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(Review) Angel & Faith 1.04: Live Through This - Part 4

1st December 2011 (20:12)

So, Angel and Faith #4. Pretty good actually, I thought, though it had a definite "end of part one" feel to it rather than being a big arc conclusion.
Faith actually looks very different in the artwork when she's in her disguise. I'm not sure why, maybe it's her hairstyle. I was thinking that maybe Rebekah didn't have her likeness down as well as she ha Angel's, but by the end of the issue when Faith's back in her normal outfit she was properly recognisable again, so it was clearly deliberate.
The fight between Angel and Faith on one hand and Pearl and Nash on the other was in the preview, but I didn't appreciate at first just how clever Faith's tactics are. Nash is holding her up by the hair, and is about to zap her with his lethal eyebeams. Faith uses her sword to chop through her own hair, releasing her to drop down to the ground at the exact right moment for Nash's attack to miss her and hit his sister instead. She also slips one of the Mohra blood vials into his pocket as she does.
I missed that the first time, until it was referenced later on - but you can see it. Faith's holding two vials in her hand in one panel, in the next she's reaching down out of frame; and in the third, she'd only got one vial. Two pages later, she calls the attention of the rest of the demons to the vial of Mohra blood in Nash's pocket, and recruits herself an instant army of reinforcements to the fight. Cunning.
She's also working against Angel here, because that leaves her only one vial of the blood. If she uses it to make Angel human, then there's none left to revive Giles. What will she say: "Oops, my bad"? Or rely on human-Angel being no longer driven by guilt and realising it was a bad idea to try to bring back Giles?
Angel, meanwhile, just tries to repeat his tactics from fighting Hamilton in 'Not Fade Away'. It worked there; it doesn't really work here as far as we can see. Although "Get your filthy mouth off my sister!" is a highly quotable line which might come to have applicability in the other Buffyverse comic. :)
I was amused by Faith boasting that she "almost graduated high school", whereas in Season 7 she was bemoaning the fact that she was kind of absent that decade. Her self-esteem has improved a little. There's also the contrast to Season 9 where Spike tells the loan collector demon to go easy on Buffy because she never finished college.
Liam was presumably in his mid-20s when he was vamped, but I'm guessing that as a Catholic growing up in rural Ireland in the 18th century there probably wasn't a high school for him to go to in the first place.
Faith decides to go ahead and use the last vial of Mohra blood to turn Angel human. I appreciated the fact that her soliloquy beforehand did cover the obvious point, that she'd be setting him up as a victim to Pearl and Nash by depriving him of his superpowers - and also she recognises that she'd be forcibly depriving him of his own choice in the matter, and make it impossible for him to revive Giles this way. But she decides to go ahead anyway, showing that even New Improved Faith can still be reckless and impulsive sometimes.
I'm sure there'll be debate over whether killing Giles was really "The worst thing Angel ever did" as Faith calls it: but I'm comfortable assuming that (a) she's referring to souled Angel only (b) Giles' death is being used to symbolise and sum up all he did by falling for Twilight's scheme.
Also, I couldn't read Faith saying, "Trust him? With my life" without hearing it in Echo's voice. (Which, admittedly, is almost identical to Faith's voice…)
Then comes the big twist. I admit, I didn't expect it, and it’s a good one. The Mohra blood regenerates people all right - but after the Seed broke, it doesn't ever stop. It turns them into huge, shapeless lumps of cancerous flesh that never stops growing and dividing. The people who disappeared in the last issue weren't murdered by Frasier; they're stashed in his basement.
Which means, of course, that Frasier knew what he was selling, and continued to sell it anyway. Making him in my opinion by far the most evil character we've seen in this season so far, including both Pearl and Nash and Angel-as-Twilight. I wonder if he'll be a reoccurring character, since he escaped from the mansion this time.
Apparently Angel also suspected something like this might happen: "Damn it. I was afraid of this."
Faith drops the last Mohra blood vial onto the floor so it smashes once she realises what it does - which again is proactive of her; she doesn't wait for Angel's opinion on whether it's worth trying to find a way to fix its bad effects.
Pearl and Nash's mid-fight dialogue did amuse me: "Oh, don't be so goal oriented. Enjoy the moment." After they flee, Angel reveals that he knows - or at least guessed - how to kill the Mohra blood victims permanently. That's an in-character moment; on his own show Angel was shown researching and gaining a wide knowledge of such things. It's also the first time this issue he's done something clever as opposed to letting Faith do most of the running.
The two of them start mercy-killing the victims; again, I liked that while Angel is the one to start, Faith doesn't let him do it alone. It was also cute that Angel sees she's upset and reassures her - but he assumes she's bothered that they were planning to use the Mohra blood on Giles, and might have turned him into another monstrosity. Actually no, Angel, she was about to use the blood on you and turn you into one of them...
Brief interlude with Whistler and the gruesome twosome. Look like while Faith slipping the blood to Nash was a clever tactical scheme, strategically it's played right into their hands. Oops. (Kind of the story of Faith's life.) They have some sort of plan for the blood, and the fact that it now turns you into "the Elephant Man on human growth hormone", means it's apparently even better for their purposes. The obvious conclusion is they're planning to use it on Angel somehow, but maybe it'll be more subtle than that.
Second brief interlude, with Faith and Nadira. We've got continuity from last month when she was starting fights but scared she was going crazy, and her reaction when Faith tells her she's found Pearl and Nash was adorable. Even the bit about hunting down and killing Angel as well, though Faith didn’t think so. :) Given that P&N have slaughtered Slayers by the bucketload, I hope Faith has a plan more complicated than charging in much in the style of John Wayne. Even better if she make a snide comment about Buffy's tactical skill while coming up with a plan. (Or asking Angel for his advice and help, which could be tricky given Nadira's intentions for him.)
The hippies playing hacky sack in Hyde Park are probably American tourists from San Francisco. :) Although I notice that Faith herself is wearing a peace symbol pendant around her neck - it's not visible here, but is in the issue's final panel.
Third brief interlude, with Alasdair. Faith really is being obnoxious to him; but on the other hand, he's not really saying anything much beyond vague warnings of impending doom. He should start a club with Willow. (They're both formerly-powerful mages, after all.)
On the other hand, Alasdair does advise Faith that keeping secrets from the people you're trying to protect isn't always the wisest move, and she does promptly go and confront Angel about Giles. So this scene did have a narrative purpose.
Angel is still trying to research ways to resurrect Giles -  I note that he's still concentrating on how to restore his body, leaving the matter of recovering his soul unspoken about. I suspect that might turn out to be the creepiest and most dangerous part of the process.
Did we see Angel ever wearing reading glasses on the TV show? I can't remember. It's not a new revelation about vampires, however, if we remember Dalton from Season 2. Though there may be another reason a well…
Faith tells Angel her worries openly - I liked the way Rebekah has drawn her body language in this scene, showing how nervous she feels. She tells him she's stop him if he "crosses lines" - and to her surprise, Angel thanks her and says that's exactly what he wants her to do. It shouldn't surprise us, though, since it's pretty much what he told Cordelia as well back in the AtS days.
I've seen quite a few fans saying before that they personally won't accept that Angel can be redeemed unless he recognises the personal flaws that lead him into misadventures like the 'Twilight' scheme. Interestingly, that's exactly what we get here, at least in part. "I can get a little obsessed sometimes", says Angel. He recognises that he can go too far and not realise it. He can get too caught up in his own plans that he doesn’t realise until too late that he's hurting people through them. That's a big advance on merely saying he was tricked by Twilight; it's admitting that his own personality flaws made him supremely trickable.
Of course, you could argue that asking Faith to be his surrogate common sense since he doesn't have any himself isn't the ideal solution; it would be much better if he could sort himself out instead of relying on someone else to fix him. (And you can bring in feminist issues here about how it's specifically a man expecting a woman to fix him, and the woman agreeing to it out of a sense of obligation, as well.) But then again, recognising that you need help with a problem is often the vital first step to resolving it.
And finally, we get the big teaser for what will presumably be either the next arc or the season plot. Faith offers to heat up a cup of blood for Angel, and he asks for a cup of tea instead - using Giles's exact tone and mannerisms. Faith thinks he's doing a deliberate impersonation… Angel doesn't even realise he's done it. And in the background of the panel, we can see the same old picture that was prominent in the first issue, of Giles as a child standing between two women (I'm guessing his mother and grandmother). Oooo. Spooky.
Giles's ghost? Spirit possession? Psychic emanations from the picture? Giles's soul trapped on this plane because since the Seed broke, no human soul has been able to pass on to the afterlife? I suppose we'll have to wait and see before we can find out...
So ends the first arc. The Mohra blood plotline has come to an end, with a gruesome twist that I did enjoy, which is why my rating for this arc has gone up since last month. It tied it off neatly - but the main plot is still ongoing, since Angel is still researching ways to bring back Giles, and P&N are still plotting evilly. I also definitely think that Faith was the lead character this month: she got most of the clever lines and interesting scenes. I approve.


Posted by: dancing till the world ends (lynnenne)
Posted at: 1st December 2011 22:01 (UTC)
angel: so long soul

Did we see Angel ever wearing reading glasses on the TV show?

Once, during the Angelus arc of Season 4. But they weren't his glasses:

Pan across the room. There's a sign reading "Aura Readings" on a table with incense sticks. A fire burns brightly in the hearth. Wearing reading glasses, Angelus sits by the fire, reading through the papers and book he took from Fred. He takes off his glasses and throws them at the shopkeeper that's lying on the floor. Terrified, the shopkeeper tries to back away.

These aren't helping.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st December 2011 22:55 (UTC)

Angelus never was much good with technology, even if you can call glasses 'technology'. :)

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 1st December 2011 23:29 (UTC)

Thanks as always for your fast review.

The obvious conclusion is they're planning to use it on Angel somehow, but maybe it'll be more subtle than that.

The logical conclusion is they're planning to use it on the Seed, somehow - after all, the three stooges are apocalyptic visionaries who want to usher in the "Second Coming of Twilight".

Which also serves as the big redemption thingie for Angel: By preventing "Twilight the Second Coming" somewhere down the season he's done away with his "Twilight - the first" misdeeds.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st December 2011 23:43 (UTC)

Thanks! It's an interesting idea, but I can't see how it would work. The Seed is an inanimate object, so surely Mohra blood will do nothing to it - no more than it turned the glass vials it was being kept in into sand again.

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 1st December 2011 23:53 (UTC)

Well, ok. But the comics haven't got the whole "logic+internal consistence" down. ;-)

Thing is - using the blood on Angel - they could have done that already. On the other hand, there's this:

"Listen, you were trying to make things better. Help us evolve. That still needs to happen more than ever."


"The world we got now's like a chicken with its head cut off. Running around not realizing it's dead."


"What i need is someone who's willing to break a whole boatload of eggs to make a salvation omelet."

"Bring in the next stage of evolution."

That's the mission statement of our resident baddies.

So, even if they don't want to use it on the Seed, they somehow want to evolve the "dead chicken".

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd December 2011 02:24 (UTC)

Sure; I'm not arguing that that's their plan. If they can't use Mohra blood on the seed, what else can it be used for? Maybe they plan to use tiny measured drops of it on human embryos to turn them into something else...

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 2nd December 2011 03:12 (UTC)

Yeah, using it on human embryos is certainly a very comic book style evil masterplan. :D

I don't know about not being able to use it on the seed: the seed is the soul, hence a bit more than an inanimate object, no? Corrupting the soul of the world is certainly a worthy plan in Whedon-world.

Of course, i'm not adamant about this. ;)

Just sprang to my mind (and would lend the resident loonies a bit more meaning in my book, other than moustache twirling black hats).

If Angel is about the grand gestures - the antagonists surely need to have some grand schemes, too.

I'm sure you'll tell me how it turns out. :)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 2nd December 2011 00:20 (UTC)

Nice review! Angel hasn't figured things out if he still thinks that bringing back Giles is a good idea. (Or if he thinks that bringing back Giles somehow would fix what he did as Twilight in general). I suppose we could say it's progress that Angel's noticed he does a lot of damage along the way. But he's hardly arrived if he hasn't figured out that his problem isn't just his means, its his ends.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd December 2011 02:34 (UTC)


But the problem is - Angel's "ends" are to make the world a better place, save innocent people, and make amends for the evil he's done in the past. Which of those do you think he's wrong to pursue?

Now of course you can argue that restoring Giles to life won't achieve those things. Faith would probably agree with you. But will the world be a better place with Giles back in it? Is he an innocent person who needs saving? Was killing him an evil that Angel did? Angel could answer "Yes" to all those questions.

Will resurrecting Giles have evil side effects, or do harm to others? We don't know - but that's exactly what Angel is asking Faith to keep an eye out for, and stop him if he becomes blind to the possibility himself. so he's got that one covered too.

That just leaves, is he on a fool's errand trying to do something that's impossible? Maybe. But facing the impossible and getting it done anyway is what Buffyverse heroes do.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 2nd December 2011 11:02 (UTC)

Interesting analysis - thank you. I have to admit that the fight choreography was lost on me, until you explained it.

When I was reading the issue for the first tife, I took Faith's thought "Trust him? With my life..." as a deliberate Dollhouse homage and a clue that Giles had somehow been "imprinted" into Angel's mind. But after reading your suggestions, I'm not that sure about "imprint". You list such a wide variety of options, and every one of them has a lot of potential.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd December 2011 11:53 (UTC)

First time I read it I just thought, "Oh, they're fighting" - it was only a a closer look that showed it was actually more impressive than that.

We'll know they're doing deliberate Dollhouse references when Faith asks, "Did I fall asleep?" :-) But it could be anything - maybe the shock of the Seed breaking really did imprint Giles onto Angel's mind, the way the flash of the Hiroshima bomb etched the outlines of people's shadows permanently onto nearby walls.

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 2nd December 2011 23:58 (UTC)

isn't the ideal solution

For more than one reason.

(Although Faith has gotten better on her impulse control issues.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd December 2011 00:05 (UTC)

Trouble is, of course, that in the real world ideal solutions are rarely possible.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 3rd December 2011 15:30 (UTC)

Good review.

I still don't trust Coames. He obviously knows something that he isn't seeing fit to come out and tell Faith. I suspect his motives.

I wonder why there's so much less discussion of season 9 than there was of season 8. Seems to be that way across the board. I myself have a lot less to say about each issue, it seems, even though I like both series so far. I guess there's just less of the "Buffy's back!" novelty this season.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd December 2011 15:44 (UTC)

Personally, I think that they're over playing the "Faith thinks Alasdair is a creepy old man" thing if he's going to turn out to be actually creepy after all.

I wonder why there's so much less discussion of season 9 than there was of season 8.

For one thing, I think there's less debate because the people who hated the comics have given up and are now long gone. There's much less arguing over "What does this mean?" or "Is this justified?" or "Why is this so out of character?" or whatever. Unfortunately, that leaves less to talk about all round.

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