In the seventh episode of the third season of Angel, Darla returns and that’s really all that matters, right? RIGHT??? If you’re intrigued by this (and you should be because DARLA!!!!!), then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
All right, so I’ve got a lot of ground to cover with this review because oh my god THIS EPISODE WAS INCREDIBLE, so I’d like to split it up based on the themes, character development, and interactions that I picked up on. For real, quite a bit happened in this one episode, and I’m reminded once again just why it’s so fantastic that Angel is its own show, separate from Buffy. I still think that Buffy has better season-long story arcs than Angel so far, but if the Darla/Angel/Vampire Baby/Holtz arc is going to take up most of this season, then GODDAMN, I am going to be so fucking excited. Y’ALL, “Offspring” IS SUCH A FANTASTIC EPISODE OF ANGEL oh my god.
It’s seriously no secret that I love serialized stories. Hell, I talk about it pretty much every single day. Angel itself isn’t constantly a serial, but I love that there are so many details in “Offspring” that rely on the viewer having seen past episodes of the show. Well, I must admit that I forgot that there was a prophecy about Angel and the end of the world, but still. Angel’s revulsion to Cordelia has such a different emotional context if you watched his appearances on Buffy. He’s reluctant to start having any sort of feelings for another human beyond wanting to be friends with them. His behavior towards Darla is much more complex if you saw her story in season two. And the writers don’t go to great lengths to over-explain these references. They depend on us to remember what happened, and I love that. It’s so inherently rewarding to me as an audience member because I feel like I’m respected.
On top of that, I feel like “Offspring” significantly advances the stories of nearly all the characters on the show. And I really want these characters to be challenged and to grow. That is also rewarding to me as a fan of fictional worlds. We get to watch Cordelia and Angel move closer and then further apart, and then perhaps closer again? Something like that! We see Cordelia’s continued exploration of her own empathy, especially when it backfires on her. Then there’s Darla’s justified rage, the development of her own fear, and HOLTZ. HOLTZ!!!! OH MY GOD I CAN’T.
I’m not naturally a shipper. It just doesn’t happen in my brain. Well, it’s really only happened twice: Roslin/Adama, and Mulder/Scully. (THE BIRTH OF SHIPPING, OMG.) I dunno, I just don’t get a feeling that I need a pairing in a fictional universe! Sometimes, I wonder why that is. Why is it that so many people around me can imagine people together and derive joy/frustration from an OTP, and yet it seems so forced on my end? I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s never been easy for me to form relationships to begin with. I don’t mean that in terms of having a long-term relationship, though I’m only in my second one ever right now. I’ve always had difficult developing emotions with friends to a level that feels intimate, trusting, and reciprocal. I know it’s because I was a loner as a child, cut off from the world, not allowed to develop friendships with anyone outside of school. (And let’s be honest: you only have a limited amount of time to make friends in a school setting anyway.)
I like being honest about these things so that y’all have some context about why I feel the way I do about certain elements of a fictional universe that I’m writing about. There’s so much talk of shipping in the comments every single day, and I love it! I don’t often participate in it because I feel like I don’t have anything constructive or meaningful to add. Shipping just doesn’t happen with me.
That being said, I do like it when a fictional universe pairs people together for whatever reason, romantic or not. I’m quite fascinated and exciting by the growing relationship between Angel and Cordelia since Angel started, especially since it’s been done so well. Over the course of the previous two seasons, I’ve watched Cordelia learn to trust and respect her boss, only to lose that trust when Angel betrayed and harmed her and her friends. After “Epiphany,” it’s been a slow process for Angel to earn that trust back, but it feels like they’re now closer than they’ve ever been. While I agree with Fred that Angel clearly is attracted to Cordelia on a physical and emotional level, I’m not quite sure that it’s reciprocal. Cordelia cares about Angel a lot, but I don’t see her returning the looks Angel gives her. She sees him as one of her best, most trustworthy friends. Still, their growth as a pairing solidifies with each episode.
Well, until this one, that is. The second that Darla returns, Cordelia is furious that Angel lied to her. And while it may seem a bit strange that something that happened months and months ago could set her off, I had to remember what it was like for Cordelia to witness Angel choose to be a terrible person. Not only is Darla a reminder of how deceitful and horrific Angel was, but it probably brings back those same feelings of betrayal that she felt initially. Angel is supposed to be better than that. Yet even the sight of the Furies enrages her. While I admit that her reaction might be due to a growing attraction to him, I think it’s more based on the fact that Angel has been irresponsible to others. It’s a sign of how much Cordelia has become this selfless figure in the group. She is so concerned with how her actions affect other people, and she holds Angel to the same standard. Sure, Angel’s mistake happened months in the past, but the fact that he doesn’t seem to appreciate the severity of what Darla is going through aggravates her even more.
The Return of Darla
Okay, obviously I wanted Darla to come back because:
1) Julie Benz is perfection.
2) Darla’s character is amazing.
3) Darla gets all the best storylines.
These are all valid reasons based on science. Julie Benz really holds this episode together, which isn’t to suggest it would be a mess without her acting, since everyone is fantastic here. But so much of “Offspring” depends on her nuanced portrayal of a vampire who is impossibly pregnant, full of rage and fear, hungry in a way that can’t be satiated, and dealing with the horrific revelation that her offspring HAS A FUCKING SOUL. And she does this with class and perfection.
I also can’t ignore how well the cast plays her return. They’re shocked, but every person aside from Cordelia is guarded and uncertain. They all know what happened the last time that she came around, and I don’t think they’re going to forget it. Cordelia, however, momentarily puts this aside to, once again, care for someone other than herself. It’s unfortunate that Darla feeds on her, but Cordelia has to keep Darla’s vampirism in mind. It’s such a delicate situation! Like, Cordelia finally has someone in her life who she can bond with over DEMONIC PREGNANCIES. That’s some rare shit, y’all. And I was so into the idea of Cordelia and Darla being best buds, but good lord, that is going to be a difficult thing to pull off, especially if Darla’s always trying to eat her.
Ugh, I love this show so much after this episode.
A CHILD WITH A SOUL
HOW IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE THAT THIS CHILD HAS A SOUL? Like, what the fuck? How can a soul be passed along a genetic blood line? IT CAN’T. LOL OH MY GOD I AM SO UNPREPARED. It is such a soul-crushing, brilliant moment in this show, and bless both Julie Benz and David Boreanaz for their acting in that arcade. Which, let me just say, how horrifically creepy is it that the whole scene is set there? BRILLIANCE, I TELL YOU.
I do love that the show constantly acknowledges the fact that Fred has absolutely no context or knowledge of history for any of the shit going on in this episode. I especially loved that she so politely asked Darla if she’d prefer blood, and Wesley had to pull her away. Also, the writers are quite liberally using Fred’s past as a physicist, aren’t they? It’s not so bad in this episode, since I would expect Fred to have a deep understanding of complicated mathematics, but physics is a fairly specific branch of science. She seems to be the go-to SCIENCE OF ALL THINGS person. Oh, well!
Oh my god, CARITAS IS BACK. Yes, yes. God, I love seeing Lorne. HE SHOULD BE IN EVERY EPISODE.
HOLTZ HOLTZ HOLTZ HOLTZ
Up until this episode, Holtz has just been this background character to give flair to the history of Angel, Spike, Darla, and Drusilla. I’ve wondered why they’ve never paralleled his story with Buffy, since he’s basically a professional, lifetime vampire slayer. Wait, does he even know Slayers are a thing? Also, why did he have sunglasses on in Rome in 1771? Can he travel through time?
So I haven’t commented on him much at all throughout his various appearances on the show because… well, I haven’t found him all that interesting. He tries to capture Darla and Angel, and he always loses. I assumed that he was dead as well, so it’s not like I expected him to show up again.
When Fred said that the prophecy was scheduled to come true at a very specific moment at the end of the episode, I didn’t think the cliffhanger would end with us seeing a recognizable figure come out of that stone tomb. I thought it would be some fucked up monster or demon. There weren’t any incomplete stories that I could think of. And what the hell could withstand being hidden in a stone tomb like that? Certainly nothing human. So I was left wondering how the show would be able to make that scene pack a punch for the audience.
When Holtz stood up in front of that demon priest dude, I seriously just started shrieking WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT over and over again. How??!?!?!?!?! How is a man who fought to avenge his family’s death and rid the world of vampire demons THE ONE WHO WOULD END THE WORLD???? What the fuck?!?!?! HOW DOES THIS MAKE ANY GODDAMN SENSE? This might be one of the best plot twists in the history of the show at this point, especially because I cannot figure out:
1) how this is even possible
2) how this will bring about an apocalypse
3) how Holtz could be a force of evil
4) how to deal with my life
This show. This show.
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