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Morally Wrong/Ambiguous Angel

Oct 23, 2018
I'm not attacking Angel's character. I love Angel. I like bangel in it's place. But he makes a bad choice here and that is what I am calling him out on.

Whether or not it's a well constructed episode is clearly up for debate. One cannot simply claim it is so.

It comes off the back of an episode constructed purely to bring this one into being, where a threat that is not that threatening calls Angel into town and he makes the decision to remain hidden from Buffy for no sensible in world reason but purely so she will cross over to his show to see him. They are attacked, out of the blue, by a demon - who later claims that 'the end of days is coming - for any one of us that falls ten shall rise' ... this never comes to pass. Angel has never been randomly attacked in his office before, he is never randomly attacked in his office again - but today a giant, green ninja demon just happens to come crashing through his window. Why? if Buffy hasn't made enough trouble for the soldiers of darkness in three years to warrant a random attack at her home, how has Angel caught their attention in the last seven episodes? But let's not focus on something as unimportant as whether or not the threat actually makes sense.
They hunt the demon, Buffy takes a stake with her despite the fact she saw the demon and it is not a vampire. This is a stupid decision for a warrior to make. Her in world reasoning is that she 'knows how to use it' - despite the fact that she knows how to use any other weapon you might care to put in her hand. The extra textual reason is so she can carry something small enough to conceal, meaning she can go up into the streets to hunt - so they can get separated and Angel can become human without her realising straight away, which will allow for a passionate bangel kiss in the sunshine. If Buffy had acted like the warrior she is and taken a suitable weapon, that would not have happened.
We have a cliched irony smash of 'well if I no longer have the visions ...' BAM.
Then Angel makes a stupid decision to not take Buffy with him to fight the Mohra, despite Doyle even pointing out that this is stupid. But 'not for the world' will he do the sensible thing and tell the superhero whose job it is to kill demons that there is a demon that needs killing. He tries to get Cordelia to lie for him for ... reasons. Those same reasons he didn't tell Buffy he was in Sunnydale. Those plot relevant reasons that have no actual internal sense or logic. Had Cordelia managed this successfully, he would be dead. Fortunately for Angel, his reasons and the plot - Cordelia is unable to keep a secret. (it's also fortunate for him that Buffy happens to wake up, despite the fact that he left her there because he didn't want to wake her up...) Then he makes a decision to become a vampire again without telling anyone on the basis of the great darkness that is coming, the end of days and the fact that Buffy is going to die. The great darkness never comes, the end of days doesn't happen and Buffy is dead by the end of the next season. Stupid. Pointless. Constructed around the bangel moment and not a good story because the bangel moment is all that matters and two episodes across both shows are used in service of that one moment, and then all the plot points that brought us to it are dropped like a hot potato and never brought up again.

I never said Angel was calculating. I know the time reversal is not his plan (believe me, if there's one thing I know the Sh*t out of back to front, it is a Doyle episode of Angel). But he chooses to go to the oracles without speaking to anyone. That is his choice. We don't actually know how long after the fight it is - but Buffy has changed her clothes, which suggests it is not the immediate aftermath. Considering it was already night time when the fight happened, and rather than go back to bed she has got dressed into something else, it would suggest this is the next morning. The fact that 24 hours are swallowed and they return to the point in time in the office also suggest this is the next morning and not the previous night - and as the three of them are in work and Buffy has had a chance to travel from Sunnydale to L.A, it's not even early morning. Add in the fact he was hurt in the fight and yet shows no signs of it now despite no longer having superhealing - that definitely suggests he did not go straight to the oracles. He has also had time to locate a ching dynasty vase. All in all, he did not go straight there from the salt treatment plant. Angel says he didn't think he could go through with it if he woke up next to her another day ... so I'm left with the rather uncomfortable feeling that they went home, went to bed and instead of falling asleep, he came to this decision and got up to see it through, leaving her to find him gone when she awoke.

He might not know exactly how the oracles are going to put it right, but his going there is not on the back foot. Whatever he thinks is going to happen (and I think he already knows what he is going to ask for) he makes a decision to go and speak to powerful beings, to ask them for something - gets them a gift - he knows what he is doing is seismic and impacts Buffy. And it is not his decision to do it that I think is wrong, it is his decision to do it without telling her. Especially as clearly there was time to do so. The only reason he doesn't is for the drama of the kitchen scene - because dramatically (or melodramatically) that does work better than a sensible, grownup conversation. But that does not make the decision right in world, and having your characters do stupid things just to chase the drama is not good writing.

As for the world building that goes no where - within the episode we have:
- Mohra demons introduced, tell us soldiers of darkness are coming and that the end of days is here. None of this goes anywhere. We are never told that they are rare, what we are told is that for every one that falls, ten rise. They are talked about in the plural - Doyle calls them pretty powerful assassins. What he doesn't say is that they are rare. That they are rare and that is why they are not used as a vampirism cure is not supported in the text. So - yeah - everything the mohra brings in alters the world building massively and then goes no where. Not least that the existence of a cure for vampirism makes the whole slaying thing pretty immoral but we never mention them again.
-Oracles do not introduce the concept of the powers that be. Doyle introduces the concept of the PTB by telling us about them in the first episode. The oracles are simply a method of speaking to them. We then see the oracles twice more. Once when they refuse to help bring Doyle back and once when they get killed in Shanshu. The fact that there are methods and channels to speak with the PTB changes the nature of the visions (because they can get more direct info) and means that all the times they angst about fighting blind, and not knowing what to do ... they're wrong, they could talk to someone. The fact that the writers bring the oracles back in order to kill them off shows that they don't want this plot device hanging around the show because it upsets the premise too much. So yeah - big plot device for this one episode that changes the world - that has to be fixed later so the world isn't changed too much.
-Time travel/manipulation. The wish is a separate universe, the wish is undone but the wishverse still remains. We get consequences of it in the real world - not least Anya losing her powers, but vengeance demons and wishes go on to play ongoing parts in the show. Vamp willow comes to the real verse. Whereas this is undone completely. So yes, forgetting may have precedent - but consequence free alteration does not. That is what this episode gives us and why this episode is far more inconsequential and insubstantial than the wish. If there were any consequences of this - then it would not be so offensively poor. If there were textual consequences to Angel's decision I wouldn't hold it against him as much, because the show had already made him suffer and therefore learn from what he did. It doesn't. And he doesn't learn - he wipes the memories of his friends at the end of s4, and still suffers no consequences for it.
-OK, so the great soldiers of darkness are the one off and never mentioned again Scourge. So if that's what the mohra demon meant then ... it was a pretty weak sauce threat. It's as bad as the vengeance spirits of the Chumash somehow being bad enough to require Angel in Sunnydale, despite the fact that they both deal with much bigger threats every other week. It is a poor attempt to prop up a weak story and justify this one moment in the kitchen.

But anyway - let's dig in: So, if The Scourge are the soldiers of darkness and Angel becomes a vampire again to save Buffy's life, then presumably had he not done that Buffy would have died facing The Scourge? (otherwise these soldiers of darkness have no impact on the story line of IWRY and cannot be what the mohra demon was talking about) OK. Fine. Angel saves Buffy from dying the next week and grants her a whole 18 months before she dies, when he becomes a vampire again.... Of course if Buffy was supposed to die here and she doesn't then he also inadvertently causes Doyle's death, as he now dies in Buffy's place. And in allowing Doyle to die instead, that condemns Cordelia to a few years of debilitating visions which ultimately lead to her death. So she dies too... and all because Angel became a vampire to save Buffy.

If the soldiers of the darkness are supposed to be The Scourge, then that does nothing to help the argument that Angel makes a choice for himself and he is the one who bears the consequences and he had a right to make this decision without involving the others. In fact it proves what a massive decision it was - how wide ranging and disastrous it would be and how monumentally self centred Angel is to make it all about himself. And it shows how naive and stupid he is to accept that Buffy's life will be saved if he becomes a vampire without stopping to ask if that is the full story.

And all that would be fine - if the show drew a straight line between his decision and these consequences. If he faces the fact that Doyle is dead because Buffy is not and he made that call, in his ignorance, but he still made it - that would be fine. If he carried some of the weight of what happened to Cordelia, if he once so much as referenced this episode again and admitted it had had a butterfly effect he had not predicted. But he doesn't. And that's the problem. As far as the show is concerned, these are separate events and Angel made a noble sacrifice which effected his destiny and nobody else's. If you believe The Scourge are actually the soldiers of darkness the mohra demon talks about, then clearly he didn't - he made a decision that not only wiped Buffy's memories but had disastrous, long term consequences for other people he loved. And while he can't be blamed for not knowing how it would all shake out, he cannot be given props for making a tough decision on his own destiny when his two best friends suffer for it far more and he never even stops to think how what he did in IWRY got them there.

And all the other suggested soldiers of darkness - they're not what the mohra's talking about. They're just motws. Vocah is brought for the raising, the raising is happening because Wolfram and Hart want to get rid of Angel - so no vampire Angel, no Vocah. The baby in judgement is some kind of seer. It already has a champion to fight for it. Angel kills that champion - no vampire Angel, and that champion fights in his place. Wolfram and Hart want the children in blind date dead - Wolfram and Hart is pan dimensional and has existed, to quote Holland Manners - since the first caveman clubbed his neighbour over the head. If they are the soldiers of darkness, then they are not coming - they are already here and have been since the dawn of time. The Circle of the Black Thorn are the senior partners apocalypse machine - again, been around forever and are serving an ongoing apocalypse. Angel does not stop this apocalypse, he just throws a spanner in the works for one night (and in doing so rains blood shed and disaster down on all the people in L.A ... but he didn't stop to consider them when he made that decision. Hmm, it's almost like there's a pattern) . The Beast is a flunkie of Jasmine, Jasmine comes to earth through a mixture of Connor and Cordelia being the vision bearer - neither of which would have happened if Angel had remained human.

So if he became a vampire to stop these particular soldiers of darkness then it was entirely counterproductive, as his continued presence was the cause of most of them and the others he doesn't stop.

Face it, there are no soldiers of darkness - there are only the threats which as Buffy states, always come and they always face them. They live in a world of monsters and it is Buffy's job to fight them, that she will die younger than most is a surprise to no one and is not actually dependent on Angel's species. It is because she is the slayer and slayers die young. The mohra makes a threat which is big and scary enough to make Angel become a vampire as the story requires ... and then the threat is never followed up on. It is a poor plot device that goes no where. Even if he is referencing The Scourge, the fact that Angel never draws a line between him choosing to be human to save Buffy and therefore having Doyle die in her place means that the plot point goes no where.

It is all a big noise and no follow through; sound and fury signifying nothing, because none of this is actually important in the episode - all that matters is the bangel scene. And anything will be done to get them there no matter how stupid or world breaky.

Firstly Angel doesn't wipe Buffy's memory, the Oracles screw with time and Angel's memory, that's what happened.
They tell him the day will be swallowed and no one else will remember it. They do not offer this apropos of nothing. He asks to become a vampire and accepts these terms and conditions. To say he didn't wipe her memory is semantics. He made the decision to allow it to happen. And to say her memory isn't wiped because actually time is manipulated so it isn't that she doesn't remember, it is that it doesn't happen might be technically true, but considering her refrain of 'I'll never forget' and the title of the episode ... it would be frankly disingenuous to try and pretend that talking about Buffy's loss of memory is inaccurate or not what the show depicts. Angel remembers it happened, Buffy does not. It did happen. Her memories are wiped - or swallowed with the day, but either way they are taken from her. And Angel agreed to have that happen to her without telling her first.

As for arbitrary decisions she makes how about 'every single time she keeps a secret from the rest of the gang that might adversely effect their lives?' (Angel returning, Dawn being the thing the Big Bad is after, etc) or 'It's my sister or the world, if anyone goes near my sister I'll kill them'
This is just desperate clutching at straws. Not least because there is a difference between making decisions in you job (what she does as a slayer) and in your personal life for you and your significant other (what Angel does in IWRY). However - to address your points rather than to just dismiss them as wrong:

1) Angel's return - she is found out and confronted, even Giles is angry with her, the show makes it clear she was in the wrong. This is different to Angel in IWRY where his decision making is supposed to be noble and brave and you, yourself, are defending it as the right thing. People make mistakes, people make bad calls - that's fine, as long as it is called out. Buffy is called out in her show. Angel is not. hence why I am calling him out here.

However, even with all that in place - Buffy knows Angel has a soul, she knows he isn't any more of a threat to the scoobies than he was before he turned the first time. Angel being back does not actually impact their lives in any meaningful way. Nothing changes for them after they know. She keeps it a secret because she is confused, she is scared, she doesn't know what her friends would say and is afraid they'll tell her to kill him again. But their knowing would not fundamentally change anything for them. It is rash and stupid to keep it a secret, for which she is sanctioned - but it is not comparable in any way to Angel reverting back to being a vampire, removing her memories and ending their relationship all without telling her first. Her actions does not actually impact her friends and yet she faces consequences, his action impact her and yet he is both pitied and lauded as if the consequences are only his to bear.

2) Not telling her friend's about Dawn - now this would be slightly more comparable if it was not telling Dawn about Dawn, though that can be excused on account of Dawn's youth and not wanting to frighten her and would Dawn even believe it? Dawn knowing or not knowing makes no difference to her safety (if anything the resulting freak out of her finding out would put her in danger). Buffy's major concern is Dawn's safety and so this secrecy is the call she makes. On the other hand, Dawn does have a right to know about herself and for that reason it is comparable to what Angel does. However, whereas Buffy is an adult in IWRY and supposed to be an equal in the relationship, Dawn is a minor and Buffy is responsible for her. There are sometimes times when children are not informed of things that affect them directly, and that is the call of the responsible adult to make. Even so - there are consequences to the decision, because the way Dawn finds out is sub optimum and Buffy places the blame for what happens squarely on herself... unlike in Angel.

But not telling her friends? To what end should she tell them - what is the purpose, what is materially different for them by them knowing? If she tells them, that just means that if Glory comes after them they have something to tell. Either way they get tortured but if they have actual information that puts Dawn in danger. They know Glory is out there, they know she is dangerous, they know she is looking for the key - knowing it is Dawn does not make them more safe. They are willing to stand by Buffy and fight even before Buffy knows the full story, they are not more likely to walk away from the fight if they know Dawn is the object Glory is looking for - so them not knowing it is Dawn does not diminish the consent they give to stay and fight. Them knowing wouldn't protect them, it wouldn't help them, it wouldn't change their mind about being in the fight - but it might endanger Dawn.

And it is still no where close to being of the same nature as reverting to a vampire, wiping her memory and breaking off the relationship without telling her first. Because what Angel does is far more personal and comes off the back of a decision he made. Buffy didn't choose to have Dawn in the house or have a god come after her. She is reacting. Angel is acting. And the fact that your friend's sister is actually a key is not that personal or life changing. Having the love of your life decide to become a vampire, wipe your memories and break off your relationship is.

Buffy makes a decision about her sister and the best way to keep her safe which has no actual discernible impact on her friends' lives. Angel makes a decision about Buffy which changes her life completely.

3) And as for threatening to kill anyone who goes near Dawn - do you really not know the difference between that and what Angel did? She told them before the event not after the fact! Which is all I'm asking of Angel, which is where my problem with what he does starts and ends - tell her before hand! Buffy sets out her terms, her friends can abide by or ignore it but she sets out her terms and whatever follows they can't say she didn't warn them. As long as she is alive, killing Dawn is not an option - saving the world is down to her, so that is her call to make. If she dies ... then they can do what they want with Dawn, can't they? As long as she's alive, they're still expecting her to save the world and win - so no killing her sister.
This is so far away from Angel making a decision that impacts their relationship and alters her memories without her consent, and is such a massively different scenario that I can't help but feel that bringing it up is disingenuous - a massive whatabouterry to try and deflect from the fact that what Angel did was wrong. Even if Buffy makes some wrong calls, that does not make what Angel does in IWRY any less wrong. However Buffy seems to always face consequences for her decisions, her friends often call her out for excluding them and doing her own thing - whereas Angel gets no such textual sanction, and that is half the problem. The other half is that he made a big, personal decision that would impact a person who was important to him, personally, and didn't say anything about it until it was done. Buffy keeps secrets from her friends, but not secrets about themselves and not secrets that actually affect them personally - she keeps secrets about herself. As is her right.

Life is full of big decisions and sometimes in your professional capacity you have to make them and make them quickly. That is what Buffy does. But personal decisions about you and your life with the people you love - yes, you consult over those. No matter how pushed for time. With Angel's decision, It wasn't immediate life or death and, as time has clearly passed between the fight and his meeting with the oracles, he could spare the half hour to sit her down and tell her about it first. It's not rocket science. It's not weirdly codependent and it's not hard to understand the difference between professional and personal, or between telling someone before you do something big and life changing and waiting until afterwards and just presenting them with the fall out and expecting them to deal.
you offer a lot to think about. If I ever get a chunk of free time, maybe I could respond with my own thoughts.

Joan the Vampire Slayer

Carpe Spuffy!
Jun 5, 2008
WA State
It's interesting you post this, because I recently re-watched Angel and was again struck and sort of shocked by his behavior. He really doesn't have qualms with killing actual people if he thinks they're not good people. He shows no remorse or guilt for what he does to the lawyers from W&H, as well as killing others he sees as evil, even though they are human. Despite him and the rest of the team saying over and over throughout the series that they "don't kill people."


Apr 2, 2020
It's interesting you post this, because I recently re-watched Angel and was again struck and sort of shocked by his behavior. He really doesn't have qualms with killing actual people if he thinks they're not good people. He shows no remorse or guilt for what he does to the lawyers from W&H, as well as killing others he sees as evil, even though they are human. Despite him and the rest of the team saying over and over throughout the series that they "don't kill people."
I’ve always thought despite the themes of both shows the scoobies and Buffy are actually a lot more consistent in forgiving people than Team Angel and Angel himself. Angel does seem to have a bit of a ‘we don’t give up on people ..... unless I want to’ thing going on.

I’m torn on the IWRY issue, ultimately it’s Angels choice as it’s his life/unlife but he does have a thing of making these huge life changing decisions and not consulting other people on it. But it’s clear that Buffy respects his decision and shows no anger towards him about it once he explains. The Oracles were a blatant DeusEx though that they realised they needed to bin off very quickly 😂


Mar 13, 2016
I'm not sure why, but I felt like posting this here, from Angel: Spin the Bottle:

[due to a spell, Angel can't remember anything past the age of seventeen]

Angel : I'm supposed to be evil, but they attack me without cause. They gang up on me because I'm different. They're as bad as my father.

Connor :
Fathers. Don't they suck?

Angel :
Say one thing then. "Be good. Fear God. Do as you're told." And the whole while I know good and well, he's had his share of sinning.

Connor : Sounds kinda like my father.

Angel : Is he a self-righteous bastard?

Connor : You'd be amazed.


Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain
Apr 12, 2019
all around
I'm watching AtS for the first time and I'm loving it (Currently in S3, Episode 11). I liked Angel just fine in BtVS, but he truly shines in his own show and I love the moral ambiguity of his character and of the rest of the cast (even of those that are antagonists like Lindsay and Holtz). Maybe it says something about who I am (and I'd need to reflect on it, but no time for now ;)), but I prefer them working in the shades of gray than in a black-and-white world. The topics they explore and the fallouts of their actions are much more intense and raw, but I find myself agreeing with Machiavelli and the characters much more often than in BtVS (yikes! ha).

Will be back here to discuss more once I've processed the show...


Feb 16, 2021
I actually enjoy AtS more than BvS because it's a more nuansed show where the characters seem to come from a more "realistic" place. This is certainly the case with Angel himself on occasion and something I think the writers did on purpose to make the character more intreresting and morally gray.
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