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"Ground State" is the second episode of the fourth season of Angel and the sixty-eighth episode in the series. Written by Mere Smith and directed by Michael Grossman, it was originally broadcast on October 13, 2002, on The WB network.


When Wesley advises Angel to visit Dinza, a dark "goddess of the lost" who has valuable information on how to find Cordelia, he learns that a certain mystical antiquity can locate souls across dimensions. Angel, Fred and Gunn break into an auction house to retrieve the object only to discover that an electrifying cat burglar has the same intentions.[1]


Gills Rock, 1985Mr. and Mrs. Raiden bring their young daughter Gwen to Thorpe's Academy, a school in Gills Rock, Wisconsin. Gwen is dressed in a large coat and mittens so that only her face is exposed. Lydia Thorpe, the headmistress, thanks the couple for their recent and generous gift to the school and adds that a portion was invested in special accommodations for Gwen. As Gwen and Lydia walk away, the headmistress reminds Gwen that she must stay away from the other students. She bats Gwen's hand away when the girl tries to hold her hand.

Gwen sits under a tree by herself, watching the other children play. She removes a mitten so she can eat, and a boy walks over to her, asking if she is a "freak." Gwen says she does not know, and the boy offers her a toy car. She reaches for it, and a spark flashes from her hand. The toy car has burned to a crisp, and the boy lies unconscious on the ground.

In the present, the Angel Investigations team readies Cordelia's apartment for the landlord to rent it out. Fred tells Angel they paid rent for a few months until they ran out of money. Angel asks whether Dennis knows anything about Cordelia's whereabouts; Fred says he is upset that Cordelia is still missing but knows nothing. The police have been no help, only telling Fred and Gunn to file a missing persons report. When Fred mentions Angel missed out on meeting with Cordelia because of his "ungrateful snot of a son," Angel defends Connor, saying he is just confused and needs time. Fred packs a few books off the mantel into a box; when she looks up, they have appeared on the mantel again. Fred yells at Dennis that Cordelia is not coming back to the apartment. She then apologizes for the outburst, and Angel says they will keep Cordelia's things safe at the hotel. Fred remarks that you expect things to be where you left them and asks what happens when they aren't there once you get back. Angel answers: "You go find them."

Wesley and several colleagues of his paramilitary organization fight a demon in a basement. Angel enters it just as Wesley kills the demon, retrieving a key to the motel room where a man is being held prisoner. Angel thanks Wesley for rescuing him and says that, as far as he's concerned, he and Wesley are okay again. Wesley opens a metal briefcase and hands Angel a file from inside. When Angel gives him a puzzled look, Wesley tells him it is what he came for — the file contains all the information he has gathered about Cordelia's disappearance. Wesley believes Cordelia is alive but no longer in this dimension; the goddess Dinza might have information, but only the dead can enter her lair. Angel asks if Dinza can tell him where Cordy is. Wesley explains she can only tell him where to look and warns that Dinza is untrustworthy. As Angel asks how to gain her trust, Wesley closes the briefcase and walks off.

Angel searches for Dinza's lair through the sewer. When he enters the right chamber, it magically transforms, and he is face-to-face with the goddess. Dinza says Cordelia is far away and no longer needs him, but Angel replies he needs her. Dinza says he should look inside the Axis of Pythia, an ancient power that bridges all dimensions. When Angel asks Dinza why he should trust her, she replies she would love to keep him, but he has much more to lose.

Gwen Raiden, now grown up, enters a white-tablecloth restaurant wearing a revealing outfit. All the men turn to stare at her as she walks across the room. She takes a seat at a table across from Elliot, who has employed her to steal the Axis of Pythia. She claims it is worth 33 million dollars, but he wants to pay her a commission based on a value of only 6 million. He tells her to deliver the Axis to a private high-rise downtown, where he will be waiting in the penthouse with her payment. When she tells him he'd better increase the amount, he remarks that, due to her high recommendations, he assumed she would be more professional. She reveals the watch she took off his wrist, and he tells her it is worth $12,000. Gwen zaps it in her hand with her electrical power, tosses it on the table, and walks away.

From her higher plane, Cordelia watches her friends in the Hyperion Hotel. Fred gives a presentation on the Axis of Pythia, forged from the tripod for the Delphic Oracle. With the power to locate souls and entities across dimensions, the Axis is being held under tight security at Chandler's Auction House, which deals in black market objects. Angel is confident he can steal it without anyone going to prison. When Fred leaves the room, Angel mentions how impressed he is that she stepped up while he was gone, reminding him of Cordelia.

In her apartment, Gwen prepares for a heist. She slings a bag of tools over her shoulder, and a gloved butler presents her with a tube of lipstick on a silver platter. Gwen uses a computer screen as a mirror to apply the red color to her lips and smiles at herself.

Lilah and Wesley make out in his apartment. Lilah says she knows he kidnapped Justine and rescued Angel from the ocean. As they roll onto the floor, Wesley says he rescued Angel because the vampire is necessary to fight against people like her. She remarks that Wesley did her a favor; Angel kicked out Connor and she intends to befriend the boy for the benefit of Wolfram & Hart. Wesley says he doesn't care to hear her evil plans. She replies that knowing she has them turns him on.

Gunn knocks out a security guard and drags him to a room with four other unconscious, bound guards. Angel finds the vault and sprays one of the aerosols, revealing laser beams crisscrossing the room. Suddenly, a metal gate crashes down, blocking his access. Gwen enters the vault and uses her powers to bend the security beams out of her way. Angel stares and asks who she is. Gwen replies she is a freak and walks into the vault while Angel tries to lift the gate. He pleads with her to let him use the Axis to find a woman he cares about; after that, she is free to take it. Gwen asks Angel if he really loves the woman he is trying to find. Angel confirms, but Gwen accuses him of trying to deceive her and steps back to the rope to climb out. Fred breaks into the vault's security system, and alarms sound. When the gate opens, Gunn grabs Gwen's legs to stop her from escaping, and she pushes him off with her bare hand, causing a violent shock. Gunn falls on the ground with a blank stare. Angel checks for a pulse and announces Gunn is dead.

As Fred runs to Gunn, Gwen breathes heavily and leans against the wall to balance herself. She has a flashback to when she shocked the little boy as a child at Thorpe's Academy. Gwen runs towards Gunn, knocking Angel and Fred out of the way, and gives him a few shocks to the chest, which restarts his heart. As Gunn awakens with a gasp, Angel picks up Gwen and throws her against a wall. They begin to fight, but Fred interrupts them, telling Angel they need to get Gunn to a hospital. As Angel goes to his friend, Gwen escapes the vault.

Connor walks by himself near a homeless encampment. Lilah observes him through binoculars as he lies on the ground, wrapping himself in a blanket. Angel surprises her from behind, asking her if she missed him. Lilah remarks he let Connor off easy, and Angel says the boy knows he messed up. Lilah asks if he's trying the "guilt is its own punishment" routine, and Angel confesses it is his specialty. He tells her about the theft of the Axis of Pythia and mentions that only clients of Wolfram & Hart can afford such relics. Angel offers to ignore that she was spying on his son if she finds out the responsible within the hour. When she questions his morality for coming to her for help, Angel reveals he can smell Wesley's scent all over Lilah and vice-versa.

In his room, Gunn examines a printout of his EKG reading. He attempts to make a joke to Fred about almost dying, but she isn't amused. When Gunn inquires about her well-being, Fred complains about how tired she is of holding everything up at Angel Investigations. She thought it would be easier with Angel back then reiterates how scared she was when Gunn almost died. As he gets up to comfort her, she sobs in his arms.

Gwen walks into a fancy lobby carrying a bag. She presses the elevator button and checks her lipstick in the mirror. Angel comes up behind her and startles her. They begin to fight, and Gwen shocks him with blows to the chest. The electricity does not affect him, which confuses her. Sitting on top of him, she rips open his shirt and presses both her bare hands against his chest. The electric shocks start Angel's heartbeat, and he sits up with a surge of energy and begins kissing Gwen. A set of thick bars slam down and trap them in the elevator. Gwen looks at Angel in disbelief, commenting that he is alive. Angel blurts out Cordelia's name and says he has to get out of there.

The elevator door opens to reveal Elliot. He chastises Gwen for being indiscreet and unprofessional, calling her a freak. He declares he will send lethal gas into the elevator. The doors shut, and the poison begins to pour in. While Elliot sits in the lobby, he talks to his wife on the phone. Angel and Gwen eventually break out of the elevator using her powers to short-circuit the utility panel. When they enter the lobby, Gwen wants to kill Elliot for calling her a freak, but Angel stops her. He tells Gwen he isn't normal either, but sometimes you have to let it go. Angel then punches Elliot, knocking him out. Gwen says that anyone that bad at stealing has got to be doing it for love. Gazing at Angel, Gwen remarks, "Bummer," and walks away, leaving the Axis with him.

Gunn and Fred wait outside Angel's room as he uses the Axis. He emerges and says he has found Cordelia: she is now a higher being working for the Powers That Be, surrounded by a light of pure joy and warmth. Angel isn't surprised where she is, and, in some small way, knowing the good she's doing up there makes it easier; even if he can't see or talk to her, it's like she's still on his side. The three resign to never seeing Cordelia again, but they take comfort in the fact that she's in a place of joy and love, which is where she belongs.

As Cordelia observes them from her higher plane, she questions if they are deficient, and yells in frustration: "Get me out of here!"


  • The AI team is unable to contact Lorne, and Gunn says they could've gone to Las Vegas. They'll discover Lorne's situation when they go to Las Vegas in "The House Always Wins."
  • Angel tell Wesley he forgives him for kidnapping Connor in "Sleep Tight."
  • Gunn mentions the time he and Angel stole "the crazy-making death shroud that nearly killed [them]," a reference to the events from the episode "The Shroud of Rahmon."
  • Angel mentions that he has done a heist like the one in this episode "maybe twice" before. In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Choices," he and Buffy broke into the Mayor's office to steal the Box of Gavrok. Another instance when Angel worked with Lindsey to steal hard drives from Wolfram & Hart in "Blind Date."
  • Angel reveals to Lilah that he knows of the relationship between herself and Wesley. Their sexual relationship started in "Tomorrow."



Organizations and titles[]




Death count[]

  • One demon, beheaded by Wesley.
  • Gunn, electrocuted by Gwen (revived).

Behind the scenes[]


  • This is the only episode of the fourth season, and the last episode of the series, not to feature Andy Hallett.
  • Gwen's last name, Raiden, is a reference to Raijin (also known as Raiden), the god of storms and thunder from Japanese Shinto mythology.


  • "Ground State" had an audience of 2.5 million households upon its original airing.[2]

Pop culture references[]

  • Wesley says Dinza is one of the Eleusinian Mysteries, initiations held yearly for the cult of Demeter and Persephone in ancient Greece.
  • Angel asks Dinza if she knows the location of the fictional lost City of Atlantis, the mythological treasure Holy Grail, and the labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa who disappeared in 1975.
  • Gwen fuses Elliot's watch and describes it as Surrealism. This is a reference to Salvador Dalí's painting The Persistence of Memory, which depicts melted clocks and watches.
  • Lilah refers to herself as Mrs. Robinson, the glamorous older woman who seduces the title character in the film The Graduate.
  • Gunn says that climbing a fire escape ladder is "so much harder" than it looks on the 1966 Batman series.
  • Gwen sings about the Axis of Pythia: "It's fun for a girl and a boy," quoting the jingle from the TV ad for the toy Slinky.
  • Fred asks Gunn if he saw something interesting like the actress Shirley MacLaine when he was dead.
  • Gunn says that would have picked hm up and "Flash Gordoned" him to the ER," referring to the fictional hero.
  • Gwen compares Elliot's threat of turning on the gas on her and Angel to the supervillain Lex Luthor.


  • In the 1985 flashbacks, Gwen is seen wearing an Old Navy jacket, as indicated by the brand name on the zipper. Old Navy was not founded until 1994.


International titles[]

  • Czech: "Uzemnění" (Grounding)
  • Finnish: "Salamasotaa" (Lighting War)
  • French: "Cordélia, où es-tu?" (Cordelia, Where Are You?)
  • German: "Die Achse der Pythia" (The Axis of Pythia)
  • Hungarian: "Alapállapot" (Ground State)
  • Italian: "Stato fondamentale" (Ground State)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Nível Mais Baixo" (Lower Level)
  • Russian: "Заземление" (Grounding)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "El Axis de Pythia" (The Axis of Pythia)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Estado terrenal" (Earthly State)
  • Turkish: "Zeminin Durumu" (Ground State)


Behind the scenes[]


  1. "angel: Ground State." TheWB.com. Archived from the original on October 18, 2004.
  2. "Nielsen Ratings for Angel's Fourth Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008.