In the eighteenth episode of the fourth season of Angel, there is no possible way I could summarize this for you. Intrigued? Then it’s time for me to watch Angel.
This was a fucking experience, y’all.
I still feel very, very weird about how we got here. I don’t know what this means for the characters’ agency, and I could definitely do with the violation of Cordelia’s and Connor’s consent. It feels gross. I can accept that, and I can also accept this:
HOLY SHIT, THAT WAS AN AMAZING EPISODE OF ANGEL.
I imagine that for some of you, the Jasmine reveal in the last episode might have done you in. You may have completely signed off on the show. I don’t blame you. It might have been the same for me, but I do have this overwhelming fear of not finishing things I start. (You have no idea how much it torments me all the time that I have never finished Infinite Jest for Mark Reads.) So even if “Inside Out” felt too ridiculous to me at times, I probably would have finished Angel even if I wasn’t writing about it. But I hope that I am doing a decent job of putting forth the idea that we can like problematic things, that if we swore off everything that was harmful to marginalized folks, there’d probably be nothing left. Plus, a lot of the things that hurt people, even ourselves, are also empowering at the same time.
My whole point: navigating this stuff is terribly complicated, and I think we should all respect how each of us ultimately feel about how fiction affects us.
That being said, I adored “Shiny Happy People.” It’s confusing, bewildering, shocking, and disturbing on a level that I will not soon forget. The writers of this episode take a concept – that the bringer of the apocalypse is actually a kind, loving woman – and run with it, building an entirely new world at the same time. The transformation that all of these characters undergo is so bizarre because it’s all of them. It’s not until nearly halfway that anyone even expresses doubt or terror at what’s unfolding. The fact that it’s so complete is what’s so frightening about this episode. It matters not how skeptical or doubtful these people once were. Jasmine’s magical grip on them is so strong that no one questions anything about this.
And that’s a bizarre thing to see, especially from people like Angel and Gunn. Actually, you know what? Not one of these characters should be acting this way. So I suspected that whatever Jasmine was here for, it couldn’t be good. She was manipulating these people. She had orchestrated such an elaborate and fucked up situation, and now she was using them.
To kill vampires???
And that’s the brilliance of “Shiny Happy People.” You expect that Jasmine will immediately get these people to do horrible things in her name. Instead, she has them do what they would have done anyone. When she says they’re going to eradicate the world of evil, she doesn’t appear to be lying. They’re not attacking random, innocent citizens. They’re ridding Los Angeles of vampires and demons.
What the fuck is going on? How can this being be the one to bring the fucking end of the world if she’s actually having people do good things? I DON’T UNDERSTAND! What could possibly be her point? It’s even more distracting because Gina Torres is goddamn beautiful, and because she is so goddamn nice. That makes her one of the most terrifying villains on this whole show. Fuck all the rest, Jasmine scares me in my soul.
Seriously, look what she’s able to do to these people. She’s able to make Angel feel guilt for Jasmine getting scratched. She’s able to make Fred feel like a waste of a person because she couldn’t get a stain out of a shirt. What’s so genius about this technique is that by having all of these people worship her, she sets them up for failure. Then, they come groveling to her, and they’re bonded even closer to her when she nurtures them. It’s evil.
But I’m saying this in hindsight. Until that scene in her room with Fred, I started weighing the odds that perhaps she wasn’t evil. What if I’d gotten this wrong? What if Skip had been wrong? What if I was being lied to the entire time, and this was another con? I wouldn’t put it past the writers. They’ve done it before, and they’d do it again. Fuck, this season contains “Awakening,” so for real, I thought it was possible that the “twist” was that Jasmine was good.
And then Fred saw her face and I saw her face and ha ha ha ha I will never feel clean in my soul ever, ever again. I won’t. Like, that brief flash of Jasmine’s real face is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen ARRGGGHHH GET OUT OF MY HEAD PLEASE. In that instant, “Shiny Happy People” becomes a pervasive, tense, and claustrophobic horror film, and it’s absolutely one of the best things this show has done. First of all, it takes Fred and finally puts her in the center of the action. As the only member of Angel Investigations with the ability to see Jasmine for who she is, she’s forced to improvise. How can she convince others that what she sees is real? Is that even possible? It was interesting that she chose to go to the one person who wasn’t even conscious. (I’m still mad about Cordelia’s character development at this point, but we’ll see how that pans out.) She can’t even turn to her friends for help, as made clear by Angel’s reaction to her concerns. She turns to a woman in a coma.
So she seeks out the one person who may have had a similar experience to confirm what she saw. Oh, and she finds out that if Jasmine touches you, SHE MUTATES YOUR SKIN. What the fuck is she? WHAT IS SHE DOING? WHAT IS GOING ON?
Well, I don’t quite find out. The rest of “Shiny Happy People” is devoted to the disaster that Fred faces. Can she trust anyone? NOPE. Mere seconds after she finally confides in Wesley, he turns on her. He tells Gunn, Angel, Connor, and Jasmine, setting them all against her. In front of a hotel full of random worshipers, Fred tries to kill Jasmine and fails. What this creates is Fred’s absolute worst nightmare. I think it’s significant that we see Fred alone after her escape, crying in her car. Fred fears loneliness. After her experience in Pylea, she can’t deal with being in a foreign, confusing world, and now her world has become that. It’s absolutely awful.
I’m terrified by what Jasmine considers “help.” Does it involve touching Fred somewhere? Is she making people like her? Does this work for anyone she’s touched? I DON’T KNOW. What I do know is that the final scene of this episode is a sign of things to come. Jasmine is not fucking around. She’s using the local news to gather more minions, and each of these people will know that Fred is the enemy. Jesus, where the fuck can she go? How is she going to pull this off??? Still, I have a lot of faith that Fred, one of the only people to survive five years in Pylea, can figure out a way to survive. She always does.
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