Mark Watches ‘Angel': S05E17 – Underneath

In the seventeenth episode of the fifth season of Angel, Angel decides to seek out the true purpose of the Senior Partners while Wesley helps Illyria adjust to life on Earth. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

I really get the feeling that this is going to be my favorite season of the show, and it’s unreal how consistently great season five is. Aside from “Why We Fight” and “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco,” I think this season has found the best way to address the theme of redemption in a morally ambiguous (and sometimes morally corrupt) world. By sticking these characters within the framework of a career at Wolfram & Hart, the writers have not only set up an endgame I’m surely unprepared for, but they’ve been able to explore what it means to have to compromise. Has this diluted Angel’s purpose? Has the team lost sight of the big picture? What does constant compromise entail in the fight against evil?

This episode features Angel finally acknowledging the elephant in the room: WHAT THE FUCK ARE THE SENIOR PARTNERS DOING? Who are they? Why can’t Angel ever meet them? What was Eve doing for them all this time? What’s their master plan? Admittedly, Angel and company have been distracted this whole year, though we discover that this is the point. Every time Angel or Wes or Gunn started to bring up the Senior Partners in any way that questioned who they were or what they were about, it seems another disaster was thrust upon them. Hell, half the time they didn’t even have the energy to ask questions in the first place. They just accepted that this was their life, and the proceeded to adapt to it.

As a sign of how different their lives are, “Underneath” is about their rescue of Lindsey. Like, they seriously have to rescue someone they hate, who they don’t care about, so that they can glean more information from him about the Senior Partners. That also means working with Eve, who betrayed them just a few episodes ago. This is what their lives are these days! Honestly, this is a surreal episode to begin with, especially since we get a glimpse of that terrifying alternate reality the Senior Partners use as a “holding” area. But there were times where I was witnessing Angel, Spike, and Gunn defending Lindsey, and then Harmony and Lorne defending Eve. These people are awful! They should suffer forever!

But the world just isn’t that simplistic anymore. God, how weird is it to see Lindsey sitting on that couch in Angel’s office with his arm around Eve? THEY SHOULD BE LIT ON FIRE. And then we’ve got that entire plot with Illyria, and apparently the end of this season is going to be all about awkward alliances. I mean, that’s the case, right? If there really is a big ol’ apocalypse coming, does that entail Illyria, Lindsey, and Eve actually fighting against the Senior Partners? Even if they do, they sure have a lot do before that. Like, I don’t know, deal with FUCKING JAYNE BEING SUPER CREEPY. Oh my god, I’ve never seen Adam Baldwin in a role like this. He’s so genial to everyone, yet he can punch a hole through a human being. I trust him exactly zero percent. If Eve wasn’t all that trustworthy, why should I trust Marcus? Wait, okay, so if Eve is a literal child of the Senior Partners, can I assume that Marcus is as well? How do they reproduce??? WAIT, DON’T ANSWER THAT QUESTION AT ALL. Oh god, I know Rule 43 is the gospel truth, so I shouldn’t even ask this, but: Has someone written fanfic about the sexy times the Senior Partners had to create Eve or Marcus? Okay, they probably just whipped up a human out of thin air, but this is the Internet we are talking about. I learned long ago that if you search long enough, nothing is impossible to locate.

I send you off on a quest, my friends. Please return with your results.

On a more serious note, I wanted to address an aspect of this episode that got me thinking about the role of women in television. I know for a fact that I haven’t said much of anything regarding the implications of Fred’s death for the dynamic of the show, and it was mostly because I was traumatized by watching her die. But this episode made me realize that Fred was the main woman who was part of the team, and now she’s gone. Harmony doesn’t play that big of a role, so I got to thinking about how often women are killed off to support further characterization of the male characters. Yeah, Women in Refrigerators is a very well known trope by now, thanks to Gail Simone, and even if the writers’ intention is shown in later episodes, Fred’s death really does fall in line with this common storytelling device. She dies, and it’s directly related to the character development of Wesley, Gunn, Angel, Spike, and Lorne. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that not one of these characters would be where they are in “Underneath” without Fred’s death. Angel’s renewed focus on being moral and good on his own terms is because of this, as is Spike’s decision to stay, Gunn’s UTTERLY FUCKING HEARTBREAKING decision to remain in the alternate reality, Wesley’s alliance with Illyria, and Lorne’s onset of depression. (Okay, it might not be depression, but it very much resembles it.) Yes, this is just simple cause and effect. And I also must acknowledge that I’ve never seen this trope play out in a way to keep the actress around in a new role that is REALLY FUCKING INCREDIBLE. Still, I wanted to bring it up for discussion and because I’m interested to see where this goes. I think Amy Acker is fucking incredible as Illyria, and some of the show’s most complex philosophizing is coming from the scenes between Illyria and Wesley. I love it!

So we’re down to the final five episodes of this show, which is kind of distressing to me. I don’t want Angel to end! It’s clear now that the focus will have to be on what Lindsey reveals about THE apocalypse. The Senior Partners purposely manipulated Angel and his friends to distract them from whatever end-of-the-world scenario they’ve been cooking up. Angel’s attempt to get one step ahead of the Senior Partners has backfired a bit, but at least now they can focus.

What the fuck do the Senior Partners have planned???

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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