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"Why We Fight" is the thirteenth episode of the fifth season of Angel and the 101st episode in the series. Written by Steven S. DeKnight with Drew Goddard and directed by Terrence O'Hara, it was originally broadcast on February 11, 2004, on The WB network.


Lawson, a mysterious man from Angel's past, arrives at Wolfram & Hart and takes the gang hostage. Through flashbacks to World War II, it is revealed that Angel worked with the U.S. Navy to recover a captured German submarine with American sailors on board. The ship also has a secret cargo, a dangerous trio of vampires, including Spike, who were kidnapped by the Germans and forced to help the Nazis. When the sub comes under attack, Angel saves Lawson's life by turning him into a vampire. Now, sixty years later, Lawson has arrived at Wolfram & Hart seeking revenge.[1]


It's 1943, and a submarine is moving through the Atlantic Ocean as its crew begins to panic. An officer named Lawson issues orders to the crew as their captain is suddenly grabbed and killed by an unseen creature.

In the present, Angel's team discusses the fact that Eve has vanished. Wesley is concerned about her threats of revenge, but Gunn thinks that the Senior Partners will take care of her for them. Angel wants to make sure that Lindsey is being punished as well, but Gunn notes that the white room is still empty, so they no longer have a link to the Senior Partners. Gunn knows of a procedure to allow them to establish a new link, but has trouble recalling the information which he puts down to tiredness.

Angel takes this as a cue to let them all go home, surprising the team who aren't used to being let go before midnight on a Friday. However, they all still have work to do, so agree to meet up again in a few hours for another discussion. They split up as Lawson arrives in the building. Later, Fred encounters him in the science lab and is disturbed that he knows her name. She backs away, but he warns her that, if she runs, he will have to stop her. He tells her that he's an old friend of Angel from "back when he was in his patriotic phase."

Back in 1943, Angel is sitting alone in a New York City apartment when a group of military officers armed with stakes burst inside. They represent a new agency, the Demon Research Initiative, and their goal is to recruit Angel to join the war effort. They need his assistance to rescue a German prototype submarine that has been commandeered by the American military. The crew ran into trouble on the way home and is now trapped in enemy territory. No human soldier can reach the sub because of the extreme cold and pressure at the bottom of the ocean, conditions that pose no threat to a vampire. Angel is initially resistant to participating, but it soon becomes clear that he has no real choice.

In the sub, Lawson and his surviving shipmates are barricaded into a small section of the submarine, temporarily safe but unable to control the submarine. As they evaluate their options, they are alarmed to hear a clanging sound in the tubes until Lawson recognizes it as Morse code: an SOS signal. They open the tube and discover Angel inside.

In the present, Lawson captures Wesley as he attempts to help Fred.

In the submarine, Angel asks for the captain and is informed that he is dead and that Lawson is now in charge. Angel issues an order and provides a verification code to assure the crew that he is on their side. He heads for the hatch to confront the creature and comes face-to-face with a dark-haired Spike, clad in a black leather Nazi jacket. Angel asks Spike if he is a Nazi, and he answers no, he just ate one. Spike assumes that Angel was grabbed by the S.S. the same way he was — at a false "free virgin blood party."

Spike introduces Angel to the two other recently freed prisoners, the vampires Nostroyev and the Prince of Lies. When Spike learns that several humans are still alive, he wants to kill them; Angel forbids killing the humans because they need the crew to get back to the surface. Spike tries to prove that he can steer them out, but he just sets off an alarm. When Nostroyev insists upon killing all but one of the crew, Angel kills him. Angel reiterates his demand that no humans be killed, and Spike gives him the two-fingered salute and a "heil Hitler."

In the present, Lawson confronts Angel in his office. Angel recognizes him and learns that Lawson has been keeping tabs on him over the past 60 years.

In the sub, Angel introduces the crew to Spike and the Prince of Lies, telling them to put the vamps to work. As Angel and Lawson move the dead crew members out of the way, Lawson says that he is not sure how to feel about Spike being there, since he killed the captain. Angel reminds him that they have to follow orders and bring the sub in. Lawson replies that "there's a difference between orders and purpose," and he can handle dying as long as it is for a greater purpose. Angel tells him that the job they do will help win the war, so they need to work together.

In the present, Lawson asks Angel if he only did what he did on the sub for himself; he wants to understand "why we do what we do." Angel attacks Lawson and starts to stake him with a coffee table leg, but Lawson asks if he really wants to do that. Angel reminds him that the last time they saw each other, Angel promised he would kill Lawson the next time they met. Lawson says that he would never come to Angel without having something up his sleeve. He takes Angel to a conference room, where Angel sees that Wesley, Fred, and Gunn are all tied up and standing on office chairs. Lawson explains that the gang have wire around their necks, so if they get knocked off their chairs, they'll be decapitated.

Back on the sub, the crew takes command of the submarine while Spike complains to Angel that he wants to steer the sub and be addressed as "Captain." Angel puts him to work and tries to assure Lawson that he can control Spike. They two hear screaming from the next room and rush over to discover that the Prince of Lies is beating up the captured Nazi. He and Lawson try to get the Prince of Lies away from the Nazi, but Angel has to stake him to stop him. Angel has to explain to Lawson that the Prince of Lies was a vampire.

Spike points out that the Prince of Lies was holding a report in German and demands that the Nazi tell them what it contains. Lawson translates an impromptu interrogation while Spike "menaces" the Nazi officer, who reveals that the Nazis have been doing experiments on vampires, trying to learn how to control them. The Nazis eventually plan to use the controlled vampires in the Nazi army. Spike is furious and assumes that the Americans have similar plans. Accordingly, Spike reiterates his desire to kill the crew, but Angel and Lawson stop him. Lawson insists that the Americans would never experiment on vampires or try to control them, saying: "You don't win a war by doing whatever it takes. You win by doing what's right." Angel tells Spike to burn the report, which he does (while singing "God Save the King"), much to the dismay of the Nazi officer. By this time, Spike has figured out that Angel is playing both sides, and expresses both surprise and respect for the move.

They hear an explosion, and a distracted Spike accidentally sets his clothes on fire instead of burning up the whole report. Enemy destroyers are spotted and the crew tries the submarine, but, after more explosions, the sub is rendered motionless. The sub starts taking on water and Angel helps fix the pipes to stop the flow. As Spike notes that the Nazi has disappeared, Lawson looks for his screwdriver. He turns around, and the Nazi stabs him in the stomach with the missing screwdriver. Angel tries to get the dying Lawson to tell him how to get the sub home. Lawson says that he's the only one who is capable of doing what needs to be done.

Angel vamps out and bites Lawson, then makes Lawson drink from him. Angel heads back to the main room and tells the crew to get ready to surface. The newly-sired Lawson repairs the sub and thanks Angel. However, he now wants to eat the rest of the crew, since he and Angel do not need them anymore. Angel takes Lawson to the main room, warning the rest of the crew to keep their distance from him, and forces him to leave the sub to swim the 20 miles to dry land. He warns Lawson that the sun will come up in eight hours, and tells him that, if he ever sees him again, he will kill him. As Lawson leaves the sub, Spike laughs at Angel's actions, telling him that he is "still a dick," and is irritated when Angel also forces him to leave.

In the present, Angel tells Lawson that he never wanted to sire Lawson, but Lawson notes that it seems fair to sacrifice his life to help the Americans. Angel tells him that killing the gang will not change the past; Lawson says that it will hurt Angel, which might be enough for him. "It never is," Angel replies. They fight, and Lawson accuses Angel of making him nothing because Angel gave him a little bit of his soul. Lawson tries to stake Angel, who turns the stake around so it is pointing at him. "Go on, Chief. Give me a mission," Lawson says. Angel stakes him.

The next day, Spike goes to Angel's office, explaining that Fred filled him in on the events of the previous night. He thinks that Lawson was there for revenge, but Angel says that he came there for "a reason."


  • It is hinted that Gunn's legal upgrade is starting to fade away. In "Smile Time," Sparrow will reveal he had Gunn's neural path modification revert with time so he can perform a permanent upgrade in exchange for a favor.
  • The mentioned "Demon Research Initiative" is likely a precursor to the Initiative. Contrary to Lawson's insistence, a significant portion of the Initiative's work eventually involves capturing vampires and demons and experimenting on them, attempting to develop a race of super-soldiers to use as military tools. When Spike is captured in "The Initiative," he asks a fellow prisoner the identity of the captors who mean to conduct experiments on them, specifically guessing that either "the government" or "the Nazis" are involved.
  • Lawson knows about Angel's past eating rats on the streets during the 1990s, as seen in "Becoming, Part One."
  • Angel says, "I'm not getting trapped at the bottom of the sea," and Spike says, "I'm not getting experimented on by [the American] government." In "The Initiative," Spike gets an anti-human aggression chip in his brain, and, in "Tomorrow," Connor traps Angel in a box and sinks him in the Pacific Ocean.
  • After the incident on the submarine, Spike and Angel won't meet again until Spike comes to Sunnydale in "School Hard."



Organizations and titles[]





Death count[]

  • Captain Franklin, blood drained by Spike (in flashback).
  • The submarine's staff, drained by Spike, Nostroyev, and the Prince of Lies (in flashback).
  • Nostroyev, staked by Angel (in flashback).
  • The Prince of Lies, staked by Angel (in flashback).
  • Heinreich, killed by Lawson (in flashback).
  • Sam Lawson, sired by Angel (in flashback).
  • Sam Lawson, staked by Angel.

Behind the scenes[]


  • The episode is titled after the series of America World War II-era propaganda films Why We Fight, which explained the reasons why the US was involved in the war.
  • The names of Commander Petrie and Mr. Fury are likely references to the Buffyverse writers/directors Douglas Petrie and David Fury.
  • This episode marks Alexis Denisof's 100th appearance as Wesley, dating back to his introduction in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bad Girls."
  • Camden Toy, who plays the Prince of Lies, previously appeared in Buffy as one of the Gentlemen in "Hush," Gnarl in "Same Time, Same Place," and a Turok-Han throughout season 7.
  • The lines in German are:
    "Nein! Bitte! Ich flehe dich an—" (No! Please! I beg you—)
    "Danke. Er haette mich sonst umgebracht." (Thanks. Otherwise he would have killed me.)
    "Dein Kleingeist wuerde unsere Arbeit echt nicht verstehen." (Your little mind really wouldn't understand our work.)
    "Was sind das fuer Papiere? Ich werde ihn nicht aufhalten koennen. Was sind das fuer Papiere?" (What are these papers? I won't be able to stop him. What are these papers?)
    "Nachforschungen." (Investigations)
    "Was fuer Nachforschungen?" (What investigations?)
    "Intra-Gehirn Anregung und Macht ueber Sub-Dämonen. Genauer: Vampire." (Intra-brain stimulation and power over sub-demons. More precisely: vampires.)
    "Da sind wir nicht die Einzigen, mein Junge... Nicht wahr?" (We're not the only ones, my boy... Are we?)
    "Genug!" (Enough!)
    "Nein! Nein!" (No! No!)

Pop culture references[]

  • Wesley mentions playing "lots of" the game Jenga before the AI team got their jobs.
  • Commander Petrie mentions the German admiral Karl Dönitz, Supreme Commander of the Navy in 1943.
  • Angel issues an order "Charlie Baker Oboe Victor," based on the NATO phonetic alphabet, which uses a set of words for communicating letters of the alphabet. "Oboe" was used for the letter "o" until 1949, when it was replaced with "Oscar."
  • A sailor says that Angel must be some kind of super soldier like Steve Rogers or Captain America. A fellow sailor then corrects him telling him that these characters are one in the same.
  • Nostroyev introduces himself as butcher of Alexander Palace, a former imperial residence in Russia.
  • Nostroyev declares himself as the lover of the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin (1869–1916).
  • Spike sings "God Save the King," the national anthem of the United Kingdom.



  • During the flashback sequences, there are anachronistic phrases like "back in the day," "hold it together," "don't lose your cool," a joke that assumes everyone is familiar with a melon-baller, etc. abound.

International titles[]

  • Czech: "Zač bojujeme" (Why We Fight)
  • Finnish: "Sotamuisto" (War Memory)
  • French: "Le sous-marin" (The Submarine)
  • German: "Unter Wasser" (Underwater)
  • Hungarian: "Egy arc a múltból" (A Face from the Past)
  • Italian: "Perché lottiamo" (Why We Fight)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "A Razão da Luta" (The Reason for the Fight)
  • Russian: "Почему мы сражаемся" (Why We Fight)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Porque luchamos" (Why We Fight)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Porque luchamos" (Why We Fight)
  • Turkish: "Kavga Etmemizin Nedeni" (Why We Fight)


Promotional stills[]

Behind the scenes[]



Angel: "We got a job to do. That job is gonna help us win the war. I don't need you to understand every detail, but just know we're fightin' on the same side. I need you to trust that I'm gonna get us all through this... safe and sound."
Spike: "Really ought to do something about security. They'll let anybody in here, won't they? Fred gave me the cliff notes. So sailor boy finally came back for a yo-ho-ho, did he?"
Angel: "Finally came back."
Spike: "Took him long enough. Know revenge is best served cold and all, but his must've been frozen solid."


  1. "angel: 1943." The WB.com. Archived from the original on October 19, 2004.