In the twenty-second and final episode of the second season of Angel, the group tries to head home. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
Despite that Buffy and Angel are always going to be linked (ESPECIALLY BECAUSE OF THAT FINAL SCENE FUCK YOU WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!?!?!!?!?), I actually want to treat this show as something completely different. It’s hard coming off of “The Gift” to watch any season finale, especially since I watched them back-to-back. “The Gift” is just an immense hour of television, so I don’t think it’s all that fair to compare what that episode did for its series to what “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb” does for Angel.
I like that the end of season two avoids the idea of a story arc that’s a direct culmination of the season’s plot, choosing to instead provide us with a more nuanced take on the themes brought up over the past twenty-one episodes. I like that the plot here is one that’s weird and largely self-contained to these past four episodes. Is this the best Angel episode ever? No. It doesn’t pack a punch quite like the finale of season one (aside from that one moment FUCK YOU DAVID GREENWALT), but it was immensely satisfying for me to watch.
I do admit that coming off of “The Gift” made me constantly fear for the lives of EVERY person on the screen. Even after it was revealed that Lorne wasn’t dead (THANK THE LORD), I was still worried that it was time for one of these lovely characters to exit the show. This was certainly an action-packed episode, which meant that THERE WAS A LOT OF VIOLENCE and EXPLODING HEADS and SWORD FIGHTS and all of these were MOMENTS WHERE SOMEONE COULD DIE. So, despite that everyone made it out of Pylea safe and alive, I still think that this is a significant episode of Angel for a couple of reasons.
First of all, FRED IS BACK IN LOS ANGELES. Oh god, I demanded something from this show, and I got it in a way that wasn’t tragic. WHEN DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN? I am in awe of this character and how she is written. Like Gunn, the sheer possibilities available for her as a character are unreal. She’s like Angel‘s version of Anya in a way, someone who is distant and unfamiliar with what modern humanity is like anymore. Hell, she is excited by the mere talk of tacos and soap. She’s a brilliant physicist who was unknowingly opening portals to a demon dimension. And after going through a traumatic, horrifying experience, she still found a way to cling to this caring empathy that she exhibits while taking care of Angel. It’s just astounding to me. Seriously, I wouldn’t blame her one bit for becoming bitter and angry, but her loneliness motivates her to reach out to Angel in this touching, meaningful way. She makes him pseudo-oatmeal!!! Look, I can’t stop thinking about Fred. She hasn’t had a genuine moment with another human being IN FIVE FUCKING YEARS. And fuck, Angel isn’t even human. Does she care? NO. In fact, she goes out of her way to assure him that she is not even afraid of him.
It plays directly off of Angel’s fear: he possess a horrific demon within him, and he believes those he loves should always fear him. That is what most of season two has been about, and it’s why I’m okay with the fact that the story arc at the end of this season is the Pylea plot. The writers have taken these characters to an alternate world, and it acts to hold up a mirror to their lives. In Angel’s case, he has to face the fact that what he did to his friends was much worse than he ever realized. So how can he go home? How can he continue to do good in Los Angeles if this force of evil is always lurking just under the surface?
He can do this by simply doing his best. The answer ends up being remarkably simple, but Angel took a long time to come to it. That’s all he can do. In every moment, with every decision, he has to choose to be good. It will never be given to him, and it will never be easy. I think that’s why it’s so important that David Greenwalt included that line of Wesley’s about his confidence in Angel. Wesley, perhaps the most intuitive character in the bunch, knows that Angel’s journey towards redemption is complex and challenging. So what does he offer Angel? Support. He tells the man that he truly believes he can be human and be good, despite that internally, he has his own doubts. He wants to make sure that Angel believes he can turn back to a human, to not give in to his demon side.
And seriously, I don’t want to ignore Wesley’s own character growth, either. While he’s not the most suave fighter in the world, the show has given his character the chance to grow into a leader of the group. Look how easily he devises a plan to attack the castle. He hands out duties, he is authoritative without being condescending, and he gets shit done. Plus, it’s also clear he’s become rather close with Gunn, and I just adore their friendship. They’re such no-nonsense, honest friends with one another. Seriously, where is their buddy cop movie? WHERE IS IT?
But at the end of the day, I have to come back to Cordelia. I have to appreciate her, to shower Charisma Carpenter with praise, to beg the writers to keep giving her the best lines, the best character growth, and the best material with which to work with. Cordelia Chase is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters on television ever, up there with John Locke, Dana Scully, and Omar Little. She navigates an increasingly complicated and delicate situation as best as she can, always keeping a witty comment at hand. But once she discovers exactly why she must mate to the Groosalugg, she rejects him. I’d forgotten that the Powers That Be never specifically gave Cordelia her visions. That was Doyle who did, before he died, and he was half-demon. As frightened as I am by the prospect of how the visions will continue to harm Cordelia, I was so happy to see her refuse to give them up. For Cordelia, it’s what gives her happiness. It’s what makes her feel like she’s making a difference in the world. Yes, they hurt her, but that’s nothing compared to the suffering humanity goes through. I can’t ignore that Cordelia’s sacrifice aired just after Buffy’s. No, it’s not of the same magnitude as Buffy’s was, but it’s still really awesome to see these two women give up their own comfort to help others.
I like that everything felt so good by the time I got to the end of “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb.” It’s not often that things go right for the group, and everyone makes it home in one piece, the future looking bright for them. It’s exactly why the final scene is so hurtful and frustrating. After surviving a trip to a demon dimension, Angel is ready to take on whatever comes his way. He’s so happy to return home, to begin working with his friends again. I actually thought the reveal at the end would be of the Wolfram & Hart lawyers in the lobby of their office with some sort of ultimatum, perhaps a seizure of the property or something. Instead, I squinted at the screen; the woman in the lobby wasn’t quite in focus, but then Angel says, “There’s no place like… Willow?”
In an instant, I knew. This glorious, celebratory mood was gone, and I just wanted to collapse on the floor. Buffy Summers is dead, and none of these people even knew how serious things were.
Just… fuck. Fuck. A punch right in the goddamn feelings, David Greenwalt. Must you be so cruel?
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