Deborahmm has been thinking about Angelus. Which has got me thinking about Angelus. Let's face it, hardly a new situation! And this started out as a reply to her post but it got too long as usual so I'm sticking it up here.
So, Angelus... Is he a bit of a prat? Or the worst vampire ever recorded? Or what.
Now it is an undeniable fact that he comes across as a prat in The Girl in Question. The Immortal is running rings round him. But I think the simplest way to see this is as an aberration - and quite probably a magical one at that. We only have Ilona Costa Bianchi's word for it that the Immortal didn't use magic. So I really think we can discount this little incident (or incidents) and just look at the rest of what we know.
The thing is I think you shouldn't judge Angelus by human terms. Because one of the most significant things about him is that his rep was entirely amongst demons, not watchers. Spike is well known to the WC - Roger Wyndham-Price knew who he was, Lydia Chalmers did her thesis on him, Giles had very little trouble finding quite a few details in his reference books. Even the SS knew perfectly well who he was. This all seems to be because Spike (and to some extent Dru, though the references seem to have very little about her beyond that she was a paramour of Spike) crashed through history on a wave of very obvious violence. Angelus, by contrast, was so little known by the WC that Giles could find no references to him at all in his normal books - he had to read the diaries of former watchers to find mention of him. In other words Angelus wasn't notable to the WC.
Yet Angelus's rep amongst demons is extensive - their reactions in the demon bar in Salvage demonstrates this nicely. He is not just famous but awe inspiringly famous. Even the Archduke Sebasis seemed to have some respect for him.
Now I pointed out years ago that Angelus has problems with his attention span - I wouldn't describe it as ADD, but he definitely doesn't have as much sticking power as Spike, so I'm pretty sure he would never have been the sort to develop schemes for world domination. Besides, that is more the Master's style and I can well imagine Angelus refusing to have much truck with such things simply to be different from his grandsire. The business with Acathla seems to contradict this but I actually think Angelus might not have gone through with the Acathla scheme - he was as much showing off and using it as an excuse to torture Giles as anything. Who's to say he wouldn't have stopped the whole thing and taken Dru out for a drink if Buffy hadn't interfered?
So I'm pretty sure Angelus wasn't trying to run the world but he was doing something that earned him the fear and respect of the demon/evil community (including the 35 filing cabinets on him at W&H) but made sure the WC had barely heard of him. That has to give pause for thought.
I think the clue to just what he was doing lies in one of his main faults, as I see it: his arrogance. He tends to overestimate his ability to control people - he clearly thought he could control the judge, he puts enormous effort into controlling Spike yet frequently fails, he reckoned he could match up to the Beast yet didn't really manage it. To that extent he can be a prat. But I don't think he does this because he is always incapable of controlling people - I think he does it because most of the time he is more than capable of it. Look how well he played Giles in season 2. He is a master at twisting and manipulating - he is responsible for Dru, Penn and Spike in every sense of the word, and they all admitted he was the one who made them as they were. (Well, Dru rambled about lamb's caught in blackberry patches, but I reckon it amounts to the same thing.) Remember how one of his ghosts described the artfulness of how he had killed and presented the bodies. Remember how he said he couldn't take his eyes off his victims.
She is pure innocence, yet she sees what's coming, she knows what I'm going to do to her. I'll really have to come up to snuff for this one.
So I think all of Angelus's rep boils down to people and how he killed them. He was never in the business of trying for world domination, indeed he delighted in the artistry of keeping a low profile and probably took very deliberate steps to eliminate any records the WC may have gathered at one time. How else to explain that he was chased by Holtz for so long yet the normal reference books had no record of it?
I think Angelus made a big splash when he was a fledge, attracting all the attention of Holtz and torch waving mobs everywhere, then when he got just a little older something happened to make him learn to enjoy the artistry of killing and tormenting in secret - doing terrible things to select people right under the noses of the WC. He slaughtered an entire nunnery to get to Dru and he isn't in the reference books! That tells you quite a lot about Angelus.
A real kill. A good kill. It takes pure artistry. Without that, we're just animals.
So where does Darla fit into all this? I know some people have decided she was the brains of the outfit. I've never seen anything in Darla's personality to imply that. Indeed her own ranting against it seems to imply that she knew all to well that her own main weakness was a tendency to rely on the men in her life to do things for her. I can see her as actually fitting quite well with the traditional rolde of women - guiding and suggesting but never leading. And I can't see her doing much in the way of planning. Darla seems to live entirely for the moment as much as Spike ever does. She's a flirt, a tease, unbelievably self centred, but as soon as something serious comes up she goes running to the nearest suitable man (Angel when she's pregnant, Lindsey when she was newly re-vamped, the Master at repeated intervals). The only instance we have of her doing much by herself was when she rescued Angelus from Holtz. I just can't see any sign of Darla stirring herself to be the brains of the fanged four. I could actually far more believably see Dru in that role. Darla I believe would have made sure she was given a certain amount of respect and otherwise been quite happy to let Angelus plan the batting order.
So if you want to judge Angelus as some sort of successful businessman or war leader then no, he wasn't anything to write home about. But as a demon - as a creature who took pleasure in hurting and killing human beings without being caught - I reckon his reputation is justifiably deserved. He wasn't a prat, he was the worst vampire imaginable. You know - the scourge of Europe.
Eternal torment. Am I learning?
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