FEATURE: Angel - Untouched
Previously on Angel: Darla's been resurrected by Wolfram & Hart to torment Angel in his dreams and also being weirdly touchy-feely in real life whilst he's asleep. The gang have moved into the Hyperion Hotel and Gunn's been helping the guys out with a few cases.
As Cordy and Wes debate whether Angel should give Gunn a job, the vampire is having another one of his sex dreams with Darla. She's slowly starting to affect him more and more and the gang are starting to notice their boss' odd sleeping habits. Then, Cordy has a vision of a girl in trouble, but when Angel arrives, the would-be attackers have been squashed and it looks like Bethany, the girl in question, may have done it with her telekinetic powers. Lilah's been attempting to convert her into one of Wolfram & Hart's assassins, but she didn't factor on Angel getting involved.
After the sort-of awkward racial politics at play in First Impressions, Untouched is a slightly more nuanced exploration of sexual abuse and the trauma that can result from it. It's a tale of an abused young woman attempting to recover from her trauma with the help of Angel. At the heart of it is her power of telekinesis, tied intrinsically to her abuse. The scene in which she realises she can control her power, by wrapping the scarf around him, is a key moment in her allowing her to get over her trauma.
The central story is a woman finding her autonomy and I love that it is Cordelia who sits her down to tell Bethany that she has her own power to find. Cordy has long been the stereotypical bitch though the writers have always peeled back her various layers to reveal someone more human underneath. That she's now the one sitting with a young woman and offering her advice is a lovely moment for a character whose initial role was simply to be a rival for Buffy and a minor human antagonist. Like Angel's character, Cordelia really flourishes away from the Sunnydale setting in these first couple of seasons and this is a nice little moment for her development.
The episodes of Angel where they reach for something darker are always fascinating, even if it's not always successful. There are some pretty interesting things going on about sexual manipulation and abuse, though the episode draws only subtle links between Angel's situation and Bethany's when the connection could, and perhaps should, have been made more obvious.
It also happens to be a good combination of how Angel is developing its usual plot structures. You've got the case of the week in Bethany, allowing them to help the hopeless as per their remit, the meddling of Wolfram & Hart continuing, and the ongoing arc with Angel and Darla, a relationship stretching back beyond Buffy days. Although it doesn't quite balance it out as well as it perhaps could, leaving the atmosphere a bit flat, it's a lot more assured than the series was in the first season and a sign of its growing maturity.
Quote of the Week:
Cordelia: You are such a sheep! You've never had a single opinion that you didn't read in a book.
Wesley: At least I've opened a book.
Cordelia: Oh, don't even try with the snooty, woolly boy. I was top ten percent of my class!
Wesley: What class? Advanced Bosoms?!
Let's Get Trivial: This is the only episode directed by Joss Whedon that he didn't also write. It was written by Mere Smith, who would become a main writer for the rest of the series.
Inventive Kill: Bethany uses a dumpster to pin two guys against a wall and squish them to death with her telekinetic powers.
You can catch Becky's look at the previous episode, First Impressions, here.