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Season 1 Episode 15

The Prodigal

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Feb 22, 2000 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
429 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Usually docile demons are flying into violent rages, and innocent humans are paying the price. The realization that Kate's father is somehow involved brings up a lot of painful memories about Angel's own father.

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  • Whedon's father


    The Good;

    Clever opening scene with Liam. Darla, yay! Her words about love infecting the heart always are just incredible. Some nice paralells with Kate and some nice comedy with the alarm system.

    The Bad;

    The head demon looks stupid and looks rather like the guy Cordy will save Gunn from in season 2

    Best line:

    Liam's dad; "I was never in your way boy" (the most tragic line in the whole of Angel AND Buffy!)

    Jeez, how did they get away with that?

    Cordy sawing up the demon. Angelus slaughters Liam's family, even his little sister which we thankfully don't see.

    Apocalypses: 4

    Angel Cliches

    Damsel in distress; 15,

    Inverting the Hollywood cliche;

    In disguise; 3 no Angel but love Cordy as a blonde, only in Hollywood would that mean you could blend in.

    DB get's his shirt off;


    Cordy's tattoo;3

    Cheap Angel; 2

    Fang Gang in bondage:

    Cordy: 5

    Angel: 5

    Wes: 1

    Fang gang knocked out:

    Cordy: 8

    Angel: 7

    Wes: 2

    Doyle; 1


    Cordy: 3 vamps, 1 demons

    Angel: 1 demon and 3 vamps for Angel so 11 vamps, 5 and 1/2 demons, 2 humans.

    Doyle; 1 vamp

    Kate; 2 vamps for Kate making 3 in all

    Wes; 1/2 a demon

    Fang Gang go evil:

    Cordy: 2

    Angel: 1

    Alternate Fang Gang:

    Cordy: 2

    Angel: 5

    Characters killed:


    Recurring characters killed; Trevor Lockley


    Total number of Angel Investigations:

    3, Angel and Cordy and Wes

    Angel Investigations shot:

    Angel: 6,

    Packing heat;

    Wes; 1

    Doyle; 1

    Notches on Fang Gang bedpost:

    Cordy: 2 ?+Wilson/Hacksaw Beast

    Angel: 1;Buffy

    Captain Subtext;

    Trevor asks if Angel is 'West Hollywood', the term for LA's famous gay district

    Know the face, different character; 2

    Parking garages; yep, that's how Angel gets into the police station


    Buffy characters on Angel; Darla

    7; Angel, Cordy, Oz, Spike, Buffy, Wes, Darla

    Questions and observations;

    All the scenes between Kate and her dad are heartbreaking but pale compared to the tragedy of Liam and his family. We find that Trevor Lockley does care about Kate, he's on the take partially to provide for her (which explains how she can set herself up as a supernatural version of The Punisher in season 6). It seems that Angel(us) got the idea for his name from his sister.

    Marks out of 10; 7/10, the flashback scenes a lot better than the modern day stuff

  • Overall, this episode is one of the better installments of the first season, focusing almost entirely upon Angel’s relationship with Kate. It’s something of a cliché for characters to have issues with a father figure, but in this case, it places charactemoreless

    After a disaster of an “event episode” and a mediocre return to a more character-based approach, the writers returned to what might be considered one of the original plot threads of the first season: the evolution of Kate’s relationship with Angel. Up to this point, of course, it looked like Angel and Kate were headed for a tentative love connection. Kate’s discovery of Angel’s true nature got in the way of all that, but from there, the path forward was less obvious.

    The previous episode focused on a message regarding fathers and the effect they can have on their children. Wesley was the kind of young man who could never measure up to the lofty expectations of his father, and indeed, there were more than a few hints of psychological abuse. Wesley is still in the process of dealing with the fact that finding his own place in the world means ignoring his father’s wishes.

    As it turns out, Angel has more than a little in common with Wesley, which could and perhaps should have been used to give their partnership additional resonance. Angel’s father terrorized him in a similar yet oddly opposite fashion: he had expectations, but assumed that Angel could never meet them, to the point that failure became the expectation. As a result, Angel never had a sense of self-worth or accomplishment, something that fed into his demonic side when he became Angelus.

    Kate also has “daddy issues”. Her father felt that an emotional connection between father and daughter would represent weakness. Much of the reason behind that damaging psychology was outlined in “Sense and Sensitivity”. But Kate continues to strive for her father’s acceptance, even to the point of extremes. The underlying message of the episode is that such fathers maintain power over their children long after they are dead and gone.

    In “Somnambulist”, Kate discovered that there’s demonic activity in the world. Her initial reaction was very professional, and while she seemed stunned, she also seemed ready to deal with the new reality. Time, it appears, has allowed doubt to creep in. Now she’s not dealing with it so much as trying to return to that sense of blissful ignorance. Angel’s not sure how to deal with that, but he’s been around enough to know that Kate could get herself killed if she keeps putting reality at arms’ length.

    Of course, earlier in the season, Kate might have entertained some interest in Angel. He was already a part of her world. Even if she can turn a blind eye to the demons all around her, she can’t dismiss the fact that Angel isn’t just a dark and brooding private investigator. His nature is all too real for her, and she’s terrified to allow him to remain so far within her defenses.

    With so much emphasis on Angel’s past and Kate’s present, there’s not much else for the rest of the cast to do. Wesley plays a critical role to keep the plot moving forward, but Cordy is more or less window-dressing. In some respects, this keeps the episode from hitting all cylinders, since some of the later seasons meshed a larger ensemble cast in far better fashion. But the scenes that do include Cordy feel contrived as it is, so perhaps more would have been equally painful.

    One very interesting discussion between Kate and Angel picks up on one of the more intriguing questions regarding the Buffyverse. Initially, all demons were soulless and evil creatures, the original denizens of the Earth before the Slayer drove them out. But since that point, coming into “Angel”, there were hints of demons with a more neutral, even non-aggressive way of life. This would continue to be explored in the future, but in this case, it becomes a benchmark for Kate’s psychological state. Angel tries to get her to understand that not every demon is evil; Kate, however, needs to see things in black and white at this point.

    Angel’s decision to meddle when it comes to Trevor Lockley’s activities, however justified by the circumstances, is something that comes back to haunt him. He does it, it seems, out of consideration for Kate’s feelings. It might have been better if he had given her some information that would let her verify his discovery independently. By going behind her back, it gives Kate reason to think Angel can’t be trusted, which is not his intention.

    It’s also hard to imagine how Trevor would miss the rather obvious fact that his associates are conducting illegal activities. Does he really believe that something a little illegal is any better for a former law enforcement officer than something completely illegal? Trevor’s motivations are hard to pin down, and they seem designed simply to ensure that his life will be forfeit in the worst possible scenario for Angel and Kate.

    Kate’s peace gesture becomes the impetus for Angel’s attempt to protect Trevor from himself, all in the name of trying to protect Kate from being hurt. Of course, when the time comes, Trevor’s choices deliver consequences before Angel can do anything but watch it happen. He seems to forget, in the interests of taking revenge, that he called Kate and tried to get her to warn her father. In the end, however, the whole situation is designed to make it look like Angel stood by and watched her father be murdered.

    That’s not at all consistent with the fact that Kate armed herself with very specific information in “Somnambulist”; she would know that Angel has to be invited in, regardless of the circumstances. So Kate’s anger towards Angel is really a way of transferring her own sense of blame onto Angel’s shoulders. Kate blames herself, on some level, because she had been trying to ignore the reality of demons. Angel is the one that opened her eyes to that, and so all that self-loathing is given direction.

    This does, however, give Kate a direction that isn’t contrary to the expectations of the fans, who were still hoping for an Angel/Buffy reconciliation. That would be crushed to pieces soon enough, but in the meantime, the audience got a good look at what might have been, had the Slayer been less in love with the vampire with a soul. Kate makes a nice enough Slayer stand-in, despite the inexperience, and that parting shot to Angel is just vicious.

    The theme of the episode, however, is one of tragedy. Angel and Kate are both left without closure, though of course, Angel’s situation is far more damaging in the long run. Kate wasn’t directly responsible for her father’s death, but Angelus definitely murdered his entire family with a smile and a few witty remarks. Angelus thought he was defeating his father, but as Darla points out, he was delivering final victory to Liam’s da without a second thought.

    This brings up an intriguing side to the whole “vampire” concept in the Buffyverse. According to the Watchers, vampires utterly replace the human with a demonic personality, thus eliminating the human entirely. The mechanism of Angel’s curse made that unlikely, and as time marched on, more details emerged. In this episode, Darla puts into words what the totality of the Buffyverse continuity clearly indicates: the demon within a vampire is essentially an invading parasitic entity that comes in, locks onto a person’s psychological obsessions, and heightens them to a massively damaging and violent degree.

    In terms of Angelus, it’s rather complicated. This episode establishes that at least part of Angelus and his deviousness originated with the heightened obsession over living up (or down) to the expectations of Liam’s father. Thus Angelus has an appetite for elaborate destruction, even to the point of self-destructive madness, as per the second season of “Buffy”. Angelus prefers to torture his victims psychologically, and this episode suggests that his methodology is based in the complicated and bitter mental anguish of Angel’s youth.

    This blurs the fine line between the human and demon within a vampire. Most vampires are ruled completely by the demonic persona; indeed, they become the cannon fodder of nearly every “Buffy” teaser sequence. But there seems to be a significant population within the vampire horde that operates on a more substantial level. Spike is ruled by obsessive love (thanks to mommy issues), Angelus is ruled by a need to display the full depth of his cleverness, Drusilla is ruled by her visions and accentuated madness, and so on. The real question is Darla and her motivations, which are explored in more detail later in the series.

    Speaking of Darla, it’s no mistake that the audience was reminded of her role in Angel’s past. By this point, the writers were beginning to see where the series should be going, at least in terms of the second season. One could even assume that the first season itself was seen as something of a loss, given all the outside pressures; the focus was on establishing new characters, clarifying the situation with Kate and later Wolfram and Hart, and then getting the series to the point where a story arc could be firmly established for the second season. Showing Darla in all her glory (and incredibly tight period attire) was a good first step, though hearing David’s version of an Irish accent is hardly a treat.

    Thus this episode marks a turning point for the first season. The rest of the season would have serious highs and lows, and the apparent theme of the series would be lost in the shuffle. It’s not so much that the effort was no longer being made to make the first season meaningful, but when one looks back on the series as a whole, the first season serves as an extending opening chapter to a much more interesting tale to follow.

    “The Prodigal” is one of the season’s better episodes, because it defies expectation by setting Angel and Kate against one another. At this point, there was still an attempt to make Kate and the more darkly rendered “real world” concept for the series work. But the seeds for the more epic, mythological aspect of the series had already been established in “I Will Remember You”. Kate never fit into that side of the story, and so while this episode sends Kate in an interesting and more complex direction, it was closer to a holding action than a strong step forward.

  • 'Ever since she ran me through with a 2 x 4, things have been different.'

    ‘The Prodigal’ is one of the best episodes so far dealing with daddy issues and introducing the flashbacks to the show.

    The episode begins with Angel as human, Liam who was usually drunk and wanted to corrupt the servant, his father mistreated him and says that he wished he had a son because Liam was a terrible disappointment.

    Kate is also back and once again she got daddy issues. Some homeless-looking demons that were usually peaceful are starting to attack people and Kate’s dad happens to be at the crime scene, Kate believes because he was checking on her but Angel knows better. When some suspicious delivering guy leads to Trevor Lockely, Angel for sure knows that he is involved into something.

    The flashbacks were fantastic. We see how Liam got made into Angelus (they use the scene of Buffy’s 2x21) and include some others, like Angelus coming out of the earth and being picked up by Darla. He also goes back to the father that used to make his life so hard and gets invited by his sister who thought he came back to her as an Angel. Then he kills his own father.

    The funny part of the episode was Cordy putting an alarm in the house but then realising it didn’t do much good at all and unplugging it again.

    They also discover some kind of drug in the demons that were supposed to be peaceful, the drug makes demons a lot more stronger and these ones are after it.

    Trevor then gets himself into trouble, he tells the demons to lay back but when he’s gone the boss tells them to kill Lockely and Angel. Angel finds out about this and calls Kate, on his way over to Trevor he finds out that he is already to late and gets killed infront of his eyes, when Kate arrives it’s to late because her father is then already dead.

    Kate wants revenge and goes to kill the main demon but they are to strong, Angel comes to help her and after he saves her she begins to hate vampires including him and doesn’t want his help or to talk to him.

    This episode had a wonderful daddy issues storyline, I felt very bad for Kate because she never truly got along with her father but still she loved him.

    I also loved the flashbacks and Darla telling Angelus that what he did was of love because killing his family took but moments.

    The episode was brilliant, the only weak thing about it was actually that demon-drug storyline.

  • daddy issues

    a very interesting episode that shows us how angel was created by darla and angel as a human having problems with his father. that really made the episode very good and was very well writtenn but what did no work were the demons that used some drygs or something and felt stronger by it. that was kind of dumb.

    at the end kate looses her dad and she had issues with him too. it was sad for her but i hated her dad so i did not care for his death. the last scene was sad and pretty but it turned kate into a vampire hater which is a shame because angel is a vampire.moreless
  • Sins of the Father

    This was a very good episode for those of us who wanted to get more of a glimpse into the dynamic of Angels relationship with his Father. They didn't have much of one; his Father thought Angel (Liam) was pretty much a loser. Angel was the typical rebellious layabout who did what he could to prove his father right. We also got to compare/contrast that relationship with Kate and her Father. Kate did everything she could to make her Father proud, never faltering, and he still couldnt say a kind word to her. We do find out he was looking out for her future, but he was doing it illegally. Angel's Father dies at his hand after he was turned. Kates Dad also dies at the hand of a vampire, and Angel tried in vain to save him. Their relationship is never the same after this.moreless
John Mahon

John Mahon

Trevor Lockley

Guest Star

Henri Lubatti

Henri Lubatti

Suit #1

Guest Star

Frank Potter

Frank Potter

Uniformed Delivery

Guest Star

Elisabeth Rohm

Elisabeth Rohm

Detective Kate Lockley

Recurring Role

Julie Benz

Julie Benz


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (9)

    • When Angel kills "Head Demon Guy," he falls back with his head firmly attached. Then, the head suddenly rolls across the room.

    • When Cordelia and Wesley are attacked in their office, Cordelia pulls a bookshelf down onto one of the demons. In the next scene, however, the bookshelf is standing upright.

    • When Angel is speaking to Kate in his office, you can see his reflection in the desk.

    • When examining the body of the demon from the subway, Wesley says that he has performed a "vivisection." A vivisection can only be done on an animal that is alive when you begin the process. Since Angel killed the demon back in the subway, Wes actually performed a "disection."

    • You can actually hear Angel breathing heavily when he digs his way out of his grave in the flashback. This could be considered a goof, but it has also been shown that even though vampires do not need to breathe, they often continue to do so out of habit. This includes many examples of vampires seeming "out of breath" or otherwise breathing heavily in both this series and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    • When Kate finds her dead father lying on the ground, you can clearly see the actor blinking several times during the scene.

    • Both Darla and Liam's breath is visible in the cold air. Since both of their bodies are now the same temperature as the air around them, their breath should not be misting in the cold.

    • During the fight scene in the warehouse, Kate's grip on the pistol shifts from two-handed to one-handed (with her left hand at her side) back to two-handed in consecutive cut shots.

    • When Angel is talking to Kate in her office about how the "evil thing" isn't an evil "evil thing", the boom mic is visible a couple of times at the top of the screen.

  • QUOTES (15)

    • Wesley: I think you'll find most people require some period of adjustment after being confronted with the dark forces which surround us. Women in particular--
      (Cordelia is seen kneeling over the Kwaini demon with a hacksaw)
      Cordelia: Found it! (starts to saw into the demon)
      Wesley: ...struggle with it.

    • Liam: As you wish, father. Always, just as you wish.
      Liam's father It's a son I wished for, a man. Instead, God gave me you, a terrible disappointment.
      Liam: Disappointment? A more dutiful son you couldn't have asked for. My whole life you told me in word, in glance what it is you've required of me and I've lived down to your every expectation now, haven't I?
      Liam's father: That's madness!
      Liam: No, the madness is I couldn't fail enough for you, but we'll fix that now, won't we?
      Liam's father: I fear for you, lad.
      Liam: And is that the only thing you can find in your heart for me now, father?
      Liam's father: Who'll take you in, hm? No one.
      Liam: I'll not lack for a place to sleep, I can tell you that. Out of my way.
      Liam's father : (clearly in emotional pain) I was never in your way, boy.

    • Darla: Your victory over him took but moments.
      Angelus: Yes.
      Darla: But his defeat of you will last lifetimes.
      Angelus: What are you talking about? He can't defeat me now.
      Darla: Nor can he ever approve of you. In this world or any other. What we once were informs all that we have become. The same love will infect our hearts, even if they no longer beat. Simple death won't change that.
      Angelus: Love. Is this the work of love?
      Darla: Darling boy. So young. Still so very young.

    • Angelus: I could feel them above me. As I slept in the earth. Heartbeats. The blood coursing through their veins. Was it a dream?
      Darla: A dream for you. Soon their nightmare.

    • Angel: So, you're back.
      Cordelia: Very good, Mister I-can't-tail-the-suspect-during-the-day- because-I'll-burst-into-flames Private Eye.

    • Trevor: (about Angel) You two still seeing each other?
      Kate: We were never seeing each other, Dad.
      Trevor: What's wrong with him?
      Kate: Nothing!
      Trevor: Must be something wrong with him. He married?
      Kate: No.
      Trevor: West Hollywood?
      Kate: Daddy, no! Angel's just... not my type. Or I'm not his type. There is definitely a type involved and it's the wrong one.

    • Angel: (about Kate) Ever since she ran me through with a 2 x 4, things have been different.

    • Angel: It's just that the... uh... Evil Thing, turns out that it wasn't an evil Thing.
      Kate: The Evil Thing wasn't an evil Thing?
      Angel: Well, it was an Evil Thing, in terms of that word. It just wasn't an evil "Evil Thing".
      Kate: There are not-evil Evil Things?
      Angel: Well, yeah.

    • Angel: This thing was a fighter.
      Wesley: Not if it was a Kwahini, it wasn't. At least, not a fighter by nature. They're incredibly articulate, gentle creatures. Not even capable of the kind of power and strength you described.
      Cordelia: Maybe it was just having a bad skanky rag day.

    • Cordelia: The installation guy said it should be something easy to remember, like... my birthday.
      Angel: I don't know your birthday.
      Cordelia: Yeah, tell me something you don't know that I don't know.

    • Darla: He's magnificent.
      Barmaid: Oh, yeah, God's gift alright.
      Darla: Really? I've never known God to be so generous.
      Barmaid: Oh, his lies sound pretty when the stars are out. But he forgets every promise he's made when the sun comes up again.
      Darla: That wouldn't really be a problem for me, actually.

    • Wesley: What happened to calmly, cautiously, and deliberately investigating before rushing in?
      Angel: That was plan A. We've since moved on to plan B.
      Wesley: And plan B is?
      Angel: (twirls a battle ax) Do I really have to explain it to you, Wesley?

    • Head Demon Guy: You're dead!
      Angel: I'm already dead. Welcome to the club.

    • Kate: Sorry. I guess I'm still having a little trouble with this otherworldly stuff.
      Angel: Right, although demons aren't technically otherworldly. I mean, in fact, they were here... first.

    • Kate: No, you don't get to do that.
      Angel: What?
      Kate: Kill a demon in front of me and then act like we're going to have a cappuccino together. It doesn't work that way.
      Angel: How does it work?
      Kate: I'm not convinced it does.

  • NOTES (8)

    • This episode scored a rating of 5.2/8 in the overnight Nielsen ratings, ranking 4th out of 15 WB shows for that week.

    • David Boreanaz does the "Previously on Angel" voiceover.

    • This is the first appearance of Darla (Julie Benz) on Angel. It's her first return to the Buffy/Angelverse since she was dusted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Angel" (1x07) three seasons before. Darla was present briefly in Buffy's second season finale in a flashback of when she sired Angel.

    • This episode is unusually short clocking in at only 40 minutes rather than the usual 44 minutes.

    • Liam's tombstone reads: "1727-1753 Beloved Son."
      Angel was turned into a vampire at age 26.

    • "Liam" is an Irish form of "William," so essentially Angel and Spike (who was known as "William the Bloody") have the same name.

    • Angel's real name is Liam. After becoming a vampire, Liam goes back home to murder his family. His sister, seeing him alive again, believes that he must be an angel. This may have been the original basis for Darla naming him Angelus, Latin for "angel."

    • Cordelia's Birthday is May 22.


    • Trevor: What's wrong with him? Is he married?
      Kate: No.
      Trevor: West Hollywood?

      West Hollywood is an area of L.A. well known to have an extremely large gay population (roughly 41% as of the 2000 Census). Kate's father is asking if Angel is either married or gay.

    • The title of this epsiode refers to the Biblical parable of the prodigal son. That tale is about a son who leaves home, squanders all his wealth, and then returns home to a joyous welcome from his father. This fits thematically with the episode because it is largely about Kate's relationship with her father and (through flashbacks) about Angel's relationship with his human father.