When it comes to fandoms, canon rules with me. I will always fall on the side of canon. Doesn't mean that I don't disagree with some messages that canon sends or that I like everything that I see. It just means that I never invalidate any part of canon. I embrace every new element and shape my fandom feelings around the new canon. For me, it's about the cohesive world of the BtVS/AtS universe, so even the parts that I'm not a fan of matter to me, because it's part of that universe.
That is the attitude that I approach reviewing the show with -- everything is part of the whole. For me, there are no throw-away episodes. Everything is part of the story arc. Every little detail is part of the whole.
Everything is arc.
None of these are reviews as such. They're rambles inspired by the episode in question. The actual format for how I'm writing is this: I think about the episode and write for a while, then I start rewatching the episode and make more detailed notes and adjustments. Then I reread the whole thing, correcting minor details and expanding some segments.
Hellbound is such an incredibly important Angel episode. Continuing in a thread from last week, we once again have an Angel-echo in the episode but this time it isn't victim-monster (as Nina was) but rather an Angelus parallel found in the (long dead) person of Pavayne. Pavayne tortured and destroyed lost souls -- a more literal interpretation of what Angelus used to do.
Angel, even more so than Buffy, is fond of showing us the same situation from a different viewpoint. We see the same types of acts over and over, but each situation stands apart because of the interpretations and reactions of the characters doing or feeling the acts. This year, they're showing us Angel, over and over, showing us what he could do in a different situation and how he could be if things (and he) were slightly different. It's all about choices and consequences. And the first always leads to the second, because a consequence is just an effect.
I've maintained from the first (or possibly second, as I was probably too devastated to actually think during the first viewing) that, in Home, Angel made the wrong decision for the right reason. Every decision has consequences, and every consequence leads to a new decision. This pattern determines the shape of a life. But Angel disrupted that pattern when he did the reality-shift. The world knows what it should be (witness the effects of Buffy's mediative spell in No Place Like Home -- the room knows that Dawn's things don't exist, just as the universe knows that she doesn't exist -- also, see Superstar). The consequences remain, but the decisions that caused them have shifted and this causes a fundamental disconnect between the viewer (in this case, the Fang Gang) and the viewed (the universe as it appears).
"Nothing in this world is the way it should be." When Angel spoke those words, he was wrong -- the world was the only way that it could be, and there's no use imposing moral guidelines on a world. What he meant, of course, is that people didn't behave in a way that made the world a safe and enjoyable place. The world isn't how he wants it to be. Of course, the only way to change the world is decision by decision -- unfortunately, Angel didn't have the heart to do that when it came to Connor. Instead, he forced the world into a shape that it wasn't meant to be. And slowly, it's shifting back. He refused to let the story play to its conclusion last time, but that only made it build up momentum.
He believes himself to be damned. Condemned to eternal punishment. He is, at this point in the season, continuing his slow sink into the murky mentality that colors everything at Wolfram and Hart. He'll continue to sink until Soul Purpose, when he finally starts fighting the weights chained to his ankles (dreams often lead us to the truth). Each episode after Soul Purpose has shown an Angel regaining his sense of morality and his faith in himself.
This is the first episode that I felt the Eve-Darla connection -- I didn't realize it at the time, of course, but in retrospect, her Darla-like tendencies are part of why I like her (though she's certainly not as ruthless and tough as Darla). But this is the episode where Eve stands with Angel and helps him, guides him, in condemning a person to eternal torment. Again, a more literal interpretation of what Darla did with him. Of course, once we find out about Lindsey, that makes sense. He did care about Darla great deal.
But this episode starts with an altogether different woman -- Winifred Burkle, playing along. She walks along, pretending to be unaware of Spike's presence, in order to make him feel better. We see in the scene that follows both the warmth and the curiosity that are mentioned in Shells.
This is also the beginning of the Shanshu mini-arc, which spans from Hellbound to Destiny.
Fred isn't in red with Spike, which implicitly foreshadows that she's not going to succeed in recorporealizing him. Wesley is the only person in Hellbound who shows personal concern and caring for Fred -- telling her to get some food and rest. Angel is concerned about her actions, while Wesley is concerned about her. In her scene with Angel, she's not playing heart, but conscience -- as implied by the light brown/grey that she's wearing (I don't look so much for what colors mean as what they imply, what they bring to mind).
"It's about doing what's right."
Brought to mind Lawson -- "You win a war by doing what's right."
"Some people can't be saved."
In this case, he meant that more metaphorically, but later, he will decide that Fred can't be saved -- that saving her isn't a decision he can make. But this is a central conflict -- it is about doing what's right, but Angel (and Spike, his twin) have set lines about when people can't be saved. Angel's lines are draw further back than Spike's, but they do exist. He's decided at this point that he can't be saved and he knows that he couldn't save Connor. But, just as with Fred/Illyria, Angel decided that he couldn't save Connor. He made a choice.
"Why the bother? Try to do the right thing, make a difference..."
This episode is also a big step in the reconciliation of Angel and Spike. Angel actually admits to liking something about Spike.
There are five primary images (they aren't ghosts) -- finger-chopper, armless, glass-in-eye, hanged man, and burnt lawyer. All concocted by Pavayne to creep Spike out and to convince him of the power that Pavayne holds. Chopping off fingers, no touch, no fire leaping from fingertips. Armless, no comforting hugs ("Hold me..."). Half-blind -- makes me and possibly Spike think of Xander. The hanged man -- Angel all the way, even without taking Are You Now or Have You Ever Been...?. Burnt lawyer -- burning up in the fires of the Hellmouth is what connected him to W&H in the first place.
"Had to be the basement."
Spike's pain, like Xander's, lives in a basement. But where Xander's pain was always found in his own basement, Spike's was always in other's, as other people's dirty little secret. Later in the season, Spike will lose his hands in a basement, as he learns what collateral damage means, when he truly realizes that pain lingers past the point it is applied (he's always known that in regards to himself, but hasn't ever really put it into perspective when it comes to people not him). Spike has been put into basements three times on Angel so far - W&H's, Lindsey's, and Dana's. Each time, it's been a lie -- Pavayne couldn't really send him to hell, Lindsey wasn't getting visions from the powers, and Dana was wrong about him hurting her and her family. Before, he was in basements because of things he was and things he had done, but now it's because of what isn't true.
The only character in Hellbound to wear red is our doomed psychic. The one who, you may recalled, spits blood onto Fred much like Fred will later do with Wes.
One of my favorite things about this episode is that Spike shows absolutely no interest in checking out Fred in the shower. He has much more pressing matters at hand, thanks much.
"But first, I get to play."
Now that's an Angelus-y thing to say. Like Angelus, Pavayne is all about torturing the souls -- he doesn't have to, it seems to be the feeding of them into the... thing that saves him, so he's doing just because he enjoys it.
"Reality bends... my desire... the way it was meant to."
And that sounds chillingly like Angel. Angel, who bent reality for the sake of giving his son the life that he deserved. It's all about what Angel wants -- as Cordy says, he let Wolfram and Hart rape the memory of his friends for Connor's sake. And he believes the evil lawfirm when they say they'll take care of his son.
This is also the episode where Gunn asks a personal favor from the Senior Partner ("Oh yeah, they are not here for your convenience."), thus giving them a reason to be less than pleased with him. This is where Angel's subconcious learns to associate Gunn with a snarling cat.
"The soul that blesses you damns you to suffer, forever."
This echoes "No matter how good a boy you are, God doesn't want you."
Fred and Wes finish each other's technological/mystical thoughts -- connected on the same wavelength. Even with Gunn's new abilities, he could never do that, because he and Fred just never had that level of mental connection -- it isn't about intelligence, it's about inclination. Gunn was never dumb, he just wasn't the same kind of smart as Fred, still isn't. Wesley is. That's why they worked for me -- I like couples that have similar basic temperments, with differences created by experiences and situations. That's also a huge part of why I enjoyed Buffy and Xander -- they have the same kind of brave. John and Chiana have similiar kinds of crazy. Clark and Lex will one day be the two most powerful men in the world. Harry and Draco are continually compared to each other (though Draco consistently comes out second). It's my Thing, I think. Complementing yet overlapping personalities.