PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE. If your diet requires you to dine on television spoiler-free ... good luck with that.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Mmmm, Angel

Episode 3.03: That Old Gang of Mine. Original Airdate: 10.08.01

“Gunn’s loyalties are torn between his current demon-hunting associates and his old gang, which now kills demons for fun instead of defense.”

Daniel’s Thoughts:
  • Oh hey, it’s another Gunn episode about his past gang life…
  • Angel is apologizing to someone and we don’t know who because the focus is just on him.  But oh hey, it’s Merl.  And Angel’s not even being sincere.  He’s reading. 
  • Cordy, Gunn, Wesley & Lorne are watching
  • “I hardly think it’s fair to blame it on the writing.” Hah, Cordelia wrote Angel’s apology.
  • And then Angel goads Merl to punch him.
  • But of course Caritas bans demon violence. THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE.
  • Gunn drops Merl home to his sewers.
  • And Merl is murdered.  We don’t see who the assailant is, but they seem demony by their shadow and the growling.  But they’re not. Spoilers.
  • When we come back from the credits, Gunn nightmares of the time he killed his vampire sister.
  • Gunn’s apartment is very straight fratboy. He has a poster of a motorcycle so. 
I kinda love that he has a Baskin Robbins container on his nightstand though.
  • Angel has found Merl dead.
  • Gunn doesn’t understand why they’re investigating Merl’s death.
  • Now Angel’s defending Merl as though he were a ‘good demon’.  Didn’t stop all the pummeling and torture. He’s being pissy at Gunn, but that’s just because of his own guilt.
  • Meanwhile Gunn visits his old haunt.
  • Newguy Gio has words with Gunn.  He has a problem with Gunn working with a vampire.
  • Angel is worried about Fred.  He wants Cordelia to help her. 
  • But Cordelia and Fred are the only two women in a show…so they can’t possibly get along… [SIIIIIIIGHS IN FEMALE. – Z]
  • Lol, Cordelia made a Merl enemy list and Angel is at the top of it.
  • “Oh sure, I went dark and killed Merl.”  There are some things vampires with a soul shouldn’t joke about.
  • Rondell questions why Gunn was/is so absent from their lives. But we know all this.  It started with his sister.  We’re just retreading all the things we know.
  • Meanwhile Angel and Wes break down a door to another “enemy of Merl’s”.  But oops, they’re dead too.  There’s lots of yellow demon blood spewed all over the apartment.
  • In the sewers, we see a big ugly demon slurping down the equivalent of a big gulp. ™.  Except it’s called a Big Chug.
  • And he seems harmless – and Gunn’s old crew are the culprits.  They kill him.
  • "Charles, things aren't always so simple as - going out and slaying the big, bad ugly. There are in this world shades of gray…" See Zelda’s brilliant essay on this. [Aw, shucks. – Z]
  • Wesley says that 4 out of 6 of the victims were non-violent species of demon. 
  • Gunn finds a clue and pockets it.  He goes to Rondell telling him that there’s a rogue on the crew.
  • Rondell informs him that there’s no rogue – the crew was all there. A demon’s a demon, according to Rondell.
  • Gunn is starting to come over to Wesley’s line of thinking.  
  • Cordelia & Fred meet “outside” in the courtyard – but the echoes make it sound like they’re on…a studio set.
  • Cordelia “Angel wants you to get out.”  That’s not what she meant.  Then…why did she say it like that?  I hate those ‘misunderstandings’ because there’s no way Cordelia didn’t know how that sounded…even though the writing is telling us she didn’t.  It’s a dumb pointless contrived forced laugh of a misunderstanding.
  • Anyway Cordelia decides to take Fred out on the town.
  • Gunn comes back to the hotel. You could tell he’s debating whether to tell Angel what he found out.
  • Angel describes the killings as “fun” – as he would know.
  • So Cordelia decides to take Fred to a demon bar? 
  • And Fred creaks out “Crazy”.
  • Wesley is there as well.  Gunn comes to see him but Lorne reads him, first.  He sees that Gunn is conflicted. I guess he doesn’t always need a song.
  • And then boom.  Shootout at Caritas.  There’s a flaw in this protection spell.  It only stops demons from inflicting violence.  Not humans.
  • Gio leads a full on assault with machine guns. 
  • They call out Gunn.
  • One of the guys holds Lorne at gunpoint.
  • Wesley figures out that they’re the ones that killed Merl and the others. He also realizes Gunn knew.
  • Wes reminds Rondell that the last time he was shot and wounded, it was an attempt to help him.
  • They want Cordy to bring back Angel.
  • Angel sends Cordy to the three sisters who put the protection on Caritas in the first place. 
  • Back at Caritas, Gio sings and Lorne reads him.  He realizes why he left Miami. “She trusted you.” We don’t know the full story, though.
  • Another demon tries to make it towards the exit. The pandemonium lets Gunn wrestle the shotgun from Gio.
  • Ugh, I really don’t like that they’re demonizing Gunn’s entire crew instead of just this guy.
  • And now…Gio is accusing Gunn of wanting to sleep with his…sister?  WTF?
  • Enter Angel.
  • “When he did his pleasure killing, he had no soul.  You can make no such claim.”
  • Meanwhile Cordelia meets with the three floating Furys.   Every time she mentions Angel’s name, they chorus “mmm, Angel” and it’s kinda hilarious. 
  • Gio, Gunn, Angel, Wesley – they’re all trash talking and I keep tuning out.
  • Fred volunteers to kill Angel but of course it’s a trick.
  • A big flash indicates that the protection spell has been lifted.
  • One of the seemingly harmless demons turns into a giant praying mantis and bites Gio’s head off.  So there’s that. 
  • And then we just cut to everyone being all cool?  
  • And Wes threatens Gunn, telling him that if he ever keeps an important secret like that, he’ll fire him.
  • And Angel and Gunn are cool, I guess? Or not? Or they’ll get there?  Fine.
Zelda’s Thoughts:
  • Sigh. Preemptive sigh.
  • Oh right, we start with Angel delivering a “heartfelt” apology and his actions sound like an apology to Darla but we know all about the show’s bait and switches: he’s apologizes to Merl, who immediately calls him out on reading his apology off a notecard. But see, I couldn’t tell that it was supposed to sound insincere because DB doesn’t paint well in the sincerely regretful color already.
me too, bb. me too
  • Aw man, Merl needed therapy for the shitty way Angel treated him. Angel offers him a free revenge shot, but of course Caritas has a spell preventing any demon violence so that doesn’t work.
  • Merl, not accepting the apology and severing ties, fucks off to his sewer home … where he is promptly and permanently slaughtered by an unseen force. RIP Merl.
  • Aw, Gunn’s grief for his sister still haunts him (when it’s convenient for the plot). He’s got nightmares about night he staked Alonna.
  • Honestly I have to question Angel’s detectivey skills. He relied on a demon snitch to do the dirty work, or an inside source with the police. Does he actually … ever … detective? Beyond smelling blood sometimes? When investigating the carnage at Merl’s the next day all he’s got is “So far, we’ve ruled out suicide.”
  • Meanwhile, Gunn’s confused why they’re investigating Merl’s death. “I mean, he was what he was, right? … Somebody killed a demon. Hello, we do that every day.” Yes good plan, let’s put some light bigotry in the mouth of the one Black principal. I get that it’s flavored from his memory-nightmare, but come on, writers.
  • And yep, at this point in the series, where we’ve met enough non-evil demons, it is bigotry to just regard demons being murdered as something negligible. This isn’t the Buffy world anymore, where the lines are cleaner.
  • Anyway, Gunn goes to visit … you guessed it … that old gang of his. All new faces for us, except Rondell, who was pivotal in Gunn’s end-of-season arc last season.
  • Gio, the new loudmouth of the crew, draws an even harder line against demons than Gunn does, because of course. More Black characters spouting the bigotry.
  • Back at the Hyperion, we continue to worry about Fred’s residual agoraphobia from her five years of torment on Pylea.
  • Cordy: “It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s just – I don’t get her.” Reminds me a bit of the Scoobies not “getting” Tara in “Family.”
  • *snort* Angel’s at the top of the Enemies of Merl list that Cordy made. She also points out that half the names on the list weren’t Merl’s enemies until Angel made him snitch on them. It is looking more and more like, even inadvertently, Angel’s responsible. Except that we who know the future know it was Gunn’s old crew.
  • Anyway, Rondell points out that Gunn started withdrawing once his sister died, which, FAIR. But the two of them seem to make peace, recognizing how many people are alive by the work Gunn did, the fight he inspired. What we’ll see is that the mission got twisted in his absence, which … ain’t that always the way of it?
  • We cut to a big slimy but sweetly harmless demon slurping a soft drink in the sewer, then beset and slaughtered by the crew, the scene ending with a closeup of Gio with a crossbow.
  • Gunn shows up at another slaughter scene, asks again why they’re continuing to investigate demon deaths. Wes tries to speak to him gently of the shades of grey (no longer that Rogue Demon Hunter). G: “So we find this demon-killing machine, what then? We gonna stop it? Or thank it?” // W: “I don’t know.” That’s part of the grey shade here.
  • “Whatever’s responsible for these attacks isn’t making any distinctions [of morality]. It’s just killing. Randomly.”
  • But Gunn hides an evidence bag with a bit of a weapon he recognizes as being from his crew. He goes back to Rondell with the evidence, telling him to call Gio in. But Rondell tells him Gio’s not a rogue. They killed it because it was a demon, regardless of any of its actions. Again with the SIIIIIIIGH of the narrative this Very White writers room is building about a crew of mostly Black members. Does that make Gunn “one of the good ones?” “Not like the others?” Excuse me, I need to rage blackout for a second.
  • Cordy’s brilliant idea to get Fred out on the world is to make her sing karaoke … maybe not the best idea for someone clearly so traumatically afraid of being noticed, but hey any excuse to use a set we still have and are about to destroy.
  • Gunn, conflicted, is back at the Hyperion, not yet sure if he wants to tell Angel Investigations that he knows who’s behind the attacks. Angel, meanwhile, is seeing a pattern in the attacks: it’s not random, and whoever’s doing it is having fun.
  • Aw Fred chose to sing “Crazy” at Caritas. Poor thing. Gunn spares one fond smile when he sees her, then goes to the bar to avoid the others … and gets read by Lorne, even without singing.
  • And fuck. Before Gunn can come clean, we have FUCKING MACHINE GUNFIRE all throughout Caritas, taking out demons left and right. That anti-violence spell applies only to demons.
  • I really wish none of this was happening. I really wish the writers weren’t putting the weapons for a mass shooting in the hands of a marginalized group. I wish I wish I wish.
  • I bet the writers thought they were soooooo clever, putting all this bigotry in the mouths of Black characters. “See guys?” they say. “We flipped your expectations!”
  • This entire episode is one long Thanks, I Hate It.
  • Wes, realizing the crew is responsible for the demon deaths, looks at Gunn’s ashamed face and understands: “You knew.”
  • Gunn to Rondell: “You lost the mission, bro … this is not what we’re about.”
  • Wes reminds Rondell, who’s got a gun trained on him, that his last serious injury was incurred when he was helping Rondell in “The Thin Dead Line” 
  • Gunn: “We used to face death because we had to. Now you’re chasing it down, man, for the fun of it. That ain’t right.”
  • They allow Cordy to leave to go fetch Angel. Can’t she just … call him?
  • “This is a bad plan and I’ll tell you why: it’s their plan!”
  • Angel sends Cordy to talk to the three Furies to lift the Caritas spell so that Angel can fight off the crew.
  • Meanwhile Gio’s singing Buffy and Spike’s first dance song, “Wind Beneath My Wings” while they wait for Angel to arrive.
  • Meanwhile to that meanwhile, Gunn’s figured out the plan: they’re gonna make him kill Angel, to prove what side he’s on.
  • Gio shoots the karaoke machine. Joy-killing asshole.
  • Lorne, meanwhile, read Gio while he sang. Apparently he fled from Miami for some unspecified betrayal. “Right up until the end, she trusted you. Did you know that?”
  • Gio taunts Gunn that he wants to be “one of them,” the demons. Foreshadowing for the comics? (no, but we can pretend)
  • He’s basically now flipping the language, saying Gunn is friendly with the demons, hoping they’ll “let him in,” and now it’s an allegory for a Black man being accepted by white society? Is that what’s happening? Like? IS THAT WHAT THE WRITERS ARE DOING IN THE SAME SCENE AS EVERYTHING ELSE HAPPENING HERE.
  • Gunn, in a rage, shoots one of the demons, the one identified as a baby-eater. I guess to make us semi-okay with it? He’s violating the sanctuary but he’s killing one of the confirmed evil demons?
  • Y’all, I don’t even know. This is all so ugh.
  • Angel tells Gunn to make a choice, walking forward calmly in vamp face.
  • And Cordy visits the levitating Furies who keep going “mmmm Angel,” so I guess they have past sexytimes with him.
  • Back at Caritas, Gunn drops the stake. “You think I won’t kill him because he’s my friend? That ain’t why. Truth is he can never be my friend. It’s on account of what he is. Not his fault really. Just the way it worked out … It’s about the mission, bro. He’s got it. You don’t.” An interesting line in the sand to draw, but whatever, everything in this episode is trash.
  • Gio’s now decided that a “monster-lover” is no better than a monster, so any sympathizers will die too. Very cool and not at all fascist mentality.
  • “Who wants to live?” And Fred slowly stands up. “I’m sorry, I just—I don’t wanna die.” Gio hands her the crossbow with a smirk.
  • Angel: “It’s okay. I understand.”
  • But she spins to Gio “Although I thought I might just shoot you in the throat instead.” Then starts babbling about the science of bloodloss.
  • Angel tries to calmly ask her to point it back at him. He doesn’t want her to kill a human. And just in time, as they grab the weapon back from her, the spell is lifted, and the fight begins. Gio gets beheaded and then the demon what ate his head is blasted. Uh. Problem solved? I don’t even.
  • Wes: “It’s never easy, the pull of divided loyalties. Whatever choice we do end up making we feel as though we’ve betrayed someone.”
  • But then after giving empathy, he warns Gunn that if he withholds information again that could endanger the team, he’s fired. Which is a nice bit of preemptive hypocrisy for Wes and what he does later this season. Though the divided loyalties is also a presager for his actions.
  • Gunn, to Angel, says he doesn’t mean what he said in there, that he was stalling. “No, you meant all of it, but that’s okay.”
  • It’s especially ugly for the writers to put these words, “I can’t help the way I feel, man, that’s just the way it is,” used to excuse bigotry, into the mouth of a Black man and – we know now, twenty years later – a gay man (the actor, not the character).
  • And Gunn is left alone on the street. His old crew is gone, his new team is also heading home. Alone, he walks out of frame.
  • Hey, fuck this episode?
  • Okay fine you know I get it, the morally grey area of demons in LA is something we need to keep dealing with and discussing on this series, and it makes sense that this would be an especially dicey conversation for Gunn, given his history. I just really really hate that they chose to couch this conflict the way it did, putting all the problematic stuff in the mouths of the marginalized characters, so they can be lectured by the white characters. It's a fucked up way to handle what should have been a good and interesting continuing exploration.
Favorite Lines:

“When he did his pleasure-killing, he had no soul. You can make no such claim.” – Wes
Zelda: Nothing. No thank you.


First Appearance:
The Three Furies
Recurring: Lorne, Rondell, Merl
Generally Known TV Face: Khalil Kain

Caritas Song List
“Wind Beneath My Wings”


Cordelia’s Hair – mid-length bob, honey-brown color
Dead Humans – 1
Dead Undeads – 14
Dead Flashbacks – 0
Dead Lawyers – 0
Cordelia Has a Vision – 0
Wesley Prat-falls – 0
Lawyered Ex Machina – 0
Evil Reveal – 0
Unevil Reveal – 0
Disappointing Reveal – 1 (that old gang of Gunn’s)
Shenanigans Called – 0
Apocalypse Called – 0
Prophecy Called – 0
Champion Called – 0