Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S04E15 – Orpheus

In the fifteenth episode of the fourth season of Angel, Willow arrives to help re-ensoul Angel. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

Let me first state this: I hate what is happening to Cordelia. I hate it, I don’t understand it, and I still hate it. I know that some big reveal is being hidden from me, but that doesn’t make me want to give the benefit of the doubt. How do you do this to a character’s development? Cordelia had to struggle with losing her class status when she moved to Angel; she had to face her own issues with her selfishness; and she literally became a higher being because of all of this. Now she’s… she’s the villain? I don’t get it, and it makes even less sense to me because the entire thing is being dangled in front of my face. Exactly how long has Cordelia been evil? Why? WHY? Argh, look, I know I’m biased. She’s my favorite character on the show, and it’s hard to deal with something like this. Seriously, where is my support group?

Thankfully, it’s easy for me to put aside my hatred of the Connor/Cordelia plot (WHHHYYYYY) to enjoy “Orpheus,” a story that pairs up Angelus and Faith to examine what it means to earn redemption. By using the drug orpheus to give Angelus and Faith a shared delusion, this allows writer Mere Smith to delve into Angel’s past in a way we’ve never experienced before. Instead of bad accents, we get really bad wigs. Instead of glimpses into the past, we get memories that work more like those in A Christmas Carol. Angelus and Faith move through memories of Angel’s that represent his journey towards redemption. At first, due to comments from Wesley, we’re meant to think that this is a vision of “hell,” that Angelus is supposed to suffer by watching the soul-possessing version of himself go through life tormenting himself.

But that didn’t exactly make sense, did it? If that was the case, why is Faith there, and why can Faith interact with Angelus? These visions of Angel’s past didn’t really do anything for her aside from make Angel seem more humanized. It’s at this point that the nature of these visions changed; suddenly, Angelus is more than happy to watch Angel stumble through his life, suffering, while Faith is horrified to see that the line between good and evil is constantly blurred for Angel. That scene in the dinner is a brilliant example of that, and it’s the point Angel was ultimately trying to make. My personal interpretation of this shared vision journey is that Angel was always controlling them and that they were never meant for Angelus from the start. As Angel reveals at the end, he wanted to show Faith that redemption doesn’t ever end. She cannot waste her life away in prison and hope by sheer inactivity that she’ll right the world. It’s a powerful statement about why Angel has persisted for so long in Los Angeles to do good.

I really love this theme, especially as it fits in the show. Angel realized before that there won’t be a day that he’s magically rewarded for what he’s done. There won’t come a day where he gets to stop. What he did to so many people over the years isn’t paid off with interest like a tax. He has to work for the rest of his existence to make the world better, to conquer his guilt, and to pay for what he did. It’s not that he can’t ever earn forgiveness! We’ve definitely seen that happen on the show. But I’m so happy to see the show say that redemption is not a simple, easy process. It’s why Faith is being sent to Sunnydale (!!!!!! THIS IS THE BEST THING THE VERY BEST THING !!!!). Her journey cannot end here. She’s got to become an active force for good.

I have to also admit that I loved “Orpheus” because Willow Rosenberg. That’s it. That’s the reason. Watching her interact with everyone was pleasant. Seeing her deflate Wesley’s sense of darkness was hilarious. And despite how tense it was, even her conversation with Cordelia was great. (Ugh, Cordelia, UGH.) Plus, I was totally shocked to see that her appearance wasn’t just for the nostalgia. SHE GOT CHARACTER GROWTH. Willow has been so concerned with how to utilize stronger elements of magic, and she finally demonstrated that she could control her magic against… well, whatever the hell Cordelia is. A higher being? A demon? I DON’T GET IT. But she was able to keep it under her own control without letting it get ahold of her, and I’m SO PROUD OF HER.

This episode marks the development of a new ship that I will gladly sail out on: Willow/Fred. UGH HOLY SHIT, IT’S SO FUCKING PERFECT. How have I never thought about how similar Fred and Willow are? Basically, I demand more Willow/Fred femslash in my life because I need it like I need cupcakes.

Also, fuck Connor/Cordelia. Let’s start a ship war. Oh, wait, no one ships Cordelia/Connor. Even the characters on this show hate this ship. It’s canon.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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