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The Prodigal - the episode that transformed Angel?

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  • The Prodigal - the episode that transformed Angel?

    Darla: What we once were informs all that we have become. The same love will infect our hearts, even if they no longer beat. Simple death won't change that.

    I was looking up Darla’s appearances and was surprised to see that she only appeared three times in Angel’s first season. Her first appearance in Angel comes in The Prodigal. And it feels like a transformative moment. Not just for the Angel/Darla arc that would come to define the next two seasons, but for the Buffyverse as a whole.

    It begins – much as Welcome to the Hellmouth did – with a reversal of expectations. When we see Liam sticking to the shadows, asking the servant for an invitation, we assume that this is the mighty and powerful Angelus out to make an early kill. But then his father appears and pushes the very much human Liam into the daylight. The Buffyverse began with a reversal of the horror trope where the scared blonde girl turns out to be the monster. Here, the monster is still but a boorish lout.

    The episode works with the tropes of Angel’s first season. There are PI investigations, there are elements of film noir. Hidden sin works within film noir as much as it does the backstory of any vampire on a quest for redemption. But this episode also takes the anthology-like aspect of the detective show and turns it personal. It is about the main character and the main recurring character’s relationships with their parents.

    And in a way, it’s a handoff between Angel’s potential Buffy-replacements. I like the character of Kate Lockley quite a bit, but I don’t think we would have ever have truly accepted her as a substitute for Buffy – the next girl. This episode cements that it would be ill-advised to take the Angel and Kate relationship in that direction. Instead we see once again Darla’s influence on Angel. Darla isn’t the woman-after-Buffy. She’s the woman before Buffy. She’s tied in with his sense of guilt and need for redemption.

    And while there have certainly been hints in Buffy and Angel before this (Harmony certainly seems little different dead or undead), it’s this episode that strongly ties the vampire’s darker personality into their moral life. Angel is shaped by what happened to him in life, just as we’ll see that Spike is shaped by his experiences next year.

    Do you also think this episode is a standout of Angel’s first season?

    P.S.: Angel tells Kate's father that he doesn't have kids. The answer is both true and false. He's not going to reveal his complicated background of being a sire or grandsire. But even if Angelus's deeds are shaped by his mortal life, as a soulless vampire could Angelus ever truly be a father to Dru or Spike or Penn?
    Last edited by PuckRobin; 29-05-21, 08:58 PM.

  • #2
    According to Joss Whedon he said it was eternity. That was the episode that made him realise that they weren't doing anthologies and it was about the characters. Though I always found that episode mediocre and agree with you on the Prodigal

    Comment


    • #3
      I think that Somnambulist is the first standout of the series and the episode that starts Angel's story properly because it highlights the most important theme in Angel's arc: parents who turn their child into a monster. (Yes, I run with Moist of Lipwig's take on Angel here.) Till that episode his motivations and arc were muddied. The vague concept of redemption and guilt was not strong enough to build upon since Angel was technically feeling super bad about being an evil vampire. But vampires are evil on default, that's why you can stake them before they did anything bad. And the whole idea of guilt is that there should've been a choice or a different option. So that was a dead end street.

      Somnambulist goes back to what made Angelus unique, his twisted child Drusilla, and adds a new one, creating a pattern. At the same time it blurs the lines between Angel and Angelus, implying that it's not just being a vampire that made him this monster-maker. It's not so much about guilt either and much more about what it says about him that he is this way.


      The Prodigal is a great follow-up and my favourite of the two. It's showing us a lot of new and important information and after The Prodigal it's clear where we stand. No longer it's implied that there is something in Angel's character/story that makes him a monster-maker, it's crystal clear now. And this episode is of course interesting because we usually see Angel as the father while he is the child who becomes a monster in this one. And the parallels with Kate work really well. It enriches Angel's story while the audience gets to understand Kate better.


      These episodes belong together and together they transformed Angel and Ats.

      Comment


      • American Aurora
        American Aurora commented
        Editing a comment
        Both episodes are fantastic.

      • Nina
        Nina commented
        Editing a comment
        Absolutely. I would even say that he is by far the best writer. Greenwalt wrote some good episodes as well, but it's obvious that Minear's episodes are the most important ones. Especially when it's about parents and childeren.

      • bespangeled
        bespangeled commented
        Editing a comment
        Just the line "They weren't nightmares. I enjoyed them" opens some new insights. Even with a soul, Angel enjoys hunting and killing by proxy.

    • #4
      I agree with Nina that Somnambulist really stands out in season one. It's probably fair to say it's the first one that truly does (although I have a lot of fondness for Sense & Sensitivity, where again there is a parental theme). The way that Kate's relationship with her father is used in S1 alongside the element of the influence that Angel had in a 'parental' way and how he was affected by his upbringing too, is great. No doubt the theme is a highlight of the season. Plus, with Angel as the pivotal character who's mission causes others to gravitate to him, the emphasis on influence is layered.

      But how the burgeoning team set up and this early expansion on Angel's vampiric background is then followed up by gaining insight into his relationship with his father in The Prodigal really lifts S1 and provides the truly solid foundation for a lot of what follows through the series. It is the FFL episode for Angel. As is often the case with both shows, how things build and develop brings greater layers and appreciation to earlier moments. So Somnambulist is made better by The Prodigal. Both Angel's father and his vampiric familial relationships are used repeatedly through the seasons to explore his individual hang ups. His relationship with Darla, taking on this role of showing him the world and bringing him into a new existence definitely has a parental vibe to it on occasions too. The scene between them at the end of The Prodigal is such an important one for understanding Angel's character and his response to emotions that ties his souled/unsouled personas. So, I'd definitely say it is a stand out of the first season. I think you can argue that it and Somnambulist as a pair are arguably the most important of the season to the wider series.

      As for whether Angel unsouled could ever have truly been a father to Penn, Spike and Dru? As Darla was for him I think he introduced them to the vampiric world and it appealed to the element of wanting to shape others. Did he also want to see himself reflected? Possibly yes. But as with his souled self, his foundation for a parental relationship was so dysfunctional he struggles to provide a positive parental influence. Not that, that is an issue within vampiric dynamics of course. But even with Connor, he falls to the negative sense of competing against his child, as he fought with his own father.

      Comment


      • #5
        Originally posted by Nina View Post
        I think that Somnambulist is the first standout of the series and the episode that starts Angel's story properly because it highlights the most important theme in Angel's arc: parents who turn their child into a monster. (Yes, I run with Moist of Lipwig's take on Angel here.) Till that episode his motivations and arc were muddied. The vague concept of redemption and guilt was not strong enough to build upon since Angel was technically feeling super bad about being an evil vampire. But vampires are evil on default, that's why you can stake them before they did anything bad. And the whole idea of guilt is that there should've been a choice or a different option. So that was a dead end street.

        Somnambulist goes back to what made Angelus unique; his twisted child Drusilla and adds a new one, creating a pattern. At the same time it blurs the lines between Angel and Angelus, implying that it's not just being a vampire that made him this monster-maker. It's not so much about guilt either and much more about what it says about him that he is this way.


        The Prodigal is a great follow-up and my favourite of the two. It's showing us a lot of new and important information and after The Prodigal it's clear where we stand. No longer it's implied that there is something in Angel's character/story that makes him a monster-maker, it's crystal clear now. And this episode is of course interesting because we usually see Angel as the father while he is the child who becomes a monster in this one. And the parallels with Kate work really well. It enriches Angel's story while the audience gets to understand Kate better.


        These episodes belong together and together they transformed Angel and Ats.
        I agree with what you say Nina both about Sonmbulist and Tim Minear.

        Though I would argue that yes they greyed Angel up, especially in Darla where find out he fed on people with soul, but come S4 they pressed the reset button a bit with Angel and (goofball) Angelus shown to be very separate people.

        Comment


        • #6
          Originally posted by BtVS fan View Post

          I agree with what you say Nina both about Sonmbulist and Tim Minear.

          Though I would argue that yes they greyed Angel up, especially in Darla where find out he fed on people with soul, but come S4 they pressed the reset button a bit with Angel and (goofball) Angelus shown to be very separate people.

          They certainly greyed him up (although I wouldn't use that scene as an example) and continued to do that in s5. That the mythology seems to change later on doesn't change that at all IMO. If Angelus is another entity, it's one who used Liam as a template. The memories and ideas Angelus was based on, were still Liam's. So if there is darkness in Angelus that isn't seen in all other vampires, it's roots can probably be found in Liam's experiences and ideas.

          Comment


          • Stoney
            Stoney commented
            Editing a comment
            S4 is the anomaly, so I do lean to looking for as good an explanation as possible of what was meant and still don't consider there to be a literal separation. And this point of origination still very much runs true.

        • #7
          I still say that Angel and Angelus do share the same memories - except in the instance of the Beast because Jasmine deliberately interfered. The dialogue almost says this at one point. So that point isn’t really real - it’s Jasmine mucking up Angel’s memories on purpose.

          Comment


          • #8
            Originally posted by American Aurora View Post
            I still say that Angel and Angelus do share the same memories - except in the instance of the Beast because Jasmine deliberately interfered. The dialogue almost says this at one point. So that point isn’t really real - it’s Jasmine mucking up Angel’s memories on purpose.
            Yes! I remember thinking that when watching it before, that Jasmine was probably intentionally blocking what Angel was remembering but I couldn't remember what it was in the text that made me think it. I've just rewatched Long Day's Journey and Awakening too and didn't pick up on it this time. I'll have to have a look over the transcripts. Perhaps when Angel says to Wes that he does remember everything Angelus/he did. We know they don't literally have different memories or Angel wouldn't be able to remember any of it. So it makes sense it is being somehow 'hidden'.

            That still doesn't excuse Wes simply talking about the memory split as if it makes sense though.

            Comment


            • PuckRobin
              PuckRobin commented
              Editing a comment
              Would you believe that Jasmine also manipulated Wesley's knowledge of vampires to facilitate them de-souling Angel?

          • #9
            PuckRobin Would you believe that Jasmine also manipulated Wesley's knowledge of vampires to facilitate them de-souling Angel?
            I suppose there's no reason not to really is there. It makes it all cohere far better if it is all manipulated for the desired results and so works with it as being a distinct anomaly within the mythology. I'm rolling with that.

            Comment

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