Here's the first sign (for me) that it's not a great episode - I start flipping through catalogues half way through. I can't say I hated Why We Fight, but there was nothing that asked for my undivided attention either. After it ended I found the whole thing rather pointless. It wasn't until I read the comments of others on LJ that I realized an attempt was made to deal with some rather significant themes. Still, it could have been handled much more successfully.
My biggest problem with the episode was it reminded me far too much of The X-Files. The sub, the government experiments, the implications of the U.S. government working with the Nazi's, and the brooding, defeated hero just had a been there, done that feel. It seemed like subpar storytelling and nothing that hadn't been done before (and better). Even Angel and Spike's foreshadowing of their own fates seemed forced and obvious.
And speaking of Spike, I'm getting tired of him being written to fit the script. Spike can be rash and impetuous, leading him to act without thinking and falling on his face (or getting his ass soundly kicked by a certain Slayer ;), but he is not dumb and I don't like him being made to look so. Other than some supposedly clever one liners and going into vamp face to scare the Nazi officer, what purpose did he serve? Take Spike out of this episode and nothing really changes. Sure, there is his tie to the Initiative that is yet to be, but this seemed more a 'aren't we being clever!' moment then the foundation for any future story arc.
Of course, as I saw soundingsea mention in her LJ, it does contribute to the theme of is it justifiable to do evil to fight evil? To connect this even more, it was the removal of Spike's chip that led to Buffy to inform Giles she could not and would not be a part of that. Angel's feelings on the subject are apparently much more grey.
It's a slippery slope - Angel's decision to sacrifice one life (or at least one soul) to save many more. Perhaps I would have found Angel's supposedly difficult decision more believeable, intriguing, and poignent had the revelation and resolution not been over so quickly. It wasn't even until the final act that I had any clue as to why Lawson was so bent on seeking revenge and then his motives are shaky at best.
Angel had turned others (Spike, Dru) before and had formed one big dysfunctional family. Yet, Lawson wants Angel to suffer. Why? Because he got just a tiny bit of Angel's soul - or at least the part that contributes to guilt and self-loathing. Uh-Huh. So, by this logic, all those folks Spike turned last year while under control of The First should be showing up pissed off during May swweps. And why did Lawson wait sixty years until Angel was head of W&H? Better yet, why didn't Angel kill Lawson sixty years before? Sure, he felt bad about what he did, but in letting Lawson (and Spike for that matter)to go he allowed him to kill thousands of people. None of this makes much sense and, for me, kills any thematic resonance.
What did I like? Gunn. Or more specifically, the short circuit in his brain. Even more interesting is that while Eve being MIA is understandable, why is the panther now missing too? And can it simply be coincidence that this happens immediately after Lindsey gets taken up to see the Senior Partners? Angel thought he could destroy W&H from the inside, how much more inside could Lindsey be right now?