Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Angel, "In The Dark" Review (1x03)

Brief Synopsis: “Oz visits L.A. with a present for Angel from Buffy. It’s the Gem of Amara - a ring which has been a vampire myth for millennia. While wearing it, a vampire is immune to crosses, stakes, and can even walk in daylight. It isn’t long before Spike arrives in town searching for the ring...and he has no plans of leaving until he gets it.”

"Lonely Hearts" (1x02) quick link here                                                                                                                 "I Fall To Pieces" (1x04) quick link here

Three quick notes before we get started...

1) This review will almost definitely contain spoilers for episodes after this one.
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With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

I mentioned during my review of “The Harsh Light Of Day” that the episode title was perfect. The same can be said for “In The Dark”. I love the episode title’s symmetry for the first crossover story between both shows. Angel left Buffy because he wanted to give her a chance at a normal life. He told her that she deserved to be with someone who could take her into the daylight. This happened for the first time in “The Harsh Light Of Day”, only the gentleman in question, Parker, had a one-night-stand with her and then wanted nothing more to do with her. Buffy had to face the harsh light of day that not all men with souls are ‘good’. In contrast, “In The Dark” is about a moral conundrum for Angel. Oz arrives in Sunnydale with the Gem of Amara. It’s a special ring that will allow the vampire wearer to walk into the sunlight and not be killed. Buffy wanted Angel to have the ring. Does Angel go into the sunlight and have everything he ever wanted? Let’s not forget, with the ring Angel and Buffy could be a regular couple. They could go on daytime picnics! The only thing they wouldn’t be able to do is have sex. However, if Angel decided to keep the ring, who would be looking out for the people that are vulnerable at night? That is what this episode explores. It’s a gentle blend of comedy, intensity, and character development that all come together to give us a highly entertaining 42 minutes.

For those of you that don’t watch “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, here’s what happened in the previous episode...Spike arrived in Sunnydale searching for the Gem of Amara. As mentioned above, the Gem has the ability to make a vampire un-killable and able to walk outside in the daylight. Spike found the ring, but it was soon taken by Buffy. Buffy wanted Angel to have the ring, so she gave it to Oz, who was heading to Los Angeles for a “Dingoes Ate My Baby” gig. Everybody caught up?

After Spike’s arrival and hilarious rooftop monologue (oh God, it’s one of the funniest “Angel” moments ever...I died), we’re introduced to Rachel. While it may seem like Rachel serves no purpose and is nothing more than a random case, she’s a very subtle hint at what is to come for Angel in this episode. Rachel is in an abusive relationship, but she loves her boyfriend. She can take the easy option and run back to him or she can take the harder option and try to start a new life. Very soon Angel will have the same dilemma over the Gem of Amara and Buffy. Everything that Angel says to Rachel about leaving her boyfriend behind and starting a new life can be applied to himself at the end of this episode when he’s on the rooftop with Doyle (and the glorious green screen of Los Angeles). Even before Angel’s dilemma, I think he could relate to Rachel. Angel knows all too well the allure of going back to something time and time again that is self-destructive, but comforting. The symmetry between Rachel and the females in part one of this story (Buffy, Anya, and Harmony) is not lost on me. “The Harsh Light Of Day” saw three females desperately trying to get the attention of their respective males. Two of those (Harmony and Buffy) were also in abusive relationships. Parker used and manipulated Buffy for sex, whereas Spike demeaned Harmony, treated her like crap, and used her for sex. 

Even though this is only episode three of the show, it already feels established. The arrival of Oz in Los Angeles proves this. As nice as it is to see Oz, it’s so alien to see him in this environment. It’s a testament to how quickly the show was able to create a new world away from Sunnydale. I’m assuming that someone must still be in touch with Cordelia in order for Oz to know where Angel Investigations is located. They work under the radar and have only just set up their business. It’s an oddly comforting thought when you think about it. None of the Scoobies were overly close to Cordelia in season three, so it’s nice to think that someone cared enough to check up on Cordelia after she left Sunnydale. Personally, I like to think that Cordelia and Xander stayed in touch after he was nice enough to buy her prom dress for her (and therefore make some amends after cheating on her).

I love the way that Oz talks. His short answers and witty sense of humour have been a source of great comfort over the past couple of years of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Very soon he will be gone and that void will never be filled. It didn’t take Oz and Cordy long to catch up, did it? It still took a little more time than Oz and Angel, I suppose...

Angel: “Oz.”
Oz: “Angel.”
Angel: “Nice surprise.”
Oz: “Thanks.”
Angel: “Staying long?”
Oz: “Few days.”
Doyle: “They always like this?”
Oz: “No, we’re usually laconic.”

Sweet mother, hilarity.

It was nice of Oz to not mention Parker when Angel asked how she was doing. Spike isn’t so kind to Angel later in this episode and Buffy herself isn’t so kind to Angel later in this season (“Sanctuary”). Also, I really, really wish they’d shown the scene of Cordelia, Oz, and Doyle at the bar, where Doyle was calling Oz “my little Bam Bam” all night! My heart cannot take not seeing this scene!  It’s a really comforting thought that at least two Scoobies got to meet Doyle before he passed away (Oz and Buffy).

Anyone that knows me knows that I adore Angel and Spike’s relationship. It’s one of the greatest things about “Angel” season five. They work well as friends (“The Girl In Question”, for example), they work amazingly well as enemies, and they’re hilariously entertaining when they’re a bickering mix of the two. Their chemistry together is almost unparalleled between any other two male characters. I guess over a hundred years of history together will do that. They always seem to bring out the worst in each other. When Angelus returns in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season two, Spike becomes a jealous, sulky child. When Spike shows up in “Angel” season five, Angel becomes a jealous, sulky child. I LOVE IT. It’s apparent to me that these two fundamentally different characters are also so similar in a lot of ways. What I love about Spike’s arrival in Los Angeles is that it shows the “Angel” audience that vampires are capable of being carefree and amusing. We haven’t seen that from Angel himself yet. Case in point...after having a huge fight with Angel, Spike breaks off in order to say this little gem (see what I did there?) to Cordelia...

Spike: “Cordelia, you look smashing. Did you lose weight?”

Love it. He’s so unfocused when he’s fighting. It’s like he’s having the most fun, relaxed time in the world. It’s part of the reason why he was so dangerous at the beginning of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season two, but it’s also the reason why I could never take him seriously as a villain after “School Hard”. He’s too charming and funny!

While it’s nice to see Oz and Spike in the new setting of Los Angeles, the episode doesn’t get really good until Angel is kidnapped and Marcus is introduced. Marcus is a fantastic one-episode villain. He looks genuinely vampiric even when he’s not in vampire face. There is a part of me that would have loved to see Marcus return at a later date. A psychologist vampire was new territory for the Buffyverse and it was highly fascinating to watch unfold. Instead of being a bloodthirsty vampire bent on crush-kill-destroy, he kept asking Angel how he felt. Why is Angel trying to help people, even though he’s a vampire (soul or no soul)? What’s in it for him? The remarkable thing is that under enough torture, Angel actually does start opening up about his motives for wanting to help people! Angel wants to make amends and seek forgiveness for all of the terrible crimes he committed as Angelus (and also a few that he committed as Angel). He wants redemption. That is what the entire premise of the show is based around. Marcus tells Angel that Angel doesn’t just want to be handed forgiveness, but Angel feels like he has to earn it because of all the damage and suffering he’s caused. It’s a prelude to the decision that Angel is going to make at the end of the episode. I also like the fact that Marcus makes reference to Angel having very little external damage after nearly 250 years. I’ve been thinking the same thing for a long time! Where are all the scars?! I know that vampires heal fast, but look at Kakistos! Look at The Three! They have scars and damaged limbs!

The attempted staking of Marcus by Angel - using his feet - was brilliantly done. As bad as Marcus’ torture was, I bet Spike telling Angel that Buffy slept with a new guy so quickly after he left Sunnydale hurt more than any of Marcus’ torture. You can tell by the look on Angel’s face that this news broke him.

While all this drama and torture is taking place, Spike tells Doyle and Cordelia that they have until the next day to find the Gem of Amara or he’ll kill Angel. If they give him the Gem, he’ll let Angel go...

Cordelia: “I don’t trust you.”
Spike: “To coin a popular Sunnydale phrase…‘duh’.”

Doyle, Cordelia, and Oz’s plan to rescue Angel was masterful. It was obvious that Spike was going to try to kill them all after they gave him the ring, so having Oz burst through the wall with crossbows in his hands was great. It made for an excellent visual. Another great thing about this episode is that it gave Cordelia and Doyle time to bond by themselves. When you think about the fact that they’re going to kiss in six episodes, moments like this are what make it realistic.

After all Spike’s careful planning, Marcus stole the Gem of Amara. Of course he stole the Gem! It was written all over his face when Angel warned Spike that Marcus was going to do it! Was anyone surprised by this revelation? Spike can be so dense...however, it did lead to another one of my favourite moments from the episode. Spike walks under one of the bullet holes in the ceiling that was being used as part of Marcus’ torture of Angel and Spike’s hair catches fire, right in the middle of his uplifting speech to himself. If it wasn’t for the rooftop monologue at the beginning, this would be the funniest part of the episode.

Marcus likes kids. Marcus likes kids. Creepy. So creepy. Until this episode, I’d never considered Angel a ‘hero’. He was a broody character with a great deal of backstory and a love of dark clothing. Since moving to Los Angeles, he became much more interesting, but I still didn’t see him as a ‘hero’, I just saw him as a guy trying to make amends. The ending of this episode is what made me realise that Angel is a hero. He dived out of a van in the middle of the day (risking a severe dusting) in order to save some children from Marcus. He risked his life for complete strangers. The man who two episodes ago didn’t care about anything anymore except being left alone just committed an entirely selfless act. Thou art a hero, Liam. The fight under  the pier between  Angel and Marcus was good, but I feel like Marcus lost far too easily considering he was wearing the Gem of Amara that everyone has been harping on about for the past two Buffyverse episodes.

Angel putting on the Gem of Amara and stepping into the sunlight is a truly spectacular moment for the show...even if he does do the same thing again in five’s the first time we get to see Angel in the sunlight. David’s facial expressions in that scene were perfect. Angel very rarely shows emotion other than ‘anger’ or ‘broody’ at this point. He’s positively overwhelmed in this scene. He’s in complete awe. Oz is right though, Angel is incredibly pale. Perhaps before destroying the ring he should have got a tan. When you think about the very end of this episode, Angel’s face as he steps into the sunlight is heartbreaking. Angel knows by this point that he’s not going to keep the ring. He knows that he’s going to destroy it and never step into the sunlight again. He’s going to remain “In The Dark” to earn his redemption.

This leads us to the final scene of the episode. Angel destroys the Gem of Amara. I do have one complaint about this. I understand Angel’s decision to destroy it, but why did he only take half a day to think about it?! He’s been a vampire and stuck in the darkness for 246 years and he takes half a day before deciding that he’s got to destroy the ring forever?! Take some time to think, Angel! I think I’ve figured out why Angel destroyed the Gem so quickly though. The Gem of Amara is the Holy Grail for vampires. It’s a legend. Angel and his human friends will have a target on their back so long as they have the ring. If Angel doesn’t intend to wear the ring, he has no reason to keep it in his eyes. That’s the obvious reason, but I think it goes much deeper than that...

Marcus told Angel earlier in the episode that Angel wants to earn his redemption. Wearing the ring is the easy way out. Angel doesn’t feel like he deserves the easy way out with all the pain he’s caused. Ironically, Marcus’ torture led Angel to this realisation that sets up the redemption arc of the show. The show’s mission statement is based off of a deranged vampire. Happy days. Just because Angel has his focus and resolve now, it doesn’t mean that it won’t waver in the future. It’s better to destroy the ring than to potentially take the easy way out of his redemption in the future. It’s time to say goodbye to Buffy and his old life once and for all and concentrate on his new life and helping the helpless. Plus, Angel explains to Doyle that by having the ring, he won’t be able to see the monsters so clearly anymore. The world is designed for people that walk during the day. Who’s there to protect the people who need help at night? Angel doesn’t want to forget about the people that will need him the most. It’s a very selfless act from Angel. One of the reasons why I love his character so much (mostly after leaving Sunnydale) is because he always has to make the hard decisions. He chose to leave Sunnydale in order to give Buffy a chance at a normal life, even though he didn’t want to leave and he still loved her. Later on in the season he walks away from humanity (something he desperately wants) and his perfect day with Buffy in order to help and protect people. He carries the burden of that perfect day by himself forever.  Not many people could live with that.

Angel: “Oh, God, I was this close to telling him everything. I mean, one more hot poker and I was giving him the ring, your mom...everything. How is your mom?”

I love how close Doyle and Angel have become in such a short space of time. That statement above makes me think that Angel may have spoken to Doyle’s mother on the phone off camera. That thought makes me indescribably giddy with happiness for some reason. It also makes Doyle’s death in six episodes even harder. CURSE YOU, WHEDON!

Some other thoughts on “In The Dark”...

• Doyle: “I’ve got something that’ll boost your spirits. Why don’t you put it on and I’ll stake ya? It’ll be fun!”
• It’s a great piece of continuity from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season three that Angel is still doing Tai Chi.
• It’s obvious that Cordelia and Doyle are having a humanising influence on Angel. Just two episodes ago he was barely able to talk to Tina and he was living alone in the most secluded way possible. In this episode, he genuinely connects with Rachel and helps her turn her life around. Progress!

Quote Of The Episode

Spike (as Rachel): “How can I thank you, you mysterious black-clad hunk of the night thing?”

Spike (As Angel): “No need little lady. Your tears of gratitude are enough for me. You see, I was once a badass vampire, but love and a pesky curse defanged me. And now I’m just a big fluffy puppy with bad teeth. No, not the hair! Never the hair!”

Spike (as Rachel): “But there must be some way I can show my appreciation?”

Spike (as Angel): “No. Helping those in need is my job and working up a load of sexual tension and prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough.”

Spike (as Rachel): “I understand. I have a nephew who’s gay, so…”

Spike (as Angel): “Say no more. Evil is still afoot. And I’m almost out of that Nancy-boy hair gel I like so much. Quickly, to the Angel mobile. Away!”


What are your thoughts on "In The Dark"? Did you enjoy this episode? Dislike it? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  1. This is the very first AtS episode I like, probably because I'm Oz fan. It's at times fuuny and Marcus was creepy as fuck. I also enjoy the love-hate between Angel-Spike and Spike's roof monologue is hilarious and quite accurate probably seconded by the Bangel scene in S3 with Cordy and Wesley.
    Anyways, Oz.....I love him so much! He was few time in the episode, my only complain, but since the moment he arrived was awesome..and it's funny Oz talking about how pale Angel was when he is as pale as him.... I would of like to see Oz as a memeber of Angel Investigations, I actually believed Seth Green was joining the Angel cast after he left BtVS, but sadly....he didn't :(
    At first, I didn't get why the hell Angel smashed like the best vampire ring ever I thought he was afraid the ring fell in wrong hands...Angelus or, as Doyle <3 said, Angel just wants a reason to brood. But the need of redeem himself and not taking the easy way in the process makes sense.
    Finally, I like Boreanaz acting in this episode especially when he is enjoying the light for the first time in years, the facial expression is flawless...good review!!

  2. "When Angelus returns in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season two, Spike becomes a jealous, sulky child. When Spike shows up in “Angel” season five, Angel becomes a jealous, sulky child. I LOVE IT." Completely agree! :D

    "That statement above makes me think that Angel may have spoken to Doyle’s mother on the phone off camera." That makes me giddy with excitement too!

    Great review! :D

  3. I actually really like the torture scenes this episode, which I don't know how to say without sounding like a psychopath or something, I'd say it was only for the entertainment value but I suspect that sounds worse. I think Lasso Guy is a fantastic foil for Spike, his calm and systematic torture is a wonderful contrast with Spike's impatience. This rewatch Lasso Guy reminded me a little of Oswald Danes in Torchwood: Miracle Day with his lack of any empathy whatsoever and, frankly, the revelry in that lack of empathy is as fascinating as it is stomach-turning.

    Also, I like the link in titles between "The Harsh Light of Day" and "In the Dark". Although it probably has more to do with the effects of the Gem of Amara than being a conscious tie between episodes it is still a nice touch and as I remember it isn't the last time that happens.

  4. This episode is only so-so for me, especially with Angel's weird, faulty logic about not wearing the ring, but it's got some great moments:

    1.) Spike's mocking voice-over at the beginning. Hilarious.
    2.) Oz. Basically throughout the episode.
    3.) Angel's flaming tackle of PedoVamp. Angel seems to get seriously beat-up on his own show a lot more often than Buffy does on hers, so I appreciate his BAMF moments. Though, of course, BAMF Buffy is also awesome.

  5. One minute Angel is hurt so badly they want to take him to the hospital. Five minutes later, he is in a fight to the death with a bad ass vampire. And wins. I guess vampires really do heal fast.

    1. Wouldn't the EMTs have a real surprise as they rush him into the sunlight? Or, even better,wouldn't the emergency staff freak out at this dead guy - with ho heartbeat or blood pressure - is sitting up talking?