FEATURE: Angel - Expecting
Previously on Angel: Cordelia moved to LA to begin an acting career, but was stymied by her lack of talent and everything going a bit wrong. She's got the apartment down, but since Doyle's death, she's yet to get back on her dating game. And she's not dating Wesley. We know how that went down.
Cordelia's starting to get a hold of her LA life, gathering a group of friends and heading out on a hot date with Wilson Christopher, man about town and general studmuffin. She brings him back to her apartment, Phantom Dennis does the protective ghost bit and then she sleeps with Wilson. And then she wakes up to find she's pregnant. And not just a little bit pregnant. Full term, about to pop demon spawn pregnant. Wesley and Angel immediately spring into action to work out whether Wilson is a parasitic procreating demon or if something bigger turns out to be behind it. Meanwhile, Cordelia's maternal instinct kicks in and she decides she's going to her babies no matter what.
Originally, Tim Minear wanted to play the episode from a more comedic angle, but Whedon insisted on playing it straight so it goes for more of a body horror angle. It's basically the bit in The Fly when Geena Davis realises she could be giving birth to a weird human/fly hybrid and has the nightmare about giving birth to a giant larva manifested in one episode. They even manage to work an Alien reference in there with some floor-melting acid for amniotic fluid. It's also sort of where the episode doesn't quite work.
There's still a few bits in there that are played a little too silly to fit in with the straighter horror angle they were going for. Cordy drinking blood out of the fridge and grossing out Angel is still played for laughs when it could've been made a lot freakier. The actual gory horror of the episode, where you think the scares would take hold, is marginal, leaving it more to the audience's imagination and without anything majorly graphic. The thing is, with body horror, that graphic quality is what you need. You need to see the demonic babies inside Cordelia and freak out with Wesley. Normally I'd advocate the power of suggestion over most things, but it doesn't really work here.
There is one bit of the psychological horror aspect that does land and it's in the way in which the women are impregnated. The idea of a group of predatory males using their powers to seduce women is horrible (anyone who has ever been to a nightclub has seen this happen. I've even been circled before. Men are weird, guys). It's especially nasty in a world where pick-up artistry is a thing that has events and gathers men around to share secrets on how to seduce women. They're usually led by a vaguely demonic looking man too, so it's an idea that works all round.
There's also the idea of how invasive these men are within the lives of the women they sleep with. Cordy's despair at waking up to discover she's pregnant is heartbreaking, made even moreso by the knowledge that she's still only supposed to be 18/19 at this point. She's a character that's gone through a lot already and she's someone we no longer want to see suffer, such is the power of Charisma Carpenter's performance and the writing that took her on this journey. The scene isn't played with Cordelia's usual over-emotive hysteria either; it's just a simple, weighty despair.
Another mixed bag of an episode then and one which never quite knows which way it's supposed to be going. However, all is redeemed with that final scene in which Cordelia acknowledges that Wesley and Angel are the two people to whom she can trust her life. It's a really adorable moment, especially with how they're both fussing over her to make sure that she's ok, but it's also an important one. The characters really do feel settled and more like the family dynamic we're used to from Buffy; Wesley and Angel have their own little nerdy demon hunter dynamic going on now too.
Quote of the Week:
Wilson: You shouldn't sneak up on people like that in here. That's how accidents happen.
Angel: Speaking of accidents, I'm a friend of Cordelia Chase.
Wilson: This is a private club. Featured word: private.
Angel: Hey, you don't talk to me, I'll kick your ass. Featured word: ass.
LA Who's Who: You may recognise Ken Marino, Cordelia's baby daddy, from such things as Role Models and Wet Hot American Summer.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Somnambulist, here.