"Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been"
Episode # 24
Original Air Date: October 3, 2000
Review by: Dawn
If personal histories were bodies of water, Angel's would be a Great Lake, if not a sea. On shows populated mainly by twenty-somethings and teens, where the middle-aged Giles passes for elderly, Angel stands out. No matter how many flashbacks we get about his past, it always seems like just the tip of the iceberg.
"Are You Now..." gives us a look at a previously neglected part of this long past: the years between his ensoulment in 1898 and the fateful meeting with Whistler in 1996. We know that Angel was turned out of doors by his sire upon his ensoulment ("Five By Five") and eventually ended up homeless on the streets of Manhattan, but what about in between?
The fifties are an ideal place to take a look at these middle years. With racism, homophobia and McCarthyism, this decade, for all its glorification as "the good old days", is an ideal place to set a demon that feasts on hatred, fear, and general mob panic. And what better way to take a look at the conflicted Angel, struggling with soul and demon, than to show him against a backdrop of the worst human emotions?
Angel at this time was no bum, but he was not a contributing member of society. He locked himself up in his room with his bottle of blood. The bellhop was frightened of his empty eyes. David Boreanaz once again proves his remarkable skill as an actor. We've already seen him turn from Angel to Angelus and back again with just a slight change of facial expression and vocal intonation. For the flashbacks in this episode, he presents a bleak, grim face that is very different from the gentler expression of present-day Angel.
When presented with an opportunity to help someone, Angel takes it, albeit reluctantly. The parallel between Angel's experience as an ensouled vampire and Judy's experience as a mulatto works well. In a world which despises blacks and elevates whites, what do you do with someone who is both? And how does all this look in the eyes of a vampire, who sees not the skin, but the veins? "It's all just blood."
When Angel's attempt to help eventually turns against him, his reaction is chilling: "Take 'em all." This is surely the first step towards his total dissociation from human society that we saw in "Becoming". How different from the modern-day Angel, who refused to give up on Faith even when he had every inducement to do so.
The end scene was a tear-jerker. For once we see Angel as the forgiver, rather than the forgiven! That's a switch. And he is not the same, as this episode showed in many ways.
The demon was a cut above your run-of-the-mill monster of the week. Like Angelus, he's not just a practictioner of evil, he's a conoisseur. Wesley and Cordelia served primarily as narrators. Their "investigation" made no contribution to the plot, since Angel already had all the answers. Gunn's role was just a token appearance, which is irksome because I'm mad about the guy, but it makes sense. This is Angel's episode.
Scattered stuff: it has been said that Bibles and other dedicated objects can burn vampires, not just crosses, and it was interesting to see that element introduced to the Buffyverse vampire mythology. Acting was good all around. The tone was nice and dark (a welcome counterpoint to the fluffy BTVS episode preceding). And Angel's back in a nice big place, the kind he likes. This episode is a keeper.