Epiphanies: The Turning Points
Angel has far more epiphanies than anyone rightly should, hell, there's even an episode called Epiphany. These are turning points for him, whether it be the acceptance of something he already knew, but was unwilling to believe, or something that he hadn't seen before, they make all the difference to the complex character that is Angel and here's the most notable ones:
JUDGE: This one... cannot be burnt. He is clean.
SPIKE: Clean? You mean, he's...
JUDGE: There's no humanity in him.
ANGELUS: I couldn't have said it better myself.
When Angel reverts to Angelus for the first time, everything changes in his relationship with Buffy and considering this is pretty much the defining feature in his redemption, that's a fairly major turning point. Angel is an exaggerated metaphor for the guy who sweet talks you into bed and the next day tells all his mates how awful you were. Before this, Angel was all about the redeeming love and now we see what he can be: A monster.
LIAM: I never been anywhere myself. Always wanted to see the world, but...
DARLA: I could show you.
LIAM: Could you, then?
DARLA: Things you've never seen, never even heard of.
LIAM: Sounds exciting.
DARLA: It is. And frightening.
LIAM: I'm not afraid. Show me. Show me your world.
DARLA: Close your eyes.
- Becoming, Part I
This has got to be the original turning point for Angel, or Liam as he was then, and regardless of whether it's through sheer bravado or the fact that he really fears nothing, he chooses to enter Darla's 'world'. There's also a lot to say for the fact that Darla, like Buffy in the next episode, says 'Close your eyes' before she kills him. It just might be that she loves him already.
ANGEL: I waited. I waited here for you. But you never... I was supposed to help you.
BUFFY: You were gonna help me.
ANGEL: The Master rose. He let me live... to punish me. I kept hoping maybe you'd come. My destiny.
- The Wish
Just because it's an alternate universe doesn't mean it's not a turning point. In this world, this juncture means everything to Angel. For him, it makes the tortures and punishments that he's endured worthwhile.
ANGEL: It told me to kill you. You were in the dream. You know. It told me to lose my soul in you and become a monster again.
BUFFY: I know what it told you. What does it matter?
ANGEL: Because I wanted to! Because I want you so badly! I want to take comfort in you, and I know it'll cost me my soul, and a part of me doesn't care. Look, I'm weak. I've never been anything else. It's not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It's the man.
He's on the verge of committing suicide and he's not blaming it on the demon inside, but on the evil of the man that he is and was. Angel is accepting responsibility for his actions, he is no longer blaming the fact that he had no soul for the atrocities he committed. It's here that we first get an idea that even vampires have a choice in their behavior - it is not necessarily preordained for them to be evil. Take Harmony, she never really gets the evil thing down, not just because she's blonde but because she wasn't evil in life, merely bitchy. Angel realises this and he is ashamed. His acceptance of the responsibility is what will ultimately permit his redemption.
ANGEL: I'm not gonna wear the ring.
DOYLE: That was the other. You got a real addiction to the brooding part of life. Anyone ever tell you that?
- In The Dark
He gets a ring that would permit him to basically have a human life. See sunlight, not be killed, yad, yad, yada. What does he do with it? Smashes it. Why? Because he wants to be around to protect people from the things that go bump in the night. Because he accepts that this is his task in life and that playing golf in the sun isn't. He makes that decision, one of the hardest decisions he could make, and he shows no remorse in doing so.
ANGEL: Then none of this happened. Buffy and I... But, what'll stop us from doing the exact same thing?
FEMALE ORACLE: You. You alone will carry the memory of this day. Can you carry that burden?
- I Will Remember You
Another opportunity for Angel to have a normal life and another denial. Angel gives up everything he's ever wanted in order to help and protect Buffy. He loves her enough that he can sacrifice everything to be there for her in the way that she will need most to survive. In some ways, he's sacrificing the happiness of both of them so that she can live. He has to live with that memory. Brutal.
WESLEY: Ah, the vampire with a soul, once he fulfills his destiny, will Shanshu. Become human. It's his reward.
CORDELIA: Wow. Angel, human.
ANGEL: That'd be nice.
CORDELIA: Wait. What's that thing about him having to fulfill his destiny first?
WESLEY: Well, it's saying that it won't happen tomorrow or the next day. He has to survive the coming darkness, the apocalyptic battles, a few plagues, and some - uh, several - not that many - fiends that will be unleashed on the world.
ANGEL: So don't break out the champagne just yet.
CORDELIA: Oh, yeah, break out the champagne, Pinocchio. This is a big deal!
ANGEL: I guess it is.
- To Shanshu in L.A.
After all that giving up what he wants, you'd think Angel would be a little happier about this news but he's learnt that redemption is not always what he seems. He knows now that it doesn't matter what he gets out of it, it matters that he helps people and that he does his best to make the world a better place. Rewards are just a bonus.
GUNN: So, you had an *epiphany*, did you?
GUNN: So, what you just wake up and bang?
ANGEL: Well, it was sort of the other way around.
Finally, the actual 'Epiphany' episode. Took a while. So Angel sleeps with Darla having already disowned all his friends and then when he doesn't lost his sole, he realises that he should be back with his friends and helping people. Dark Angel episode over, carry on.