Maybe You’re Growing as a Person

No safe word?

No safe word?

Is it any wonder that so many people hated Connor?  Not that Angel’s son isn’t entertaining here, far from it, but he was around for just two episodes before becoming the antagonist.  “Tomorrow” wisely goes all in with the choice.  Yes, Connor’s been manipulated to evil ends but we’re given only one glimpse at the wreck Holtz has made of him before the opening credits.  After that he becomes the manipulator, winning the trust of the entire AI team before delivering the most devastating revenge possible.  However misguided his motivations, he’s still the heel of this story and there’s no room left for sympathy.

This is a rare case in which dehumanizing a character actually works in the narrative’s favour.  Rather than letting any conflicted morals get in the way, Connor simply serves as Holtz’s weapon here, a fact that elevates the revenge.  This is about more than just sealing Angel away at the bottom of the ocean (a choice Holtz couldn’t have anticipated), it’s about turning Angel’s son into a monster.  Holtz gave him back only to take him away again.

One of the best things about Connor’s thoroughgoing villainy is how it contrasts with the loving son he pretends to be.  This isn’t just about getting Angel to let his guard down, it’s about giving the audience a tantalizing “what if” scenario.  Angel’s happy.  Not “we need to get nervous” happy (there’s too much anxiety bundled with parenthood for that), but happier than we’ve ever really seen him.  Boreanaz does a great job bringing some joy to our brooding hero and all the smiles make for a refreshingly original source of tension.  We know something that he doesn’t and, much as I wanted him to recognize Connor for what he’d become, I also didn’t want that happiness to end.

But, of course, it does.  Happiness is always a reason to be nervous in Angel’s world, even if it isn’t the soul stealing kind.  While some might claim (correctly) that its a general characteristic of Whedon’s for happy people to have the rug pulled out from under them, Angel’s undoubtedly the most extreme case.  Much as the curse define him, it’s more than that.  He loses his soul after a night of gleeful debauchery, and then gets it (and the accompanying suffer) back after another one.  He loses it again after discovering the love of his life, and then gets it back just in time for her to send him to hell.  He returns from hell only to find he can’t be with the woman he loves.  He reconnects with an old flame, and ends up losing her again.  He has a child that ought to be impossible, and then ends up losing him as well.  Now that child is (impossibly) back.  It should come as no surprise that this doesn’t bode well.

The only thing that keeps this tragedy from being total is that Angel refuses to complete Holtz’s tableau.  I’ve said many times that Holtz’s suffering is enough to make us sympathize with him, but Angel’s list of losses are even longer.  Despite this, Angel, unlike Holtz, is not a monster.  Even as he’s betrayed by the person he loves the most he remains a hero.  Angel will not hate his son, and he tries to keep Connor from hating himself.  The answer to a lifetime of suffering is not to inflict it upon others, it’s to try to spare them from it.  It’s not enough to keep Angel from being cast into the abyss, but it is enough to separate him from Holtz.

Final Thoughts

Once again, sorry for the delays.  Things should (knock wood) be becoming a bit more regular as of next week.  Anyway…

I love the fact that Lorne, our soul-seeing demon, warns everyone about Connor… and nobody listens.  You’d think they’d have learned by now.

Stop reading if you haven’t seen season four but, speaking of not learning by now, Cordy’s an idiot.  When have her visions ever shown her anything but someone in danger?  The fact that she sees herself, whatever she might have been saying, meant that Powers were trying to warn her.  Although, to be fair, I think that 90% of fans were also fooled.

I also love the imagery of Codelia ascending to heaven while Angel sinks into hell.

“I wasn’t thinking about you when you were here” may be the greatest piece of pillowtalk ever filmed.

Turning the geek level to 11:  Writing this review has reminded me of The Killing Joke, in which Joker claims that the only thing separating himself from someone as virtuous as Commissioner Gordon is one bad day.  He’s wrong, of course, and while Gordon resists the efforts to drive him insane, Batman also makes for a good counter-argument.  He also had a very bad day, but that pain has driven him to do good rather than evil.

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2 responses to “Maybe You’re Growing as a Person

  1. Good point on Lorn. From a character that grew out of a comedy relief scene for a specific episode, his character arc was so beautiful. While Spike will always have the crown of the most developed character that came from a small role, it just wouldn’t have been the same show without Lorn. That scene may have been deliberate from Whedon in showing how sometimes the great effect people can have without been the hero.

    “Turning the geek level to 11:” – Angle is more like Superman then Batman. Batman is trying to overcome his (untreated) childhood trauma and be the hero his city needs. Superman’s doesn’t become a hero because Metropolis needs him, he becomes one because a hero’s values are his own. And Angle’s pain is not want makes him become a hero, he brooded for 100 years with much of the same pain and as the show displays for that 100 years he was generally an isolating jerk. Angel’s choice to be a hero comes from his revelation that he can’t change the past, he can’t even make up for what he has done – but he isn’t the monster he once was, and so he can start doing good now. Yes he has some tortured moments, and he often chooses to live in his self pity – Angle isn’t the perfect hero. But he is closer to Superman then Batman

  2. “The answer to a lifetime of suffering is not to inflict it upon others, it’s to try to spare them from it.”

    This is the best sentence in an excellent essay.

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