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End of Angel season 5 - ends justifying the means and Angel's philosophy

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  • End of Angel season 5 - ends justifying the means and Angel's philosophy

    ANGEL: Well, I guess I kinda worked it out. If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters... , then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it.
    -- Epiphany, Angel season 2
    Angel's lines about "all that matters is what we do" is one of those moments that will always stick with me. But I wonder his actions in episodes such as Power Play and Not Fade Away represent a betrayal of that philosophy.

    He certainly seems to have given up redemption and reward -- signing away the Shanshu. But he's still just beating "the other guy", even if in this case the "other guy" is "the Man" -- the powers-that-be and the Circle of the Black Thorn.

    If all that matters is what we do, what then about Angel killing Drogyn to enact his plan. When it comes to the ends justifying the means, it's not what you do that matters but why you are doing it. Angel singles out Lorne as a sign of non-judgmental approach to demons, but Angel also corrupts him -- turning the entertainer into an assassin. Both of these kills are of humans -- the moral litmus test according to Buffy at the end of BtVS season six. At least the senator that gun kills is a demon inhabiting a human's form.

    Yes, there is a greater good. Angel saved a child (one he initially endangered, however.) And the world is better off without that rogue's gallery of nasties.

    But what about Angel -- did he lose something of him when he turned others into pawns?

  • #2
    For me, Angel's actions in S5 show that he is still disillusioned after all he's gone through and despite Cordelia's attempt, remains distanced from the original mission that drove him, to help the helpless. Making big gestures that are temporary and pretty futile when it comes with a lot of negative cost is hard to see as the ends justifying the means. The fact that Angel kills Drogyn and sets the team off to take out different members if the Black Thorn but isn't honest about the fact he's already killed Sebassis makes it feel really questionable. I have to try to think of why all the members would have lost hope so much to agree to it to try and find a throughline for them all individually to be stood there with their hands raised.

    I can see that killing off the villains is an act for the greater good. But when you just believe that further people will take their place and you are likely to all die in the process, it becomes a murky balance. And this is putting aside the killing of Drogyn and dishonesty too. At the end of the day, they could have all just gone together and saved the child and then walked out the door and gone back to fighting on ground level again.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post

      Angel's lines about "all that matters is what we do" is one of those moments that will always stick with me. But I wonder his actions in episodes such as Power Play and Not Fade Away represent a betrayal of that philosophy.

      He certainly seems to have given up redemption and reward -- signing away the Shanshu. But he's still just beating "the other guy", even if in this case the "other guy" is "the Man" -- the powers-that-be and the Circle of the Black Thorn.

      If all that matters is what we do, what then about Angel killing Drogyn to enact his plan. When it comes to the ends justifying the means, it's not what you do that matters but why you are doing it. Angel singles out Lorne as a sign of non-judgmental approach to demons, but Angel also corrupts him -- turning the entertainer into an assassin. Both of these kills are of humans -- the moral litmus test according to Buffy at the end of BtVS season six. At least the senator that gun kills is a demon inhabiting a human's form.

      Yes, there is a greater good. Angel saved a child (one he initially endangered, however.) And the world is better off without that rogue's gallery of nasties.

      But what about Angel -- did he lose something of him when he turned others into pawns?

      I honestly feel NFA was less about Angel and more about Joss Whedon anger with the Network. The whole "they don't own us speech" let's go out with a bang with a suicide run doesn't really go with the all that matters outlook.
      Plus there is Harmony, he let's an unsouled demon (who'd betrayed him) go to kill again. With a job reference for good measure

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      • #4
        If I were Angel, I'd have crafted the letter of reference in such a way that it alludes to Harmony's vampiric nature, but also depicts her as a somewhat house-trained vampire. Thus preventing her from getting a normal job with those not-in-the-know, but also not seeming impressive enough for her to get a job at any crazed-killer demon place. In other words, it would steer her into a workplace where they have a diversity policy on having a pulse, but a job where she could be reasonably controlled and less a threat to society,

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Stoney View Post
          I can see that killing off the villains is an act for the greater good. But when you just believe that further people will take their place and you are likely to all die in the process, it becomes a murky balance.
          I agree with a lot of your other points however I'd argue that Angel killing The Circle is more in line with his Epiphany speech than not. Choosing to *not* kill The Circle because someone else will just take their place anyway implies that it's only worth doing if it has some grand outcome and finality to it - that it "matters", basically. Whereas, killing The Circle because you believe it's the right thing to do, even if won't "matter" in the long run, is choosing to do what's right even if in the grand scheme of things it won't mean you've "won."

          Obviously it's more complicated than that because of the collateral damage along the way, but I don't think the action in of itself goes against Angel's belief system. I think it's quite in line with it really.

          ~ Banner by Nina ~

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          • Stoney
            Stoney commented
            Editing a comment
            I can see your point here but I'm thinking about the bigger picture and the opportunity cost of helping more people that they are foregoing. I appreciate it's hard to balance other 'what ifs' though.

        • #6
          Originally posted by vampmogs View Post

          I agree with a lot of your other points however I'd argue that Angel killing The Circle is more in line with his Epiphany speech than not. Choosing to *not* kill The Circle because someone else will just take their place anyway implies that it's only worth doing if it has some grand outcome and finality to it - that it "matters", basically. Whereas, killing The Circle because you believe it's the right thing to do, even if won't "matter" in the long run, is choosing to do what's right even if in the grand scheme of things it won't mean you've "won."

          Obviously it's more complicated than that because of the collateral damage along the way, but I don't think the action in of itself goes against Angel's belief system. I think it's quite in line with it really.
          The Circle just felt like cartoon villains to me. 2 of them were literal comedy roles only a few episodes previously. Now suddenly the audience is supposed to take them as a threat. Only Vale seemed like a serious threat. I feel the Senator could've been but didn't have enough time.

          I wonder if they would've worked better thematically if they'd been humans rather than demons (with all the makeup etc that goes with it 🤔

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          • #7
            Angel's choice to take down the Circle isn't juat the ends justify the means, given that the actual ends will be a huge amount of death and destruction to reach an unspecified possible long term goal. There's no way of knowing what the affect of taking down the Circle will be. The members of the Circle could simply pass on their circle powers automatically to the next in line, like slayers.

            That's where I see the real difference between Epiphany and NFA. In Epiphany it was the single gesture and the individual life that mattered. In NFA both are rendered meaningless by a drive toward victory which results in mass deaths that are ignored. Angel and his crew are burned out by the fight against evil, and all have massive death wishes. NFA is a suicide attempt dressed up as a 'but for one bright, shining moment, we can show them that they don't own us." Looks to me more like they gave them a reason to really own the "us" that they used to protect.

            NFA negates Epiphany by making individual deaths beneath consideration.
            Can we agree that the writers made everyone do and say everything with a thought to getting good ratings and being renewed. This includes everything we love as well as everything we hate.

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            • #8
              Personally, I believe the Senior Partners never had any real desire to take Angel out despite their army of demons that attacks the group in NFA.

              As we see in the Buffyverse time and again, prophecies are meant to be puzzling and unavoidable - they are fulfilled in surprising ways when you least expect it. Even the SP appear to be bound by the ancient prophesies which foretell that Angel will play a major part in the end times - so I can't imagine they thought a back alley fight with the denizens of Hell would really change what cannot be changed. One of the reasons they hand over W&H to Angel is to ensure he plays his part in the end times on their side.

              There are a lot of ways in which W&H and the Circle try to circumvent Angel's prophecy - they make him head of W&H LA, try to use Spike against Angel as a possible rival for the prophesy and even make Angel human to circumvent the prophecy. But it seems likely that Angel is the subject of the prophecy - and there's nothing that W&H or the SP can do about that.

              It's possible that Angel thought that signing away the Shanshu would destroy all of their plans and rid himself of the prophecy - but it's also possible Angel suspected that doing something so reckless might result in the kind of time shift that happened at the end of AS4 to save Connor. Angel knows that W&H has the power to change time and place to enable a reset of everything - which is exactly what happens in the After the Fall comic. So stopping the Circle is in some ways just another chess move to see what the SP will do.

              So, yes, it is a kind of suicide pact, but at the same time, it's a gambit that the SP will blink when playing a game of chicken with Angel's life. And it actually works. At least for Angel himself. For the others, not so much.

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              • #9
                Stoney
                I have to try to think of why all the members would have lost hope so much to agree to it to try and find a throughline for them all individually to be stood there with their hands raised.
                I think it was the fact all of them had been working for W&H for a year. Something seeped into them little by little. I don't know if it was pure evil (probably not) or rather indifference or maybe even desperation. None of them valued their own life and that of others at the end of season 5 like they did at the start of it.

                vampmogs
                Choosing to *not* kill The Circle because someone else will just take their place anyway implies that it's only worth doing if it has some grand outcome and finality to it - that it "matters", basically. Whereas, killing The Circle because you believe it's the right thing to do, even if won't "matter" in the long run, is choosing to do what's right even if in the grand scheme of things it won't mean you've "won."
                I've always been suspicious of Angel's "all that matters is what we do" line. It feels to me as if this line tries to make something bad sound really good.

                I remember I asked what this line actually means once and a lot of people from here explained it to me and I was more content with it after that. But somehow your post has brought back all my doubts.

                "If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do". What I miss within this line is a moral imperative that guides us through what we do. If nothing we do matters, all that matters is how we do what we do. It's not about just doing something or anything. It's about doing the right thing.

                Back in the forties, Angel met a guy named Lawson on a submarine. Lawson told him "You don't win a war by doing whatever it takes. You win by doing what's right." I wonder if Angel had killed Drogyn and had asked Lorne to kill Lindsay if Lawson's words had been guiding him instead of his own line from Epiphany.

                flow




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                • Stoney
                  Stoney commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Interesting idea about being in W&H itself playing a part in their choices.

              • #10
                Originally posted by flow View Post

                I've always been suspicious of Angel's "all that matters is what we do" line. It feels to me as if this line tries to make something bad sound really good.

                I remember I asked what this line actually means once and a lot of people from here explained it to me and I was more content with it after that. But somehow your post has brought back all my doubts.

                "If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do". What I miss within this line is a moral imperative that guides us through what we do. If nothing we do matters, all that matters is how we do what we do. It's not about just doing something or anything. It's about doing the right thing.

                Back in the forties, Angel met a guy named Lawson on a submarine. Lawson told him "You don't win a war by doing whatever it takes. You win by doing what's right." I wonder if Angel had killed Drogyn and had asked Lorne to kill Lindsay if Lawson's words had been guiding him instead of his own line from Epiphany.
                Out of curiosity did you end up watching AtS as his line makes a lot more sense in context after viewing his arc in S2? Here's the entire exchange;

                Angel: "A lot of that going around."
                Kate: "I just couldn't... - My whole life has been about being a cop. If I'm not part of the force it's like nothing I do means anything."
                Angel: "It doesn't."
                Kate: "Doesn't what?"
                Angel: "Mean anything. In the greater scheme or the big picture, nothing we do matters. There's no grand plan, no big win."
                Kate: "You seem kind of chipper about that."
                Angel: "Well, I guess I kinda - worked it out. If there is no great glorious end to all this, if - nothing we do matters, - then all that matters is what we do. 'cause that's all there is. What we do, now, today. - I fought for so long. For redemption, for a reward - finally just to beat the other guy, but... I never got it."
                Kate: "And now you do?"
                Angel: "Not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because - I don't think people should suffer, as they do. Because, if there is no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness - is the greatest thing in the world."


                Angel is saying that he's guided by the desire to help people because he doesn't think they should suffer and that even the smallest act of kindness can be the greatest thing in the world. So there's definitely a moral basis to what he's saying. He's just saying that there's no great plan, no reward, no finality/final win.

                ~ Banner by Nina ~

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                • #11
                  vampmogs
                  Out of curiosity did you end up watching AtS as his line makes a lot more sense in context after viewing his arc in S2? Here's the entire exchange;
                  I have to admit I stopped watching Angel somewhere mid-season 1. I could not get into it. I might try again some time. I won't rule out watching it and I guess I simply wasn't in the right mindset when I tried. But for now, the answer remains nope I haven't watched his whole season 2 arc.

                  However, I have read the entire exchange between him and Kate in Epiphany. It was brought up in the other thread I mentioned (I probably will have to go and look the old thread up).

                  The one thing that bugs me is that Angel actually says something really important and meaningful in Epiphany but it's not the "If nothing else matters..." line. It's this line:

                  "Because, if there is no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness - is the greatest thing in the world."

                  And if I look at the season 5 finale I can't help wondering what happened to the smallest act of kindness. I can't see it in Angel's scheme to take down the Circle of the Black Thorne and that's why I think he is utterly wrong (and the others too, of course).

                  flow

                  ETA: I dug up the old thread: What does "If - nothing we do matters, - then all that matters is what we do" mean? - BuffyForums
                  Last edited by flow; 31-07-21, 11:31 AM.

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                  • BtVS fan
                    BtVS fan commented
                    Editing a comment
                    For Season 1 you stopped midway and really should watch the Faith 2 parter 5by5 and Sanctuary

                • #12
                  I think the if nothing else matters is connected to the smallest act of kindness line flow . The overall point incorporates the two. It all comes down to the actions that you choose and even something small matters because that's what you contribute to the world. And yes I'd agree, that he has lost his way in S5 from being in touch with the people on the ground he was originally looking to impact with even the smallest of gestures. But you could still argue that it is all about choices and him feeling that taking a stand is important. I just don't think it was the right choice.

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                  • #13
                    Stoney
                    I think the if nothing else matters is connected to the smallest act of kindness line flow . The overall point incorporates the two.
                    Oh, I totally agree that those two lines do not only make more sense if they are combined, they actually need each other. But that's not how they are shared and quoted. It's only ever "If nothing we do matters all that matters is what we do," and if you reduce the message like that it suddenly sounds like "Just Do It," which is completely void of any moral restrictions and that's exactly the trap Angel fell into in season 5. He went and just did it because just doing it was all that mattered to him when actually he should have done the right thing.

                    flow

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                    • Stoney
                      Stoney commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I see what you are thinking but I think the judgement about the goodness of what you choose to do is implied by 'all that matters is what we do'.

                  • #14
                    For me a part of Angel's tragedy has always been that he wants to be a proper hero but continues to find out that there is no such thing as a classic hero in Ats. Which is one of the reasons Ats and BtVS never really fit in the same world, despite taking place in the same cinematic universe. The kind of hero Buffy is, can't exist in Ats. Even Willow's arc (with a glorious redeeming glowing ending) is impossible in Ats. Cordy glowed as well, and it didn't take long for us to learn that it was hardly a good thing. Characters who start out heroic, don't make it to the finish line as heroes. And characters who want to be heroes, learn that it's not possible.

                    Classic symbols of being chosen or being a hero are often fake, pointless, bad or mocked.


                    The only real exception in the later seasons is Groo. Which tells us enough about how the writers of Ats view heroes. Classic heroes are unrealistic archetypes in Ats. Instead we see people like Anne and we get the epiphany in Epiphany. The idea that small acts of kindness are enough and that the bigger picture doesn't really matter. Which is a nice vision on heroism IMO.


                    But still, it's a world where apocalypses are annual and evil gods like to enslave humanity. You can't ignore all that. Angel slowly learns that he needs to take care of the later so people like Anne can do their thing. Angel giving up the Shanshu-prophecy is pretty much him giving up heroism. No glory, no reward. He and his team will do the dirty work and give others the chance to be (small) heroes.



                    It's a bombastic version of Giles smothering Ben IMO. It breaks the rules of what a hero does, but its not wrong. And more important, it's necessary.



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                    • Stoney
                      Stoney commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I can see the argument that bigger actions have to be taken too, but the balance on the costs given to make those choices doesn't always leave them as the right ones. Forgetting the smaller impacts can actually be losing the bigger picture.

                  • #15
                    Stoney


                    Sure, but in the case of apocalypses the balance is not really an issue, is it? NFA is about a well planned apocalypse by old ones and they had only one chance to do something. Not doing anything and hoping it will turn out okay in the future is not an option. There is no deus ex machina for moments like this in Ats. That's why the classic hero archetype doesn't exist (beyond the sillyness of Groo). In Ats, you can't focus on the small while still saving the world at the same time. That's the harsh lesson Angel learned in 5 seasons and why he gives up his dream of being a hero (in any shape or form).




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                    • #16
                      Nina I think I perhaps am not remembering AtS 5 well enough as I don't recall feeling it was an apocalypse they were thwarting in the sense of their actions being at all necessary but more that it was openly acknowledged as only briefly disrupting the bad guy's plans.

                      And I'm not sure how much Angel believed destiny can be signed away so much as still was disillusioned and lost heart in the original mission and belief that drove him in the earlier seasons.

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                      • #17
                        Originally posted by flow View Post
                        vampmogs

                        I have to admit I stopped watching Angel somewhere mid-season 1. I could not get into it. I might try again some time. I won't rule out watching it and I guess I simply wasn't in the right mindset when I tried. But for now, the answer remains nope I haven't watched his whole season 2 arc.
                        Honestly, this is not something I would normally recommend as I am a purist who thinks people should always watch the series in order however why not just watch some S2 episodes? If I remember correctly you've already watched AtS S5 so you might as well jump around a bit. I've come to love S1 but there's a big difference between S1/S2 (much like BtVS) and I think you'd really enjoy the S2 arc. Not only does it have flashbacks to characters like Spike and Dru but it's more serialised and contains some of the best episodes of the series (better than S5 IMO). It's also Angel's best character arc on the show and fleshes out a lot of his history that is touched on in BtVS.

                        I'd recommend Judgement, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been, First Impressions (definitely the weakest but contains important scenes), Untouched, Dear Boy, Darla, The Trial, Reunion, Redefinition, Reprise and Epiphany. If you're not enjoying the series by that point I think it's probably just not for you but my hope is you'd like it enough you'd want to go back and watch all the episodes you've missed in-between and at the very least it gives you a really good summary of Angel's arc that season and greater context around his speech in Epiphany.

                        The one thing that bugs me is that Angel actually says something really important and meaningful in Epiphany but it's not the "If nothing else matters..." line. It's this line:

                        "Because, if there is no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness - is the greatest thing in the world."
                        Agreed. Whilst fandom always emphasises the "If nothing else matters..." line it's actually the second line that is my favourite and that really touches me. Honestly, it could even be one of, if not my favourite lines in the entire Buffyverse because I find it so incredibly moving. It's definitely my favourite Angel line that's for sure.

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                        • #18
                          flow I'm a purist as well in feeling you should just watch all the episodes in order (and we could do it as a group watch on the board to give you some encouragement along the way). But if you struggle a lot with S1, another suggestion would be to shave off some S1 episodes. If you've already seen City of.... and Into the Dark (probably as that's ep 1 & 3), I'd watch 5, 6, 9, 11 and then you could jump to 15. By that point you would probably want to see the majority if not all of the remainder of the season.

                          Honestly, I do understand finding season 1 hard to feel energised by at first as I've seen reactors going through the same experience. But around the point when you stopped is probably about the stage it starts to get more interesting and some 'bigger' episodes with crossovers and flashbacks come up in the second half of the season. But watching and having even a brief chat about the episodes as you go could also possibly get you through all 22.

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                          • #19
                            Originally posted by vampmogs View Post

                            Honestly, this is not something I would normally recommend as I am a purist who thinks people should always watch the series in order however why not just watch some S2 episodes? If I remember correctly you've already watched AtS S5 so you might as well jump around a bit. I've come to love S1 but there's a big difference between S1/S2 (much like BtVS) and I think you'd really enjoy the S2 arc. Not only does it have flashbacks to characters like Spike and Dru but it's more serialised and contains some of the best episodes of the series (better than S5 IMO). It's also Angel's best character arc on the show and fleshes out a lot of his history that is touched on in BtVS.

                            I'd recommend Judgement, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been, First Impressions (definitely the weakest but contains important scenes), Untouched, Dear Boy, Darla, The Trial, Reunion, Redefinition, Reprise and Epiphany. If you're not enjoying the series by that point I think it's probably just not for you but my hope is you'd like it enough you'd want to go back and watch all the episodes you've missed in-between and at the very least it gives you a really good summary of Angel's arc that season and greater context around his speech in Epiphany.



                            Agreed. Whilst fandom always emphasises the "If nothing else matters..." line it's actually the second line that is my favourite and that really touches me. Honestly, it could even be one of, if not my favourite lines in the entire Buffyverse because I find it so incredibly moving. It's definitely my favourite Angel line that's for sure.
                            I agree about the first half of S2 up through to Reunion being the best run on either this or BtVS as an arc .
                            After that though it's like she show didn't know what to do next. The next 3 episodes are pretty bad and then you get Reprise and Epiphany (the laywer line was a copout) you get the Harmony episode which I couldn't stand and Dead End which was good but Lindsey is completely retconned in S5. I'm not a fan of the Pylea arc in the second half and that's not so good.

                            S5 the first half is not so great and its really only with the Fred death/Illyria rise that it goes back into arc mode.

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