Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S05E09 – Harm’s Way

In the ninth episode of the fifth season of Angel, Harmony seeks out Fred’s help in acclimating to the world around her to disastrous results. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

BLESS THIS EPISODE. BLESS IT SO MUCH. I remember how great “Disharmony” was from the second season of this show, and I love how much “Harm’s Way” fits in thematically with what we’ve already seen from Angel. As I say in the video for this episode, I love when longstanding shows:

1) give an entire episode to a side character.

2) tell me stories about loneliness or not fitting in.


And aside from a moment towards the end when shit got super real, I’m glad that Harmony’s episode was so funny. Mercedes McNab has such excellent comic timing, and I couldn’t imagine a better tone for her story. Plus, I’m glad that the writers have room to explore this new world of Wolfram & Hart through such a silly lens. I mean, that commercial in the cold open is a riot. ANGEL LOOKS SO AWFUL. I kept thinking that someone would get their arm ripped off, or they’d fall down the stairs, or SOME SORT OF BODILY HARM WOULD COME OF THEM. I didn’t actually expect this to be a part of the episode, but it sets the framework by which Harmony must work under: Wolfram & Hart has changed, and there’s now a no-tolerance policy for murder. On top of that, she’s almost universally ignored. Angel is a complete asshole to her. (And that’s my only complaint about this episode: Angel never apologizes to Harmony for being so awful to her. Dude, what the hell?) Her fellow employees ignore her. Wesley only speaks to her when he wants coffee or food. In short, she’s become invisible. What I enjoyed about this exploration of Harmony’s character is that it so directly comes after “Disharmony.” After she returned to Cordelia’s life having been vamped, she was unsure what role she was supposed to play in everything. Could she be a normal friend? A girlfriend? How was she supposed to integrate back into the world? And now that she’s found a way to live in the world again, it’s clear that she’s the odd one out.

That’s not for lack of trying. It’s frustrating to see how hard Harmony tries to please those around her. IS ANYONE SURPRISED THAT I’M DRAWN TO CHARACTERS WHO SEEK OUT APPROVAL FROM OTHERS? My god, I still deal with this, despite that I’m coping with my self-esteem issues better than I ever have before. So it hurts to see Harmony doing her best to be a good friend and employee and getting absolutely no recognition. Is she trying too hard? Yes, but that’s the point. She’s unrecognized so often that she feels the need to go above and beyond what her duty calls for in order to get anyone to notice her. That’s why she does research on the two demon clans coming to Wolfram & Hart for negotiations and has a camel delivered. Unfortunately, Angel can’t see why this is a good thing because he is a big meanie face. Look, she’s doing as you asked! She’s trying!

This is also why I love, love, LOVE Fred. God, she is so great to Harmony here, even though she doesn’t has to be. She doesn’t really know her, but she gives her the time of day, she’s honest, and she provides some generally good advice. I adore that scene in the bar because there’s no joke or pretense there. Fred doesn’t have an ulterior motive at all. SHE IS JUST A GOOD PERSON. Oh god, can we have a Fred-centric episode soon, too? Can she be rewarded with puppies and happiness forever? Yes, thank you very much.

This one night out, however, becomes unbelievably complicated when Harmony wakes up the next day next to a man she met the night before, and he’s dead. From a vampire bite. And he’s in her bed. And he’s dead. OH. OH, SO THAT NO-TOLERANCE POLICY IS JUST GONNA BE THE WORST THING EVER, ISN’T IT. Yes! Yes, it is! Thus, the hijinks ensue! It’s fascinating that this is a first person murder mystery done as a comedy. Usually, these episodes are frustrating thrillers, but “Harm’s Way” never quite reaches a point where you’re scared of anything aside from the fact that Harmony makes some terrible decisions here. Knocking the blood test administrator out? Bad. Knocking Lorne out? Very, very bad. KNOCKING FRED OUT AFTER SHE HELPED YOU? Oh, Harmony, this isn’t going to help your case at all. When is knocking out your friends and coworkers a good idea???

But to be fair, this whole situation really is a nightmare for Harmony. Not knowing if you murdered someone is clearly scary, and Harmony’s entire life risks falling apart if she doesn’t clear her name. So it doesn’t help her calm down to learn that she didn’t pass a blood test or that she’s craving human blood. While she initially believes the fact that she’s a right biter is enough to clear her name, she comes to realize that she’s in some deep shit. That means that “Harm’s Way” is essentially a reverse of “Disharmony,” especially in the sense that we’re rooting for a reveal where Harmony isn’t the murderer. In “Disharmony,” the twist at the end is that she betrayed her former friend.

I think it’s entirely fitting, then, that the real culprit here is someone we’ve never seen either, that this is all about someone else vying for attention in a corporate setting. It’s humorous, but it provides a poetry to the story at hand: someone else feels unappreciated, so they go to great lengths to prove their worth. Of course, that involves killing a demon mediator and framing Harmony for murder, but I rather enjoyed the fact that this very nicely solved the team’s problem with the feuding demon clans. So I’m shocked that these people weren’t more appreciative of what Harmony did. Wait, okay, perhaps Lorne, Fred, and Rudy don’t have to be appreciative, since they were knocked out and stuck in a closet. FAIR ENOUGH. But Angel barely acknowledges Harmony at all and doesn’t understand why she wouldn’t come to him in the first place: because he acts like he hates her!

Regardless, I hope Harmony and Fred can develop some sort of friendship. I haven’t spoken about him yet, but I liked the way this episode used Spike as well. There’s a nice acknowledgment of Spike’s feelings toward Buffy, and he even leaves to go visit her, though in doing so, he’s dismissive of Harmony. When he returns at the end of “Harm’s Way,” he realizes that perhaps visiting Buffy after such a huge sacrifice is not exactly the best idea. It’s not the most clever execution of continuity, but I’m satisfied that it’s been dealt with. For the time being, Spike will exist in Angel’s world, and we have a reason why he’s going to stay. On top of that, Harmony realizes that she matters, even if it was to someone who was so jealous of her that she tried to murder her. Hey, you take what you can get, right?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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