Derek’s Review – 3.16 “Sleep Tight”
Immediately after Wesley got his throat slit by Justine I momentarily lost my internet connection on my iPad and Netflix stopped playing. I’ve never been more grateful to a technical glitch in my life. The first fifteen-twenty minutes of “Sleep Tight” largely a miss for me but once this episode began to hit, it hit hard. From the moment Angel and Lilah met into the bar to the end, “Sleep Tight” had its hooks in me and won’t not let go. I’m writing this review an hour or so after I rewatched this episode and Angel lying on the gravel looking at where the closed portal and his son were moments before still haunts and it probably will for a quite a few more days. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a main character lose so much and so quickly since the “Ozymandias” episode of Breaking Bad. I’m not suggesting that “Sleep Tight” is the OG “Ozymandias” but the sense of loss in Angel’s life at this moment was incredibly moving and palpable.
Wesley really anchored the episode, his moody stroll in a suburb was amusingly saccharine but everything else was superb. His sense of dread and self-pity just poured out of him. It’s an incredibly hard thing to pull off a character’s desperate, erratic actions. We know more than Wesley and therefore we can’t be his exact headspace, we know he isn’t thinking clearly. Still Alexis Denisoff did such a wonderful job in this episode that I really believed that Wesley would think there is no other option but to steal Connor away forever.
My opinion of Holtz has enormously improved on rewatch, mostly because I have one now whereas before I was entirely ambivalent. His plan to take Connor and raise him as his own son is the perfect revenge on Angel who took his son. Holtz telling Sahjhan in “Lullaby” that he would show no mercy has come true and I honestly can’t even fault Holtz for his plan here. Obviously my allegiance is with Angel, but in a way Holtz is justified in taking Connor. He doesn’t wish him harm, but Angelus stole Holtz’ infant son by killing him. Holtz is just returning the favor in a way. It’s really elegant way of Angel (the show) delivering a terrible blow to Angel (the character) without manipulating Holtz to become some kind of terrible human being.
As I said earlier, I am really not a fan of the first few acts of this episode. Angel being corrupted by the tainted blood was so boring and predictable to me. It does confirm what I believed in the last episode that Lilah has been behind this whole prophecy thing. It also is a clever explanation to something that has been in the background, Angel rarely not having a glass of blood in his hand. Mostly importantly it facilitated that fascinating bar scene with Lilah and Angel.
Despite those positives, I was really underwhelmed by the whole thing. It was a rare moment where I thought Boreanaz was overacting. Angel’s rage didn’t feel terrifying it felt hammy and overdone. Considering the jokes about alcoholism it might as well been a Lifetime special. It was just overall really disappointing. I would’ve much preferred it if Angel was just genuinely happy and Wes’ paranoia made him read it as unstable. In actuality, Angel really was being erratic even if it was because Lilah was pulling his strings.
My hands are obviously tied from this being a spoiler-free rewatch but I just have one thing to say about Wesley’s fate. It is equally ridiculous to kill him off as it for him to survive getting a knife drawn across his throat.
“Sleep Tight” actually finally made Sahjahn work for me. I haven’t been playing at not remembering his motives, I genuinely don’t. The suggestion though that Angel hasn’t actually wronged him yet was greatly intriguing. Sahjahn could be some nerdy demon that the prom king Angelus didn’t notice and wrong on his reign of terror but I doubt it. It seems far more likely that Angel wronged Sahjahn in the future and Sahjahn traveled through time to make sure that situation never happened. Effectively it makes Sahjahn the Reverse Flash from the first season of The Flash without any of the coolness and a scintilla of the charisma. Still a knock-off is a better than nothing, though I guess it’s a retroactive knock-off, which works considering Sahjahn exists outside of time and space.
The Lilah and Angel scene in the bar might be favorite scene of the series, period. Mostly because I forgot it even existed. I love because it defies all convention and finally gives Lilah’s ethos. There is no appealing to her humanity as she describes it she pretended to be the women she is now to survive. There is no going back for her, she is committed (unlike Lindsey) and there is nothing Angel can do to stop it. It doesn’t mean she is one-dimensional or inhuman, she is a fully realized person who just happens to be terrible. I hate when villains have a tragic or sympathetic backstory. Lilah is far from being misunderstood lawyer with a heart of gold. She’s battle-hardened and unapologetically ruthless in achieving her goals.
If only everything was the last twenty minutes of this episode. Half of “Sleep Tight” is a beautiful, heartbreaking disaster and the other half is a drone with some very interesting moments interspersed. It’s still a very, very strong but it could have been the very best episode of Angel yet. As it is though, I can’t highly award for what I consider to be the mediocre opening.
83 out of 100