Derek’s Review – 3.09 “Lullaby”

The Good:

While not a perfect episode, this hit some of the highest notes that Angel has struck to date. This is Darla’s episode, as it should be, and Julie Benz is amazing. I would remiss though if I didn’t mention Angel’s fantastic and understated performance. The dramatic material that the arrival of this baby creates for both character is amazingly ripe and Angel capitalizes it on all. It always manages to get when Angel mentions the Powers and asks why they work in their mysterious ways. It’s a such a level of vulnerability and humanity that we rarely seen in Angel. Angel’s desperation to make sure that his child is born and that everything is safe is just heartbreaking and every inch of that despair is on Borenaz’s face.

As I said though this is Darla’s episode and it’s only fitting that this is her swan song. “The Trial” was a good episode but the primary emotion I had ending that episode was anger. It was anger derived from the injustice that Darla (as a human) made peace with herself and was ready to die and it was snatched away from her. In “Lullaby” she gets to grab her destiny back and exits the show in one of the most graceful, heroic and gut-wrenching acts of heroism.

It’s all mumbo jumbo mystical crap but Darla regaining a soul allows her to have a sense of clarity and perspective that adds some much to the episode. It really is a fitting end to her character that she dies because of a mother’s love. Darla has always been a character defined by “love” and even motherly love but it’s been perverted. It’s the allusion of love, not the pure act. In “Lullaby” she finally gets to experience it for the first time in her very long life and her final act on this Earth to die for it. There’s not a single part of that story and arc that isn’t absolutely beautiful.

The Bad:

My tolerance for the prophecy storyline was always pretty low but I’ve written off completely now. Once again the prophecy is reinterpreted and it’s completely different definition. The “revelation” that the prophecy actually refers to a death and not a birth left me cold. It’s really lazy writing and incredibly cheap. This document is so fluid that there is no reason to hang on anything it says. It can easily be retconned and rewritten as the plot demands. It’s one of the most transparent devices to manufacture drama and it is better left retired. It probably won’t but it should.

There’s plenty of suspension of disbelief in this episode, especially when it comes to vague magic involved. Besides the prophecy none of the mystical stuff bothers me. It does bother me that a grenade is powerful enough to push Angel through a double elevator door put he just ends up slightly dirty. It completely pulled me out of the episode. The grenade shouldn’t kill him but he should at least be a little bit injured by the whole ordeal.

The Unknown:

Holtz is still such a question mark for me. Sahjahn is clearly evil and Holtz has to be blind or braindead to not see it. I thought his explanation that killing Angel would be even more of a mercy was interesting. It is the line of thinking that a religious man like Holtz would have and I can’t say he’s entirely wrong. Angel is tortured and it could easily be interpreted that his death would be a mercy for his soul.

I’m just not sure of what to make of everything else involving him. Holtz letting Angel, Fred and the baby go seemed right but it ended on an odd note. What does he mean he won’t show mercy and why? There’s so many variables here and it’s a very delicate situation. Holtz could be wonderfully complex adversary, he certainly has the potential. He could also get so corrupted by revenge that he ends up being a one-dimensional mustache-twirler and that’s something no one wants to see.

Also why is Fred the one who stays with Angel and Darla. I’m not complaining it just seemed like an odd choice to me. Cordelia seems like the natural choice and she didn’t add anything to the scene but look sad. My fear is that Holtz will zero on her in some way now and Fred will take over the damsel role that Cordelia recently exited. I honestly don’t remember so it all remains to be seen.

Favorite Moment:

Darla’s death is one of the very few moments in season three that vividly stands out in my memory. It’s so beautifully composed. The visual of the rain drenching them all, the music swelling and her final haunting words, “You make sure you tell him that,” it’s all superb. It’s the most emotional scene of Angel to date and I can think of very few that can possibly dethrone it.

Bottom Line:

The first twenty minutes are remarkably slower than the last and that’s not bad just worth noting. This does feel like two episodes in the running time of one. This would usually be a downside but it works to set up everything that needs to fall into place at the climax. It reaches some very high highs but it is quite the high octane ride from start to finish that “Reunion” was so my score has to reflect that fact. It be a bit unfair to compare the two because “Reunion” was very much Angel’s pulpy revenge flick and this is much more a complex melodrama and the former is much easy to sustain for a 40+ minutes. Nevertheless “Lullaby” and “Reunion” are the two best Angel episodes yet, “Lullaby” is just a smidge lower.

89 out of 100

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