lot angrier at Angel for what was done to him and the others. That Wesley seems so accepting of what happened feels a bit off to me. I suppose one explanation is that he now thinks of himself as wrong in stealing Connor before, and is willing to let this poor action by Angel slide as a way to say ‘okay, now we’re even.’ Interestingly, in “Time Bomb” [5×19] we see a much more frazzled Wesley who will betray Angel yet again by not killing Illyria when asked to. Regardless, Wesley’s emotional temperature in this scene still feels a bit off to me considering what just went down, but I must stress that this is a relatively minor snag in an otherwise fascinating outing for Wesley.

After watching this many seasons in the Buffyverse, one almost has to wonder if any of the writers even know what a disciplined, well-adjusted person actually looks like. With all the broken families, death, and hardship Whedon heaves onto his characters, it’s a wonder any of them are even able to wake up in the morning! That’s what makes it such a pleasant surprise that, here in “Origin,” they give us a convincing example of healthy with the new and improved Connor. This representation of Connor is actually fairly believable as a pretty straight-laced guy living within this nutty universe (not to say that the real world isn’t almost as nutty, because it is).

After Angel learns from Hamilton that the Senior Partners are not responsible for Connor’s situation, we get some really fun and breezy scenes between the two of them. The ‘introduction to demons’ conversation between them in a hallway is quite nicely acted. It’s just so casual and happy that I can’t help but love it. I even let out quite the ‘squee’ when Connor whispers, re Illyria, “I guess I’ve always had a thing for older women,” to which Angel mumbles, “They were supposed to fix that.” That’s both consistent characterization and a little meta fun.

When Connor gets his memories back, after talking way too much with Sahjhan, we can see that the old ones have been merged with the new ones. What this effectively has provided Connor is a ‘healthy psychology’ installation in the brain which allows him to be able to cope with his tragic past or, as Wesley describes it, ‘endure.’ Whereas normal Connor couldn’t live anymore, this Connor can cope. It’s interesting to compare how Connor handles getting his memories back to Wesley. Connor seems to handle it better than Wesley, especially in the long run. Is this because his fabricated personality was so strongly positive that he could better withstand a slew of troubling emotion and memories? I believe so. Wesley doesn’t have a lot to hold onto, because he was even beginning to spiral out of control before he got his memories back. Now what?

Even though things work out well for Connor, it must be stressed that the means to get him there are still not justified, in my opinion. People must be allowed free will to make their own choices unless they mentally or physically cannot. Angel’s actions are not any less appalling just because things worked out okay for his son. It also must be stressed that the memory wipe often created quite the difficulty in figuring out how much the characters knew about themselves up until this point in the season. Even now, with fake and real memories all jumbled together, there’s a bit of chaos in trying to sort out what makes these characters tick going forward. And let’s not even get started on the fact that Gunn, Lorne, and everyone else affected still – and possibly forever – remain truncated people. Although I appreciate “Origin” for throwing us a tasty bone on addressing this whole memory situation, it’s still a case of too little too late for the show as a whole on the issue.

One important question that comes up from all this talk about changing people is just how far you’d go to help ‘save’ a loved one who’s troubled. Do you force change on them, or do you allow them to self-destruct? It’s a tough question. The problem is that Angel side-steps the issue by going so overboard with his solution that he ends up destroying everything Connor was — good and bad — in the process. I don’t believe that can ever be considered a good, even if you’re lucky enough to see a positive outcome from it.

The final conversation between Angel and Connor is quite pleasant, but I’m not sure I buy said pleasantries. In light of the fact we know that Connor did get his memories back, it’s important to note that Connor chooses to return to his new healthy life rather than stay with Angel. It’s great to see him able to make a choice for his life completely free of Angel’s influence for the first time since “Home” [4×22], although I find how understanding he is of what Angel did to be a little unconvincing. In “Home” [4×22] Connor wanted all the lies to stop, and in my review of the episode I pointed out how Angel betrayed that final wish by replacing Connor’s entire life with a lie. While Connor may be capable of handling the burden of his history with this new personality, it doesn’t feel right that he’d be so calm with what Angel did. Healthy personality or not, I’d still be pissed at the guy!

To wrap up the character threads, I’ll end on Gunn. Gunn gets a brief scene where you’ve got to respect his commitment to repenting for his crimes and not slithering his way out his chosen punishment. Gunn understands what he did, and he’s dead serious about making positive changes from here on out, even if that means endless torture in a Wolfram & Hart holding dimension. It’s good to see him taking accountability, even if the punishment seems overly severe for his particular crimes (as if seeing Fred die and getting stabbed by Wesley wasn’t enough).

Cyvus Vail says, “I turned your son into a happy boy, now I need you to turn him back into a killer,” thus putting Angel in quite the pretzel and setting a tight plot into motion. “Origin” not only has a solid plot — which fulfills the prophecy Sahjhan was trying to avoid (which was the impetus behind Season 3’s plot) — but is also a load of fun, has some good character beats, and offers some nice writing to chew on. While I’m not totally sold on Wesley’s and Connor’s responses of realizing what Angel did to them and the others, and the episode doesn’t have quite the punch and depth of other great episodes, “Origin” pulls enough pieces together to be a coherent, solid outing and another success in the lead up to the series finale of Angel. In summary: I had a pretty great time!

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Connor appearing in the opener saying “hey, dad!” The look on Angel’s face…
+ I really enjoy Hamilton. Such an improvement over Eve! I never had a problem with the actor playing Eve, but the writing seemed to just get worse and worse for the character. With that said, it’s hard to compete with Adam Baldwin.
+ Spike and Illyria’s training sessions aren’t all that relevant, but they’re sure as hell fun!
+ Illyria caught roaming around the Human Resources department. LOL.
+ The concept of the Orlon Window.

– The fact that different bad-### demons have huge rivalries. I kind of love knowing that Sahjhan wants to kill Vail. Why does this rivalry exist? Who knows, but it helps broaden the universe and certainly makes me curious.
– Although at least Vail is introduced, I would have preferred if the Circle of the Black Thorn plot had some movement to it prior to “Power Play” [5×21]. It’s one of my few notable frustrations about the end of Season 5.


[Score]

91/100

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “Angel 5×18: Origin”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    Great review, Mike and you´ve certainly gave me so much more to think about next time I watch this episode. And Adam Baldwin is really an amazing actor.

    When Connor says: “I´ve learned that from my father” and letting us and Angel that he remembers everything is so heartbreaking.

    Like

  2. [Note: Brachen Man posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    This is indeed a fantastic episode. I absolutely love everything concerning the Wesley plot and the main Connor plot. I was surprised the first time I saw this, because the wwriting was so good that I actually liked Connor and didn’t want him to die. What a change that was for me, seeing as how I hated the character in season 4.

    Like

  3. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    Nice review for a great episode; it’s always a lot more fun than i expect on a rewatch… probably why Wesley’s reaction is toned down some, as you mention. Alternatively, maybe it’s because Wesley is completely fried by this point and ALL his reactions are off. He is now essentially acting the part of Wesley (whilst his full strength crazy lives elsewhere). I don’t think he can relate so easily to himself (or anyone) any more, in the present or the past. He, like Illyria, is lost. (For now.)

    Illryia argues the point about memory and it’s hard to judge; is she afraid that having Fred’s memories as well as her own will fundamentally change her?

    Good to see Connor back and some continuity is, uh, welcome – in a season that was almost an attempted reboot/restart in many ways.

    Scoring it higher than Destiny though… hmm… LOL.

    Right, now to re-read your review again, again.

    And looking forward to the next, as ever

    ‘best,

    wytch

    Like

  4. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    ps; what you say about choice(S) is right on the money and definitely a central concern to the writers and worlds of both Angel and Buffy.

    as for Wesley and the sphere, there’s an irony too: Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. And so, even divorced from himself, Wes betrays Angel again in exactly the re-tread manner you describe.

    ok, i’m done.

    Like

  5. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on July 30, 2012.]

    Great review for a great episode. I love seeing Connor redeemed here, but I agree with you that it doesn’t justify the memory wipe. And even though it turned out all right for Connor, it didn’t for the other characters, since it can be argued that they might not have all agreed to join W&H if not for the memory wipe.

    I also agree that Connor’s interaction with Angel isn’t quite believable. None of Connor’s memories — true or manufactured — is of Angel as a father figure. Why would he have all this warmth and acceptance toward him now? The only explanation I can imagine is that Connor himself is grateful for the new life that he got through the mind wipe. Which, yeah, I can see even though it was morally wrong. But all in all it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Like

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

    Excellent review Mike. One of my favorite episodes because it is both light and yet full of consequences. And CONTINUITY PORN! I love it when plots are revisited and provided some resolution. I’ve always love Sahjhan so seeing him snark about was great. And I’m a Connor fan so seeing him quipping like a Whedonverse pro was a treat.

    I also really like your take on Wesley’s character and how what Angel did really deprived him of free will. This, of course, from the guy who abandoned everyone (including Connor) to end Jasmine’s reign.

    As to this comment:

    “One important question that comes up from all this talk about changing people is just how far you’d go to help ‘save’ a loved one who’s troubled. Do you force change on them, or do you allow them to self-destruct? It’s a tough question. ”

    My first DNA-level reaction as a parent is “whatever it takes”. No questions asked. Yes, I’ve let my child fail when he needed to learn a life lesson. And it usually is a very valuable experience. But let my child commit suicide? Not in this lifetime. Even if I have to violate the laws of nature to stop it. I realize this is not a popular perspective but somehow when you phrased your question and I thought of my own son — THIS was my gut level response. Academically I can completely agree with everyone that what Angel did was wrong. Emotionally, I’d do the same if it saved my child’s life. I know it’s wrong. I just know that short of losing my own soul*, I’m pretty irrational when it comes to protecting my child.

    *that means what I consider “inherently evil acts” are not something I would do (such as murder). I don’t consider the memory spell an inherently evil act. Wrong? Yes. Evil? The memory wipe doesn’t feel inherently evil to me.

    Like

  7. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    Interesting comment, Sue. I certainly sympathize with the emotional aspect to this. I guess where I disagree is with the nature of the spell used on Connor. What Angel did to Connor, at least up until “Origin,” was literally implant an entirely new personality in him. This means that Connor was dead one way or another. Do you really consider that ‘saving’ him? I’m not so convinced, particularly when real Connor’s last wish was to stop all the lies in his life. As I postulated in my review of “Home,” isn’t the memory spell just another lie?

    Beyond Connor, I think if what Angel did isn’t a bit evil, it’s pretty close. To simply rip memories from someone’s mind without their consent is pretty awful (remember when Willow did it to Tara in Buffy Season 6?). What Angel did to Wesley, Gunn, Lorne, and the rest was totally selfish and unnecessary on Angel’s part. Unlike with Connor, there’s little justification for Angel to do it to the rest of the gang — it’s simply more convenient for him.

    Like

  8. [Note: Alex posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    My problem with the memory spell is not so much how it affects Connor, because, like Sue, I can see that in Angel’s desperation he would do anything to help his son. My problem is how it affects all the other characters; Fred, Gunn, Lorne and especially Wesley. That’s completely unnecessary, both from an in-universe perspective and from an outside one.

    Within the story, I just can’t understand how Angel can justify wiping his friends’ memories. Perhaps it was an all-or-nothing kind of deal, where he had to wipe everyone else in order to make the spell work on Connor, but that’s never mentioned if it’s the case. The only reason I can see for doing this is that Angel worries the others won’t agree with his decision, so he doesn’t want them to be aware of it. Either that, or he just thinks it would be too painful to have friends around him who know about Connor and what Angel’s done to him. Either way, those aren’t good enough reasons.

    And from a general writing perspective, I just can’t see any good reason for wiping the memories of 4/5 of your main cast. It regresses the characters horribly, and I can’t think of any benefits that it gives us. I guess maybe it makes it easier for Wesley to be part of the gang again? But that’s a pretty weak reason. The Connor plot could have been executed just as effectively without doing this to the rest of the characters.

    Anyway, another great review Mike! I agree with pretty much everything you say, and with your overall impression of the episode. It does a great job of tying up all the Connor/Sahjhan stuff, and even though I wish Wesley had never lost his memories, seeing him getting them back is really heartbreaking and makes for some wonderful scenes.

    Like

  9. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    Alex, I get why Angel would do the spell for Connor (in his mind), but in terms of morality you still have to ask yourself if what he turned Connor even is Connor anymore. Isn’t it essentially an entirely new human personality inside Connor’s body? Is that really helping Connor, or is it just side-stepping the problem entirely to make Angel feel better about himself?

    Like

  10. [Note: SueB posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    On the topic of erasing the other people’s memories: I guess I kind of thought it was all or nothing. How much time did Angel really have to specify stuff. I can see it being very much like:

    – ‘Good family, happy life, normal normal normal, Irish, good family (did I say that already?). Safe. He’s got to be in a safe place where he fed and loved and he’s part of a family where he belongs and they love him. And no one else knows who he was or what he’s done or where he is.’

    I’m not sure he thought through the consequences of much more than that. Connor WAS holding people hostage with explosives and all. That doesn’t make it right but I don’t think there was any thought of anyone BUT Connor. Connor HAD been a public figure. I could see him putting on the “no one knows” caveat. Even if he had a moment to think about the rest of the team, I could also see him being overly zealous about making sure there was no way anyone but he and the Senior Partners (and Lilah) knew the score. Not that W&H are the best people to give a secret too but Angel’s freak-out when Connor showed up in “Origin” suggests that he wanted no chance of Connor being dragged back into the abnormal-miracle-chile-demon-spawning-goddess-father-who-lost-his-mind-guy life.

    Again, doesn’t make it right but it’s completely in character IMO. I mean really, there are a lot of things each of the characters do that I find less than stellar. Whedon doesn’t seem to feel that making his characters always likeable is a requirement.

    Like

  11. [Note: SueB posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    Oops… One more thing. I always felt it WAS Connor. Not some other person. I guess this comes down to nature vs nurture. His nature was always family centric, that was the same. He was pretty smart (natural intellect) for having grown up in a hell dimension so doing well at school was no surprise. But there’s no doubt, we are shaped by our experiences. Connor post memory return was pretty level-headed but he still had some “beats” that seemed consistent. Like the conversation in the coffee shop in NFA. In Habeaus Corpus he teased Angel about being “undead slow witted thing”. He seemed to like to yank Angel’s chain. And he did so quite a bit in both Origin and NFA for the few lines he had.

    IDK. He just didn’t seem like a totally different person. Just my opinion. Your Mileage May Vary.

    Like

  12. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    But after “Origin” he had his original memories back. I’m referring to before that — what the spell in “Home” did originally to him. So “Not Fade Away” isn’t really relevant.

    Like

  13. [Note: Alex posted this comment on August 1, 2012.]

    Mike, I do agree with what you’re saying about the morality of erasing someone’s memories. I just glossed over that in my original response because it wasn’t really the point of what I was saying. But yes, the whole thing does raise some really tricky (and interesting) questions.

    I mean, I’ve had some horrible things happen during my 27 years, but would I want someone to erase those memories? No, I wouldn’t, because without those things I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I don’t believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’ or anything as trite as that, but I do believe that every single thing that happens shapes you as a person, and you can’t separate the good and the bad. And I also believe that ‘those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it’.

    For example, we see that the post-memory-wipe Connor still has a thing for older women (OK, that was mostly just a joke, but I still find it interesting). Having forgotten his experience with Cordelia, who’s to say he won’t end up losing his virginity all over again to someone equally inappropriate? And, as we see in this episode, taking away Connor’s memories means that he can’t remember how to fight and therefore risks being killed by Sahjahn – and that’s Angel’s fault. Growing up in Q-thingummy (I won’t try to spell it right now) sounds awful and traumatic, but it DID give Connor the skills he would have needed to defend himself in situations like this. Because he is still the ‘miracle child’, after all, and was bound to come up against something like this sooner or later.

    So, in a nutshell, I do agree with you. But I also see Sue’s point that it was very much an emotional decision on Angel’s part and perhaps something that he didn’t get to think through as much as he should have done. Sue, you also make a good point about Connor being in the public eye. After the whole city had seen him take a bunch of people hostage on the news, I can see how the memory wipe spell might have needed to be all-encompassing. But then I would still argue that the writers could have made that much clearer, if that was supposed to be the case.

    Like

  14. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on August 1, 2012.]

    i thought about saying this when Girl in Question was reviewed but it fits here; One aspect of Angel 5 i like very much is the return of arcs and mini arcs for plot and character both.

    i can understand fans of BtVS being used to and/or preferring the longer narrative play leading to the reveal and clash with a seasonal ‘big bad’. Hell, who doesn’t like The Mayor or *insert villain of choice*?

    But Angel was a different show, different strengths and weaknesses.

    I always thought the Darla, Beige Angel, Pylea, Connor-baby, and (here) Illyria episodes were pluses; a real fusion of plot becoming the characters and vice versa.

    Also in 5 we get Spike’s mini-arc, Angel’s ‘loss of faith’, the settling into W&H etc. For all that S5 may have had to compress these – and for all the reformatting and shiny lights; it feels a lot more like ‘classic Angel’ in that sense.

    And as a whole, the Illyria/Wesley arc is just fantastic.

    My problem with S4 is that instead of arcs we get a series of cardboard big-bads,a little like the first going into remission, or was it on holiday? and then Caleb turning up etc. in B7.

    Villains whose initial promise is devalued on further appearance before they then give up the play to the next one; Beast/Angelus/Master/Jasmine and so on.

    Not that A4 and B7 don’t have some bloody great episodes in, because they do. All the same…

    Like

  15. [Note: SueB posted this comment on August 1, 2012.]

    wytchcroft… the whole revisit the story is what I call continuity porn. It’s such a payoff for the devoted fans. I think Joss & co knew that more than any other writing team during this timeframe. Look at what is winning the Emmy awards these days. It’s all serialized drama. Now it’s damn fine drama (I’m a Mad Men fan myself) but it completely relies on one episode after another. For years TV shows just didn’t do that. They presumed we, the unwashed masses, might drop in and out of show. That sort of works for procedurals but really fails for serialized.

    So.. Origin (as I said above) was continuity porn for me. Which is why it’s very high up on the list. It provided closure.

    But the other thing that was done well, IMO, was to make Ilyria so much more fun in her interaction with Spike. I would have been predispositioned to hate Ilyria but the comedy softened me big time.

    I actually thought the “Big Bad” was a little weak in S5. I DID feel rushed in the end (driven by the meta reasons) to see the logic of what Angel did. But.. I’ll save that for NFA.

    Like

  16. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on August 1, 2012.]

    Ah but after Holland Manners and his tour to hell, I never thought of Angel in terms of needing a manifested big bad, that was more Buffy’s thing; villain as metaphor.

    Angel as a show was just differently structured – i’m certainly not knocking BtVS coz i love(d) that show. If S5 actually has a ‘big bad’ it’s ‘choice’.

    Continuity porn (great phrase), oh yes i’m all for that; probably one of the reasons i love Whedon’s shows. It always drives me crazy when a series is built entirely on standalones and the main characters are forever untouched by events.

    But as i say, i think Angel did the serial factor best when it was in sequences or clusters of related stories rather than trying to use a whole season. 22 episodes can be a long haul for a single uber-storyline.

    Season to season call backs, like Connor here or Anne later… well they rock my world.

    Like

  17. [Note: Anne posted this comment on September 27, 2012.]

    First of all, hurrah! Good and thoughtful review — I appreciate that you really analyze character consistency, plot continuity, actions, motives, and themes. I also agree with all of your above points. Thanks for stating them so well!Nothing drives me crazier (in a not-happy way) than a mind-wipe plot that doesn’t get resolved. I was frustrated with most of Seasons 4 and 5 for that reason; you can’t just rewrite — regress — the characters and keep them that way for a whole season! It upsets me as a viewer, not only because the characters I love have been tampered with, but because I think it’s poor writing. First, Cordelia’s body is being used as a puppet for the Master, so we suffer through half a season of Cordy not being Cordy. Then, the Jasmine arc draws out forever, with characters acting out-of-character due to her brainwashing effects. And finally, Angel makes the deal with Wolfram & Hart and *every* other major character loses the past year and a half’s worth of development. By the time this episode came around, it was, as you said, too little, too late. I’d lost faith in the writers because they’d already kept the characters in mind-wipe mode for soooo long, and never sorted out for us just what everyone thought happened during those times, or why the wipe was so complete.I think writers need to understand that when you wipe a character’s memory, the audience’s interest hinges on the ‘recovery’ of the character we’ve come to know and love. You can’t keep them stuck in stasis forever, retreading the same ground, nor can you leave their unresolved problems ‘resolved’ by memory loss; everyone knows those problems haven’t really stopped existing. I was constantly struck by the false nature of everyone’s friendships, with so many lost interactions, so many secrets, and the serious power imbalance and breach of trust of Angel knowing everything that had happened and never sharing it with the others. While this episode was important, and plot-heavy, I feel like I might have scored it a bit lower than you did, just out of sheer frustration with the non-resolution of the mind-wipe plot(s), and feeling like everyone was so out of character. I suppose Wesley could have just been shell-shocked, but he was so angry *before* he smashed the box that I definitely expected him to be extra angry, or at least confused and hurt, after he remembered Angel trying to kill him, and all his friends abandoning him, even Fred, quite bluntly and painfully. And Connor! If he really regained all his earlier memories of Angel and Co., well, they were NOT happy fuzzy memories! Even if he’s equipped to cope by having a fake happy life, it seems to me like he would feel *exactly* how he did about Angel before the wipe, *plus* angrier than ever at Angel for pasting yet another gigantic lie over the truth of his existence. I especially don’t see him (based on what we know of his personality and former issues) being *content* to go back to his fake family right away, after being hit with the fact that all his childhood memories of them are fake, and, you know, he grew up in a hell dimension with Holtz who was then bitten by the vampire he’s currently talking to… I don’t think he’d plunge right back into the lie without any word of reproach against Angel, or any doubts about how close he really is to his pseudo-family. I’m frustrated and disappointed that the others don’t get their memories restored, as well. Even more so, I’m disappointed that Angel is, in essence, rewarded for his choice, instead of made to feel the full brunt of it and perhaps to regret it. You do NOT. BRAINWASH. YOUR FRIENDS! Brainwashing leads to some serious history repeating itself! The interpersonal problems you so conveniently buried should rise up and bite you in the butt, because you can’t just magic away your fighting! Definitely think the Willow/Tara plot covered that subject MUCH better. Sure, Angel isn’t in a couple with any of his friends, but he’s still committed a huge breach of trust, love, friendship, loyalty — he screwed over his family, and I feel like not just Angel, but the *writers* don’t understand that fact.

    Like

  18. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on September 27, 2012.]

    Thanks for the comment! I generally agree with your sentiment, and sympathize with your remaining frustration even after this episode. When reviewing this, I was frankly just a bit relieved to finally review an episode that was well put together in all phases. But I can totally see how it still rubs you a few points less.Btw, if you really want to see me unleash on Angel for his decision to wipe everyone’s memories, I strongly encourage you to check out my review of the S4 finale, “Home.” I think you’ll get some enjoyment out of that one too. 🙂

    Like

  19. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on November 9, 2012.]

    The first time I watched this episode I was equally frustrated with Wesley’s lack of anger after the revelation and the return of his memories as you, Mike and Anne.On this re-watch though it struck me that his reaction in that final scene is… well, he seems borderline unhinged. Watched that pained spasm on his face before he answers Illyria. This is a man struggling to hold on. A man struggling for survival, who we know will ultimately fail. He does not have it in him to be angry or indignant, not at this time, not anymore. In Fred he had already lost his hope for the future. Now he has also lost his faith in the past. The things he thought he still knew, could still rely on; gone. His trust in Angel; gone. His faith in his own ability; gone. Compared to that what Angel did or did not do is utterly irrelevant. I still hate the comparative lack of follow-up on the mind-wipe. Nobody other than Wesley could have taken it in stride like this. Gunn in particular should have found out, should have gotten a chance to react. Because Angel -did- sell everybody out, and did it to get his metaphorical thirty pieces of silver.But Wesley’s choice to try and live the lie rather than face the truth? I believe it. Denisov’s acting convinced me. It is utterly unlike him, it is a betrayal of all a Watcher stands for, and that’s why it proves just how broken he is. This is the point of no return.A couple more points: I think the training stuff with Illyria is at least somewhat relevant in that it shows the gang does not just ignore her. Angel is trying to decide what to do with her, and Spike testing her abilities makes sense in that regard. So I like it because it makes the episode feel firmly rooted in the final story-arc, even though the main plot is more about tightening up loose ends. Finally, I really wonder what went through Illyria’s head when Wesley confronted Angel with the Orlon window. Wesley was, in a way, betraying Angel (though I think he was justified) but he was also betraying Illyria: he broke the Orlon Window in hopes it would bring Fred back, and therefore destroy her. I suspect this partially explains why she no longer trusts him in the next episode. In this one she actually serves as Wesley’s muscle, taking on Angel in his name. In the next she believes he too plots to kill her. Of course, it turns out he’s actually trying to save her and so their bond is renewed. Still, I think it’s an interesting aspect.

    Like

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

    Spike and Illyria crack me the hell up. Spike himself is enough, but Illyria’s utter lack of compliance against Spike’s complete frustration is wonderful. What can I say, I value the comedy of these episodes so very much.

    Like

  21. [Note: Joe posted this comment on December 25, 2012.]

    Very well written review. I’m glad to see this episode getting the recognition it deserves. The reason I am commenting though is because one of your ‘minor pros’ really stood out to me…”The fact that different bad-ass demons have huge rivalries. I kind of love knowing that Sahjhan wants to kill Vail. Why does this rivalry exist? Who knows, but it helps broaden the universe and certainly makes me curious.”I didn’t realize until I read this just how much I appreciated this added detail, but this is exactly how I feel about it. Good analysis.

    Like

  22. [Note: MliMar posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    I’ve been reading your reviews with great pleasure and that’s the reason that I watched again, both Angel and Buffy. I absolutely loved Connor’s story from the beginning and now I love it even more.
    And so, for the first time and very late, I’m writing instead just reading. I’m not a native speaker so pardon my language please.
    I’m not certain that the writers knew where the story is going to end, but the ride was great. And at the end of season 4 after all the sadness and pain I was glad to see Connor smile again, but as you said it wasn’t ok, because Connor pleaded for truth and Angel didn’t listen.
    I think it was very much in Angel’s character to take actions that involve others without question. If he as champion thought he is protecting someone, nothing would stop him. In case of Connor and Cordelia he was never rational and he lied before to Cordy in Slouching Towards Bethlehem and because of that she stayed with Connor who hates lies. It would be nice, if Angel would learn something from that. But in case to protect his son, he would lie. It is perhaps mother in me that is angry, because I think Angel took the easy way out. It would be harder to take Connor in his arms again and try to be a real father. His relationship with Connor was always something like keep him alive, but far away, “I love you, now get out”. Another thing is even more wrong. Jasmine asked Angel why he destroyed all the good she did and he said because she took free will from people. Isn’t it the same if you take the memories of your closest friends and your son? I would be really pissed if he would do this to me. But Wesley when he got his memories back found out that he is not the person he thought he was, he found that he kidnaped Angel’s son and I think that he was so in his own guilt, that he didn’t even think how wrong Angel was.
    Connor on the other hand, I think, stayed very much himself even with false memory. Connor never was a fighter even Holtz said that, when Connor couldn’t kill Angel, that he always killed only to survive (Benediction). In Peace out Connor speaks a lot about how all of Angel’s team love fighting and how he loves peace and he needs rest. And in Origin new Connor again said I’m not much of a fighter. I agree also with the statement, that Angel sent Connor in to fight to death knowing that Connor doesn’t remember how to, it seems Wesley saved Connor from certain death and Angel would just stand there and watch. The new Connor also hates lies, he jokes about it, but something there reminds me of the past when he said in Origin “my parents are lairs and I could never trust them again..”. The big difference between Angel and Reillys is that they love Connor no matter what, I’m sure that they would love him, even if he told them the whole truth, they seem to me that kind of people who would take Connor in the family even without memory changes and that is the feeling that Connor was searching his whole life and he will risk his life defending it. The old and new Connor would do everything for family. What I love so much is Connors big hart, and how he is willing to open it. Many people would give up sooner, but Connor tried so hard, with Holtz, the girl he met first day in New world, to Cordy even when she became different, to Jasmine no matter how terrifying she looked. He was raised in hell dimension and stay soft ready to take every little chance life gave him to be loved and he didn’t get this much. When he got his memory back…well I wouldn’t be mad, I’d be scared that someone would take it. He knew Jasmine was a lie, but better than others (Peace out). Seems new Connor stayed that way. I think he accepted that all that Angel could give him is this other family and he took it. The only thing he valued more than truth is family- belonging, love.

    Like

  23. [Note: Sydney posted this comment on April 14, 2014.]

    I was reading through some of these comments and kinda agree with Sue on certain things, maybe the mind-wipe, new-life wasn’t Connor, but maybe it was. He was still the same person, with different memories, yes. But he’s still the same person. This was probably what Connor woudld’ve turned out like if he had had a normal life. Also, I found it not in-character, exactly, but believable that Connor didn’t push too hard. All Connor had EVER wanted was a family, to feel accepted, loved, happy and most of all…Normal. He got his wish. True, he wanted to stop being fed lies, but his perspective had to have changed in the time he spent living his dream (that is, having his own family, going to college etc), even when he did get his memories back. He realised something. He was getting a free pass. A ticket right out of all this madness that was once his life. Maybe he was dissapointed in his dad, maybe he didn’t agree with what he did, but he got a good deal out of it, and he got hope. Maybe he decided he could put aside all this and give his Old Man a chance. Is this what the writers were aiming for? I don’t know. But this is what I could make out of it. I can see not most of you would agree to me, and that makes sense too. But if I had to believe there was a reason for Connor to act the way he did after he got his memories back, it would probably be this.

    On another note, love it when you review AtS, Mike! I’ve read ALL your BTVS reviews and I’m in love with your perspective. Keep it up!
    Also, I was wondering, do you review any other TV shows?

    Like

  24. [Note: Sydney posted this comment on April 14, 2014.]

    I also agree that this is very ‘in’ character for Angel to disregard everyone else’s feeling to do what he has to do, for the greater good, however in this context, for his son. This was when Angel had been pushed to the edge, he knew he’d failed his son, Connor was supposed to be the only ‘good thing’ he and Darla ever did together, unfortunately, Connor turned out the exact opposite of that. Evil or not, killer or not, Connor is Angel’s son, and this is where I can see the emotional aspect of Angel’s decision–along with this, I believe that Angel suffers from the superiority complex that Buffy suffered from, in certain episodes, also, it kind of comes with the whole superhero/champion package. And tbh, I can see why. If I was capable of the things Angel and Buffy are capable of, I might feel a little superior to others too. Angel probably thought that what he was doing was for the best, he didn’t want to dwell on thinking about what would happen to his friends because he had to save his son from himself, and that he probably assumed (or hoped, rather) that his friends would be OK with his decision. It certainly doesn’t make Angel’s actions alright, but it does make them understandable. This is how Angel’s personality always was.

    Like

  25. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on April 16, 2014.]

    Good:
    -Spike and his clipboard
    -Connor and Illyria’s interaction
    -Connor finally fights Sahjhan and only wins because of Wesley
    -Wesley’s face as his memories return
    -The ending of father and son looking at each other
    Bad:
    -Why didn’t Angel know who Vail was. He would have wanted to meet the person who was going to help Connor. So we are to believe he trusted W&H straight away to save Connor without getting involved with the process even a tiny bit?
    -It should be shown here that Vail is stronger than he seems. By not doing this the later episodes suffer from changed characterisation

    Like

  26. [Note: Paula posted this comment on March 4, 2016.]

    Amazing review! However, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t mention anything about spike saying “might be able to talk with plants”. I thought it was a really nice reminder of how quirky Fred was and how there is a bit of her in Illyria

    Like

  27. [Note: Random posted this comment on January 23, 2017.]

    I found both Wesley’s and Connor’s reactions fairly believable, personally. While I won’t defend Angel’s choice, I will point out for Connor that Angel didn’t just wait til Connor was asleep one night and change his entire life. He literally saved Connor’s life. Connor was both suicidal and homicidal, and if the bombs didn’t get him, the SWAT team would have. He put himself in suicide-by-cop situation; there’s really no other way to interpret his actions. He didn’t need to take a store hostage to kill himself and Cordelia. So New Connor, with an entire lifetime of memories showing him that life can be happy, love is real,and there are things worth living for, is suddenly shown how very, very close he came to dying and never finding happiness. His initial response was to fake forgetfulness, which is understandable given that he has so much to come to grips with. So they get back to W&H, some time passes for Connor to think, he visits his New Dad and is reminded of the good things about living in this world, and ultimately chooses to move on with his life without fully embracing Angel (the last of which would have struck me as unrealistic.) As viewers, we crave certain philosophical satisfactions, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely realistic for a character to weigh them as we would. We’re detached. The characters aren’t. Connor is a human being, with (for the first time in his horrific life) something worth living for. He could have been resentful, sure, but that doesn’t make his reaction unrealistic. He didn’t turn into a magical happy Angel fan. He turned into a well-adjusted kid who understands what Angel was trying to give him — a family, a place in this world — without returning to the dysfunctional fold that is Angel and co.

    As for Wesley, think about what happened immediately before he smashes the Orlon Window. He’s self-righteous. He’s enraged with Angel because he’s already come to the conclusion that Angel is trying to conceal his own guilt in killing the person Wesley loved the most in the world. In a fit of what he thinks will be the ultimate j’accuse, he smashes the Orlon Window…only to discover he was guilty of doing the exact same sort of thing to Angel that he believed Agel did to him. He betrayed Angel. He effectively got Angel’s son killed. He robbed Angel of a longterm relationship with the person Angel loved most in the world. And now he has to come to grips with it. Whether he agrees with the memory wipe or not, he has to at least acknowledge his role in forcing Angel’s hand on the matter. And you wonder why Wesley isn’t demonstrating more anger about it all? Guilt is a powerful thing, which is a consistent theme throughout the Buffyverse. In the end, Wesley is at least willing to be consistent. If he couldn’t trust Angel, if he was willing to betray (and possibly kill) Angel over the idea that Angel robbed him of Fred, he can hardly give himself a pass when the tables are turned.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s