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Recap / Angel S01E22 "To Shanshu in L.A."

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Wesley is hunched over the scroll of Aberjian, still trying to figure out what the hell "Shanshu" means. Upstairs, a hooded figure is skulking around the office. Angel pricks up his ears. A little late for visitors. Tense music builds as he sneaks behind the cloaked figure and taps his shoulder. With a girlish scream, the person turns and pulls his hood down to reveal that it's David Nabbit. He decided to blow off his board of directors and hang with Team Angel, dressed in full larper regalia. Wow, just—wow.

Meanwhile, the folks at Wolfram & Hart are conjuring up a demon, Vocah, who has come to separate Angel from the Powers that Be. Vocah gripes, "You lost the scroll of Aberjian?" Holland explains that it was stolen, and Lilah adds that Angel hasn't had time to fully study it. Lindsey offers to get it back—it was his error. Vocah angrily states that he will retrieve it himself. He asks who has it, and Holland says with a hint of embarrassment, "Angel." Vocah reiterates that he was summoned for "The Raising," and without the scroll, he can't perform The Raising. Lilah says that they're aware of the irony.

Uncomfortable scene at Angel Investigations, with everybody waiting for David to pack off and leave, which he finally does. Wesley finally locates a reference to Shanshu in his books—it means death. Angel doesn't even glance up from his book. Ho hum. Wesley assures him that the jury's still out, so it's a good thing that Angel's not concerned. ...Not even remotely concerned.


In a dark alley, two police officers notice Detective Kate Lockley has shown up. The duo make light of her propensity for listening in on the police scanner for activity involving the occult. Kate tells them to stay put, ignoring their offers for backup, "or a Ouija board." Hardy har. As she walks past a dumpster, Angel emerges with a homeless bag lady on his arm. She scurries off while Angel stops to chat with Kate. She demands to know what Angel killed, and he begrudgingly tells her it was a slime demon. Kate gets hostile, telling Angel that all she cares about is ridding the city of his kind. She hasn't forgotten that his "kind" who killed her father. And off she stomps.

The next morning, Wesley confesses that the prophecy—while not exactly good news—doesn't alarm him nearly as much as Angel's reaction to that news. Death doesn't bother him, because there's nothing in life he wants. Angel arrives from downstairs, and Cordy asks if he wants some coffee. He doesn't, so she offers him a doughnut. Angel chuckles and insists, "I don't want anything." Cordy looks stricken. Wisely, Wesley exits stage left, saying he's off to the rare book store to confirm his findings. On his way out, Wes suggests that Angel go consult the Oracles again, but Angel doubt they'll tolerate any more visits.


Inside the Oracles' realm, Mr. and Mrs. Oracle are ticked off. They hate these kinds of intrusions. The camera pans, revealing that it's not Angel but Vocah who has crossed their threshold. The demon states that a "new order" is coming, and a scythe materializes from behind his back.

The next day, as Cordy strolls through a flea market looking for a gift for Angel, Vocah invisibly brushes up against her. Screaming in pain, she collapses on the ground and is inundated with hundreds of visions all at once.

Angel is downstairs locking up the Scroll in his weapons cabinet when he senses a disturbance in his apartment. He doesn't have time to investigate, however, as the phone rings—it's the hospital. Angel hurries off. The Demon steps up to the cabinet and easily breaks the lock, taking the Scrolls and leaving something in its place.

At the hospital, Angel finds Cordelia screaming and restrained to her bed as the doctor explains she's suffering from a psychotic episode. The doctors can't seem to find a cause or be able to sedate her.

Outside the office, Angel parks his car and steps out onto the street. Suddenly, a huge explosion sends Angel hurtling through the air. Inside the collapsed building, Angel searches for Wesley and finds him unconscious. As the medics load Wesley into an ambulance, Kate arrives to grouse some more. Angel doesn't have time for this. Hotheaded Kate says that he's a witness to a major crime and isn't leaving. Incensed, Angel snarls that if she's looking to be enemies, "Try me," before storming off into the night.

Back at Saint Matthew's Hospital, Wesley is patched up but still unconscious. Angel heads upstairs to look in on Cordy (who is now catatonic) and promises to help her. Taking her hand, Angel notices a black symbol on the back of it.

Outside the entrance to the Oracles, Angel has a sketch of the mark. He enters only to find the two Oracles have been slain. The spirit of the female speaks to Angel, telling him that "things are unraveling." The Mark belongs to a warrior of the Underworld named Vocah. Only the Scroll can cure his friend. Angel asks where he can find him, and the Oracle says that he "hides behind man's law." Angel takes the bloodied scythe, knowing just where to go.

Inside a mausoleum, five vampires are chained to a large wooden crate with iron bars, while a bunch of hooded monks watch an incantation led by Vocah. Outside W&H, Lindsey, Lilah and Holland are getting into limos as Lilah wonders if they're late. Holland says it's better to be fashionably late to a ritual—the blood rites drag on forever. Angel watches from the bushes, and as they drive off he follows.

Inside, Vocah is still reading as the W&H group arrive. Dejected, Holland remarks that they haven't even gotten to the Latin yet. Suddenly, Angel crashes through the stained-glass wall, and he and Vocah begin to fight with scythes. Lindsey grabs the Scroll and continues the chant. The vampires chained to the cage suddenly disintegrate and turn to dust as a strong wind whirls around the box. Holland orders the crate removed as he, Lilah and the others make a break for it. Angel gets the upper hand in the battle and embeds his scythe in Vocah's melon. Angel turns to take the Scroll only to find that Lindsey is holding it. Lindsey, keeping Angel at bay with a cross, brags about how it was foretold that all of Angel's connections that would be severed. With that, Lindsey holds the scroll over a blazing cauldron. Angel throws the scythe and neatly slices off Lindsey's hand, which sends the scroll flying. Angel swipes it and leaves Lindsey writhing on the floor.

Wesley sits by Cordelia's bedside, reading from the Words of Anatol. Angel looks at Cordy's hand and sees that Vocah's mark is gone: Cordy has come out of her daze. She confides to Angel that she "saw them all—so much pain," and that they have to help them. Angel assures her that they will.

Flash-forward to Cordy's apartment, two days later. Wesley, still looking at his books, mutters, "Oops." He may have made a tiny mistake. As a vampire isn't alive, he technically can't die—the word "Shanshu" is saying that Angel will get to live before he dies. That he will become human. Angel smiles. That'd be nice. A nonplussed Cordy points out that as tiny mistakes go, that's NOT one. Nevertheless, this is a positive development.

The mysterious box sits in the vault at Wolfram & Hart. Lindsey's arm is in a sling, and Holland tells him that the "Senior Partners" were impressed with his sacrifice. Lindsey is less than overjoyed at this news, but Holland promises they're about to even the score with Angel. Lilah peers though the bars and says they're all pleased to have her here. The disheveled creature turns out to be Darla.

Tropes in this episode:

  • An Arm and a Leg: Angel does a type 3 with some type 2 (it was in battle but also a deliberate amputation) to Lindsey to get the scroll Lindsey was holding and because Lindsey was threatening Cordelia's life. It later becomes a plot point when Lindsey gets a transplant and it becomes an Evil Hand.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment
    Wesley: [to Angel] I may have made a tiny mistake. The word Shanshu that I said meant you were going to die? Actually, I think it means that you are going to live.
    Cordelia: Okay, as tiny mistakes go... that's not one.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Angel (who else) announces his arrival at The Raising by doing a Super Window Jump though the mausoleum's glass doors.
  • Black Cloak: Vocah wears a sweeping black robe.
  • Blood Magic: "The Raising" involves chaining five vampires together in the shape of a pentagram, then sacrificing them to bring forth Darla.
  • Bond One-Liner: "Don't believe everything you're foretold."
  • Bookends: Both the pilot and the first season finale culminate in a scene where Angel confronts Wolfram & Hart's team on Cordelia's behalf (to protect her from Russell Winters in the pilot, to retrieve the scroll that will heal her here). Each scene features Lindsey lording his superiority over Angel. Lindsey then suffers a Break the Haughty moment (via Angel pushing Winters out a window in the premiere and Angel cutting his hand off in the finale) as Angel accomplishes what he came to do before strolling triumphantly out the door.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The prophecy mentions a number of "fiends" that are due to unleashed upon the world before Angel can regain his humanity; one of the demons is due to arise in Reseda. In Cordelia's glimpse into her alternate life ("Birthday"), she drives to Reseda and discovers the root cause of the demon's summoning—a teenage girl pouring diet soda on a black magic tome.
    • Angel responds with a cold stare when Cordelia suggests getting him a puppy. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer it was mentioned that Angelus once did something nasty to a puppy to celebrate St. Valentine's Day.
  • Call-Back:
    • The Fang Gang discovers that Lindsey has been promoted to Junior Partner at Wolfram and Hart. He made his choice to stay with The Dark Side.
    • The Oracles from "I Will Remember You" pay the price for their habitual rudeness.
    • Darla's resurrection mirrors that of Angel in the third season of Buffy. Both characters emerge shivering, stark naked, and traumatized by their stints in Hell. Seems a moment of Fridge Brilliance that foreshadows that Darla has been resurrected as a human.
  • Cat Scare: David Nabbit in his D&D paraphernalia. Eek.
  • Close-Up on Head: Following Wesley's suggestion that Angel go consult the Oracles again, we Smash Cut to the Oracles delivering their trademark spiel about how indignant they are at being called upon by lower beings. The camera pulls back to reveal that their visitor is not Angel, but Vocah.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Cordy is having a vision.
    Cordy: Pain... killer...
    Wes: [writing] Painful killer demon...
    Cordy: Painkiller!
    Wes: Oh! [runs to get painkillers]
  • Conspiracy Theorist: The homeless woman rescued from a slime demon by Angel. She's convinced that the American Dental Association is actually some sort of intelligence agency in diguise. Better keep an eye on Dr. Folger, Angel!
  • Continuity Nod: The building directory in Angel's office also lists John Folger, DDS (previously mentioned in "Somnambulist").
  • Cool Mask: Vocah wears one to hide his Facial Horror.
  • Crisis of Faith: Angel and Holland Manners are unknowingly competing for the soul of Lindsey. Holland remarks that Lindsey is having a "crisis of faith," and Angel later accuses him of having no faith in the world.
  • Cryptic Conversation
  • Darkest Hour: All of Angel's allies are incapacitated or killed by Vocah, a demon in service of Wolfram & Hart.
  • Death Is Cheap: The Raising is a ritual outlined in the Scrolls of Aberjian which is used to raise a great evil from Hell. Wolfram & Hart hoped to raise someone that would lure Angel away from his mission—namely, Darla.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life
  • Double Meaning: The Senior Partners being pleased about Lindsey's "sacrifice" is, on the surface, about him losing his hand for their cause, but it could also mean a blood sacrifice—a penance made to appease the Senior Partners for losing the Shanshu Prophecy.
  • Either/Or Prophecy: "Shanshu" is an ambiguous word that means both "life" or "death." Though it appears to indicate Angel's doom, it actually seems to refer to his reward from the Powers that Be—a mortal life and a natural death at the end of it. It turns out that a better translation would not have been "die" but "become mortal."
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Vocah has a very deep, intimidating voice.
  • Facial Horror: Right before delivering his killing blow, Angel pries off Vocah's metal mask, revealing a maggot-infested face.
  • From Bad to Worse
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: A brief appearance by Gunn in the third act. Angel tasks him with guarding Wesley and Cordelia at the hospital while Angel hunts down the guy who put them there.
  • Hammerspace: Vocah has a seemingly-infinite supply of scythes.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Angel kills Vocah with one of his discarded scythes.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: The telltale beeping noise in Angel's weapons cabinet.
  • Invisibility: Vocah walks amongst the crowd of a flea market in broad daylight, totally unnoticed. On the other hand, it's possible they just assume he's a street performer like the silver-painted mime shown earlier.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Wolfram & Hart (however briefly) reclaim the Scroll which Angel stole from them.
  • Mark of the Beast: Vocah places his mark on Cordelia, thus opening her mind to endless visions of all those suffering or in danger.
  • Metaphorgotten: By a clearly-famished Cordy.
    Cordelia: Angel faces death all the time. Just like a normal guy who faces waffles and french fries. It's something he faces every day, like—lunch. Are you hungry?
  • Meaningful Echo: Cordelia and Wesley spend the episode batting around reasons why Angel doesn't seem to want anything out of life. Following her mental breakdown, a deeply-shaken Angel stands at Cordy's bedside and pledges to save her—that he "needs" Cordy to come back.
  • Mind Rape: Cordelia has all the human suffering going on across the entire planet shoved into her mind. She winds up in a non-responsive helplessly-in-pain state in the hospital for most of the episode. When she gets better, it's caused her personality to change for the better. Cordelia had been self-absorbed and shallow, though not nearly as much as she used to be, having already undergone positive Character Development before this point.
  • Naked on Revival: Darla.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Vocah is also known as "the Bringer of Calamity". He's an extremely formidable fighter.
  • Obligatory Joke: Gunn greets Angel with a hearty, "You getting enough iron? You look a little pale."
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Lampshaded by Holland, who impatiently eyes his watch.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The female Oracle is nonchalant about her gruesome demise. "I've been dead awhile. So far I don't like it."
  • Power Incontinence: Cordelia being hit by an endless barrage of visions, showing her everyone who suffering or in danger. And it's a big city.
  • Prophecy Twist: The Scroll of Aberjian prophecizes that Angel will die — but only after becoming a mortal human being once again.
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: Angel gets access to Cordy's bedside at the hospital by claiming to be family.
  • The Reveal: Oh hi, Darla!
  • Rule of Three: While reading the Words of Anatole at Cordelia's bedside, Wesley concludes the passage by repeating "Unbind!" three times.
  • Shout-Out: The title is a clear reference to To Live and Die in L.A.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Vocah only appears in this episode, but his presence has some everlasting consequences on the series.
    • He infects Cordelia with a mark that forces her to experience endless visions of those suffering around her. Upon being cured, Cordelia takes the experience to heart and starts to become a more selfless person, as she feels highly motivated to help those in pain.
    • He blows up the Angel Investigations offices, forcing them to relocate to the Hyperion Hotel in subsequent seasons.
    • He murders the Oracles, taking away one of Angel's means of communicating with the Powers That Be.
    • He proves essential in helping Wolfram & Hart to complete the Raising, as he both re-obtains the Scrolls of Aberjian and keeps Angel busy while Lindsey finishes the ritual. This results in Darla's resurrection, which eventually leads to Connor's birth and Jasmine's introduction.
  • Spider-Sense: Angel sensing the evil presence of David Nabbit. This is echoed later in the episode when Angel stops and turns in his basement, sensing Vocah. Similarly, Vocah is alone in his sensing Angel's imminent attack on the mausoleum.
  • Sinister Scythe: Vocah can summon them. Angel steals the one Vocah left in the back of an Oracle and they have a scythe-fight.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Angel's building is bombed by Vocah.
  • Summoning Ritual: A pair of monastic-robe wearing types summon Vocah right outside Wolfram & Hart's building. "The Raising" is a more convoluted ritual that also involve the pair.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: OK, not really "Suck", but Angel tears into Kate for treating him like crap just because she's having trouble coping with the Broken Masquerade. Given she was sniping at him soon after both his friends were hospitalised, it's actually quite justified.
    Kate: I'm glad we're not playing friends anymore, 'cause I am real sick and tired of your attitude. There's a little thing called the law—
    Angel: This isn't about the law, this is about a little thing called life. Now I'm sorry about your father, but I didn't kill your father, and I'm sick and tired of you blaming me for everything you can't handle! You wanna be enemies? Try me.
  • This Means War!: With Cordelia and Wesley in the hospital, Angel is in absolutely no mood to put up with any of Kate's bitchiness towards him and makes it clear to her, stating that if she really wants to be his enemy, he's happy to oblige.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Lindsey discovers it first-hand.
  • Trash the Set: According to Word of God, Angel's original offices were a nightmare for directors to shoot in, particularly his cramped basement. They must have been jubilant when it finally blew up.
  • True Companions: Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley are cemented as being essentially a family at this point, with Angel doing everything he can to make sure they remain protected after Wolfram & Hart's machinations cause them to be hospitalized.
  • Visible Boom Mic: When Cordelia has just handed Angel a cup of blood to drink, the mike slips into view in the center of the screen.
  • Wall Jump: During the duel with Angel, Vocah does a Matrix-style jump between two wall corners.
  • Wham Line: "We're all very pleased you're here. I know it's very confusing, but it'll be a lot better soon... Darla."
  • Wham Shot: The shot of a naked, shivering Darla inside the cage following The Raising.
  • With Friends Like These...: When Holland warns Lindsey that the Senior Partners are watching the situation closely, Lilah makes a point of mentioning how the last person to piss them off was made to eat his own liver. "I don't know why I thought of that just now."
  • You Killed My Father: Played with during Kate's scenes with Angel. She holds him responsible not just for her father's murder, but for every nefarious act committed by demons in her city.