What's in a soul?

4.15. Orpheus, Airdate: 03/19/03 (WB, 8/9c).

There are two types of eps I absolutely loathe on TV shows: clip shows and "It's all been a dream and Bobby's in the shower" eps - but, alas, this week's Orpheus was neither of it. I liked it, and I loved seeing Alyson reprising her role as Willow from BtVS. Gorgeous witchcraft action and funny dialogues with Cordy! ("You've been?" - "Higher being, and you?" - "Evil, but I got better.")

Did I ever mention how glad I am to live in the age of Internet? In case you didn't realize: Last week, I changed my mind. Many of you send me e-mails after each week's Angel or Buffy - thanks, folks! I try to answer every e-mail and sometimes very interesting discussions with readers come up. It was the case last week, when Janine pointed me towards the speculation, the Beast's Master could be Cordy's child and not Cordy herself. In case you missed it, check it out here.

When I thought about it, I realized, last week, I've been very sloppy, and tried to compensate by looking up who Orpheus exactly was - and discovered a link between drugs and Orpheus. I am so glad that I did, since I wasn't entirely wrong with this week's first twist: Faith poisoned herself to intoxicate Angelus. Orpheus, after all, wasn't meant figuratively, as I presumed, but just the name of that supernatural drug she used.

Clever move, and I have to admit, not quite the cheap twist I expected first. I liked it. And I liked seeing all the flashbacks of Angel's life, but I have mixed feelings about that Faith-in-the-dreams-of-Angel thing.

We learned in Soulless, when Wesley found the Beast in Lilah's book, that somebody (Cordy's child?) erased all information on the Beast in our dimension, and that Angelus only remembers because he's kinda in another dimension when not ruling the body. It made sense, and yet may have been wrong. If Angelus is in another dimension, how can he be inside the body at the same time? Why did he say, he'll always be within Angel, when he's actually not in Angel but in another dimension? Or is this dimension inside of Angel?

This whole soul thing is getting very messed up, don't you think? Why aren't there two Spikes? Spike, after all, was a good guy, even with soul, madly in love with Buffy. How can he love, when he doesn't have a soul? And what's happening when he looses his soul? Will he attack Buffy again - he loved her, even when he had no soul, and he didn't attack her back then, even though the chip wasn't working on her. So, why are there Angelus/Angel but only Spike? Why is the concept of "soulness" so different in BtVS 1-3/AtS compared with BtVS 4-7?

Angel clearly is the guy with the soul - but how can he, if his soul is packed in glass? Think about that: Are Angel and Angelus two separate entities? Seems to be so, since both of them talked to Faith. If Angel is inside Angelus, i.e. temporarily surpressed, what part does the soul play? How can Angel exist separated from his soul? Or is the soul merely some sort of catalyst needed to install Angel in his body?

Orpheus, so to speak, is the climax of all things illogical in the soul concept of AtS. Angelus is Angel without a soul - at least this is what we were told - and that means, Angelus and Angel are the same entity, but once with a conscience and once without. I can understand, that Jeckyll without soul turns into Mr. Hyde, no problem here. But then there is no Dr. Jekyll anymore, cause, well, no soul. You see my point? Either there is Angel (with soul) or there is Angelus (without soul) - Jekyll and Hyde both have a soul, their existence doesn't depend on it, but it does in the case of Angelus/Angel. They can't exist at the same time, cause this would mean, both the soul exists and it doesn't. That's way too complicated now, don't you think? Or do you know something I don't?

Is the soul Angel? If yes, Angel is in the jar. If it isn't, then there is no Angel, because: Angelus + soul = Angel. Which means Angel - soul = Angelus. Either there is Angelus - then the soul is gone - or there is Angel, then the soul isn't gone. And if so, why does Angelus leave the body or stay in another dimension? He shouldn't be able to, cause he IS Angel - but without a soul. Neither Angel nor Angelus is going anywhere - the soul goes, not Angel or Angelus. The soul makes Angel - or Angelus if it goes missing again.

Take a deep breath. Think about it - and tell me, why I am wrong. Please tell me, there's some logic in it, I didn't see! Give me explanations! I don't see any logic in it, so I didn't like Faith in the dreams of Angelus/Angel/whoever. I just didn't understand what's the soul, who's Angel or who's Angelus. I am frustrated, cause I think after seven years staying with them, I should know them at least a bit.

Willow was great. She always is, but what she did, wasn't really exciting, new or amazing, since she already did it in season 2, and back then it was great magic and one of Willow's first big rituals. Now it's been more of a "seen that, done that" fashion. The tension between Fred and her, did you sense it? Hehe. I am not saying anything about that, only thinking nasty thoughts.

I wonder if Willow has used exactly that Gypsy curse Jenny Calendar reconstructed in season 2. If so, then there's this "happy moment" loophole, but as we see with Spike, it is possible to have a soul without that limitation. Shouldn't Willow be able to re-insoul Angel without that "happy moment" loophole? Or did she curse him exactly like the Gypsies did? I guess so, but I wonder if it was necessary and why she didn't think about skipping the loophole.

The end - well, perhaps there's a twist I missed. But how often have we seen Cordy at the end of an ep, saying "That was only the beginning"? Can somebody count, please? Perhaps I do, as soon as I have some free time on my hands.

Ok, I liked the ep, Angel is back - finally! I saw Willow - great! But I just got too confused with all that soul stuff, and I doubt, it will be explained - ever. That makes this week's ep an average meal, again. I know, I said it about the last two eps already, but what am I supposed to say? That soul stuff was too heavy for me, and - come on - who was in doubt about Willow bringing Angel back and Faith coming back to life? You get the drill.

Next Wednesday, please come quick, beloved day... I am hoping for a real cool ep. It's called Players and beautiful Gwenn is appearing in it. Whatever game she's playing, I'll be in it. Not to forget: UPN is due to air an all-new episode of BtVS. That's a week worth dying for - if you're a Buffy nerd without a life. Well, it works for me. Stay tuned!

Thanks, gentle readers! This is an addendum to my original review, based on your input. What's in a soul? Carl from Washington D.C. wrote, my problem is that I am way too attached to the religious concept of soul. I went through a couple of books to confirm that, and he may be right. Fact is, the concept of a soul is a religious one, brought to us by pagan cults, but later instilled in us by the catholic church. In the Middle Ages you could buy papers saying you're free from any kind of sin you may have acquired. A neat kind of raising money for the church, and the more it was important to nurture the belief, we not only have a soul, but it is vital in terms of going to hell or to heaven.

The Buffyverse obviously doesn't go with that. Could it be that they say, a soul is not that important? Let's suppose the key thing a soul actually does is keeping a certain kind of demon away - and the soul is not part of a personality nor responsible for any kind of good or evil deads.

It means: Liam was a good-for-nothing, and he had lots of unresolved issues and a certain tendency to be cruel and to use force to attain his aims. When he was sired, his soul was driven away, making place for that kind of demon I like to call vampon (vampire demon, not very original, I know). Vampon doesn't have an own personality. He's not human, but he feeds on whatever he find inside the human body. Vampon is a kind of catalyst that brings out the worst somebody could have been - and that's his new vampire self. This new self locks the old self away somewhere in the brain, and as long as the soul is gone, it has no chance of coming back.

If the soul returns, this old self once again rules, but the new self can't be kicked out, since the body, after all, is dead, and vampon is running it (even Angel still needs blood, as our reader Cwilson6 correctly pointed out). Now the old self is locked away waiting for the soul to go away to take over again.

It means, the theory we heard in Soulless was wrong. Angelus never has been in some kind of alternate dimension, but whoever erased all information on the Beast, took care of him remembering.

And it explains why Spike wasn't so bad after all. He was mostly harmless, looking for love, being "love's bitch" as he put it. He held a relatively pure soul, corrupted by vampon to the degree of really going all bloody for Dru, but vampon never managed to corrupt Spike to the same degree as it did with Angelus. So, Spike can be bad, but he doesn't have to be that way.

It's not the soul that makes a human being good or bad, since there are murderers out there still having their soul, and there are demons just as Lorne or old Spike possibly not having a soul (I am not sure about Lorne or demons as such). It has been pointed out quite a few times, e.g. by Giles.

So, is the soul merely a mystical barrier for vampon? I am not sure, yet the thought is somewhat compelling. Perhaps we will learn more in next week's BtVS. Feel free to write! The discussion is still open.

Addendum 2: Again thanks. Your participation is overwhelming, and nearly all comments I get are amazingly clever and well thought out. I took the time to update this site and insert some comments I received. Unfortunately, I can't include all thoughts and I try to be as short as possible, since I want to avoid that reading this site takes several hours.

Souls/Fight: Our reader Jeff writes, we should be aware of the fact that the souls vampires have aren't necessarily the souls of their old self. Cplungerman adds, the demon takes over the body completely when a person is sired, so there's nothing left from the old self except the brain and all the memories. Thus, he opposes the theory of vampon, but says, that the soul changes Angelus - the demon that took over Liam's body. He suggests, that Angel isn't Liam at all, but a changed version of Angelus. Interesting thought, but doesn't quite explain why we saw Angel and Angelus at the same time. Many people agree, however, that Angelus and Angel live in the same body. Angelus has to run the body, since it's dead, after all, and we saw them together, because Willow smashed the jar before, Angel went into the ether and from there it was possible to take part in the fight. This theory is logical, and implies that Angel indeed is "the soul" or at least mingled with the soul. (However, Angel did take part in the fight, even though the jar was still intact.) Another theory says, the soul from the ether evoked an image of Angel within Angelus - meaning, the soul somehow projected the memory of Angel into Angelus.

AstnPwrvch suggested that Angel is only a version of Angelus. Because Angelus is the only thing that can exist inside the body without anything else (esp. the soul) he's the "real thing". Angel needs the soul to exist, so he is only a version of Angelus. This could mean, the etherial presence of the soul evoked some kind of schizophrenia in Angelus, and he actually is both personae, but when the soul is near, he always changes into Angel (because of mystical forces we won't examine in detail).

The imagination of Angelus being schizophrenic seems to have many followers. Guy suggests, remorse could be the reason why Angelus/Angel split personalities. Iwan says, the soul is a catalyst allowing the good to flow in and return the balance between both personalities (perhaps Angelus ruling the body functions, Angel ruling the actions?). Spike, thus, is just Spike, because he isn't schizophrenic.

Pam and others say, a soul only gives the choice to be good or to be evil, but it doesn't make a decision in favor of either. This would mean Spike as well as Angel only can be bad, they don't have a chance - unless there's a soul. Michael suggest we introduce the term "conscience" and say, this is what the soul is responsible for.

Jeff says, Angel could be a manifestation from any other time, since Faith and Angelus both travelled through Angel's memories and may have picked up some version of Angel. Nancy surmises, Angel could only be a mystical device for the fight between Angelus and Faith. He wasn't there technically, but acted as a personification of the point both tried to make. Their imagination created Angel, they dreamed, he was there, so to say. Alan goes into that, saying, the whole fight only was a dream, a product of the drug-induced coma.

Kevin says, that meeting, perhaps even fighting, persons in their dreams seems to be a slayer power, since Faith and Buffy met in season 3, when Faith was in coma, and Buffy had suffered severe blood loss, so bringing together Angel, Angelus and Faith could have been magic, initiated by the slayer power, and - perhaps - helped by the fact that the jar was smashed and Angel's soul floating in the ether.

Miranda warns, we shouldn't forget to think about Angelus in terms of power. He is power that is always inside Angel and by battling Angelus he battles the power to be evil. Miranda says, that's pretty much the point the whole series is trying to make.

Getting back to why Willow wouldn't exclude the "happy moment" loophole this time, most people agreed, she should be able to do that. I think, they didn't specifiy if Willow did it or not, because they want to keep the door open, in case they need the loophole as a plot-device later on, or because they plan Angel to avoid sex alltogether, just to surprise us when he can't refrain any longer, by saying that he actually is cured. Katie says, we didn't see yet if the loophole doesn't apply to Spike, because he wasn't happy this season, so perhaps the loophole and the soul have to go hand-in-hand.

Anyway, Lisa, Inge, John and others state, the demon will never go away, cause without it, the body would be dead again. (Except of divine intervention, I'd like to add, since Angel for one glorious day in season 1 was human and happily used this opportunity to get all fleshy with Buffy).

Spike: Somehow it was clear, you wouldn't let me say Spike's a good chap, wasn't it?;-) There are many examples why he wasn't good in seasons 4-6, but I won't list those here. Rolf says, Willow couldn't have fixed Angel the way Spike is, since Spike has gotten his soul back because he WANTED it back, and he's not as split as Angel is. Most people agree that Spike's different to the degree of having had more positive layers than Liam, before being sired - and that his way of getting back his soul was a series of trials he volunteered for and not a curse. (Except a few readers claiming that Spike only said "I want to be the way I used to be", which could have meant: "Take the chip away, I want to kill without remorse", and the demon then corrupted his words).

Jan maintains, the demon spirit within Spike wanted the soul to be back, because it fell in love with Buffy and knows it's the only way it can love. (Reminds me of Data wanting to be more human.) Kevin says, there's a difference between good and love. Being able to love - as Spike does - is not a sign of being good. Even bad people can love.

Cordy: Michelle noted, Cordy isn't affected by the anti-demon spell Lorne had being casted - could mean, if the child is the demon, it acts through Cordy (who is human and thus can be restored), so she isn't affected by the spell. Aliknes1 says, the baby can't be the Master, because it would be a rehash of AtS season 1. This is a good reason, indeed, but perhaps we shouldn't count on the fact, they'll never use an idea twice.

Blame everyting on the writers, says Jacki. If you want to add something, feel free to e-mail me.

The problem in short, in case you got confused: Can Angel and Angelus exist at the same time or not? There are different opinions. Some say, Angelus IS Angel without a soul, so they can't exist at the same time, some say Angelus and Angel are two entities sharing one body. Most go with the latter, and then ask, what the soul is for and what happens if it goes missing. Does Angel leave, (most say yes) or is he merely surpressed?

People claiming Angelus is without a soul, and turns into Angel if the soul returns, were startled by the fact that Angel and Angelus both appear in the same fight, since they shouldn't be able to exist at the same time. And that leads to other theories, e.g. the nearby soul making Angelus schizophrenic before turning him back into Angel.

Seems as if most readers have settled with: Angelus is the demon, Angel's the soul (not necessarily Liam's or Liam himself, but could be). They're both sharing one body (without Angelus it wouldn't run anyway, but rot and die). Though the soul and thus Angel went missing, he was able to appear in the fight, because the jar was smashed and some mystical energy allowed him to enter the fight from the ether (perhaps slayer powers, perhaps Orpheus, perhaps something else).

Tom Ahrendt


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