What about Doyle? 4 ways “Hero” is a model Buffyverse episode.
THIS POST CONTAINS ALL OF THE SPOILERS!
Buffy, Angel, and Firefly (and cryptic Agents of Shield) are spoiled here!! You have been warned!
Full Disclosure: The episode in question was written by Tim Minear and Howard Gordon. When I say “Whedon” I mean it like an idea. The Chanel design house is not designed by Chanel, there is a team of designers that design Chanel clothing. Just like Whedon has a certain style shared by this group of writers.
In the regular night time ritual we have of searching Netflix for an appropriate show to watch right before sleep, my husband picked a random first season episode of Angel. I am a huge Buffy fan and got into Angel when it had already been on for a couple of seasons. I did go back and watch most of Angel, but it had been a while. The episode was “Hero”, and it was the episode that saw the sacrifice of Doyle, a half-human, half-Brachen demon. And I admit it was an episode I don’t remember ever actually seeing. I knew of Doyle. I knew that he had died early, but I had not actually seen the episode.
Once I finished watching (Thanks Joss, I didn’t want to sleep anyway). I was struck with the overall significance of the episode to not only Angel and the Buffyverse, but also to the overarching “Joss” style and legacy.
1. Joss’s Wish: Joss finally got his wish to kill off a main character surprisingly early in the run of the show. We have all heard rumors that he wanted Jesse to appear in the opening credits of “Welcome to the Hellmouth” so that he could turn convention on it’s side. Later he would add Tara to the credits of Buffy when she was unceremoniously dispatched in season six causing a cascade effect that drove Willow mad and almost destroyed the world… again. And who could forget “I am a leaf on the wind.” And most importantly a certain recent betrayal that actually caused me to go through the stages of grief. Doyle was established as charming, interesting, likeable, and a great complement to Cordy and Angel. Way before Game of Thrones TV, Whedon writers sent the message: NO ONE IS SAFE.
2. Changes in Queen C: The episode is an essential turning point for Cordelia Chase. Miss Cordy was created to be the anti-Buffy. The Buffy that Buffy would have been had she not been called as the Slayer. In this episode Cordelia inherits the power of premonition from Doyle. This shapes the rest of the series and the rest of Cordelia’s life. But that is too literal, of course gaining a supernatural power will change someone. I was also struck by how the episode set up Cordy to open up and consider Doyle as a romantic partner. This is a huge step away from “Queen C” to Cordelia Chase as a real 3D character.
3. Not everything is what it seems: This is not really a turning point, but I find it to be a quintessential “Joss” style choice is the casting of Sean Gunn as the Brechen demon in the flashbacks. Sean is a comedy actor best known for Gilmore Girls and as the sidekick of Yondu Udonta in Guardians of the Galaxy. He has a style and voice of a nerdy everyman. But he only appears in full make-up. In the continuing Joss through line of throwing convention out the door – the nerd could be the scary demon, the demon could be the victim, and the victim could be the Slayer.
4. Redemption: Here we have 40 minutes of television that perfectly portrays a theme that shows up time after time in the work of Whedon. Angel is all about redemption and atonement. Doyle’s sacrifice brings his story full circle. It also serves as a small version of Angel’s complete story arch, and Giles, and Willow, and Mal, and the list goes on.
I can’t finish an article about Doyle without mentioning the manner in which Glenn Quinn was discharged from Angel. While the affects were obviously amazing in terms of storytelling, we all know that Quinn’s continued drug abuse made for difficult work days. And just two years after this episode, he died of a drug overdose. – The wiki mentions that Joss was considering bringing back Doyle as a “big bad” for Angel. But he passed away before that plan could come to fruition. Say no to drugs, kids!