Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Angel, "Dear Boy" Review (2x05)

Brief Synopsis: “Angel’s continuing restless dreams take him back to his first meeting with Drusilla in 1860. When Angel sees Darla in real life, however, the rest of Angel Investigations see the gaping cracks in Angel’s resolve and fear that he may return to his former ways...”

"Untouched" (2x04) quick link here                                                                                                                  "Guise Will Be Guise" (2x06) quick link here

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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?

“Dear Boy” really gets the Darla-arc off and running after four relatively standalone episodes (with sprinkles of Darla and Angel foreshadowing thrown it). Angel becomes aware of Darla’s resurrection, which causes a cataclysmic change in his personality for over half a season. One thing that blows me away about this terrific arc is how fast it happens! I was expecting Darla to become the ‘Big Bad’ of the season and be around until the finale. Instead, while Darla is still the ‘Big Bad’ to a certain extent, she’s gone from the season by episode 17. I was expecting Angel to find out about Darla’s return much later than he actually does. Notice the parallels between “Angel” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” in this regard. Glory was introduced to Buffy in the 5th episode of the season and Darla’ return was introduced to Angel in the 5th episode as well. Having his sire back – one he staked in Sunnydale no less – causes a lot of inner-turmoil for Angel. Does he kill her to remove the threat? Does he try to save her after he realises she’s human? What does Wolfram & Hart want with her? By this point, we know what she wants from him, but even that has one glaring plot hole, which I will examine later in the review. The Darla-arc of “Angel” is arguably the best arc that the show ever produces. Season one doesn’t have a defined arc, it has themes. Season two has the Darla-arc and the Pylea-arc. Season three has the Holtz-arc. Season four has The Beast-arc and the Jasmine-arc. Season five has the Wolfram & Hart-arc. Out of all of those arcs, the only one that can hold a candle to the Darla-arc is the Wolfram & Hart journey that Angel Investigations faces in the final season. Darla and Angel have two hundred years of history together and “Dear Boy” is the first real time we get to see that relationship unfold outside of flashbacks or the cheesiness of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season one.

The episode opens on Angel investigations, who are very much established at the Hyperion Hotel by this point. The place has been cleaned, furnished, and looks a lot more like home than Angel’s dingy basement apartment ever did. As I’ve mentioned before (and will most assuredly again), the Hyperion is my favourite set on “Angel”. It’s to “Angel” what the Sunnydale High library is to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”: home. Warm, cosy, familiar, the place where the characters you love have most of their bonding experiences and free time together. At one point or another, Angel, Lorne, Gunn, Fred, and Connor live at the Hyperion. Plus, Cordy stays there quiet often. The only character that doesn’t really sleep over is Wesley, which makes a certain amount of sense as he’s the type to like his own space. I’m sure Angel would like more of his own space too, but in a hotel with 68 rooms, a theatre room, and a swimming pool beneath the floor boards, he has enough space to stay broody and mopey. I love a rich, spacious set that allows the freedom to create stories from within it. Wesley and Cordelia have realised that Angel Investigations is broke. The business is making very little money, which means that they can barely afford to eat, let alone live comfortably. This isn’t surprising in the least. Since the business was established, how many times have we seen Angel charge someone for his services? Three? The only instances I can think of off the top of my head are Melissa in “I Fall To Pieces”, Rebecca in “Eternity”, and David Nabbit in “War Zone”. Not exactly enough to survive and thrive, is it? I’m getting mental images of Wesley taking his ‘Word Puzzle 3D’ to a local pub and trying to play people for money.

Cordy receives a vision of a group of humans worshipping a big, blobby demon that is sticking out of a wall. They are fighting to the death over the best way to worship it. This is what happens when you don’t buy a pet! You over-correct! Angel needs to develop a Tamagotchi line in his quest to help the helpless. The primary point of this scene is to emphasise the fact that Darla’s dreams are taking a toll on Angel, as well as give us a preview into the set that will be used for Angel and Darla’s big conversation at the conclusion of the episode. Angel is tired. He’s confused, groggy, irrational, his demeanour is completely different, he’s snapping at his friends, and he’s quick to temper because of Darla’s dreams. She’s keeping Angel distracted from helping the helpless and isolated from his friends. Angel doesn’t care about the cases they’re working on, he’s lying to his friends about what’s going on in his life, and he’s secretly enjoying these erotic trips down memory lane with Darla in his dreams. Wolfram & Hart obviously brought Darla back for this very reason. They have two primary motives in relation to Angel. 1) Keep him distracted so that he’s not constantly watching their every move. 2) Keep him as isolated and dark as possible because he’s supposed to play a major role in the apocalypse. They need him unstable. Remember, it’s mentioned in the Shanshu Prophecy that a vampire with a soul will play a major role in the final apocalypse. With a soul. Not Angelus, but Angel. The only thing the prophecy doesn’t state is which side of the battle Angel will be fighting for. Wolfram & Hart are banking on the fact that they can keep Angel dark enough to be on their side. It’s why they give him the keys to Wolfram & Hart’s Los Angeles branch in “Home”.

With that being said, what was Darla’s plan? Darla has been drugging Angel, yes, but to what end? Darla reveals at the conclusion of this episode that she was gearing up to giving him a moment of happiness so that he would lose his soul. She was using these dreams to reawaken his lust for her so that if she could get close enough to him to sleep with him, he’d lose his soul. This is contradictory to Wolfram & Hart’s plans, who want Angel dark, not soulless. It’s possible that Darla has misread Wolfram & Hart’s intentions for her, but it more realistically seems like a slight error on the part of the writers. Darla’s plan is certainly risky regardless. She’s a human now. Did she think that Angelus would turn her back into a vampire and they’d restart their killing spree a hundred years later? Has she met Angelus? The more realistic option is that he’d ruin her life, make her crazy, and then torture and kill her.

It’s at this point in the episode that we receive a flashback of Darla giving Angelus a gift: Drusilla. I love this flashback for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, we finally get to see how Angelus ruined Drusilla’s life and how she was turned into a vampire. We’ve heard about it during Buffy’s second season, but we’ve never seen it. Ironically, it was all Darla’s fault as she was the one who brought Drusilla to Angelus’ attention. This is even more ironic when you consider the fact that Drusilla turns Darla back into a vampire in four episodes time. Just as importantly, it establishes who Drusilla is for the “Angel” fans that haven’t seen “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” before they bring her into the show. It’s similar to what the show did with Darla during the last season through flashbacks.

How gullible is that guy who thinks his wife has been abducted by aliens on a regular basis? Good Lord. This subplot is used as a convenient way of Angel getting a glimpse of Darla for the first time. It’s showing us how Darla’s mere presence is able to mess with Angel’s head in a way that we haven’t seen before. Angel is taking zero interest in the case and is spending all his time thinking about Darla. Then, a human Darla arrives and his head implodes. Even as a human still adjusting to life, Darla is the master manipulator. She has Lindsey drooling over her and wrapped around her little finger and she has total control over everything that Angel is thinking. I like the fact that Julie Benz is such a convincing, wonderful actress that she leaves seeds of doubt as to whether or not she’s actually Darla. For a brief moment, you think that perhaps Angel has made a mistake because of all his weird dreams and distractions.

Wesley: “I need to speak with you, man to man. Cordelia, you may not want to be here for this...was it something I did?”

You know, I hadn’t realised how much Wesley had grown as a person over the past half a season or so until he delivered that line and reverted back to the Wesley who arrived in Los Angeles in “Parting Gifts”. As much as I adore the confident, badass Wesley that emerges, sometimes having a little dorky Wesley that falls over all the time in the show is a wonderful thing.

Angel: “I saw her and I’m not crazy.”
Wesley: “Where?”
Angel: “Right between the clowns and the big talking hot dog.”

Why does it take Wesley and Cordelia so long to believe Angel that Darla is back? Angel himself has come back from the dead, after Buffy sent him to Hell in “Becoming PartTwo”. Angel is their friend and a very trustworthy fella in his own right. I can only come to the conclusion that they don’t trust Angel when it comes to small blonde women as nothing but badness ensues in those scenarios. In this instance, Darla is such a convincing actress that it drives Angel a little loopy. It raises questions in Cordy, Wesley, and Gunn’s heads. Is it Darla or is Angel stalking someone who looks like his ex? Is Angel on his way to becoming Angelus again? Do we need to buy Angel a Playstation and a goldfish? Of course, Gunn has never met Angelus, so he doesn’t truly appreciate the gravity of the situation. Cordy and Wesley might be more inclined to lean towards the ‘Angel is turning paranoid and therefore might snap and become Angelus’ scenario because they’ve seen Angelus. They know Angelus. They’ve researched Angelus. They’re less trusting of Angel when he’s acting like a crazy person because they’re scared of Angelus returning. Their fear makes them question their friend. As someone who has never met Angelus, it’s a very intelligent move by David Greenwalt to have Gunn act in stead of the “Angel” audience that haven’t seen “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or “Angel” season one’s “Eternity”. Cordelia and Wesley fill Gunn in on the backstory of Angelus and Darla, which in turn fills the new audience in on it too.

Cordelia: “That was really fun. The public humiliation, running from the hotel security staff and the nifty little outfit, which seemed to tell so many conventioneers ‘pet me, I’m a whore’.”

I mentioned in my review of “Blind Date” that one of the reasons why Angel requests for Lorne to kill Lindsey in “Not Fade Away” is because Lindsey always put himself and his own motivations before anything else. He’s too unpredictable to be trustworthy. When Lindsey had the opportunity to leave Wolfram & Hart and start down his path of redemption, he chose to remain at Wolfram & Hart. It’s a recurring process for Lindsey. In this episode, Lindsey tells Darla that he doesn’t care if she kills Angel. Wolfram & Hart, obviously, would be greatly against this scenario as Angel is scheduled to play a major role in the apocalypse. Lindsey would happily kill Angel to fulfil his own personal needs, even if his employers would be categorically against it. It makes him a fascinating character, but it doesn’t make him someone I’d like to hire to join my firm.

Wesley: “You’re among friends, we’re not going to condemn you.”
Cordelia: “Right. You’re crazy. You need professional help.”
Wesley: “You can’t just sniff a person and...”
Angel: “You had sex last night with a bleached blonde.”
Wesley: “Good Lord, how did you...”
Cordelia: “That’s unbelievable...I didn’t think you ever had sex.”

This episode is filled with hilarious and memorable dialogue. Another example of this is Wesley’s impression of Cordelia’s American accent. That’s a male American actor, playing an English character, impersonating a female American character. That hurts my occipital lobe just thinking about it (yes, I’m aware that the occipital lobe is responsible for vision, but my Willow dialogue references do not work if I mention another part of the brain! GIVE ME THIS MOMENT OF GLORY!). Fantastic job, David Greenwalt.

Darla and Wolfram & Hart create a big scamola involving Darla’s fake husband, who’s an actor. Darla and Wolfram & Hart security kill her ‘husband’ and frame Angel for the murder, thus making Angel more unstable and crazy than he was before. Darla (and in turn Julie Benz) is such a fantastic actress. She’s so convincing at pretending she’s the victim in the situation. She’s convincing on the 911 call, she’s convincing when talking to Kate...if it wasn’t for that pesky ‘how did Angel get in the house if he wasn’t invited or if the owner wasn’t dead?’ thing, Darla would have pulled off the perfect crime. It was nice to have Gunn sassily remark that line to Kate instead of Wesley for a change. Gunn’s place in the group is still being established so having Gunn serve some sort of purpose other than the ‘muscle’ was a wise move. I also appreciate that Cordy, Wesley, and Gunn, even when they’re questioning Angel’s actions themselves, would rather go to jail than betray their friend. They’re completely dedicated and loyal to him...makes his firing of them in five episodes all the more tragic, doesn’t it?

From a continuity standpoint, Wolfram & Hart making Kate aware of Angel’s new location makes sense. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that jazz. They’ve known since “Sense & Sensitivity” that Angel and Kate are friends and I’m sure they’re realised that the relationship has turned sour since Kate’s father’s death. Why not use it to their advantage? Kate raises an interesting point about the innocent people that get caught in the crossfire while Angel is playing the hero and trading mind games with Wolfram & Hart. People like Darla’s fake husband, Stephen, for example. She’s right, people do get caught in the crossfire while Angel is saving souls. It’s not his fault, but innocent people do get killed. Those are the people that Kate cares about. Those are the people that Kate is trying to protect from Angel. It’s very noble of Kate! The only problem is that Kate’s motivates aren’t entirely noble, are they? She’s just as interested in causing Angel problems and ruining his life because she still resents him for introducing her to the supernatural world and not being able to save her father. In Kate’s eyes, her father is one of those innocent people that was caught in the crossfire of Angel’s life. This is ludicrous, of course, as Trevor was involved in illegal activities with a demon that resulted in his death, but it’s easy for Kate to blame Angel than it is to blame her father because Angel introduced her to vampires and demons. She was living in ignorant bliss before Angel came along. Any problems that Kate encounters with supernatural creatures are Angel’s fault by default. She’s a constant reminder to the audience that Angel has a dark past and his actions have real consequences.

Spidey-Angel swings down, kidnaps Darla, and takes her to the underground water tower where the big blobby demon was being worshipped earlier in the episode. This scene (even though it’s split into three pieces) is the best scene of the season thus far and one of the most intense, interesting, emotionally provoking scenes that the show has produced thus far as a whole. There are so many different layers being explored at the same time that it’s hard to keep focused on just one. It explores Darla’s humanity, Darla’s motives, their backstory, where the show is heading, and Darla plants doubts in Angel’s mind over his redemption. It’s a very well written and acted piece. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge fan of Darla and Angel’s relationship. They have over two hundred years of backstory and over two hundred years of knowledge on each other, which makes Darla the perfect villain for Angel in a lot of ways. The scene starts with Angel explaining to Darla that all those people she killed, all those lives she ruined, they’re going to start eating away at her from within. She has a soul now. She has a conscience. She can feel remorse. While she was committing the murders and torturing, she was soulless and carefree. Now, she’s not. Angel knows better than anyone that this is going to be unbearable to deal with. Angel spent a hundred years living on the streets and feeding on rats because he didn’t know how to deal with his guilt. As a human, Darla doesn’t have that much time to adjust. Darla also reveals her plan to eventually make Angel lose his soul so that they can pillage the lands together once again. After all, they loved each other for over a hundred years, right? WRONG. In the ultimate ‘burn’ moment, Angel tells Darla he never loved her and she never made him happy because he was soulless when he was with her. He didn’t have the capabilities to love. It was sex and death and brutality, but there was no romance. No affection outside of need. Darla never made Angel happy like Buffy did. This is backed up later in the season when Darla sleeps with Angel, but Angel doesn’t lose his soul. It doesn’t give him a moment of true happiness. Ouch.

The scene closes with Darla tearing a hole in Angel’s identity and motivations. She tells him that no matter how hard he tries, no matter how long he fights the forces of darkness, no matter how many times he helps the helpless, God will never want him (a cross still burns him)...but she still does. Since finding out about the Shanshu Prophecy, Angel has been fighting hard to earn his reward through redemption. Darla gives him a reality check here. She bitch-slaps him back to the ground. He starts to question whether or not he’ll ever earn his humanity. Angel is helping the helpless and trying to make the world a better place, but the world around him still rejects who and what he is. God and the world will never want him, never accept him. On the flipside of that, Darla is ready to accept him back. Does he continue down a path which could lead to nowhere or does he turn his back on the helpless and become the reclusive vampire he once was? Angel vs. Angelus, the lighter side of Angel’s personality vs. the darker side of Angel’s personality. Which side of the apocalypse will he end up on? Is Angel capable of remaining on the righteous path when Wolfram & Hart are throwing his sire at him? That is what the rest of the Darla-arc will explore.

The episode closes on Angel looking annoyed and proclaiming “there’s going to be a lot of trouble and I say bring it on”. The Darla-arc is about to take off, kiddies. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

Quote Of The Episode

Angel: “So you're what Wolfram and Hart brought back in that box. And they brought you back as a human. They think I won't kill one. You want to know what I think? I think they don't know me that well. You feel what this place was before they excavated it? It was a convent. You remember how much I like convents...come on, Darla, you and I are too old to play games. I need to talk to the real you! It's been a long time since I said this to anyone, but you can scream all you want.”

Darla: “Oh, oh I'm not gonna scream. There's my boy.”

Angel: “That's enough.”

Darla: “I’m pretty familiar with the international sign for enough and you have a way to go! You're hurting me...I like it.”

Angel: “What's the play, Darla? What kind of game are you running?”

Darla: “Just having a little fun. I've been out of commission too long.  You know how that feels.”

Angel: “Wolfram & Hart didn't bring you back for fun. The Dreams, the frame job...what's the big plan, huh?  Get me so screwed up I go bad again?”

Darla: “Kind of trite, I know. What do you expect? They're only human.”

Angel: “You better embrace that mediocrity, honey. You're talking about your own kind now.”

Darla: “But I'm still me. And I remember everything, Angel. Everything we did. Everything we can do.”

Angel: “Yeah, but the bitch is you have a soul now. Pretty soon those memories are gonna start eating away at you. No matter how hard you try, you won't be able to escape the truth of what you were. Believe me, I know.”

Darla: “But you can escape. You can escape it all. Remember what it’s like to get lost, huh? Every thought a million miles away, every part of you being alive. All you have to do is let me give you one little moment of happiness.”

Angel:  “You took me places, showed me blew the top off my head...but you never made me happy.”

Darla: “But, that...that cheerleader did? We were together 150 years! We shared everything. You're saying...never?”

Angel: “You couldn't understand.”

Darla: “I understand alright. Guy gets taste of something fresh and he thinks he's touching God.”

Angel: “It wasn't about...”

Darla: “Oh, you bet your ass it was! There was a time in the early years when you would have said I was the definition of bliss! Buffy wasn't happiness, she was just new!”

Angel: “You know, you’re getting awfully bent over this, Darla. I couldn't feel that with you because I didn't have a soul. But then I got a second chance...just like you have.”

Darla: “What a poster child for soulfulness you are. This is no life, Angel! Before you got neutered you weren't just any vampire, you were a legend! Nobody could keep up with you, not even me.  You don't learn that kind of darkness. It's innate. It was in you before we ever met. You said you can smell me? Well, I can smell you too. My boy is still in there and he wants out!”

Angel: “You're gonna feel it, you know. What you did, that man you got killed.”

Darla: “Please, he was actor.”

Angel: “I'm serious.”

Darla: “Yeah, like a heart attack...and just about as much fun.”

Angel: “Darla, you hurt anyone else and I'll kill you.”

Darla: “Will you? Isn't that against your Cub Scout code?”

Angel: “I'll make an exception.”

Darla: “You're gonna miss those dreams, honey. You should have heard the things you said in your sleep. Nasty things, Angel. Things like...”

Angel: “Stop!”

Darla: “No, you stop!”

*Darla puts a cross to Angel’s chest and it begins to burn* 

Darla: “See? No matter how good a boy you are, God doesn't want you! But I still do...”


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

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  1. I love having Darla back. She is terrifying as a vampire but oh I feel for her as a human.

    I always thought that perhaps Darla just wants her Angelus back.

    Oh Cordy, never change. I love your sarcasm.

    Ouch, that's gotta hurt Darla.

    I always feel that Darla saying "No, you stop!" was because she knew Angel was right.

  2. I know your gonna disagree with me but this to me is the "Bad Girls" of the Angelverse
    Horrifically underrated episode....
    I cannot agree more that the darla arc is the best arc of Angel... Wonderfully complex character who both unintentionally and intentionally screwed around with Angel's head!

    I love the fact that as a human Darla has her "Vampire" motives and as a Pregnant Vampire She has her "human instincts"...
    Darla is with absolute ease the most UNDERRATED buffyverse charcater with Gunn a close second!

  3. Yes Darla is one of the most Brilliant characters in the Buffy universe and this episode is an all time classic! I adore it and the dialogue at the end is sensational! "No matter how good of a boy you are God doesn't want you. But I still do!" So epic and deep. No matter how hard He goes into the light it wont take him but the Darkness always can. really deep character dynamics.