Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
|"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|
"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 the episode, Angel (David Boreanaz) recalls a traumatic experience during the 1950s at the Hyperion Hotel.
The episode is a fan favorite and was also a personal favorite of actor David Boreanz. Writer Tim Minear said it was personally enjoyable for him to write the episode, even though he normally preferred writing longer story arcs that gradually unfolded over the course of an entire season. The episode received a favorable review from The A.V. Club.
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 second floor, heading towards his room, he observes a man banging on a door. In the background, two men share a furtive romantic moment outside a room 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 a 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 now-abandoned Hyperion. While doing research with Wesley, Cordelia discovers that the property is a historical landmark, but that it has been 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. Her fiancé left her when he found out, as well. Angry at the bank, she stole the money, but has not spent any of it, and Judy laments her decision to steal. 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 execution 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 has 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; Judy's despair is particularly delicious as she had just come to start to have faith in humanity again due to Angel's friendship and help. Her pain at what she has done to Angel has 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 are 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 asks his forgiveness. He assures her she did not kill him and tells her that of course he forgives her. She then passes away. 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 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, the fear of being revealed as gay by a well-known actor who arranges furtive liaisons at the hotel, the racism that caused an African American family to be turned away from the hotel, the racism that led to Judy's firing and rejection by family, friends, and fiancé, and the lynch mob that attacked Angel. 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.
- 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 foreshadows 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 the 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 final scene of the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause was filmed.
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."
Noel Murray, writing for The A.V. Club, thought director David Semel "evokes classic retro-L.A. movies like Chinatown and Barton Fink and L.A. Confidential, but also Alfred Hitchock and Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray. It works as an offbeat one-off, but also expands the Angel mythology, by reminding the audience how long the show's hero has been around, and then giving him a new home at the end of the episode when he decides to move Angel Investigations' offices to the Hyperion."
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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To establish the repressive context of the era, in the second flashback, residents and guests of the Hyperion Hotel are assembled around a television playing the McCarthy trials, with the infamous question, 'Are you now or have you ever been...?'
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