Evil Doesn’t Have to Mean Sloppy

A face you can trust

A face you can trust

You’d think that I’d have started giving Angel a lot more credit after “Awakening” but “Cavalry” also succeeds in disguising a great story as a stupid one.  Not that I actually believed that Angelus was going to get his soul back when I first saw this episode, but I was too busy thinking that this was just a thin excuse to get him out of the cage to even guess that there might be more to it than that. The swerve here is more WTF than OMG but it still works as a piece of storytelling.  Not only do AI team never-ever get off that easy but things are, naturally, far worse than they’d assumed.

To begin at the end, I don’t think that it was possible to see Cordy’ s villainy coming, and I say that having seen this season many times.  Her being evil certainly helps explain the baffling decision to sleep with Connor and accounts for who the Manny-killing soul-snatcher is, but these don’t qualify as clues.  There really aren’t any hints that she’s turned prior to this episode and, in that respect, this twist isn’t that great.  On the other hand, a twist can bewilder instead of clarify and, in that respect, it’s a huge success.

This episode is meant to unbalance the audience, much the same way that Angelus has been unbalancing the team.  Cordelia being aligned with the Beast was inconceivable, so much so that we now need to doubt our understanding of the series.  We were prepared for the Angel/Angelus turn, we’d been waiting for it since season one.  We thought we understood the fractures within the team and appreciated the drama they created.  This is something we hadn’t anticipated and it comes on the heels of what seemed to be Angel at its formulaic worst.

The visions were always a problematic device, usually no more than paper-thin excuses to move the show from one adventure to the next.  Their relevance has steadily decreased since season one and so the lack of any PTB involvement in this latest apocalypse was pretty unremarkable.  For them to suddenly start transmitting again at this point just felt lazy and stupid.  Lilah even calls it out as “deus ex machina.”

As I said Angel deserves more credit than that, particularly in the wake of “Awakening.” There’s even a direct nod to that episode as a random vision from Cordy leads to some very cliched-quest ingredient gathering.  One can hardly blame the AI team for wishing that the world were a bit more like Angel’s perfect day.  But just like last time, the fantasy of easy answers ends with the hero being replaced by the villain, though this time they double down.  The team (what’s left of it) is more alone than they’ve ever been and there are still ten episodes to go.

Final Thoughts

More great stuff with Angelus in the cage here.  Its pretty much what we saw last week, but I don’t mind.

Angelus stalking Lilah through the Hyperion made for some good scares.  The hotel really is the perfect venue for this and I’m surprised they didn’t use it more.

Poor Lilah.  It’s a testament to what a great character she was that I really, really wanted her to get away, villain or no.  Her brief stint with the AI team was certainly entertaining and I wouldn’t have minded it stretching over a few more episodes.  That said, her death was satisfyingly shocking and a good way for the character to exit.

I love that the whole team immediately agrees that they need to kill rather than save Angelus.  It’s obviously a far cry from Buffy but it’s also a far cry from last season.  So much for family.

Floating the idea of the beast master a couple of episodes earlier would’ve helped this season feel more structured.  That said, it would’ve also made Corey’s turn less bewildering.

I knew that Fred and Gunn broke up somewhere around this point, but I had absolutely no memory of the actual scene.  Shows how much I cared about this relationship.

The whole “Angelus wasn’t on this plane” explanation would seem to undermine my Angel and Angelus are the same person theory, but I’ll point out that this is just Wesley’s conclusion and not something confirmed by the narrative.  I find it far more plausible that Angel couldn’t access these memories just because the beast master didn’t want him to.

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