I wrote my thoughts on the episode shortly after it aired, but mutant_allies was deluged with links to commentary, so i’m finally going through all that and posting what was hoped to be a synthesis and ended up as mostly a list of intriguing thoughts other people had.
selenak quotes Marlowe's Faustus in her commentary on "Just Rewards" [the previous week’s episode]:
Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Interesting thoughts on hell(s), vampires/souls, desire/choices/power in the Jossverse:
masqthephlsphr also reminds us that “Lilah in Home says she's come back up to Earth from Hell to do a favor for the Senior Partners.” Lots of people, myself included, had been wanting Lilah back (especially given the lameness of Eve) so it was good to be reminded that actually we shouldn’t have been expecting her back.
rahirah reminds us of Darla’s “working heaven” (referring to “Inside Out” when Darla appears to Connor to try to convince him not to do the blood sacrifice which will bring Jasmine into the world; though of course we never know for sure whether it’s really Darla) a concept which held great appeal for me for a while. She writes:
I certainly find Darla's 'working heaven' a more attractive concept than Buffy's womblike retreat into warm fuzzy nothing. That may have been what Buffy most desired when she died--endless love and warmth poured on her, with no responsibility or need to risk pain by loving in return. Perhaps we make our own heavens, and in a lot of ways, that's scarier than making our own hells. I can imagine Spike fighting his way out of his personal hell, to go on to whatever Darla's doing now. I can't imagine Buffy fighting her way out of heaven.
harmonyfb has some interesting thoughts:
There are stories of certain Eastern mystics who can manifest rubies in their hands, simply by willing it into being. What is that but "reality bending to desire"? Spike's learned to hold a coffee cup by simply wanting to hold it. What will he want tomorrow? Interesting that Fred brought up the Shansu prophecy. How badly will Spike have to want it to be able to grasp that, as well?In a comment, ter369 says:
Also, interesting that W&H is concerned about the amount being spent by the science department. Hmn. Because pure research isn't good or evil, and is therefore outside the struggle that they've set up?
And how spooky was it that ME explicitly acknowledged that W&H is hell? What does that mean for the gang, that they've chosen to rule in hell rather than serve in heaven? Is it really possible, in this Jossian ethical system, to do both?
Have you seen Season 2 in full yet? There's a pivotal episode where the former CEO of W&H, (the deceased) Holland Manners, takes Angel on an elevator ride to Hell. They descend from an upper floor at the Wolfram & Hart skyscraper.
Along the way, Holland says: "See, for us, there is no fight. Which is why winning doesn't enter into it.
"Goodness doesn't work in spite of evil. It works because of us.
"If there wasn't evil in every single one of them out there, they wouldn't be people. They'd be angels."
And the doors open on the streets of Los Angeles.
superplin has an essay worth reading. (Interesting that she mentions the Hanged Man. The Buffy Tarot someone made uses Spike from “Intervention” as the Hanged Man.)
I hadn’t caught the sledgehammer parallel between Angel’s final action on Pavaine and Connor’s S4 ending action on Angel. Shame on me.
Ok I have a Theory about why Fred is so Gung-ho about helping Spike out. She knows what it's like to be Trapped somewhere and not being able to do anything about it. Not being able to really defend yourself or find a way to leave the place. She knows what hell that is and how it can drive a person bonkers. So seeing Spike Trapped 'Between worlds' and not really being able to help himself makes her feel an certain empathy for him.
[Restoring Darla’s life, of course, refers back to the Season 2 episode “The Trial.”] She posits “if W&H is hell, it can't take you unless you let it.” and rahirah points back to Lindsey’s parting advice to Angel in “Dead End” (2.18): “The key to Wolfram and Hart: don't let them make you play their game. You gotta make them play yours.”
Connor was more than just Angel and Darla's son; he was the impossible; Angel's shanshu (Fred doesn't remember the events around Connor that fit the prophecy). He looked like a gift of providence, a reward, a token of forgiveness from the fates or PtB. Children are the extensions of their parents. Connor was supposed to be the unblemished hero Angel could no longer be, a pure knight and champion of the light. But then it transpired that Connor's birth was never a symbol of forgiveness or grace, never a reward for Angel's efforts to balance the scales. Connor's birth was bought from the Oracles. They owed Angel a life when they couldn't restore Darla's.
There is really no better way to describe them than as a couple of bickering former-marrieds. They know each other way too well, and deliberately concentrate on all the bad things. Yet every so often, a happy memory pops up and, for that moment at least, they can’t help but feel a little bit of something resembling love. ;-)
-onetwomany on Spike and Angel
I thought Angel pouring his blood out of a crystal flask was a nice touch. It was just so very Angel, which means I felt immediately moved to make fun of it, but I also think it’s a great contrast, because Spike? Carried bourbon in a beat-up metal flask in the inside pocket of his duster. He crumbles weetabix (however the fuck you spell it) in his blood. He drinks it out of the bag, out of Giles’ “kiss the librarian” mug and gets it on his lip. If he’s feeling fancy (or perhaps sexy?) there’s a plain decanter and tumbler. Angel has a crystal flask and four(!) crystal glasses for no reason at all. And this contrast goes back to Sunnydale – Angel with his museum-like apartment, his creepy old mansion. Spike in the abandoned warehouse, the crypt. Maybe I’m the only one who cares about this, but I think it’s got interesting character implications, though I’m still trying to work out what they are. Angel’s got all this nice, shiny stuff, and he’s never happy, and Spike’s got what he needs to get by, no more (or at least not much), but he’s… well, in the same state, really. But Spike’s not waiting to have destiny handed to him on a platter and never was – it doesn’t even occur to him that he could qualify for Angel’s big reward. Granted, Fred did a crappy-ass job explaining it, but Spike’s always made his own destiny (certain of my theories aside).
IMDB says the villain’s name is spelled Pavayne, just in case anyone cares.