So after last month's reveal that Drusilla's back, we start with a flashback to how Angel created her in the first place. There's actually not much (if anything) new here; it just stitches together various scenes we've already seen on the show into a straightforward narrative, complete with the trademark blood and viscera we've come to expect from Rebekah.
But then we get a long scene with Angel and Drusilla talking in the present day, and that's more interesting. It must have been quite a challenge for Christos to write this dialogue for Drusilla, since her distinctive 'voice' depends so much on her being insane: how do you make sane!Dru still sound like her and not some random woman? Still, I think he did pretty well. Not always - a few of her lines jarred for me. Calling Harmony a 'blonde twit' sounded more like something Giles would have said. Still, other bits are spot-on. "How you carry on" was perfect. There's a certain precision to Dru's speech: "But I no longer cared" rather than "I didn't care anymore", for example. and she's capable of being sarcastic too, as in her "I'm quite comfortable. Well, not at this very moment" line.
And I grinned at, "I always wanted pets. Puppies, kittens, orphans... such fragile creatures." Dru may be sane now, but she's still utterly creepy.
So, show of hands. How many readers of this comic read Dru's lines as if they were spoken in the classic Juliet Landau/Dick van Dyke fake London accent?
The reveal that the Lorophage demon has sucked out her madness wasn't a big surprise to me; I'd already guessed that was the likely explanation last month. Whether the effect is permanent, or whether the demon will need to keep feeding off her to keep her sane, isn't mentioned. I did like the discussion of the effects of a soul. As a soulless vampire, Drusilla shouldn't be able to feel emotional pain; but thanks to Angel's torture, her madness and trauma had become such an ingrained part of her human self that the vampire was unable to separate herself from it.
Drusilla says her plan now is to "help the helpless", in conscious imitation of Angel. I honestly don't know if she's genuine in this (in her twisted, soulless way), or if it's all part of a cunning plan directed against Angel. She claims to have already set up operations in London - her home town, remember - before she learned through a vision that he was there too.
The way Dru has surrounded herself with adoring human cultists whom she's healed of their emotional trauma is quite disturbing. Angel is definitely disturbed; he vamps out and yells at her that she can't be selfless because she's soulless. We all know that when a Buffyverse character gets so angry, there's almost inevitably a subtext there about their own self-image; I doubt that this is an exception. He's probably also reminded of Jasmine, whose operations were not dissimilar to what Drusilla is up to here.
I did appreciate the debate afterwards between Faith and Angel over whether what Dru is doing is wrong. She does seem to be helping people get over their pain and lead happier lives. Angel suspects that her 'treatment' is actually causing the outbreaks of homicidal insanity we saw in the last issue but that seems so far to be only his theory, not something we're told authorially is correct. More seriously, he thinks that removing their emotions is both dangerous and wrong in itself, and assigns it to Dru liking to mentally manipulate and torment people the way he once did to her. Faith, on the other hand, is more pragmatic and laissez-faire: in her eyes, if people choose to accept such a treatment, it's not for other people to stop them.
And after a page containing lines like, "the abused kid grows up to be an abuser" and "addicts and basket caes", Faith comes face to face with her father, who's waiting outside her house. Looks like Nadira did tell him the address after all.
In some ways, meeting him face to face felt like kind of a let-down. After a dozen years of speculation about Faith's childhood traumas, and all sorts of horror scenarios being dreamed up (often by me), I was expecting something more dramatic than this rather sad recovering alcoholic. Oh well. It's possible, of course, that there's more to their backstory than is being revealed here. George obviously did something to destroy Faith's trust in him; her initial reaction to seeing him is violent distaste, unwillingness to be touched by him, and a clenched fist. But she's also vulnerable to his plea to reconnect with her, even though she's clearly trying her best to resist it. We know from Season 3 how much Faith craves a father figure in her life.
I did like the way the writers made use of Angel's vampire powers in this scene: his super smelling ability let him detect no trace of alcohol on Mr Lehane, proving he's telling the truth about that at least. Faith's outburst is more evidence that she feels her father abandoned and deserted her once before, and in her anger she throws Angel's parenting of Connor in his face as a comparison. Angel gets angry back, and we get the reveal that Connor has been calling him a lot - presumably since *after* the Twilight débacle - but Angel hasn't been taking the calls because he wants to stay out of Connor's life "for his own good". Which is something Angel is fond of deciding on other people's behalf, just saying. I smell a future plot arc being set up here.
Angel says he "can't change what I am" - sorry, 2maggie2 :) - but Faith's father can. My heart goes out to Faith hugging the lamppost here: then she takes Angel's words to heart and goes running after her father. Awww. She's gonna get hurt, I can just tell.
And after that conversation, Angel goes off on his own to visit a house in the East End - which, it turns out, is where human Drusilla and her family used to live. Regrets? Self-torment? Broodingness? It's quite convenient that the house is empty and still 'for sale': it kind of looks like it's been left empty for the last 150 years, although I'm pretty sure that's impossible given the London property market.
And Drusilla's waiting there for him, looking creepier than ever. I liked her comment about once writing 'Dadaist' lyrics as an accompaniment to the screams of her dying family that were constantly running through her head for the last century and a half. Brrr. But new and improved (?) Drusilla is contemptuous of her human self, and grateful to Angel for 'setting her free'. And now she wants to do the same for him.
This interests me, because my mind immediately went to a place that isn't mentioned by name in the comic. If the Lorophage removes all Angel's guilt and trauma, then doesn't that mean he'll be able to experience perfect happiness? Is Drusilla's plan to remove his soul and get Angelus, her 'Daddy', back? It's an interesting plot idea; but Angel's objection is simply that taking away his guilt is removing part of his personality, making him less than what he was. Like a lobotomy rather tan freedom. Which is all very true and valid, but he doesn't seem concerned about losing his soul. Maybe it's been so long since it was an issue for him, he's simply forgotten the possibility?
I liked the banter between Angel and Dru. Him complimenting her on her skill at hypnosis - and interestingly, saying that he "never could get the hang of it myself". Since the vampires we've seen using it were the Master and Drusilla, plus Dracula, I wonder if it's something particular to the line of Aurelius. Darla never showed signs of the ability either, though; but it's interesting that Angel feels he could have been able to do it, and maybe even tried it, but just wasn't very good at it. There should be fic of this, you know? Angelus trying and failing to hypnotise someone, probably to the mockery of the others of the Fanged Four?
Also, I liked the dark flirtatiousness between the two of them: "Your foreplay could use some work" and "(Angelus) never had trouble getting into my knickers", even though there's no obvious sexual vibe between them in the scene. Vampires, huh?
Now we get a more game-changing reveal; Angel has embedded the "Tooth of Ammut" in his chest; a mystical artefact that attracts and binds "fragments of the spirit" into itself. That explains why he's been taking on some of Giles's characteristics; he's literally collecting piece of his soul into himself. What. This is a plan that cannot possibly go horribly wrong and creep out everybody who learns about it. What comes next isn't explained, though: what happens when Giles's soul is reassembled? Animate a corpse with it? Put it in a crystal so people can commune with him and learn from his wisdom? Angel commits spiritual suicide so Giles can have his body as his own? (That would squick Buffy out no end, I'm sure: Giles resurrected in Angel's body? There should also be fic of this.)
Notice also the implication that Giles's soul hasn't been able to pass on to the afterlife but is instead splintered into numerous fragments here in our world. Hmm. Wonder if that only applies to him because he was next to the Seed when it broke, or if it applies to everyone who's died since then?
And we get more interesting conversation between them on the Angel/Angelus dichotomy. Drusilla expresses the view that many fans believe: that Angelus is always there inside Angel, a dark force urging him to commit evil deeds. Angel himself seems to prefer the other view: that he and Angelus are different people ("Angelus doesn't exist. Not as long as I have a soul."). Even so, his denial is not entirely convincing; in fact, he more or less concedes Drusilla's point when he says, "I'm good at ignoring people".
(There's also the argument that 'Angel' and 'Angelus' are not so much two separate personalities in conflict inside his head, but two sides of the same personality. But personalising them this way is the kind of poetic fancy that Drusilla would enjoy.)
Dru ends by telling Angel he has three voices in his head - Angelus, Angel and now Giles. She says that's too many and offers to remove one whenever Angel asks her. We're meant to assume she means the Angelus voice - but to me, this is more evidence that her real plan is actually to remove his soul by first removing all his remorse, guilt, and other things stopping him from being perfectly happy.
And we close with Faith and her father: she's showing him round the house she inherited from Giles, and he's suitably impressed. I like the touch that he realises the large-screen TV had to be Faith's own contribution to the furnishings (remember Willow's distress when she learned that Giles even owned a TV?), and their conversation about watching the Boston Red Sox - a baseball team that Faith and her father apparently both support. (As does Eliza Dushku in real life, incidentally). An interesting touch that Faith listens to their games online; she's not rally a charater you envisage sitting at a computer all that much, but clearly she has a nerdy side. (I speculated back in Season 8 that the reason she knew so many then-obscure British bands like the Arctic Monkeys was because she listened to music online.) Also, Mr Lehane mentions Faith's 'cousin Pat', who has been waiting for Sox season tickets for twelve years, and he implies Faith knew about this from before. So does that mean Faith and her father were still living together 12 years previously, which if she's now 25 (my assumption has always been she's the same age as Buffy) would mean when she was 13?
Mr Lehane uses the phrase, "Don't scam a scammer", which is probably a revealing admission. It's also revealed that he never knew Faith was a Slayer but suspected something odd was going on.
The talk of chips confused me - for a moment I wondered if Faith was asking if her father had stolen Spike's old behavioural modification chip and that's how he was staying sober. Turns out it's an Alcoholics Anonymous thing: different coloured tokens given to members who've managed to stay sober for set time periods. It's implied George has tried and failed several times in the past to get clean, but always failed until now. So, it's all heartwarming as Faith has her daddy back.
Then her phone goes off and she has to dash. Presumably that's Nadira or one of her team; I don't know if we'll find out the problem next issue or if it'll just be a routine background slaying thing. At least I assume that's Faith's mobile, possibly in some sort of fancy carrying case; but it looks weird.
And then Mr Lehane's own mobile rings, playing "Back in the Saddle Again". After listening to both songs on YouTube, I think this is the Aerosmith song rather than the Gene Autry one. :) I wonder if the lyrics are significant? He introduces himself as 'Pat', which is also Faith's cousin's name. Odd - unless this is a typo, or evidence that he's not actually Faith's father.
And we get the ominous reveal: Faith's father is working for someone else, whom he seems to be scared of and whom he addresses as 'sir'. And it looks like he's after one of Giles's possessions: a glowy green ball which we actually saw earlier in the issue when Faith was showing him around.
So what is it, what's his plan, who is he working for, is his reconciliation with his daughter just a massive con-job because he's using her, and exactly how betrayed and devastated will Faith be when she finds out? Tune in next month...