Angel: The Series Season 4
|Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 1 BtVS/season 4 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.|
Who is Cordelia? According to the demon Skip, Cordelia's body has been taken over by a powerful being with no name. The real Cordelia is there as well, but the nameless "Master" is in control. From Skip's story and their own speculation, Angel and the others decide that Cordelia was manipulated by Skip into becoming part-demon. He also convinced her to rise to the higher dimension. Wesley hypothesizes that the nameless entity came "along for the ride" when Cordelia was returned to Earth. Her amnesia was a side effect of the disorienting descent to the "lower" Earthly realm. When Lorne read Cordelia, he didn't sense her future, he saw the entity within. Then Angel recalls that Cordelia's behavior really only became puzzling after her memory was returned. Lorne's spell, they decide, awakened the entity. By controlling Cordelia, it controlled Angel Investigations from the inside out.
The miracle "child": The entity inside Cordelia wants to walk the Earth on its own. To do so, it needed to create a physical body or "vessel" for itself. It chose the part-demon Cordelia to be the mother or "incubator" for this vessel. Connor was created to be the father because the entity needed a parent of miraculous conception. The sexual union of Connor and Cordelia put the "vessel" inside Cordelia. It grew as a fetus inside her. When the time comes for it to be born, this entity "pours itself into" the vessel and is born into the world.
Angel concludes that "Cordelia" hid her pregnancy because the entity inside her is vulnerable until it is born. He believes he can kill the entity by attacking it while it is still inside the human Cordelia's womb.
What is Darla? Is the being who appears to Connor in his darkest hour his mother, Darla? She has Darla's "memories and feelings": is that all that's required for her to be "the same person" that gave him birth? Does she have Darla's spirit? Does she need to?
Connor does not believe that she is his mother. It is possible that she is simply the voice of Connor's own conscience. The human girl with them can't see Darla. But "Cordelia" is able to identify her with a little effort. She tells Connor that "Darla" is a magical illusion sent by Angel and the others. But since they can't know the dilemma Connor is facing, this is unlikely to be true. And Darla tells Connor things that, as far as we know, no one has ever told him. She tells him that for a brief time, she shared his soul. She tells him how she gave her unlife so he could live. So perhaps this is the real Darla after all, or at least, a vision of her sent by the Powers that Be.
The Bu'shundi locator ritual: To locate "Cordelia", Lorne and Wesley use a sacred Hutamin paw to burn scorch marks into a map.
The death of Skip: After Skip breaks free of a force field called the "sand of the red palm", he goes after the gang. Wesley's bullets bounce off of him. Then Wesley notices a spot on the side of Skip's head. Earlier, Skip had been scratching at it. Wesley shoots him in that vulnerable spot. Skip falls dead.
The birth of the vessel: The entity inside Cordelia isn't ready to be born, but it must birth itself before Angel finds "Cordelia". "Cordelia" performs a ritual to induce mystical labor. She draws a circle and sets candles in it. She sits in the center, closes her eyes, and chants:
Vanu'esh katahn dahr'im vajrah ha'esh
She lays down in the circle. She continues to chant. The earth starts shaking. Connor dips his hand in the spilled blood of the virgin and presses his hand to "Cordelia"'s stomach. The blood soaks in. A green light shoots out of "Cordelia"'s abdomen. It writhes like an octopus, then coalesces into a beautiful full-grown woman who, interestingly, resembles neither Cordelia nor Connor.
Evil and Good in "Inside Out"
|Skip: After the gang discovers that "Cordelia" is the Beast's Master, Angel goes to the fortressed demon dimension where he first encountered Skip, the demon who later guided Cordelia when she became part-demon. Angel wants answers, and he gets them. Skip admits that he was in on the ploy to manipulate Cordelia into entering the higher dimension. Skip calls himself a "merc"--he trades his services to the highest bidder, whether it is a mysterious being who needed him to play a phony "guide", or the A.I. gang, who threaten to torture him if he doesn't cough up information.|
Skip is a much better fighter than he pretended to be when he was guarding the evil Billy. But Angel manages to drag him back to the Earthly plane and bind him in a force field. Skip proceeds to tell them many things, and it is unclear which are true and which are false. One thing is clear, though: Skip has a vested interest in perpetuating the plans of whomever is trying to control Angel Investigations.
Angel heads out with sword in hand to find "Cordelia". Regardless of what Skip says, he has already come to the conclusion that he must either kill Cordelia before the birth, or kill the entity after its birth. When Connor stops him from killing Cordelia, Angel goes after the woman who was born from her body. But her smile disarms him of his will.
Beyond Good and Evil: Whether by accident or design, from the moment "Cordelia" moved in with Connor, she groomed him to be her champion. With Angel, she was the snarky, self-confident Cordelia we've always known. With Connor, however, she was depressed and fearful. She was the damsel-in-distress to his protector, the dutiful student to his trainer. Then slowly, her role changed. Ever so briefly, she was his lover. Then she became the roommate he was not allowed to touch. Then she became the fragile pregnant woman carrying his child. She told him that Angel and the others would fear their child. She told him that it was his job to protect her and the baby.
She told him that he, she, and the baby were "special"--a breed above the "average, normal" human beings that fill the world. That the human moral concepts of "Good" and "Evil" had no meaning for them. Angel and the others, she implied, forced these concepts on Connor to control him. To make him do what they want. But Angel doesn't want what's best for Connor. He feels only jealousy and hatred for his son. So Connor doesn't have to listen--not to Angel when he speaks, and not to the metal shackles of conscience which is just Angel's propaganda echoing in his head.
It's seductive talk, because in getting Connor to rebel against the alleged "control" of Angel, "Cordelia" has found a way to control Connor more than Angel ever could or would.
Moral Ambiguity in "Inside Out"
The devil's champion
Connor, fearing that Angel and the others want to hurt his child, tracks them down and saves "Cordelia" from them. He takes her to an abandoned meat-packing plant to hide until the baby's birth. "Cordelia" tells Connor they need a special ingredient to induce labor: the blood of a virgin. Connor finds a young girl on the streets, knocks her out, and brings her back. Now he must guard the girl until the time comes to kill her. Connor is torn. The death of the girl is necessary to give their baby life; but the girl herself is innocent. Human.
"Cordelia" has been feeding Connor a new way of thinking about himself and the value of other people, making Connor doubt the voice of conscience within himself. Connor requires another voice to counter the lies of the mother of his child. Connor's own mother is the voice of his soul, and she has rational arguments to counter every bit of "Cordelia"'s brain-washing. Darla speaks of her love for Connor, and begs him not to do something he'll regret the way she does her acts as a vampire. She tells her son that the way he is acting is what is making his father act against him. She tells him that he knows that what he is doing is wrong. But most importantly, she tells him that he has choice.
Connor replies that he doesn't have a choice. Nevertheless, he does. It's not a good choice, but it's a choice. And when he finally sees it, he begins to let the girl go. Then the devil appears at his shoulder opposite the angelic Darla. "Cordelia" and Darla's voices clamor in his ears. The tormented Connor chooses not to listen to the angel. She is the image of the mother he was raised to hate, and he has a family in the here and now that needs him. He must take their side. He grabs the virgin girl and drags her over near "Cordelia"'s circle. The girl looks up with the face of Darla. "Cordelia" hacks her with a cleaver.
Strong emotions, not rational thought, often lead us to make the really bad choices in life. It's easier to mistrust than to trust, easier to hate than to love, easier to fear than to understand. Connor fell for this trap. ...a mother's unconditional love was suddenly offered to him and he distrusted it. ...He truly believes that his parents hate him. Both his parents. When Darla cries out "I love you" and Cordelia says, "This is how much Angel hates you" it was easier to believe that he was hated. ...And the saddest part is that he still tells himself (on some surface level) that he's doing the right thing. Unfortunately he proved Angel's MC Escher/Champion speech correct. Connor doesn't understand what it means to make a difference, to fight for what's really right. He's still so wrapped up in his own need for validation ...that he can't see the bigger picture - although he's starting to. If it hadn't been for the manipulations of Evil!Cordelia, he might have figured it out by now (Tyreseus 4/03/03 00:16).
Philosophies Represented in "Inside Out"
Free will or higher plans?
What if the world was a chessboard and our so-called "heroes" merely pawns in a game being played by powerful beings existing at some larger level of reality? This is the picture Skip draws for the Angel Investigations team, and it is a troubling one. For four years, Angel answered the call of the visions from the Powers that Be, and Cordelia embraced the responsibility of providing them, even when they were harming her, even when they were killing her.
Not all of it was their choice; they know that. Cordelia didn't ask for the visions in the first place. Angel didn't bring himself back from hell. But Angel, Cordelia, Doyle, Wesley, Gunn, Fred, Lorne--they are all where they are now because they chose to be--because it was the right thing to do and they wanted to do the right thing. Right?
Skip says no. Their intentions mean nothing--well, the trivial ones do, maybe. But when it came to the important stuff, they were just chess pieces. And it's what the chess player wants that determines where the pieces go in the game. And what the chess player wants, what all the major events of the past few years were designed to bring about--was the birth of Connor and Cordelia's "child".
It's hard to know who to trust when the guy you're looking to for answers gives you answers like these.
But Gunn decides they must trust themselves. He rejects the analogy of the chess board. He rejects the idea that people are nothing but pawns.
If you want to control someone, you make them think they don't have a choice. The evil characters all try to make everyone believe they are powerless, so the people don't use the power they have. And our greatest power is in our ability to make choices. They might not be good choices, or they might not give us what we want, but we are the ones who decide (Arethusa, 4/03/03 10:26).
Even if life is a game, Gunn argues (and it's not clear that he believes that it is), life is not the sort of game that can be rigged from beginning to end. There is always an element of chance involved. And that means there is a place where one small individual's choice can influence the outcome. And if that's true, it's better to go through life assuming we have free will. Because the time may come when something we do makes a difference. And human beings can never be sure when that time is. So we must treat every moment like it is that time.
The Metaphysics of "Shiny Happy People"
Former Power incarnate: Jasmine calls herself a "former Power", and in her pre-prepared speech to Angel Investigations and on television, she states that she is part of a race of powerful beings:
|"In the beginning, before the time of man, great beings walked the Earth. Untold power emanated from all quarters, the seeds of what would come to be known as good and evil. [Yet there was a balance.] But the shadows stretched and became darkness. And the malevolent among us grew stronger. The Earth became a demon realm. Those of us who had the will to resist left this place. But we remained ever watchful. Then something new emerged from deep inside the Earth. Neither demon nor god. And it seemed, for a time, that through this new race the balance might be restored."|
The effort required for Jasmine to "return" to the Earthly plane implies that she did not previously have the sort of body that could simply enter Earth by stepping through a portal. She created a human-like body to walk in our reality. Her body can be injured, and possibly killed, but her injuries heal quickly. The one human thing she noticeably doesn't have is a name, and she asks her "family" to give her one.
The shiny happy mojo: When people meet Jasmine, they become very happy, peaceful, and worshipful. While their basic personalities don't change, they don't get worked up over things unless they are trying to please Jasmine or believe something threatens her. Wesley calls it "some form of enchantment". The enchantment begins when the person sees Jasmine and remains even after the person has left her presence.
The only two people to escape enchantment are a man named John and Fred. A vampire attacks Jasmine, causing her arm to bleed. Angel chases the vampire, who trips and falls on John. The vampire digs his fingernails into John. When Jasmine arrives, everyone kneels before her except John. He becomes hostile and tries to attack her. Later, Fred washes the shirt Jasmine bled on until her own fingers bleed, and when she sees Jasmine again, Jasmine's face appears as rotted flesh. Contact with Jasmine's blood that facilitates this new perception. Fred is now appalled at how pleased Angel and the others are with not having to question Jasmine, her past deeds, or her future purposes.
The Trials revisited: When Darla was brought back as a human being by Wolfram and Hart, she was dying of syphilis. Angel earned her a second chance at life by successfully facing a series of trials in a supernatural realm. But the life he earned couldn't be used to save Darla. She'd been given a second chance at life already--her resurrection by Wolfram and Hart was her second time as a human. Still, the debt was owed. And the following February, it was paid--Darla and the champion of the Trials conceived a child.
Jasmine implies that she arranged for the "debt"
to be paid to Darla and Angel via the pregnancy, thereby making
her directly responsible for Connor's conception. Jasmine required
a father of miraculous birth in order to facilitate her
own "birth" into the Earthly plane.
Cordelia is alive, but in a state of "eternal bliss"--for all intents and purposes, a coma.
Who is "Cordelia" and is the Cordelia we knew responsible for her actions?
Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "Shiny Happy People"
Jasmine: Angel and Connor are getting along. Gunn and Wesley are friends again. Lorne is once more the gracious Host in a Hyperion filled with people. Angel Investigations is making a real difference against demon violence in L.A. It's everything the gang could have hoped for. And all they had to do to achieve it was join forces with the Beast's Master--the same entity who brought the rain of fire, the massacre of Wolfram and Hart, the darkened sun, Angelus, and the ax-murder of a virgin.
Jasmine says she wants to "rectify" all those evils that were "done in her name", and an enchanted Wesley passes them off as "birth pains." But Wesley was not so charitable before he saw Jasmine. They have no good reason to trust this entity. And yet they trust her completely once they see her. But even without a mind-altering mojo, it's not hard to see why. Jasmine responds to each of them as an individual. She assures them that they will defeat evil once and for all and "change the world".
It is interesting, however, that someone so soothing seems to bring out crazed passion in her followers. Angel nearly beats a man's face in for attacking her. Fred becomes obsessed with cleaning Jasmine's bloodied shirt. Wesley denounces his beloved Fred as "evil" for betraying Jasmine. Although Jasmine doesn't demand these things of any of them--in fact she tells them they don't have to do them--she seems to inspire this behavior anyway.
Connor finally has everything he's ever wanted--he knows why he was born, he has a family around him, he is part of their mission to destroy evil. But he is not happy about being happy. He feels guilt for the things he's done to hurt people like his father. Jasmine encourages broody-boy junior to put those feelings aside and to feel good about himself. She tells Connor he has a destiny to fulfill. Although she calls Angel her "general", she still clearly sees Connor as her personal champion, and she has purposes for him that don't include Angel.
The moral ambiguity of Angel
Good in "Shiny Happy People"
After Fred breaks free of Jasmine's happiness mojo, she seeks out John. John tells Fred that she has been "called" to kill Jasmine. She has seen Jasmine's decayed visage. Jasmine is clearly not all she seems to be. Fred goes back to the Hyperion and tries to enlist the help of Wesley, but he quickly betrays her. If Fred is going to help the others break free of Jasmine, she must do it herself. She shoots a cross-bow at Jasmine. Angel intercepts it. In desperation, Fred holds a knife to Lorne's throat. Jasmine allows her to escape. Later, Jasmine makes her television appearance. Everyone around Fred kneels in reverence. Fred is truly alone.
Philosophies Represented in "Shiny Happy People"
The necessity of evil
"Eradicate all evil.... Is that even possible?"
Although Jasmine advocates restoring the "balance" between good and evil, that's not what she's selling to the people of Los Angeles. She promises a world in which "all evil is eradicated", and that's another thing entirely. What would a world be like that had only good, and no evil? Well, try to imagine a world that was all black with no white. Try to imagine anything without its opposite. In such a world, there would be no blending, no "in between". There would be no shades of gray.
Pretty dull world. Evil exists in the world for a reason. It is the price we pay for making things interesting. For example, it is difficult to have food without using or killing plants or animals. That in itself isn't "evil". But it is still using and killing. It is a shade of gray we must live with. And in doing so, we run the risk of going too far--our healthy need to consume can become destructive in extremes.
A world in which all evil is eradicated seems clearly impossible. To have any sort of world at all, we must be willing to at least risk the possibility of evil. But how much "possibility" should we allow if we could? Where should we draw the line between things we allow because they are an "interesting" or "necessary" shade of gray and things we should eradicate for being truly "evil"?
Clearly, Jasmine doesn't intend on letting anyone but herself make these decisions. And for good reason. Once evil is "eradicated", Jasmine's followers must be convinced that they live in a world without the potential for evil. And for that to happen, her followers must perceive the world exactly as she needs them to. They cannot be allowed the ability to question her. And they cannot be allowed the power to make choices that stray outside the boundaries of her standards of what counts as "good".
"Isn't it a relief? The constant questioning... it's finally over."
Angel seems to embrace such a world, and why not? The world he inhabited before was harsh and cruel. It demanded that he make daily decisions about who to save and who to fight. It was the sort of world where he was bound to fail in his choices sometimes, and where he had to live with the horrible results. He often wished that such choices could be taken him from him, and he railed against the Powers that Be to send more visions, give more answers, be less cryptic, interfere more for the greater good.
And now, it appears, one of them has finally listened. Jasmine tells Angel and the others that she can "no longer bear to just watch" the world of humankind. She wants to end their suffering.
"I don't know who sends them. I just know whoever sends them is more powerful than me or you, and they're just trying to make things right." --Doyle, City Of, on his visions and the PTB's
"What's the point of being an all powerful what's-a-ma-whosit if I'm not allowed to intervene? My friends are gonna die!" --Higher Being Cordelia, The House Always Wins
If Jasmine is indeed a Power, it is easy to see why she might feel the way she does. No one seems to have put these powerful beings in charge of humankind, but if you were an powerful benevolent what's-a-ma-whosit, you might be tempted to interfere, too. But in between the extremes of "simply observing" and Jasmine's completely controlled "Brand New World", where do you draw the line? When do you decide to help? And when do you stand by and let fragile, ignorant humanity make its own decisions and its own mistakes?
The Metaphysics of and Good in "Magic Bullet"
The "executive" demon is short, green, bald and has a taste for human hands. He plays the harmless curmudgeon for Fred while she has an ax in her hands, but this demon is not really interested in being friends with a human. Not even one on Jasmine's black list. When Fred sees through his act, he attacks her. She puts the ax in his head.
Powering up: Pilgrims flock to the Hyperion from all over the L.A. area for a chance to see Jasmine and get her blessing. A "lucky" few are invited upstairs into Jasmine's private suite. There, they become her nourishment. We don't see this process take place, but a green glow emanates from Jasmine, then intensifies. Afterwards, her visitors are gone. Jasmine needs the nourishment they provide to restore herself after she is injured and to intensify her strength.
The "connection": Jasmine has the ability to "read" human beings, to sense their individual desires and feelings and then provide them, from the pregnant woman seeking a blessing on her child to a conspiracy-theorist bookstore owner finally getting the "truth" about the death of J.F.K. Jasmine also has a two-way telepathic link with her closest followers. They can sense Jasmine's needs and the needs of her followers and know how to provide for them. Jasmine tells them they aren't becoming psychic, but that they are becoming "connected" to her.
Jasmine contacts Angel and Connor from a distance, but when she needs to send out a more general telepathic message, she requires assistance. In order to locate Fred, Jasmine asks Angel, Connor, Wesley, Gunn, and Lorne to form a circle holding hands. They form an image of Fred in their minds and send it to Jasmine's followers outside the Hyperion. One of Jasmine's followers chases after Fred in a car and crashes it. The man catches on fire and comes after Fred. Back in the Hyperion, Jasmine's hands blister from the heat.
The blood cure: Fred, now a fugitive of Jasmine's "flock", visits a bookstore looking for books on mass hypnosis--anything to explain Jasmine's power over the people of L.A. She returns to the bookstore again after she realizes how she broke free of Jasmine's mind-control. She knows that Jasmine's followers are looking for her. She invites Jasmine to find her. Then she frees Angel from Jasmine's power by shooting a bullet through Jasmine's shoulder into Angel. Jasmine realizes in that moment that her blood is the key to breaking the spell.
After Fred and Angel escape the bookstore, they fight off more of Jasmine's followers. Then they return to Hyperion to free the rest of their friends. But they can no longer get close enough to Jasmine to use her blood. So they take blood from the comatose Cordelia. Angel theorizes that since Jasmine's body originated (certainly physically, and perhaps mystically) in Cordelia's body, the elements of Jasmine's blood that broke them out of the spell will be in Cordelia's blood as well. They use Cordelia's blood to break Lorne, Gunn, and Wesley out of the spell.
The blood destroys the person's connection to Jasmine, and thus the bliss that comes with it. ...Fred was bursting into tears before seeing Jasmine, talking about how much she missed her. The spell was already broken for her. She just needed to see [Jasmine's] visage to truly grasp what was happening. The same happened with Angel, who was too focused on his anger at Fred and the pain of the bullet to notice that his bliss had ended. The visage had to shock him, too. With Lorne and the others, though, the sudden de-blissing was enough. With Angel and Fred there to explain things, they had an easier time realizing the truth, and didn't need a shock to snap out of it (Jason T., 1 May 2003 22:28)
Connor's "immunity": Connor does not react the same as the others after he is infected with Cordelia's blood. There is no apparent metaphysical reason why Cordelia's blood would effect the others and not him. A more psychological explanation for his reaction is required.
Moral Ambiguity in "Magic Bullet"
Jasmine is very different from the "Powers that Be" as we've known them. The Powers have always been very mysterious, communicating with Angel only through intermediaries and visions. Jasmine, on the other hand, has come down the Earth and built an entire religion around herself. She feeds on the praise and love of humans even more than she does their physical forms. And she feeds them in return, playing the very intimate messiah who can read their hearts and touch their minds. She promises the human race "happiness" and "an end to loneliness", at least as she interprets these concepts. And when members of Jasmine's flock break free of the "power of her love", they feel the loss of that "love" very profoundly.
The "Powers that Be" that sent Cordelia's visions have also tended to focus on preserving the lives of individual humans. Jasmine, on the other hand, cares more about human beings on the large scale (in her own ultra-controlling way), and does not hesitate to sacrifice individual lives for her larger agenda.
The reason that Connor turned on the gang at the end is not because the blood-melding spell didn't work, but because, unlike every other one of Jasmine' s followers, he is a true believer. He has desperately searched for truth in his life, and has been jerked around this way and that by so many different forces, has been manipulated into hating those who love him [by Holtz and "Cordelia"] and vice versa. Finally, he was given clarity and love by Jasmine. He was allowed to feel like his life finally had purpose. And then Angel and AI come and take that away from him. He doesn't thank them for showing him the light, but hates them from trying to shatter his first time of true happiness. So, ironically, their revealing the truth about Jasmine to Connor makes him more of a believer. Remember, he recently came to believe that there is no good and evil. Despite the fact that he looked guilty as the girl was murdered, he still, IMO, has pretty much convinced himself for the most part that he did the right thing. And then even more so when Jasmine is brought to the world. So...if his concepts of good and evil are screwy at the moment, he'd be in a particularly bad position to judge Jasmine. Even knowing the truth about her, he may not consider that "evil."
If he stays with Jasmine, he can see himself as the man who brought forth this amazing savior. If he believes Angel? He is a murderer who facilitated the birth of an evil god-like creature who will destroy the world. He loses his purpose, his identity, his love. In a roundabout way, Angel... has probably reinvigorated and crystallized Connor's faith in Jasmine better than she could have done it herself with her mind-control spell. Connor graduated here from brain-zonked follower to what may be a first for Jasmine...her first, willing disciple (Rob, 4/16/03 23:03).
The Metaphysics of and Good in "Sacrifice"
"Love is sacrifice."
The body Jasmine: As Jasmine has continued to devour more and more people, her psychic connection to her followers has increased. She can now see through their eyes, talk through their mouths. She feels what they feel. She receives their wounds and can heal those wounds instantly. She compares her followers to "the cells of a single body". And in that body, the Angel Investigations team is a disease.
|The praying mantis demon: Long before humans walked the Earth, members of this demon's species worshiped the Devourer. They built temples to her and awaited the day she would return to their dimension. But she went to Earth instead. In jealousy, one of the mantis demons has crossed over to the Earthly plane to perform a ritual that he hopes will remind his goddess of her "true followers".|
The mantis captures humans in the sewers and mutilates their bodies. He then arranges the bodies and internal organs in a specific formation that he calls "blood magic" or "flesh magic". This ritual requires no incantation--no words.
The power of names: When Jasmine first came to Earth, a minor injury took hours to heal. Now deadly wounds heal in seconds. It it unlikely Jasmine can be killed by conventional means anymore. And the gang couldn't get close enough to her to try. Likewise, Jasmine has hidden Cordelia so that no one can be "infected" by her blood. The gang needs a very different form of ammunition, and Wesley finds it. It starts when Fred reminds him that they had to give Jasmine a name. Later, the praying mantis demon tells Wesley that revealing the names of people takes away their power. He also informs Wesley that the Devourer can't be hurt by incantations--"word-spells". There is only one word she cares about. Wesley realizes that that "one word" is her real name. He asks the mantis her name. But only the High Priest in the mantis' dimension knows it.
In the bible, Man gives names to all the animals, signifying our role as the dominant species on God's green earth. However, according to Kabbalistic tradition, the Lord's true name (Yahweh/Jehovah) contains too much power for all but the most experienced adept to handle... In "Sacrifice," we learn that by giving the Devourer a name ("Jasmine"), mankind has, in effect, welcomed her into this world. Would she have been able to conquer our plane of existence so easily if we hadn't given her a name? (cjl, 4/24/03 10:22).
The praying mantis demon has a key--a blue globe in a metal stand--that allows him to enter and exit his own dimension. He tells Wesley that humans can't enter his dimension, the atmosphere there will burn their lungs. Angel kills the mantis by cutting off one of his claws and stabbing him in the neck with it. Because Angel doesn't need to breath, he is the only one who can cross over into the praying mantis demon's dimension to get the name. Wesley knows an incantation will not operate the dimensional key. He wipes his blood on it. A portal opens up beside him. Gunn, Fred, Lorne, and Wesley hold off Connor and a team of soldiers while Angel escapes. Angel steps through the portal onto a ledge in a drab, hazy world filled with praying mantis demons.
He looked at his friends and felt a combination of boundless affection and intense pain when he realized they were about to sacrifice themselves for him (and for humanity). They were a team again, the Free Will Gang, fighting the good fight. It could have been a moment from "Awakening," except there wasn't going to be a happy ending. One small consolation: Wes and the others made the sacrifice with their eyes wide open. The love was real (cjl, 04/24/03 12:56).
Evil in "Sacrifice"
Tonight we saw what Jasmine is about. ...[I]f you follow her you are no longer a person, you are part of the body Jasmine. War, crime, hate as we know it will disappear. ...[T]he only crime in the world of Jasmine is to reject her love. ...With Jasmine there is no free-will, only Jasmine's will. ...[S]he thinks of people as an extension of herself to be used in a way that we would use our own bodies (Rufus, 4/24/03 6:31).
Moral Ambiguity and Philosophies Represented in "Sacrifice"
Angel: After Connor betrays Angel and the others to Jasmine's followers, Angel is forced to abandon his son in order to help his friends escape. They must survive to stop Jasmine. But Angel knows Connor won't be that easy to evade. He beats Connor unconscious before he joins his friends, then leads them down into the sewers to hide from the police. When Fred reminds him that they have left Cordelia behind as well, Angel tells them they must "gut themselves" of their feelings if they expect to win the day.
But being a shell is easier said than done. Down in the sewers, the gang encounters a group of kids who are outside Jasmine's sphere of influence. One of them, Matthew, resembles another feral waif of Angel's acquaintance. But unlike Connor, Matthew shows an interest in Angel and admires him as a leader. Angel buries his emotions in work, going after the praying mantis demon who is killing the sewer kids. When the mantis takes one of the kids, Angel saves him. Matthew, whose parents were killed by vampires, sees Angel's vampire face and runs away. But now the mantis has Wesley, and Angel throws himself once again into the fight.
Fred and Gunn
Angel: "They're just under her spell. But if it does come down to a choice between us or them?"
Gunn: "Believe me, I'm there."
Fred and Gunn go after Matthew. They must prevent him from getting to the surface. If he falls under Jasmine's thrall, Jasmine will discover where Angel and the others are hiding. When they find Matthew, Fred tries to persuade him to come back, telling him he shouldn't be afraid of Angel. But Matthew cries out. Without a word, Gunn knocks him unconscious. Fred is stunned. Gunn tells her that he agrees with Angel. They must turn their feelings off to get the job done. And sometimes "getting the job done" requires them to sacrifice their normal moral lines. There were people there where they found Matthew, probably under Jasmine's spell, and they had to get Matthew away from them as quickly as possible.
Fred tells Gunn she doesn't want to turn off her feelings. She prefers the torment of feelings--even her guilt over what they did to Seidel--to being an emotionless "shell". When the sewer kid Golden demands an explanation for Matthew's unconscious state, Fred tells him that "they had no other choice." She agrees with Gunn's actions, but believes they must accept the feelings that come with "getting the job done". But as it turns out, they didn't get the job done. Matthew is already under Jasmine's spell. Jasmine discovers where they are.
Connor: After being infected with Cordelia's blood, Connor is free of Jasmine's spell, but he is no less loyal to Jasmine than he was before. But that is not enough for Jasmine. She wants him to surrender himself to her utterly. She digs her fingernails into his hand and asks him to share everything with her, not just his love and his loyalty, but the pain he has carried around all his life as well. Connor, longing to belong and longing to be rid of that pain, agrees. When the where-abouts of Angel and the others are discovered, Connor leads a band of soldiers into the sewers to bring them back to Jasmine. But is he truly free of his pain? His central focus is still his father.
The Metaphysics of "Peace Out"
The Powers that Be: Jasmine is one of the Powers that Be--one of a mysterious race of beings born "in the inferno of creation". There is no evidence that they created the human race, nor that they created the Earth. Like human beings, they are merely an aspect of creation. They live in a much different reality than us, but they keep an eye on human affairs. As a rule, they do not believe in interfering with these affairs except on the very small scale. But Jasmine decided she could no longer do this. She gave up her place among the Powers to walk the Earth and live in something resembling a human body. And she did, she claims, because she wanted to help us.
I like the ultimate irony that the PTB who does want to take an active role in coming down to Earth and "saving" humanity destroys so many people to do it, whereas those who she says "don't care" never harmed anybody and helped Angel with information. Both forms of PTB come with a price. The other PTB are vague and can't fix everything, but they don't take away people's free will or devour them into a single Borg-like entity (Rob, 5/01/03 18:10).
The Praying Mantis dimension: A few millennia ago, Jasmine came to this dimension and tweaked the physical and mental evolution of the primitive insect-demons she found there. She gave them new intellectual and psychic powers, and in return, they built temples to her. But the results were not quite the paradise she'd hoped for. She needed better "base material" to work with. So she left her faithful praying mantis followers and went to Earth. But her temples remain. A statue inside one of them shows her in more or less the form we know her. Like the other locals, the high priest of the temple has "insight into the hearts and minds of others". This isn't mind-reading, but something closer to what Lorne does. He looks into Angel and sees Angel's deepest motives for being there.
The power of the word: Jasmine's true name is known only by the "Keeper of the name", a demon who lives in the temple with the high priest. The Keeper will only speak the name on its dying breath. Angel fights the demon and beheads it. He takes the demon's head back to the Hyperion and cuts the threads tying its mouth shut. It whispers Jasmine's true name. Jasmine's face erupts with her internal green energy. Her rotted visage appears, then disappears, leaving her face torn and bruised. Her spell over the people is broken.
Blood ties: Jasmine tells Connor that he and Cordelia are her "tethers"--her connection to the Earthly plane. It was they who supplied the "raw materials" for the body she needed in order to walk in our world. They are therefore her vulnerability. Infection with Cordelia's blood, like Jasmine's, breaks Jasmine's hold over Wesley and the others. Likewise, although Connor was under Jasmine's "thrall" for a while (until the gang infected him with Cordelia's blood), as her father, he always saw Jasmine's true form.
Jasmine explains to the gang that once someone is freed of her spell, she can no longer put them under it again. This goes for Connor as well. When Connor starts to worry about Cordelia's whereabouts, she cannot control him. It would seem that killing both Cordelia and Connor would be prudent. Wesley realizes, at least in the case of Cordelia, that Jasmine does not kill them because she can't. Killing her parents would mean "loosening the tether" that holds her to this world.
Wesley also concludes that Jasmine's mother is capable of hurting her. He reasons that once those who know the power of Cordelia's blood are gone, Cordelia shouldn't be a threat anymore. Yet Jasmine has her hidden away under guard anyway. And just as Jasmine's mother can hurt her, so can her father. When Angel punches Jasmine, it barely makes a scratch. When Connor punches her, his fist penetrates her skull and she falls dead.
Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Peace Out"
Angel: In bringing back the demon's head to speak Jasmine's true name, Angel effectively destroyed Peace on Earth. When Jasmine asks him why, his reasons are very abstract and principled--human free will, a world in which the preservation of individual lives is just as valuable as the preservation of the species itself. And these are certainly values Angel believes in. But are they his only motives, or even his most important ones? The high priest of Jasmine's temple tells Angel that above all, he is fighting for his son. To give Connor a purpose and a life outside of Jasmine, of course, but also because Angel believes that if he is to ever be near his son again, Jasmine must be defeated.
Connor goes in search of Cordelia and finds her comatose body on a cathedral alter. He has played the loyal Jasminite to Jasmine and Angel's friends, and it is only to Cordelia that he reveals his doubts. Jasmine purged the humans around her of all of their hate and anger. As one who helped bring Jasmine into the world, Connor should by all rights have felt the same peace. But he didn't. He tried to follow Jasmine anyway. He tried to believe that she was bringing a better world, even when he could see that her world was not so perfect. But now he finally realizes he can't continue living that lie. So he kills her.
From an existential point of view, the act of "killing god" should be empowering. But Connor does not do it to free himself, or even to be a "Champion" and save the world. He does it because he no longer believes in anything--not Jasmine, not Angel, not Holtz, not Cordelia, and not himself. He does it to finally end the lies. But without the lies--without faith in something--he feels he has nothing. He even looks into the eyes of the father who is offering him the one truth--his love--and rejects that as well. Because he can't live in Angel's world, either--the world of Champions, always fighting evil. Connor is tired of fighting.
Jasmine: After Angel destroys Jasmine's mental power over the people, he tells her that she can still do what she claimed to want to do--help humankind. It simply won't happen in the way she planned, with adoring followers and temples and externally-imposed peace. Jasmine isn't interested. She'd rather see the human race dead than do things Angel's way. Is Jasmine simply petty and power-hungry? Or is the concept of fighting for the human concept of "good" as one of us mere mortals too frightening for her to comprehend?
"Never give up, never surrender" ...Was he stubborn? Yes. But of the four characters imprisoned in a cell ...he was the one not accepting of the fate he was handed and willing to attempt owning his own fate (neaux, 5/01/03 4:16).
Philosophies Represented and Ethical Quandaries in "Peace Out"
Angel chooses to end Jasmine's reign based on very strong principles. But as Jasmine points out, why does he feel his principles are so important that he would take away paradise from the rest of the world?
"There are no absolutes. No right and wrong. Only choices."
Angel is confronted with the fact that very possibly there is no Higher Cause whatsoever. There might be Powers that Be but their agenda is possibly inscrutable, morally offensive, or simply different. His definition of "good" might correspond to theirs or it might not, but it's ultimately his personal choice that determines his good and evil and ultimately his trust in them or himself that guides his path (Charlemagne, 4/30/03 23:13).
The problem of evil
Is god willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god? --Epicurus
The "Problem of Evil" is a traditional argument against the existence of a Judeo-Christian conception of God. But Angel has thrown the problem up against the so-called "Powers that Be" more than once: If the PTB's are so "benevolent" and so powerful, why don't they just make the world a better place? In "Inside Out", Angel decides, with a certain amount of disgust, that the reason the Powers don't interfere is because they "don't want to get their hands dirty". In Epicurus' words, they are able but unwilling. In Jasmine's visit to Earth, Angel gets a different answer. Jasmine is both able and willing, but the cost of enforcing "peace" is too high. Angel decides that human beings must be responsible for dealing with evil themselves.
The price of freedom, the price of peace
After Angel removes Jasmine's spell, Los Angeles is thrown into chaos. It isn't a chaos that will last forever, though. It will simply take time for people to adjust to life going back to normal. But is life better or worse as a result of what Angel did? Jasmine points out that she was creating a world without the evils that plague humankind--war or disease or poverty. In response, Angel reminds her of all the evils she committed to achieve this: the rain of fire, blotting out the sun, and of course, the individual human lives she consumed to feed herself. For Jasmine, however, this is a Utilitarian trade-off. She killed thousands to bring paradise to billions.
So the question is, is such a trade-off justified? Angel doesn't think so. Because the world Jasmine is giving these "billions" is a world without freedom. Sure, the people in Jasmine's world would be able to chose what toothpaste to use and what career to pursue (among whatever careers are available in Jasmine's world), but every expression of individuality and choice would have to meet the final approval of Jasmine. Indeed, all change, all human growth and learning would have to meet the final approval of Jasmine. And the people under Jasmine's spell didn't seem all that interested in doing anything that wasn't, ultimately, about pleasing Jasmine.
What Jasmine is doing, in essence, is stepping in and "making things right" for us--according to her own standards of "right"--without us having to lift a finger to do it ourselves. And maybe that's what needs to be done, maybe human beings are incapable of making the world a good place on their own. But Angel believes they should at least be given a chance to do that. "It's our right", he says, to make the world what we decide it should be, for good or ill. Yes, free will means risking evil, but it also means that what good we do we're responsible for as well.
Jasmine thinks the result will be mostly ill. She believes that left to their own devices, humans are "doomed" to a never-ending existence of violence, poverty, and hate. She has no faith in basic human nature. Angel is not sure whether he has such faith or not, but he believes in giving the human race a chance to find out.
[F]ree will is gone. That which has made us somewhat deserving of such a paradise, our ability to choose to do right, has vanished. ...We would simply have no choice but to do good. It's not a reward; we haven't earned it. It's not a choice; we didn't make it. It's not a life; we're not the ones living it. ...A. J. Toynbee once said, "As human beings, we are endowed with freedom of choice, and we cannot shuffle off our responsibility upon the shoulders of God or nature. We must shoulder it ourselves. It is up to us." It's up to us to make the world a better place. It's up to us to decide how to live in it. It's up to us to be better than the demons and the animals. It's up to us to use our free will to do right and suffer the consequences when we do not (Josh Buckman, 5/1/2003).
Connor's existentialist crisis
Connor was conceived for a purpose. He was created by a powerful god-like entity to be her father and serve as her protector. And for a while, Connor was willing to serve this purpose. Then Angel destroyed Jasmine's power and brought back the world of free will. And Connor was given a choice--to continue to follow Jasmine, or not. And Connor made a choice. The act of "murdering god" is a symbolic existentialist act. The rejection of higher meaning gives an individual the responsibility for creating his own destiny. This is especially significant for Connor, because his whole life has been defined by others, and he can no longer ask himself if what he is doing is what Holtz would want or what Cordelia would want or what Jasmine would want. He must make his own decisions. This is something that isn't easy for anyone. But Connor more than anyone embodies what Sartre meant when he said that human beings are "condemned to freedom".
The Metaphysics of "Home"
Dead people: Lilah was stabbed to death and then decapitated, so she shouldn't be standing in the Hyperion office, head in tact. Is it really Lilah? Yes. She's got the decapitation scar, and Angel confirms her identity with his vampire nose. Nevertheless, she's still dead. Like her ex-boss Holland Manners, Lilah's contract with Wolfram and Hart extends beyond her death. Standard perpetuity clause. She's back on Earth for a brief mission--to given the Angel Investigations team an offer from the Senior Partners.
The memory/reality alteration spell: During Angel and Connor's fight in the sporting goods store, Angel pushes Connor on his back and stabs him with a knife. The knife may be acting as a talisman, activating a spell that removes all of Connor's memories of his current life, and placing him in a new life with a new set of memories. Alternatively, the spell may be triggered by blood-letting, or by Connor's physical death. After the spell, no one else remembers Connor except Angel (and Lilah). The spell does not actually change the past (i.e., it did not "undo" the events of seasons three and four), it removed Connor as an element in the gang's memories of the past two years. It also altered reality to be consistent with the new memories. Angel's spell is the opposite of the spell that gave Buffy and her friends false memories of Dawn's childhood. The Angel Investigations gang now have false memories that do not include Connor.
Unanswered question: Connor was an intrinsic participant in many of the important events of the past two years--e.g., Wesley's estrangement from the gang and subsequent descent into grayness, Cordelia's pregnancy and the rise of Jasmine. How will the gang's memories of these events and their perception of their own life choices change since they no longer remember Connor?
Cordelia is still in a coma as a result of giving birth to Jasmine, and under the care of medical and mystical specialists at the Wolfram and Hart building. If there is a way to bring her back, they'll find it.
Evil in "Home"
"Look, just because we've tried to kill or corrupt each and every one of you at one time or another doesn't mean we can't be trusted." --Lilah
Lilah and Wolfram and Hart: Wolfram and Hart have been trying to seduce Angel into make compromises with them since he first came to town (after they stopped trying to kill him, anyway). And one imagines that if they have the resources to pull together the kind of operation they showed the gang, then they aren't in any sense "defeated". So when Lilah tells them that Wolfram and Hart are "ceding" their Los Angeles branch to Angel and the gang--even as a reward for "ending world peace"--there is every reason in the world to think they are up to something. But just what is Wolfram and Hart's interest in the unique gifts that each of the Angel Investigations team holds?
Moral Ambiguity in "Home"
Connor: After killing Jasmine, Connor heads into the city, at a loss. He comes upon a man ready to end it all and talks him down. Then the man shows him a picture of his family. Connor sees it and grows angry. The man was going to leave his family. Connor beats on him. When we see him again, Connor is holding a group of people hostage in a sporting goods store. He has tied all of them, including himself and Cordelia, to explosives. Is it just a cry for help, a challenge to the one person who claims to love him, no matter what? Angel fights Connor to free the hostages, then pins him down and uses an enchanted knife to give a new start to his only son.
Connor's behavior showed what happens when existentialism is taken to nihilist extremes. He rejected all authority and connection to humanity, which left him with no place in the universe (Arethusa, 8/13/03 11:58).
The corruption of Angel Investigations?
|At first, the gang is wary of Wolfram and Hart's offer to take over their L.A. offices. Angel believes firmly that Wolfram and Hart intend to corrupt the gang, and are using this as their lure. Gunn argues that having all those resources would make their job a lot easier. Wesley points out that Wolfram and Hart have kept their end of bargains they've made with the AI team in the past. He suggests they go on the office tour with their eyes open, looking for signs that Wolfram and Hart is up to something.||
Each of gang is introduced to separate guides who show them different departments in the former offices of Wolfram and Hart, each suited to their unique areas of expertise.
Wesley is lead to a library that can give him access to the most comprehensive collection of prophecy archives anywhere. Wesley escapes his guide and sneaks into an area of the building where Wolfram and Hart still keep their corporate records. Lilah finds him there, searching through the files. She tells him that he has access to all of Wolfram and Hart's secrets there. But Wesley seems only interested in one file: her employee contract. He finds it and sets it on fire. Lilah is moved by the gesture, but it is pointless. When Wesley looks in the file drawer again, he finds the contract back in her file. He cannot change her fate.
Fred: The science division manager shows Fred their operation. The Angel and the gang could have state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge scientific research right at their fingertips. And their first assignment? Finding a way to bring Cordelia out of her coma.
Gunn is convinced he's there to be the muscle. But his guide takes him past security and into an elevator headed for the White Room. She tells him, "The answers you seek lie within the room." Gunn doesn't want to become Mesektet's replacement. And that isn't to be his fate. In the White Room, he meets Mesektet's replacement. The new "conduit" between the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram and Hart and other dimensions is a large, prowling jaguar. It stops in front of him and looks him in the eye. Gunn nods, as if the large cat has communicated something to him.
Lorne is shown a long roster of famous entertainers that the firm represents. And which firm would that be?
"People like you, this place... that's what's wrong with the world, Lilah. ...I will never be a part of this. Not the way you're hoping, at least."
Lilah tries to tempt Angel with luxuries--money, clothes, women, a fancy office. Then she tempts him with the number of lives he could save with the resources Wolfram and Hart have to offer. She shows him a file that contains information and an amulet that can aid Buffy in her fight against the First Evil. But Angel rejects Lilah's lures, and says Buffy can take care of herself. He sees Wolfram and Hart's offer as a compromise with evil. So Lilah has to find something more compelling to tempt Angel with. And she finds it--she shows Angel what despair has driven Connor to. She offers Angel the chance to help him. Angel believes that Connor will never love him, that Connor will not allow him to help him turn things back around. So Angel cuts a deal with the Senior Partners. They will help him save Connor, and in return, Angel will accept their offer of the L.A. office.
Later, the gang reassembles in the lobby to talk about their experiences. Lorne is happy with what he's seen. Gunn tells the others he's going take the offer, whether they chose to or not. Wesley agrees with some reluctance that there is a great deal they could accomplish with the resources available in this office. Fred is still uncertain. Then Angel arrives and tells them he took the offer already on their behalf.
"We'[ve] put the characters in a new situation, both financially and physically. It's all about us saying, 'OK, you've been on the Greenpeace ship saying, " Hey, Shell Oil is bad." What happens if you actually have to go work for Shell Oil? What happens if you had to be on the inside...?" (David Greenwalt [consulting producer], March 25 10:00 PM)
"[O]ne thing that Angel is learning is how ineffective he is. He's been sitting in a raft in the middle of the Atlantic protesting the oil tankers. He can't save Connor on his own. He can't bring about World Peace. He can't save Cordy. He can't save everyone. Taking over Wolfram and Hart gives him greater resources to do what he wants. He knows what temptations lay ahead of him, but with his eyes open, maybe he can do some real good." (Diana, 2003-08-18 17:52).
Ethical Quandaries in "Home"
Did Angel make the right decision regarding Connor?
Connor's never known anything but fear and pain. The love he thought he had from Holtz and Jasmine was a lie. And finally, he just stop feeling anything but rage and hate. If he had not been given his new life, he would have had to be locked up and restrained in a padded cell to keep from killing himself or others, possibly for decades. Fred was able to recover from her demon dimension, but she had a stable and loving background to help her survive and recover. Connor had nothing. [Connor's] feelings towards his father were so filled with anger and resentment that there was nothing Angel could do to help him. So Angel gave him one more lie to live with, but this lie saves his life (5/08/03 8:18).
...[Angel] made a deal with the devil and he-and we-lost the boy we loved. But he made that choice for Connor, to give the boy love and peace and happiness. Not fake Jasmine happiness-the real kind. ...What he did was no better or worse than giving up Connor for adoption as a baby (retroactively), to give him a chance at a good life (8/06/03 20:51).
...Who wouldn't give up their child to give him happiness, love and a future? ...Angel gave up his only chance to be called Dad.... Instead, he gave a family to his son.
I'm going to miss Angel and Darla's son. Good-bye, dear boy (Arethusa, 5/08/03 8:18).
"You can't be saved by a lie." --Connor, "Peace Out"
I don't see it as some noble sacrifice on Angel's part or an act of great love, it just feels like he's given up on him. ...With all the resources he's tapped into at W&H I'm sure he could have found away to bring Connor back from the brink, to really show him that he is loved and wanted, to show him that the world can be beautiful and gentle, to get him the help he would need to help him through. Instead, all he's given Connor is another lie and in doing so has given himself a get-out from actually really, truly saving a soul. He can just get into his usual mode of sorrow and self-pity without actually having to get his hands dirty (metaphorically) by doing the really nitty-gritty, tough task of caring for another, broken, human being (5/08/03 7:15:07).
[H]e would have a chance to really learn what love and intimacy is. That it's about patience and hard work and being willing to risk the pain. Love=Sacrifice doesn't IMO, mean that you let someone go, it means sacrificing your fears, being willing to be vulnerable, really taking on board and helping to work through the other person's pain. Not shipping them off with a quick fix. That's not real sacrifice that's a cop-out (5/14/03 11:03).
What are [ME] actually saying? That that some people's lives have just been so bad that all you can do is give up on them and just give them a fantasy life? There are many young people Connor's age around the world who've lived most of their lives through wars and abuse and extreme hardship, but with love and caring and patience and the willingness of other people to actually get in there and do the hard and difficult work, they can come through (yabyumpan, 5/08/03 7:15:07).
Philosophies Represented in "Home"
Who is Connor Now?
All indications are that Angel killed Connor, thus fulfilling the prophecy, "The father will kill the son". But Angel's knife didn't kill Connor so much as it killed the boy he had become as a result of the life Holtz had given him. Which raises a question: who is Connor now? He no longer has memories of Quortoth, of returning to Earth, of Angel or Jasmine. Instead, he has new memories of a life he never really lived--well, not until the spell Angel invoked placed him in that life. If memories are what make us the people that we are, then Connor isn't the same person we knew; that person is for all intents and purposes dead. In fact, since no one but Angel (and Lilah) can remember the person he used to be, it is as if that Connor never existed at all.
But the body of Connor remains, looking the same as it ever did, and therefore, presumably, he is still the genetic offspring of Angel and Darla. Does this boy have vampire-like strength and senses? This is unknown. Is it possible for him to regain the memory of his real past? Also unknown. All we know for certain is that the Connor we knew is gone.