Angel/Recap/S02/E09 The Trial
We open on Cordelia and Wesley eavesdropping at the cellar door. Angel emerges with his laundry and seems quite chipper. He's accepted what happened with Darla and apologizes for any grief he may have caused them. He knows he can't look for Darla anymore unless she wants his help, but most of all, he's learned to let go. Cordy and Wes are very proud of him but their pride is short-lived when Gunn bursts in and announces "I found Darla!" Meanwhile, Lindsey pays off a motel manager and then enters a skeezy room, where Darla is applying makeup for some upcoming occasion. Lindsey remarks that she's a hard one to find.
At Wolfram & Hart, Darla and Lindsey meet with Holland. Darla irritably says there's nothing between her and Angel anymore, so if they expect her to keep playing succubus, then they're out of luck. Holland says it's not about Angel, and that Darla's not their prisoner but their "moral responsibility." Apparently, shortly after Darla's rebirth, W&H ran extensive medical tests on her, the results of which Darla now has an opportunity to read. And weep.
Flash to a seedy bar, where Darla is making doe-eyes at some vampire dweeb. Basically, she's trying to hide her loathing for this creature so that he will sire her, but he's not interested in "commitment." She talks him into it, and just as he's about to bite her neck, he gets dusted by Angel. Angel tries to reason with her and attempts to convince Darla to give her second life as a human a chance. Darla interjects, "I'm dying." She has seen the medical files and she only has a few months to live, so she's in a bit of a hurry.
At the Karoke bar Caritas, Darla is onstage serenading the audience with a bluesy torch song. The Host, who is listening in, confesses to Angel that they "may not be able to save this bird." Resignedly, The Host scribbles down an address and gives it to Angel, warning, "It's a bit of a quest", and Angel will probably die in the attempt. Angel is, naturally, all over that idea. Cut to Angel and Darla standing over an empty swimming pool. Angel quickly catches on that it's "a whole leap of faith thing." Angel strolls out onto the diving board and takes the plunge. Darla expects Angel to crash into the cement, but he instead falls through an invisible portal. He is welcomed by a creepy Englishman dressed like a butler (The Valet), who teleports Darla into the room as collateral. He explains that Angel must complete three trials to save Darla's life. However, if Angel does not succeed, both lives will be forfeited.
The Valet disappears and the gate opens, through it walks a green warrior demon. Angel manages to get his hands on the demon's sword and cut him in half. However, the demon wakes and reattaches his torso to the rest of him. The fight resumes and again the demon again sawed in half, only this time, Angel ties one half against the corner wall with a chain, and another at the other end of the room. The next challenge preys on Angel's vampiric nature. He must venture down a long hallway that is inlayed with wall-to-wall crosses, with a baptismal font in the center. Angel makes a run for it and grabs the key inside the font, which is full of holy water. Ouch. The final challenge is, well, Sudden Death: Angel suddenly finds himself spread eagle in front of a wall o' wooden stakes. The Valet tries to persuade Angel that he can walk away from the trials. Angel orders him to pull the lever, and the stakes are fired at him. To his surprise, Angel finds himself back in the antechamber, fully dressed but worn out from his physical ordeal. The Valet calls Darla over so that she can be "made whole", but something appears to be wrong. He apologizes, and surmises that Darla is being kept alive by supernatural means. The Valet cannot help her because Darla is already living her second chance.
The pair return to the motel, Angel comforting Darla as she sits on her bed contemplating her condition. Angel thinks about siring her, perhaps gambling that his soul might transfer to Darla, but she turns him down. Angel is furious that The Powers That Be would return a life only to crush it so quickly. Darla reasons that she brought back to die, the way she was supposed to in the first place. Suddenly, Wolfram & Hearts goons break into the room and debilitate Angel with a stun gun. Lindsey struts in, followed by Drusilla. The men keep a hold on Angel as Dru approaches Darla, changes to vamp face and bites her neck.
Tropes in this episode:
- Affably Evil: The Valet.
- Always Save the Girl
- And His Eyes Open: The green goblin of the first test.
- Artistic License History: While being chased by vampire hunters in 1756, Angelus tells Darla that he hates France and they should go to Romania instead. In 1765, Romania did not exist - it became a legitimate state in 1859 as a result of the unification of two provinces: Moldavia and Valachia.
- The Bad Guy Wins
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Safe in The Valet's antechamber, Darla demands to see what is happening to Angel. Jeeves shrugs and says, "If you insist. But please remember - you did ask." He touches Darla's forehead, allowing her to see through Angel's eyes and experience every bone-crunching, skin-melting theme park ride The Valet has to offer.
- Big Damn Villains
- Bound and Gagged: For the final test, rope chains appear from nowhere and shackle Angel's arms and legs.
- Chekhov's Gun: One that won't go off for some time, and we won't even learn it fired for a long time after that. Darla may already be living her "second chance", but Angel still passed the test. The life he earned doesn't go to her - instead, it becomes Connor. As of this episode, Jasmine is one step closer to incarnating herself on Earth.
- Continuity Nod: The comparison between jasmine flowers and vampires was previously made in the Buffy episode "I Only Have Eyes for You".
- Death in All Directions: Trial no. 2 consists of a long hallways embedded with hundreds of crosses, a locked door, and the key sitting in a baptismal font. Three guesses as to what's in there. (Well, "baptismal font" is sort of a giveaway.)
- Detachable Lower Half: The goblin.
- Dramatic Irony: "I hate the French. We should go someplace like Romania."
- Drowning My Sorrows: Lindsey starts hitting the sauce in this episode. Presumably, he's as broken up about Darla as Angel is.
- The ending reveals that Angel is being played; Lindsey never expected Angel to go through with it and re-sire Darla. Lindsey is drinking heavily because he knows that he's about to be responsible for taking Darla's soul.
- Evil Brit: The Valet.
- Evil Lawyer Joke: Darla snaps at Angel for assuming her medical files are just another ploy by W&H. Darla says that she knows a few things about mind games: "We played them together for over a century." Cordy muses, "Yes, but you were just soulless, blood-sucking demons. They're lawyers."
Angel: [humbled] She's right. We were amateurs.
- I Don't Want to Die: Darla is aggrieved to learn that she's due to perish from the disease that killed her the first time: syphilis (though it is now easily cured when diagnosed early enough, Darla is "about a month and 400 years too late"). By the end of the episode, Darla has accepted her fate.
- Face Framed in Shadow: The Valet is momentarily cast in shadow as he laments Angel's imminent death, which he confesses would be a waste.
- Foreshadowing: Holtz is mentioned for the first time in one of this episode's flashbacks. He would later appear in the first episode of the third season, and become that year's major threat.
- Darla foreshadows the Big Bad of Season Four, Jasmine, when she is outside the Hyperion and notices jasmine flowers. "Jasmine, it blooms at night. I remember what that was like."
- Ghost Butler: The Valet.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: The Valet is played by Jim Piddock, best known in America for voicing Major Zero in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Avoiding the whirling chains, Angel retrieves his sword and chops the goblin in half a second time, this time hooking its torso separately from its legs and chaining them to handy brackets on opposite sides of the room. Test completed!
- Hope Spot
- Hypocritical Humor: Angel says he's come to terms that Darla will have come to him if she needs him, and that he's let go. Gunn then bursts in, saying he's found Darla, which Angel had him do in secret. Angel immediately drops what he's doing and sternly leafs through the surveillance photos that Gunn took, while Cordy protests, "You lied to us!" Angel agrees that he did. "I figured you'd nag."
Wesley: [wounded] Didn't we learn anything from the tea?
- Darla says that Angel can't force her to stay, and Angel says she's "not a prisoner", he just wants a chance to help. As soon as the door closes behind him, Cordy announces,
Cordy: So, first up: you're a prisoner.
Wesley: I'd have to concur with that, yes.
- Last Stand: Subverted. In a flashback, Angelus peers out a window at the torch-wielding mob gathering outside. He gears up to go down with a fight, declaring to to Darla, "Between the two of us, we can go out with a reputation!" Darla bonks him over the head with a shovel and leaves him for dead. Romance!
- Layman's Terms: Darla tries to convince the Mullet that needs an undead girlfriend to share the passing eons with. "So, what?", he asks, puzzled, "I make you, and then you'd be like... my immortal babe?"
- Leap of Faith
Angel: Sure. 'Cause if you had water, you'd get all wet, and miss out on all that skull-crushing.
- Nameless Narrative: The Valet is never identified by name. Angel smugly refers to him as "Jeeves", which is how he appears in the closing credits.
- The Mullet vampire is credited as 'Shempire'.
- Negated Moment of Awesome: Lindsey is having a drink in his apartment. Suddenly, Lindsey's door is smashed open. Angel, standing outside, declares, "I might not be able to come in, Lindsey, but --"
Lindsey: Wipe your feet.
- Never Say That Again: "Don't say Darla!"
- No Sympathy: Cordy eyes Darla's luggage and asks whether she's planning to sleep over. "I'm dying," Darla says. "So, just for the one night, then," Cordy replies.
The Host: The man was a world-class bartender. He made a sea breeze that took you to Tahiti! -- He's off the menu, now.
- Not Named in Opening Credits: Juliet Landau's name is listed only in the end credits so as not to spoil the surprise. On a technical note, this is probably why Drusilla has no lines this episode.
- Pass the Popcorn: The Valet asks Darla to wait in the antechamber, where she is welcome to help herself to "an iced beverage" while Angel is being burned alive. In the reaction shot to Angel's second trial, Jeeves is munching on a cookie.
- Pulling Themselves Together: During the first trial, Angel ambushes the demon, grabs its sword and bisects it the waist. Believing he's won the first test, Angel shouts and furiously pounds on the portcullis blocking the exit. There's a noise behind him; Angel turns, and sees the revived demon literally pull itself together and renew the attack.
- Half the Man He Used To Be
- Punch a Wall: Once he learns the trials have been all for naught, Angel lashes out, overturning the tables and trashing the room. He ends his frustration by punching the cement wall with his fist over and over and over again, until slowly his anger is spent. Darla comes over to try to comfort him as he falls into a heap in defeat against the wall.
- Real Men Hate Affection: Cordy complains that Angel's obsessed with Darla, and says, "I thought you were gonna be a man, and talk to him about this!" Wesley claimed that he did talk to Angel, and asked him "things like, did he prefer milk or sugar in his tea." Off Cordy's look, he adds, "It's how men talk about these things in England."
- Rule of Three: The trials.
- Secret Test of Character: Angel asks what happens to Darla if he quits before Final Jeopardy. "Oh. She dies," The Valet says. The Valet decides that this would be a good time to delve: "Isn't the world a better place with you in it? You can save so many people. It seems she can barely save herself." He points out that even if Darla lives, "how long will it be before she stumbles, before she falls?" Angel doesn't know. Valet again asks if Angel wants to give up his life for Darla's. Angel does. But he In the resulting flash, The Valet says that Angel has passed the final test "by accepting death."
- Shirtless Scene: The Valet tells Angel that before they get started, he'll need Angel's shirt and shoes. I'll bet Angel hears that a lot. Angel asks whether the first trial is unarmed combat, and The Valet says, "Well, you'll be unarmed, yes."
- Shout-Out: Cordy and Wesley are discussing their predicament over drinks. Cordy complains that Darla is risking their lives as well as Angel's. "I'm sorry, but after 400 hundred years of death and destruction, seems to me, you get voted off the island. Am I right?"
- Single Tear
- Smash Cut: Lorne scribbles down an address and hands it to Angel, saying that this is "where we find out if you're really ready to take the plunge." Angel and Darla arrive at an empty swimming pool.
- Spell My Name with a "The": The Valet.
- Spot of Tea
- Static Stun Gun
- Take a Third Option: Dismissing W&H's medical report as a trick, Angel drops off Darla at the hotel, then kicks open Lindsey's apartment door. He starts to make a speech about how he can still get at Lindsey even though he's stuck in the doorway, but Lindsey (who is a little drunk) invites him in immediately. Lindsey quickly assures him that Darla is indeed dying, and hurls a dozen medical files in Angel's face. Apparently, Lindsay didn't believe W&H either and consulted some experts of his own. Darla was dying of a syphilitic heart condition when she was human, and now that she's no longer a vampire, it's back with a vengeance. Lindsey says there is only one cure for her, and Angel knows what it is.
- Torches and Pitchforks: Angel complains, "This man Holtz, how does he keep finding us?" Darla observes that they don't exactly keep a low profile: "We stay in the best hotels, order room service, eat the waiters. People talk."
- Unwanted Rescue: She cocks her head, and the vampire bends to sink his teeth into her, before dissolving into dust. Angel stands behind the settling dust cloud. Darla, furious, asks what he think he's doing. "Saving you!" Angel says, self-righteously.
Darla: I wasn't in any danger, Angelus, believe me. I picked a stupid one. I always pick the stupid ones, didn't you know that?
- Villains Never Lie: While they're duct-taping Angel's hands behind his back, two other men grab Darla. Lindsey struts in, grabs Angel by the hair and asks, "How'd you think this would end?"
- Wall Jump: Angel does one when fighting the demon.
- Waxing Lyrical: The Host listens to Darla sing a torch song about ill winds blowing her no good, and says, "Oo." When Angel demands clarification, he says, "Ground control to Major Tom-- we may not be able to save this bird."
- Whip It Good: Angel's first opponent is a green goblin armed with huge hooks on long, heavy chains.
- Why Did It have to Be Stakes?
- Worthy Opponent: During the trials, The Valet repeatedly checks his pocket watch and remarks that Angel's "quite remarkable." He seems genuinely pained at the prospect of pulling the lever on Angel's deathtrap.
The Valet: I expected as much. A pity. I'm beginning to like you.
Angel: Spare me.
The Valet [solemnly] I'd very much like to.
- You Watch Too Much X: The mullet vampire is confused as Darla expounds on all the benefits of having a companion to "walk those lonely nights." After a moment, he laughs and says, "You've been reading too much Anne Rice, lady."