Amy Acker gets her Alias on with her brand of time-stopping kung-fu and inventive outfits as Illyria, an Old One that's itching to end the world. Fred's mostly gone, but Illyria does have some of her memories (and perhaps feelings), which will factor into her relationship with Wesley.
Ah, Wesley. Alexis' takes his formerly dark attitude from late season 3/early season 4 and launches it off the cliff of sanity. He's like Dark!Willow without the magic or subtlety of fundamental goodness that's hidden. Wesley's done everything for Fred, from giving Gunn the alcohol in "The Price" to launching a hailstorm of bullets into Robot!Daddy in "Lineage." Finally, he's gotten everything he's wanted emotionally in a person, and she goes and dies. "Lineage" did show that he would go off the deep end for her, but now that Fred's gone, Wesley's lost a greater part of his life than everyone else and doing what's right is gone.
Gunn's continued fall from grace landed him in a hospital. But it's a character-redeeming effort that he's willing to become the muscle that only hits things again if it'll mean Fred'll live. It's too little, too late, of course. But it does beg the question: did the Senior Partners plan this or did Dr. Sparrow pull a fast one to entice Gunn back and get his package back? I'm guessing the latter as the Partners did lock Illyria's door to her temple.
The most significant thing our ensouled vampires had was in the beginning and end as they related to each other over choices. Angel knew that he couldn't kill thousands for one person, but I wonder if he had gotten to the Deeper Well in time if he would still have, "Screw[ed] the world." Spike, on the other hand, is now firmly based in L.A. as it's what "she" would have wanted. Whether that's Buffy or Fred is semi-unknown, but let's assume it's Fred.
But for all of its character analysis, "Shells" is hollow like Fred. We have mourning periods and a villain-of-the-week plot trying to jell together. Illyria feels like it should have been the big, final arc of the season like Angelus in Buffy season 2. Instead we are handed a weird, off-putting permutation of a stand-alone episode with fake-me-out arcliciousness. Plus I've got the nitpick of Angel killing off its female leads (both of them) in 5 episodes. This is not the way I wanted Angel to end its latest bunch of new episodes before the final push in April.