In the seventh episode of the first season of Angel, Doyle’s past returns quite literally to him, and boy, this is depressing. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
YES. MORE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT ALL OF THE TIME. You know, I will take a good character study over a mind-melting plot twist any day of the week. Why is this? I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and figured this out. Why am I drawn to complicated and emotionally challenging characters? I know that’s a huge reason why Battlestar Galactica was so fulfilling to me; the writers spent so much time exploring identity, character motivations, emotional depths, and subtle developments that I felt like these people were real. It’s what Buffy did incredibly well over three season, and just seven episodes into Angel, it’s probably the strong suit of the show.
It’s funny that I just recently demanded more of Doyle’s story, because this gives me a huge chunk of his history but in a totally different way than I expected. I still have no idea what he’s done to get demons sent after him, but now I know what the impetus was for him to get involved in a demonic underworld in the first place.
That’s so much more important to me, and the way this affects both Angel and Cordelia is why I enjoyed “The Bachelor Party” so much. Again, the history of Xander Harris is absolutely relevant to Angel, especially since we see how reluctant Cordelia is to ever repeat a relationship that’s remotely similar. Instead, she chooses to feed into her own obsession with luxury and money and is shocked to discover how boring this is. (Also, it was kind of adorable that Angel grilled Pierce as if Angel were Cordelia’s father. SEE, HE CARES ABOUT PEOPLE.) Even worse, when a vampire from Angel and Doyle’s recent mission attacks Cordy, she learns that luxury doesn’t always come with courage. I don’t think this is necessarily the most subtle commentary on class in the world, but sometimes, the charm of Buffy/Angel is how blunt it can be. Plus, it’s Cordelia Chase. She’s not the most subtle character in the world.
The point, though, is that Cordelia has lived in a bubble for her whole life, and I adore that Angel is having her truthfully approach the concept of breaking it. I admit that it really is heartbreaking to see someone go through poverty. It’s not fun, and as someone who has spent the majority of his life being ridiculously poor, I honestly wouldn’t want anyone to experience it. Yet despite having to go through this, Cordelia is quick to jump right back to her old habits, choosing to go out with Pierce because the idea of him makes her feel like she can recapture her old lifestyle. But how can she sustain herself doing that? How can she do what she does for a job and expect someone who’s a day trader to even remotely relate to her? Truthfully, Pierce is detached from the world that Cordy has to see every day. He can’t cope with vampires or demons or the simple fact that he should be nice to someone just for the sake of it, not because he wants to sleep with a woman.
That’s why she decides to give Doyle another look. I don’t know how I feel about a Doyle/Cordelia pairing just yet, but I really loved her conversation with Angel. I SMILED JUST LIKE ANGEL SMILED. I don’t know, it’s just nice to see Cordelia come to this realization, to see her engage with her own ideas of romance so openly. I like this way more than the thought of her and Doyle dating, but that’s because after seven episodes, they feel like brother and sister to me. WE WILL SEE.
Or will we? I just sat staring at my screen when Doyle introduced his wife to Cordelia, and then I flailed about because WHAT ARE THE ODDS and HOLY SHIT DOYLE IS MARRIED and WAIT WHY IS HE STILL MARRIED?!?!?!?!?! oh my god. What the fuck is happening? WHAT!?!?!? And then it just gets worse. Then Richard shows up, and casually mentions a wedding. THIS IS HER NEW FIANCE. WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. Oh my god, she wants a divorce so she can marry someone else. WHAT IS THIS EPISODE DOING.
And then the brilliance hits, though we won’t realize it until later: we feel sorry for Doyle. It’s understandable. He’s clearly run away from facing this for some reason, and just as he’s about to get closer to Cordelia, his wife sort of ruins that. Now, he’s got to face his wife, her new husband, his divorce, and Cordelia’s lack of interest all at the exact same time. It’s hard not to feel bad for him! Bless Glenn Quinn, by the way, who really sells us on a deflated Doyle. It was fascinating to see this normally chipper and witty character act so despondent and depressed because Glenn Quinn does such a fine job with his acting. It helps that we finally know a huge part of history: his demon side did not come out until he was already married to Doyle. God, THAT IS SO HORRIFYING. My heart was ready to burst. I can’t even imagine having to tell a person that you’re not who they think you are –
OH WAIT YES I DO. lol let me queer this shit up again. Obviously, it’s a very, very, very loose metaphor, but it totally works for me. I mean, the day I finally decided to tell someone, it was this overwhelming rush of shock for myself. Despite that I knew for many, many years before that I was attracted to dude, actually saying it out loud was like getting hit by the Big Bus of Gay. OH MY GOD I LIKE GUYS. But at least for me, it was terrifying to have to come to this conclusion, and as some of you know from Mark Reads posts, I had a really terrible time coming out, and it’s why I ultimately relate to Doyle. It sucks to have people reject you once you reveal yourself to them.
Well…that isn’t exactly true for Doyle. I WAS SO UNPREPARED FOR WHERE THIS EPISODE WOULD GO. Again, I was tricked by appearances. Once Angel started following Richard, it was clear that something was up. I WAS SO WRONG. Even worse, once Richard turned into a demon, I assumed the worst: this was some sort of trick to get to Doyle. Did this have to do with his less-than-legal past? Yeah, no. It did not. Harrie knows Richard is a demon, since she’s an ethnodemonologist herself. Turns out Doyle was a bit less than honest with Angel: Harrie did accept his demon side, but his own person identity issues caused her to leave. SO YEAH WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH THIS EPISODE.
did you know i love complicated character developments DID YOU
Doyle’s story was already pretty satisfying as it was, but adding this to it and showing us that Harrie was not a terrible person for what she did is just SO MUCH MORE BRILLIANT. This episode then becomes about Doyle’s sense of identity and how he struggled with it during his marriage. And it’s not an issue of right or wrong, either, and I’m so happy that the writers don’t treat it as such. The relationship between Harrie and Doyle was so much more complicated than that, and it would be reductive to make it about who was more right and who was more wrong. I think that this is why Doyle so quickly agrees to sign the divorce papers and then eventually give Richard his blessing. He has his past thrown back at him, and he realizes it wasn’t at all fair to blame Harrie for the dissolution of their marriage. LOOK AT THIS. ADULTS MAKING MATURE AND BEAUTIFUL DECISIONS. I JUST LOVE THIS EPISODE SO MUCH.
Even as silly as the final third of “The Bachelor Party” is, it’s still quite powerful. The humor comes from the fact that Richard’s family is so nonchalant about who they are and what they do, which certainly explains why Richard himself is so cheesy all of the time. Though I have to admit that one thing made me laugh for an absurd reason: that box they put Doyle in reminds me of Trekkies. Okay, if you have seen this gorgeous and hilarious documentary, which is the best movie about a fandom ever made, there’s a man late in the film who builds this box-like object that he can hang out in and he’s driving it around Colorado? I think that’s where it is. It’s snowing, and he’s just cruising around town in this ridiculous fucking box thing on wheels, and that is instantly where my brain went to. ALSO TREKKIES IS SO AMAZING.
But the attempted eating of Doyle’s brain really only works with Harrie’s confrontation at the end of it. (Also, Cordelia, you were SO CLOSE to discovering he was a demon. Damn it!) I think we won’t see Harrie again, but she is such a fantastic character in this story. Even though she loves Richard and appreciates his culture, she ultimately can’t let him kill her first husband. It’s such a rad statement for her to make: she once loved Doyle, and may even still love him, and he is not disposable to her. For the time being, it definitely makes Doyle feel better. Well, just a bit, that is. He still lost his wife, and he’s still divorced. It was nice to see Cordelia try to cheer him up, too, which made me think that perhaps there’s still a chance that they could –
WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK WHY IS BUFFY IN DOYLE’S VISION WHAT THE HOLY FUCK IS GOING ON WHAT THE FUCK!!?!?!?!?!?!?