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Why was Angel sent that vision of the Black Thorn?

EarthLogic

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Black Thorn
Angel's last stand in Not Fade Away gets talked about a lot in terms of whether it was a good reiteration of the message of the show or whether it was really a futile exercise that in fact betrayed their core mission. But I haven't seen as much discussion about why the Powers sent Angel that vision in the first place and what they intended for him to do.

If the Powers were really a force for good then surely they would know that any strike against the Senior Partners would end in apocalyptic disaster? Was it just something for Angel to bear in mind for the future? Did they not expect him to actually take them on all at once?

I've always thought of them as akin to the Ancient Greek gods: amoral, vindictive, self-serving entities who use people to further their own interests (as Fred would say 'the Powers That Screw You')- and this is an idea the show does seem to hint at sometimes. However, I feel like the writing in S5 intends for us to believe otherwise - in 'You're Welcome' Cordelia is presented as a trusted 'good guy' meant to get Angel back on track and since the episode is meant to be her final farewell, wouldn't her being part of a big dupe just be another betrayal of her character?
 
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W

WillowFromBuffy

Guest
I think it is important to remember that there is no good choice here. The alternative would be to let the Black Thorn keep their evil business, and they were basically as bas as Nestlé.

You can liken it to John Brown's attempt to steal weapons in order to arm a rebellion of black slaves in the US. It would likely have resulted in a vain massacre. However, the alternative is to remain a part of an exploitative and evil system.
 

Ethan Reigns

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I always saw The Powers that Be as the fates. There were three of them in Greek mythology and they were ported over to Roman mythology under different names. Clotho spun the thread that defined the fate of a human (Nona in Roman gods). Lachesis drew the lots to determine how long one lives and dispensed the thread (Roman Decuma) and Atropos carried out the death sentence by cutting the thread, causing death (Roman Morta). They had no concern over what people wanted or thought and there was no correlation in outcome. They are neither the good guys nor the bad guys.

I saw the stories of both Buffy and Angel as the rise and fall of them. Buffy was effective against the mayor and melded her own powers with the scoobies by magic against Adam. That was the rise. The final season was the fall - Buffy made stupid decisions, was incommunicative and appeared to lose all support but spawned the conversion of all potentials into slayers and she could afford to stop doing everything by herself. Buffy had fallen, but she could afford to fall because she had set up an organization that could do her job better than any single slayer.

Angel started as a supernatural private investigator and provided security for clients. He ended Season 4 by killing Jasmine, the Antichrist, as a high point. Then he decided to fight W&H from the inside, but the only thing that happens inside the belly of the beast is you get digested. His declining act is to kill Drogyn, an innocent, in a "blood in, blood out" ritual to get into the Circle of the Black Thorn, the same sort of ritual used to gain entry into the worst street gangs. He turns on Black Thorn and kills them all. But by this time, he has been corrupted. He has killed an innocent and LA is plunged into hell. No human survived employment at Angel Investigations and this was another part of the fall. The series ends in complete chaos and the continuation in the comics is not all that convincing.
 

Mrs Gordo

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Black Thorn
If the Powers were really a force for good then surely they would know that any strike against the Senior Partners would end in apocalyptic disaster? Was it just something for Angel to bear in mind for the future? Did they not expect him to actually take them on all at once?
Yes, they had to know it would end in apocalyptic disaster. In that fic review we have going on in the Bangel section, I was mentioning how the author talks about how the Powers thought that Angel would take down the black thorne one at a time, slowly etc. Interesting theory but ultimately, I don't think that makes sense. Once the black thorne knew what was happening they would have waged a war or closed ranks etc. Angel had to take them all out at once to accomplish the mission given to him by the Powers. The Powers had to know what Angel would do. And his vision in Powerplay includes a vision of the apocalypse. I think the idea from the Powers was to force the Senior Partner's hand, to make them bring the apocalypse on the Power's time table not on the Senior Partner's time table.

Thematically NFA works so great - because we see the heros fighting a war that is un-winnable which speaks to the metaphor of AtS. But the problem is the story doesn't stop there and the comics shows the destruction of it. Wars require casualties. Sunnydale was completely demolished. I know they make it seem like Sunnydale is "basically" abandoned but I can't imagine there was no one left in the city? And some potentials and a scooby were lost. But the NFA battle caused a great amount of destruction. had Angel known the magnitude of that destruction would he still have proceeded with his mission?

Ultimately what @WillowFromBuffy says is right. What is the alternative? Let the Black Thorn and the senior partners have their way? BUT also, bringing about the NFA battle still does nothing to stop the Senior Partners. Like The First evil, which will always be there, the Senior Partners will always be there. There will always be evil. Ultimately I think the answer is, there is no right answer, no easy choice.

However, I feel like the writing in S5 intends for us to believe otherwise - in 'You're Welcome' Cordelia is presented as a trusted 'good guy' meant to get Angel back on track and since the episode is meant to be her final farewell, wouldn't her being part of a big dupe just be another betrayal of her character?
@Grace has a great theory about how Cordelia's message delivery was just at the right time, when Angel was considering leaving W&H and who knows who she was working for!

But if she is really working for the Powers - it could be that she drank the kool-aid that she really believed that this was the big battle for good mission and that Angel needed to be a part of it. And that the morally ambiguous Powers are the ones who manipulated Angel and Cordy into carrying out this plan. This is similar to Twilight (which is one of the 100 reasons I think its so OOC to have agreed to another one of these crusades because Angel would have learned his lesson) - where the mission is presented as the "greater good" and the casualties of war are never discussed/considered. And because Angel has trusted the Powers plans for the most part thus far he allows their vision to lead him to what he thinks is the best bet to fighting off evil.

And I don't blame Angel for trusting the Powers before NFA. After all, they are the ones who gave him the mission to help Buffy in her fight. If it had not been for Whistler/the Powers he would still be in an alley eating rats with no purpose or maybe even reverted to feeding off humans without any connection to the human world. Although s8/9 muddy the waters on this. Is it still the Powers that brought Angel to Buffy or is Whistler now taking all of that credit? I get confused.
 
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white avenger

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What it comes down to, I think, is that there are two factions involved in a struggle to control the world and mankind. One is more or less good, exemplified by the Powers That Be. The other is more or less evil, is personified by, among other elements, the Senior Partners and the First Evil. Neither group is either absolutely good or absolutely evil, but the Powers usually have a more benevolent attitude toward mankind.

As for why Angel received the notice about the Black Thorn, it was an attempt by one side or the other, or perhaps even both, to escalate a confrontation between Angel and his team and the Senior Partners. Basically, things had gotten too quiet since Buffy and Spike kicked the First Evil's ass, so things were being stirred up again.

Most likely, both the Senior Partners and the Powers thrive on the conflict itself more than they have any real interest in Mankind.
 
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Grace

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Black Thorn
However, I feel like the writing in S5 intends for us to believe otherwise - in 'You're Welcome' Cordelia is presented as a trusted 'good guy' meant to get Angel back on track and since the episode is meant to be her final farewell, wouldn't her being part of a big dupe just be another betrayal of her character?
With the way it turned out, isn't it kind of a "betrayal" either way? Either "real" unsuspecting Cordelia was telling Angel "you'll win this in the end" in service of getting him to pick a fight that would lead to him dying and/or bringing hell down on LA, or some evil was using her likeness to effectively do the same thing. Or I guess the third option is that "real" Cordelia dropped a very unclear vision on him and then wasn't able to set the record straight? But then, that's still another example of her ultimately being used.

I guess I just can't see any version of what happened with Cordelia in Season 5 as being good for her character when viewed in hindsight, though You're Welcome is very heartwarming on its own.
 

EarthLogic

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Black Thorn
I always saw The Powers that Be as the fates. There were three of them in Greek mythology and they were ported over to Roman mythology under different names. Clotho spun the thread that defined the fate of a human (Nona in Roman gods). Lachesis drew the lots to determine how long one lives and dispensed the thread (Roman Decuma) and Atropos carried out the death sentence by cutting the thread, causing death (Roman Morta). They had no concern over what people wanted or thought and there was no correlation in outcome. They are neither the good guys nor the bad guys.
I don't think they're as indifferent as that. We hear many times of Angel being a 'champion' for the Powers or a 'warrior' for their cause. W&H deliberately try to sever his connection to them - they wouldn't do that if the Powers were simply the fates. Whether for good or ill the PTBs are positioned as opposing forces to the Senior Partners.

Ultimately what @WillowFromBuffy says is right. What is the alternative? Let the Black Thorn and the senior partners have their way? BUT also, bringing about the NFA battle still does nothing to stop the Senior Partners. Like The First evil, which will always be there, the Senior Partners will always be there. There will always be evil. Ultimately I think the answer is, there is no right answer, no easy choice.
I agree, there was no no easy choice to be made. Once he'd seen what was to come he had do to something at some point. Incidentally, I remember a while ago I was following some discussion threads about Angel's actions in Power Play/NFA (it might have even been on BB) where the question was raised of whether they all could have just walked away from W&H. I personally believe that it wouldn't have been that simple and I think the writers' did try to make this point earlier in the season: GUNN: "Any thought about what would happen to us if we tried to say bye-bye? The ramifications, I mean. You think the senior partners are just gonna let us breeze on out the front door?" However, I don't think this was really impressed upon us beyond this scene - the difficulty of leaving the firm doesn't get mentioned again after this, and it's such a short exchange that most viewers probably forgot about it by the finale - so I can see it coming as a bit of a surprise for some viewers that Angel would choose all-out armageddon as his way out rather than just going back to helping the helpless from the Hyperion.

Yet the fact that taking out the BT didn't do anything to stop the Senior Partners raises the question of why they sent Angel that vision? Clearly they had an agenda against W&H, but how was it supposed to help in any other way? We don't even know the extent of their powers of foresight; if they are in some way benevolent powers, then would they not have known that LA would be sent to Hell, thus endangering thousands of lives?

@Grace has a great theory about how Cordelia's message delivery was just at the right time, when Angel was considering leaving W&H and who knows who she was working for!
With the way it turned out, isn't it kind of a "betrayal" either way? Either "real" unsuspecting Cordelia was telling Angel "you'll win this in the end" in service of getting him to pick a fight that would lead to him dying and/or bringing hell down on LA, or some evil was using her likeness to effectively do the same thing. Or I guess the third option is that "real" Cordelia dropped a very unclear vision on him and then wasn't able to set the record straight? But then, that's still another example of her ultimately being used.

I guess I just can't see any version of what happened with Cordelia in Season 5 as being good for her character when viewed in hindsight, though You're Welcome is very heartwarming on its own.
That is an interesting theory r.e. Cordy's timing. But I guess I was thinking of it being a betrayal of her character more from the writers' standpoint - would they really give us 'our' Cordy back for one episode, basically in reparation for what they did to her the previous season, only for it to be a ruse/dupe in some way? But then again we all know how evil Joss is...

What I also don't get is that 'You're Welcome' is supposed to be about Angel remembering what the original mission is - which is why we get to see Doyle's video again - yet that is kind of then swept aside by the vision. Angel even says in 'Power Play' that "This isn't a keep-fightin'- the-good-fight kind of deal." (although IMO the finale did ultimately encapsulate the message of the show anyway)
 
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Mrs Gordo

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What I also don't get is that 'You're Welcome' is supposed to be about Angel remembering what the original mission is - which is why we get to see Doyle's video again - yet that is kind of then swept aside by the vision. Angel even says in 'Power Play' that "This isn't a keep-fightin'- the-good-fight kind of deal." (although IMO the finale did ultimately encapsulate the message of the show anyway)
I always found the whole thing very sloppy. But I think it was meant for sentimentality and less for plot purposes?
 

EarthLogic

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I always found the whole thing very sloppy. But I think it was meant for sentimentality and less for plot purposes?
Maybe it had something to do with the show being cancelled halfway through? Perhaps they had a more thought-out plan for returning the gang to the original mission, but then had to rework it to scramble together a go-out-guns-blazing series finale and the signficance of Doyle and YW got lost somewhere along the way?
 

GraceK

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You guys blow my mind. Can I say how much I appreciate you all? All my years of being a fan and Cordelia’s vision and the motive and ramifications never ONCE occurred to me. Seriously. Yay brain food :)
 

Mrs Gordo

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Maybe it had something to do with the show being cancelled halfway through? Perhaps they had a more thought-out plan for returning the gang to the original mission, but then had to rework it to scramble together a go-out-guns-blazing series finale and the signficance of Doyle and YW got lost somewhere along the way?
My recollection is that they learned about the fact that AtS wouldn't be picked up at the time of filming Smile Time. I wonder if anyone else can corroborate this. I actually tried to do a quick google search on this but I couldn't find out when exactly they found out about the cancellation. (I'm sure someone with better googling skills and patience can find this). But I don't know that there was enough time to come up with a whole knew plot by the time YW came along. But I would love to know more back story if anyone has it!
 

EarthLogic

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My recollection is that they learned about the fact that AtS wouldn't be picked up at the time of filming Smile Time. I wonder if anyone else can corroborate this. I actually tried to do a quick google search on this but I couldn't find out when exactly they found out about the cancellation. (I'm sure someone with better googling skills and patience can find this). But I don't know that there was enough time to come up with a whole knew plot by the time YW came along. But I would love to know more back story if anyone has it!
I can't find it either. I know I read about the day it was announced to the cast and crew somewhere, but I can't remember where. 'Smile Time' was the first episode to air after the cancellation was announced, so they were probably working on the following episodes by then. 'You're Welcome' had aired two weeks before. So I'm think perhaps the original plan for the season was to have them bring down W&H in a less suicidal way? A way that was more about getting out of there and back to their roots rather than taking one last stand?
 
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