Friday, April 10, 2015
"ANGEL" RETROSPECTIVE: (5.08) "Destiny"
"ANGEL" RETROSPECTIVE: (5.08) "Destiny"
One of the most interesting episodes to air on "ANGEL" during its Season Five turned out to be the eighth episode called(5.08) "Destiny". Written by David Fury and Steven S. DeKnight, the episode is considered one of the best in the series. It also marked a relief for many viewers who had become weary of Spike in corporeal form.
"Destiny" begins with a flashback to 1880 London, where a recently-sired William Pratt (yes, that is his surname) meets Angelus for the first time. The latter accepts William into the group that also includes Drusilla and Darla and adds that he looks forward to killing with another man. Angeleus expresses a vow that he and William are "gonna be the best of friends". The two male vampires seal their new friendship with clasped hands burning in the sunlight. One hundred and twenty-three years later, a mysterious package arrives at the Los Angeles Wolfram and Hart offices, addressed to William (now Spike). Harmony Kendall, Angel’s vampire secretary, opens the package, which produces a flash of light. Minutes later, Spike tries to materialize through and discovers that he is corporeal again. It is not long before Eve, the firm’s liaison to the Senior Partners, announces that the whole universe is in turmoil. Spike’s return to corporeal form and existence is messing with the expected course of the Shanshu prophecy, because after dying on the Hellmouth to save the world in the "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER" finale, Spike now qualifies as a champion.
When an employee named Sirk, who worked under the absent Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, is questioned for more information on the Shanshu prophecy, he informs them that they did not get everything from the translation. Sirk adds that "The balance will falter until the vampire with a soul drinks from the Cup of Perpetual Torment". In other words, whoever (Spike or Angel) drinks from the cup, that vampire is the one who was destined for the prophecy. And once the champion is decided, the universe will go back to normal. Sirk also adds that the Cup of Perpetual Torment was destroyed in an opera in Death Valley, Nevada. This bit of news leads both Spike and Angel to race to Death Valley in order to find the cup. And the two souled vampires end up battling out to determine which one of them will achieve the Shanshu prophecy. What Angel and Spike fail to discover was that their battle for the prophecy had been planned by Eve and her lover, former Wolfram and Hart attorney, Lindsay MacDonald, to mess with the Senior Partners’ plans for the older vampire.
I might as well say it. "Destiny" was a bloody, intense and brilliant episode. In a small way, this episode reminded me the "BUFFY" finale, (7.22) "Chosen" and Angel’s reaction to the news about Spike possessing a soul. I initially found it odd that Angel would react to the news about Spike’s souled state in such a negative way. Surely he would have been thrilled at the idea of another vampire – especially one he has known for over a century – as a fellow champion. Instead, he reacted with a mild mixture of annoyance and resentment. This attitude carried over in "ANGEL", after Spike reappeared as a ghost at the end of (5.01) "Conviction" . It occurred to me that being the souled champion of the supernatural appealed to Angel’s ego and he did not like the idea of another supernatural being – especially a vampire – raining on his parade. And I am certain that his feelings about Spike played a major part in his reactions.
Then again . . . one only has to look at the flashbacks featured in "Destiny". Not long after welcoming vampire William as a future hunting mate, Angelus made certain that the younger vampire got the message that he was the sole alpha male of the group. And he did this by making certain that William knew that Drusilla was his "property" and no one else’s. And since Drusilla was William’s sire, the latter was also his by extension. I would not be surprised that Angel viewed the role as souled vampire/champion as his alone. It is possible that he viewed Spike as a mere interloper. And Spike’s past history with Buffy – someone Angel viewed as his sole love – probably did not help matters.
As for Spike, he must have harbored a great deal of resentment toward Angel from the moment he could the latter with Drusilla together back in 1880. This resentment probably increased after his relationship with Buffy. After all, the vampire slayer had never declared her feelings for him as she had done about Angel in the past. Despite Angel/Angelus' claim as the alpha male, Spike challenged the former’s claim every chance he could. Remember their confrontation in the Yorkshire caves in one of the flashbacks featured in the "BUFFY" episode, (5.07) "Fool For Love"? It was simply another moment of Spike upsetting Angel’s claim as the superior.
One also had to take in Spike's accusation in "Destiny" that Angelus made him into a monster. On one level, he was right. Although Drusilla had sired Spike, it was Angelus who more or less taught the former how to be a first-class vampire. Angel claimed that Spike always had the ability to be a monster. And he was also right. Angelus alone could not have been responsible for the creation of Spike aka William the Bloody. The darkness within William (even before he became a vampire) played a major part, as well. It seemed as if both vampires were trying to deny their own responsibility in the formation of the "Slayer of Slayers".
Finally, we come to Lindsay MacDonald and Eve’s role in this scenario. I have this feeling that some kind of conflict has been set in motion with the scheming of Lindsey and Eve. I must admit that I was a little surprised to see the former Wolfram and Hart attorney again. But I originally could not understand why he had returned to kick-start this rivalry between Angel and Spike . . . especially since he had willingly put both Angel and the firm behind him back in Season Two’s (2.18) "Dead End". In the latter episode, Lindsay had discovered that he had been chosen to be the new CEO of the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram and Hart. It is possible that the news of Angel assuming this very position had not only revived his old dislike of the vampire, but resentment toward the Senior Partners for allowing a nemesis to manage their firm.
It is obvious that Lindsay used Eve as a minion for his plans to put Wolfram and Hart off balance. Many fans had not been impressed by Eve as a replacement for the very memorable Lilah Morgan. But in this episode, Eve managed to fool the Fang Gang with an air of innocence that many believed would not have suited Lilah’s personality. She became a more believable adversary for the team. Lindsay and Eve had used a spell to convince the others that the universe was in chaos due to the presence of two vampire "champions". The spell caused blood to leak from Harmony’s eyes, but it had no physical effect on the mortals that worked there . . . except for Charles Gunn. It could be that his "legal upgrade" made him supernaturally vulnerable to the couple’s spell.
The acting was superb in "Destiny". Both James Marsters and David Boreanaz were absolutely fantastic as Spike and Angel. Not only were their verbal interactions sizzled with electricity, but I believe that their superb fight scene may have been one of the best ever featured on both "ANGEL" and "BUFFY". I also have to commend J. August Richards for his portrayal of Gunn in this episode. I am certain that his Charles had fulfilled the fantasies of many by choking Eve. Christian Kane’s return to the series was a sight for my sore eyes. And Sarah Thompson gave her best performance as Eve, since she first joined the cast at the beginning of the season. As for the brief Spike/Harmony sexfest - it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Loved the look that Spike gave Harmony, and how she finally capitulated. Both Marsters and Mercedes McNab proved they had not lost their screen chemistry. In fact, Marsters not only worked well with Boreanaz and McNab, it was great to see him renew his old chemistry with Juliet Landau, who was great as ever as the eccentric Drusilla.
Overall, David Fury and Stephen S. DeKnight wrote a first-rate episode . . . probably one of the best of the series. And their work was handled with care by a superb cast and solid direction from Skip Schoolnik. Two thumbs up for "Destiny"!