It's actually pretty hilarious that the Beast is written out with such an underwhelming death sequence, since we're now at the point where Angel season four moves onto a whole new platform of awesomeness. The previous run of Beast-centric episodes have been problematic, with one of the major issues being the Beast's lack of presence as an antagonist. But with Angelus running wild in the city, Faith crashing into the show and bending everyone to her rule and a plot-twist doozy of a ringmaster pulling all the strings, Angel has once again hit the ground running...
Even before Faith shows up, Salvage explores an interesting point in time. Cordelia's evilness has given this lengthy arc added dimension, the show portraying her as an arch bad girl with a sly smile and one kinky relationship with her rocky fall-guy, but still hasn't exactly explained who or what this person actually is. It's not Cordelia, but you're left questioning whether she's possessed, or if the real Cordy is someplace that's else. If anything, it just shows how expansive this arc is that Cordelia's evil agenda isn't the story given heaviest attention.
On the character front, Wesley's final conversation with Lilah is a gorgeous reflection on their dysfunctional relationship. His subconscious imagines her as a vulnerable peer, somebody damaged by their circumstances and in desperate need of salvation. In a lot of ways, Wesley saw her as an equal, and feels guilty for creating the love that Lilah ended up feeling for him. What began as a mutual deal ended up being crazily unbalanced, and you have to wonder if Lilah really believed their fling would culminate in something so messy -- despite the words Wesley puts in her mouth here. Wesley's ability to dismember her corpse also implies a lot of internal conflict. While Lilah was always happy being shallow and morally disturbed, Wes sure isn't comfortable being this damaged anti-hero, and he ended up hating Lilah and what their relationship represented as much as he needed her.
Elsewhere, Faith's return is ridiculously powerful. Nothing is mentioned of the last time she and Wesley interacted, since both characters are on an entirely different page now -- least of all the desire to save Angel. Faith instantly becomes group leader as she arrives at the Hyperion, setting up a strong task force, dismissing silly tensions and immediately shutting down any attempts to undermine her. Eliza Dushku slips easily back into the role, conveying a strong sense of leadership and heroics as she prepares to go into battle. Her defeat at the hands of the Beast is crushing, but her determination is a total 180 from the damaged sociopath she once was. This girl is a spitfire, and her interaction with the Angel cast works like a rush of adrenalin for the show.
If there's one negative about Salvage, it's the strange brattiness that essentially becomes Connor's entire character. I've been a Connor apologist for a while now, but there's a marked difference in his characterization here compared to previous episodes, something that leaves him appearing antagonistic and needlessly argumentative. At least Faith works him out as soon as she meets the guy. But it's annoying to see the writers alter his personality at the drop of a hat. Then again, it's probably a contrived plot device to give him more motive to shack up with Cordelia, who is already working her magic with that creepy epilogue up in her fortress of evilness -- nothing screams 'evil quasi-incestuous pregnancy hoodoo' like a sinister Rosemary's Baby score and Charisma Carpenter giving every one of her lines a slow, intense delivery. This is nuts, but another wacky plot twist for what is turning out to be Angel's most full-throttle season so far. It's by no means been an easy ride, but it's certainly cornered the market on badass moments of reliable awesomeness. A
Guest stars Andy Hallett (Lorne); Stephanie Romanov (Lilah Morgan); Vladimir Kulich (The Beast); Eliza Dushku (Faith)
Writer David Fury Director Jefferson Kibbee