NOTE: This one is going to be *very* long, since instead of concentrating only on Connor, it captures the entire episode as a whole. Sorry, guys, but I think *this* is the best and only way to deal with "Awakening".

Okay. “Awakening”, or what by now I’m guessing is supposed to be the climatic episode of AtS. I’ve just finished watching it for about the fifth time ever since it aired and I’m still not convinced I can pull through an analysis. I sure as hell am gonna try though because… well, there are just way too many things in this ep (more than in any other this season) that require a much deeper ‘look into it’.

Now the entire episode, the first few minutes and the last second excluded, was set within Angel’s hallucination, the one that evoked the lifting of his soul by the shaman. So the first thing we learn – the initiating factor still holds – one moment of pure happiness is the *only* way to remove Angel’s soul. The only difference is that now everything’s new and improved - the soul can now be kept safely within a vessel until it should be placed back into the being that is Angelus. Okay, on some levels, I can buy that, these people have developed a lot since the era of “Surprise” – “Becoming”, they know more now, so they are more adept in their expertise. It should be expected, especially from Wesley, who sure as hell has come a long way by now, to come up with something like that at a time when there seemed to be no other solution. So they construct a massive cage, stuff Angel in and let the shaman do the mojo on him. But the moment when Angel closes his eyes is when everything changes. We don’t even notice how the entire episode shifts into an alternate reality that is happening in Angel’s mind rather than in the real world, and we aren’t supposed to, not until later.

What are the things that bluntly hint us on everything that’s going on being unreal rather than your actual average episode? First, there is the chain of events that resembles more a cheap action movie than what we are used to see in an AtS episode, when everything is well done and perfectly blended together. Yes, we might *not* agree on everything that’s going on in an ep, of the turn certain things take, but at the moment, that is hardly the point, the structure of the episode is. “Awakening” however, was *meant* to appear ridiculous, we were *meant* to notice every tiny detail of what made the way events in it came together so heavily unbelievable, roughly said – it was practically shoved down our throats. I mean, just take for instance the “handy” Beast that just crashed through the window with the perfect timing, or the “handy” vision that Cordy received from the Powers when the group seemed to be at a complete loss as to the whereabouts of the Sword. And how about the cheesy and implausible C/A (and by God, I am *not* saying that because I’m a B/A shipper, but because it’s true) “goodbye scene”. The ‘lone hero on a white horse that fights for his ladylove’ is *not* Angel and yet it was as though imposed on his character in this episode, what would be the point to it aside from stressing the nonsensical circumstances of it all? And these are just a few examples.

Now, there was something else in this ep-long hallucination that pretty much ‘says it all’ – the happiness. Remember back in season 1, “Eternity” when Angel was drugged to fake happiness and thus unleash Angelus? The case this time was different. Angel was not drugged, his mind was *packed* with happiness, happiness that concerned all the people he loved and cared for, *perfect* happiness, in all its aspects, from whatever angle you choose to look at it.

Happiness factor #1, He had his reconciliation with Wesley, finally, and Wes even apologized (though not for *that* exactly, but he did:)). It was a very brief and “manly” as some might say reconciliation, but it was one of two best friends who can finally admit to each other that all the past aside, they open a blank page and view each other as best friends again. 2 things have come up in this scenario - #1 was the apology, Wesley admitted of having done wrong, finally, and though maybe Angel didn’t need the formality, but deep inside, he *wanted* to hear it. The man stole his son and he was his best friend, at a point I didn’t think Wes deserved forgiveness at all, and though my view did change over time, I still never understood how come he couldn’t apologize. I guess Angel wanted that closure, too.

Happiness factor #2 was Connor. Yeah, they did rip each other apart over Cordelia at some point (note the eeek factor here, please), but eventually even they have come to a reconciliation. Before the hallucination, when Angel tried to talk to Connor, tell him he loved him, to remember no matter what happens, regardless to what the demon says or does, that Angelus was not his father but *he* was. Connor listened, he took it all in and it was obviously important to him, unlike the first time when Angel told him he loved him, (we all remember who wound up then in the deepest end of the ocean). But in the long run, he still took it like the average teenager, who was determined *not* to give his parent the satisfaction of seeing he was touched by these words. In the hallucination, however, even though, as I pointed formerly, they fought, they argued, they almost spiked each other to put it literally, *and* Connor had managed to blame Angel, like your typical teen, for *everything* that’s gone wrong in his life. And regardless, eventually they reconciled. The reconciliation contained Connor stepping into the fight to save Angel, *Connor* stressing the difference between Angel and Angelus for the Beast, after in reality, having been ready to condemn Angel for *everything* Angelus ever did, in spite of Cordelia’s trying to persuade him they were two different beings. Angel had warned him if the soul was lifted, he would become what Connor was raised to believe he was and Connor brushed the warning off, saying he’d handle it. Angel knew that deep inside Connor saw him and Angelus as one even though he’d begun to reconcile with the fact *Angel* was his father. In his dream, Connor is seeing the difference, Connor is *seeing* his *father*. That’s all Angel ever wanted.

Happiness factor #3 – Cordelia. Duh. That is very simply put – he got the girl. For once nothing seems to stand in his way of being with the woman he wants to be with, and that is Cordelia. Pay attention to these aspects now – he doesn’t want his girl in the line of fire, Angel is not the type, unless said girl can take care of herself. He *is* the type that enjoys to ‘rescue the girl’ but he far more respects a woman that can take care of herself. Cordelia has proven us (and him) that she more than requires ‘heroic rescuing’, even though she can hold her own sometimes. And still, he keeps the girl, in his dream, there seem to be no flaws that can't be either solved or ignored... interesting, right? Instead of facing reality, instead of a *real* relationship, he prefers to ignore the flaws. His DreamCordy claims that in spite of everything she said, she doesn’t hold him responsible for Angelus’ deeds (that happens to be a thing she said that hurt him very deeply), that she wants to be with him, only him, that she is sorry (again, the apology factor pops up). He’s ready to forgive everything (well, *that* is believable Angel-wise), just as long as he has the girl, who, in his dream, walks willingly into his arms and wants to be nowhere else. Their story in this episode is so cheesy, so ‘old’ and so ridiculously played out (again, I say, to stress the unrealistic aura) that they all but ride into the sun…rise;)). On another note, all the subject of the love triangle of Angel/Cordelia/Connor is rather lightly treated in my opinion, which indicated that in Angel’s fantasy he wishes it didn’t exist at all. And third, the happiness clause – it was *utterly* left out. It was as though it never existed, it was never raised, discussed, thought of, or anything along those lines. It didn’t *exist* in his dreamworld. In other words - *all* the doors to eventual happiness between Cordelia and him were open, just waiting for him.

So from all this we understand something (and boy, will, the C/A-ers hate me now) – C/A sex-fest-reunion was *not* necessarily what made Angel happy. The entire dream, as a whole, where everything wound up right, normal, where he had his entire family together, with his son by his side and his woman, too. Kinda flashes it all back to his first dream in “Deep Down”, doesn’t it?:) Everything is right, everything is perfect, they beat the bad guy, the sun is back up and shining (that’s the *oldest* trick in the book – the sun rising over the darkness, good prevails evil, everything’s happy in AngelLand, he’s got Cordelia, got Connor, got his friends – his family. If I didn’t know better I’d even say he’s hallucinating of his… redemption, of sorts. Another flashback to "Deep Down" is Connor's speech when he and Angel fight it off in the caves with stakes flying allover.
"Nothing in this world is the way it's ought to be, it's harsh and cruel..."
This comes from what Angel said to *him* back in "Deep Down", and Connor's words pretty much sum up everything this illusion is all about. It's Angel's road to happiness - *out* of the 'harsh and cruel world'.

As far as Cordelia goes, she ‘happened’ to be there. I’m sorry to say this, but she had no importance whatsoever to the chain of events in this dream, none in Angel’s heart. Her role was simple – she played ‘the woman beside the hero’, of the 20’s movies’ kind, I should add, because that’s the form in which their relationship was portrayed in this hallucination. Yeah, it would be justly misleading by everyone to think that Cordelia is responsible for Angel’s happiness, after all, the sex scene did occur in the very end of the fantasy, but this assumption is *wrong*, it’s misleading. Once you look into it, into the episode as a whole, you see it’s *not* the way things really happened. And that brings us to the subject of Buffy.

Did you notice all the ‘players’ in Angel’s fantasy were people that were *these* present in the room at the time of the spell casting, or in the hotel in generally, they were people the shaman could *use* to work his magick on Angel. As for the people on the street, they were unimportant, as for the Beast, that technically wasn’t present for the shaman to use, it *was* present in Angel’s memory, in the sense that this entire soul-removing mess was triggered by the trouble it cost. But what about Buffy? How did she fit into all this? It was what… 2 years since the last time she was on his mind (that we know of)? How could the shaman possibly know anything about her, *anything* about her playing a central role in what caused Angel to lose his soul in the first place? How deep into the soul that claimed to love Cordelia did he have to look? *Did* he look? Does he really have the power to manipulate a person’s soul, his deepest memories, to his liking, to achieve a set goal?

Cordelia *didn’t* give Angel perfect happiness in this fantasy, she was a mere vessel, nothing more (and again, I’m *not* saying that because I’m a B/A shipper). First of all, the *entire* dream caused Angel happiness, not just the parts with Cordelia, or should I say, the *last* part with Cordelia. The sex scene was set as the climax of the fantasy, where the hallucination explodes into reality, hence it’s misleading to think Cordelia cost it. But in reality, she didn’t only not cost it, she wasn’t even an actual player. In the climatic moment, Angel gasped Buffy’s name, *that* did not give him happiness, in spite of popular (among the B/A shippers anyway) belief, he did not think of Buffy while boinking Cordelia, get over it, Buffy was not the trigger in that sense. And C/A-ers, you *really* better not think Cordelia was the trigger to the soul losage because that just puts the entire ship into shame. He lost the soul when he climaxed, people, if that was because of Cordelia, you really have nothing to admire here. It merely *proves* Angel needs a good fuck to lose his soul and that is… worthless. Remember “Surprise”, how beautiful and gentle it was, it wasn’t just because that the aura of Buffy and Angel’s first love making on her seventeenth birthday swathed the entire sexfest of Cordelia and Angel. In “Surprise”, Angel lost his soul *hours* after he’d reached his orgasm, he lost his soul when he fell asleep in the arms of the woman he loved, with the woman he loved in his arms, when the complete peace and contentment shrouded him. When her complete and unconditional love and devotion was the first thing in decades that *completely* dispelled the dark shadows of his past, of his pain and remorse, his soul was at peace. In the end, it had very little to do with the actual act of sex that came beforehand. So in a nutshell, if the C/A-ers wanna come and tell me Angel lost his soul when he *climaxed* with Cordelia, they better take a good look at what they admire so much.

And again, as for Buffy – her name was a memory. Just as his soul cried out that name the moment it was ripped off his body 5 years ago, it cried out the same name now. Buffy concluded the fantasy of happiness Angel’s mind created. Buffy *was* the last piece of the puzzle. He cried out her name from deep within his soul, it was just proof to the fact she was still there, she was the part of him that Cordelia could never touch. He *did not* think of her when he fucked Cordelia, in the sense that it wasn’t the old case of ‘shouting someone else’s name’. I’m sorry to disappoint the B/A-ers in this case, only if you wanna turn B/A into a sex-centered relationship like C/A was portrayed… go ahead, think it was. Hell, then again, there is a huge portion on ‘B/A-ers’ out there that don’t know shit about the ship they claim to ‘love’ except yelling off the top of their lungs that ‘Riley sucks’, ‘Spike sucks’, ‘Cordy sucks’ and… did I miss anyone? Well, I think you get my point.

One thing still holds my suspense though – “Illusion becomes reality,” that’s what the shaman said right as he finished the spell. The B/A shipper in me just can’t help but wonder what implications might that have on the future of Buffy and Angel (and the dream as a whole, but Buffy and Angel first and foremost), seeing as seconds before was the moment Angel gasped out her name…;)

Well… that was it. Here goes my review. Dunno if I left anything out of the stuff I had in mind to say, at least I don’t think I did. Except for probably the part of Gunn and even Connor. They’re so resolute to go out against Angelus, especially Gunn (God, was he behaving like a careless ignorant idiot in the beginning of the episode). Boy is he up for a surprise, he has no *idea* what he’s so eager to fight, he’s the very embodiment of the fool that rushes in. Can’t wait to see that.

This episode is very controversial, this is one of the eps that can piss any shipper off one way or another, and in other way, please those who haven’t even tried to analyze the entire ep and dubiously know what they’re talking about. Then again, it can please people from the right reasons, too. All I gotta say is… we’ll see how that unfolds, won’t we?;)


Connor: What?
Angel: Look, I know you'd like to think that I'm the enemy. But... if this works, I will be. I'm gonna become the one thing you were raised to believe I was. he thing I never... never wanted you to see.
Connor: Yeah... I can handle it.
Angel: Hehe... You just keep in mind, that whatever Angelus says, whatever he does.... Remember, he's not your father. I am. No matter what happens, or... happened, I... love you. Look, one more thing, since I'm gonna be out of commission for a while, I want you to, you know, take care of everybody. Keep them safe? That means if anything should go wrong with Angelus, you're gonna have to kill me.
Connor: Okay.
Angel: *If* anything goes wrong.
Connor: Right. I got it.