There’s much to enjoy about “Provider” as a standalone episode, but it feels like a bit of a misstep at this point in Angel’s season arc. This is one of those times where re-watching is a bit of a hindrance as I know where this story is going (eventually) and I wish they’d just get on with it. That said, I think this episode’s problems persist even without my impatience. We’re now over half way through the season and while the birth of Angel’s son and the return of his arch nemesis are both interesting elements, there’s absolutely no indication of what they’ll add up to. Connor’s birth ought to have kicked the show’s serialized elements into high gear but, instead, it’s mostly been used as the basis for episodes (like this one) where Angel adjusts to his new role. It’s not bad, but this series really needs to be about more.
Once more the themes of parenting are universal as Angel frets about providing for Connor’s future. This doesn’t come out of nowhere as money’s been a pretty consistent concern throughout the show’s run. The gang’s been more or less solvent since season one, but there are still regular complaints about the firm’s lack of business. The general impression is that they’re doing okay (paying the bills and getting takeout occasionally) but not great. It’s the situation most people find themselves in at the outset of their careers. But throw a child into the mix and suddenly “okay” isn’t good enough. Forget the cost of meeting a kid’s immediate needs (that can be tough but, again, Angel seems to be doing okay), it’s the lifetime of needs that’s daunting.
So, a typical parenting concern gets a typical reaction in that Angel overreacts, doing everything he can think of to turn the firm into a money making machine. It’s a bit of a stretch that all it took was some flyers and a website to achieve that, but whatever. The point is that, in his drive to give his son security, Angel forgets what really matters. It’s a point that’s made pretty on the nose but, again, whatever. The point may be obvious but its consequences aren’t as the story examines the effect this new Angel has on his clients. Not in the expected “too busy to do a good job sense” but in a far more critical moral one.
Sam Ryan’s motives may be understandable, but that doesn’t make his actions excusable. Fraud and assault aren’t generally things Angel looks for in a client, and he’s right to be pissed when the truth is revealed but that’s not the interesting part of the story. Yes, Angel’s a real prick as he tries to pressure Sam into paying him what’s owed, but the point isn’t really that he should help those in need, regardless of that they can pay, it’s that he shouldn’t assume that everything’s about money. Our Champion doesn’t just become a jerk because he’s pissed, he does so because he thinks that Sam must be holding out on him; his own motives are suddenly all about money and he assumes that’s the way everyone works. It’s the exact same line of reasoning that drove Sam to lie; he doesn’t believe that anyone would help him out of the goodness of their heart. And Angel almost proves him right. Had Sam showed up a week earlier asking for help, there’s no doubt that Angel would’ve obliged for whatever fee was affordable. But while Angel’s operating in a realm where cash trumps virtue, he forces others into the same paradigm.
The increased business at AI doesn afford the rare opportunity for two entertaining but unrelated subplots as Wes & Gunn help a young woman being stalked by her undead boyfriend while Fred and Lorne help some demons with a puzzle while they prepare to steal Fred’s super brain. As B-stories go, the boys have the better one, but they’re both pretty good.
Stretch or not, the sudden increase in AI’s business does play into one of my favourite conceits on the series, the notion that there’s an entire supernatural subculture in LA.
Apparently Lorne’s not just living at the Hyperion, but is now on the payroll. Good for him.
The only element that really contributes to the season arc this week is Holtz. His interplay with Justine is great, establishing him as more than just a warrior. He’s a cult leader.
Giving Angel a taste of domestic happiness may also count as part of the season arc. The final scene with him, Connor, and Cordy is sweet but, given his track record, we all know this can’t last.