Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
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|"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been"|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||David Semel|
|Written by||Tim Minear|
|Original air date||October 3, 2000|
|List of Angel episodes|
"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" is episode 2 of season 2 in the television show Angel. Written by Tim Minear and directed by David Semel, it was originally broadcast on October 3, 2000 on the WB network. In "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been", Angel recalls a traumatic experience during the 1950s at the Hyperion Hotel.
Angel asks Wesley and Cordelia to look into the mysterious history of the abandoned Hyperion Hotel. A photograph of the hotel blends into an action shot of the hotel exterior during the 1950s, as the manager sends the bellhop upstairs to give the guest in 217 his weekly bill. The bellhop nervously makes his delivery then runs downstairs, as Angel — the feared occupant of 217 — opens the door. As the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings blare on a TV, Angel strolls through the lobby and the manager turns away an African-American family, telling them that - despite what their sign says - the hotel has no vacancies. On the 2nd floor heading towards his room he observes a man banging on a door, . Back in his room, he finds a woman pretending to be a maid. When Angel calls her bluff, she tells him that she's hiding from her boyfriend, the man earlier seen banging on the door. Angel helps her hide from him, smashing the door in his face when the man pulls a gun.
In the present, Angel visits the Hyperion. While doing research with Wesley, Cordelia discovers that the property is a historical landmark, plagued by strange events since it was built. Cordelia then spots Angel in a 1952 photograph of the hotel lobby, and Wesley realizes that Angel has a personal connection to the Hyperion.
In 1952, the salesman in the room next to Angel's listens to a record, talks to someone unseen, then holds a gun to his head. Angel hears a gunshot and the record skipping, and drinks his glass of chilled blood without reacting. When the manager and bellhop discover the salesman's suicide, the manager hears a demonic voice whispering "They'll shut you down" and instructs the bellhop not to call the police; instead they hide the body in a meat locker. That night, the guests gather at Griffith Observatory, where they discuss the suicide and wonder why the cops hadn't been notified. Judy tries to thank Angel, but he is unreceptive. The next day, the guests continue to discuss the salesman, questioning if he might have been murdered. Upstairs, when Angel comments on Judy's agitation, she confesses the man banging on the door was a PI sent by the bank from which she stole money. She was fired when they found out that — although she "passes" as white — she is actually part African American. Judy laments her decision to steal, and Angel replies that "fear makes people do stupid things," then clarifies he was referring to her employers. As Angel stashes Judy's bag of money in the basement, he hears whispering and realizes something in the hotel is making people crazy.
In the present, Cordelia and Wesley find newspaper reports of the bellhop's arrest for the salesman's murder, and an article about Judy with the headline, "Search Called Off — Fugitive Woman Believed Dead." Down in the basement, Angel finds the bag of money and once again hears the whispering. He contacts the others, announcing the hotel hosts a Thesulac demon that whispers to its victims, then feeds on their insecurities. He says he already knows the ritual to make it corporeal so that it can be killed.
In 1952, Angel returns from a bookstore where he learned the ritual to corporealize the demon; meanwhile, the PI reveals Judy's secret. When the guests turn on her, she points them towards Angel, announcing that he has blood in his room. Everyone attacks Angel, except Judy, who starts to cry. Angel is dragged into the hallway; a noose is tied to a rafter and he is pushed over the railing to hang. The crowd cheers, then slowly wonders what they've done. When everyone leaves, Angel frees himself and drops to the lobby floor. On the stairs, the Thesulac demon becomes corporeal, gloating about the paranoia he just fed on; as she had become Angel's friend, Judy's betrayal was more delicious, Angel's intervention had made her "a meal that will last a lifetime". The demon says, "There's an entire hotel here just full of tortured souls that could use your help." Angel replies,"Take them all."
In the present, Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn arrive at the Hyperion and, after performing the spell to make the Thesulac corporeal, Angel electrocutes it with the exposed wires of the fuse box. Angel heads upstairs and finds Judy, now old, still in her room, where she has served as the Demon's "room service" since 1952. She says the voices were gone, and asks Angel if it is safe to go out. He tells her it is, but she is so tired that she needs to rest first. She then tells Angel that she is sorry she killed him and just before she passes away, he assures her he's okay and tells her he forgives her. Angel returns downstairs; "We're moving in," he announces. Wesley reminds Angel that evil things have happened in the hotel, but Angel tells him that all of that is in the past.
This episode introduces the Hyperion Hotel, which becomes Angel's main set until season 5. Production designer Stuart Blatt explains that after blowing up Angel's cramped office in the season one finale, he had the opportunity to create a bigger, more "film-friendly" set that the crew and cameras could move through freely. Creator Joss Whedon suggested an abandoned hotel, something similar to the hotel in Coen Brothers' Barton Fink. The exterior shots of the Hyperion are of a historic building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles called the Los Altos Hotel & Apartments, which Blatt had previously used in the episode "I Fall to Pieces". The Los Altos was home to many Hollywood celebrities — including Bette Davis, Mae West, and William Randolph Hearst — before the Great Depression, similar to the fictional history of the Hyperion featured in this episode. Blatt says the front doors of the Hyperion are "exact duplicates" of those at the Los Altos, and the back garden closely resembles the back garden in the apartments, which allows the crew to film the characters entering and exiting the building on location. "Then we cut to the interior of the hotel," Blatt says, which is on a sound stage, "and it all works fairly seamlessly."
The nighttime scenes between Angel and Judy were filmed on location at the Griffith Park Observatory, which overlooks Los Angeles, and was where the James Dean classic "Rebel Without a Cause" was filmed for its final scene.
This is another episode by writer Tim Minear that explores Angel's background. "He's cynical, I-don't-get-involved guy, and I thought that was a very interesting place to be," says Minear. "Although he does reach out to help someone in the episode, it doesn't take much to push him out of that light." When fans point out the flashback scene in Buffy in which Angel is living on the streets of New York City, Minear deflects the accusation of retconning by saying, "I don't believe he was thrown out of that room in Romania by Darla in 1898 and has been on the street ever since...in the 1950s, that was the beginning of his descent into the streets."
The theme of otherness is carried through this episode by exploring LA's history of social exclusion. The hysteria provoked by the paranoia demon mirrors the fears of communism surrounding LA's entertainment community, an African American family told there are 'no vacancies', reflecting the exclusion of African Americans from private establishments, and Angel's lynching echoes white supremacist violence against African Americans. This both captures the connection between anti-communism and racist policing, and serves as direct comment on the perpetuation of past prejudices and relevance to recent events. There is also a hint that two men Angel sees in the hallway of the Hyperion are gay and closeted, which continues the theme of social exclusion.
- The flashback scenes reveal that in the 1950s, Angel bore "a contempt for humanity that is reminiscent of Angelus but without the sadism". His decision to allow the demon to feed on the hotel residents foreshadow his decision later in the season to allow Darla and Drusilla to slaughter the Wolfram & Hart lawyers. Both times Angel deems that the humans in jeopardy aren't worth saving.
- Angel decides to make the Hyperion Hotel the new headquarters of Angel Investigations
- The bookshop owner reappears in Reprise, where he states that Angel's attempts to kill the demon changed his opinion on the potential for good in the world. He is then distraught when Angel informs him he allowed the demon to wreak havoc, though Angel doesn't explain why.
- McCarthyism: The episode's title is based on the "$64 question" posed during Congressional hearings held in the 1950s by the House Un-American Activities Committee and by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations associated with Joseph McCarthy: "Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" The era, and paranoia surrounding it, is the setting for much of this episode.
- Psycho: Angel's opening line, "sixty eight rooms, sixty eight vacancies", is an allusion to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 suspense / horror classic, Psycho, where Norman Bates tells Marion Crane, "twelve rooms, twelve vacancies", to illustrate how the Bates Motel is no longer a popular stopping point. Also, Judy's back-story is very similar to Marion's: both are running from the law with stolen money and boyfriend troubles, and both are attempting to hide in a hotel / motel. As well, in the middle of the episode, Cordelia cites a newspaper clipping about Judy with the headline, "Fugitive Woman Believed Dead". Cordelia says that Judy was being tracked by federal authorities for stealing money, checked into the hotel, and then was never heard from again. All this is another allusion to Marion, whom that narrative would have fit perfectly as well, and who of course was knifed to death by "mother" Bates in an infamous shower scene.
- Vertigo: Judy is also the name that Kim Novak's character takes after changing her identity in this Alfred Hitchcock film. She also tells Jimmy Stewart that she grew up in Salina, Kansas the same place where the Judy from this episode grew up.
- The Shining: Angel stays in Room 217 at the Hyperion Hotel. Room 217 is the haunted hotel room at the Overlook in Stephen King's The Shining.
- Chinatown: The detective that arrives at the Hyperion Hotel is named C. Mulvihill, a nod to a character named Claude Mulvihill in Roman Polanski's film noir classic, Chinatown. The bandage on his nose is an extension of the same allusion.
- Rebel Without A Cause: The scene in which Judy mentions a show depicting the end of the universe was shot on location at the Griffith Observatory. Several scenes in the James Dean film Rebel Without A Cause were filmed at that same observatory, including a scene in which the characters attend a planetarium show about the world ending. The character of Judy physically resembles the character of the same name (played by Natalie Wood) in that film. Additionally, Angel is dressed exactly like James Dean's character during this scene.
- The Yellow Wallpaper: Angel's comment, "Maybe it was the wallpaper that drove him crazy," is reminiscent of "The Yellow Wallpaper," another story dealing with insanity. This short story tells of a woman who develops psychosis while on a vacation prescribed by her doctor. She believes it is the house which is causing her to go mad, specifically the yellow wallpaper in her room.
- Imitation of Life: Judy's character has been passing for a white girl since a teenager but is actually of mixed origin, just like the character Peola and Sarah Jane in the original and the remake.
- THX 1138: The phrase "Are you now, or have you ever been?" is the opening line of dialogue used by the chrome police robots while they interrogate and torture the main character THX 1138, played by Robert Duvall.
Reception and reviews
This episode is a fan favorite, regularly ranking as one of the top episodes of the series. Slayage calls this episode one of Angel's best: "a character study, offering insight into Angel's past."
Writer Tim Minear says that, although he generally prefers the season-long story arcs to the movie-of-the-week, this episode "rang his inner gong." He explains that writing this episode was a way for him "to indulge in a delicious just-for-me treat." David Boreanaz has also cited it as one of his favorite episodes.
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