FEATURE: Angel - Somnambulist
Previously on Angel: Angel is still haunted by the crimes he committed in his alter-ego state as the infamous vampire, Angelus. Wesley is now residing in LA after he was fired from the Watcher's Council and wishes to help out with Angel Investigations.
Angel's having nightmares about draining victims in LA and carving a Christian cross into their left cheek. It turns out that there just happens to be a serial killer doing the exact same thing and Kate is on the case. On his return to the office, Wesley notices the connection between the serial killer's modus operandi and that of the seventeenth century Angelus. Angel's spotted it too and upon realising that Angel is somehow committing the crimes in his sleep, they realise that it's the work of a vampire he sired back in the day, keen to relive their life of murderous crime together. With Kate on the case too, it's not long before she discovers the truth about Angel.
I feel like there needs to be some kind of health warning in any episodes where Angelus' Irish accent is deployed. Doubly so for this episode when Jeremy Renner is acting English. It's not quite on the Keanu Reeves in Dracula end of the Bad Accent spectrum, or indeed Angelus', but it's thankfully brief at its most potent and weirdly Transatlantic for the rest of the episode. He's a decent guest star, but nothing memorable, mainly because he's playing a caricature of Angelus, rather than a character of his own, which is kind of the point. I also like that he had no idea about Angel's curse, which suggests he was a pet project of Angelus' outside of the central crew of Darla, Drusilla and the Master, suffering an inferiority complex forever as a result.
After Parting Gifts, this episode becomes a reaffirmation of the show's structure. There's no mention of Doyle and the focus moves away from the team and back in on Angel himself. It's a key episode in terms of his relationship with Kate, transforming their relationship entirely now that she knows the truth. That's the big plot development here, but the episode suffers from treading over old ground too much in order to move the show on from the fairly big change that resulted from Doyle's death.
There have been a lot of references to Angelus throughout this series and in Angel's appearance on sister show Buffy in Amends when everyone keeps asking if he's evil again. There's a nice reminder of it here, not in the flashbacks, but in Kate's profile of the serial killer, overlaid with Angel wandering through LA trying to figure out how to stop Penn. Angelus is something he has to live with and something that becomes increasingly important to his fight across the five seasons of his own show. But it's the same message we've had again and again throughout the season.
It's here where the first season shows the cracks in its quality, never really having any thematic resonance beyond that. Even the idea that fuelled a couple of the early episodes, that the monsters of LA were the equivalent to the torment of being an adult, is a retread of the Buffy formula that quickly gets forgotten over the course of the episode. The Shanshu Prophecy is, of course, on the horizon and Wolfram & Hart are lurking in the background, but this is still a show searching for its own identity and not quite succeeding just yet.
Quote of the Week:
Wesley: No sign of any vampire attack... [gets grabbed by Penn] Which is maybe because he's here and has me by the throat.
Inventive Kill: Kate bags her first vamp, stabbing a huge piece of wood through Angel, missing his heart but impaling Penn's.
LA Who's Who: I can't not put Jeremy Renner in this little section. Since his brief appearance in Angel, he's gone on to an Oscar nomination, appearing as an Avenger and saying douchey sexist things to the press. So, that's nice. He also goes on to appear alongside Elizabeth Rohm (Kate) in American Hustle, playing husband and wife.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Parting Gifts, here.