“Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? Nothing. That’s what I found in the boy. No conscience, no fear, no humanity. Just a black void. I couldn’t control him. . . I just sat there and watched as he destroyed everything around him.”
-the Ethros demon, Angel S1E14: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
Brief synopsis: When a little boy is possessed by an Ethros demon, Angel and Wesley have to cobble together an exorcism while attempting to keep the boy’s mother from ruining everything.
Title significance: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is a song that was popularized by Frank Sinatra. It’s not about demon possession. Our episode is, however! The phrase really speaks to the intimate nature of demon possession. The demon is in Ryan’s body, literally under his skin.
But it’s more than just sharing a body. The Ethros demon happened to choose Ryan, a boy without conscience or soul. The Ethros demon himself is terrified of the child, so much so that he just hid in his body, not doing anything except hoping to die. I think the title indicates the close relationship demon and subject are forced to have. The title itself is incredibly creepy when put into this context, and the fact that it’s a love song almost mocks the love of the boy’s family.
Questions of morality: I feel like this episode questions morality in a way that’s a bit different than we’ve seen (in a way). It questions the idea of an intrinsic morality, of whether or not one’s lifestate has a baseline morality. Everyone assumes that Ryan is innocent, of good moral standing because he is a child. We discover this assumption is wrong.
This echoes the anomaly that is Angel. All vampires are evil and all children are good is what the thought is. However, we have a good vampire and an evil child. The very idea of the two of them plays off each other, and forces us to examine our preexisting notions of morality based on what someone is instead of who.
Intrigue of moral ambiguity: A nice parallel to Angel.
What “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” does right:
- Doyle – Doyle’s death occurred five episodes ago. I’m definitely glad they’re bringing it up. We get some fantastic emotion out of Angel (and to a lesser extent, but worth mentioning, Cordelia), and I think calling Wesley Doyle was a nice touch. It’s nice to see that this death is still affecting their lives.
- Subversion of expectations – This episode does this multiple times. First, there is the suspicion that the father is the demon, or at the very least, abusive. Then it turns out he’s actually a pillar of strength in the family and the son is possessed. Then we get the revelation that Ryan is even more evil than the Ethros demon, so much so that the demon fears him and wanted to end his own life to get away. These are both excellent twists and make the episode stand out.
- The story – I was utterly fascinated by this episode. The entire concept of a demon who has lived for eons corrupting souls wanting to die because he couldn’t stand the horror of what that child was capable of is very interesting. It gives the demon more character, and it makes Ryan that much more horrifying.
What “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” could have done better:
- Cordelia – Sometimes Cordelia is pretty fun. But so many times this episode my reaction was along the lines of “Really, Cordelia?” The things she said to parents didn’t work very well as comic relief both got the parents and for the audience. It turns her from a character to a caricature, never a good thing.
- Ending – I think the ending was a bit rough. When the son they thought was cured decides to try and burn his sister, no one questions why it happened. Why does no one turn to Angel and say “I thought you took care of this?” Why doesn’t the mother try to claim that it was still the demon because her precious little boy could never try to kill his sister (and she would; she was a bit of a psycho herself)? Why is no one concerned by the way he looks at his sister when she gets two more marshmallows than him? I swear his mother might be the dumbest person on television.
- Who did what – There are certain things I want explained. For example, if the Ethros demon can’t control Ryan, is Ryan the one who was reading Wesley’s mind and who tried to kill his mother? But that would require the demon’s powers. Was he able to use the demon’s powers? The demon wouldn’t be doing any of that. He wanted out. Why would he put up roadblocks? I’m not entirely sure what went on there after the Ethros demon manifested.
Overall: A fantastic episode.