in ,

Lindsey McDonald — The Righteous Shall Walk A Thorny Path

Angel is a show about redemption. The vampire-with-a-soul-turned-Dark-Avenger has hung up his leather pants and his murderous intentions, and now he’s a champion of good, fighting for the bright side of the Powers That Be. But the great thing about Angel is that it’s not all about Angel. Sure, he’s the focal point, and captain of the team. But he’s not the only one with the redemption arc. Cordelia, Wesley—even Faith comes to LA for character development. Even the bad guys get redemption arcs…whether they work out or not. For example, let’s talk about Lindsey McDonald.

Lindsey McDonald (Christian Kane) is one of the supporting characters that is right there from the very beginning. I don’t know what the thought process was with him, if they planned to do fun stuff with him all along, or if in the pilot, someone realized that this character had potential. He’s one of the lawyers at Wolfram and Hart, the evil law firm that’s the earthly embodiment of Senior Partners, demonic beings who exist on another plane and feed off the dark side of humanity, and they become Angel’s nemesis for a while there. There were a couple of lawyers with fleshed out characters, but Lindsey is far and away my favourite.

We don’t get much about Lindsey McDonald at first. He’s a lawyer, he’s a black hat, and he’s one of many. He’s there in the pilot, representing a client who is a big time player in LA, a vampire, and a scumbag. Angel chucks the client out a window, and battle lines are drawn. The next time we see Lindsey, he teams up with a couple of colleagues to hire rogue Slayer Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku) to take out Angel. That doesn’t work out so well for them, and starts Faith on her own redemption arc. Anyway, it turns out that the Senior Partners don’t want Angel dead after all—they want him dark. They think that if they can reawaken Angelus, the role the vampire with a soul will play in the Apocalypse will be to their advantage. I never understood that logic. Angelus was hardly a team player—anybody’s team. But I digress.

Soon after the Faith thing goes south, that’s when we start to see more of Lindsey. The next episode is “Blind Date”, and Jennifer Badger, who played Vanessa Brewer the blind assassin, was in the previous two episodes doing stunts (uncredited) for Eliza Dushku, so I guess they decided to give her some actual screen time where you saw her face. Vanessa Brewer is a client of Wolfram and Hart’s, she’s going to kill some children, and Lindsey McDonald discovers he’s got a moral line after all. And when a guy like him wants out of a place like Wolfram and Hart, who can he turn to for help?

Lindsey looks serious, Angel's hand on his shoulder

To say there are homoerotic undercurrents of this show would be an understatement. Honestly, when it came to subtext, Angel gave Xena: Warrior Princess a run for its money. Between Wesley (Alexis Denisof) and Lindsey, it was hard to decide which of them had a bigger crush on Angel. The show knew it, too, especially where Lindsey was concerned. Maybe the characters would tell themselves it was a bro thing or a frenemy thing (or a straight up “I hate this guy” thing), but in the entire run of both shows, you never see Angel get his flirt on the way he does when he talks to Lindsey, and all the while he keeps insisting he doesn’t even like him. Talk about issues. It’s not like the flirting doesn’t go both ways. When their paths cross in person again, Angel is masquerading as a lawyer, and Lindsey says to him, “Just when I think I’ve got you figured out, you show up in a suit.” Hate, fascination, jealousy, all add up to one big man-crush, even if he doesn’t know it.

Speaking of issues, Angel is a show on which the daddy issues abound. Lord knows Angel has his own (he ate his father, and then being one came with its own set of problems for a vampire). Daddy issues would be something Angel could bond with Lindsey McDonald over, if Angel weren’t too busy being snarky and flirty with his lawyer nemesis. Lindsey’s own father is a great source of shame to him, along with his dirt-poor upbringing. The life he has now is the result of years of determination to not be that man, or have that life.

That’s the redemption arc I was talking about, albeit a weird one—he’s trying to overcome his dirt-poor childhood and prove his worth, and he’ll do that by being a scumbag if he has to. Not only does he reject that life, but he gets a new father figure into the bargain. Holland Manners (Sam Anderson) is one of the higher-ups at Wolfram and Hart, and he’s had his eye on Lindsey for a long time. Holland Manners is kind of to Lindsey McDonald what Mayor Wilkins (Harry Groener) is to Faith. If you ignore the whole evil thing—a pretty great dad.

In addition to being a show about redemption, Angel is a show about belonging. Does a person have a place in the world, what is that place, and what will they do to attain that place? When Lindsey falters because he doesn’t want to be party to the murder of three children, Holland calls that a crisis of faith. He says that because Lindsey is so young, he doesn’t know what he wants yet, or what is really good for him, or even what his morals are. When Wolfram and Hart realise that the Vanessa Brewer affair has gone sideways and that Team Angel had inside help, Holland calls in the mind readers.

Lindsey is all ready to fight his way out or meet his maker, but no—they name his colleague Lee as having gone behind the firm’s back. The shoot him in the brain right in front of Lindsey, as Holland stares into Lindsey’s eyes. The message of “that could easily have been you, only I like you” comes across loud and clear. And of course, now Holland owns Lindsey McDonald. But Holland is still good evil dad, and he wants what’s best for his protégé. He gives Lindsey the room he needs to deal with his own moral crisis, and then welcomes him back to the fold. Lindsey goes back to Wolfram and Hart, to a significant promotion and a corner office.

Head and shoulders shot of Lindsey wearing a suit and tie

In the Season 1 finale (“To Shanshu In LA”) everything starts to heat up. Wolfram and Hart have made an attack on Angel through his friends, they’ve blown up his office, and that night, they’ve got a big serious magical thing going down. They’re summoning something—we don’t know what, but it’s to be contained in a metal box like a velociraptor. They put a mystical whammy on Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) which has sent her empathic visions into overdrive, and out of her mind. The only cure is in a scroll which is in the law firm’s possession, so Angel crashes the summoning to get it. During the fight over the scroll, Angel literally disarms Lindsey—well, dishands him. Throws an axe, slices the hand clean off. This is where Lindsey’s hatred of Angel really crystallises…can’t really blame the guy for that.

Season 2 is where Lindsey gets his real character development, and it’s of course because he gets a love interest…as much as someone like him can have one of those. It turned out that what was resurrected into the velociraptor box was Angel’s old squeeze Darla (another character who came to this show for growth). When we last saw her, Angel was reducing his sire into a pile of dust in Sunnydale. Somehow, Wolfram and Hart has managed to bring her back…as human. Darla (Julie Benz) is their brilliant plan to turn Angel back to the dark side. Everyone knows about the time they were together, the damage they did, and that’s the way the Senior Partners would like to see Angel. Newly resurrected, Darla is still disoriented, but she’s no dummy. She pegs right away that these lawyers are using her, and she’s going to work them so that she can use them right back in return.

Lindsey is smitten with her from the very beginning. Who wouldn’t be? She’s beautiful, she’s delicate, and she needs him desperately. Lindsey McDonald is enough of a good ol’ boy in his heart that playing the white knight comes naturally to him. And besides, Darla is something he’s not supposed to have. We all want most the thing we are told we can’t have. Holland warns Lindsey repeatedly not to get too attached to her. Among other things, she’s there for Angel. But as far as Lindsey is concerned, she belongs to him. She’s another way of proving how much better he is than everyone at everything. He’s better at white-knighting her than Angel, he’s better at guiding her through W&H’s machinations than his colleague Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov).

Is he actually in love with her? Debatable. I don’t think he thinks he is, because I don’t think he thinks he can feel that particular emotion. It’s definitely the closest thing to it that he’s ever experienced, but it’s all tied up with possessiveness and jealousy and ambition. When Angel talks to Lindsey, he speaks to him as if to a being without a soul, like he himself used to be. And I think Lindsey himself would agree with that. When it comes to loving someone, Angel says, “I wasn’t capable of it and neither are you.”

Lindsey, shirtless, looks in the mirror while shaving his face

I’m sure Lindsey dated at least a little on his way up. Lord knows he constantly has people trying to flirt with him (not just Angel). But until Darla, we aren’t aware of anyone actually having ever gotten under his skin. And again, in Darla’s case, it’s largely because she’s something he’s not supposed to have, and something that he can take away from Angel, the way Angel took his hand. Even Darla knows it. When she first invites Lindsey to make advances, she calls it like it is—“It’s not me you want to screw. It’s him. You all think you can use me to get Angel.”

In “Darla”, when her human soul is beginning to catch up with her (not to mention the plague she had been dying of when she was first made into a vampire 400 years ago), Lindsey really starts crushing her hard. It’s not just the white knight thing at this point, now it’s also rebellion against dad. Holland keeps telling Lindsey that Lindsey should be forming “healthy” attachments…meaning, not the 400-year-old, plague-ridden former vampire. Lindsey is never seen to argue with Holland before, but over Darla, the obedient son turns willful. Lindsey thinks Darla is his Special Project, and is vexed when he isn’t the one to make decisions regarding her, or kept up to date on her status.

When he learns she’s dying of the plague again and he can’t personally help her (and apparently he took the time to have her examined by his own doctor), he turns to Angel, even going so far as to invite Angel into his house. Lindsey is on at least his second whiskey at the time, perhaps numbing the aggravation of having to enlist Angel’s aid to save Darla? Honestly, if Darla was able to pick up some nameless vamp in a bar to potentially turn her back, I don’t know why Lindsey couldn’t have done that too—find some rando vamp that he could have staked afterward, nice and tidy. But Holland had other ideas, which brought Darla back more powerful than ever.

I always wondered if Lindsey resented Drusilla having been brought in to turn Darla for the simple reason that she wasn’t his idea. In any case, Darla gets re-vamped, the grandmother becoming the daughter. Darla and Drusilla are all set to take on LA, with Wolfram and Hart at their backs. Holland himself has suggested that the two of them celebrate with “a massacre”. They take his advice, though not in the way he would have preferred—they eat him, his wife, and a wine cellar full of lawyers at Holland’s home. The only two survivors are Lilah Morgan and Lindsey McDonald.

Lindsey is just as hot for dom, black-clad Darla as he was for submissive Darla in white…there’s a sense of “that’s my girl” as he watches her strut around with her new fangs, permed hair, and pierced navel. He’s got to share Special Projects with Lilah, and Lilah’s not thrilled about that, but I don’t think Lindsey really minds. His heart isn’t with Wolfram and Hart anymore, and he is fine letting Lilah do more of the heavy lifting and the dirty dealings, while he ruminates on his place in the world. And now Holland-dad is gone (as much as his W&H contract will allow, at least), so Lindsey is without the fatherly guidance he once had.

Lindsey, wearing a cowboy shirt, points a sword at someone

When Angel puts the torch to Darla and Drusilla, Lindsey gets his prize back into his clutches again. This time she’s truly his, in his hot little plastic hands (well, one of them being plastic), and he doesn’t have to share her with Wolfram and Hart. He’s keeping her in his apartment, nursing her back to health, bringing her human blood that he’s presumably nicked from the W&H lab. She’s his private little trophy, and being able to possess her makes everything worth it…or at least, you get the idea that’s what he’s been telling himself. Darla is milking the broken damsel in distress thing for all it’s worth, since she is way less broken than she lets her benefactor realise. Though she’s living with him, there’s no sign that she’s been sleeping with him. Maybe she’s been playing up the wounded bird factor because she doesn’t feel like putting out? Or not putting out to play up the wounded bird, so he doesn’t think she’s well enough to be scheming behind his back?

In any case, the annual review is coming up, and everyone at Wolfram and Hart is feeling twitchy and a little helpless. Darla is Lindsey’s saving grace during this time. When she’s helpless and dependent on him, it makes up for how adrift he now feels at work. He’s so into her that he’s willing to overlook that she personally ate Holland Manners, the best father Lindsey McDonald ever had…though with Lindsey’s tendency toward dad-resentment, that was probably easy to blow off. When Darla starts plotting about the ring and the glove and all that, (she’s healthy enough to be up and scheming without me? Say what?), that’s a betrayal, especially after he has put his ass on the line by publicly demonstrating that his loyalties lie with her and not with his employers. And then, of course, the ultimate betrayal—sleeping with Angel.

That wasn’t a thing she had planned on. I don’t think either of them had planned on it. But in the moment, Angel realized that he needed to hit rock bottom, and this was the way he needed to do it. And Darla thought she was going to get Angelus back by giving him that moment of pure happiness, which she didn’t realise wasn’t going to be possible for him with her. When Lindsey finds out (and it’s not like she tries to hide it from him, maybe she knows it’s what he needs to break from her), it’s that hurt little boy watching his father sign away their house all over again.

Did Lindsey truly grasp, deep down, that Darla didn’t love him and never could? Not even when she was human. She’s just not capable. And his need to go kick Angel’s ass isn’t just heartbreak, because it’s mixed up with male pride, and “that’s my toy!” and a whole mixed bag of emotion that Lindsey McDonald isn’t comfortable with. Off comes the tie, on come the cowboy boots, and off he goes in his truck to take Angel out to the woodshed for a whuppin. Of course, that doesn’t go as planned, and Lindsey comes home to no Darla, his plastic hand crushed, probably screwed at work, and no idea when he’s getting his truck back.

Lindsey, wearing manacles, stands between Gunn and Spike, holding his hands out in a "glad to see me?" kind of gesture

“Dead End” was Lindsey McDonald’s swan song…and he actually got to sing in it. Never mind the suspension of disbelief that was required to buy that a guitar could sit in a closet, not even in a case, for a really long time and not need tuning. I always went with the headcanon that Lindsey kept it there in full view as a way to torture himself. Was it kept in tune by whoever it was that Lindsey got to come in and pre-tie all his neckties? Anyway, Wolfram and Hart gives him a brand new hand, only the hand happens to have a mind of its own. It does give him the perfect excuse to drop by Caritas, the demon karaoke bar where people can go to have their paths read by Lorne (Andy Hallett), the empath demon.

Not only is Christian Kane eye candy, he can sing and play guitar (if only they had found an excuse to have him ride a horse the way they did early on in Leverage, the Bingo card of Christian Kane Hotness would have been complete). What’s even better about this is that Angel can’t. One of my favorite things about Angel is the way it constantly takes the piss out of its handsome, strapping leading man. David Boreanaz, for all of the good DNA he got, cannot carry a tune in a bucket, and they used this to its best advantage by occasionally forcing him to sing, and then making fun of him when he can’t. And now not only does Angel have to team up with his nemesis, but he has to watch his entire team fangirling over the lawyer who can sing better than he himself can. It’s great.

Lindsey and Angel track down the source of Lindsey’s evil hand (and a plethora of other spare parts that W&H have been donating to other good little workers like him). It turns out, however, that the hand isn’t so much evil, and the “kill…kill…” messages it has been sending to Lindsey have had a different direction than he realised. The original owner of the hand is an old buddy of Lindsey’s from the mailroom and Wolfram and Hart. He’s floating in a tank, he’s still alive, and he wishes he wasn’t. Lindsey stares at him, sees what Wolfram and Hart is, what they do, and what could just as easily have happened to him. That’s the real turning point for him, when he realises that he is honest to god done with this place.

There’s not a whole lot he can do for his friend in the tank apart from give him the relief he’s asked for. Back at work, the higher-ups are all set to choose Lindsey over Lilah, but before she can do anything drastic, he resigns, and rather theatrically. He makes it known that he’s got enough dirt on the law firm that it will be in their best interest if they let him and his evil hand leave quietly. Angel drops by to say farewell, and get in a bit more flirting before his frenemy hits the road. For all his snarky comments, Angel seems to understand why Lindsey is finally done after all this time. “Losing Darla…even me, as a place to focus your rage.” There’s nothing left for Lindsey McDonald In LA right now, and they both know it.

The show is Lindsey-less for the next couple of seasons. Back in 2007, in the earlyish days of Twitter, I was part of a RP group that a guy started with the notion of tweeting as a fictional character (this was back before the whole world was doing that) within the guidelines of a show that had already happened. The guy picked Xander Harris, and he was tweeting the events of the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in order, as if they were happening. Gradually other people joined up, and then Team Angel got added on when she spinoff happened. I happened upon this purely by accident, and took over as Cordelia midway through Angel S1, and then I made a second account so I could tweet as Lindsey. That was such fun, and this period in between canonical appearances was the most fun. From hints dropped later, we know he travelled the world, studying, picking up power, learning everything he could about the Senior Partners so he could come back to LA and take over. I had him tweet from Burning Man, Jazz Fest, mention fighting moves learned from a guy named Eliot Spencer, and flirted with every new follower I got…male and female. Good times.

Lindsey, shirtless, watches as his mystical tattoos disappear

By the time Lindsey reappears in LA, Angel is a different show. I like them both. Lindsey comes back with an agenda, though we’re never really sure if the specifics of it are simply to do away with Angel once and for all, or if they are about something larger. It’s probably both. He weasels his way into Wolfram and Hart via Eve (Sarah Thompson), their liaison, and Spike (James Marsters), who is even more of a flirty/frenemy to Angel than he himself ever was. He sells the recently re-ensouled Spike the same line that Doyle (Glenn Quinn) gave Angel back when they first met—he gets these visions, he says, from the Powers That Be, and Spike is supposed to be the champion that helps the helpless. The Angel/Spike rivalry is an ember that never takes much fuel to get it blazing. When Doyle said it to Angel, however, it was the truth. This scheme of Lindsey’s doesn’t pan out because Cordelia wakes up from her mystical coma with real visions, and a mighty resentment for someone using Doyle’s gig as an alias.

I’ve written about “You’re Welcome” at length elsewhere. It bears mentioning again how much I freaking love that Angel/Lindsey fight, it’s one of my two very favourite Angel/Buffyverse fights (the other one is Buffy and Caleb in “End of Days”, in case you were wondering). Watching Christian Kane fight is a thing of beauty, and they even worked in an excuse to get him to take his shirt off. Homoeroticism? Please. The fight literally starts off with Lindsey making a dick joke.

Eve may be annoying as a character, but she’s absolutely right when she tells Lindsey that Angel is still the centre of his universe. Does Lindsey really love her? Doubtful, though his affection does seem to grow over the course of their handful of episodes together. Again, Lindsey and human emotions…he’s conditioned himself for most of his life to not have them. Eve is a means to an end to him, a way back into Wolfram and Hart and the Senior Partners. Her love for him is genuine, and she gave up her immortality for him, which somehow, sweet though he may have found it, I never got the sense that he was wild about her putting that responsibility on him.

I’ve written pretty extensively about the finale too. By now, they’ve gone out of their way to rescue Lindsey from the holding dimension where the Senior Partners had him being a suburban Prometheus (he was having his heart cut out on the daily, not his liver). Team Angel is planning to take down the Circle of the Black Thorn, the baddest of the earthly bads, and as far as guys with the inside scoop, Lindsey is the one who knows things. When he gets brought in for one last plotting session with Angel (and one last flirt—after five seasons, we finally get to hear the words “I want you, Lindsey” uttered out loud), Lindsey gets to speak one of the show’s big core messages. “Heroes don’t accept the way the world is. They fight it.” And moreover, he gets to say that to Angel at a time Angel really needs to hear it.

Lorne shoots Lindsey in the show's finale, killing him

He takes out his share of the bad guys and fulfills his commitment to the team. He even comments to his partner Lorne, how funny it is for him to say “team” and actually mean it. Is this a sign of actual redemption, or is it just momentary sentiment? For Lorne’s sake, I hope it was just a momentary thing, and that if Lorne hadn’t pulled that trigger, that the next day, Lindsey would have done another one of his trademark 180s and gone back to making mischief. Going off Lorne’s statement, “I’ve heard you sing,” I think that’s a pretty realistic theory. As it was, Lindsey’s last words are to gripe about being killed by a supporting character as opposed to the leading man.

Still, much as my heart breaks for Lorne, I think it was the right call. Lindsey McDonald is, at his core, too ambitious, too goal-oriented to truly wrap his head around what the team was actually doing there. He showed up to kill some demons, and he did it, and he was good at it. But Angel’s whole greater purpose of bringing the gears of the Senior Partners to a halt for one brief, shining moment, the fight that is fought not for the win, but for the sake of the fight itself…that’s something someone like Lindsey just can’t comprehend.

As I sit here wondering how to close—is it possible that Lindsey is a reflection of Angel’s human nature? I’m not saying that he had much in common with the party guy Liam used to be before Darla turned him. Still, these two consistently had such extreme and specific feelings toward each other (including a tug-of-war over the same girl), I think at least part of that had to be due to each seeing in the other aspects of himself that he didn’t like. Angel’s path was redemption from the harm he had done to others, while Lindsey’s redemption was to rise above the wrongs he felt life had done him. and therein lies the real difference. The righteous shall walk a thorny path, but the truly righteous walks without any hope of reward, cowboy boots or no.

Written by Cat Smith

Cat Smith is the reigning Miss Nerdstiles, having inherited the crown from absolutely no one, because she made it up. She is an actor, a musician, a cosplayer since before they had a word for it, and a general nuisance (General Nuisance *salute*). She and her ukulele have charmed the collective socks off of LI Who and LI Geek, ReGeneration Who, WHOlanta, Potterverse, Coal Hill Con, Time Eddy, MISTI-Con, Hudson Valley Comic Con, Wicked Faire, SqueeCon, The Way Station, and The Pandorica Restaurant . She has written for "Outside In" and "Why I Geek" (among others), and you can find her music on bandcamp at https://missnerdstiles.bandcamp.com/album/who-riginals. Consider supporting her continuing adventures by becoming a patron at patreon.com/missnerdstiles

3 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. Great article and perspective! I found it fittingly ironic that just 4 days before going into my first of four appointments for Lindsey’s seven piece tattoo that this article popped up in my feed.
    I agree on his death, it was a disheartening shock until you realize how appropriately necessary it was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This Would Look Nice On Your Wall: Wallpaper Effects in Twin Peaks

The Old Metal Bar-Steward New Logo

It’s Time for The Old Metal Bar-Steward Episode 11