FEATURE: Angel - Parting Gifts
Previously on Angel: Angel's friend Doyle was gifted with visions that allowed him to find people in need. However, Doyle has sacrificed himself to save Angel, Cordy and a host of benevolent demons from the Scourge, but not before kissing Cordy and seemingly passing something to her.
Following Doyle's death, both Angel and Cordelia are dealing with his loss in different ways. Angel attempts to bargain with the Oracles in an attempt to get his friend back, citing that he needs Doyle's visions in order to proceed on his quest. They assure him that Doyle's noble death has to stand but that "when one door closes, another one opens." Back at HQ, he's approached by an empath demon named Barney who seems to have a mysterious figure chasing him, a leather-clad motorbike riding figure to be more precise. Angel agrees to help and Barney lies low at the office. Meanwhile, Cordelia is out for an audition when she is hit by a vision and suddenly the Oracles' meaning becomes clear for Angel.
I used to think of this episode as a bit of a throwaway one in the aftermath of Doyle's passing, one that is designed to introduce Wesley as the new player in the Angel game and move him into place accordingly. On this rewatch though, I realise that's doing this episode a real disservice because it becomes the very embodiment of "don't judge a book by its cover." This is cleverly layered in from the start with Cordelia's appraisal of Doyle's character as a layabout without much worth who then proves it by saving everyone's lives. There's also Barney, an empath demon who can feel beyond the surface emotions everyone is projecting and find the truth in how they are actually feeling.
Of course, it goes further with Barney because he's the episode's bad guy but spends two-thirds of it under Angel's protection, trying to use him to take out the demon hunter chasing him. The demon hunter appears in shadow or in brief close-ups, stalking his prey with what feels like a cruel efficiency. Only to be revealed to be... Wesley. Angel quickly sees through his more macho leather-clad appearance and we're soon back to the nervous, posturing Wesley we're used to. The moment Angel swipes the crossbow out of Wesley's hands is just perfect.
The episode layers these kinds of switcheroos all the way through it. We go from believing the motorbike guy is the story's bad guy through to the Kungai demon looking like that's the foe, only he proves to be just as much of a victim as everyone else. That it's sadsack Barney whose about to harvest Cordelia's eyes is cleverly hidden. It's one of those instalments that constantly keeps you on your toes and is much more than simply re-introducing Wesley to the Buffyverse. We also get another brief glimpse of Wolfram & Hart; one of their lawyers is the final bidder for Cordelia's eyes at the auction. When the auction goes south and Angel arrives, we overhear her phone call and it's clear from her oblique reference to him that Angel remains on their radar.
I'm not sure many shows handle a regular cast change-up with the adroitness that Angel manages here. The grieving process for Doyle fuels a lot of the episode, but it never holds it back from embracing the new. Cordelia is now having the visions that made Doyle initially vital to the team (even if she doesn't want them badly enough to kiss everyone she comes across in the city) and Wesley is invited to join them by the end of the episode. There's little ceremony here, but Doyle's death was grand enough. Now, the team rebuilds.
Quote of the Week:
Wesley: I'm a rogue demon hunter now.
Cordelia: Wow! What's a 'rogue demon'?
Inventive Kill: Cordy bags her first demon! She staked a vampire back in her Buffy dies but now she can add Barney to her list.
Let's Get Trivial: The Korean scenes are probably not going to win any awards for their authenticity. Angel's Korean is, in fact, gibberish with subtitles whilst the lady nursing the Kungai demon speaks sort of Korean, but with a terrible accent. Soon is the only one in the scene who manages to speak the language.
LA Who's Who: This marks the last appearance of Glenn Quinn in the main credits. Sob.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Hero, here.