In the eighth episode of the fifth season of Angel, THIS IS JUST SPECTACULAR. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
Y’all, season five is SO. FUCKING. GOOD. And this will probably be a highlight of the final season of Angel for a very good reason. There’s so much here that represents what this show does best and how it’s darker tone has set it apart from Buffy. On that note, though, I hate to be one of those people, but I don’t know how you can truly understand the nuances of “Destiny” without seeing Buffy. This episode certainly caters to those people who came over to Angel after Buffy ended. But then… well, did any of you do that? Like, did you skip the previous four seasons of Angel and just tune in once Spike showed up? Was it a weird experience? Because I also feel like what we’ve seen on Angel absolutely affects the story here. Right?
Okay, so this is an entirely separate issue that we can deal with in the comments because I’m genuinely interested! But that’s not the focus I want to have for “Destiny.” I really believe this is a brilliant analysis of these two characters. “Destiny” examines what it means to be a hero, gives us insight into the creation of Spike (versus William), and sets up one hell of a season-long arc. Actually, let’s discuss those three things:
Big Damn Heroes!
So what does it mean to be a hero for both of these characters? For Angel, we’ve seen how the Shanshu prophecy, for good or for worse, has motivated Angel to be a different person. Angel in general tends to be a show about redemption, and the end of season one gave us the idea that one day, Angel might be rewarded with a human life. He’s made more than a few mistakes along the way, but I think you can say that generally, Angel has concerned himself with helping the helpless. He has gathered a group of friends to assist him on this path, and all of them are just as concerned about doing good in the world as he is. (This includes Cordelia, and it’s almost comical at this point how far the show is going to not even acknowledge her existence. I don’t get what happened, but as a viewer of this show who has very little knowledge of what went on behind the scenes, it is horribly distracting. How does one person go from being their best friend (or, in Angel’s case, someone he loves deeply) to not even being worthy of a single mention?) Throughout this, Angel’s been concerned that he’s just a pawn of some greater force, and the Shanshu Prophecy certainly didn’t help that. Ironically, at the end of the last season, Angel does find out he was a pawn, but I don’t know that this matters all that much. Angel’s own existentialist dogma about all that matters is what we do relates to his heroism. He knows he can never make up for what he did, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be a good person.
In the case of Spike, he considers his heroism equally attached to his choice to get his soul back. In fact, that’s his big point to Angel: his soul wasn’t a curse. He sought it out, and he fought to get it. It’s interesting that both characters assume they’re so dissimilar, but I see two vampires who willingly chose to do good. That’s important because it sends such a powerful message. You’re not just innately good. It’s not a default setting. That’s especially the case with Spike. His journey towards redemption was long, challenging, and complex, and it wasn’t until he actually had to stop and face his decades of destructive, violent behavior that he was able to break some of his more terrible habits. In the end, he chose to stay behind and sacrifice himself to save the world from an army of Turok-Han.
So, given this, why would these two heroes fighting so furiously?
A History of Violence
What “Destiny” shows us is that this moment – when Angel and Spike came to blows – was destined a long time ago. I initially thought the flashback scenes were meant to contrast the past with the future. At one point, Spike and Angelus got along. They were friends. Their shared in mutual destruction. But then that scene in the carriage highlighted the beginning of something disturbing: Angelus’s jealousy. When I was watching the episode, I made a comment that this all seemed like the most amazing slash bullshit I’d ever seen, and while it is easy to make some basis for Spangel from what this episode gives us, I think it’s actually unsettling to think about what Angelus does. He wanted Spike for himself, and when Spike wanted to share himself with Drusilla, Angelus took Drusilla from Spike. It’s a reminder, first of all, that these characters don’t have souls. For all the fun Angelus can be in terms of the dynamic he brings to the show, we can’t forget that he murdered and raped his way through history. Here, we see yet again how cruel Angelus was.
So when Spike and Angel fight one another, Angel wants to know if Spike is doing all of this just to finally be able to take something from Angel. It’s a sad moment because this episode gives us the context for Spike’s personality. He became a monster due to Angel’s cruelty. That doesn’t mean Spike isn’t responsible for his behavior as a vampire without a soul, but it’s crucial to understand why Angel and Spike’s constant bickering is even a thing. These two have a shared history that’s brutal, mean, and packed with emotional violence.
And when these two fight… jesus, it’s unreal. It’s weird that I watched “Man on the Street” this week because like that fight scene between Ballard and Echo, this one felt too realistic. It was frightening to watch as much as it was completely exciting. We watch hundreds of years of frustration and anger unfold before our eyes.
And amidst this all, I still love the story that frames this all. Watch today’s video, and you’ll see me freak out a bit about WHY ANGEL AND SPIKE AREN’T THINKING ABOUT HOW WEIRD IT IS THAT AN EMPTY BOX GAVE SPIKE A CORPOREAL BODY? But the truth is that these two dudes have so much emotional history with one another that their sense of reason is… well, questionable at best.
So I honestly love the split between that empty opera house in Death Valley and the chaos at Wolfram & Hart. This is an intense and thrilling episode, and I think the writers do a great job of building this sense of unending dread over the course of the first forty minutes. And major, major, MAJOR props to J. August Richards. That scene where he chokes Eve is downright HORRIFYING. HOW DO YOU ACT IT SCARES ME. I love moments like this, though, because they make a story so much more convincing. “Destiny” conveys the chaos of this situation with terror and skill.
But let’s just talk about the ending. So, I’ve been pretty positive about Eve. Suspicious? Sure! She did just come out of nowhere. But I wanted to give her a chance, and I’m kind of into characters who act purely as foils to protagonists/heroes. I was even willing to admit that she wasn’t an antagonist until she walked out on Fred while saying, “I’m not the bad guy.” HAHAHA, ONLY BAD GUYS SAY THAT. So when the final scene came up and it was clear Eve was admitting the entire thing was a set up, it didn’t shock me. The obvious was confirmed. But who the hell was she talking to? It had to be someone we knew because the camera was purposely hiding them out of view of the audience. Who was left, though? Who could provide a genuine shock to us?
Honestly, just watch me laugh my life away. I can’t even begin to cope with this reveal. I DIDN’T EVEN REMEMBER THAT HE WAS A CHARACTER ON THIS SHOW. I FORGOT HE LEFT. Oh my god, Lindsay, what the fuck are you planning? How much of this did you orchestrate?
What the fuck, y’all.
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