FRED: Can I say somethin' about destiny? Screw destiny! If this evil thing comes, we'll fight it and we'll keep fightin' it until we whup it. 'Cause destiny is just another word for inevitable, and nothing's inevitable as long as you stand up, look it in the eye, and say, "You're evitable!"What appears to be the third season's through-line gets an overdue bolt of drama with "OFFSPRING"; as pregnant Darla (Julie Benz) returned to Los Angeles, looking for Angel's (David Borenaz) help determining the nature of their unnatural unborn child—which, it transpires, could either be mankind's prophesied saviour or destroyer. Translating prophecies is never an exact science.
Before we get to any of that, a few things confused me about this episode: why is Fred (Amy Acker) commenting on her perceived attraction between Cordy (Charisma Carpenter) and Angel, after watching them training together? It seemed a bit odd that she's so over Angel, having been smitten with him from the start, and is now happily playing matchmaker. And hasn't the show toyed with the idea of getting Angel and Cordy together before? I don't think it's the best direction for that relationship, and now brainy Wes (Alexis Denisof) has feelings for egghead Fred... so what about old poor Gunn (J. August Richards)? That character's arguably in more need of Cupid's Arrow.
"Offspring" was a decent episode, but it also a piece-moving exercise that didn't leave me excited for the next hour. Maybe that's because Angel's reaction to the news he's going to be a father (which is supposedly impossible) was, shall we say, oddly muted for someone who's spent centuries thinking he'll never have a child. Not sure if that was Boreanaz's limitations as a somewhat wooden actor who tries very hard, or a failing of David Greenwalt's script, but probably a touch of both.
This hour largely existed to get Darla back into the mix (physically stronger than ever because pregnancy's amplified her blood lust), while making Angel consider his future as a dad. And by the end it appears we've finally been introduced to this year's Big Bad—grizzled, resurrected 18th-century vampire hunter Daniel Holtz (Keith Szarabajka), whom we met in the teaser torturing a capture Angelus in an Italian sewer before Darla staged a rescue. As foreshadowing goes, it felt a bit weird to introduce a villain in this way, as any excitement Holtz has returned to the present was smothered by the fact we'd only just met him. That said, genre veteran Szarabajka has such a memorable voice and presence that I'm pleased he'll be antagonising Angel for awhile. What will this vampire hunter do when he discovers Angelus now has a soul and fights for good?
written by David Greenwalt | directed by Turi Meyer | 5 November 2001 | The WB
ANGEL: How you feeling?There was a lot of stupidity and hard-to-swallow ideas floating around "QUICKENING", mostly within the increasingly daft Wolfram & Hart workforce. Gavin (Daniel Dae Kim) has bugged the Hyperion hotel and is paying a subordinate to meticulously transcribe everything that's said within its walls, and yet they're still referring to Cordelia as 'Female One'? Can't they work out her name? What kind of outfit are they? And is it plausible any employee of W&H wouldn't know who Darla is? They're the ones who brought her back from the dead! And how ridiculous to call a meeting of your pay-rolled psychics, who've failed to predict Darla's expecting a baby, and openly suffocate one with a plastic bag! Oh boy, this episode was brimming with nonsense.
DARLA: I haven't had blood in almost a day, and your devil's spawn is trying to rip its way out of my body. How do you think I'm doing?
And that's a crying shame, because a lot of this hour was rather fun—at least in terms of living up to the title and ratcheting up the pace. It also put two enemies on Angel's tail. First, there was an explanation for why Daniel Holtz has been brought into the 21st-century to slaughter Angel and Darla, as it was revealed they killed his own wife and daughter in 1764. And, let's be honest here, I don't even blame Holtz for wanting to avenge the murder of his innocent family, and that he made a hasty pact with a demon for the opportunity. The only question is whether or not Holtz sees value in Angelus regaining his soul in the intervening years, or has a smidgen of sympathy for the innocent baby Darla's about to give birth to. My guess is he'll come around to realising Angel's a changed man, eventually, but it'll take a lot of effort to reverse his prejudices. Perhaps he'll also come to realise he's being manipulated by demon Sahjhan (Jack Conley), who feels like someone not be trusted.
"Quickening" didn't only refer to its surge of pacing, but in Darla's bizarre pregnancy being accelerated to a cliffhanger-ending of her waters breaking in the back of a convertible. Along the way, we also learned the child's a human boy (not a vampire, or two-headed beastie); there's a weird vampire society who want to protect Darla's offspring (but have no qualms about killing its fellow-vampire parents); and W&H boss Linwood (Josh Rubinstein) has hired a Dr Fetvanovich (John Durbin) to cage Darla and her child, but only because everyone else is doing likewise.
There's suddenly a lot of people interested in Darla and Angel's "impossible child", and exactly why is still the subject of hot debate. "Quickening" contained an explosion of infectious enjoyable nonsense and moments, which weren't as cohesive as I'd like, but it's certainly managed to give season 3 an adrenaline shot.
written by Jeffrey Bell | directed by Skip Schoolnik | 12 November 2001 | The WB