In the eleventh episode of the fifth season of Angel, there’s no easy way to summarize this without spoilers, so just read the review. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
At the end of the day, “Damage” just made me miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seriously!!! As soon as Andrew started revealing what the Scoobies were doing, I just wanted to see them. On top of that, the story itself directly addresses the ramifications of Willow’s spell in “Chosen,” so it felt like a Buffy episode, too. Oh god, I’m never going to get over my denial that Buffy is over, am I? OH GOD. Well, I’ll just join all of you and continue to stretch this out as long as I can.
While “Damage” relies heavily on viewers having seen Buffy, I still think it works as an episode of Angel for a couple reasons.
1) It highlights the precarious moral situation the Angel Investigations team is in.
When Andrew tells Angel that the Scoobies no longer trust him, this episode got INCREDIBLY FUCKING BLEAK. We know that these people are doing their best, that they’re saving people’s lives, that they’re stopping apocalypses and whatnot. But to the outside world, they took over an evil law firm. That’s ultimately why Angel doesn’t fight Andrew on his assertion to take Dana with them. He knows that he can’t fault anyone for not trusting him. You know what the worst part is? ANGEL CAN’T EVEN TELL ANYONE WHY HE TOOK THE OFFER. Remember, Connor doesn’t exist anymore. Oh god.
This got me wondering, though. Is this season’s ultimate point going to be that taking over Wolfram & Hart was a mistake? That’s the question posed in the beginning of “Damage,” and it hasn’t been answered yet. We’re now halfway through season five, and I feel no more qualified to decide if this is a good thing than I did at the end of season four. Again, yes, we’ve seen the team do good things, but that still doesn’t give me any clues about what taking over Wolfram & Hart will do to these people. Is it all some nefarious plan of the Senior Partners? How does Lindsey factor into this? Can these people be a force for good within a corrupt organization, considering that they’re going to great lengths to change the very nature of what Wolfram & Hart really is?
I don’t know, y’all.
2) It examines Spike’s past.
In a sense, this episode feels like what I wanted out of “Lies My Parents Told Me.” I think I was put-off by Spike’s reaction to Principal Wood because what I wanted to see was the humble Spike we see in the hospital bed at the end. When faced with what he had done to so many people but specifically to Robin Wood on Buffy, Spike was angry, sassy, and unrepentant. Here, he wasn’t even the one who hurt Dana, but he suddenly understands the true weight of his actions. He makes no excuses, and he refuses to get mad at Dana for cutting off his hands. That reaction is the first time I’ve ever truly seen Spike act remorseful about anyone other than Buffy. At heart is an important message, too: We can’t blame the victim. While I will talk about this episode’s use of mental illness in a bit, I was happy to see that multiple characters – Angel, Spike, and Fred – all refused to say that what happened to Dana was her fault. She was abused and tortured by a serial killer. They still take her behavior seriously, and that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be held responsible for her actions. I recognize that Wood and Dana are not analogous completely, but I feel like this is specifically why there’s such a huge difference between “Lies My Parents Told Me” and “Damage.” At the end of Wood’s story in his episode, he’s left feeling useless, humiliated, and the show essentially strips his anger of any power. What happened to him at the hands of Spike is not important, and he should abandon his grudge against him. Granted, this is put up against the First Evil, so I don’t want to ignore that yes, the end of the world is a tad more important than a personal vendetta.
In contrast, though, “Damage” doesn’t tell the same story or send the same message. Dana’s fury and pain is real, it’s validated, and at the end of the story, no one belittles her pain, even if it was misdirected on Spike. And look, part of Spike’s appeal is is attitude, and that scene in the hospital with Angel has none of it. During the video for this episode, there’s a point where I state that it would be nice if Angel and Spike could finally get along. Their bickering isn’t as entertaining to me anymore, especially since they’re fighting over who is doing more good. So I appreciate the end of “Damage” because I think this was a significant moment for Spike. Sure, he’s physically incapable of telling Angel that he was right, but I am holding out hope that these two will start to see eye-to-eye more. Of course, that means Spike is going to have to reveal that he’s working for Doyle, and then that’s going to be a huge mess, and Angel will probably get mad again, and then everything will be awful forever.
Aside from these two big story points, “Damage” was really, really dense. In a good way! Here’s what else I picked up on:
- Again, I liked the very explicit refusal to victim blame, but the Buffyverse once again deals with mental illness in a way that paints it in a generally negative light. It would be nice to see a show deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis in a way that wasn’t MURDER MURDER MURDER. That’s not to say that this performance lacked nuance, though! Navi Rawat is fantastic as Dana, but I just thought it was kinda written one-dimensionally in terms of mental illness.
- God, Andrew’s hair is so long! That reveal was so shocking to me because I didn’t recognize Andrew at first.
- Every mention of the Scoobies made my heart hurt. Oh god, they’re all separated right now. No, can’t they all be together so I can hug them?
- This episode finally addressed why Spike has largely been ignoring the issue of Buffy. I’m pretty satisfied with the explanation, but I’m also generally pretty easy to please.
- Y’all, Dana really cut off Spike’s hands. And it wasn’t a hallucination!
- I just want to hug the Scoobies. 🙁
Goddamn, I’m really enjoying season 5, y’all!
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