Writing something purely for the fans is without doubt a double-edged sword. You can become so swamped in knowing, continuity-leaden moments that the whole script gets that feel of online fan-fiction... and that's never a good thing. But sometimes you exploit the series' history in such a celebratory way, throwing in a bunch of moments that are funny and nostalgic and cool, that the episode itself becomes an instant classic. Outside of that very last scene, there are few surprises in You're Welcome. It's not spectacularly well-plotted either, but it's such a rousing testament to Angel's vast accomplishments over the years and its wonderfully creative characters that it quickly becomes one of the finest hours in the show's history.
Cordelia's removal from the series, at least to me, wasn't the soul-destroyer it easily could have been, since the show did such a great job of slowly making her presence slightly redundant. She became sort of nagging and preachy in the third season and appeared, as we knew her, for about thirty seconds in season four. So we'd grown used to not having the old Cordy around, even if Charisma Carpenter herself has only been absent for eleven episodes. But the biggest success story here is the way Cordelia once again becomes so integral to the show. Her presence is so strong that just having her share the screen with her old co-stars feels like the greatest reunion ever imagined.
Charisma sparkles here. The sleepy, almost bored delivery that she adopted during the last two seasons is replaced by this vivid sense of life. She bonds with Wesley again, cracks jokes with Gunn, yelps in horror at the creepy Pee-Pee dude, gets comedically exasperated when Angel literally shakes hands with the Devil, instantly sees through Eve's contrivance, and is overwhelmed by Harmony's goofiness. More than usual, her dialogue is on fire. Who can't resist her declaration that her soul is "better" than Spike's, or when she threatens to feed Eve her own Manolo Blahnik's? It's just a glorious victory that a character you hadn't really noticed that you'd missed is instantly cast as this beacon of nostalgia and wonder. She's Cordy once again.
Cordelia's story itself is completely poignant. She's there to get her guy back on track, imparting wisdom and a sense of hope that has been entirely absent from Angel this year. Gone is his quiet pessimism, his belief that everything is sort of futile. It's also a strong episode the second time around. Knowing that she was never there, you're able to spot Cordelia's mournful quality, her now-even-more-relevant memorial of Doyle ("the first soldier down"), and the way she tries to make amends for last year, believing that it wouldn't be right not to address it, even if she herself had no control over, say, Lilah's murder. Leaving Cordy in a coma would have been a horrible, horrible ending. But You're Welcome is a gorgeous reminder of how much she brought to the show, as well as a testament to her strength as a person, her showy intuition, and her ability to see things for how they really are. She really couldn't have gotten a better send-off.
Even without Cordelia, You're Welcome is still strong. Lindsey's endgame is a little muddled and the creative leaps the show makes in order to have his scheme exposed feel contrived, but it's just crazy fun seeing Lindsey and Angel square off once again, as well as the entire ensemble coming together to defeat him -- whether it's Wes and a dewy-eyed Fred with the potion, or Harmony torturing Eve for information, every character is used effectively, and the team works as a hilarious, elaborate 'unit' for the first time in a while.
As a standalone piece, this ranks up there with the best. But as a celebration of everything the show has accomplished over one-hundred episodes, You're Welcome becomes a masterpiece. Cordelia's death is devastating, but she went out on her own terms and saved the day in the process. Wonderfully paced, laced with strong humor and yes the cleavage is insane, but this is genius. A+
Guest stars Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase); Christian Kane (Lindsey McDonald); Sarah Thompson (Eve); Mercedes McNab (Harmony Kendall)
Writer David Fury Director David Fury