Synopsis: Nazi demons are in town, and they are out to rid LA of all the half-breeds.
Review: Wow. I did not expect that. Major spoiler warning: if you have not watched this episode yet, I do not recommend reading this review (unless you do not mind a huge plot twist being spoiled.) Angel is showing maturity as a series by episode nine that took Buffy the Vampire Slayer three seasons to develop. Immediately after the excellent episode, "I Will Remember You", Tim Minear and Howard Gordon deliver another great episode. In "I Will Remember You", Angel makes a sacrifice to become a true hero. In this episode, Doyle makes a sacrifice to become a true hero.
The episode opens with a visualization of Cordelia's imagined commercial for Angel Investigations that paints Angel as a superhero named the Dark Avenger. It is a creative device and a comical introduction to this episode. It also represents the archetypes and clichés Angel takes on. On one hand, Angel is your typical superhero television series. On the other hand, it is an intelligent evaluation of the genre that embraces the genre rather than lampooning it. The actions taken by Angel and Doyle that made them become heroes did not require supernatural strength. Super powers do not make you a hero.
Doyle has been an interesting character since the first time we met him. He is a three-dimensional character, and I cannot help but wonder what else there was to learn about him that we had not yet learned. The character had demons--literally. As a viewer, I had what Joss Whedon would call an "emotional investment" in the character. Doyle sacrifices his life in this episode to save a group of half-breed demons, Angel, and Cordelia. In doing so, he earns the redemption he has been seeking.
I was totally blown away. That was the last thing I expected. Doyle was a core character. Hollywood just does not do that. That is what makes Whedon and his team of Angel all stars so great. They consistently deliver the unexpected. Whedon says he wants to keep the audience's feelings alive and vibrant and make their emotional investment in the characters worth something. He has guts. He killed off a main character in the ninth episode of the series. Other series might occasionally kill off a fringe supporting character, but we can usually rest assured that the core characters are safe no matter what the threat--not so with Angel.
Of course, there are the rumors. Some say Glenn Quinn, the actor who played Doyle, was fired because his drug abuse problems would frequently interrupt the production of the show. Joss Whedon insists the death of Doyle was planned to happen from episode one. I will leave such debate up to the gossip columns. Whatever the case, the death of Doyle was handled creatively and draws me into this great series even more. There were plans to somehow bring Doyle back as the bad guy in a future season, but Quinn died of a heroin overdose before the end of Angel (lending some credence to those who claim he was fired because of a drug abuse problem).
The writers did not just quit developing Doyle's character, because they knew he was going to die in this episode. They continued to develop his character and our emotional investment. In regular Cordelia fashion, Cordelia finally discovers Doyle's demon side. Something I have been anticipating since episode two. And she loves him despite of it. There is a possibility for a relationship. I find it strange that the half-breeds were immediately safe after Doyle sacrificed himself stopping the bomb. The pure blood demons should have been waiting right outside the ship. That small fact is not enough to mar this great episode. The focus of that scene was not a fast-paced fight scene but rather the extent of Doyle's sacrifice. I give this episode an 8 out of 10.
Objectionable Content: This episode is plagued by one obscenity.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)