Powers That Be (Angel)

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Powers That Be
Angel character
First appearance"City of" (as the Visions) (1999)
Created byJoss Whedon
Portrayed byCarey Cannon, Randall Slavin (as The Oracles)
ClassificationHigher beings
Notable powers
  • Imparting visions
  • Manifesting ghosts
  • Healing through the Trials
  • Clairvoyance
  • Bending time
  • Minor real-world intervention (removing Angel's need of an invitation; gust of wind)

The Powers That Be is a title for the enigmatic and ancient forces that assist the side of good in the WB television series Angel.

The first mention of The Powers That Be (sometimes shortened to the Powers or the PTB) comes in the first episode of Angel, when a half-human, half-demon named Doyle makes contact with Angel and claims that the Powers send him visions of people in trouble who need Angel's help. The visions are extremely powerful, come at seemingly random times, and cause extreme pain in the recipient.

Though Angel never makes contact with the Powers themselves, he does communicate with them in a number of ways.

  1. The Visions. The visions are first given to Doyle, then pass to Cordelia and finally make their way to Angel. The Powers send roughly 30 visions over the course of the series. The visions tend to have double meanings. There is a micro-purpose and macro-purpose to each vision. For instance, the Powers' first vision tells Doyle that "we have a common enemy." On a micro scale, the Powers mean the Scourge. On a macro scale, they mean the Senior Partners or evil itself. While helping people, the visions tend to make Angel meet the right people who are useful to plans and prophecies later. However, the visions typically cause the bearer great pain, and only demons or those with demonic heritage can bear them without suffering long-term damage.
  2. The Oracles. Angel visits the Oracles on four occasions (once to find if he really has become human, once to turn back time after becoming human, once after the death of Doyle, and once after their murder by Vocah). The Oracles, a pair of Greek-god-like entities, one male and one female, give Angel prophetic advice. They are murdered by Vocah in the Season 1 finale, but the female Oracle is able to manifest in spiritual form to speak to Angel one last time.
  3. The Host. Through the Host, Angel and the gang find their destiny via singing. Though this connection is rather indirect, it is strong enough for Lorne to recognize visions from the Powers as opposed to visions from Wolfram & Hart in "That Vision Thing". Lorne's knowledge also allows Angel to speak to the Powers through the Trials and the Conduit.
  4. The Trials. Through the Trials, Angel asks the Powers to give Darla a second chance. The Trials are referred to as the Powers later by Angel and Wesley when speaking about their inaction.
  5. The Conduit. Midway through season three, in the episode "Birthday", Cordelia has a vision that knocks her into a coma and while unconscious, she is visited by Skip who reveals that humans are not strong enough to bear the visions. After learning the deadly effects of the visions, Angel seeks to communicate with the Powers That Be, which he accomplishes via The Conduit (which shouldn't be confused with Wolfram & Hart's Conduit of the White Room). It is not made clear whether the Conduit is an incorporeal entity or merely a channel of communication that allows speaking with the Powers That Be themselves. Nevertheless, Angel enters an empty cave with a bonfire in the middle and speaks with an entity or entities that sound like the disembodied voices of a man and a woman speaking almost in synchronicity.
  6. Ghosts. On two occasions, the Powers send ghosts to speak to people. During season 4, the Powers send a vision of Darla to Connor to convince him not to kill an innocent girl. During season 5, the Powers send Cordelia to Angel to reorient him and pass him the visions.

The Powers that Be are also referred to by Fred as "The Powers that Screw You" and by Gunn as "The Powers that Sit on Their Be-hinds," due to their apparent inaction during many times of crisis that Angel Investigations faces; Angel and Jasmine also complain about their lack of interest in important events. Doyle, Cordelia, Wesley and Lorne appear much more concerned with doing their will.

In "You're Welcome", Cordelia dies, but the Powers owe her one for an unspecified reason (probably because of the Jasmine issue), and she convinces them to send her spirit back in physical form to help Angel one last time as repayment. Cordelia helps him defeat Lindsey MacDonald and prevent the Partners' failsafe from being released. Cordelia admits she loves Angel and kisses him, secretly using her powers to give him a vision of what he needs to defeat, and disappears after telling him, "you're welcome" and that he has to answer the phone call that informs Angel that she died earlier that day.

The canonical continuation of the series (Angel: After The Fall) states that after her death, Cordelia has become a genuine Higher Being in the service of the Powers, though she does not have the power to go up against the Senior Partners or to help Angel and the others, who are trapped in Hell/Los Angeles.

The Powers play a pivotal role in Angel: After the Fall#12 and Angel: After the Fall#13, specifically. Cordelia manages to arrive in Hell/Los Angeles to assist Angel, as an attack by Gunn leaves Angel badly wounded. After receiving a vision of the future from Wolfram & Hart via Wesley, Angel believes that The Powers want him to leave with Cordelia (elect to die) in order to save mankind from his role in the Apocalypse. Instead, however, intervention by Connor and the support of Cordelia rallies Angel, and as he "run[s] away from the light" she begins to fade away. Before vanishing Cordelia gives Angel one final boost as she says, "Be good, big guy!" before finally fading away.[1]


  1. ^ Angel: After the Fall #13 pp. 16-17