Just Rewards?   

Review of AtS, Episode 5.2: Just Rewards

Spike: “You’ve got it too good. You’re king of a 30-floor castle, with all the cars, comfort, power and glory you could ever want. And here I save the world, throw myself on the proverbial hand grenade for love, honor and all the right reasons and what do I get? Bloody well toasted and ghosted is what I get, isn’t it? It’s just not fair.”

Angel: “Fair? You asked for a soul, I didn’t. It almost killed me. I spent a hundred years trying to come to terms with infinite remorse. You spent three weeks moaning in a basement and then you were fine! What’s fair about that?!”

Coming into this season there has been much speculation on how Angel would deal with the presence of Spike in LA. These two vampires with souls have a long history and I appreciate that the writers didn’t shy away from addressing that in the second episode out of the box. It made for a strong episode packed with answers, laughs, and revelations. Let’s just hope the rest of the episodes keep up the pace.

Spike’s presence at W&H will be an interesting challenge for Angel that is sure to spice up the rest of the season. As we saw in the first episode of this season and the finale of the last, Angel’s ascension to “Big Boss” is rapidly inflating his ego. He desperately needs a foil and before Spike appeared Angel lacked one. In the past, Cordy was always there to bring him down a peg or two with her straight talk and her timely reminders of his past mistakes. Connor, the son who loved to hate him and remind him that Angelus lurks just under the surface, is gone. Wesley has no memory of Connor and so, presumably, has no memory of betraying Angel and his subsequent fall from grace that resulted in Bad-Ass Wesley who was not afraid to stand up to Angel. Gunn, Fred, and Lorne are too wrapped up in the changes in their lives to be expected to help keep Angel’s ego in check. Eve was the closest we had to a foil for him but she won’t be effective in that role. Given that she is the link between the FG and the Senior Partners and is evil, anything she says will be easy for Angel to shrug away. And, Harm? Oh sure, she has a knack for saying what everyone is thinking but, let’s face it, she’s “harm”less.

Enter Spike. For the moment, let’s disregard the tension between Angel and Spike that is Buffy. They have enough issues without considering their jealousy over her. Spike is a walking, talking testament to the destruction that Angelus has wrought on the world. William would not have become Spike if not for him. Spike is even kind enough to remind us of this in the graveyard when he says, “Feels right, you being my grandsire and all. Circle of death, eh?” This fact is enough to qualify Spike as the perfect foil. Every time Spike “pops” up, Angel is reminded of his past sins.

Flash forward to Spike’s decision to get a soul. I repeat, his decision. Despite Angel’s cavalier way of brushing off the fact that Spike has a soul, it obviously bothers him that Spike not only has one but that he made the decision to get it on his own. Angel’s soul is a curse. He didn’t make the decision to have it back and, as we were shown at the end of last season, the demon inside (Angelus) would prefer that he lose it again. Compare that with the demon in Spike, the one that was making the decision to get the soul. The difference between their demons is a serious bone of contention with Angel. Despite all of his heroic feats, Angel is a moment of happiness away from reverting back to a sadistic monster. Spike? Not so much.

And Buffy. Our sweet vampire slayer, off in Europe enjoying a much needed separation from the Hellmouth. I am confident that the jealousy these two feel over Buffy will eventually subside. It’s a temporary complication to their relationship but, once Angel realizes that the love he and Buffy shared can’t be soiled by her feelings for Spike and Spike goes back to accepting that she isn’t ready to love him the way he wants, their Buffy tension will ease (just in time for sweeps, I’m sure). Fortunately for them both, this tension is useful in masking the real reasons behind their troubles. It was nice to see that, although he had to choke it out, Angel was willing to give Spike an update on Buffy (oh, yeah, and us too!).

Wait. In my attempt to illustrate why this episode was needed to establish that Spike is Angel’s foil, I feel I’ve made Angel out to be the bad guy. I can’t have Angel supporters mad at me. Let me correct that. Angel isn’t the bad guy, not by a long shot. He’s a hero, truly. Still, no one could deny that he’s got a mean egotistical streak that needs some checking. After all, every hero needs a little humility in his life.

Just rewards. The saying goes, “If you do the right thing you can be sure of just rewards.” Try to use that saying on Angel and Spike. I dare ya.

Angel has a soul and he saves people daily, weekly, monthly, even yearly. Yet, Spike is the one who gets to enjoy having a soul. Angel continues to suffer torment and there is no end in sight. His closest friends fear the moment of happiness that would take away that soul. What kind of “just rewards” are those? Spike, on the other hand, well, he got great kudos for seeking out his soul and, though we know he suffered torment, he can let it go and move on with enjoying life…well, death at least. Somehow it just doesn’t seem fair, now does it?

Not that Spike’s “just rewards” are much better. He certainly did the right thing back in Sunnydale. He sacrificed himself to save the world, yet Angel is the one who was handed W&H on a silver platter. Angel gets to enjoy the wealth, necrotempered glass, and power that goes along with running LA’s top law firm. Spike’s reward? To haunt Angel, watching him enjoy the spoils while he fights not to fall into Hell’s chasm that gapes beneath him. As he says, “It’s just not fair.”

Or is it?

Does one heroic act convey total absolution? How could that be true if Angel still suffers from his curse? Lest we forget, Angel effectively saved the world by killing Jasmine at the end of last season. Wouldn’t that qualify him for absolution too?

In “The Gift,” Buffy sacrificed herself to save Dawn and the world. She ended up in Heaven: our proof that good deeds are rewarded and Heaven is not unattainable in the Buffyverse.

The question really is, does one heroic act, in the wake of a century of evil, grant total absolution? It would appear not and, despite my love for Spike, I’m forced to concur. Though they obviously don’t agree, perhaps both Angel and Spike have gotten their “just rewards” after all. Sometimes doing the right thing IS the reward. Indeed, at the end of this episode, they end up overcoming their differences to do the right thing without expecting any reward for it.

And, to prove I actually did watch this episode:

  • So, who is responsible for bringing Spike back? I was disappointed by Eve’s absence. While I’m not crazy about her character, her initial reaction may have given us some insight into whether the Senior Partners are involved in his reappearance.
  • Kudos to the writers for having Angel question whether the Senior Partners intended for him to use the amulet and not Spike and, if that was the case, why they would bother to give him W&H. We all questioned it so it was refreshing to see him acknowledge it as well.
  • Glad we got the “19 days later.” Nice to have some answers as to the timeline. Of course, that still doesn’t clear up why everyone waited 3 weeks to move into their new offices. (Maybe they all took a mini-vacation after the Jasmine ordeal?)
  • Haha Moment: Harmony is disgusted that Spike was involved with Buffy and storms out of the office. He responds with, “I must be in Hell.” Ok, be truthful now, how many of you thought the same thing when Harmony first showed up on screen as Angel’s assistant? Let’s see a show of hands.
  • Was Lorne channeling Joss in the lab: “Honey of a story. The vampire slayer both men loved, both men lost. Oh, I could sell that to any studio in a heartbeat. I see Depp and Bloom.”
  • “Think I’m hot, do you?” Oh sweetie, you know it.
  • We got a plethora of nicknames in this episode: Captain Forehead, Casper, Ponce, Chairman of the Boring, Prat, the Science Queen, Percy, etc.
  • Cute Gunn voodoo doll!
  • Destined to become a classic AtS line: Bucket ‘O Lawyer.
  • Most Insightful Quote of the Night: “I know you Angel. What do you think you’re doing? Made some devil’s bargain to take over this company. Thought you’d use it to fight the evil of the world from inside the belly of the beast. Trouble is, you are too busy fighting to see you and yours are getting digested… What, you think you’re in control here? Guess again, mate.”
  • My two favorite lines: “Uh-oh, looks like it’s buckets for you.” “A spoon? That’s just… well, ok, more… disappointing really.”
  • Oh, wait, I forgot: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t care.”

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