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Angel: Are You Now or Have You Ever Been

Wesley: "I've been accused of a great many things in my time, but paranoid has never been one of them. Unless people have been saying it behind my back."

Of course, the title was a reference to the McCarthy era question, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" Angel's investigation of the deserted Hyperion Hotel in the Heart of Hollywood included long flashbacks to the 1950s, with all of the 1950s prejudices and paranoia thrown in (the black family being turned away at the desk, the gay couple in the hallway, the writer accused of being a red). We had a bit of Ghostbusters, a bit of Imitation of Life (which was about passing as white), and a LOT of the 1955 classic movie, Rebel Without a Cause.

I'm a movie buff; I was in Los Angeles last week interviewing for a job. One of the first touristy places I visited was the Griffith Observatory where they shot several scenes in Rebel Without a Cause. And I was delighted to see that outdoor scene in this episode where Angel had a conversation with Judy... was at the Griffith Observatory! (Now if only I had gone there a few weeks ago, and at night...) For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, we had (1) Angel wearing a white tee-shirt and a red windbreaker, like James Dean did in most of this movie (the hair was much the same, too); (2) "Judy" was also the name of the Natalie Wood character, and the actress who played Judy resembled Natalie Wood and had her hair done the same way; (3) in the movie and the episode, there was a show in the planetarium where the world ended; and (4) the James Dean character was seriously alienated and alone and in a new place, and somehow managed to connect with Natalie Wood, who was also alienated and alone. Ditto Angel and Judy.

Angel was closed in and introverted during the flashbacks; he even creeped out the bellhop. At one point Judy said, "I'm not one thing or the other – I'm nothing." And Angel replied, "I know what that's like." Angel and Judy were both half one thing and half another, belonging nowhere. Judy's death at the end was quite touching.

This was a fascinating glimpse of Angel's past, with the intimation that if things hadn't gone so wrong, this might have been Angel's turning point – 1952 instead of 1996.

So now the new gang headquarters is the Heebie-Jeebie Hotel. What are they going to do with 68 rooms?

Bits and pieces:

— That effect of Angel hanging in the lobby was awesome. Very well done.

— The Thesselak paranoia demon sounded like Foghorn Leghorn to me.

— I loved the cinnamon Cordelia put in Angel's A poz.

— Was Cordy wearing a shirt made out of a Twister game?

— Interesting that Wesley and Gunn don't seem to be getting along. Not a surprise, though; that relationship just screams of conflict possibilities. I hope they follow through with that. I'll bet they do.


Angel: "I, um, I think its gone bad. It's starting to coagulate."
Cordelia: "Huh? No. That's cinnamon. What, I can't try something?"

Wesley: "Well. Now we know one thing for certain."
Cordelia: "Yup. It's not that vampires don't photograph, it's just that they don't photograph well."

Cordelia: "I for one will be glad to see the last of this place. Gives me the heebie jeebies."
Gunn: "No lie. Plus it kind of got an odor to it. You notice that?"
Cordelia: "Seventy years of violence, mayhem and paranoia. Bad vibes."
Angel: "We're moving in."
Cordelia: "I mean, a few throw pillows, what's not to love?"

Was this one a four? I haven't given Angel episodes many fours as yet, but this was an excellent episode and I think it deserved it. And I loved that whole thing with Rebel Without a Cause and the Griffith Observatory tie-in. Okay, four it is,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. Angel was lucky the rope wasn't too long. If it is, instead of hanging the person, it can decapitate them.

  2. Thanks Billie for the "Rebel without a cause" part. At the risk of nitpicking...Judy was in the hotel all along and the police declared her missing? And how did she survive if she never left the hotel...? Ah well! Oh and the blood with cinnamon was O+ve. I know... I am a nit picker(if thats even a word) :(

    Billie I am a huge fan of your site specially the buffy reviews. You kinda inspired me to stick to buffy after I didnt really like the 1st season and I am glad I did :) :) Then you said Angel was worth the time too so here I am on the second season :)

  3. I'm so glad you stuck with it, Shruti. Thanks for checking in! the Griffith Observatory is still my favorite place in Los Angeles, too, and it's been quite a few years now.

  4. One of my favorite episodes of Angel. :)

    I just love the title, it works on so many levels.

    Ah Wes, and Gunn. And so begins one of the best bromances in the Buffyverse.

    Also, the Hyperion is probably my favorite of the Buffyverse headquarters (yes, even including the library). It's very beautiful and they make such great use of the space.

  5. I just love this episode, and now even more so after reading Bllie's review as I had never known about all the rebel without a cause references.

    I guess Angel still had some growing to do in the 50s, as taking the mob's actions so personally when they were under demonic influence was really quite harsh. The final scene with elderly Judy is so sad, brought a tear to my eye.
    It does seem likely that this incident could have been a turning point for Angel, but he let his anger get the better of him.

    It's good to be reminded how prejudiced societies can be as battling prejudice is a fight that never seems to be over.

  6. This is such a great episode that it makes me sad I’m not caught up on Angel yet. :( And I love the Hyperion too, it’s such a big and gorgeous setting. The Magic Box might be my favorite Buffyverse headquarters, though.

  7. This one felt like a Highlander episode, which isn't a bad thing; plus it was nice to see flashbacks to Angel's past that didn't involve Darla, Spike, or bad Angel wigs for a change. I liked the demon concept and the new HQ as well.

    There were some great episodes in Season 1 but this for me was when I began to realize that Angel was surpassing Buffy in terms of quality. Excellent, excellent episode.

  8. I think this might have been my favorite Angel episode. Like Wadezilla, I started liking Angel as a whole better than Buffy at this point. Though there are, of course, some great episodes ahead for Buffy and some clunkers for this series.

    I mostly was caught up in the McCarthy era comparisons watching this. But you are right Billie, Angel is so definitely that brooding James Dean type character.

    I came to love the hotel, but at first I really missed that film noir detective's office from season one.

  9. I love this episode as well. My first time through the series, this is when I knew I was in for the long haul. I love the Hyperion as the headquarters. And, Cordelia's switch to throw pillows always makes me laugh.

    Personally, I always chuckle when Wesley says that hotel originally closed on December 16. That's a very important date, at least in my world!


  10. I just watched this episode for the first time, and found it exceptional. The multiple references to films of this era were very well executed. I googled the episode title and Imitation of Life, and your review is the only one I found noting this reference. The nods to Rebel Without a Cause were beautifully done, and the moment at the observatory where Angel comes off all James Dean was really interesting. There are parallels to Dean's character, as you noted, but it also underscored the differences, like that Angel is not simply feeling the tormented confusions of youth, but has been around a long time and seen (and done) a lot of dark stuff. The episode also sees him dip a toe into becoming a rebel with a cause, only to have it horribly backfire at this point.

    There was also an element from Psycho, with Judy having run off with stolen money as Marion Crane did. This could have all been clumsy pastiche, but it all worked well with the plot and the atmosphere of the episode.

  11. Another comfortable sense of settling in now, with the hotel as our new hub. Can't say I'll miss the office, THIS is the Angel I remember.
    And yo the concierge was played by Schanke from Forever Knight!!! That makes watching the show kinda worth it before this lol, I never would've noticed enough to look it up and confirm more than a passing resemblance. Very coo'
    Angel did nothing wrong (kidding, as incredibly annoying as they were I still felt like it was kind of harsh to abandon them)


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