Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S03E09 – Lullaby

In the ninth episode of the third season of Angel, I am so goddamn distraught right now. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

The pain of losing Darla comes from the fact that no character on this show has gotten a better storyline than hers. She consistently has some of the best episodes devoted to her character, and Julie Benz has done a magnificent job at portraying such a complex and nuanced person. Vampire. Person vampire? You get the point.

I knew that “Lullaby” couldn’t have ended well, and I must give Tim Minear credit for crafting one of the bleakest, most dread-inducing episodes of Angel in the entire series. This is a painfully complicated tale about revenge, moral ambiguity, and the choice to do right in the end. Not once did I feel like Minear would take the easy way out with this story, and it helps that I couldn’t even identify an easy way out. How was Darla going to keep her baby alive if her vampire biology refused to feed it? How would Angel deal with the possibility that his son was some sort of harbinger of destruction? How would Holtz cope with the knowledge that Angel had been given a soul and was actively working with the forces of good to earn his redemption? AND HOW THE FUCK WAS THIS GOING TO BE RESOLVED?

It’s that unending tension that makes this one of the most finely written hours of the entire series. Multiple story lines converge to bring us that haunting final scene, and it all starts in Angel’s hotel. I didn’t think that Holtz would be all that moved by the knowledge that Angel had a soul, but learning that information from Lilah seemed to affect him more than I expected. My god, when she walked in, I knew that this would end in chaos. Like “Quickening,” there were so many different variables on screen that I sat rapt by every goddamn scene. How was this going to unfold? How would Angel escape? Hell, would he escape from Holtz and his hired minions?

I admit that I giggled a bit when Angel caught a grenade in his mouth and pulled the pin by jerking his head. It’s a silly moment, but I must also say that IT’S KIND OF BAD ASS, NO? It is! Also, there are a lot of explosions in “Lullaby.” Well, we’ll get to the other one in a bit.

WE MUST TALK ABOUT HOLTZ FIRST. It is goddamn brilliant that this episode shows us the full extent of Angel and Darla’s actions hundreds of years before. It not only gives us a much more concrete motivation for Holtz’s crusade of revenge, but it directly sets up the sacrifice at the end. Oh god, I should have seen it coming. But I didn’t. I mean, it was bad enough that Angel and Darla tricked Holtz all those years ago, eating his family and leaving them dead. Anyone would understand the man’s rage at having his family decimated. But “Lullaby” gives us a parallel that will haunt me for a long time. This episode is inherently about the children of these two sides, and what each of these people will do to protect them.

I, of course, believed that Angel and Darla had left none of Holtz’s family alive. So when Holtz’s young daughter was revealed to have survived the attack, I immediately thought, “Wait, where is she? Why would Holtz leave her behind to kill Angel?”

He didn’t. THEY TURNED HOLTZ’S KID INTO A FUCKING VAMPIRE. OH MY GOD, they seriously were HORRIBLE to this man, so much worse than I ever thought. And it’s the knowledge of this, which Darla gradually comes to realize, that directly influences where “Lullaby” goes. One of the most compelling elements of this episode is the way in which Darla’s child brings about a soul in Darla. Well, yes, it’s not her soul, but she feels as if she has one of her own. It’s similar to her experience with a soul back when Wolfram & Hart brought her back from the dead. Darla has spent most of her existence soulless, so the return of the sensation leaves her feeling distraught. It’s a big reason why she acts so erratically with the other members of Angel Investigations. Well, Wesley also tries to get a vampire to use the Lamaze breathing method. Seriously, dude, not a good call.

Those characters – Fred, Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia – don’t play that big of a part in “Lullaby,” and I’m ultimately okay with that. This is not their story, and they largely exist in this episode to react to the chaos around them. It got me thinking about how strange this experience must have been for them after everything with Darla in season two. It seemed that all four of them certainly wanted to help Darla give birth, knowing they’d have to deal with the child after he was born. It’s why they sought out Lorne for help. Like, for real, Angel was pretty dead set on his child being born, and I don’t think anyone was going to stop him.

Oh god, and then everything in Caritas seems fine, and I am so happy the club is going to be re-opened, and I just want Lorne to be happy as well, and I think that perhaps this is going to turn out well, and then FUCKING DISASTER FOREVER. First of all, I should have known this wouldn’t turn out awesome based on the conversation Angel and Darla had on the roof of that hotel. It’s honestly such a heartbreaking and fascinating scene. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like it. In a way, it reminded me of a few friends of mine who were terrified of not loving their children after they were born, and I know that’s something some folks go through. In this case, though, Darla was going to literally lose the ability to love her child after he was born. She’d return to being a soulless vampire, and her son would go unloved. How was she going to provide for him? How would she raise him? Could she even care about him anymore? My god, it hurts my heart just to think about it. How was this going to work out? There honestly wasn’t an easy answer to this at all, and I felt despair trying to think of a way this could have a happy ending.

So when Holtz quietly waltzes into Caritas, says absolutely nothing, and then leaves, I felt my heart beat flare. Something was wrong. He starts singing a goddamn lullaby, and MY GOD THE FUCKING COINCIDENCE OF THIS HURTS ME FOREVER. It’s that lullaby that allows Lorne to read Holtz, and the group runs away in slow motion and NO FUCK YOU HOLTZ LORNE JUST REBUILT THAT PLACE NO WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!?!?1 OH MY GOD. It’s not fair! NO, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? Tim Minear, must you kill everything and everyone in everything you write????

I think that when I finish Angel at the beginning of next year, I’ll be able to look at the scene in the alleyway in the rain as one of the finest moments of this show. It’s hard to say that, though, because it’s such a depressing and shocking thing to watch. The effects of the child’s soul in Darla cause her to reflect on her reign of terror. The irony of the moment is not lost on her. Darla and Angel killed Holtz’s family, and one of them sired Holtz’s child. They stole that child from him, and now the universe is stealing their own child in the process. The baby is dying. I came to accept that this is how “Lullaby” would end. Darla would lose the human child within her, and she’d return to being a soulless vampire. There was just no way for that kid to survive inside of Darla, and I couldn’t forget that Lilah had had the Nyazian scroll translated earlier in the episode. “There would be no birth,” it said. So this is how it would go down, and I dreaded the moment.

I was so wrong.

Darla: “I wanna say I’m sorry. I wanna say it and mean it, but I can’t. Aren’t you gonna tell me it’s okay?”

Angel: “No.”

Darla: “No? It’s really not, is it? We did so many terrible things together. So much destruction, so much pain. We can’t make up for any of it. You know that, don’t you?”

Angel: “Yeah.”

Darla: “This child, Angel, it’s the one good thing we ever did together. The only good thing. The only good thing. You make sure to tell him that.”

And impossibly so, I watched in horror as Darla staked herself, leaving her crying child behind in the rain. I was crushed. I was gutted. In a moment when that child’s soul was so fully integrated into Darla’s being, she chose to end her own existence to give him a chance to live. She gave herself up for her child, and it was an act of pure love. Darla was able to love in her final moments.

I just started SOBBING. I loved Darla so much. I loved her character, I loved her painful journey, I loved watching Julie Benz portray her, and I loved the dynamic she brought to the show. And now she’s fucking gone. And Angel is a single father. And Holtz spared the lives of both these beings, but only so he can avenge them later. He will show no mercy when the time comes.

Fucked up. This is so fucked up.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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