It's appropriate that Charisma Carpenter returned as Cordelia in the very special 100th episode of :Angel: (entitled You're Welcome), but writer and director David Fury did more than just wax nostalgic on us. Cordelia's made her last (?) appearance on :Angel: count in so many ways. Not only was a stellar episode delivered, but the season has been turned on a dime. The next ten episodes have been shoved onto a completely different track.
Please note that major spoilers follow.
I should have realized that something was up when the camera did the misdirection with the woman in the hospital bed, only to have Cordelia pop out of nowhere. This moment, which I took to be a nice bit of simple misdirection, turned instead into double misdirection after the episode was over -- simply brilliant and beautiful. I should have also realized something was up when we got clips from Doyle's last episode.
Actually, Doyle has figured heavily at this point in the season without actually returning. Lindsey takes on Doyle's mantle in order to try and deceive Spike, but it is Cordelia who really does Doyle when she comes out of her coma and rebalances Angel's moral centre -- highlighting, incidentally, that it wasn't just Doyle's visions that contributed to Angel's success.
It's also good that Cordelia got a number of scenes with Wesley, because she did almost as much to restore his moral centre as well, pulling him back from his dependence upon Wolfram & Hart's mystic resources and getting down and doing the research himself, just like the good old days. Even Gunn reflects, thanks to Cordelia, that he should be down there, kicking butt in the climactic finale, but I still fear that he is too far gone. Angel and Wesley have been forcibly pulled back from the Wolfram & Hart edge, but Gunn has been thoroughly seduced -- excellent material for conflict in the coming episodes.
Christian Kane was his usual wonderful self as Lindsey in this episode. His dialogue was spot on and his intensity was wonderful to watch. The final fight scene with Angel was nicely choreographed, although I wonder why Lindsey, after locking Cordelia in the chamber with them, didn't try to kill her. A definite mistake on his part, as despite the opportunities he had, he essentially allowed her to completely thwart his plans.
Lindsey's motivations were the weakest part of this story, no matter how hard Christian Kane tried to overcome the material. Lindsey ran from Wolfram & Hart for good reason, and he was helped in no small way by Angel. It can't be simple jealousy that Angel now has the reigns of the company that Lindsey almost won which forces this character to return to try and destroy Angel. More complicated and satisfying would be that Lindsey has insights in the Senior Partner's real plans, and has returned to, in his muddy way, to either save Angel from himself, or destroy Angel to prevent the Senior Partner's larger plan from bearing fruit.
Perhaps that was still Lindsey's deeper motive. Perhaps it will come up in future episodes.
You're Welcome pulls the trigger on a number of major plotlines that had developed this season which, I thought, still had several episodes left in them. Lindsey's return has been dealt with, his motivations explained, and now he's spending time "being talked to" by the very angry Senior Partners (who probably have him spreadeagled and being worked over by Lyla). Angel has his moral certainty back, and although Spike again no longer knows what to do with himself, he and the rest of the Angel team (with the possible exception of Gunn) are united and ready to face what's coming next.
So, what is coming next? This episode definitively separated the Powers that Be from the Senior Partners, but also showed the Powers that Be to be rather impotent at this point (fallout from Jasmine, perhaps?). If the Senior Partners react to Eve's forcible departure, and Angel's new determination to not play by their rules, Angel's team may be on their own. :Buffy: and her crew have already shown that they don't trust Angel, and the fallout from the events of Chosen are still in play, ready to complicate things.
Dan wonders, with this major turning point achieved, and with ten episodes left this season, whether Joss Whedon knows something we don't, and that Warner Brothers has just sent signals suggesting that this season (the fifth) will be :Angel:'s last. The setup with Wolfram & Hart was established by Tim Minear at the end of season four as a two-year story model, but the setup of the story, which could have taken the whole fifth season, has been dealt with, and we have a decent number of episodes for Angel and Company to face the climactic threat of the series. If so, then perhaps we will see Buffy returning for an episode or two after all. The May sweeps episodes don't get filmed until this March.
I can't leave without commenting on the final scene of You're Welcome, which makes the episode and sends it into the stratosphere. We shouldn't have been surprised, but we were. I did expect Cordelia to be taken up by higher powers again, and maybe that's what happened, but the revelation that she was actually a ghost on earth temporarily as a favour from the Powers that Be, was still as shocking as it was bittersweet.
Given all of the real comparisons between Cordelia and Doyle (as opposed to the fake ones between Lindsey and Doyle), it only makes sense that Cordelia had to die. Doyle's greatest contribution to Angel was to set him on the right path, and then leave him to this world; Cordelia has followed Doyle's footsteps exactly. Angel has been given a considerable boost, but he has been left more alone than before. It was a wonderful goodbye.
"Thank you, Cordy".
A couple of random points. Thanks to David Fury and Charisma Carpenter, Cordelia was her usual biting self, getting out cutting lines as if she hadn't skipped a beat. She will be sorely missed for this reason alone.
Nice to see Connor back in the narrative. Plans earlier in this season called for actor Vincent Karthurster to get an episode to resolve his character as well, but I have to wonder about the status of it. Not that I mind. The last scene of Season 4 gave Connor one of the best resolutions any character could hope for.