Season 2 Episode 5

Dear Boy

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Oct 24, 2000 on The WB

Episode Fan Reviews (12)

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  • Overall, this episode was the first of the second season to address the season arc directly, and it set up many of the important plot elements in the process.

    Much like the “Buffy” episode that aired during the same week, this episode was all about bringing the smoldering plot elements strewn throughout the first few episodes into the forefront. Where the fifth season arc for “Buffy” began in earnest, with many elements left open to question, the second season arc for “Angel” was more or less laid out in this episode. When this one was over, the goals of Wolfram and Hart were fairly clear; the character exploration that resulted was the entire point of the arc.

    Following up on Darla’s slow but steady seduction of Angel, this episode takes it to the next level and explores the desired effect in more detail. As a result, the rest of the world around Angel finally gets the chance to react to the subtle changes in his personality. It’s not a pretty sight, especially since the writers finally get around to bringing Kate back into the picture.

    As mentioned in many other Buffyverse reviews, one of the primary theories regarding vampires pertains to how the darkest impulses of the human personality translated into the demonic personality. As seen with characters like Spike and Angelus, the prevailing psychology of the vampire appears to be an extreme and twisted version of the worst aspects of the original human. In terms of Angel, Liam wanted to prove how clever he could be, devalued by his family and society. Angelus thus became cruel and unusual in how he would toy with the world around him, gaining infamy in the process.

    This is important, because it was something largely untouched in the early seasons of “Buffy” and the first season of “Angel”. The earlier seasons always set a wide divide between the human and the demon. In Angel’s case, Angelus was evil in and of himself. Angel was the human haunted by the deprivation of Angelus, this horrible alter-ego that had taken over his body. But this season arc explores the intricacies of the concept, showing how Angelus was an outgrowth of something within Angel from the very beginning.

    That idea was an important response to the end of the first season. If Angel is foretold to be restored to his humanity at the end of the fight, there are metaphorical aspects that come into play. Is this meant literally or spiritually? Overall, it works better from the spiritual point of view, and this season is very important in terms of exploring the part of Angel that fuels Angelus. It’s not the demon, as noted later, but the full depths of Angel’s emotional and psychological anger and bitterness.

    As noted, the plan by Wolfram and Hart is to use Darla, as Angel’s obsession for 150 years as Angelus, to bring out the darkness within the core of Angel’s human personality. The theory would be: if the evil within Angel was a seed that flourished in Angelus, how much darkness was actually present in the man? And if Darla was the woman who turned him, wouldn’t she be the best chance at bringing out that darkness again?

    The plan definitely works, because despite what Angel might say otherwise, his entire existence is shaken by the possibility that Darla is alive and manipulating him. It doesn’t take very much to make him act out, and Darla is more than happy to see it happen. Julie Benz does an incredible job (with the help of the wardrobe department!) of playing up Darla’s seductive side, but she’s equally effective at portraying Darla as the wounded ex-wife, returning with a vengeance.

    After all, Darla was the center of Angelus’ universe for a long time, and a lot of his choices were made to live up to her expectations. It was bad enough when Angel’s soul was restored, but then Angel chose Buffy over her. There are few rejections more crushing than a stake to the heart. Darla is the woman scorned, and this is not only her way of getting back a pound of flesh, but stealing Angel back from Buffy.

    One key to the larger season arc is dropped in this episode, in terms of Angel’s curse and how it works. In the second season of “Buffy”, the emphasis was on sex as the trigger for Angelus’ return. However, the true condition was “a moment of pure happiness”, which is something else entirely. Angel makes it clear that he never loved Darla, no matter how heated a passion they felt for each other. So the stage is set for the moment, later in the season, when Angel and Darla have sex, without Angelus being unleashed.

    Like Wesley and Darla before him, Gunn demonstrates his willingness to take Angel down if he should return to his evil ways. This is also an important element of the season arc, because if his entire team is willing to take that measure, then the later decision not to stake Angel becomes a sign that the team does not believe he has fully reverted. It also sets them apart from Kate, who has little patience for the nuances of the situation.

    Kate’s journey has taken some interesting turns by this point, and by making her one of Angel’s opponents, that dynamic is a lot better than the first few episodes would have indicated. Her reaction to her father’s death has led her to a Mulder-esque fall, which has led her to blame Angel for every bad thing that happens. It doesn’t matter whether or not Angel could have prevented the deaths or foreseen the danger.

    It’s not unlike shooting the messenger, but it pertains to the season arc in a number of ways. Kate’s animosity eliminates one source of cooperation from Angel’s world, which serves to isolate him even more. More importantly, Kate’s attitude foreshadows what would happen later in the season, as Angel makes the direct choice to allow people to be killed. Where does one draw the line? At what point does Angel’s culpability begin? It is a question that would continue to be explored right up until the end of the series.

    Dave Greenwalt always had a strong sense of Angel and his psychology, and this episode hits at the heart of what the second season would accomplish: transforming the series from a noir-heavy action piece into a study of redemption and the demon within. The strength of the second season is reflected in this episode, especially in terms of the foreshadowing and plot development. This is a stepping stone to some of the disturbing yet rewarding episodes still to come.