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The Destruction of Cangel

E

EffyStonem

Guest
Cordelia and Angel are a ship that, in theory, really should have worked. The audience watch them evolve from strangers to friends to family, growing closer and learning more about each other in the process. They have amazing chemistry as friends and are addictively watchable in their interactions. Moving their relationship into romantic territory seemed like the most natural step for the writers to take. Unfortunately it all went terribly wrong. The question is why? It doesn't seem right that this particular pairing, with their chemistry and history, didn't work onscreen. In this piece I will try to explore the course of their romantic storyline and why it ultimately brought about the destruction of the Cordelia/Angel relationship.

The initial seeds of the Cangel relationship are sown throughout the early episodes of Season 3. Season 1 introduced their friendship, Season 2 established it and Season 3 is where it starts to move towards something more romantic. We start to see the small hints that Angel's feelings may be changing when Cordelia starts receiving physical manifestations of her visions in 3.2 That Vision Thing. Angel's concern and rage over what is happening to Cordelia are similar to the emotions he expressed when he was with Buffy. We also see a change in Cordelia's feelings as she tearfully tells Angel of her fear that he won't need her anymore. Whereas in previous seasons she may have said that the group didn't need her, or she didn't know her place in the world, she now focuses on Angel and what it will mean for him not to need her.

In 3.5 Fredless we are given more small but priceless gems to indicate the furthering of Angel and Cordelia's feelings. Just watching Angel's face when Cordelia calls him over to be patched up is adorable and her affectionate look along with her teasing "What a dork" comment are equally touching. We are also treated to the delightfully droll "I could sooth your ass off, pal" comment from Cordelia, along with Angel's petulant "You think I'm fat?" line. All of these separately do not indicate more than friendship but when put together start to form a picture of what's to come.

Episode 3.6 Billy gives us one of the most natural and beautiful scenes in the construction of the Cangel relationship. The episode opens with Angel and Cordelia working out in the basement as Angel trains her to fight. As Cordelia brings a sword up over her head, she and Angel lean into the blow together, moving in perfect synchronisation. Angel touches her hip as he moves with her and she leans into him. The scene is not overflowing with sexual tension (although there is enough to please viewers) but rather showcases the naturalness with which Cordelia and Angel interact with and touch each other. This one scene shows the beauty of Cangel and the connection that lies at the core of their relationship, highlighting how in tune the two are with each other.

With the return of a very pregnant Darla, Cordelia and Angel's budding relationship is sidelined. Not only does Darla's return bring up Angel's unresolved feelings towards her, it cuts through the trust that has been building between Cordy and Angel since Season 2. Cordelia is horrified at what Angel has done, not from jealousy but because of the trust he has betrayed. She is deeply hurt that he lied to her and equally disappointed by the way in which he treated Darla and it's only natural for her to take a step back from him.

With the next few episodes focused on Darla's pregnancy and the birth of Connor, little attention is paid to Cangel. It is not until episode 3.11 Birthday that we are tossed another scrap. Two very small moments underline the growing feelings between Angel and Cordelia. The first comes when Cordelia is being shown the moment she first encountered Angel in L.A. The love and affection on Cordy's face as she watches the replay is beautifully understated and needs no further exploration. Her eyes say it all. She is looking at a man she loves and respects and it shows on every inch of her face. Likewise, Angel's quiet moment with Cordelia as she lies in a coma is equally understated and touching. In angry tones he tells her off for not telling him how badly the visions are affecting her. Underneath his anger is the very real fear of losing her and realising what she has come to mean to him. At the end of the episode his joy when she wakes up is beautiful.

If things between Cordelia and Angel had continued to unfold in this manner they would have ended up in a beautifully constructed relationship, built on trust, friendship and mutual respect, while still keeping their core personalities in place. It could have been the strongest ship on AtS. Unfortunately the writers had other ideas. Cue 3.13 Waiting In The Wings, the episode which kick-starts the assassination of this pairing. Waiting In The Wings is not a strong episode to begin with and the ridiculous route that they take Cordelia and Angel down only adds insult to injury.

All the way back at 3.7 Offspring, Fred introduced the term "kyrumption" in reference to Cordy and Angel, explaining to Angel how it means that he and Cordy are destined to be together. In Waiting In The Wings the writers' felt the need to echo it, this time from Lorne. What's problematic with "kyrumption" is that it takes away the audiences' enjoyment of discovering where the relationship is heading, opting instead to push the relationship onto the viewers. It's almost as if the writers' were worried that they were being too subtle and decided they needed to make it absolutely clear that Cordy and Angel were meant to be. This was completely unnecessary, as fans were already on board with Cangel as a ship and had so far enjoyed watching the build up. To drop an anvil so obnoxiously onto the viewers lessens the connection between Cordy and Angel and the connection the audience has to the pairing.

Waiting In The Wings continues to murder the Cordy/Angel dynamic with the plot involving the "echoes" of the prima ballerina and her lover. At this point in the relationship Cordelia and Angel have not even admitted their feelings to each other and have only just started to display physical tendencies that would indicate growing romantic feelings. The relationship was not ready to be taken to a physical level, much less the level this episode took it to. Laced with obnoxiously dramatic dialogue, Cordy and Angel get hot and heavy in the ballerina's dressing room, in a scene so uncomfortable it's a wonder the actors didn't demand a script rewrite.

While it's not the first time a potential relationship has gotten to a physical level before its' time, the way the scene was written made for very difficult viewing. Overdramatic dialogue has no place in the Cangel relationship, even via a spell (more on this later). If the episode had played out in comedic fashion, along the lines of Spike/Buffy in BtVS episode Something Blue, it would have been easier to handle. However, the whole scene in the dressing room comes across as just another way for the writers' to say "Look! Look at how these two are meant to be together!". It's made even worse by the fact that Charisma and David seemed to have lost all their chemistry when filming the scene. Whether that's down to the dialogue, the storyline or the actors not being comfortable with the scenario is open to debate.

The cherry on top of the awfulness that is Waiting In The Wings comes right at the end of the episode. At first we are given hope that maybe Cordelia and Angel will finally get to start a relationship, as Angel tentatively starts to tell Cordelia about his feelings for her. He is unfortunately interrupted by the arrival of the Groosalug and with him a ridiculous plot point designed to throw a spanner in the works. Why the writers' felt the need to turn Cangel into a love-triangle is beyond me. Bringing Groo back onto the show seemed to serve no purpose other than keeping Cordy and Angel apart, a curious move for the writers' given how strongly they had been pushing Cangel onto the audience in the very same episode. What follows the Groosalug's return is an almost complete demolition of the relationship that has been building between Cordelia and Angel. Cordy is sent on vacation and Angel is left to brood silently until the biggest tragedy of his life occurs; losing his son.

It is completely unforgivable that the writers' left Cordelia out of the episodes that centre on Angel losing Connor. She is the one person who has been with him from the beginning and the one person who has always been there for him. He has now reached a point where he loves her and she him (even if they haven't admitted it) yet she is not present when his son is taken from him. That is a travesty and underlines how badly the writers' had lost the plot (pun intended) when it came to the Angel/Cordy dynamic. To remove the heart of the group and the woman Angel loves during such a pivotal time in the series was a huge mistake and furthers the destruction of the Cordelia/Angel relationship. They have been through everything together yet they are separated during one of the biggest losses in the show and that has never sat well with me.

The tail end of Season 3 takes the mess already created and, if possible, seems to make it worse. When Cordelia returns from vacation she is out-of-character and veering dangerously towards Mary Sue territory. She has traded in her sarcasm and bluntness for "wiser" and softer statements, which are very jarring. Her romance with the Groosalug seems incredibly shallow, her interactions with Angel and the other characters are awkward and she is used as a Deux Ex Machina in several episodes (3.19 The Price comes to mind).

In the midst of being treated to an OOC Cordelia, the writers resume their campaign to show us how much she and Angel are meant to be together, with Groo now weighing in on their relationship. The whole tail-end of the season comes across as being rushed and badly written, including the awkwardly set-up meeting between Cordy and Angel which, of course, neither of them makes it to. Season 3 ends with the complete assassination of Cordelia as a character as she suddenly decides that leaving everyone she loves and everything she cares about to go and float around in the Heavens is a good idea. The fans were left on a cliff-hanger, wondering what the hell happened to their ship and fervently praying that Season 4 would resolve all the issues. Unfortunately this was not to be the case.

Season 4 opens with Angel at the bottom of the ocean and Cordelia floating around in the Heavens. For the first three episodes of Season 4 we are treated to (very small) doses of the old Cordelia as she bitches about being bored and fruitlessly yells at Angel to help her get back to earth. When she finally descends back to earth, she has conveniently developed amnesia and stays in this state for several episodes, thus eliminating any hope the fans had that maybe their ship would be repaired.

4.4 Slouching Towards Bethlehem treats us to uncomfortable and slightly hostile interactions between Angel and Amnesia-Cordy. In trying to find out more about her former life Cordy grills Angel about her identity and Angel in turn decides it would be best to lie to her for her protection. In a very OOC manner he seems to ignore the fact that, memory or no memory, this is Cordelia Chase, an incredibly strong and capable woman who is one of the least likely people to need protection. Cordelia is, rightly, pissed off by his lies and ends up rejecting him and going to stay with Connor, creating the first of many rifts that occur between these two over the course of Season 4.

4.5 Supersymmetry shifts the focus from Cordelia/Angel and onto Fred/Gunn, however a scene at the end of the episode brings us back to Cordy/Angel, in an exchange which smacks of the writers once again trying to push Cangel onto the viewers. Cordelia sits Angel down to ask about the nature of their relationship. Rather than ease in with a mild question such as "Did we have feelings for each other?" or "Were we a couple?" Cordy is given the God-awful line "Were we in love?". No subtlety, no hedging. The writers just can't seem to grasp the concept show don't tell and decide instead to shove this relationship down our throats. This question is once again brought up at the end of 4.6 Spin The Bottle, with Angel this time posing the question to Cordy just after she receives her memory back. With a tearful choke in her voice she replies "We were" thus smacking the audience in the face with the obvious (yet again).

Season 4 continues the slow destruction of Cordy/Angel as Cordelia once again rejects Angel in 4.7 Apocalypse Nowish. In a scene overflowing with ridiculously dramatic dialogue and wangst that rivals the Buffy/Angel relationship, Cordelia informs Angel that while she loves him, she can't be with him because of all the horrifying things he did as Angelus.

Time out. This scene is one of the most damaging in the entire Cangel destruction. I previously mentioned that dramatic dialogue has no place in the Cordy/Angel dynamic and this scene emphasises that. Cordy and Angel have always had one of the most natural and drama-free relationships in the Buffyverse. Their exchanges are usually quick, intelligent and razor-sharp, bouncing back and forth and staying refreshingly real. Even their more intense discussions stay very close to earth, reminding the audience how in tune they are with each other and how well suited they are as a pairing.

This makes the scene in Apocalypse Nowish extremely OOC for both of them. The dialogue comes out sounding unnatural and stilted, leaving the audience cringing. Additionally, everything Cordy is actually saying to Angel is OOC. Cordelia has always been aware of what Angel can become. She lived through Angelus' reign of terror in Sunnydale, so she knows exactly what he is capable of and she will protect herself and others against him without hesitation were he to lose his soul. However this has never clouded her view of him nor has it ever changed the way she feels about him. She knows that he is a good man who, yes, has a dark side, but she accepts this. For her to turn around and claim that Angelus is standing in the way of her being with Angel is ridiculous, to say the least.

Season 4 then offers us the biggest and grossest OOC moment for Cordelia, as she seduces and sleeps with Connor. Thousands of fans were left wondering what the hell just happened as they watched Angel stumble onto the sight of the woman he loves having sex with his son. The rift that this action causes ensures that for the rest of the season Cordelia and Angel don't stand a chance of reconciling and the dozens of Cangel shippers out there were left stunned and outraged. Of course the biggest reveal was yet to come.

Over the course of the next several episodes, the focus is shifted away from Cordy/Angel and onto the group as they face battle after battle, strip Angel of his soul, recruit a Slayer to save him and finally bring in Uber Witch Willow to re-ensoul him. In the midst of all this, two bombshells are dropped in quick succession "“ Cordy has turned evil and is pregnant with Connor's child. Both of these plot points further drive Angel and Cordelia apart, leaving the fans with little to no hope for this pairing.

The revelation that Cordelia isn't even steering her own body brings both relief and anger. On the one hand, at least we now know why Cordelia has been so OOC for the entire season and a reasonable explanation is given for all her indiscretions. On the other hand that means that Angel went through all of this pain for nothing. The woman he loved never truly came back and once this discovery is made Angel is then faced with making the decision to kill her in order to save the world. In the end he escapes having to do so however Cordelia is left in a coma with Angel not knowing if she will ever return to him. The ship was seemingly sunk, with fans left devastated. Luckily the writers were busy gift-wrapping one last offering.

Cue 5.12 You're Welcome, an appropriately-named episode which finally restores the natural and beautiful dynamic of the Cordy/Angel relationship. Cordelia returns, completely back in character and does what she always does best "“ steers Angel down the right path. Everything is restored, from their sarcastic banter, to the realness of their more emotional scenes, to Cordy being back in Action Girl mode. The scene where Cordy bluntly but beautifully reminds Angel of who is his, of what he stands for is played out in the most natural and understated way, with both characters struggling to express their feelings but still managing to get their messages across. The final scene of the episodes is possibly the most amazing and wonderfully written Cangel scene in the entire show. Cordelia reaffirms her belief in Angel before quietly explaining that she can't stay. Their final kiss is truly the only Cangel kiss that really shows how well they work together, being natural and full of chemistry. Their relationship, which went through so much destruction at the hands of the writers, is allowed to end on a bittersweet note and fans and shippers alike are finally given closure.
 
Tome
Tome
Wonderful.
Wesley Pryce
Wesley Pryce
I don't think the writing had anything to do with them not being together,it was the die hard Bangel fans who would'nt accept it.

Robb Stark

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I loved Angel and Cordy together and really, I never understood why so many people dislike them so much. By the late second season of the show, if Angel and Cordy had ended up together, I would have been perfectly fine with that.

I was sad when it imploded due to outside forces but even so, I don't think that takes away from or "ruins" it either. And "You're Welcome" is one of my favorite episodes ever. It's the ultimate closure episode, but in a really cool way.
 
chasesummers
chasesummers
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white avenger

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Obviously, Charisma left the show because of personal differences between herself and Joss, primarily concerning her (to Joss) unexpected pregnancy, but with that, and even with "You're Welcome" in Season 5, I have never seen Cangel as actually being destroyed as much as being simply put on hold, with the intention of having it restart later with Cordy and Angel as being more suited to actually be a couple. Both immortal, both super powerful, both agents of the Powers That Be, maybe with Cordy serving as Angel's actual liaison with the Powers.

Wasn't there some mention in the "After The Fall" arc that it was Cordelia who had actually been responsible for Angel and the others surviving the battle in the alley in "Not Fade Away?"

Granted, I've never been a huge supporter of the ship, but I do think that Angel should have somebody, what with Buffy and Spike being so obviously and deeply in love now.

(What, you thought that I'd let the chance pass to toss a little Spuffy into the mix?)
 

Ethan Reigns

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@ EffyStonem

Great post!

All ships sink in the Whedonverse. Cordelia's relationship with the Groosalug was what told me this was going to end badly, but the writers really did a hatchet job on Cordelia including the relationship with Connor, that even I was not expecting. It appears the marching orders for writers in the Whedonverse are, shock people even if favourite characters have to turn evil or die to do it.

Angel would still be under the restriction that if he had one moment of happiness with Cordelia, it would end up the same as it did with Buffy - Angelus takes over and mayhem ensues. I agree totally that the writers did not know what to do with Cangel and butchered a lot of the episodes, especially in Season 4.
 

Robb Stark

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And sorry as I feel for Cordelia, the let go of Cangel was beautifully done and she was put to rest peacefully and permanently - with it being absolutely clear that her physical body is gone and she is not an immortal but a spirit only - which with the current condition of the verse means she is cut off this plane completely.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. Really, really well put.
 

JReed1985

JReed1985
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Why oh Why?

I wanted Angel to move on with his love life so much, I was gald to hear he took interest in Cordelia and I hoped they would end up together but all those damn obstacles stood in the way.
At least in Season five they had their first real kiss which left me satisfied.
 

Wesley Junior

Potential
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EffyStonem, you are so right. Angel and Cordelia's relationship developed so well for the first two and a half seasons. After that, it was all downhill from there.
 
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