Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
Synopsis: Angel asks Cordelia and Wesley to investigate the Hyperion Hotel. After coming out in its lobby in Judgement, Angel wants to know the hotel's story, as in how long it's been empty, and why. Wes and Cordy hop to the research, although knowing there's no revenue in it they're puzzled. Meanwhile, Angel goes on a trip down memory lane.
It seems in 1952 Angel was a guest in the slightly seedy resident hotel whose other clients included a doomed Fuller Brush salesman, a Rock Hudson-esque B-movie actor, a hack screen writer, a bellhop with an attitude, and the put-upon manager whose son will grow up to be a Homicide detective from Toronto with a yen for Greek food. Sorry, tangent there...
Seems Angel's been living in room 217 for a while, and gives the staff a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. However, Angel's not interested in making friends. In his post-soul, pre-Stink Guy days, Angel's just interested in solitude. When he starts noticing odd behaviour among the hotel's guests, he basically ignores it, preferring instead to hide in his room, smoke, and hone James Dean impression. However, when he comes home one day to find a young woman hiding in his room while a tough guy is nosing around outside, Angel feels compelled to help her by forcibly ejecting the "boyfriend". However he's not going to stick around for her gratitude.
Meanwhile back in the present, Cordy and Wes have pieced together the hotel's past. Seems that it was shut down for good in the late 1980s, and has a long and bloody history of murder and mayhem since it was built in the 1920s. When Cordy spots Angel in the background of a photo, they realise there's a personal connection.
After Fuller Brush guy offs himself next door, the manager and bellhop decide to hide the body in the freezer rather than risk a police investigation that would most likely shut the place down. Angel runs into the very Natalie Wood-y grateful neighbour at Griffith Park Observatory. She's there to see the End of the World, and he's there to stare at the skyline in that way he does, and smoke cigarettes that really shouldn't have filters yet (in 1950, only 2% of the brands out there had filters as opposed to 50% by 1960) but we just won't go there.
Turns out her name is Judy, and she's a nice girl who can't stand the Hyperion but won't leave, either. She's a real peach of a girl, but awfully skittish, and for good reason. Her "boyfriend" is actually a shamus hired by her former employers. With the tenets buzzing about the idea of Mr. Fuller Brush being murdered instead of simply eating his gun, Judy's terrified by the idea of the cops finding her. Judy had a great job she loved as a banker teller, was engaged to a wonderful guy, and had everything going for her until her boss found out she was passing for white. She lost her job, her guy, and her life. Before she was fired, however, she managed to steal a great big old bag full of money from the bank and is on the lamb. However, she's miserable and terrified. She's caught between two worlds and belongs to neither, something Angel can relate to. In a moment of compassion, he promises to help her. They hide the bag full o'money in the basement, and Angel decides that while he's in the social mood he might actually do something about whatever supernatural is clearly messing with the hotel.
Paying a visit to the local beatnik bookstore owner and amateur vampire hunter, Angel learns that the hotel is being used as a feeding ground by a paranoia demon who's obviously in heaven thanks to jerks like Joe McCarthy. Axe in hand, Angel gets back tot the hotel with a plan and supplies to vanquish the demon only to find the hotel denizens attacking Judy. They've gone crazy with paranoia and are out for blood. Angel is rushing toward her to save her when she decides the best way to survive her situation is to sic the mob on Angel. Wanting to know why he's got an axe and a bottle of blood hidden in his ice bucket, the guests go a little crazy to the every popular hit tune of "Let's string him up!"
In an orgy of fear, they lynch our man Angel, who plays possum until the dazed and sated guests dissipate and he's left along hanging from a noose in the lobby. Having gorged itself, the demon is made corporeal and mocks Angel, thanking the vampire for such a fantastic buffet. Seems Judy had gone from appetizer to full blown 12 course meal, thanks to Angel renewing her faith in human nature. Angel is crushed that his first foray into do-going ahs ended with his "death" and leaves the hotel and all inside to the mercies of the chortling demon.
Back in the here and now, Angel's going to make amends for good, and calls Wesley, Cordy, and Gunn to the hotel so they can summon the demon and kick his ass. Turns out the demon has been ordering room service for the last 50 years--Judy, consumed by guilt and horror at how she turned the lynch mob on her savior, has been living (and later, squatting) in the hotel the entire time. Angel finds her in room 214, a greying woman terrified to step outside the door thanks to the paranoia demon's whisperings. With the demon's death, she is finally free and begs Angel to forgive her. He does, and she slips peaceful off to sleep. The Big Sleep, that is. Angel feels a renewed sense of do-goody-ness and decides it's time to re-open the Hyperion as the new venue for Angel Investigations.
Review: Truly first-rate episode with standout performances from Boreanaz as well as guest star Melissa Marsala as Judy. The flashback to '52 is a true gem, and very well written and played. From the set decoration to the casting to the editing and script itself, the episode was quite possibly one of the best Angel episodes we've seen yet. Angel as recluse was illuminating and a great slice of charatcerisation--particularly the moment where he leaves the hotel and its occupants to fend for themselves. Also vastly entertaining were Van Helsing Jr., and the bloodthirsty bellhop, as well as Gunn and Wesley's sibling rivalry and Cordelia's O-pos plus cinnamon.
My rating: 9/10
Next week, Angel's been having some sexy dreams....