I really like “Origin.” That seems somewhat strange considering I’ve always been a fan of (or at least apologist for) Angel’s son and this episode presents a Connor that’s almost unrecognizable. At its worst, Connor’s presto-chango journey to mental health is a complete cheat, a way to avoid dealing with the baggage of season four and write-out an unpopular character to boot. There’s a lot of truth to that but “Origin” proves the series isn’t quite willing to dispense with consequence altogether. The best part of Connor, in my opinion, was his relationship with Angel and this episode is far from an easy out in that respect.
Connor’s return, naturally, brings out the worst in his father. He stops communicating with his friends, puts his own baggage ahead of helping someone who needs it, sulks, throws a tantrum, and finally ends up discussing his problems with the representative of the Senior Partners. That’s an oversimplification and the behavior doesn’t last long, but it’s still the sort of self-indulgent isolation that’s gotten Angel into trouble so many times before, particularly where his son’s concerned.
Of course, Connor also brings out Angel’s better qualities as he shifts into hero mode to protect his son. His efforts to impress Connor after slaying his attackers are amusing and endearing, “It’s no big deal… but I do it a lot!” as is the quickie training regime he puts him through for his battle with Sahjhan. Without all the baggage between them, these two are finally able to have a positive relationship and its remarkably similar to what Angel always wanted; a protégé to follow in his footsteps. The difference is a) Connor came to Angel, not the other way round, and b) Angel’s looking to protect his son, not push him. Much as the magical memory-wipe might be a cheat, the thing that really makes the Angel/Connor relationship work this time is that Angel remains focused on what’s best for his son and not what he wants from him. In this context the memory-wipe is a strong mystical metaphor for the need to put the past behind you.
Alright, so that last point is a bit of a stretch but the episode wisely complicates matters with Angel fighting to keep the past from returning while Wes does everything he can to turn back the clock. Nice as it is to see how much Angel’s changed, my favourite part of the episode is watching Wes make the same mistakes all over again. A heartbroken Wesley runs his own investigation, his nerves becoming increasingly frayed as it leads him to an unthinkable conclusion. And rather than confiding in anyone, particularly the best friend who’s been implicated, he takes matters into his own hands with traumatic results. Sound familiar? Without his memories, Wesley cannot learn from the past and so Angel’s plea, “You just have to trust me” is met with the inevitable response, “I can’t.”
Wesley, much like Connor, was able to move on after having his memories erased. He’s a healthier man without the baggage and bitterness (he even gets the girl) but, when faced with situation he should now be equipped to deal with, he makes the wrong choice. By the same token, Connor’s “healthy and well adjusted” and vulnerable in a way he never was before. It’s only after he gets his memories back that he’s able to protect himself. Don’t mistake any of this for an indictment of Angel’s decision to give up his son. In the end, Wes asserts the need to focus on the new memories as a way of coping with the old ones. And Connor (once more the Destoryer?) chooses to return to the life Angel built for him rather than spend any more time with his real father, the father who gave him the wisdom to make that decision. “It’s complicated” is hardly a satisfying conclusion about what the past means, though it’s better than the “it doesn’t matter” we had to grapple with beforehand.
You’d never know it watching season four or Mad Men, but Vincent Kartheiser can be downright likable when given the opportunity. Less interesting, IMO, but likeable.
Lorne gets the short end again this week, as will be the trend for the rest of the season. It’s hard to keep an ensemble such as this balanced, particularly when past members show up for a guest appearance and others have recently become a god, but it’s still unfortunate that he’s lost his niche. That said, it’s probably appropriate for the green guy to take a back seat with the direction Angel will be heading over the next few episodes.
Adam Baldwin remains great, for the same reasons as last week. Wolfram & Hart always worked best when it was behaving reasonably and Hamilton is, above all, reasonable.
Nice to see Sahjhan again, however briefly, although his power level seems much diminished since he was stuck in that bottle. How does the demon who mopped the floor with Angel get taken out by Connor?