FEATURE: Angel - The Bachelor Party
Previously on Angel: Doyle's half demon who gets green and spiky in his demonic form, but he hasn't told Cordelia yet, despite having a massive crush on her. Angel is still mourning the demise of his relationship with Buffy.
After Cordelia's rich, handsome and very boring date runs away from a vampire attack on them both, Doyle jumps in and saves the day, leading Sunnydale's former queen into re-assessing her pre-formed opinions of her colleague. She starts to take a shine to him whilst his crush on her continues unabated, but everything is paused when Doyle's ex-wife, Harrie, comes to town. She's about to get re-married and needs Doyle's signature on the divorce papers for everything to continue. Angel finds out that Richard, Harry's fiance, is a demon, but one which is living peacefully amongst humanity. However, when Doyle is invited to the bachelor party, it turns out he's not there just to give his blessing, but also to have his brains eaten by the bridegroom. As you do.
After the last episode, Sense and Sensivity, started to give us a little insight into Doyle's past, The Bachelor Party dives straight in with his young marriage, previous employment as a third grade teacher and his work at a soup kitchen. It turns out that, not only did Cordelia have little understanding of her colleague's past, but so did we. Glen Quinn shines throughout the episode, going from his usual self-deprecating schtick to handling the emotional moments well; the whole scene where he finds out about the upcoming nuptials is played beautifully. Also, the Doyle-cam idea of whirling around with him when he's trapped inside the box at the bachelor party itself is a great idea and watching Quinn's facial expressions is very funny.
The episode also offers a little glimpse into what it must be like to live as a demon in a world where, traditionally speaking, demons are to be feared, hunted or killed. Doyle's reaction to finding out that he's a demon is to hide it, to save himself from prejudice and the potential violence that might result. He continues to shake off his true, green and spiky visage even though it makes him stronger and keeps Cordelia in the dark about it (this leads to a great moment where she unknowingly beats the crap out of him with a silver tray). Having this insight broadens the show's world a little and starts to build that demonic hierarchy that becomes an increasing element of both Angel and Buffy. Evil isn't so easily spotted, nor are good people always human shaped.
That idea of integration and the difficulties that arrive from it underpin a lot of the comedy moments in the episode, as well as some of the more emotional scenes. Harrie's a great character, a human who finds herself fascinated by the demonic world around her to the extent that she studies it academically, whilst never quite successfully navigating the racial tensions that arise from Richard's family. When she gets angry with Richard for sticking to archaic tradition in trying to eat Doyle's brains, his brother declares her to be a racist, despite her request being a more than reasonable one.
The episode doesn't quite fire as much as it should do with such a rich thematic opportunity. Not enough is made of the ridiculousness of traditions that both humans and demons cling to here. The sheer absurdity of a bachelor party or a wedding shower doesn't really come under as much scrutiny and yes they aren't as outwardly bizarre as eating the first husband's brain, but the parallels are there to be made. The comment about the stripper is probably the closest we get to any kind of finger-pointing at our own bizarre rituals.
The Bachelor Party isn't the strongest of episodes, but it does have some nice moments in it and does a lot to develop our understanding of Doyle, soon to be sadly Whedoned out of the show. The next two episodes are an emotional rollercoaster, so please prepare for a whole lot of tears and mourning.
Quote of the Week:
Brother Straley [after Harrie leaves Richard]: You don't need her anyway.
Party Attendee: Yeah, who wants a wife whose knees only bend the one way?
LA Who's Who: Carlos Jacott, here appearing as Harry's future husband, is a serial Whedonverse guest star, appearing Firefly's pilot episode and in Buffy as Ken in Anne. He's one of only five actors to appear in all three shows.
The Sunnydale Connection: The vision that Doyle has at the end of this episode is taken from the cold open of Buffy's next episode, Pangs, in which Angel makes an appearance to protect Buffy from the danger that the vision warns of.
You can see Becky's look at previous episode, Sense and Sensitivity, here.