So let's get the plot mechanics out of the way, because I thought it was secondary to what the episode was really about. Ben Edlund was able to just make jaws drop by committing actions that aren't supposed to happen on Angel, like the title character being dusted. For those that weren't spoiled, I bet that knocked them over for a second. (Do have a problem with the appearance of Lorne dead, as he shouldn't have been since his body wasn't mutilated ["There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb"].) I also have a problem with Wesley's retraction of the device not killing Illyria. Seems like Edlund wrote himself in a direction and then brought in the Misdirection Fairy to get him out. We've now got a weakened but still ego-trippin former god on our hands, though. It'll be interesting how Illyria readjusts to this and how she'll fit in.
Wedged into this episode was an obvious plot device called "Amanda and the Fell Brethren." By episode's end, it was screaming at us in neon lights its symbolic meaning, which is so beneath Angel. It provided some brevity and lightness to the episode (who knew demons could also be Jewish mothers?) but it felt unnatural by the end because it appeared to have been dropped from focus after Act 2.
What "Time Bomb" was really about was the one-on-one character interactions. I think this was the most balanced episode of season 5 to date where almost every character (minus Harmony) got meaningful screen time instead of being slighted.
Wesley: He's bought a one-way ticket on the Cuckoo-Cuckoo train that's rapidly looking like it's non-refundable. After unleashing the memories of seasons 3 & 4 having to do with Connor, he's even more unstable here. His attachment to Illyria is growing, and despite what he does she is replacing Fred as his obsession/love interest. Did ya notice that Wesley referred to Fred as Illyria's "host body"? He's finally grasping Fred's death mentally and emotionally, and it's unraveling him even more.
Illyria: We aren't sure what's left of what she was, but at least she won't be a human atomic bomb. The motivation for rescuing Gunn? Perhaps it's a side effect from the broken Orlon Window that accidently gave her Fred's memories and a little bit of compassion. Now she has to cope again with being even less of what she once was, and even more of her shell. It's all full of sticky, convoluted characterization which is why I wish Angel had a sixth season.
Gunn: He's gotten some much needed perspective relating to Fred's death. Angel's "Underneath" conversation in the hospital coupled with his heart being ripped out every day for two weeks can do that to a man, I guess. Gunn's had his own epiphany with his place at Wolfram & Hart and he's trying to redefine it. (Shades of mid-season 2 Angel at work here.) Instead of being a bad lawyer joke where one actually has a conscience, he's trying to do the morally right thing in an evil law firm which just never works.
Lorne: He's making an effort to rejoin the team after feeling so helpless from "A Hole in the World." I think some of that depression is still lingering behind, but Lorne's pushing forward for some greater good. I was just happy they had something for him to do this week other than his typical one or two brief scenes.
Spike: "Origin" and "Time Bomb" have set up a great sitcom spin-off between him and Illyria. A supernatural Odd Couple if you will. He's relishing his attempts to tame a superstrong, leather-clad woman, which makes me question if he's living out his season 6 fantasy of the relationship he wanted with Buffy. Edlund redirected Spike's ego in a way that makes me start to like Spike again. Instead of acting above Angel Inc. who are more or less equals, he's trying to ground a former God. (Maybe he's releasing rage against Glory, too...)
Hamilton: I do like him more than Eve, I must say. I think the writers have a better idea of where they are taking him as compared to Eve; either that or it's a lot clearer with Hamilton. He's about as close as we are getting to a Big Bad this season with his Terminator-like strength (hope he has the body to match under those delicious suits) and snarky qualities. He could be the Anointed One that leads the gang into Hell and the Apocalypse. Can't wait.
Angel: He's starting to distance himself from the group, which was Wolfram & Hart's plan. Angel's turning into a cold, distant CEO that's lost his original purpose and is now focused on "the business." Or its all a ruse. You never know with this show. It's not like Darla and Drusilla are back in town to demoralize him, but he has felt beaten by the lawfirm like it was season 2.
I don't know how to rate "Time Bomb." The plot was uneven, but I loved the character interaction and set-up for the final 3 episodes. Mixed bag episodes are always hard to rate because the good and the not-as-good can cancel each other out.
"Time Bomb": B/B-