The opener of the 4th season of Angel brings with it the resolve that has been hanging in the air ever since "Tomorrow". We see Connor a lot more in this episode and he finally really is 'a part of the team'. Ironically, this is also the episode he's literally kicked out of the team by no other than daddy himself.
The episode opens with Angel's hallucinations in the box on the bottom of the ocean.
The first one set within a fancy dinner, which includes the entire gang; Connor, Angel, Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn, Fred and Lorne. The table is loaded with all kinds of rich and delicious food and everyone's eating and laughing. Everyone but Angel. When Cordelia asks him why he's not eating he says he wants to freeze this moment, when they're all happy and together (that leads to him and Cordelia drawing closer for a kiss and Connor whines about needing to watch that part, in other words - just like a real family. Everyone continues passing plates and dishes among them, but for some reason everyone's skipping Angel, as if he's invisible. When he finally grabs a plate, it reveals dirty sea water instead of food. He looks around, and finds himself sitting in water. He looks up and everything is gone. The table is bare from food and drinks, and there's no one sitting around it, no one but Connor. As Angel looks at his son, both scared and confused, Connor smiles devilishly and in a low voice says, "Freeze the moment, dad. It will last forever." Angel wakes up in the box.
Meanwhile, in the real world, we learn that Connor is now a part of AI. He's been living in the Hyperion hotel, and together with Fred and Gunn has spent the summer in search for Angel, with the only difference *he* actually knew where Angel was. Holtz has used Connor to get his revenge on the vampire, but I don't think even he knew he did that well. Connor is like a puppy he trained and raised over the years they were together. He is behaving exactly like Holtz would expect him to, meaning that Holtz's revenge holds even past his death and Connor successfully maintains it without even knowing. The way in which Holtz raised him robbed him of any kind of feeling towards his true father except for burning hatred. There is no regret in him, no remorse, it's clear that not even once he thought that maybe something wasn't right, maybe what he did was wrong. He's not only complete with the decision he made in the end of the previous season, but he hasn't once strayed from that path he chose the entire time.
However (it doesn't have that much to do with the plot of the episode), in the first 'real life' scene we see Connor, there is a very perceptible change in him. First of all, he smiles a lot more, his smiles are more open and less hesitant than they used to be. He is behaving more (it's really weird for me to put this and 'Connor' in the same sentence) like ... a teenager. The way he just caught the ax in mid air, how he (over)used the word 'cool' regarding it. I think these past 3 months melt his Quor-Toth-built character a bit, penetrated through the tough shell and we finally get to see some of the...boy inside, too. So far, I like it. I just hope they won't take this too far, Connor has a character, let's preserve it. God knows they twisted enough characters already *cough* Cordelia *caugh*. Anyway, same goes for him 'testing' Gunn, as Fred referred to it in a scene later on, he's starting to behave more as a boy his age should be. And again I say - refreshing, so far so good. *As long* as it stays within reason.
When finally, after 3 months, they have a lead - a vampire teenage girl named Marissa who may have seen what happened that night, seeing as that's the spot she usually feeds at, Fred, and Gunn go after her and Connor insists on joining, still sticking to the image of the concerned son. However, when they get to her lair and a fight ensues, Connor let's her go 'unintentionally'. He takes off after her, only unlike what Fred and Gunn think, not to recover the only clue to his father's disappearance but to finish it off. Even though Marissa swears she didn't see anything, he stakes her, then injures himself with said stake and claims he had to, because she attacked him. When Gunn is mad at him for that sloppiness, Connor takes off again.
We learn another new thing about Connor this season opener, aside from the enormous character development and the fact there is a person underneath the dirt, lol. Apparently his supernatural abilities grow way beyond what we saw last season. For instance, what person can jump from buildings and land on his feet? Apparently, he can. Is it another vampiric aspect? After all, we did have Marissa climbing walls Spiderman-style while he was bouncing from one building to the other as a blunt implication of what he, too, can probably do. And to add Gunn's little 'not just a boy' comment to that... So yeah, that's my theory, I even recall seeing Angel do that sort of stuff a couple of times. Right now, I just want to see how many more of his abilities will be revealed to us in the future.
Connor appears in a yet another hallucination of Angel, still inside the box. In this one, he's found on a roof, where Angel appears behind him, all well as if nothing happened. Connor turned around and looks at his father, all he says is "Just get this over with". Remember, Angel dreams it, not Connor. Angel is the one hoping for some kind of remorse in his son's heart, *not* Connor. The question Connor asks in the dream does not imply on that Angel plans to take out his revenge on him but that Angel simply wants him to realize his mistake. On that roof, a bunch of vampires attack them and they fight, again, side by side, father and son, much like what we remember from "Benediction". At some point during the fight, Connor even yells Angel a warning "Dad!". The outcome of this battle is as expected, the two win. Angel looks at Connor again and they smile at each other…seconds before Angel brutally snaps his son's neck. Angel wakes up in a box, screaming.
Connor's next appearance in his father's hallucination is when the vampire is out of the box and in Wesley's boat. This dream contains both reality and imagination, when the images of Connor (imagination) and Wesley (reality) shift from one to another. Why the two of them? Simple - both betrayed Angel in the worst possible way. At some point, Angel says, "I should have killed you", but whatever we'd like to think, it's unclear to us whether he means Connor or Wesley because that is the moment the one changes into the other. Angel blames himself for what happened, the typical Angel-thing to do, by saying, "No matter how hard I try, everything I touch turns to ashes". Lorne, who is also in that dream, bluntly blames Connor. Lorne's job in this dream is obvious, just like it is in the series as a whole - he reads people, circumstances, sees what others can, what no one can. He's there to give this dream meaning. Wesley steps into the room and tries to calm Angel down, when he finds him talking to himself (though he's actually talking to Lorne). Lorne, on the other hand, starts singing a lullaby, to which Angel's eyes begin to close and Connor's image appears in front of him. Again, it's unclear if it was awoken by the lullaby (Hush, Little Baby) or something else, but that's where the line "I should have killed you" steps in.
The next time we see Connor is in his room, the very same one Angel had made for him back in season 3, playing a computer game, when Fred walks in with a sandwich. She offers it to him, it's just the way he likes it. He says he's not hungry, but she says he always is. Connor asks if Gunn is still mad at him and Fred says he still is. The conversation flows over to that she knows how much Connor is hurting, and she apparently refers to losing his father like that, only then comes the surprise in the form of "I know you're still hurting, but not nearly as much as you're gonna hurt for what you did to your father." She knows. Obviously the phone call she and Gunn received before was from Wesley. Before Connor is quick enough to react, Fred stun-guns him and he's out.
When he wakes up, he's tied up to a chair, open and vulnerable to the wrath of both Gunn and Fred, who, with the stun-gun still in her hands is not even trying to let composure have the upper hand. Connor's true face is revealed - "That thing is not my father". But when Fred asks him, if Angel 'deserved' what he got, how long would it be before they deserved it, Connor doesn't say anything, and there is almost perceptible guilt in his eyes, that spark of humanity is finally being shown, even if just a little.
They hear the door opened and run out of the office into the lobby, where they find Wesley, supporting a blanket-clad and barely conscious Angel. After making sure they got him, Wesley tells them to give him blood and fresh air and leaves. To Fred's dismay, he's finished playing his part.
In the meantime, Connor uses the opportunity of being left alone and escapes. When Gunn and Fred go after him, he attacks them, taking them both out within seconds, but when he's set to run he faces an unexpected impediment - his father.
Angel maybe looks as though he's clinging to consciousness and barely able to stand, but he claims otherwise when Connor argues he's too weak to take him. For whatever reason, Connor believes him. At his father's command, he sits down, as Angel does the same. Apparently, he wants to talk. Connor looks at him, his eyes are surprisingly human, even somewhat pained, not emotionless like I would expect but much like the ones he had in Angel's dream on the roof.
Angel begins with the cynical question of "How was your summer", at which Connor just keeps staring silently. Angel tells him how was his summer, basically mentions he saw some fish, went mad with hunger, hallucinated a whole bunch… stuff like that. At this Connor quietly replies, "You deserved worse." Angel then reveals to him, what he heard from Wesley, what truly happened with Holtz, how Justine was the one who killed him, just so Connor would grow to hate him, that it was Holtz's plan all along. Connor still stares, and at some point, just for a moment, he even turns his eyes away with disbelief and disillusionment. But even then, he doesn't shed his character by saying "You still deserved it." But though his gaze is more of less the same throughout the entire conversation, the tone of his voice indicates he's not as sure anymore…
According to Angel though, what he deserves is open to debate, so now it's time to see what *he* deserves. Connor springs up from his chare and launches himself on his father, with surprising strength, Angel shoves him off to the very corner of the room. Connor doesn't get up, doesn't even try to, he just stares, pained, scared, nothing of the confidence from earlier is shown in him anymore. Angel says what he deserves depends on one answer - whether he did something to Cordelia. Connor swears he didn't and Angel believes him. He tells him to get up and Connor does that. What Angel tells him is basically that he isn't angry with him for what he did to him, as unbelievable as it was. He doesn't say it but we understand that. It's not anger, it's disappointment, disillusionment, pain. There's no room for actual anger. He says that the world is not what it's supposed to be, that it's harsh and cruel, but there are people like them whose job is, regardless to who they are, what they did and where they come from, to make it a better place. He hopes Connor would grow up to be that kind of person, too. After he says that, Angel adds that he loves him…and banishes him out of his house.
After Connor's gone, his strengths is as though gone with him and he collapses.
So now that he knows he was merely being used, cheated by the man he knew as his father into murdering his true father, and now that he is banished from his father's house permanently… what would Connor do on his own?
Angel: What you did to me was unbelievable Connor. But then, I got stuck in a hell dimension by my girlfriend one time for a 100 years, so a few months under the ocean...actually gave me perspective, kind of an M.C. Escher perspective. but I did get time to think, about us, about the world. Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It’s harsh, and cruel. And that’s why there’s us. Champions. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be. You’re not a part of that yet. I hope you will be. I love you, Connor. Now get out of my house.