For an episode focused on misogyny, “Billy” sure doesn’t have a lot to say about it. The titular villain runs amok in LA, turning any man he touches into a female hating psychopath and… and nothing. There’s certainly a lot of misogyny on display here but the question of where it comes from, whether Billy’s imparting it on his victims or merely drawing it forth is raised without being explored. But, despite the serious thematic shortcomings, the B-story with Wesley stalking Fred through the Hyperion is more than enough to save the episode. Alexis Denisof had been a stellar supporting player since he first appeared on Angel, but this episode casts a welcome spotlight on his dramatic abilities and offers a tantalizing promise of things to come.
Beyond being an acting showcase, Denisof’s performance gives us the episode’s only serious look a misogyny, however slight. The rest of Billy’s effects either occur off camera, or just spout some Archie Bunker cliches before becoming violent. The crux of his motivation is blaming Fred for the way he feels and the twisted logic helps contribute to the creep factor. His lust is a product of her dress, his anger a product of her teasing, her death something she was really asking for. He affords her an almost supernatural power to control in order to project all of his own failings. The dialogue nibbles at the edges of why men might hate women but, unfortunately, never gets to anything more substantive.
The rest of the episode ought to have served as supplement to what’s going on with Wes but is far more concerned with Angel and Cordy wrestling with their guilt over Billy’s release. It’s not a bad storyline for the characters, but it’s completely unrelated to Billy’s power. Angel’s certainly in manly protector mode while Cordy’s taking back the night, but these aren’t new roles for the characters and they aren’t meaningfully connected to the villain. Billy could be inducing people to drink and drive for all the difference it makes to the A-story.
This episode also delivers some solid character development outside of Wes but, again, it’s only tangential to the story. Romance appears to be budding during Angel and Cordy’s training session, and the writers succeed in making this not feel out of left field. We also get Lilah being the one to take down Billy, which I guess is technically a key story moment but doesn’t really say much about misogyny, except maybe that men should be killed. Overall, I’d call this a good episode, frustrating in the fact that it could’ve been great.
Again with the lack of Lorne this week. How long until he becomes a series regular?
While this episode is technically serialized, it still leaves the season arc feeling a bit stalled.
Gotta admit, the Gavin beatdown on Lilah came as a complete shock the first time around and made for a great hook. Too bad it wasn’t followed through on.
I always thought that Wes’ trauma at the end of this episode was at least in part due to his behaviour hitting a little too close to home. We were reminded just last week of the fact that he was abused as a child and while his father may never have gone after his mother with an axe, his initial demeaning condescension to Fred seems like something he would’ve been familiar with.