FEATURE: Angel - I've Got You Under My Skin
Previously on Angel: Angel Investigations now consists of the Dark Avenger himself, Wesley and Cordelia, but the ghost (not literal ghost) of Doyle hangs over the three of them.
After Cordelia has a vision of a suburban home and a young boy, Angel and Wesley head over to the address just in time for Angel to save the boy, Ryan, from being run over by a car. Wesley does a little investigating whilst Angel is with the family and discovers the luminescent bodily excretions (yum) of an Ethros demon, which is possessing one of the family. The gang spring into action, discovering that it's Ryan who is possessed, not the father as initially suspected. They decide an exorcism is the only way to go. However, as events take their course, it turns out that the demon might not be the biggest foe they have to face this week.
I've Got You Under My Skin marks another move into the darker territory that previous episode She explored, the whole episode defined by a deeply ominous quality from the moment of Cordelia's vision. It's probably the most full tilt that the series has so far gone into horror and the possession aspect of the story allows it liberally reference one of the pinnacles of the genre in The Exorcist. There are little nods, like Cordelia's fear that everything was about to get really vomity, to the wider themes of the episode; family and the traumas that they both suffer and inflict.
For Angel, it's means of working through his grief surrounding Doyle and his empathy for Mr Anderson, the family patriarch, trying to desperately keep their family together despite the odd occurrences and violence that follows them around. There are the first hints towards Wesley's troubled relationship with his father through a brief line he has about fathers terrorising their children and it's something the demon uses against him during the exorcism. And it establishes that Wesley is prepared to kill Angel if he needs to, something which the vampire acknowledges is a good thing. Hey, we've all seen what he gets like.
The great twist in the episode, of course, is that the demon isn't the one everyone should be worrying about, but Ryan himself (a Whedon addition, reportedly). It's a really clever feint, especially the reveal that the demon was trying to get Ryan to kill himself in order to save those around him. When a soulsucking demon wants someone dead, they're probably not very nice. And so it proves when Ryan attempts to set fire to his sister whilst his parents are locked in their room. All of the work that his father had done to try and keep Ryan safe, protect him from the horrendous acts that have been committed, is undone by virtue of the demon escaping and Ryan being allowed to cut free.
It gives the episode a bleak message; some people simply can't be saved. Just as with Doyle, who willingly sacrificed himself and could never have been saved by Angel, Ryan isn't to be redeemed here. That's where the horror comes from in this episode. Although the score is wonderfully ominous and the atmosphere created by director RD Price and Jeannine Renshaw's script is fantastic, it's the simple, horrifying thought of powerlessness that defines the episode.
I've Got You Under My Skin should feel like another filler episode and indeed starts off that way, but the marriage between the episode's plot and themes is perhaps one of the best so far and a real statement of darker intent. Ryan may have been taken into custody to get the help that's needed, but there feels like no real resolution simply because the bad guy here is just a little boy, not someone Angel can sink an axe into.
Angel was always advertised as grimmer than its Sunnydale-based relative, but it gets fun when the show fully embraces that.
Quote of the Week:
Angel: [Cordelia's] making brownies.
Wesley: Oh is that what I smell? I thought I tracked something in...
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, She, here.