I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Written by: Jeannine Renshaw
Directed by: R. D. Price
Air Date: Feb. 15, 2000

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This is a solid episode, even if it borrows heavily from other narratives of a similar sort, though it does have faults of its own. We meet the Andersons, a normal looking family with a dark secret. After receiving an increasingly violent looking vision through Cordy, Angel and Wesley head to their home to investigate what the problem is. We’re shown some stuff earlier that the characters don’t know: The dad is a creeper; they lock their kids doors with padlocks; children in India only have three cards. Angel stops a car from running the boy, Ryan, over, and the parents invite him to dinner the following night to repay him, though the dad seems reluctant. While this goes on, Wesley is out back, doing his best to be a detective… by going through the garbage (an old baby doll scares him witless by crying for two seconds. Come on, Wes, get it together). He takes a poop sample and the team determines they have a demon on their hands.

“Angel”, as a show, is a curious beast in its first season: it struggles to not be a “monster of the week” type show, but fails to manage that for the most part. This isn’t a fault, really, it just happens to be the way it is. But of all the episodes following this format, this is one of – if not the best. Why? Because of how freaking subversive it is throughout. And surprising. Throughout the episode, it goes to some predictable places, but twists them every time, defying expectation: The dad seems creepy and possibly evil, but it turns out the son is the evil one. The demon kid follows some extremely “Exorcist”-tropes to the letter, but it turns out that the demon possessing the kid? Doesn’t want to be in there and needs the Angel team to bust him out. And the good sweet kid that he was invading? He is neither good nor sweet on account of him having ABSOLUTELY NO SOUL.

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The tension and atmosphere of the episode is downright creepy. The way the parents act; the way the dinner goes (how does Angel even make it through dinner since he doesn’t eat? Doesn’t the already-suspicious dad have anything to say about that?); and all the time the kid spends at Angel’s home are eerie. Some good, though rather basic effects (those marbles, for example) help add to the feel of the episode and then the clincher – finding that the priest they wanted to perform the exorcism died previously doing the exact same ritual. Now Wesley or Angel has to do it and, as Wesley points out in his first really bad-ass moment, Angel can’t quite hold a cross to expel anything, now can he? Cordelia’s side-story about going to the magic store and buying a specific box from Rick? Hilarious. Rick. What the hell, guy. What the hell.

The demon does everything it can to get out of the kid, too. He’s scared and trapped and, since he has no soul, he has no real power over him. He even tried to get him to commit suicide just to end his suffering. He taunts Wesley and Angel with harsh words about Wesley’s father and Doyle, respectively. And, whoops, cross in your neck! While on the subject of Wes, though, the inclusion of his father and that drama is so forced its sad. He brings it up earlier in conversation and gets all awkward. This is so they can Chekov’s Gun-it into the back half with the demon. Lazy and weak. Especially since the next episode is all about fathers and it would have been a perfect place to shoe-horn it in, there.

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The ending is also kinda rushed and I feel a bit off. After the demon is expelled, it goes into hiding to regain strength. It is immediately tracked to a way-too-dark sea cave and the revelation that the kid was more evil than the demon is interspersed with scenes of Ryan starting to act in dark and unsettling ways. For the demon, its just what he does. But for the kid to do these things? That’s scary. Of course, the kid wastes no time in trying to light his whole family on fire in their house. Its been less than three hours since the exorcism. You’d think he’d wait a few days? Let things cool down? Kate shows up for half a minute to remind us she is there (again, she’s in the following episode, so better get some themes and characters rolling, I guess?) and Angel saves the day, but feels confused about the whole thing.

And that’s the best part of the episode, in my opinion. This show is all about “the good fight” and this is a great episode to showcase that major, overarching theme. Angel needs to save the kid’s soul, he needs to save the family. He lost Doyle and now has to protect not only the innocent people the Powers that Be sent to him, but his friends. His “family” so to speak. These are the main things that are brought up time and time again until the finale of the series, and here is further groundwork. It also lays out more of his detective skills, this time without the use of a crappy, early 2000’s computer and internet search. Also, props to the kid playing Ryan: Jesse James (seriously) does a damned good job.

Episode Rating: 92

Additional Notes:
-Wesley says Lizzy Borden was possessed by a demon. Seems legit!
-Best line? The demon, to Wesley during the first attempt at an exorcism: “Your latin sucks”
-Cordelia’s awful brownies
-Angel has no idea how to talk to kids
-Is a demon gonna have to choke a bitch?
-I’d completely forgotten it was the son, and I’d absolutely forgotten the twist ending. That was a treat
-Nice shot of Angel regarding the cross in the church with cold tension
-Fantastic acknowledgement that the nun knew Angel was a vampire from just meeting him!

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