Lonely Hearts
Written by: David Fury
Directed by: James A Contner
Air Date: Oct. 12, 1999

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While not as good an episode as City Of, the second episode of Angel’s spinoff does a very good job of continuing to setup the characters, arcs, and drives the show’s first season spends most of it’s time working on. Here, we see more of the devices used in the first episode to set things in motion: namely Doyle’s visions (which we get our first look at, and they do look a bit painful, I must say), Angel’s undying (pun intended) desire to do good vs. his inability to develop person-to-person relationships on the fly, and Cordelia’s want to belong in a world… any world. And I must say, for an episode that deals with a monster that goes back and forth through people through sex acts, I’m glad they never resorted Cordy being the center of attention and near death at the hands… erm, or other body parts, of the monster-of-the-week (something done much better in Angel’s first season, by the way, than in its parent show’s first). This also helps drive along the need Angel has to fill in the world: saving lives. If it started off by being about Cordelia every damn time, it’d get stale fast, and defeat the purpose.

Angel’s continued attempt to communicate with women continues from the first episode, but this time it is used to help introduce a serious side-character in the first two seasons, Detective Kate Lockley, a solid foil for Angel. Her trust issues are great, as is the reveal that she is on the police force. She is used to stand in for both “the law” and the common person that would have a hard time suddenly believing anything about demons, vampires, or the supernatural. Angel knows of her trust issues immediately in a very well-played scene showcasing their first conversation, one that is stilted, awkward, and over-wrought with sadness. Despite this, however, he has to keep things to himself, which brings them to blows more than once, physically sometimes, verbally others. It even leads Kate to perform an illegal search of Angel Investigations (where did the sign come from?) and his home underneath. These trust issues will define their relationship, even when everything is perfect and fine. Because Angel isn’t about to tell someone he doesn’t know he is a vampire, even if it could help keep them safe.

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On the flip side, we have a cute B-story between Doyle and Cordelia where they have to try to help Angel find out which demon he is facing (through the use of dusty old tomes Angel likely stole from Giles’ collection before, well… kaboom, and a computer it takes three people to use) and, in these interactions, they develop the start of their relationship, based primarily on Doyle’s crush and fear that Cordelia would hate him if she found out he was part-demon. It works well as a backdrop to Angel’s story, which features all the fighting, to have the major character development take place in other locations. We know Angel and Cordelia, but Doyle, Kate, and – coming soon – more characters are new to this universe and will take some time. Balance is needed and it is achieved here.

The interesting parallel here, between Angel hitting the big city and Buffy attending college, is that we see two sides of the “grown up” world, one with multiple sides to every situation. In high school, as Cordelia puts it, you know everyone and everything is great and not so unexpected (aside from the demons and other nasty beings trying to eat them all the time), but once you leave there, as Doyle puts it and as Buffy is finding out on her own, is that its a much scarier place. The world isn’t as forgiving to you once you are doing it for yourself and having to make your own way. “High school is over” he’d said an episode ago, and the first episodes of “Angel” showcase this better than anything else we’ve seen on “BtVS” thus far (but we’ll be getting to that soon enough). Its best articulated in the fact that Doyle’s vision, which we see, too, doesn’t allow him to pick out a single person from the bar they go to. This is, from a narrative point of view, because the demon could be any one of them at any time, who knows. But from a symbolic point of view, its because everyone needs help in the world, regardless of location, status, or position. That disconnect, one of the central themes of the episode, is so largely present in everyone’s lives that its hard to pinpoint just one person in greater need of help than anyone else.

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The other bit of symbolism is that rape is horrible. I know, I know, the sex act is shown as consensual every time we see two characters “do it”, but look at the faces between the possessed person and the victim when the real act begins. The look of pleasure mixed with the look of pain is symbolic of rape, no doubt about it. And then, think about the way the bartender, when possessed, tears into the back of Kate’s shirt and is so desperate to get his transition completed. Its horrific and you know it. Its not even subtle, I don’t think. The Buffyverse has some nice monsters and some nasty moments of pain, torture, and awfulness. But usually the monsters don’t really drag a real level of human fear into things. So its “nice” (to use the word loosely) to see a monster that brings an even more awful level of dread to the table than the simple “I will kill and/or eat you” aspect.

“Angel” is getting off to a good start, and the first season is a pretty damn good example of quality world building from a team of people that are coming off three years of dedicated work on world building. Having a spinoff show take place in the same universe, having the same rules, and dealing with the same issues in the same ways is nice and allows for the transition to be more real. It makes the choices we see these characters make, the motions they go through seem more legit. And it allows for Joss and his crew to take them in newer, more interesting places as time progresses. I’m just excited to be along for the ride once again.

Episode Rating: 89

Additional Notes:
VAST!
-Doyle’s shirts fit in at the club… everyone there is wearing such gross clothing
-Angle’s Batman impression is getting better, what with the leaving and appearing at random
-Best line?
Angel: “Don’t go in there…”
Kate: “Where are you going?”
Angel: “……………in there.”
-During the big battle with the Screech dude (which is brutal by the way), you can totally see a camera dude pop in from the right side of the screen
-Its embarrassing
-The business cards are bad. REAL bad. “Is that a lobster?”
-Angel as a veterinarian would be a really hilarious “alternate reality” comic
-Angel had some kind of electronic gizmo in the first episode and now he has a grapple gun. He IS Batman…!

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