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Angel: A Hole in the World

Fred: "Cavemen win. Of course the cavemen win."

Fred again a reluctant damsel in distress, her men all around her sickbed, Angel saying meaningfully, "Winifred Burkle," Wesley actually shooting that guy in the leg... all very touching. Whedon's moving script and the sheer Buffy-ness of the dialogue were all quite satisfying. But to be honest, I can't help but feel manipulated. This is ground we have covered before.

Wesley and Fred finally get together, and one of them dies? Fred's body is possessed and goes wildly evil with a striking change of appearance? There was even the parallel of Fred spitting blood on Wesley and passing out, very much like Tara's blood splattering Willow. We're "Seeing Red," except this time, Illyria's icy makeup makes it more like seeing blue.

The Angel/Spike scenes were so wonderful, though, that they completely overshadowed Fred's lingering and horrible death. I loved it all, from the theoretical argument about cavemen and astronauts, to the two of them flying in a jet for the first time, to – of all things – holding hands in the Cotswolds. Angel and Spike are family, when you come right down to it, and Boreanaz and Marsters are simply wonderful together. They bounce dialogue off each other like... well, like Spike and almost anyone, come to think of it, but with a special zing because of their shared past and all they have in common.

Poor Eve, crouching in Lindsey's apartment, hiding from the senior partners. She's heading for a bad end, according to Lorne. I almost felt sorry for her; she was a lot more human here than she's ever been before. And Lorne was actually scary, which is a new look for him. I loved the simple way he explained his love for Fred: "Winifred Burkle once told me, after a sinful amount of Chinese food and in lieu of absolutely nothing, 'I think a lot of people would choose to be green. Your shade, if they had a choice'."

Lindsey was used as a red herring to keep us from realizing right away that it was Knox. I bet Knox is dead, really dead, not-coming-back dead... and Gunn killed him. How did Lorne's screening miss Knox? Was it because Knox, like many religious fanatics, thought he was doing something good?

The conduit has gone from mysterious, to enigmatic, to frightening. It's interesting that Gunn is now seeing this conduit to evil as himself. In bargaining away Fred's life as well as his own, Gunn has become a tragic figure, much as Wesley was at the end of season three. Essentially, he and Wesley have traded places.

Again, a main character has died... but the question remains: is it permanent? After all, Angel and Spike are both dead and they're still around; I think Fred will be back. But if Fred's skin has hardened into a shell and her organs have liquified – I'm assuming that includes her extremely sharp brain – this can't be good, resurrection-wise. In order to get to the possibility of bringing back Fred, they'll first have to defeat Illyria... and I have a thought. Couldn't they take Illyria's sarcophagus from L.A. to the New Zealand Hole in the World over the ocean, thereby avoiding all populated areas in between? Sure, it'd be a long flight, but as Knox said, they have good jets.

Lots and lots of bits and pieces:

— Fred's wonderful parents, Roger and Trish from "Fredless," were in the opening flashback. Fred told Wesley to tell her parents that she wasn't scared. Will we be seeing them in a future episode? I hope so. I loved Roger and Trish.

— The flamethrower/nest scene was an obvious takeoff of Aliens, with Fred as Ripley. The Deeper Well looked a lot like the life capsules in The Matrix. And Drogyn, keeper of the well, looked Lord of the Ring-y. Okay, I'm done now.

— The hole in the world thing was an interesting addition to Buffyverse lore. And it's in the mystical Cotswolds, which are mentioned fairly often.

— Feigenbaum the bunny, the "master of chaos," reminded me of Mr. Gordo.

— The jewel on the sarcophagus that Fred touched was pink and shaped like a heart. Ironic, huh? Reaching for love, and she gets death?

— Angel mentioned Cordelia's death again. Appropriate, since now both female Angel cast members are now dead.

— Lorne talked about praying for Fred. I wonder what god or gods Lorne prays to? Not Illyria, anyway.

— "Make like Carmen Miranda and die"? Is that along the lines of "make like a tree and leave?"

— We finally got the Gilbert and Sullivan: "Three little maids from school." J. August Richards has a good voice. Lots of good voices on this show.

— It wasn't just echoes of "Seeing Red"; there were lots of references to past episodes. "Handsome man saves me [from the monsters]" from the Pylea episodes; "Wes and Fred?" "You didn't know?" Angel said much the same thing when Fred was dating Gunn.

— Was it me, or did Alexis Denisof look even handsomer than usual in this episode? Maybe married life agrees with him.

— The book Wesley was reading to Fred was one of my childhood favorites: A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's about a rich little girl who loses everything, but retains her dignity and character. I wonder if this was a hint that the essential Fred will somehow survive.

— The mention of Spike taking off, working out of Wolfram & Hart offices all over the world, 007 without the poncy tux... would some network please pick up Angel and pair it with a Spike spinoff? I know, I know, but I can dream, can't I?


Spike: "If cavemen and astronauts got into a fight, who would win?"
Wesley: "Ah. You've been yelling at each other for forty minutes about this. Do the astronauts have weapons?"

Angel: "You just like stabbing me."
Spike: "I'm shocked, shocked that you'd say that. I much prefer hitting you with blunt instruments."

Angel: "You and me. This isn't working out."
Spike: "You saying we should start annoying other people?"

Lorne: "Here's the thing, Eve. You're going to sing for me, and I'm going to read you right now. And here's one more thing. Winifred Burkle once told me, after a sinful amount of Chinese food and in lieu of absolutely nothing, I think a lot of people would choose to be green, your shade, if they had the choice."

Angel: "You wanna bet that's the entrance to the Deeper Well?"
Spike: "Either that or Christmasland. (Angel looks at him) Do you ever have any fun?"

Spike: "There's a hole in the world. Feels like we ought to have known."

Four out of four stakes, again. And next week, Amy Acker in very cool makeup finally gets to chew the furniture,

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


  1. I like the ideas in this one, but not the execution. I suspect that if Joss Whedon's name wasn't attached to it, people would remember it less fondly, myself included.

    I feel cheated that Fred and Wes didn't even get a full episode of happy. More importantly, I was really annoyed at the way all the characters kept talking about Fred as if she was pre-addiction Willow, the loving and eternally optimistic heart of the group.

    But that's not who Fred was. She murdered her professor, tortured a teenager, routinely went into crazy feral mode whenever she felt like she might lose her new family. Angel and co. are eulogizing the wrong character!

    This feels botched, or at the very least rushed, and Fred deserved more respect.

  2. Dimitri, I take some umbrage at your suggestion that people only remember this episode fondly because Joss's name is attached to it. This is my single favorite episode of my favorite season of Angel and it wrecks me every time I see it. The content and emotion of the episode, the things that led to it, and the ramifications down the line are why I love it, and and my opinion has never been influenced by the "written and directed by" credit at the beginning. When I hear the title, I don't think about who created it, I think about the snappy dialogue, the fantastic character interactions, and the heartbreaking tragedy of it all --- for all the characters, not just Wes.

    Sure Fred's death came out of nowhere, and losing her so suddenly does feel rushed, but death is just like that sometimes. Some days you are celebrating a happy event and when you get home you learn someone you loved dearly is suddenly gone, and you never even got a chance to say goodbye. At least, here, the guys got a chance to do everything they could to save her. And they all got a chance to say a sort of goodbye.

    As for them eulogizing the wrong character, I think it is important to remember that, in the wake of Cordelia's coma and subsequent demise, Fred likely did become the positive heart of the group. For all her insanity and baggage, Fred certainly had a more optimistic outlook and sunny disposition than most of the group (except maybe Lorne). Plus, the guys each loved her in their own way, and I suspect that when when someone you love is in grave peril you tend to put on some rose-colored glasses and think about the goodness they bring to your life, not their inner darkness.

    (Bear in mind that I haven't seen the episode recently, so you might have a fair point. I just got a bit incensed by the "people only like this episode because Joss's name is on it" bit and had to comment.)

  3. I don't remember where my head was at the time, but I obviously loved this episode, too. I never automatically give anything Joss writes four stars.

  4. I had a longer reply that addressed your interesting points, Jess, but I decided to keep it simple and focused. If you’re interested in debating the merits of killing off characters in such a way, let me know. Could be fun.

    Until then, here’s the shorter version of my reply:

    Keep in mind I specifically included myself in the "Joss Whedon's name influenced our memory of it" camp, so the comment was not meant as an attack, especially not of the review. I made no mention of the review, which I think is great, as usual. I'm one of your oldest fans, Billie, from the TV Tome and From the Desk of Billie days. I don’t know where that interpretation of my comment comes from.

    Sometimes a general comment is just that: a general comment. I was thinking of a very specific subsection of Whedon fans, and I though of writing “some people” instead of “people” but frankly that came off passive-aggressive. Can we not all agree that when I write “people”, I don’t mean “all people” (that’s what the word “everyone” is for) the same way that when Billie writes “the morons at the WB”, she doesn’t mean everyone there is a moron, including my friend Erica who worked there and is most certainly not a moron? Hi, Erica!

    Having said that, I'm going to apologize anyway (a) because if you read it as a personal attack and were hurt or frustrated by it, I suppose it doesn’t matter what my intentions were and (b) because it's possible I’m reading your comments as more than they are meant to be because one of the points Jess raises put my head in a negative space --through absolutely no fault of hers.

  5. If you want to debate killing off characters, I'd be for it. I think there are good ways and reasons to do it and bad. The most important factors for me are "does the story build to it or demand it?" and/or "are the consequences such that it was worth it?" If it's just done for shock value, then I'm not down with it. Or if it has no substantial, lasting impact on the other characters, then I'm not for it. But, in this case, I think they laid the groundwork for everyone to be in a headspace where Fred's untimely and devastating demise had a dramatic, lasting impact for several characters, and so even though it was sudden and heart-wrenching, for me it was worth it.

    I did interpret your "people" as "all people," likely because I really love this episode and it felt like you were casting aspersions on my reasons for liking it. Even though you included yourself in "people." So I had to defend my love of the episode. Sorry it came across as an attack. It was intended more as a passionate defense.

    I also apologize for putting you in a negative space, especially if it was my "death is just that way sometimes" comments. Rest assured that I didn't casually toss off that example, and know exactly what that kind of situation does to a person. I was just trying to respond to your "Fred deserved more respect" comment. I felt what happened with Fred was a relatively "realistic" reflection of how life can be sometimes, and that she got a better shake than many.

  6. I'm all for killing off characters, or sending them away, rather than keeping them around with no purpose. Or even before they achieve their plot purpose. People dying out of the blue, or before we think they were meant to, is something that feels real to me.

    What makes me really, really sad in Fred's death is that, as it is said many times, her soul was destroyed as well. There is no warm place where she and Wes can be together forever. It's completely over for her. That makes me feel a void in my chest.

    Here's a quote I got from the Buffy wiki:

    "I thought it'd be really funny to kill Amy," Joss Whedon explains. He and the other writers decided to kill the character of Fred so that Amy Acker could "play somebody new, somebody who's regal and scary and different then anything she's gotten to do on the show. The best way to do that of course is to kill her and have her become somebody else."

    Funny, Joss?!?!!? That's your idea of funny?!? I guess those wonderful, witty lines are an accident, then, and you laugh when you rewatch The Body, you sadist!!!

  7. No need for apologies, Jess. As I mentioned, the negative headspace was through absolutely no fault yours. As you guessed, it had to do with the "like real life" argument, but not for the reasons you think.

    I generally disagree with the argument because, in real life, an episode of 24 would involve eight episodes of Jack Bauer sleeping, one or two episodes of him jogging and doing chin ups, half an episode of him taking a dump, and on an off day he might spend the rest of the season playing Resident Evil and eating Hot Pockets. Just saying.

    However, my negative space comes from a difference of opinion that turned into a nasty debate when dicussing the death of Tara. A friend of mine was calling someone an idiot because they didn't like Whedon, and I decided to play devil's advocate.

    I pointed out that the man does have an annoying habit of always killing someone just before a big conflict to remind us that the Story Is Very Important Indeed.

    Like you, my friend pointed out that, in real life, people die without warning. I replied that Joss Whedon didn’t write real life, he wrote stories. In stories, I want build-up and foreshadowing. Besides, in real life, people don’t only die during sweeps.

    To which she replied that maybe if my late girlfriend had committed suicide in May instead of September, I would know how to recognize genius. That friend is not my friend anymore, but I still get mad whenever I think about this conversation. So again no fault of yours whatsoever, Jess.

  8. I've decided to split my comment in two to avoid having to retype the whole thing if something goes wrong.

    Jess, like you, I think there are good and bad ways to kill off a character (and my reasons are generally the same as yours), but I would add that even good ways become bad ways if the creators keep relying on it, and that's what Whedon pre-Very-Important-Conflict deaths have become for me.

    I figured out who would die in what order in the last two episodes of Dollhouse because there's a formula to the way Whedon approaches these things. I also figured out how his run on Astonishing X-Men would end the same way.

    It's not that this specific bag of tricks is bad. It's that he's used it so often, now I can't keep my eyes off the bag, and I'm missing the spectacle.

    Having said that, I'm fine with the idea of killing off Fred (I like Illyria better). Like I said, my problem was more with the execution. Eulogy episodes are a dangerous thing, I think, because they can come across like you're lecturing the audience on why they should care.

    I felt a bit that way with this episode, especially because I didn't feel they were describing Fred. As you astutely point out, that role is closer to Lorne.

    However, I like your interpretation of why the characters are talking about her this way, and I may adopt this point of view just t consolidate the episode with the rest, but I do want to point out the interpretation is based on what might have taken place off-screen. The series itself never shows any of this. I don’t mention this to criticize, but to suggest that you’re looking at it from a fan’s point of view. Again, this is not a criticism. I wrote an entire two-part piece here speculating about Lost, and a reader pointed out that I was just guessing, and I agreed: speculation is fun and an integral part of the fan experience. The creators tell the story and establish the mythology; the fans create the universe around it to keep it alive.

    Having said that, I feel we should admit that, when we speculate to make the pieces fit, we are the ones doing the heavy lifting, not the writers. So I'm always a bit wary when that happens. At what point are we acting as fans with good faith, and at what point are we excusing a writer screwing the pooch?

    Gustavo, I agree that if a character's outlived his or her usefulness they should be sent away, but I would rather they not be killed off for that reason. Death should have more weight and meaning in my opinion. It should drive the story, not be a side effect of it. Besides, as the series evolves, you might find use for these characters again.

  9. Gustavo, your comment about Fred's soul made me think last night (which is not an activity in which I partake too often). Since Fred signed a contract with W&H, does that mean W&H could sue Illyria for destruction of their property?

  10. I actually laughed out loud. I think they would sue Fred for termination of contract as well.

    It'd be funny to see Illyria in court.

  11. Wow. So much to reflect on and respond to! Good thoughts, guys.

    Gus, your quote about the genesis of the Illyria arc crushes my soul a bit. They certainly made the change count for something, story-wise, but I hate that the whole idea behind it was "Let's give Amy something new to do. It'll be fun!" Erg.

    Dimitri, thanks for sharing your story. You certainly didn't have to. I'm sorry you went through that pain. And I definitely get your point that Whedon doesn't write real life, he writes stories. But I'd argue that stories often resonate best when they tap into real life experiences. Especially highly emotional ones. That said, I certainly agree that he goes to that well a bit too often. It just worked for me in this case.

    Back to the eulogy business: I don't feel like the events or behavior in this episode require after-the-fact fan-wanking to make the story work. I get that something about the guys' attitudes towards Fred felt off to you, but when watching it (oh so many times) it has never come across that way to me. The way the guys react to the situation, and the way they focus on the goodness they'll be losing if they fail to save her, felt absolutely natural to me. I never questioned it. I didn't have to ponder it later and cook up an explanation for why it worked. It just did. (I'm only doing it now to explain my POV for our discussion.)

    Perhaps it worked for me because I loved Fred, too, and didn't need the writers to tell me why I cared (as you suggest the writers were trying to do). I did care, and I believed that the guys all cared a great deal, and it hit all the right emotional notes for me. Clearly, it didn't strike you quite the same way. Aah, well. As we always say around here, mileage varies, right?

    It's too bad we can get into a wider discussion that covers other character deaths that worked or didn't. Cursed spoilers!

  12. I agree with Jess on the real life/story thing.

    As for the "heavy lifting" the audience has to do, I feel the other way around. Since most of what I do academically is part of literary analysis, I like to do the heavy lifting, and tend to appreciate a work of art when they let me do it. In fact, I hate it when the author overinterprets or overexplains the series/book/movie/play. That's what I don't like about some parts of some Stephen King's books, and why there are many parts of Buffy's season 6 I hate. Willow's addiction got so heavy handed mid-season that I started feeling offended. I want artists to give me credit and build part of the work to my liking.

    Jess, why don't we suggest Bllie make a page so we could freely discuss the Buffyverse? Or even Whedon's works in general!

  13. You could always post anything about a series in the comments on the last episode.

  14. Well, that's something I'd never have thought. No sarcasm.

  15. Gus, in your honor and with urging from Josie and Dimitri, I have just created a Joss Whedon Chat Thread with no spoiler restrictions whatever.

    http://billiedoux.blogspot.com/2011/09/joss-whedon-chat-thread.html. Enjoy!

  16. Jess, first of all, the twelve year old in me giggled at the expression "fan-wanking". Second, I think why I didn't get into the eulogies as much as you did is that the hard-edged parts of Fred define the character for me. You point out you loved the character as much as the LA scoobies did. Me too.

    But in real life, I would gravitate toward her precisely because she's the sort of driven person who would hit first if she felt threatened. Beneath the bubbly is a hardcore survivor, and I think I needed that part of her to be acknowledged to connect with the speeches, which didn't happen.

    Gustavo, I agree that there's little more annoying than creators spoon-feeding us their big metaphors. However, I think there's a difference between having to fill in the gaps in the plot and having to fill in the gaps in the deeper message. Besides, in both cases, it's a question of balance, I think.

    Suppose I told you a story about a duck eating pasta while twirling the earth on its broken beak. Now suppose I told you it's a metaphor about the U.S. economy and let you figure out the rest. I think we can both agree you'd be doing the heavy lifting AND I'd be a lazy writer. As it turns out, I'm just a lazy analogy-maker.

    Now, how about we take the discussion over to that post Billie kindly created?

    Thank you, Billie!

  17. Billie, thank you so much! I sense a record breaker in comments on the site.

    Dimitri, I agree. I'm going to rephrase: I'd rather do the heavy lifting than be spoonfed, but balance is better.

  18. I think the Lost finale holds the record for number of comments, but I'll have to check.

  19. Of course, for all the reasons, I love this episode and it breaks my heart.

    But what I find most interesting is that the idea of Fred becoming a shell for a god/demon thingy is that she talks about how much she would hate being a shell all the way back in Season Four, and mentioned it a few episodes ago in this season, too. It's literally her idea of the worst fate ever.

  20. Goddammit, AGAIN with commentary mention of there being at least 10 minutes of extra footage that had to be cut... where is it? Why has it never cropped up again in some extended-episodes re-release? God I hate network television sometimes, all these cool concepts needing to cut around stupid corners and rush, rush, rush...

    OK, so I thought the episode was excellent. DEFINITELY done better than Seeing Red, so it's a shame it came after it and reeks of similarity/rip-off.

    @Dimitri: "Gustavo, I agree that if a character's outlived his or her usefulness they should be sent away, but I would rather they not be killed off for that reason."
    And I'm glad they didn't with Groo, it's easy for me to forget he's still alive somewhere. Huh, I feel guilty I didn't think of him as soon as Spike came onto the scene as the 'first' challenger for position of Champion.

    @Dimitri: "I think why I didn't get into the eulogies as much as you did is that the hard-edged parts of Fred define the character for me."
    Very nice. And I did feel the same about the eulogies not landing for me. Lorne's especially, while it was a nice anecdote, the melodrama of it all took me out of it. Which is a shame because I'd love to see Lorne lashing out but I just felt bad for Eve lol. I mean unless it's an act, W&H are still trying to hunt her down. She's harmless. But I guess the aggression still works because she did threaten them with revenge not very long ago. Anyway Wes had a better moment with the lashing out, with the satisfying knee-capping to the guy who didn't want to work on Fred's case. I know a lot of Wes fans love him for the wrong reasons, but he really was a badass there for me.

    @Josie: Yeah I remember that! and I had to actively restrain myself from pointing that out when I was on that episode. So cool and disturbing. That hint bothered me more than actually dealing with it straight-up in this episode because I'm weird like this. Damn do I hate foreshadowing lol, it just low-key ruins the mood of the episode/chapter for me and it's all I dwell on.

    Reposting the Spike quote because I love it. "There's a hole in the world. Feels like we ought to have known." It's such a good episode because even if you didn't give a shit about Fred, the activity that surrounds the dying process stands so well on its own too. The best material in a Fred-Wes episode was... Angel and Spike! Loved that shot of them pulling the piano wire or whatever after clasping hands.

    "Handsome man... saved me from the monsters"
    :( That used to always show up in the s3 recaps. I'm already finding myself forgiving the overreactions from the crew. They didn't have an "Everyone deals with Cordelia" episode or even scene, maybe this is what'll have to make due. Can't hold onto any of their women, I'm sure it fucks them up.


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