You Know You Gave Me an Evil Hand, Right?

Ever given yourself a stranger?

Of all the post “Epiphany” episodes, “Dead End” is the only one I’d call necessary for season two.  Not that I think anyone needed closure for Lindsey’s character, but it’s nice see it acknowledged that Angel wasn’t the only one at odds with Wolfram & Hart this year and this episode makes for a solid denouement to the season-arc.  What’s really great about this is that Lindsey’s story doesn’t end on the same note that Angel’s did.  There’s no sudden recognition of the alternative to the Wolfram & Hart’s outlook.  Lindsey departs the series with much the same attitude he’s always had, he’s simply decided to stop using it in service of the firm.

It’s surprising how quickly this episode is able to get us to sympathize with Lindsay.  I’d pretty much written him off as evil, but some left-handed shaving, a few pre-tied ties, and a lingering shot of a guitar are all it takes to remind us that he’s more than just a stock villain.  Of course, we already knew that, what with his periodic betrayal of the firm and doomed obsession with Darla, but complicated motives aren’t necessarily sympathetic ones.  This scene is different.  For once, we’re not seeing Lindsey’s demons drive him toward a moral abyss, we’re just seeing an unhappy man go through his morning routine.  Again, we already knew that Lindsey was unhappy with his life, but this is a far more human take on that.

While the hand makes for an easy entry point for us to sympathize with Lindsey, it’s a mistake to think that this is the root of his dissatisfaction.  “Blind Date” established his discontent before Angel cut his hand off, and it continues even after it’s replaced.  While his morning routine has changed (he gets to play that guitar, not just look at it), he’s not exactly bursting with joy.  There’s a tentativeness about his hand, as though he’s not entirely sure what it means.  Once it starts scrawling “KILL” everywhere, he doesn’t head back to the clinic for a checkup, as one might expect, but instead starts his own investigation.  Wolfram & Hart has not only restored Lindsey’s hand, they’ve given him a clear indication that he’ll be the one selected in the review, but he’d still sooner go it alone then ask them for help.  We can hardly blame him, given their track record.

So, Lindsey betrays the firm.  Again.  He steals information, tries to bribe their stooge, and helps burn their storage facility to ground before finally telling them what they can do with the job he so clearly despises.  His reasons are rooted in the fact that he knew his hand’s “donor.”  Evil’s certainly a lot harder to tolerate when the victim isn’t a stranger, but that’s not the real reason Lindsey finally turns.  He held his nose while the firm used the woman he loved in the worst possible way, why would he chuck it all just because they tortured some guy he barely remembers?  Because he recognizes that the choice of Brad’s hand was deliberate.

There were plenty of bodies in that basement and Wolfram & Hart could’ve given him parts from any of them.  Their coverup of the eye-stabbing proves they’re aware of the fact that these demonic transplants are defective.  They knew that Lindsey’s hand would start acting up, just as they knew he’d ultimately discover its source.  Giving Lindsey a new hand was a reward for his hard work and a sign of faith in his continued contributions.  Giving him Brad’s hand was about sending a message: We own you.  You think that you hold yourself apart from us, that because you go home feeling dirty at the end of the day that you’ve got some sort of code that makes you better than us.  You don’t.  You’re as good as we let you be and, at a whim, we can make you party to worst sort of atrocity.

This is the truth that Lindsey can’t stand.  His motives have always been about power and he’s no longer satisfied with the firm’s illusion of it.  This is the real reason he leaves and why he tells Angel that he hasn’t “… learned some kind of lesson.  That I had a big moral crisis, but now I see the light.”  Angel knows that isn’t true.  To use the cliche, Lindsey’s quit for personal reasons… and this why Wolfram & Hart still wants him.  Despite all his betrayals (which you can bet they’re aware of), they’re still prepared to promote him over Lilah.  Because this devotion to the self is precisely what they need.

Lindsey knows this.  He is “clearly the guy.”  The evil that Wolfram & Hart perpetuates is secondary to its willingness to do so.  It’s not necessary that its employees enjoy evil, it may even be preferable if they don’t.  What’s necessary is that they accept it as the only means to power and, in that acceptance, ensure that real power continues to reside with the senior partners.  Wolfram & Hart gave Lindsey a new hand, a clear symbol of power and agency.  They also gave it to him with the clear expectation it be wielded at their direction.  Lindsey quits not because he objects to all the evil involved, but because he doesn’t agree to the terms.  Unable to attain real power within the firm, he’ll go looking for it elsewhere.  Where Angel is devoted to helping the helpless, Lindsey’s merely committed to not being one of them.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to stray into spoilers by the end of these Final Thoughts, consider yourselves warned.

Loved all the moaning from the gang about the possibility of having to hear Angel sing.

Speaking of Caritas, The Host sure seems to be appearing a little too frequently to be only a “recurring character.”  Not that I’m complaining, Lorne rocks, but he’d make a lot more sense once he became a full-fledged member of the team.

Nice to see Wolfram & Hart representing some more mundane evil this week.  It’s a good reminder that, in this world, “evil” isn’t limited to demons.

I really do think that Lindsey’s motives for leaving are precisely what make Wolfram & Hart’s favourite son.  Lindsey is, ultimately, a true believer in Holland’s power equation and, as a true believer, he’s necessarily at odds with his own masters as he tries to reshape the power dynamic in his favour.  It’s why the firm would rather use him than kill him and why, inevitably, he comes back in season five, where the idea of “necessary evil” is more thoroughly explored.

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