Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S04E04 – Slouching Towards Bethlehem

In the fourth episode of the fourth season of Angel, the team copes with the return of Cordelia. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

Oh, god, this season is going to destroy me, isn’t it? It already feels the most serialized out of any Angel season in the past, and now we’ve got some big evil ready to come to Los Angeles. Well, and Sunnydale. It’s not related, is it? Holy shit, WHAT IF IT IS. Oh my god, it’s probably not, but the sheer crossover capabilities would be AMAZING. A boy can dream, can’t he?

But this is about something so much worse, and Lorne’s line about “slouching towards Bethlehem” triggered a very specific memory of a Yeats poem:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.


Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.


The darkness drops again but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Look, I don’t know, man. But now we have two evil unknown entities headed for both Los Angeles and Sunnydale. So that makes me wonder: was Cordelia sent back by the Powers That Be for a reason? Did they know she’d have a chance to do good on Earth? If so, why strip her memory? Or was that an unfortunate side effect? Whatever the case, a great deal of “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” examines what it means to be Cordelia Case. This show (and Buffy, too) has deconstructed the notion of an identity, and that’s especially the case when the writers tackle the definition of a hero. But Jeffrey Bell’s story also analyzes the inherent absurdity of Angel Investigations through the point of view of an outsider.

These two dynamics clash as the team tries to accommodate Cordy and help her adjust to returning to this realm. While there’s plenty of evidence that Cordelia was friends with these people, that’s not what unsettles her about the experience. I can’t speak to how terrifying and disorienting it must be to experience amnesia, but Cordelia was more frightened by the purposeful obfuscation she experienced from her friends. I do like that at the end of all of this, she acknowledges that they were all trying to help her. But in the state she’s in, she can’t cope with trying to filter out the truth from the lies while trying to get her memories back.

That’s why she is ultimately drawn to Connor. The guy operates without a trace of nonsense to him. Yes, he’s overly serious, but that works to Cordelia’s advantage here. He gives her no bullshit. He doesn’t hide the harsh reality of the world from her. Also, he doesn’t keep really scary men with giant mouths around so they might eat her. That thing was one big heap of NO.

Still, I admit that this is a heartbreaking episode to experience through the eyes of Fred, Gunn, and (especially) Angel. Their friend has returned, she doesn’t remember them, and she doesn’t trust them. Hell, that entire scene in the hotel room where Cordelia asks Angel about their past is a non-stop punch right in my shipper heart. It’s like the writers knew I’d finally find a pairing I could ship again, so they pre-emptively ruined the canon possibility just to cause me misery. (I get that shipping is not dependent on canon variation, but apparently, that’s how my brain works? I DON’T GET IT EITHER.) “Was I a mother?” NO, STOP IT, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?

So while the Angel Investigations team struggles with trusting one another, we finally get a bit more of the Lilah/Wesley story. Is it safe to say that their relationship ended after this episode? Despite that the two of them are having a good time, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” demonstrated that deep down, Wesley still didn’t quite trust Lilah. It’s why he listens in on Lilah’s conversation and sells her out to Angel so that Angel can get Cordelia back. But when this is revealed to be part of a massive con on the part of Lilah, I could tell that Wesley was upset, heartbroken even. I think he realizes that this could never work, that he could never have a normal relationship with Lilah, and that Lilah knows this and doesn’t care. The hope he had that he could pull this off is gone. Will they continue seeing one another? I don’t really see how, but even if they do, things can never be what they once were. Or, rather, almost were.

At the end of all this, that’s all Angel can reflect on, too. He can only imagine what might have been. He can fantasize of a life of happiness with Cordelia, one where she loves and trusts him back, where his son doesn’t metaphorically steal his girlfriend (LOL WAY TO GO, CONNOR), one where Wolfram & Hart isn’t always hurting the people he loves. But that’s not the world Angel lives in.

So what the fuck is going to happen? Lorne speaks of some “Revelations” type bullshit, but is he for real? Is this the apocalypse the show has been teasing us with for so long, or is there something else at hand? Once again, I simply have far too many questions to cope with any of them. Goddamn it!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S04E04 – Slouching Towards Bethlehem

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