Our heroes, having spent the summer working out of Cordy's haunted Silverlake apartment after the explosive first season finale, have bounced back despite the loss of all of Angel's ancient tomes and weapons, and nifty dungeon-like flat with sewer access. Cordelia apparently has CourtTV as well as Bravo, as her living room is home to a huge white board a la Homicide, which tracks their latest cases. Still puzzling out what was in Wolfram & Hart's mystery box, they have been working steadily, despite Angel's preoccupation with the humanity carrot that Greenwalt dangled in front of him in "Shanshu."
Oh, and speaking of the mysterious Wolfram & Hart box, Darla apparently prefers preludes and nocturnes to waltzes, and she and Just Call Him Lefty (or is that Krychek?) Lindsay have bonded in their mutual hatred of Angel. Lindsay's sporting a prosthetic hand, longer hair, and quite the 'tude, while Darla seems a bit on the foggy side, though she does upon prompting remember Angel killing her.
Cordelia has an allergy attack (which costs her part of her glass menagerie), and then a vision of a particularly frightening-looking demon. After Cordy Ids the demon's species, Wesley takes Cordy and Angel to speak with Merl, a snitch he's been cozy-ing up to, who only feels safe meeting him in--you guessed it--a demon karaoke bar. After plying Merl with some dead presidents, they find out that the subterranean in question can be found near Redondo. The singer from the tease swishes over to check out the new dish, much to Angel's dismay. It seems the bar's proprietor is psychic, but can only tell your fortune if he reads your aura while you sing. However, there are three things Angel apparently won't do: tan, date, and sing in public. Angel tracks the demon, and runs into an out of breath pregnant woman, the demon hot on her heels. Angel fights the demon and snaps its neck, only to learn that the demon was the human woman's champion and the only thing protecting her and her unborn daughter from something called the Tribunal, not to mention every demon in LA who fancies the prize on her head. She flees, and Angel--shaken to the core--heads back to AI HQ to re-evaluate.
Wesley and Cordelia try to assuage his guilt (yeah, like that's possible), and set to work trying to find out what the pregnant woman is running from, while Angel goes to Gunn to try and find out where she might be hiding. They discover a hidden room in the tunnels beneath the water and power plant--the demon's lair. Angel goes through the demon's belongings, consumed with guilt at taking an innocent life, and discovered a copper talisman. He gives it to Gunn with one of his cards to take to Cordy and Wes, to learn what they can about it and the Tribunal. The woman returns, and is dismayed to find out Angel found the talisman--which her demon was supposed to present to the Tribunal--and sent it away. They flee through the tunnels, coming up in the lobby of an abandoned hotel that Angel apparently has a connection to. Angle fights off her attackers, and yells for her to got o the address on the business card he gave her.
Meanwhile at AI HQ Gunn shows up and meets Wes and Cordy for the first time while both of them are conscious. The first impressions are awkward and strange and make it patently obvious just how white Cordy and Wes are, but Gunn leaves them hot on the trail of the talisman, who turns out to be medieval. Angel arrives, and is crushed when he realizes Mommy never arrived. He needs to find her, and fast, and there's only one way.
I need your help, Barry Manilow...
After quite possibly the most self-conscious, torturous, and stilted (and of course, hilarious as only David Boreanaz can make it, as he is one actor completely unafraid to look stupid on film and in fact seems to embrace it every now and again) rendition of "Mandy" ever recorded, Mr. Music tells Angel that the tribunal will find the woman, no matter where she is, and he has to haul ass to downtown in order to fight for her life and the life of her unborn daughter. Angle arrives just in time to take part in a Medieval Times joust which ends with a sword thrust through his torso (what, again?) and mom and baby's life forfeit...
Of course a sword being a sword, and not, say, a sharpened piece of wood, I'm sure you can see where this is going. Angel makes short work of Mr. 14th Century Throwback Demon, Mom and baby are now under the protection of the tribunal, and Angel admits to Cordy that he was blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel, and needs to start concentrating on saving one soul at a time (just like Doyle told him to, way back in the pilot) and not focussing on that damned carrot.
Angel, now in possession of the proper priorities, goes to prison to visit with an old friend. Faith is sporting prison coveralls, pale lip gloss--our visual cue that she's back on the straight and narrow. Watch out for scarlet or plum; then you know she's on the sociopathic side--and a similarly adjusted attitude. They commune about the suckiness of a steady diet of the same thing day after day as we fade out to the credits, which include some hilarious outtakes of David doin' Barry.-->
Review: For sheer entertainment value, this episode equals many of the gems of last season. Although the dialogue occasionally suffers--particularly the "And the moral of our story is..." which felt clumsy and somewhat unnecessary to the point where I really did expect Angel to crack wise after taking down the dry erase board--the episode is full of what we've come to love about this series. Namely, dry humor, fun visuals, action sequences with plenty of gusto, and never taking itself too seriously. The karaoke bar is a welcome addition, as is the swishy owner who I'm sure we'll be seeing more of in the future now that oracles Zan and Jayna the Gole Lame Deus Ex Machina Twins are only a bad memory. Also welcome was the scene in which Angel shakes down Merl the snitch--a nice noir touch that some of us have been missing of late, and Cordy's spouting gumshoe cant was fun, even if it did fall flat the second time around. Likewise, Gunn's streetwise patois sounds a bit too studied, but Richards is a good enough actor to make it sound natural, and I for one look forward to his being further incorporated into the Fang Gang as the season wears on.
My rating: 7/10
Next week, a slice of Angel's past, and new digs for Angel Investigations.