Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S03E03 – That Old Gang of Mine

In the third episode of the third season of Angel, OH MY GOD THIS IS EVERYTHING I WANT FROM TELEVISION. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

I can’t. I can’t deal with this episode. GUNN. GUNN. Oh my god, this was fucking SPECTACULAR. Like SHIT YEAH Angel and Merl are trying to have a real conversation but there’s too much BRO DOWN BEHAVIOR for them to pull it off. Can you two just stop being men for half a second? No, you’re not even being that because A) you’re not human and B) you’re acting like children on a goddamn playground. Oh man, I just love that this season is already about Angel being forced to act like a better person because of what happened in season two. THIS IS VERY GOOD AND I LIKE IT.

Oh god, no, I don’t like this shot of Merl. I can already tell that the way the camera is positioned means someone is in his apartment. I bet it’s Darla! She’s on her way to L.A., and she’s going to go through Merl to get to Angel! Wait, does she even know Merl? I can’t remember if they met. Didn’t they last season? Okay, wait, that’s not the point. The point is that MERL JUST GOT STABBED TO DEATH. NO. NO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I REALLY LIKED HIM. I ENJOYED HIS CONSTANT NERVOUS BEHAVIOR. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, TIM MINEAR? MUST YOU KILL SOMEONE IN EVERY EPISODE YOU WRITE?

No, Alonna, oh my god, no, why are you on the screen? I already don’t like this. No, Gunn, my feelings for you. You are still haunted by the death of the one person you couldn’t protect. Hell, this has been haunting you for over a year, and it motivates everything you do. It’s why you want to protect the helpless. It’s why you left your group behind. You can’t stand the horror of dealing with that sort of loss again, and losing George earlier in the year must have been yet another blow to your sense of hope. Gunn avoids his past life because it’s a reminder, at least to him, that he failed. Oh god, I have so many goddamn feelings about the character of Gunn that it’s ridiculous.

AND THEN GIO. oh fuck, I refuse to stop loving the fact that this show gives us so many fascination secondary characters of color who have MOTIVATIONS and PERSONALITIES and I know it’s absurd that I even have to write this at all. I KNOW THAT. Even Buffy fails a lot of the time in this regard, but Angel repeatedly gives us these portraits of urban and underground life in Los Angeles that are just so vibrant and real, and I can’t help but feel UTTER FUCKING JOY at watching them. And so we get Gio, a new citizen of Los Angeles who RAN AWAY FROM MIAMI FOR PRETTY MUCH THE SAME REASON THAT GUNN RAN AWAY FROM HIS OLD GROUP. Help me, character parallels are like oxygen to me. Here are two young black men who earned the trust of women who were close to them, and they failed. And so they run in fear and in self-hatred, but the two choose very different paths from one another. THIS IS GOOD WRITING. I AM BEING PUNCHED IN THE FEELINGS WITH GOOD WRITING.

I mean, seriously, how many of you have been sitting there, just waiting for me to get to this episode? LET’S COUNT THE TROPES/THINGS IN THIS EPISODE THAT I HAVE MADE VERY CLEAR IN THE PAST THAT I LOVE:

  1. Character parallels
  2. Character parallels that are tragic
  3. Large, believable cast of people of color
  4. Cordelia smiling at Angel, and you fucking bet that counts as a trope.
  5. Characters having to navigate or realize the moral ambiguity in the world
  6. Any story that deconstructs rigorous and harmful dichotomies
  7. Fred. Yes, just Fred in general.
  8. Lorne. Yes, just Lorne in general.
  9. Any time a new character sings at Caritas.
  10. Stories about loyalty.
  11. Thrillers that take place in a single room.

This episode manages to strike almost every emotional chord within me, and I get that this might be a story that only I like. I could be totally wrong! None of you might like this! That’s okay, but I just need to explain why this was so entertaining to me. It’s shocking. It’s suspenseful. It deals with some complex and frightening issues with grace and respect. And Fred’s entire monologue about how Gio is going to die might be the best thing this show has ever done.

But what my enjoyment really comes down to is the brilliant writing for Charles Gunn. I admit that he doesn’t get as much time as the other three characters, but this particular episode seriously gives us a fascinating chapter in his development. He’s always been a bit detached from the group, even if he had chosen to spend time with them instead of his old gang. But he wasn’t ever particularly close with any of them, especially Angel. He was the most vocal about dusting Angel when he turned evil, and he still took the longest to come around after “Epiphany.” That’s the basis of what happens here. Terrified of failure again, Gunn is forced to choose a side. It seems easy enough on the surface! He should choose his friends, right?

But Gunn has held a shaky opinion of demons for a while now, and he doesn’t know if what he’s doing is a disrespect to the memory of his sister. Gio used that idea to taunt Gunn earlier in the episode, and it’s during the final confrontation that Lorne reveals Gio’s shared experience. They are both acting out of fear and loss. I knew that Gunn was also telling the truth about Angel because I’d seen the manifestation of it in season two. It’s hard for Gunn to view Angel as a friend not just because Angel is a vampire. Gunn is obsessed with loyalty, and Angel broke that trust once already.

In the end, he chooses his friends and employers over his old gang, and it’s a choice that inherently acknowledges the gray area of demon morality. It opens the door towards Gunn becoming a more tolerant person, but his story could still go in a million different directions. That’s so exciting to me.

At the very least, though, Wesley warns Gunn rather sternly about his idea of what loyalty should be. I’m happy that Wesley is understanding about Gunn’s conflict, but he also lectures him like a disappointed parent. OUCH. Angel, on the other hand, accepts Gunn just as he is. To me, it seems as if Angel is more willing to accept the fact that people can’t automatically trust him either. It’s almost like a mutual acknowledgment that they both have trust issues that need to be worked out.

All in all, I’m glad that Gunn chose to stay with the team, and that I got to see three Furies swoon over every mention of Angel’s name. I fucking loved this episode.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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