Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S03E21 – Benediction

In the twenty-first episode of the third season of Angel, THIS IS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE BEST EPISODES OF THE WHOLE SERIES. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

YES. YES. Oh lord, this is so incredible! This is everything I wanted from Connor’s arrival in Los Angeles and so much more. Can we just discuss all of this with glee and joy?

Holtz!

It really took Holtz’s final appearance for me to appreciate his character. In the past, I’ve admitted that I liked how he represented fundamentalist thought. That doesn’t go away in “Benediction,” as Holtz’s conversation with Justine in the hotel room is evidence that he lived most of his life feeding off a singular hatred. And I’m even more satisfied that Holtz reminds Angel that centuries ago, Angel murdered his entire family. It’s not like Holtz just strolled out of nowhere to kidnap a child. That doesn’t negate Angel’s fear or rage, and I also don’t want to be reductive about this. But we’re constantly reminded that this is a terribly complicated situation, one exacerbated by bad decisions all around.

But Holtz’s complication (which I only sort of understand) revolves around the fact that he has changed his mind. I think. Holtz was so consumed by his hatred of Angel that he never expected to love Connor. I know that his monologue to Justine is kind of cheesy, but that’s only because it’s so unlike Holtz to be emotionally vulnerable. We’ve never seen him like this, admitting that love is a powerful force to live off of as well. We’ve never seen him say that he wants to be done with vengeance. And it’s shocking to witness him telling Connor that Connor belongs with Angel. It had to be a trick, right? But up until that final scene, it seems that Holtz was tired by the life he had led. He was exhausted by this endless quest for revenge, and after seeing Angel and Connor together, he had given up. He would never truly be Connor’s father. It was time for Connor to find his true destiny in Los Angeles, with Angel, instead of fighting him.

AND THEN JUSTINE KILLS HOLTZ AND MAKES IT LOOK LIKE ANGEL BIT HIM. oh FUCK. FUCK!!! So what the hell is this supposed to be? Was Holtz faking his sincerity the whole time? Was this last act of vengeance his final bit of rage? Was all the character development I just saw fake? AH DID I FALL FOR THIS??? I don’t know the answer, but I know that I’m at least fascinated by Holtz. I think it was his time to go, and lord, did he go out in style. HE RUINED EVERYTHING! Fuck!

Angel!

I like that Gunn tells Cordelia at one point that Angel is upstairs acting “mature.” It’s true! At the beginning of “Benediction,” Angel doesn’t overreact. He thinks through the situation with his son, and he decides it’s best if he gives Connor some space. ANGEL IS BEING ALL THOUGHTFUL AND CAREFUL. Who is this new man? But that’s precisely why the ending to this episode is so frustrating. Angel did everything right, and then he refused to listen to Cordelia and EVERYTHING WAS RUINED.

I do get that things had to be awkward between Connor and Angel for everything in “Benediction” to have so much meaning, so I retroactively feel that “A New World” is an important episode. I still don’t really like the execution of it, but having Connor return to Angel here is a big deal because of what happened in the previous episode. It gives Angel confidence. It makes him feel like he did the right thing. And then he takes Connor on a brilliant vampire-killing spree and he bonds with his son and IT IS JUST SO ADORABLE. Well, violently adorable? I mean, seriously, it’s kind of genius that Angel realizes his son is only going to be able to bond (initially, that is) over something like this.

Of course, how long can good things last on this show? Not very long. God, Angel, YOU GOT SO CLOSE TO DOING YOUR SON RIGHT. Look, I get that he’s still like two weeks old in your head, but you can’t lie to and deceive him at his current age. Cordelia is absolutely right. You’ll lose his trust immediately, and it’s what Holtz manipulates about Connor in the end. To be fair, Angel has been a parent for literally almost no time at all, so he’s going to mess up. But just listen to Cordelia! When has she been completely wrong about these sort of things in the past?

Can we just make it fandom law that people listen to Cordelia Chase and Hermione Granger? GOSH.

Cordelia!

I am being silly about this. Obviously, Cordelia isn’t a perfect being becau– OH WAIT, SHE ACTUALLY IS. Holy shit, this episode just took Cordelia’s character to this beautiful, frightening place. HER DEMON POWER IS INCREDIBLE. That scene was gorgeous, and I love the effect given to her as she calmed down Connor, wiping the hatred out of him. So that’s what that power is? She’s like a GOD or something. I LOVE IT. Cordy’s entire character arc on this show and Buffy has been about her gaining the ability to sympathize and empathize with other human beings, and now she can also help them heal their inner demons. Metaphorically speaking, that is. Was this all planned by the Powers That Be? Did they give her this power for a reason? Actually, where did they go? We haven’t really seen or heard from them in a long time, aside from the visions.

Oh shit, speaking of the visions, Cordelia can now see them through. Ugh, I am just so ecstatic about this development. But things aren’t all wonderful…

Groo!

I think it’s easy to see a parallel between Groo and Riley. Both men loved the women they were with wholly and completely, and both women were distracted by their lives and their feelings towards other people. Riley came into Buffy’s life at the wrong time, and Groo interrupted the development of Angel/Cordelia. Whether or not Cordelia is falling for Angel isn’t quite clear to me, though the writers do seem to be hinting towards this. Ultimately, I just feel really bad for Groo. He’s done nothing wrong here. He isn’t a bad boyfriend. He isn’t a failure. And that’s the real tragedy here: there’s nothing he can do. I’m glad he’s not taking the super whiny route that Riley did in season five of Buffy. But whether Cordelia intends to or not, she’s dismissive of him. I can’t deny that. I imagine that in the season finale, Groo will confront her about what she’s doing to him, and I don’t think he’ll stick around. How can he? Cordy’s true destiny is being with Angel. And I don’t even mean that romantically. She is meant to be in Los Angeles, working for Angel and helping out other people. So it’s not like this is going to change anytime soon. Plus, the writers haven’t truly been using Groo that much since he came back, so I’m guessing that it’s his time to go. I AM TRYING TO PREPARE MYSELF, OKAY. I am allowed to do this!

Wesley!

HOLY SHIT, WESLEY. He’s going to go over to Wolfram & Hart, isn’t he? I mean, him seeing Connor opens up the chance that Wes might have a way of integrating back into Angel Investigations, at the very least because Connor isn’t actually dead. But that’s going to be a terrible mess, isn’t it? Can Angel forgive Wesley? I’m not sure I see it any time soon.

Still, I want to see more of Wes. He’s become so quiet and reserved since he survived Justine’s attack. I get the sense that his entire personality has changed, too. I admit that I miss Wesley being around. I miss his sense of humor, his clumsiness, and his beautiful friendship with Gunn. But this season addresses the implications of difficult choices, and that means that Wesley’s path is always going to be challenging from here on out. Does that mean he’ll be willing to join Wolfram & Hart and further betray Angel? Or will he hold on to his loyalty? I don’t know yet, but I am so excited to see what the writers will do with him in the future.

All in all, this is a fantastic, gripping, and intelligent episode of Angel. God, everything is coming together SO WELL. That also means I am mortally terrified of what the final episode of season three holds for me. Obviously, Connor is going to turn on Angel again. But won’t Connor eventually find out that Holtz didn’t die by Angel’s hands? (Er… his teeth, I suppose.) What role does Connor play in the apocalypse thingy that was supposed to happen? What’s Wesley going to do? Could Lorne wear that gorgeous red suit again? Thank you very much.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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