FEATURE: Angel - Eternity
Previously on Angel: The gang found out first hand what it was like when Angelus got free after Angel experienced a moment of true happiness back in their Sunnydale days. He's not the kind of guy you want to party with.
After Angel and Wesley endure one of Cordelia's stage "performances" (you'll never look at Ibsen the same way again), the vampire with the soul of gold, saves the life of a considerably more famous and more talented actress, Rebecca Lowell. He naturally refuses any sort of payment for his services, but Rebecca returns, tasking Angel to help her out with a stalker issue she's been having. He's reluctant to take the case, much to Cordelia's annoyance, as he's attracted to her, but his natural heroic ways get in the way. However, little does he realise how affected Rebecca is by her flagging career and the lengths to which she'll go to save it, unleashing someone everyone would rather have kept hidden.
Eternity is one of the most memorable episodes in the first season run, a keen examination of isolation and desperation with a 'be careful what you wish for' kicker at the end. Like the other good episodes here, it focuses on the way in which the case affects one of our central characters and it's Angel's turn in the spotlight once again. Every now and again during this show, it likes to reacquiant us of the stakes (pun intended) of his battle against evil and, more importantly, his battle against himself.
We haven't seen the most recent version of Angelus proper since Becoming and Eternity offers up a timely reminder of just how sadistic and horrible Angel's alter-ego is. The episode does it very cleverly; as Angel succumbs to the drug Rebecca gives him, he gradually gets a little more mean before unleashing completely as Angel loses control. When he forcefeeds blood to Rebecca, it feels like a huge violation, not only of Rebecca, but also the audience, unprepared as we are for the arrival of Angelus.
It helps that, even if you've only started watching Angel rather than following Buffy, the cast completely sell the danger of the situation. Boreanaz's performances as Angelus have always been great, but the physical change here is extraordinary; he suddenly looms over everything rather than maintaining Angel's rather hunched presence. Even the slight change in vocal pitch is freaky. It's left with Carpenter to call back to Buffy as Cordy is the only character in this show that has firsthand experience of what Angelus is capable of. Her facing up to him is a brilliant character moment, as well as demonstrating how prepared she is should the worst happen again.
The rest of the episode deals with more universal matters of ageing and relevance as Rebecca's plan to become a vampire is entirely down to her desire to remain youthful enough for her career. The treatment of women in the entertainment industry is an even hotter topic now than it was back in the day as more and more women speak out about some of the horrific treatment they've received or how it makes them feel. Tamara Gorski puts in a solid performance as the desperate, lonely actress and sparks well with Boreanaz to make her one of the more memorable guest stars. You also forget how slimy Michael Mantell is as the Hollywood agent (last seen in City Of trying to land Angel as a client).
However, even though it is but a brief appearance from the monster with the angelic face, it's a memorable one and a keen reminder of the danger that Angel is placed in every day. Not only that, but the danger for those around him too.
Quote of the Week:
Angel [chained to the bed]: So, we're ok then?
Cordelia: I'm too big a person to let something so petty get in the way of our friendship.
Angel: I appreciate that. You're going to untie me, are you?
Cordelia: Pfffft. [She leaves]
Angel: Wesley? Cordelia? ...Guys?
Let's Get Trivial: Rebecca's mansion is the same location used for Lady Gaga's Poker Face video.
Demonology 101: Initially, the episode was simply supposed to focus on Rebecca and be a standard client-of-the-week type deal. It was Joss Whedon who decided that it should have the Angelus spin on it, thus providing the more emotional core that was needed. It is the evil vampire's penultimate appearance in the television Buffyverse.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, The Ring, here.