Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S03E14 – Couplet

In the fourteenth episode of the third season of Angel, the arrival of the Groosalugg triggers Angel’s jealousy and insecurities. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel. 

You know, I really enjoy the fact that “Couplet” really isn’t about demons, vampires, or anything supernatural. The writers instead choose to devote most of the story to the complicated emotional state of all the characters while giving us a tale of love. We get to see that from multiple angels, too, as two couples fall in love while two other characters have to cope with the loneliness of unrequited love.

I’m so used to this show (and Buffy, for that matter) treating love and heartbreak so brutally that I was shocked by how subtle “Couplet” ending up being. There were no furious, bitter moments of hatred and resentment. No one intentionally sought to disrupt and disrespect the friends around them. No dues ex machina type of supernatural event unfairly set people apart. What struck me about this episode was how it portrayed these characters as both very human and very mature.

That doesn’t mean that this wasn’t awkward. HOLY CRAP, THERE WERE SO MANY UNCOMFORTABLE SCENES. Hell, most of this set up involved Wesley and Angel being forced to cope with the people they loved being with someone else. In the case of Angel, the Groosalugg’s appearance in Los Angeles triggers a familiar response in Angel. We’ve seen it before, too! I mean, he was unimpressed with the champion back in Pylea for painfully obvious reasons. Normally, Angel’s insecurities are played for laughs. The guy is a powerful vampire with smoldering good looks and a really nice jacket. Seriously, it’s pretty nice. Why should he feel insecure? What can’t he get? So normally, his self-doubt is portrayed in a humorous manner, meant to highlight the absurdity of his reactions to certain situations. He often feels threatened by the strangest things, especially when women are around.

He’s quite predictable, then, for at least the first half of this episode. He finds any reason he can to insult the Groosalugg or instill doubt in others regarding his purpose. (He fails, quite miserably, every single time. Oh, Angel!) And when he’s not doing that, he is in denial. I feel like Angel only has three modes of existence: Brood, Childish Joy, and Bitter Denial. I mean, right??? So it wasn’t surprising to watch him deny he has any feelings for Cordelia to Lorne. Is Angel truly aware of how ridiculous it is to lie to Lorne, especially concerning matters of love? The guy can clearly read you like an open book, so why are you even trying? Right, it’s because this is Angel we’re talking about. He’s the king of denial.

The beauty of this episode, though, is that the two men who are scorned by those they love attempt to find solace in one another. Wesley, who is saddened after discovering that Fred chose Gunn, is still grieving in a way. He’s very quiet and contemplative in is episode, and I know I get the exact same way when I am either depressed or sad. I generally have a fairly bubbly personality, so it’s always been a challenge for me to mask my emotions. I wear it on my sleeve, so it was easy for me to identify with Wesley in this episode. Unrequited love is a horrible thing to go through (shout out to Frank Ocean here), so it hurt my heart to watch Wesley and Angel go through this.

And yet I am so glad that is episode doesn’t aim to punish Fred or Cordelia for their choices. We get to see Cordelia happy (if morally conflicted) about this new situation.  I was reminded once again why she fell for him in Pylea when he speaks openly with her in her apartment. It’s the way he treats her. It’s the way she makes him feel special. Also, did his biceps get even larger since Pylea? They totally did. Anyway, Cordelia feels happy with Groosalugg, and that’s all that matters. It’s the same thing with Gunn and Fred. They’re both very obviously in the throes of infatuation, and that scene in the diner over breakfast was just too cute for words. They’re such a good fit for each other.  They respect one another, but there’s also this touching sense of adoration to their dynamic. Gunn is so overwhelmed by Fred’s intellect and her eccentricity, but not in a negative sense. He thinks it’s wonderful! Conversely, Fred loves how smooth, confident, and cool Gunn is, and you can tell from the way she looks at him that she’s awestruck by his presence.

I guess that’s what makes this situation so hard to deal with. For all the grumbling they might do out of jealousy, neither Wesley or Angel can deny that Cordelia and Fred have fallen for wonderful men. For Angel, he reacts with bitter jealousy. It’s made even worse when he can’t fight the Senhi’D because he can’t go out in the sunlight. Now it’s an issue of inadequacy; Angel starts to believe he’s not good enough for Cordelia, that he hasn’t got enough to offer her, and, worst of all, that he can be replaced.

Wesley’s situation is difficult, though, because he not only desires Fred, but Gunn is his best friend.  It’s something I didn’t really pick up one until very end of the episode. He’s spent a year and a half with this man, and they’ve become undeniably close. So he knows firsthand what a stellar human being Gunn is. You know, I don’t want to deny that Wesley is heartbroken over losing Fred to Gunn, but I’d like to suggest that he’s just as torn up by the idea that he may have lost Gunn as well. Is he going to be able to maintain the same sort or relationship with Gunn now that he’s seeing Fred?

If there’s one complaint I have about “Couplet,” it’s in the choice to portray Cordelia as being oblivious towards Angel’s true feelings. Since Cordelia was introduced five years prior, she always been the one person who is the most emotionally astute character in any group she’s in. She was that way on Buffy, and she’s been that way at Angel Investigations, too. Especially after the events of “Waiting in the Wings,” I fully expected her to realize that Angel had very strong feelings for her. As for the reverse, I thought it was made pretty clear this season that this wasn’t the case. Of course, I would be totally cool with such a pairing.  But Cordelia’s behavior towards Angel never really felt romantic to me.

Still, I have to wonder why the writers thought she wouldn’t notice that Angel was both jealous and hurt. Was she that preoccupied with the Groosalugg? Oh god, what if this pans out in a future episode and I’m just being silly? LOOK I DON’T KNOW. I’m just thinking out loud! I mean, she sent Angel to a demon brothel. She dressed Groosalugg in Angel’s clothing. Surely she’s not this dense, right?

Okay, I also have to say that never in my life would I ever think I would watch a show that featured a demon tree who hunted humans through the use of online dating profiles. I don’t know if this is supposed to be a way to elaborate on the idea of loneliness, but it’s not developed beyond it being utterly absurd, so I just found the whole thing to incredibly silly.  Which is perfectly fine! I’m watching Angel here, not The Wire. (Though I do wish I was watching The Wire for this site because IT IS THE VERY BEST SHOW.) The entire demon tree really only existed for two reasons: to capture Gunn and Fred, and to give Angel a chance to be more “adequate” than the Groosalugg. First of all, I knew that Fred and Gunn would get caught or make a mistake because they made out while on a case. Perhaps this was meant so that they could start to learn how to navigate a relationship while working together. I mean, they’re already going to have to deal with having Wesley as their boss, so I imagine they’ll have to learn how to work with one another and date.

But that’s for a future episode. For now, Angel comes to realize that he does have worth and value beyond what he perceived of himself. The entire scene with the tree demon helped him put things in perspective. Just because it seems like Groosalugg had an advantage, that’s not how love works. Cordelia isn’t picking this man because she weighed the pros and cons between him and Angel. And while he does sassily deconstruct the Groosalugg while saving him (and I’m sure he enjoyed those punches, too), he comes to a conclusion about Cordelia by the end of this episode: she didn’t pick him. That doesn’t make him terrible, it doesn’t mean that anyone she does pick is objectively better than him, and it doesn’t mean he is alone. I think that he might have sent Cordelia away so that he didn’t have to see her with Grooslugg all the time, but it was also an incredibly sweet gesture, one that made me tear up. Just a bit. I felt the same way towards Angel’s revelation that he won’t ever be quite alone, since he now has a son to take care of. (Look at Lorne’s hella sweet bathrobe, by the way.)

I think Wesley comes to a similar conclusion. He knows it’ll be hard to see Fred and Gunn together, but his final conversation with Gunn isn’t accusatory or vindictive. He just doesn’t want to see Fred hurt. He doesn’t do anything to undermine Gunn or get Fred for himself. He respects that she made her own choice. Seriously, I think it’s just fantastic that this episode portrayed such mature choices all around, and the amount of character growth present in this single episode is astounding.

The Father will kill The Son.

OH, FUCK YOU! You know, I saw Tim Minear’s name as one of the main writers and as the director, and I thought, “Well, someone’s getting killed this episode.” And I was gloriously wrong! Like, just before the translation is revealed, I realized that no one had died in this episode.

And then Tim Minear kills my hope. Oh, you asshole. What a fucked up ending.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S03E14 – Couplet

  1. jim says:

    Like a brother. Generally the kiss of death

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