FEATURE: Angel - She
Previously on Angel: Cordy's got a nice new flat and it's haunted, but with a nice ghost. Wesley's now hanging around and helping it out when he can. Angel's finding this whole interacting with humans thing a little hard to handle.
Cordelia's housewarming party gives us a brief insight into Angel's lack of social skills, Wesley's even worse and Phantom Dennis is still awesome. Realising that Wesley's hanging around because he needs a job, Angel welcomes him as an associate in the Investigations and he's on hand as Cordy has a vision of a man being burned alive from the inside out. Complete with exploding eyeballs. Yum. Angel finds himself in the middle of a transdimensional battle, aiding the demon princess Jhiera, who is attempting to free the women of her world, kept as slaves by men, who perform an operation equivalent to a lobotomy to ensure the women remain well-behaved.
Angel has already shown on several occasions so far that is a willingness to take on some of the darker aspects of life than Buffy could do with its lighter fare and She is a classic example of this. In its exploration of female slavery and mutilation at the hands of men, it continues the feminist slant of its sister show, but with more intent to explore the violence of it (though Buffy would tackle this later on). Jhiera's quest to free the women of her society is a fierce cry of independence follows nicely on from last week's exploration of female body violation in Expecting. Like Cordelia's experience, women are abused by the men of their race, forced into subservience.
The men of her race remove the part of the woman's body that controls their desires and sexual power in order to more subdue them and keep them in their subservient place in society. The parallels to Female Genital Mutilation, an ongoing issue in our own society. Not only is there a physical destruction, but also one of identity as the women who have undergone the procedure refer to themselves as "it" once their bodies have been violated and they have become more malleable. Their sense of self is lost in the process. It's not a graphic horror in this episode, but it's an insidious one and sadly something that remains just as relevant to the way in which women are treated in our own society.
The balance of the darker elements of the episode are met with some great moments of levity. Not only does Angel give a little speech on Manet's La Musique, he also hints that he is the eponymous creature in Baudelaire's Le Vampire, part of his collection Les Fleurs du mal. I love little references to what Angel got up to during his time as a vampire and it's always amusing when he gets to show off his considerable arts knowledge. This is especially amusing when contrasted to his sheer inability to use mobile phones. However, the crowning comedy moment has to be Angel and Wesley's imagined and real dancing skills respectively. It's just glorious. And I love that we got the end credits too.
With the now solid three member team of Angel Investigations, it's fitting that Wesley's first episode actually employed is such a good one. The writing team of Noxon and Greenwalt write a screenplay that sparkles with characteristic wit but also with an incisive exploration of violence against women. It's helped by a fierce performance from Bai Ling as Jhiera, one of the more memorable additions to the guest characters. I also like that she isn't given any leeway by Angel, despite the obvious support he has for her cause; you don't kill innocent people on Angel's turf, nor do you let his friends die.
It's a great little episode, this one, full to the brim of ideas, anger and charm. Not only do we get an allegory of the way in which women can be controlled and harmed by their own society, but also a look at Angel's code of conduct when it comes to his friend. Oh, and Wesley and Angel's dancing of course. Who could forget that?
Quote of the Week:
Cordelia [to Angel]: I was so glad you came. You know how parties are? You're always worried that no one's gonna suck the energy out of the room like a giant black hole of boring despair. But, there you were in a clinch!
Inventive Kill: Incinerated from the inside out, leading to inadvertent popping of the eyeballs. They didn't show that on Channel 4 back in the day.
LA Who's Who: This episode marks the second appearance of Sean Gunn.
You can read Becky's look at the previous episode, Expecting, here.