The boy’s a time bomb.
September 16, 2004
Now I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for temporal displacement episodes. Started early, cutting my teeth on the mind fuck eps of ST:TNG. Back then, it was novel, a fresh concept; now everyone’s doing the Time Warp again — a time shift here, a displaced memory there, and, voila!, a whole new slew of clichés were born. Luckily, Edlund manages to avoid the majority and gives enough meat to “Time Bomb” to make it well worth your while.
The question of “When, exactly, is Angel planning to rescue Gunn?” is answered right off the bat when Illyria busts in to Wolfram & Hart’s little pocket dimension; handily saving Gunn and having his tormentor gut himself in one fell swoop. While Illyria is playing cavalry, however, Wes is busy trying not to sound like an awestruck worshipper as Angel grills him about why she went popping off to Gunn’s dimension. Just as Wes and Angel are getting around to the idea of making Her Blueness a team player, she shows up holding Gunn by the throat, reminding them all that they owe her.
Gunn wanders about for a bit (in the same ratty zip-up that he’s been sporting for about a month, it seems) and happens upon Wes doing his best Renfield impression. It’s an odd scene. It’s obvious that Wes is obsessed with Illyria; but his mannerisms and asides, again, border on worship. Maybe he’s just obsessed with finding a way to get Fred back; but we’ve seen him hitting the books hard before — this isn’t anything like that. Is it a portrayal of grief? Is Wes falling prey to the allure of her power? It’s hard to say and it remains unresolved. There are some great lines, however — Gunn telling Wes to forget about stabbing him in the gut (since having your heart ripped out every day for two weeks puts that in perspective) and the pair figuring out that Illyria is almost as evil as your average TV star (but definitely a titch more violent). Speaking of violent, we drop in on the gal herself using her favorite punching bag, Spike, as a literal bloody pulpit. Being an episode that deals almost completely with “wrapping up” Illyria as a loose end, her ruminations and disdain for mankind and our “rules” ring as deeply ironic. Especially since Spike is there to take some of the wind out of her sails (and, refreshingly enough, he’s one of the few that is able to completely separate Illyria from Fred). Angel breaks up the party to tell Spike to stay away from her, since she’s testing them as much as they think they’re testing her. Then it’s a-time hopping we go as Illyria doubles over in pain (that’s Temporal Displacement shorthand for “My! Something untoward has just occurred!”).
But first there’s another odd scene between Lorne and Gunn. It may just be me, but I don’t feel like Lorne has really gelled this season. He really worked better for me as the prosaic lounge owner. As a hot shot, slightly evil, talent scout, he’s amusing, but his story seems so far removed from the rest of the gang, that it’s hard to mesh the two. Making Lorne play Cloak and Dagger, tailing Illyria, only cinches it. In fact she nails it later on when she spits at Lorne that Angel plays childrens’ games…and more often than not, it’s Lorne who’s made the patsy for them. There have been moments (Puppet Angel comes to mind); but overall, Lorne’s fallen flat, much as this scene (where they dish about Wes his case of Crazy) does. Luckily, as Angel gathers the troops to hash out options for taking out their little Elder God, things pick up. It’s obvious that Gunn’s time in Suburban Hell have made him sour on the whole “we’re kinda the bad guys…but not really” thing. The player of the moment though, comes in the form of Mr. Hamilton; breezing in to inform Angel that Illyria’s stunt will cost the LA office all of its FYE. He also gets one of the best lines of the evening, shooting Angel a “This a business, not the Batcave” as he smarms his way out.
Finally, the B-plot kicks into high gear as David B’s main squeeze, Jamie Bergman, drops in with a trio of paternally-minded demons in tow. Seems that she’s giving birth to their “savior” and W&H need the Angel Inc. crew to help make sure she signs over the baby. It’s actually woven in nicely to the main thrust of the episode — figuring out where everyone stands. Does the Angel team keep the office running by having the missus sign on the dotted or do they take the moral high ground and send the demons and their organic cola-drinking asses running? Incidentally, it’s about this time that Illyria really starts to become unstuck; jumping to previous moments in time (yeah, you knew what those “doubling over in pain” bits were all about, didn’t ya?), confronting Wes as her killer, and generally making a high-and-mighty nuisance of herself. Of course, who pops in to help with the problem but Mr. Hamilton. Seems that the Sr. Partners aren’t happy about Illyria being a major player in the little Apocalypse that they’ve been cooking up. Makes sense, seeing as how her memory of them places the Wolf Ram and Heart about one step above the “Ooze that Eats Itself” (that’s us for those of you keeping track of Big I’s pet names). He gives Wes the key to figuring out what’s happening (little Fred’s body just ain’t big enough to hold all that gosh-darned power) and sets him on the path to taking care of the problem. The funny thing is that everyone, including the godly one, thinks things are shaking out to take her out of the picture. What’s so funny about it? I’m getting to that.
In between all of the temporal shifting, there’s still the matter of the Chosen One and Gunn’s issue with the whole ordeal. He makes an excellent point, that this is their next move, that if the Apocalypse is happening all around them, if it’s an invisible war that’s fought in inches, not miles, then every single thing they do is a step towards or away from it. As we chew on that, though, we get a fantastic scene that is the crowning achievement of every temporal flux episode worth its salt — as the Angel Inc. crew moves in to take out Illyria, shunting her power out of this dimension before she can blow a crater in the planet, she catches them off guard, killing Spike, Lorne, Wes, and Angel in the span of thirty seconds.
Luckily for Angel, he’s got that special plot hole magic that surrounds him, pulling him along into Illyria’s time shifting. What’s great is that she even comments on it — calling attention to the paradox instead of pretending that it isn’t there. Edlund makes good use of it too, as we get to see Angel finally confront Big Blue about her babbling on about how superior she is. What’s surprising is how he’s able to actually learn from her as well: “Success is only limited by your ambition.” She cuts to the heart of the matter, chiding Angel for being unwilling to use the power at his disposal because of the manner in which it was given to him. One Big Bang later and Angel is able to hop back a few steps, save the day, and siphon off that pesky Godliness that Illyria keeps shoving in their faces; leaving her with a tasty Fred-shaped body and just a wee bit of a physical boost…no more time stopping or dimension hoping (which, it turns out, was Wes’ plan all along). The brilliant thing is that this is what Angel and the Sr. Partners wanted from the very beginning. They don’t need her out of the picture, they just need her on a leash. After Wes and Angel agree that he’s got a sick sort of need for Illyria being around, Angel surprises Wes by waffling a bit. Turns out that her unique perspective on things may make her a more valuable part of the team than Angel had first realized. Taking her ambition advice to heart, Angel relieves a livid Gunn from his “negotiating” duties and takes the crew into his office to resolve things to the Partners’ satisfaction.
The ending is great, because it leaves so much more open. Is Angel finally realizing that evil is what he does best? Does he think he can pull something over on the Partners — giving them what they want so that he can play, unfettered, with the LA branch? Or maybe there’s something else at work here. Maybe Angel is done with making the morally right decisions. W&H:LA is his weapon, he has to do what it takes to get it honed properly.
Gearing up for the final three episodes, we’re right were I had hoped we would be. There’s still an enormous amount of ambiguity about what Angel will or can do with W&H. And now, with this seeming change of heart that he’s had, the waters are only muddier. I’m just hoping that next week’s Buffy (but not really “Buffy”)-centric ep won’t detract. Though getting to watch Angel ride on the back of a scooter while holding on to Spike will certainly be worth it.