Angel: The Series

Season 1


I've Got You Under My Skin

The Prodigal

The Ring



The Metaphysics of "She"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 3 BtVS/season 1 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

Demons: The Oden Tal have four ridges on their foreheads, and they are mass-quantity herbivores (plant-eaters). In the Oden Tal species, the personality and passions of an individual are located in the Ko, an enlarged area along the upper spinal column. The Ko is capable of great radiating heat and also registers sexual excitement. When it first matures, its power is hard to control.

The Vigories (men) of Oden Tal are fierce warriors, and the women become enslaved to them at sexual maturity by being "unmade"--by having their Ko cut. This is essentially a sexuality- and personality-ectomy, and effectively turns the women into easily controlled living zombies.

What they were removing ...was the proverbial "spine" (note the placement of the nodules on the upper-center of the back) (Leather Jacket, Feb 16 14:03 2000).

Interesting not so subtle metaphor for female circumcision, aka genital mutilation, and the subjectification of the female gender in other cultures, or in this case, other dimensions. ...the writer put in many of the different viewpoints: Jhiera, the one that escaped and is trying to help other women do the same; The men, ...the leader Tay, telling Angel that he didn't understand their ways; Angel, representing many other cultures' views that he will only step in once it starts affecting him and his "people" (Eiddileg, Feb 10 08:09 2000).

If the women escape to our Earthly dimension (via artificially created dimensional portals) just as their Ko is maturing, they bring its danger here. Human men (including Wesley, and interestingly, Angel) respond to its power involuntarily. At least five human men have tried to force themselves on the Oden Tal women and were burned alive by women not yet able to control the Ko's power. This passes in a few months as the women learn to control it.

Good, Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "She"

The Vigories of Oden Tal are classic examples of evil-as-order--the attempt to use coercion to control others' lives, even, sometimes, as is the case with the Oden Tal, their innermost thoughts. Women are referred to as "it" and are without identity, rights, or free will. And while may be demons, their women were sentient before they were "unmade", so the men fall under the rubric of Kant's imperative.

Good as chaos: the forms of evil in the Buffyverse often have their equivalent among the forces of good. Jhiera's ultimate goal is to bring happiness to her people, but she is called "the bringer of chaos" by her hunter, Tay. Whether for good or evil, chaos is the method the disempowered often use to fight repressive order. There are several forms to Jhiera's chaos--her use of the burning Ko to defend herself, her refusal to submit to the "unmaking" procedure, and her portal jumping, refugee-aiding methods for saving other women from this fate. Her willingness to harm others or allow others to come to harm in her cause is the moral ambiguity of the freedom fighter/terrorist.

I've Got You Under My Skin

The Metaphysics of "I've Got You Under My Skin"

Ethros Demons are nasty critters who in spirit form possess human beings and drive them to mass murder (e.g., Lizzie Borden, who ax-murdered her parents in the late 19th century). They are capable of minor telepathy (reading Wesley's mind) and telekinesis (spelling out "save me" using marbles). Their presence in the human host can be detected in at least two ways:

  1. The excretion of plakticine (demon poop), and
  2. Ingesting Psylis Eucalypsis powder forces the demon to manifest itself. When Ryan Anderson eats brownies laced with the stuff, he goes into convulsions and his face takes on deformities similar to those of the Ethros demon inside him.

When the demon is driven out of its human host, the force of its expulsion drains its energy reserve. It must find a new host immediately. However, this force often kills the potential host. If there is no other warm body available or if it is too disoriented to find one, the demon must take physical form to absorb the energy it has lost. The Ethros demon expelled from Ryan seeks the damp, salty environment of sea caves (AKA a "primordial volcanic basalt") that is abundant in energy. Ethros demons can be killed in physical form (other examples of non-physical demons).

If one has an Ethros Box, the demon will see that as the most desirable target and can be bound inside it for 1000 years. However, this rare talisman is made from 600 species of virgin woods handcrafted by blind Tibetan monks. The box Cordelia obtains isn't an Ethros Box.

Vampires and telepathy: The Ethros demon torments Angel with his guilt over not preventing Doyle's death. How? He could have easily read it in Cordelia's mind, since she spoke with Angel about his guilt before the possessed Ryan was brought there.

Vampires and food

The Exorcism of a demon: Wesley prepares the binding powder, a yellow mixture that Cordelia spreads in a line around Angel's bed, where DemonRyan is lying. This prevents the demon from moving past the bed, but doesn't prevent him from talking. He says whatever he can to entice the others to cross the line so he can harm them (e.g., feigning fear and then choking Paige). Crosses, holy water and a Latin supplication to the Christian God ("Omnis spiritus immunde in nomine Dei! In odorem suavitatus. Tu autem effugare diabole. Appropinquabit enum judicum Dei!") keep the demon at bay until the actual exorcism.

Angel performs the successful expulsion, holding a cloth-covered cross in his hands and taking DemonRyan through the Latin liturgy:

Angel: Abrenunius Satanae. (Do you renounce Satan?)
Abrenuntio! (I renounce!)
Et omnibus operibus ejus? (And all his works?)
Abrenuntio! (I renounce!)
Et Omnibus pompis ejus? (And all his pomps?)
Abrenuntio! (I renounce!)
Exorcizo te. Omnis spiritus immunde, adaperire!

More on the exorcism:

The book was not the Bible but, I suppose, the Roman Ritual, which would include the Rite of Exorcism [which is why Angel could hold the book]. The words, insofar as they are taken from anything, seem to come from the [Catholic] baptismal rite and its renunciation of Satan. It is certainly not from the exorcism rite in the Roman Ritual, which is both much longer, has far more interesting prayers and a richer and more suggestive vocabulary. ...In the real rite it would use explicitly trinitarian language (Fidelis, Feb 15 20:04 2000).

Who is speaking when the boy denounces evil? Indications are it is the demon, not Ryan.

Evil in "I've Got You Under My Skin"

Sociopathy: Ethros demons are scary. But what scares an Ethros demon? How about being trapped inside a human more powerful than it is? The demon may "possess" Ryan, but Ryan has the control. He uses the demon's powers to prevent the exorcism. The demon claims not to have even manifested itself until Ryan consumed the Psylis Eucalypsis powder (it whispered to the boy when he was asleep, trying to sleepwalk Ryan in front of a car in order to escape). All the horrible deeds done before Angel arrived were done by Ryan. He's killed animals, caused family friend Uncle Frank to die in a fire, and after the exorcism traps his parents in their bedroom while he sets his sister's bedroom ablaze over one too many sibling rivalries.

Ryan is a human being born without a conscience (the Ethros said, without a "soul"). Sociopaths can be intelligent, charming, and know the difference between right and wrong as it is defined in their society. However, they do not feel the pull of that inner moral voice that compels most of us. The only thing that stops them from committing any heinous act that might bring about their own purposes is self-interest--they can exert considerable self-control to prevent getting caught.

The devil didn't make him do it! Wow. Never before saw a demon afraid of the guy he possesses. This seems to tie in with the overriding theme of both BtVS and Angel this season. Who are the good guys and the bad guys? Some demons are good. Some humans do just fine with evil all by themselves, no demonic help needed. Black and white is blending into gray (Mae, Feb 15 23:58 2000).

Moral Ambiguity in"I've Got You Under My Skin"

Seth and Paige: A man trying to keep a troubled family together (especially if he doesn't know the cause of his son's behavior) is not necessarily a nice man, and Angel suspects Seth at first. Seth tries to keep his wife Paige from talking about their problems with Angel. His attitude is a mask for feelings of helplessness. As soon as Angel indicates he knows the source of their troubles, Seth is willing to accept Angel's help. Paige's maternal instincts keep her from seeing the severity of Ryan's condition. In the end, they must both accept the uncomfortable truth about their son.

Wesley has made falling down and messing things up an art form, but there's probably a good reason for that. If your father regularly humiliated you and locked you under the stairs, you'd be constantly nervous, too.

Being locked under the stairs....Does it explain Wesley and his actions? A little more. ...he so desperately wants acceptance he found nothing of the sort, even when he was supposed to be in control, and now, with the vampire he is willing to kill, he finds it. ...We could also draw some parallels/comparisons to Faith. Apparently they both had abusive childhoods. Wesley and Faith were both not readily accepted into Buffy's life/Sunnydale in general. They chose different ways to deal with it (Eiddileg, Feb 16 08:09 2000).

The Prodigal

The Metaphysics of "The Prodigal"

Demons can die, have offspring, and do other things humans do--even when the race of demons are always female (see also the Hacksaw Beasts and the Sisterhood of Jhe). The Kwaini are "articulate, peaceful, balancing" demons--not innately aggressive. But give them metaphysical PCP, and they become as violent as a human would on drugs.

Demonic drugs: This partly mystical substance is never given a name--clinical or slang--but it's synthetic ("man-made", or in this case, demon-made), has chemical and effective properties not unlike street PCP (including hyper-stimulating the demonadrenal gland), contains eye of newt (for the taste), and increases its user's strength 20 times. It's also highly addictive.

Vampires and breathing: Vampires must breath when they talk--it's part of the mechanics of the act itself, and has nothing to do with needing oxygen. But what about Angelus' gasping as he crawls out of his grave? Well, that can be explained as long mortal habit. And Darla's panting at his graveside can be passed off as the anticipation of meeting her handsome new progeny. But there was a lot of steam produced for a show taped in Southern California.

While it's true that vampires don't have breath, as they are dead, it is also true that, in general, most actors are not dead. At least not the really expressive ones. And it was cold that night in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery ([Episode writer Tim Minear, Feb 22 19:53 2000).

The invitation to vampires

Good and Evil in "The Prodigal"

The Drug-lord Demon: Producing and distributing hard drugs is so heinous a crime it's surprising that all the offenders aren't ugly-looking nameless demons with business-suited vampire lackies. Drug lords corrupt the innocent and the foolish alike with predatory guile, spreading chaos for their own selfish gain. Evil, evil, evil.

After her father is sucked dry, Kate enters the Drug-lord Demon's lair, her gun blazing, and stakes the vamp that got away. Part of her success can be attributed to the element of surprise--the vampire did not expect her to pull wood out on him after shooting up the garage.

After Angel saves a subway train of passengers from a drugged-up demon by pulling her out of the moving car, Cordelia and Wesley help him solve the mystery of the violent Kwaini. Angel then beheads the drug-lord demon who corrupted the Kwaini in the first place (saving an in-over-her-head Kate in the process).

Cordelia cheerfully getting to work with a hacksaw? She's come a long way since complaining about gathering up the Judge's parts, not to mention the squid thingie. Maybe Angel is careful to thank her these days (white wings, Feb 22 22:37 2000).

Moral Ambiguity in"The Prodigal"

Angel's Becoming

"His lies sound pretty when the stars are out. But he forgets every promise he's made when the sun comes up again,"

Getting into bar fights, seducing women, mouthing off at his father. Liam of Galway did not have a personality to match his future name. Not hard to understand why, though. Dad was cold and autocratic, and tried to mold a son through disapproval of any and all bad behavior. Big surprise he ended up with a good-for-nothing rebel. On the other hand, Liam did love his little sister, which explains why he's a good big brother figure now. But was guilt over Angelus' deeds enough to turn a punk into a hero? One thing is for sure. He was always good at throwing a punch.

Liam's father never failed to drive home his disappointment in his son, but instead of improving the boy, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, it drove Liam out of the house and into the clutches of Darla. VampLiam's first act upon rising from the grave was vengeance on his father--killing the man's friends, family, and finally him.

When he was telling his father how his little sister invited him into the house thinking he was an angel, you could tell by the look on his face that the perversity of calling himself an "angel" appealed to him. We also saw in "Somnambulist," with the crosses carved into his victims, that the demon Angelus enjoys mocking religion, and calling himself "Angel" was an extension of that (BuffyBuff, Feb 23 11:45 2000).

Angelus thought being vamped was "making something of himself" but he was "made" by Darla, who saw potential in further corrupting the already corrupt young Liam. Still, even she couldn't know exactly what she'd created. When she asked the new-born VampLiam who in the village he wanted to kill, he replied, "I thought I'd take the village." Darla was more in love at that moment then she'd been before she sunk her fangs into him.

When Whistler talked to him in B1, he spoke not of redemption but on becoming "...someone. A person. Someone to be counted." This was probably the first time that anyone had ever told him that he could make something of himself and gave him that kind of opportunity (Kate, 28 Feb 2000 15:34).

When Kate finds out about the existence of demons, she doesn't really want to deal with them. She hasn't yet been confronted by the real magnitude of supernatural danger in Los Angeles beyond a few not-so-mythical vampires. But there is an entire supernatural underworld in L.A., and Kate comes face to face with it in the worse possible way.

Angel tracks a drug courier to Trevor Lockley's apartment and sees Kate's father take a package. After Angel confronts him, Trevor goes to warn his cronies in crime about Angel. The vampire lackeys of the demonic drug dealer are instructed to get Trevor out of the way. Trevor is attacked by the vampires in his home. Because he refuses to invite Angel in, Angel can only be an impotent witness. After Trevor's death, Angel enters the apartment and kills one of the vampires. The other vampire escapes just as Kate arrives. Kate sees the bite marks on her father's neck and finds the business card of the demon. As she did when she staked Penn, Kate feels she must serve as the sole arm of justice in L.A., this time for her own father.

But finding out her father gave into the temptation of police corruption cracks the foundation on which Kate has built her life. Trevor Lockley may have believed he was abetting a minor crime (facilitating the movement of untariffed auto-parts), but what Kate witnessed was her father breaking one of her family's most treasured values--you don't help the bad guys, regardless of the crime they're committing.

Ethical quandaries in"The Prodigal"

Should Angel save Mr. Lockley from his own folly?

Angel is determined to tell Mr. Lockley about what he's dealing with. Wesley argues that, naively or not, Kate's dad has chosen to deal with unethical people, and the consequences of his choice fall on him. Angel replies that the punishment for an act made partly in ignorance is not necessarily equal to whatever nefarious intentions Mr. Lockley had in committing the act in the first place. Angel's insistence seems personal in a way that goes beyond looking out for his friend's father--does he feel his vamping was a punishment too severe for his mortal sins?

The Ring

The Metaphysics of "The Ring"

The wrist cuffs: Although they look contemporary, the devices used to confine the demons are from ancient Rome, forged by ancient sorcerers (hence the "XXI"). They work in tandem with an invisible energy field demarcated on the ground with a red line. When a demon wearing the cuff crosses the field, the cuff is activated, sending out a jolt that disintegrates flesh in a cascade starting at the wrist. The energy field is otherwise harmless. The effect probably differs according to the speed and force at which a prisoner crosses the line. This explains why the demon who charged over the line was disintegrated instantly, while Angel, who put his hand over the line for about two seconds, didn't. The wrist cuff conducts electricity, but this "electricity" is probably supernatural, since physical electricity was not harnessed until the 18th century. Wesley translates a book called "The Alchemist" and while it is possible that medieval alchemists worked with physical electricity, ancient sorcerers of the Roman Empire did not.

The "ancient" key: The wrist cuffs are opened with an electrical conductor--something that can carry electricity from one side of the locking mechanism to the other. Wesley tries various conductors until Cordelia suggests horse-hair: material supple enough to thread the locking mechanism but strong enough to spring the release.

Demon (un)natural history: Cordelia learns that there are 12 demon species "indigenous" to LA county. What does this mean? In biology an "indigeneous" species is one that evolved from an ansestral species to its present form while in a particular area. Human populations are often called "indigenous" when a particular group was the first human population to develop a new culture in a particular area. It is not clear which (if either) of these meanings is intended. Twice on the show, however (Giles, The Harvest, Angel, The Prodigal) it's been indicated that demons have their origins on the Earthly plane.

The Howlers are slimy bald albino demons with claw-like hands and a sulfuric smell. The name comes from their eerie high-pitched wail.

Good and Evil in "The Ring"

Say what you want about brutish demons, the real evil in the illegal gaming club is Jack and Darin Macnamara, who obtain demons through trickery or outright purchase and enslave them for the pleasure of other blood-thirsty humans. Like the Romans of old, the Macnamaras and their audiences know perfectly well that the slaves are sentient beings, and don't care (they don't seem to value human life much, either). Naturally aggressive demons may be; so were the gladiators in the Octavian matches of ancient Rome. In both cases they were prisoners forced into fighting against their will.

In the club, demons are locked in cells, zapped with electric Initiative-style tasers, and forced to duke it out to the "killing blow" with each other until they get 21 victories. Before Angel came, the demons never revolted against their human masters. This isn't necessarily because of any "slave mentality" (which Angel implies they have)--the humans are simply more powerful, and the demons do what they must to survive in that environment.

Wolfram and Hart have been taking their time doing something about Angel. But there might be a reason for this--they wouldn't mind using him for their own purposes. But getting him off their backs isn't that simple. Lilah Morgan, an attractive associate at the firm, talks the partners into paying for Angel's freedom. She tries to convince him that he can do his good deeds and look the other way when Wolfram and Hart are involved. Angel puts himself back into slavery.

When Wesley is faced with a bookie with a gun, he pulls out a cross-bow and nails the man's hand to the wall, then retreives the gun, and aims it at the guy's lackeys to keep them at bay. Finally, Wesley tugs on the arrow to get information out of the bookie. Wonder if he learned that in Watcher training.

Considering that it is part of the Watcher's duties to be able to train his Slayer in numerous fighting techniques and with various weapons, I am not surprised by his effectiveness with the bookie. ...Perhaps his usual clumsiness and ineffectuality result from his insecurity in the presence of Angel and Cordelia -- two people whose opinion matter very much to him. (Perhaps this was also his difficulty in making a good impression on the Scooby Gang?) Without witnesses, he is more free to lose himself in his training and focus more on his goal. He couldn't be a total "goober" or the WC would have surely never sent him to take charge of Buffy! (Dizzy B, Mar 2 09:21 2000)

Cordelia notices that Darin Macnamara has a wrist cuff in his hands (from the demon who jumped the barrier in the prison). When he puts it on the edge of the ring, Cordy picks it up, giving them a way to help free Angel. Later, she hits Macnamara with a pole, knocking him into the ring where he is given one of his slave's wrist cuffs and thrown back out--zap! He's ashes.

Moral Ambiguity and Philosophies Represented in "The Ring"

Relativism: Either Angel has become a real softy, or the Buffyverse ain't as simple as it used to be. Once upon a time, Buffy protected humans and demons were slain. Then humans started getting evil, and some demons proved good. Now we are seeing a lot of troublesome stories in which treating demons badly has been equated with prejudice, genocide, and slavery. Recall, however, that it was not Buffy's (nor Angel's) sworn duty to kill demons, just stop the spread of their evil. This often meant slaying, but not always. Things are not completely gray yet, though. Our heroes still look damned uncomfortable when they realize they just freed a bunch of demons into the world.

Do demons have rights?

Why do any of us have rights? In the United States Constitution, rights are considered God-given and "inalienable"--a citizen is born with them in virtue of being human.

"Rights" are social creations (wolfguard, Mar 6 18:09 2000).

*Rights* a function of who is powerful in the situation. The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, Laws, religious doctrine, weapons,custom are factors combined with place and time which might affect the balance of power = hence *rights* (intoit, Mar 6 16:20 2000).

Regardless of where rights come from, in democratic societies an individual forfeits his or her rights if they interfere with another person's rights. Then punishments are meted out by the justice system--the removal of specific rights but not others. Freedom of movement (i.e., imprisonment), and confiscation of property (e.g., fines) are the most common.

This approach assumes that most people will not be inclined to interfere with other's rights (i.e., commit crimes). But most demons are criminals by the standards of human society (due to the "crush, kill, destroy" thing they are inclined to). So even if they didn't have that whole not-human strike against them, they would have forfeited their "rights" the first time they attacked a human being.

In its history humanity has always broadened the concept of what is human, and what is thereby entitled to just consideration and compassion. humans who at one time were excluded from the definition of humanity have eventually won in battle or been granted through the exertions of religion, science, and philosophy the rights previously held by only a few. now, our relationship to animals and the earth itself is being re-shaped by a reconsideration of just what it is that seperates us and unites to "life" other than our own. i think demons can and should be included in this process. however, most of them will hunt us down and kill us like dogs given half a chance, so, outside of particular individual or groups of demons who can show themselves able to live otherwise, the general human policy should be to fight them as if they had no rights, but without losing our own humanity in the process (little bam bam, Mar 6 15:55 2000).

Our society would tend to look at demons as closer to animals (re: The Initiative) rather than humans. Therefore I think that although demons may have certain rights in our society if they choose to live a human lifestyle (such as Doyle, Whistler, etc.), a demon would definitely not have the protection a human would have.... It's very similar to animals - while cruelty to animals is not condoned, if you're attacked by an animal, the threat that the animal poses will be immediately dealt with or removed (Mesuvius. Mar 6 15:47 2000).


The Metaphysics of "Eternity"

What would it take for Angel to experience true happiness?

Faux T'ish Magev: So it's a sex thing, this curse?
Angel: Well, not specifically. --GWBG

Wesley argues that Angel's experience with Buffy was special, and that odds are Angel would not experience such a moment with any ordinary woman, even one as beautiful as Rebecca. However, when Rebecca tries to "relax" Angel by putting Doximal (a powerful tranquilizer) in his champagne, the "happy pill" induces a temporary state of contentment that allows Angel's demon physiology to dominate his behavior. Once the effect of the drug wears off, the human soul is in control again.

This incident is an interesting allegory on drug use. What Angel experienced wasn't "true" happiness--not the kind that would send his soul packing to the ether--but it felt very real at that time. Happiness achieved by chemical means, rather than through the fulfillment of genuine needs and desires, soon crashes. This is the lure and the lie of drugs--they make us feel like we've achieved the mental peace we were looking for, but it's gone in the morning when we're back to our unfulfilled reality.

...inhibitions ... can be weakened by intoxicating substances. ...When humans get intoxicated they do not lose their moral centre [soul].... What they do lose is some of their self-restraint.... Impulse becomes action without the usual common-sense filtering. Happiness had nothing to do with Angelus' return.... It was all about the loss of self-control and the surfacing of suppressed desire (Vox, 29 Apr 2000 01:10).

More on Angel and true happiness

Angel's invite: When Angel sees a masked man in Rebecca's apartment, he bursts in through her glass door. How did he get in? Another inadvertant invitation (see also RWAV).

The actress invited Angel over when she was in his office (joss, Apr 15 08:34 2000).

Rebecca: "Well, stop by. I'll give you a private screening of the episode I didn't win the emmy for."
"Thanks for the invitation, but..."

Vampires and reflections

Good, Evil, and Moral Ambiguity in "Eternity"

Angelus may be a brutal creep, but at least he's honest. While Wesley sort of stumbles into revealing his true feelings about things, Angel is generally tight-lipped. Angelus, however, doesn't hesitate to use his beliefs to hurt, telling Wesley that his lack of "balls" is a sign of his inherit inferiority as a person, and making fun of Cordelia's bad acting.

Should Angel die?

Rebecca is full of self-loathing, and not just because she can't get the kind of youthful role that made her a star. As Angel (and Angelus) point out, Rebecca has become an actress even when she's not acting--she doesn't see herself in the mirror anymore. Her desire to be frozen in time while she is still beautiful (to become a vampire) is an effort to take on this false face permanently. Even if there were no pesky soul loss-age involved, being vamped would still cause her to lose her self identity completely.

Oliver the manager decides to get Rebecca some free publicity by making it look as if she's being stalked. In his mind, he is willing to do whatever is necessary to further his client's careers. By not telling her about it, he gets a better performance from her, but he also puts her through hell. It is puzzling why he thought anyone would put themselves in the line of fire by hiring her.

The bravery of Cordelia and Wesley

The moral ambiguity of Cordelia

Angel: the Series copyright © 1999-2000 The WB Television Network.
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This page last modified 3/22/02

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