Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S01E22 – To Shanshu in L.A.

In the twenty-second (and final) episode of the first season of Angel, Angel must deal with Wolfram & Hart’s plan to conjure a demon who will help them bring forth evil into the world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

I just. Just. Help me I can’t.

This episode, more than anything else, got me thinking about what it means to live, and what it means to be human. While the fact that Angel is a vampire is always on the surface on this show, it’s not often discussed just how different he is from everyone else. Yes, I make fun of his moping, brooding look, but I think this episode goes out of its way to make a statement about why Angel is like that. I guess I’d never stopped to think about how Angel doesn’t even operate in any basic human sense. Just because he has a soul doesn’t mean he lives the same life as a human. He doesn’t have the same wants and desires as we do. Hell, I’d never even thought about how little he actually wanted from life until Wesley pointed it out. Even if I like the way David Boreanaz portrays Angelus more than Angel most of the time, I think “To Shanshu in L.A.” really makes me appreciate the muted performance that Boreanaz has to give in order to make the character work.

On top of this, there’s a lot of beautiful, emotional symmetry to this story. Angel starts off wanting almost nothing (and being appalled that Cordelia wants to get him to start to), and he ends the story wanting nothing more than his two best friends back. All three of the main characters begin this story believing that Angel will die, and at the end, they discover that Angel has the chance to become human again. (HELP ME I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS PLOT TWIST I AM JUST SO OVERJOYED HELP ME) Cordelia treats the prophecy of Aberjian flippantly, but soon learns humility when she’s forced to see the entirety of human suffering all at once.

I just can’t imagine Angel’s life. I consider myself a fairly empathetic person. I’ve had a lot happen to me over the last twenty-eight years of my life, and I feel like I can, on some level understand a lot of experiences that people go through. I think that because much of my younger days were filled with so much pain, I can at least empathize with a lot of that. But I cannot imagine not possessing absolutely nothing that might make a person feel like they’re human. While I understand not feeling like you belong, as that’s something I still struggle with these days, Angel is not experiencing the same thing. He doesn’t belong because he can’t feel. He can’t experience desire. He can’t grow or change or age or go through so many things (happy and sad) that we get to experience. I suppose it might seem appealing on the surface, but I don’t know that I would enjoy my life as much as I do these days if I go through so many awful things. I know that may seem a tad cheesy or ridiculous, and I don’t necessarily believe that you have to experience pain and despair to appreciate the good things in life. But I wouldn’t enjoy my writing or the friends that I have or the places I’ve gotten to travel if I wasn’t deprived of so much as a kid. And that just works for me. I don’t expect other people to understand or agree with that, you know? Some people prefer to have never gone through any hardships, and believe me, I get that.

So I don’t know what it’s like to have a life where you can’t grow, or where pain doesn’t have the same immediate and life-altering affects. I can’t imagine living my life devoid of the intense desire and love that I am full of. That doesn’t mean I believe it to be a standard for living or anything. I think things could get remarkably prescriptive and gross if we start going that direction. I just mean that I can’t fathom it. My life is overflowing with pain and desire, and I’ve come to accept that because I’ve gone through all that shit, I can finally start to enjoy myself.

You can see just what an intriguing and desirable concept this is for Angel. He smiles. That smirk filled me with so much excitement, but not just because Angel realized he had a chance to be truly happy. I was excited because I felt like that moment finally framed the entirety of Angel. I don’t even feel like this is just a hint to season two. This is something that can give all five seasons meaning, you know? It explains the (previously) tenuous connection to the Powers That Be. Why do they exist? Why is Angel a part of it? Why must there be some sort of intermediary for Angel? (First Doyle, now Cordelia.) I admit that I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THE POWERS THAT BE, but I just love how this re-contextualizes what I’ve seen over the course of this season. Angel has been working for redemption, and this whole time, he had no idea there was a “reward.” Do you know how much I respect Angel because of this? He never knew there was anything for him at the end of this, and he did it all anyway.

This is a really strong end to the first season. Vocah is incredibly creepy, especially when Angel removes his mask and I really shouldn’t have watched that moment in public because I may have yelped. I am ecstatic that Wolfram & Hart isn’t going away after season one because they’ve given this show such a fascinating dynamic. Kate’s still around, even if she’s entirely antagonistic to Angel (understandably so); Lindsey can still play a role in the future (OH MY FUCKING GOD ANGEL CUT OFF LINDSEY’S HAND WHAT THE FUCK I DIDN’T EXPECT THAT); and that means Sam Anderson can also be on the screen making me happen by being utterly flawless. Plus, I just feel like the Angel Investigations trio is closer than ever; there’s so much potential for character development for all three of them after the end of this season. I seriously can’t wait to see season two.

Oh, right. WHY THE FUCK IS DARLA IN THAT BOX HOW IS SHE A GREAT EVIL HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK I AM SO CONFUSED BUT ALSO EXCITED BECAUSE I LOVE JULIE BENZ AND I AM ALSO RE-WATCHING DEXTER WITH FRIENDS AND MY GOD I LOVE HER SO MUCH SHE IS SUCH A GOOD ACTRESS OKAY ANYWAY WHAT THE FUCK!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

I really, really like this show, y’all.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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One Response to Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S01E22 – To Shanshu in L.A.

  1. GamgeeFest says:

    I feel really bad I didn’t have time to give this ep the attention it deserves. I just have two comments: Charisma Carpenter knocked it out of the park this ep. How she didn’t give herself an anuerysm is beyond me. Brava, Charisma! And the makeup depatment for actually making her look like she’s been through stuff. And second: Darla. I hate to admit this, but the first time watching this ep, I totally didn’t get it.. I was like, who’s Darla and why is this such a big deal? I make no excuses. To this day, I don’t know where my head was. Probably the same place as Lindsey’s hand. Feel free to vitually smack me in the comments.

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