FEATURE: Angel - The Prodigal
Previously on Angel: Wesley's working for Angel Investigations now and Angel has carved out a troublesome relationship with Kate, a detective with the LAPD who has a difficult relationship with her father. Angel's human self, Liam, had a bad one with his own father, killing his family once he became Angelus after being turned by Darla.
It's all about the daddy issues in this episode as the title suggests, opening with a scene back in 18th century Ireland between pre-vampire Angel - Liam - and his father before cutting ahead to our current Angel battling a demon. There's an encounter with Kate and her father, it all gets a little awkward and the vampire slinks off to try and work out what the demon is doing. It turns out it's a largely peaceful demon and Angel needs to find out why it attacked the train when it's usually the demon equivalent of a kitten. As he digs deeper, it turns out that Kate's father might be involved somewhere along the line, dealing demonic drugs disguised as auto parts.
This episode should probably come with an advanced "David Boreanaz does his Irish accent again" warning, but it's interesting to delve back into the past we hear about much more than we see (probably due to aforementioned accent). The episode pulls off the clever move of combining the Buffy episode Becoming flashbacks and new ones that expand upon those stories, namely the slaughter of Angel's family at his own hand. It's a grisly reminder of everything our hero has to atone for and where it all began, as well as how he got his nickname; his sister believes him to be a returning angel. It also brings back Darla, which is always a good thing (and who becomes increasingly important as the series goes on).
For both Kate and Angel, their respective relationships helped shape who they are as people/vampires; for Kate, she became a cop in order to try and win the respect that was denied to her by Trevor after her mother died. For Angel, it's about defying his father in death as he did in life, destroying what he loves. Weaving them together makes the themes of the episode thuddingly transparent and with all the subtly of a brick through a window, but daddy issues are never really an understated thing to deal with.
It doesn't help that Kate is still such a non-character, originally introduced as an unknowing human element in LA and as a potential love interest for Angel. That didn't really work out so she got her daddy issues back story. But that's all there really is to her character at this point; resentment towards Angel and her father. The episode advances her acceptance of the supernatural side of the city, but without that audience connection to her, it's tough to really care. She keeps wandering into situations she doesn't really understand, waiting for Angel to come and get her out of it. She may be able to kick ass, but it's hard to feel for a character that feels a far cry from the energy and subversion of the Buffyverse women we're used to.
As such, it's one of those episodes where the B plot tends to be a little more fun. Cordelia's decided to fit a security system in the offices to guard them against demons entering the property whenever they feel like it. Wesley and Angel aren't fussed, but eventually Cordelia gets it in place... just in time for a demon attack. How it warns them? It lets them know which door has been opened. As the fight ensues around the office, Cordelia looks despairingly on as invading demons are announced with "The left door is ajar" and Angel defenestrating one to the narration of "The window is open." It may just be one scene, but it's a moment of much needed levity in a grimdark episode.
You know it's probably not going to be the best episode when Angel gets his Irish accent on, but The Prodigal is serviceable enough for what it wants to do. If it hadn't been for Cordelia's security woes, I might not have been so forgiving of it though. It's just a bit dull.
Quote of the Week:
Angel: No, this is strictly recon. I need to know exactly what we're dealing with before we make any moves.
Wesley: Right you are! A deliberate, cautious approach would be the most sensible plan. Fools rush in.
Cordelia: No, he wants you to stay here.
Inventive Kill: Kate bags another vampire by shooting him in the shoulder to distract him and staking him before he realises she knows what she's doing.
LA Who's Who: The barmaid who points out Liam to Darla would be one Christina Hendricks, marking her first appearance in the Whedonverse before going on to become our infamous Mrs Reynolds in Firefly.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, I've Got You Under My Skin, here.