Friday, January 25, 2013

"Disharmony" (Angel 2.17): Not the Most Cleverly Titled Episode

Yeah. She's in it.

In a synchronicity that in this case makes Angel suffer mightily by comparison, the Angelites are still processing Angel's return and hope for forgiveness for acting like a dolt for several previous episodes. Wesley makes him sit outside his own office and fetch coffee, and Cordelia tells him they're "not friends." Which, rather touchingly, bothers Angel a lot.

Look. He makes the sad Angel face.

The theme of friendship is central to this episode, because Cordelia is forced to radically reexamine hers with fellow Mean Girl Harmony. So though we're operating in a pre-Facebook world, here's the Angel guide to friending and unfriending vampires.

DO expect to pay your dues. Angel's pre-credit muttering of "atonement's a bitch" is a refreshingly funny take on what tends to be his bete noir. But it's true--Angel spends much of the episode desperately trying to make it up to Wesley, Cordy, and Gunn. By the end, he's succeeded with pretty much all of them.

DON'T be too subtle with Cordelia. Harmony shows up in L.A., post-break-up with Spike, eager to find her purpose. If you think that's a flimsy excuse for a guest spot, you're sort of right, but it does fit into the episode's thematic interest in friendship. Cordelia is genuinely excited to be spending time with Harmony again, and in recovering her powerful and ruthless high school self.

Sorry guys--no be-pantied pillow fight.

However, when Harmony drops subtle hints (you do have to invite me to your house, I'm not the same girl I used to be) and not-so-subtle hints (showing up in Cordy's bedroom at night, talking about how delicious she looks), Cordelia assumes she's a "big lesbo." This rather tasteless attempt at homophobic humor is thankfully defused by the fact that she says it to Willow.


DO look for authenticity. Though this episode is a bit of a throwaway in terms of the season-long arc, the more I think about it, the more tightly it's written (thanks, David Fury). The Monster of This Week is a Tony Robbins-esque vamp motivational speaker and self-help guru, who promotes a pyramid scheme neatly encapsulated by the slogan "turn two, the rest is food."

It's a pitch-perfect parody.

The way these types of groups tend to foster a false sense of intimacy, both emotional and financial, sets us up nicely for . . .

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

DO remember that on this show, a soul matters. And a credit card. Angel warns Cordy that Harmony is bound to turn on her, because she has no soul. The complicated metaphysics of ensoulment on Buffy aside, Angel is right on the money here. Harmony turns the Angelites over to Tony Robbins, and they only narrowly escape (of course--do they ever escape by a wide margin?). Cordy decides to spare Harmony, though they are no longer BFFs. And Angel's last act of interpersonal atonement? He buys Cordelia a ton of clothes. She does a happy dance, in which Angel joins her, in a moment Jenn terms disturbing yet priceless.

And makes the happy Angel face.

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