"Destiny" is episode 8 of season 5 in the television show Angel. Co-written by David Fury and Steven S. DeKnight and directed by Skip Schoolnik, it was originally broadcast on November 19, 2003 on the WB network. In "Destiny", when a mysterious package arrives at Wolfram & Hart that renders Spike corporeal again, Eve claims the universe is in chaos because the Shanshu Prophecy states only one vampire with a soul can be the champion of good. Angel and Spike duel over a mystical grail to decide which one will be the champion, as flashbacks show the complex relationship between the soulless vampire Angelus and William the Bloody. Guest star Juliet Landau reprises her role as Drusilla, and Christian Kane makes an uncredited appearance at the end of the episode playing Lindsey McDonald. See List of Angel episodes for a complete list.
Gunn returns with news that the elevator to the Senior Partners opened into a howling abyss. Eve thinks the solution is in the Shanshu prophecy, but Angel says he just read it and it wasn’t helpful. Spike is surprised he has been reading the prophecy which he claims not to believe in. They decide someone from Wesley’s department needs to look over the prophecy, and meet with Sirk, who tells them that they read a translation and therefore didn’t get everything out of it. He retranslates: “The balance will falter until the vampire with a soul drinks from the Cup of Perpetual Torment”. Sirk says that whoever drinks from the cup is the one who was destined to, and once the champion is decided the universe will go back to normal. Sirk says the cup is in a destroyed opera house in Death Valley, Nevada.
Back in 1880, Angelus and William celebrate a wedding massacre, until William leaves to be with Drusilla, whom William calls his “destiny.” Shortly after, William discovers Angelus having sex with Drusilla; the two laugh at William and Angelus taunts him with his earlier words. At the opera house, Spike and Angel battle it out for the cup. Spike points out that Angel's soul was forced upon him as a curse, but Spike fought for his because it was the right thing to do. Angel says he only did it so he could sleep with Buffy. Spike says that Angel has already chosen the side of evil by working at Wolfram & Hart. Angel retaliates that it is a lot more complicated than Spike thinks, telling Spike that he (Spike) was always "a little simple". In the science lab, Gunn begins bleeding from the eyes, warning Fred not to trust Eve. He starts choking Eve, demanding to know who she really is. Fred tends to Eve, who starts crying and says that she knows what all the group think of her, but she's "not the bad guy." Back in 1880, William fights Angelus for sleeping with Drusilla. Angelus tells him that no one belongs to anyone, and William should take Drusilla if he wants her; William chooses to keep fighting.
At this point, the fight has become very personal (on a number of levels) for both vampires, and both do whatever they can to hurt (physically and emotionally) the other. Spike lashes out at Angel, saying Angel was the one who made him a monster, that Angel just wanted something in the world as bad as him, and goads Angel about his (Spikes) sexual past with Buffy. In turn, Angel laughs off Spike's claims that Spike is a hero, points out that he simply opened the door to let the real Spike out, and dismisses Spike's past with Buffy, telling Spike "That's why Buffy never really loved you. Because you weren't me." Spike stakes Angel’s shoulder, saying he would have dusted Angel but he doesn’t want to hear Buffy complain. Spike grabs the cup and Angel tells him that it’s not a prize - it’s a burden: "Do you even really want it? Or is it that you just want to take something away from me?” “Bit of both,” Spike replies, drinking from the cup. His expression changes as he realizes the cup is filled with Mountain Dew. Angel returns to Wolfram & Hart with the news that the cup was a set-up; Sirk has disappeared. Gunn and Harmony regain consciousness, back to normal.
Back in Angel’s office, Eve tells everyone the Senior Partners temporarily fixed things. She says that they don’t know anything about Sirk's trick and are as angry as Angel is. Angel confesses to Gunn that Spike beat him because he wanted his mortality more. "What if it means that…I’m not the one?" Angel wonders. Elsewhere in L.A., Eve enters an apartment and undresses, gloating to someone off-camera that Angel and Spike fell for the cup story and Sirk disappeared without the Senior Partners knowing anything. In addition, the gang are wondering if they can trust the Senior Partners. She crawls into bed and we see that she’s with a tattooed Lindsey. "Well...it’s a start," he replies.
In the season retrospective, Joss Whedon says the battle between Angel and Spike in this episode is the highlight of the final season. That battle, Scott McLaren argues, "succeeds in portraying an almost perfect balance between the concepts of the soul as existential metaphor and ontological reality." Since the Shanshu prophesy destines the ensouled vampire to a pivotal and dangerous role in the ultimate battle between good and evil, Spike and Angel's souls function both as "heavy burdens and precious baubles.
Nancy Holder says this episode marks the transition from Spike's characterization as it was in the seventh season of Buffy to a new, "never-before seen" version, defined by his relationship with Angel instead of Buffy. When Angel tells Spike that "Buffy never really loved you, because you weren't me", and Spike responds with "Guess that means she was thinking about you all those time I was puttin' it to her", Holder says that Spike is "betraying all the soft emotion he had for her in his eagerness to deal Angel a blow." Rather than reacting out of love for Buffy, the new Spike cares only about putting down Angel.
Adam Ward, the first assistant/focus puller, says the scenes at the abandoned Opera House were unexpectedly difficult to film. "It's one thing to see it on camera and another being on location in this theater that hasn't been used other than for film shots for decades. You get in there and the matter that floats around looks great on camera but you just don't want to breathe it in."
Juliet Landau, excited to return to Angel, says, "this is a particularly fun episode... There are so many different colors and dimensions. Even though [Spike and I] are the villains and we are evil, there always has been this very sweet love story between us.
This episode, which ran during sweeps month, was praised by TV Guide for the writers' decision to finally make Spike corporeal again. Reviewer Matt Roush says this episode stands with "the best of Buffy. Author Peter David agrees that the producers had perfect timing: "Just when we’re getting sick of Spike as a ghost, suddenly, just like that, poof, he’s not anymore.