Holtz won. There are more episodes to the season, of course, but if you just consider “Forgiving” in itself then Holtz got what he was after. Whether you call it justice or vengeance, Daniel wanted Angel to pay for what he’d done to him. Make no mistake, much as Holtz loved his family, his quest was all about redressing what its loss did to him and the only way to do that was to take away everything Angel loved. The results speak for themselves as Angel’s become a man with a singular obsession that will justify anything; torture, murder, betrayal, dark alliances, black magic to rend space and time, does this sound like anyone else we know? Holtz won by making Angel into a reflection of himself.
The warning signs appear early in Angel’s quest to save his son as he isolates himself from his support system. He’ll accept Fred and Gunn’s help to find Connor, but he’s not interested in hearing their advice and any efforts to make him listen are merely steamrolled over. We can recognize this behaviour from season two as the beginning of a very dark road and, sure enough, Angel’s quickly working on his own and deciding that kidnapping and torture are the way to go. We get more not listening, this time with Lorne, and then Angel’s making a deal with his sworn enemy.
The white room is probably one of the cooler corners of Angel’s universe but then, I’m a sucker for creepy evil kids. I’m also a sucker for the fact that Angel’s willing to kill Lilah without hesitation. The show stops just short of having him go through with it but, with this and the near-torture, Boreanaz’s performance is intense enough to convince us that he would have done it had he not gotten what he wanted. Then the episode’s brisk pace continues as we move onto the black magic and more ignored advice.
The messaging here is pretty straightforward; action fueled by rage can lead nowhere good, and things playout somewhat predictably. The dark ritual doesn’t work out as expected and Angel’s behaviour ends up causing a lot of collateral damage and endangering his friends. Lesson learned, he goes to visit Wes in the hospital and we get a reminder of why Joss Whedon shows aren’t like other shows.
The attempt to kill Wesley is intense, frightening, and awesome. It also perfectly encapsulates Holtz’s “justice.” If there’s anyone who understands the need to be forgiven for unforgivable acts, it’s Angel. But that’s just not relevant when stacked against the loss of a child. Mitigating circumstance, whether it’s a manipulative prophecy or the lack of a soul don’t matter. Nor do any cautions about the destructive nature of vengeance. Holtz wins not just by making Angel truly understand his pain, he does so because that understanding eliminates the moral high ground Angel once claimed. Without the possibility of forgiveness, then Holtz’s revenge is that much more justified. I’d call that victory.
I’ll give Boreanaz’s performance another shout out here: absolutely fantastic, right down to the spit.
Also a great episode for Lilah and Linwood. This is the best showcase of Wolfram & Hart we’ve seen in a while.
Other contender for the opening quote, “Ahh, do you want your wittle baby back?”