Angel

Season 4 Episode 4

Slouching Toward Bethlehem

1
Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Oct 27, 2002 on The WB
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Episode Fan Reviews (10)

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  • The episode with the obscure and pretentious title.

    6.8
    I've got nothing on this title, beyond knowing that it's a title of a Joan Didion essay taken from the closing lines of a Yeats' poem which I've forgotten. Incidentally, why is Lorne so much more up on obscure literary references than I am?

    In our opening scenes we see Jasmine, a shrinking violet, newly manifest in our dimension in the shell of a very confused Cordelia.

    This really ticks me off, and is one of the main problems I have with this season.

    Cordy is a conduit for the Powers That Be. She is a figure of heightened awareness, and regardless of what she consciously remembers -- note the kung fu with the ninja lawyers in the garden -- she is a wildly self-possessed person.

    She hears her voice on the answering machine. She sees pictures of herself with the people she's talking to. She remembers none of it, but her reaction throughout is one of //deep// distrust.

    She is eased, by CYN!, back into this dimension. She is not blasted with the full force of the Whedonverse from the moment she ... reappears with no explanation and none forthcoming.

    They tell her their names, and conduct their business and Angel for reasons that will only ever be known to himself pours eight tall glasses of blood and moves them from the lobby to his room, spilling some. Gunn and Fred return from demon fighting and while the blood on the axe is undeniably purple Cordy somehow thinks they're talking about actual babies. And Lorne meets with a client (who later attacks her) and then meets with her himself (in a lovely scream take which is charmingly droll -- along with Gunn's very funny line "Guess why we call him 'Lorne.' ").

    And all the while this Cordy is reacting to everything like a blonde teenager in a horror film -- shrinking away from the main group, wandering off by herself, screaming at every passing thing.

    'Til Connor arrives and saves her.

    Let's back up a moment.

    Cordy accuses CYN! of lying to her. That's not accurate. They are giving her the Truth in what are meant to be manageable doses. Even after she hears her voice on the answering machine she is backing away from them.

    They //do// give her the full story and she freaks! She was demonstrably unable to handle this truth and that surprises me anyway. She grew up in Sunnydale after all with the cheerleader blindness and hangers-on turning invisible and, well, that graduation ceremony.

    Oh, and now that I'm remembering it, the rebar through the torso that her "Charmed" costume in "Belonging" didn't betray so much as a dimple.

    But Connor leads with "I tried to kill you. Sorry," and she's moving in with him.

    Not before Lorne reads her and sees in the words of her ably mismanaged reprise of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All" (gotta love that "Puppet Show" reference) an undefined apocalypse -- not a silent one like in Season 5, but a big tromping thumpy marching brass band of one "that made my skin crawl away and hide." (a very good line).

    "Do the words 'Slouching Toward Bethlehem' mean anything to you?"

    Why no. Let's look them up, shall we?

    .
    SLOUCHING TOWARD BETHLEHEM

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The dark drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

    .
    Well, that's some pretty impressive imagery. The Vietnam War discussion Didion drew seems almost quaint by comparison in a time when Vietnam is a tourist destination, but at the time the images certainly seemed appropriately apocalyptic.

    Why //Lorne// has such ready access to them is beyond me, but here is a delightful bit of misdirection. While Lorne nurses a fear he expressed better in "Time Bomb" -- "Oh G-d don't go in there" in reference to Gunn visiting Wesley -- CYN! mounts up on Wesley-fresh-from-Lilah's say-so and tromps off to save Cordy at Connor's little hole in the taxidermy.

    And W&H with its vast menagerie of demons brings one along to burrow into Lorne's skull (if that's where his brains are -- I know they've got a law firm there, but what gives them such ready insight into Pylean physiology, I wonder? His heart's in his bum after all)

    So Lorne has no information. CYN! is still missing a Cordy -- as are we all, in that that can no longer //possibly// be her -- and know little beyond the fact that some undefined terrible thing is about to happen -- well, //duh// (it must be Wednesday).

    And Wesley called his dangerous liaison with Lilah a relationship.

    Hold onto that dollar Wes -- it's important later.

    JASMINE WATCH: I'm still at about 40 to 60 percent certain that that's Jasmine in there, and I'll put it like this: Her running away from CYN! and her instinctive trust of Connor is not only counterintuitive; it fair //reeks// of manipulation.

    "What bizarro hell dimension did I wake up in?"

    Sadly, that line is still a season and a half away. But for now, we'll leave the light on for you.
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