The issue begins with two pages of flashback to Angelus driving Drusilla mad, and then his reaction to seeing her as "Mother Superior" in the present day, and instantly sensing that she's sane. He says as much and asks how.
Drusilla calmly explains that the Lorophage demon is her new pet. They normally won't feed on vampires because vampires are unlikely to experience trauma, having no souls. Drusilla, however, still contained the agony of her psychological torture at Angelus's hands, and the demon woke from its hibernation and sucked it all out. She now remembers the pain, but doesn't care. She decided to emulate her "father" and help the helpless - by feeding their trauma to her new pet, which she can restrain so that it doesn't kill its victims.
Angel is horrified and alludes to those of the victims he's seen who have gone mad and killed others. He attacks the Lorophage despite Dru's explanation - that people are coming to her voluntarily, and that she takes their pain and feeds her demon, no harm done.
The demon throws off Angel's attack easily as Drusilla scolds him for being rude. She hands the floor to the humans in the room for their testimonials. One speaks of losing his wife and kids; one talks about being a drug addict. Both feel like better people after meeting "Mother Superior".
Angel asks her about the name, and she says she was keeping her presence secret from him until she was ready, though she had a vision informing her that he was around. She's excited to see him and says that he shouldn't be offended by what she's doing, since she's following Harmony's rules, drinking only a little blood which her followers offer her, and has turned the Lorophage from a predator to a healer. She offers to take the burden of guilt from him: "You're stuck in the past, Angel. But you don't need to be."
Angel vamps out as she touches his face, and grabs her hand. He says that without a soul, she's not capable of doing anything selfless, and she informs him that there's something in it for her: personal comfort. There's no reason to fight, she says, but if he insists... Faith gets between them. The humans are looking angry; Angel will obviously have to fight them if he tries to hurt Drusilla.
As Faith guides Angel out the door, Drusilla tells him to come back when he's ready. "I could never be cross at you, Angel. We're part of each other, you and I. We always will be."
Faith and Angel walk home. Angel is saying that they have to stop her; Faith reminds him of the new rules, and that they need a reason. He says that the reason is that Drusilla is driving people insane. "You take away their emotions, even negative ones, you're shutting off part of what makes them human. It's no wonder some of them snap." He goes on to talk about how Drusilla is re-enacting what he did to her; the abused kid grows up to be an abuser. Faith dismisses his guilt on the matter and points out the people in Dru's sanctuary who made their choice and seem to be fine. "Ask me, there are some things it's better to put out of your - head -"
They've reached the house. Faith's father is setting on a ledge at the doorway. He greets her, saying how grown up she looks, and she pulls away and asks what the hell he's doing here. He says he's been sober for six months, and she retorts sarcastically. He says he understands that she has no reason to trust him, and he'll go if she wants, but he finally turned it around and wants to fix things between them.
She turns away from him, and he says, "Okay. I get it," and leaves after saying that he's around for a couple more days and his cell number's the same. As he leaves, Angel tells Faith that it's none of his business, but he didn't smell alcohol on her father.
Faith is angry, first saying that that just means he's a sober bum, and then claiming that she won't take family advice from Angel, who keeps blowing off his own kid when he calls. Angel responds, none too calmly himself, that it's for Connor's own good. He's only ever hurt Connor, and he wants to give him the best life he can - by staying the hell out of it. "He's a man now, with his own life. And he's a lot better off without me in it." Faith believes he's too far away to be able to tell.
Angel changes the subject back to Faith's father: "Do what you want. All I'm saying is, I can't change what I am. Your father can." Something about this seems to strike a chord in Faith, and she runs down the street to catch up with her father, a smile on her face.
On the next page we see Angel alone, checking out a Victorian house on the East End with a "For Sale" sign up. He opens the door and recalls doing the same thing as Angelus - it's Drusilla's house, where he killed her family. "Fond memories?" he hears. Drusilla's standing there. She talks about how she used to have the memories from this places stuck in an endless loop in her head. She hasn't been back until now, but it doesn't frighten her anymore and she's thinking of buying the house.
Angel interrupts her to apologize. She won't let him, saying that he set her free, as she wouldn't have had any kind of life as a religious girl with visions. She wants to set him free too. The Lorophage attacks from behind as she says so.
Angel rips its needle fingers out of his forehead, saying, "This isn't freedom. It's a lobotomy." Next it stabs him through the chest, and is reaching to his forehead wounds with its proboscis when Dru stops it with her hypnosis. Angel, bleeding on the floor, makes a comment about how good she always was at that, while he couldn't get the hang of it. She says that the demon just needs guidance, in the same way that Harmony is guiding the world's vampires into changing their ways. She misses the thrill of the hunt, but she says they can't cling to the old ways. She won't force Angel to change, but she's waiting for him to ask for it.
"Good thing you're immortal," he says, and she responds by ripping his shirt open and thus securing the audience's sympathy with her. He's confused, but she says her sight is clearer now and points out a stud in his nipple: "The Tooth of Ammut. Devourer of ancient Egyptian souls. Even with all links to her hell dimension gone, it's still a magnet for fragments of the spirit. And you've merged it with your flesh. So when you find them, the pieces of your dead friend have only one place to go. Into you."
Angel pulls his coat closed and says he's not intimidated by her; she says she's trying to help. She's seen him displaying Giles' mannerisms in tiny ways, and knows that the more pieces of his soul that Angel takes in, the louder his voice will become in his head. Angel already has Angelus in there, and Dru knows there's more influence there than Angel's human friends imagine. Angel denies it, saying Angelus doesn't exist as long as he has a soul, but Dru calls him "a devil on your shoulder, whispering evil, tempting things", and looks into Angel's memory to remind him of the cashier that he fed on in the seventies.
Refusing to listen to her, Angel moves to get out of the house. Dru tells him one more time that she can fix everything so that Angel can live with having killed Giles, rather than living with his voice in his head along with his own and Angelus's. "The day will come when you can't keep them quiet any longer. And oh, what a bad day that will be."
We go back to Faith and her father, now at the Giles residence. He's impressed by all the old stuff, and she says she doesn't know what most of it is. He points out the flatscreen TV as her own acquisition, and they talk about baseball a little until he sees the weapons cabinet. Faith tries to pass it off as the last guy's collection, but her father lets her know that he knows she's a Slayer. He figured it out when he saw them on TV - he's not freaked out, just relieved that some of her behavior from the past has an explanation and happy that his little girl can kick ass. "And you're really not drinking?" she asks. When he confirms he's not, and that he wants to start fresh, they hug.
Faith's phone rings. She's reluctant to leave, but tells her father it's an emergency and asks him to stay until she gets back. He tells her not to rush on his account. When she's gone, his own phone rings. It's someone he calls "sir" and has promised something. He reaches onto a shelf and picks up a green glass orb, telling the person on the phone, "You're gonna get exactly what you asked for."
Thoughts beyond summary:
As far as plot advancement goes, there isn't a lot that this issue offers. We find out more about Angel's plan to resurrect Giles, Drusilla lays out a plan of her own, and Faith's dad shows up. Good stuff, but thanks to all the previews and spoilers that the publisher hands out like candy, we already knew that all of it was coming. There's still this pervasive feeling of disappointment that we're not yet at that part that casts a shadow on the excitement of finally being at this part.
But none of that matters because this issue is still going to rock your ass off. What we got instead of plot was character development and expanded yet consistent internal mythology - my two favorite things! Christos Gage, how did you even know that?
Drusilla has maintained a spot near the top of my favorite character list since I started watching the show, mostly because I have a thing for crazy girls but also because she's just all-around amazing. So the crazy girl thing just got taken away from me, but I can deal with that. What's interesting is that her insanity was tied directly to her trauma. Thus, her new confidence and self-control mean she's both happier and more dangerous, and on top of that, she's no longer a tragedy. She has no reason to hate Angel! Yay! Angel has no reason to not kill her! Uh...yay?
She's also doing a great job of explaining in layman's terms (actually this expression is funny because she's Mother Superior) the dilemma of the new vamp lifestyle. More than anyone except perhaps Harmony herself, she's found the best possible way to capitalize on it: she's got a stable food source, a cult who worships her, and a project to keep her entertained for years. We might understand that what she's doing is wrong, but it's not an easy stance to defend, since she isn't killing and she is making a lot of humans happy. But she's evil! She's completely evil! What I loved in this issue is that her motivations (and by extension the motivations of all the vamps) are clearly laid out within a single panel: Angel says she's not capable of doing anything selfless, and she agrees instantly. Then she goes on to explain that it doesn't matter why she's doing it - she isn't causing any harm, so Angel should have no reason to stop her.
Is it okay to let people choose to go insane? I think it's not. Angel thinks it's not. Deep down inside, I think Faith think it's not, but I wouldn't blow off her side of the argument. If someone found me a way to siphon off a few of my worst memories, I probably wouldn't even take a day to ponder it before I signed up. (Hey, has anyone seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Wanna talk about it?) But getting rid of just negative emotions is shakier. Angel's been through that with Jasmine, and he has a very sharp understanding of the role that his own negative emotions play: without them, he wouldn't be able to choose to not let them rule him.
So we finally got the rundown on the current Connor/Angel standing. It's exactly what I would have expected if I had known that Connor knew where Angel was. So that's good to know, though it still leaves us with no more insight on Angel's Twilight days. What I really liked was the way Angel showed us the contrast between himself and Faith's dad. It's true, Angel can't change. He can't be a good father by taking an active role in Connor's life. But he believes in humans having the potential to become better people by choice.
One of the latest covers released for an upcoming issue shows Faith and Angel in LA. Is this a guarantee for a Connor/Angel reunion? Maybe not, but it's worth crossing fingers over.
Ooh! Hasn't there always been some ambiguity about whether Dru's hypnotic abilities were unique to her or something that all vampires could learn? Well NOW THERE ISN'T.
Drusilla saying that she can see Giles' behaviors in Angel is something I think we have to take her word for. There isn't really any way that the art could get it across, and anything in the dialogue would be a bit too obvious. I was a little annoyed that the last two issues went by without any Gilesisms (not counting inviting Harmony in because we know that was an authorial slip), but if it's just supposed to be that subtle, okay. I'm kind of glad to see that it was an intentional move on Angel's part, just because I think that'll make the better story. It's not going to work, I think we can be sure of that, but it does keep Giles with us and complicate Angel even more.
Now, in the B/A fiction I've read, I've seen Angelus appear in various ways, from a second personality that speaks directly into Angel's mind to an indefinable influence to a null and void part of Angel's past. My own interpretation is that Angelus is a convenient name for "the demon" which has always canonically been there. It's Angelus who animates the dead body where it lives along with the soul, Angel. It has a personality, because it lifted one from the human life it once devoured, but it's the same personality that the soul has, except that it's infected by evil. The two can interact within Angel's mind, but only insofar as a person can have an internal debate while making a choice. To Angel they both feel like "self", which makes it difficult for him to know where his feelings on any particular matter are coming from, but they're distinct.
I don't think that anything in Dru and Angel's conversation contradicted this. Actually, I think it supported it 100% and I'm thrilled. I was a little disappointed in Angel for the way he denied Angelus being there, but I gather he wasn't in any state to stay and argue rationally, and it's all just semantics to a point anyway - maybe he doesn't call his demon Angelus, in which case sure, Angelus doesn't exist.
What's Mr. Lehane up to? I don't know, but I'll give him this: the father/daughter scenes were starting to get so sweet (Faith was so happy!) that I instantly realized he was either going to die or it was going to be even worse. Is his betrayal going to count as "worse"? Let's hope so, or he's probably still going to die.