Angel – Are You Now or Have You Ever Been

by Alan Rapp on April 15, 2021

in Television Reviews 

  • Title: Angel – Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
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Angel - Are You Now or Have You Ever Been television review

Throwback Thursday takes us back to Los Angeles and the adventures of a vampire with a soul. It may not be the best episode of the series, as some argue, as the Rebel Without a Cause references are little too obvious and it lacks the necessary ingredients of both Winifred Burkle and Wee Little Puppet Men, but the second episode of Angel‘s sophomore season has a lot going for it. “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been” fits nicely into the show as the introduction of the Hyperion Hotel which would become the new home base of Angel Investigations as well as open the door for the series to explore more of the main character’s past.

Most of the story takes place in the 1950s where the hotel was home to B-list actors, screenwriters, and those on the run including a bank teller (Melissa Marsala) from Salina, Kansas, and Angel (David Boreanaz). The flashbacks are filled with several small moments (such as the intimate moment between the closeted gay men or the black family being turned away) that help set the time and place of the story add to its tapestry. The reveal of Angel’s presence in the hotel is also a clever reveal through the perspective of the scared bellhop (J.P. Manoux) who knows there’s something wrong with the guest in room 217.

Angel, however, isn’t the demon those in the hotel need to worry about. It turns out a Thesulac Demon (Tony Amendola) took root in the hotel feeding off the paranoia of the guests. The creature’s methods of manipulation are small at first but quick to build on the insecurities of the residents leading to the lynching of Angel and him abandoning the humans to their fate. Despite taking efforts to stay out of human affairs, Angel is pulled into Judy’s (Marsala) drama which involves a racially-motivated bank robbery and a private investigator (Tommy Hinkley). While the story isn’t about race or sexual identity, writer Tim Minear incorporates both themes seamlessly into the story. After the suicide of one of the guests, caused by the demon whispering into his ear, tensions are heightened and fingers pointed as a witch hunt beings to find a murderer in their midst.

The present storyline involves Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) investigating the Hyperion Hotel while oblivious to Angel’s earlier experiences. Angel’s drive to take over the hotel, a place of evil, and transform it into something new works well as a metaphor for the character himself (and turns out to be the best set, modeled after Los Altos Hotel & Apartments, the series could have hoped for). The episode has one final twist in the reveal of how the creature has remained so strong since the hotel was shut down decades before which ties the present and past threads together perfectly. The episode also introduces the character of Denver (played here by Brett Rickaby) whose life is changed by witnessing a vampire willing to fight a demon for the lives of humans. The character would return later in the season.

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