Angel TV 

Orius

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Angel
Reprise
Season: 2
Episode: 15
Air date: 2001-02-20

Guest stars: Brigid Brannagh, Julie Benz, Elisabeth Röhm, Christian Kane, Sam Anderson, Gerry Becker, David Fury, Stephanie Romanov, Leah Pipes, Thomas Kopache, Marie Chambers, Chris Horan, Eric Larson, Shirley Jordan, Carl Sundstrom, Kevin Fry, Jolene Hjerleid, Wayne Mitchell, Andy Hallett
Wolfram and Hart's senior partner is coming to visit. When Angel learns that the "senior partner" is actually an evil and merciless demon from hell, he must sacrifice his own life to destroy the powerful beast.

It's hard to put my thoughts about this episode into words because I feel intimately connected with the theme presented here in a complicated way that's hard to express.

"Reprise" (and possibly the next episode, "Epiphany") feels like the embodiment of my connection to the series when I first learned of its existence and what it's thematically about. I use the word "redemption" a lot when describing the series, the protagonist and especially the second season, but as I mentioned before, the quote that really got me interested in watching was the famous one in the next episode, "Epiphany", the one that talks about absurdism rising from nihilism (if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is we do). This was thanks to the Passion of the Nerd video, "Why You Should Watch Angel", talking about the overarching theme of the series and what Angel's journey (and by extension, the audience's journey) is about at its core. In the video, the way Ian presented the show to be, it feels like a spiritual journey exploring the futility we face in our life and how we (and Angel) could overcome it. To put it into perspective what this means, Ian uses the example of a woman in a protest, a protest where she's pretty much in the minority of, and her act would seem futile. However, she instead quoted Angel when asked about her motivation, the famous quote of "Epiphany" mentioned above. The second theme that connects me to the series is moral ambivalence; more on that later.

When I watched season 1, these two themes never really felt like the predominant subjects, and instead, it was actually more about atonement and redemption than season 2, with season 1's throughline often centered around Doyle's quote, "We've all got something to atone for." Season 2, on the other hand, feels like it's been building up to episodes like "Reprise" and "Epiphany". There's been a focus on moral ambiguity since episode 1, where Angel accidentally killed a good demon, and of course, "Are You Now" showed us just how cruel Angel could become in his apathy even without losing his soul. It does away with the more common notions of good and evil we might be familiar with in BtVS, and as we can see in this episode, it tellingly illustrates the innate good and evil in all of us,

The reason I feel deeply connected with these two themes is a personal one. Back when I was younger at the age of 21, I was conscripted into the army and had a rough time. I'm not gonna go into too much detail, but I was in a dark place back then, and I felt insignificant in my life, like my life was spiraling out of my control and nothing I did really improved my life much in terms of academic success or social circle. I became one of those teenagers who believed in the concept of existential nihilism, that nothing we do will ever matter. On top of that, because I couldn't get along with anyone, not only did I become misanthropic in my angst, I also gained a self-hatred of sorts, questioning if I'm a good or bad person (because I had believed in karma and felt like I was being punished), and the once simple notions of good and evil I believed as a child just didn't seem that simple anymore.

It was also around that time when I really started getting into shows (or specifically, anime) like Angel that deal with the themes of existentialism. Even until three or four years ago, I actively sought them out like a drug for my soul, trying to understand what it means to be alive. I know it's silly to seek out fiction for the truths about your life, but I don't really have many friends or proper parental figures to rely on for that sort of thing. And therapy is godly expensive.

So, long story short, an episode like "Reprise" where AtS implies that humans are not necessarily good or evil (in spite of what Holland Manners said, this is still the implication because Cordy, Wes and Gunn clearly didn't display the kind of "human evil" he spoke of in this episode), it feels like the kind of philosophical examination I have had for a long time. Even recently, if you've read my reviews for other TV shows in this forum, I talked a lot the nature of evil and that feeling of insignificance people often have in this world. And it's episodes like this that really make me love the series; it's what I wanted from the series in the first place, to see how characters like Angel and Kate could rise from their desperation in life, from their tortured existence.

This episode though feels like the "nihilism" part of the conversation, with Angel and Kate clearly giving up on their fight; Angel sleeps with Darla, Kate overdoses on pills. The next episode, however, feels like it would be dealing with the "absurdism," giving that catharsis that's been building up since the start of the season. It would be interesting to see what Angel has to say next about humanity now that he's been told that the very thing he's trying to protect - humanity itself - might be the thing he's fighting against. I can't wait for the next episode, and I'll probably have a lot to talk about for both episode 16s of BtVS and Angel.

In the end, in terms of what Holland said to Angel about humanity, I think Ian's response nailed it in his video: "Sometimes, right is right regardless of its futility."
 
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Orius

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Angel
Epiphany
Season: 2
Episode: 16
Air date: 2001-02-27

Guest stars: Julie Benz, Elisabeth Röhm, Christian Kane, Marie Chambers, Kevin Fry, Andy Hallett
After an empty night of passion with Darla, Angel wakes up with his soul still intact and has an epiphany. Angel tries to reunite with his former employees,but Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn are reluctant to forgive him, even when their lives are at stake.

Guess I overhyped this episode a little bit. 😆 I mean, with BtVS having a huge phenomenon TV event that's "The Body", I couldn't help but think, "Gee, the episode that contained one of the most memorable quotes of all time must be really good as well," forgetting the fact that "You don't have a good choice, but you have a choice!" came from "Lie to Me", which was pretty average before that final part of the episode.

The artifice of Angel turning evil again in both the beginning of this episode and the episode promo as well represent the annoying and contrived writing that I absolutely loathe:
The promo clearly makes it look like Angel lost his soul again!

I like Carrie Hopewell's explanation above though, that Angel might have thought that he's gonna lose his soul, hence the panicking before gradually realizing that he's okay and sleeping with Darla is just the latest of his many acts of self-destruction while hitting rock bottom.

That being said, I still really don't like how abrupt Angel's epiphany came about. He just suddenly "bang and woke up," as he so eloquently put it in his exchange with Gunn? Like how does that work exactly? He just suddenly decides not to be brooding anymore and not to have immense hatred for the very unstoppable evil that's W&H anymore? Whaaaaaat?! :confused: AtS has always been a little harder to wrap your head around at first viewing than BtVS, but man, Angel's "epiphany" really feels like it comes out of nowhere. Rebounding from such deep feelings of resentment takes time, not an overnight of epiphany. He beats up Lindsey a little bit and everything's cool with the whole vengeance against W&H thing again? I don't get it. It feels just a little anticlimactic from the last episode's build-up, promising some kind of compelling, provocative answer to Angel's purpose for fighting or even how he's gonna stop the Senior Partners from carrying out their little schemes on all of humanity, or even why he wants to help humanity again after learning that people are part of the reasons W&H excels - there's no satisfying answer! It all just seems a little... how would you say, meaningless? Maybe that's the point, I guess? In a meta way? Sigh.

I was expecting to write some kind of essay from what I had assumed would be a thought-provoking episode, but I guess that's not gonna happen. It doesn't have that kind of revelatory impact that "Lie to Me" had when Ford was revealed to have cancer, hence why that famous Buffy quote worked in the context. Here, the quote for "Epiphany" feels tacked on, like a last minute addition to explain away what Angel's purpose of fighting is really for. It just feels frustrating and clumsy.

I feel like this episode would've worked a lot better if the person he has to save isn't someone close to him like Cordy, but some random stranger whom he would've very well ignored during his Dark Angel phase. Then maybe have him see how his random act of kindness still have impact on someone else; that would've given the ending quote more impact. As it is, he helps Wesley and his crew not entirely because of some altruistic desire to help people in the meaningless world but because he cares about them in a meaningful way. It lessens the message.
 
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