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View Full Version : What is the nature of Angel?



bespangled
08-09-18, 02:21 AM
Once upon a time there was a man named Liam. He was a weak man, a drunkard, thief, wastrel and layabout. But he did have a soul. Then he met a beautiful woman and he was sired - he accepted a demon and his soul was removed.

Liam + soul = Liam
Liam + demon = Angelus

He was cursed with the return of his soul. So what was created then? There is a spectrum of possibilities.

Liam + soul - demon = Angel

This idea is that Angel and Angelus are completely separate beings. Angel has no communication with Angelus and is not aware of him. When Liam has his soul returned the only connection he has to Angelus is the memories of the atrocities Angelus committed. Nothing that Angelus did or does is in any way Angel's fault. But when the soul leaves then the demon returns.

Angelus + soul = Angel

This idea is that Angelus lurks within Angel's basic make-up and is an active force in his choices. There is a constant dynamic tension in the choices he makes. Angelus influences everything. He is used by the soul as a goad to do the right thing, and as a warning of what he is capable of. There are times when Angelus and the soul act together because souls are not always capable of restraining anyone. In this scenario there is less of a split and more of a sliding scale.

I tend toward the second idea - mainly because I see more dramatic tension there. So is Angelus a constant part of Angel, or is souled Angel a being completely separate from Angelus?

vampmogs
08-09-18, 03:12 AM
I think they're the same person. The entire premise of Angel's character is that he's trying to atone for his sins. The story loses a lot of it's poignancy if Angel is actually trying to atone for the sins of an entirely seperate being, if such a thing was even possible. Also, a lot of episodes in Angel feature flashbacks of, what is supposed to be, Angel's past (as Angelus) which doesn't make a great deal of sense if they're in fact flashbacks about an entirely seperate character. As if that were true, what are we supposed to gleam from them to help us understand Angel? This is also true of the entire Darla arc in Season 2 where the story revolves around the fact that Angel and Darla were once in a relationship. If Angel/Angelus are two seperate entities than Angel has in fact never had much to do with Darla at all outside of his brief time with her in the Boxer Rebellion and Sunnydale.

I also agree with you that the story is robbed of a lot of it's dramatic tension if Angel/Angelus are entirely seperate. Even with a soul, Angel has to constantly fight his demonic urges and impulses which not only makes him a far more interesting character but also makes his true acts of heroism all the more commendable. That said, whilst I do consider them to be the same person, I do think there's a lot of validity to the argument that Angel isn't entirely culpable for his actions whilst soulless. With a soul Angel clearly doesn't behave the same way as Angelus and has radically different views of the world. Even in his bouts of darkness, IMO, he doesn't come close to the level of sadism and evilness of Angelus. So whilst it's true that Liam did ask Darla to "show [him]" her world, he couldn't possibly have known what he was asking her to do and thus is only somewhat responsible for his actions when robbed of his soul (his "human heart" - Consequences). Angel considers that Darla "damned him" and I agree with both Spike and Angel in Damage that they too were "victims" once upon a time.

My take on it as slightly different to yours as I don't view the "demon" as "Angelus" or as something brewing underneath the surface of Angel's character. The series does on occasion describe it as such ("it's not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It's the man") but I don't think it's literal. In my interpretation, Angel is the demon. There's no man + demon residing within the same body. When Liam was sired his body was transformed into a demon. There's just "Angel" or "Angelus" depending on what he likes to call himself which mostly, but not always, depends on whether he has his soul or not. I see the soul as nothing more than Angel's moral compass/spark of humanity/human heart that has been returned to him in what's now a demon shell. Angel's impulses to hunt, kill and feed is not necessarily because there's a demon "in him" compelling him to do these things but, rather, that Angel is a demon so those impulses come as naturally to him as ours does to eat and feed. It's innate to him. When Angel slips up and does something wrong (like locking the lawyers in with Darla & Dru) I actually think that has very little to do with Angel's demonic urges. I think those are flaws of character or weaknesses that reside within him that would exist regardless of whether he was a demon or a man. The only relevance I think his vampirism has to moments like that are perhaps that two centuries of bloodshed and horror at his hands has perhaps exaggerated those flaws and made him more dangerous. Liam probably wouldn't have locked those lawyers in the cellar. But Liam, after experiencing 200 years of murder and misery by his own hands, would.

The shows themselves are inconsistent. They're deliberately vague at times ("Dream on school girl, your boyfriend is dead" / "Man it's good to be back in Sunnydale. Nice climate. People to eat. No tortured humanity to hold me down") and other times they're explicitly, and contradictorily clear on where they stand, depending on the season, episode or even series (Angel Season 4 treats them as entirely two seperate individuals whereas the vast majority of other seasons do not). However, the vast majority of the time the series treats Angel/Angelus as the same person.

Stoney
08-09-18, 06:41 AM
I agree with vampmogs I see them very much as the same character in different states and feel this works most logically for how the story is presented, to give the most impact and sense for seeing the flashbacks etc and the wish/need for redemption. The comic development that The Master, Darla, Dru, Spike and Angel received the same demon's essence to animate them is an idea that really suggests what I'd always felt in that their different responses to being souled/unsouled are greatly about their different paths to becoming souled, their different human backgrounds and different personalities. I don't think of the human aspects of them and the demon aspect as literally separate entities though, but the ingredients that create the character. Remove the soul and they are still them but are affected by the loss of what the soul brought.

I tend to excuse the times when the separation is talked of more distinctly as understandable because there is such a meaningful change within them when souled that they would feel different and separate to the 'them' who committed the crimes, which they are. But I then accept that they still feel connected to their pasts and what they did because their personality and motivations were there throughout (like seeing the worst version of themselves, who they could be), the demon aspect of them doesn't leave when the soul returns they don't stop being demons and they have the memories of literally doing those things. So I think you would feel distinct yet not. It's just complicated and I think it works for it to be.

The only time I really struggle is with S4 of Angel and I do like to try to draw it all as a coherent whole in my mind. I've only seen the season once (I'm on S3 at the moment in my rewatch), but I'm going to look at this angle specifically when I do. I have wondered if it works to see some of the separation as an internal coping mechanism for dealing with that complicated truth of feeling separate but also connected. If the mind walk really just shows how Angel keeps distinction in a way to keep sanity and if someone who has eidetic memory may have generated an internal split, although not truly literal but something to deal with having the very vivid memories of things/acts he's done that he'd never choose to commit when souled. It could result in almost an inconsistent randomly spasmodic repression of some memories.

vampmogs
08-09-18, 08:48 AM
The only time I really struggle is with S4 of Angel and I do like to try to draw it all as a coherent whole in my mind. I've only seen the season once (I'm on S3 at the moment in my rewatch), but I'm going to look at this angle specifically when I do. I have wondered if it works to see some of the separation as an internal coping mechanism for dealing with that complicated truth of feeling separate but also connected. If the mind walk really just shows how Angel keeps distinction in a way to keep sanity and if someone who has eidetic memory may have generated an internal split to deal with having the very vivid memories of things/acts he's done that he'd never choose to commit when souled. Almost like an inconsistent randomly spasmodic repression.

I actually find the mind walk to be the easiest part of Angel Season 4 to rationalise.

I might be generalising here but the majority of fans who consider "Angel" and "Angelus" to be two entirely distinct people hold the belief that the soul is not merely just a moral compass but the actual essence of a person. Thus, whenever Angel's soul is restored he is literally being returned to his body (from the "ether") and Angelus is then suppressed, right?

So if that's the case, how can Orpheus be used as proof that "Angel" and "Angelus" are two seperate identities when, if this were true, "Angel" shouldn't even be in Angelus' mind at this present moment? He's floating around in a jar, remember? He's not locked inside his body somewhere. Clearly that proves that Orpheus is literally just a representation of Angel's inner conflict and not literally "Angel" and "Angelus" both existing at the same time within the same body and fighting against each other.

So whilst Orpheus may be chockfull of the rather ambiguous dialogue and depicting "Angel" and "Angelus" as two seperate individuals with different tastes in music even, it literally cannot be proof that "Angel" and "Angelus" are both there within the dreamscape duelling with each other. Angel cannot be there. He must be a materialisation of Angelus' own conflicts which adds a very interesting layer to the character. We've seen Angel struggle numerous times with his evil side but this is the first time where we've really seen Angelus struggle against some laden good-natured side to himself.

It's the rest of Season 4 that is harder to rationalise for me. The plot literally revolves around the idea that "Angel" and "Angelus" are two entirely seperate individuals and that whilst Evil!Cordy's spell mind-wiped Angel's memories of The Beast it could not wipe Angelus' memories because he lay dormant at the time of the spell. My best fanwank is that Evil!Cordy manipulated the gang into removing Angel's soul and then simply reversed the spell on Angel so that he'd have his memories back whilst soulless. However, that fanwank still hinges upon the fact that for Evil!Cordy's manipulative planned to work, she'd had to have assumed that everyone considers "Angel" and "Angelus" to be two entirely different people. And why would she? Up until this point they've never acted this way before. I mean, Wesley is the one who has the "epiphany" that Angelus would still retain his memories and Wesley is meant to have studied Angel for years. And even if the entire time were under the delusion that "Angel" and "Angelus" were literally two different people, why didn't Angel correct them and point out that it makes no sense? Why didn't Angelus? It's hard to ignore.

Stoney
08-09-18, 11:55 AM
I love your point about Orpheus proving Angel has consistency whether souled or unsouled vampmogs, excellent. And yes, the inner conflict aspect as represented by the two selves is very much how I've taken it before, based on it being a form of internalisation for him. I love the additional layer as you say it gives to Angel unsouled, that he has a connection still to the possible good in himself, that he would even imagine a materialised version of himself souled to be there to have conflict with. It sits nicely against Darla telling him that killing his father still shows his love for him, despite Angel unsouled not wanting any connection to human emotion. Although at a soulless level it's there, he feels it, he just rejects it. Interesting. :nod:

I hadn't remembered the different memory issue being there because it was felt Angel unsouled would retain a memory taken from Angel by a spell. Hmmm. It's a stretch really to see his inner conflict creating separate selves within him, not literal but somehow solid enough that memories could be repressed/hidden in his other self. I suppose a lot of the feasibility of that could be linked to the specifics of the spell that took his memories. That the team talks as if this is not inconsistent and Angel doesn't correct them is difficult though. Of course those that work with him have their own ways of dealing with who he was, what he has done against who he is and how much he matters to them now. I always think of this as the reason why Buffy sometimes talks of him in more distinct terms at some points but not at others. For the same reasons that Spike and Angel themselves can refer to not wanting to be 'him' again, or some such, but it being what 'they' themselves have done. The team generally can surely fall to the same. But Wes presenting the notion as a realised truth is still problematic. Hrrrm. It's going to be a while until I get to S4 as I'm watching it alongside the rewatch and we ain't fast in that!! but when I do I'm going to give all of this some very specific thought and see if I can find a vague path through it any further. :confused3:

vampmogs
08-09-18, 01:48 PM
I love the additional layer as you say it gives to Angel unsouled, that he has a connection still to the possible good in himself, that he would even imagine a materialised version of himself souled to be there to have conflict with. It sits nicely against Darla telling him that killing his father still shows his love for him, despite Angel unsouled not wanting any connection to human emotion. Although at a soulless level it's there, he feels it, he just rejects it. Interesting. :nod:

Yep! And it actually gets even *more* interesting the longer I think about it because, technically, it means that a part of Angelus not only manifested a souled version of himself to have conflict with but also that this manifestation was able to pep talk Faith and inspire her not to give up. Angelus did that.

Now, admittedly, we don't know exactly how the Orpheus drug works and it is mystical by nature so anything is possible. For instance, I've considered that the drug may delve into the person's memories, pick incarnations of the person and/or people from specific times and places, and then 'pluck them' out and manifest them as 'free agents' who can think and feel for themselves. Except, it plucked alleyway-rat-eating-Angel from 1996 who was in need of a pep talk of his own, who was not a hero, and who didn't know who Faith even was yet. The Angel that speaks to Faith cannot simply be the same Angel from Angelus' memories as he should be in a permanent stasis of Angel from that period of time in his life. Therefore, Angelus' own subconscious must be adding layers to 1996 Angel by giving him the memory of Faith and all the growth he's made since meeting Whistler and seeing Buffy.

So, not only does Angelus' own subconscious manifest a souled version of himself to fight with but he also manifests a version of himself who helps Faith and inspires her not to give up. And that's in spite of himself (he - literally - tries to stop himself from helping her) and in spite of the fact that he has no soul in him. What does that even mean? We see earlier in the season that Angelus can impersonate ensouled Angel perfectly. He puts on a good show and tricks the gang into letting him out of the cage. And that makes sense as they are after all the same person and Angel could slip into his "Angelus" persona very easily when he wanted to as well (Enemies). But I think this episode proves that it goes deeper than that. Somewhere along the lines, even without a soul, Angelus has become internally conflicted. A part of him is compelled to help Faith the way he would with a soul, even if that part of him is buried deep in his subconscious.

I adore Angelus - I've always considered him to be THE villain of the Buffyverse - but I've always regarded him as a rather simple character. I always thought that it was "Angel" that added all the extra layers to him. But this makes him way more complex now. It also may have ripple effects on how I perceive some of his other actions throughout Season 4. For instance, Angelus kills The Beast and restores the sun to LA which I always interpreted as Angelus simply taking out the competition, as he says, so he can have Faith all to himself and without a insanely powerful demon taking the occasional swing at him. But what if it's more than that? Angelus does acknowledge that in "Angel's" perfect happiness fantasy that killing The Beast would bring back the sun and he seems irritated that his actions caused this to pan out. But is Angelus subconsciously acting out what he would have done as "Angel?" I always thought it was interesting that on a Doylist level they still had their protagonist defeat the mini Big Bad of the season despite being a Big Bad now himself. On a Watsonian level, I also wonder if a part of Angelus is still compelled to play that role and that he's rationalising to some degree about why he did it and he what he expected would come from it (like bringing back the sun as "Angel" had hoped).

That's two occasions in the span of just 3 episodes where Angelus acts against his own interests (bringing back the sun and restoring a Slayer - both lethal to vampires) whether he's consciously aware of it or not. With the former, he even states that his actions are reminiscent of Angel's subconscious fantasy, whilst with the latter, his subconscious manifests a representation of Angel to do it. He's also shown dusting the vampire Rosaria at the demon bar (just as she invites him to tag along to massacre a preschool), roughing up demons for information on the Beast Master (which parallels with our heroes Wesley & Faith doing the same), and even keeping company with a poor man's version of Wesley in the bookstore, who he brutalises out of dissatisfaction and which then leads him back to "his" team at the Hyperion. Maybe he missed them :p Now obviously there's logical evil reasons for Angelus doing all of this on a surface level (he kills Rosaria because she's an annoying groupie *not* because she's going to hurt kids, for instance) but it all seems like a twisted version of how "Angel" typically acts. The same way how in Buffy Season 2 Angelus couldn't quite shake his love/obsession for Buffy that Angel had felt (caressing her face as she slept in Passion etc). It's as if despite being soulless, and despite still being very evil, years of playing the hero have altered Angelus on some level and his soul has stained him. I mean, it's quite telling that the heroes welcome he receives at the demon bar in Salvage is short-lived and later vampires & demons gripe about how he's done them no favours killing The Beast and bringing back the sun whilst Team Angel - the good guys - are overjoyed by the sun's return and mistakenly assume Faith, the hero, must have done it. Who's side is he meant to be on? People often talk about how ensouled Angel is in constant conflict with his soulless impulses and nature but maybe it goes both ways? Despite being an evil SOB he's not really living up to his reputation here.

EDIT: Sorry for all the rambling. It's probably repetitive, all over the place, and incoherent, as I was literally typing my thought process as it came to me. I feel like I've just had a lightbulb moment in regards to how I perceive Angelus though :blink:

Stoney
08-09-18, 03:41 PM
No I think this is really fascinating, ramble away! :D

It's almost like we're considering Angel as a demon, once souled, is going through a similar realignment of his life that Spike does when he is chipped because he has been forced into changing his habits. Of course it is something that Angel thinks about differently, has more choice as he has his conscience and morality with his soul and he looks back on what he did with a very different perspective. But it was also sudden, he was isolated and he struggled to adapt and leave the life he'd known too. It wasn't an easy transition for him. When his soul is removed and he doesn't have the conscience any longer there is no doubt an inevitable sense of relief and freedom, but that doesn't mean he is viewing things in the exact same light as he had before he was souled, he has had decades of living a totally different life. I don't think that it would mean he would necessarily have ever walked the path to being souled that Spike did as they have very different personalities and motivations, I highly doubt it in fact, but after spending years with his choices and urges being affected by the soul it having a complicated effect that has changed him somewhat makes sense.