In the seventh episode of the second season of Angel, Darla struggles with the ramifications of having a soul while Angel’s friends worry it’s all a set-up for a trap. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
As it stands, that’s now fourteen episodes combined of both Buffy and Angel and not one of them is one I dislike. I am simply in awe at this point, and I honestly don’t think I could be more satisfied by this experience. I was trying to explain to a friend the other day about how Angel truly takes a full season to hit its stride, and that what I’ve seen of season two of Angel just blows the first twenty-two episodes out of the water.
Of course, a large part of that is Darla. It’s no secret that I have a platonic text buddy crush on Julie Benz, and now I’m wondering how I never even knew she was on this show after being introduced to her through Dexter. I also have a thing for shows taking secondary characters and placing them front and center at times, so it was wonderful to get the chance to see Benz act the hell out of her role. I mean, seriously, who else could have pulled this off? She has to convey something we can never see simply through acting. She has to be able to show us what she was like as Darla, and then as a human suffering from the weight of her soul returning to her body. It’s not an obvious physical transformation, either. We have to be able to understand that she’s going through what Angel did a hundred years before.
Oh, Julie Benz, you did this wonderfully. She honestly steals the show here, which is a feat considering how spectacular this entire episode is. More morally ambiguous Lindsey? The reveal of why Angel acted so strange about Spike’s first Slayer kill? SEEING THE MASTER AGAIN AND LEARNING HOW HE SIRED DARLA? Oh my god, it’s the Master THIS EPISODE RULES SO MUCH.Â
I don’t think I was necessarily confused by it in the past, but “Darla” makes it incredibly clear just how debilitating and horrifying it is to be a vampire with a soul. Both Buffy and Angel obviously used this as an important character building device, but watching Darla struggle with this new part of her life made it real. We’ve only seen bits and pieces of Angel dealing with this, and here, I get a much more coherent sense of why other vampires are disgusted by a soul. I can’t even imagine what this must have felt like for Darla; I can sympathize with her pain and guilt, but I can’t ever empathize with this experience. A demon lived in her body, committed horrible acts within it, and now she’s left to deal with the guilt and shame. Seriously, that’s just brutal.
But what was the point of all of this? Why did Wolfram & Hart bring Darla back at all? This very question was tied into Darla’s conflict of identity. She wasn’t even at the same level Angel was, since the law firm brought her back as a human. As her body and mind begin to crumble from the experience, she questions the very nature of her existence. It’s certainly hard to watch, and part of that is because there’s no easy answer to any of this. Obviously, we don’t know what Wolfram & Hart has planned. At first, I believed that she was brought back to bring out Angelus, but Holland certainly has a some other plan he’s not sharing. (PS: I LOVE YOU SAM ANDERSON that’s all.) He knew that she’d start to deteriorate, it seems, but how does that do anything for Wolfram & Hart? I DON’T GET IT AT ALL.
There’s another subplot to this episode that’s been building over the course of season two, and I have a feeling it’s going to become a main plot soon. More blatantly than ever before, the gang is concerned about Angel’s choices. Angel isn’t exactly making the most informed or rational decisions, even if he’s been fine so far. Cordelia and Wesley recognize just how close Angel is to getting in a lot of trouble. But what can they do? He’s so horrifically stubborn, and he constantly insists that he knows better. (Gunn, however, just seems to think all these people are just a little whack, and I approve. LOVE YOU, GUNN.) And it’s not like they’re not trying to smack some sense into Angel. But when he goes to far, what are they going to do? Oh god, he’s not going to take them with him, is he? FFFFUUUUU.
As I got all the pieces of this puzzle (including the ones from the crossover episode of Buffy), I got a better sense of who Spike and Darla were and who they are now. What excited me most, though, was that Darla was genuinely seeking Angel out for help. Even if this was part of some grand plan of Holland’s, it didn’t negate the fact that Darla was going to be around Angel and the others for a while. Why do I like when ensemble casts come together at once so much? WHO CARES.
So you can imagine my shock and rage and fury and sadness when I realized I’d missed every goddamn cue that “Darla” gave me over the course of forty minutes. She asks Angel to make her back into a vampire. I HAD NOT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THIS AS A POSSIBILITY WHAT THE FUCK. I just sat, mouth agape, knowing that this must be what Holland was talking about. He knew she’d have a nervous breakdown, that her body would start shutting down, and that she’d go straight to Angel so he could be her sire.
But why? I don’t get it! What is the plan? CHRIST I AM TRYING TO BE PREPARED AND I AM NOT AT ALL PREPARED.
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