Do you like Connor? I adore him I know characters like him and Dawn aren't popular because they are teenagers but I always felt Angel was way too hard on him in S4. Like he was living in the streets and scarping by even if Angel visit him Connor didn't know that.
Sorry, anon, but I ended up writing you an essay answering this question and why I feel Connor is ridiculously misunderstood and unfairly hated within the fandom. So here it is.
Connor is one of the most misunderstood characters in the Buffyverse. Most fans dismiss him as being whiney, arrogant and annoying. Not a lot of fans tend to look beneath the surface and therefore almost the vast majority doesn’t see just how much of a victim of his circumstances Connor truly is. I find this so incredibly frustrating, because Connor is such a great character and he deserves so much more than the hatred thrown his way.
Connor was raised in one of the most horrifying hell dimensions by a man who’s main goal was that of vengeance. Holtz obviously showed Connor love and treated him as his own son but he also raised him ruthlessly and without mercy or compassion. Holtz raised him to be a warrior. Connor tells Angel of an instance where Holtz tied him, Connor, to a tree and left him to find his own way home, battling through demons and monsters along the way. Connor was a child when this happened; the trauma of this is inconceivable and while, yes, it would have taught Connor resilience it would also have left scars. We have to assume that this was not a one-off event, meaning that Connor’s entire childhood was most likely saturated with fear and trauma.
Additionally and probably more importantly Connor was raised to hate Angel in every way possible and to want vengeance on Angel on behalf on Holtz; therefore Connor was taught from young to hate that which was a part of him which explains why he shows clear signs of deep self-loathing in Season 4; to hate that which is a part of him, that which he cannot escape from would be a horrible experience and something Connor would have carried with him his entire life. It’s no wonder he lashes out at Angel constantly and why he is so eager to kill Angelus; to kill Angelus allows Connor to kill that part of himself he has been taught to hate.
When Connor is still a teenager and therefore a mess of hormones, emotions and feelings he can’t control, Connor is suddenly thrown into Angel’s world. He punches through from Quor-toth in order to meet his biological father; Holtz himself recognises this and forces Connor to see his true motivations. Connor wants to know Angel, to see him, to see where he, Connor comes from but he is not prepared for the human world. He is lost and confused in L.A. and doesn’t know where to turn. Everything is unfamiliar and at first no one is there to guide him. Connor may have grown up in a Hell dimension, but he is unprepared to face the human world and all the horrors that come with it. The first real friend Connor makes is a junkie whom Connor saves from a drug dealer and forms a connection with. She is the first person to show him kindness and understanding and he forms feelings for her. She then ends up dying from an overdose, causing Connor immense pain and further confusing him as he wonders what kind of world he has ended up in; he does not understand the “poison” that killed his friend nor the motivations behind it. All he sees is someone who was good and kind has died from forces he is a stranger to; he wonders what kind of world he has been thrown into and does not know how to handle the kind of demons one cannot physically fight.
Connor is then allowed (and encouraged by Holtz) to become closer to Angel. Not knowing that he is being used as a pawn in Holtz’s game, Connor abides by Holtz’s wishes and starts to form a relationship with Angel. He is allowed to see Angel’s human side and actually starts to grow closer to his father, seemingly enjoying his company and forming genuine affection. This connection just starts to deepen when Holtz kills himself and frames Angel. With no regards to Connor life, feelings or emotions, Holtz coldly and cruelly makes his final move, leaving his “son” devastated and sending Justine to him to manipulate and prey on Connor’s vulnerability in order to make sure Connor exacts revenge.
This move is so inrecibly low and so incredibly damaging to Connor, it really makes one wonder if Holtz ever had any affection for Connor at all. By manipulating this situation so that Connor is essentially forced to believe everything Holtz told him about his biological father, Holtz has stripped Connor of both of his fathers. Holtz has left Connor alone in the world, with no one to turn to and no one to trust or believe in. As we see in episodes of Season 4, the tail-end of this season destroys Connor’s trust in people and he becomes a much more cynical person than he initially appears to be.
Season 4 puts Connor through an emotional trauma conga line, starting with having him face the fact that the man he though of as his father never truly cared for him. Angel reveals how Holtz killed himself with the assistance of Justine, thus forcing Connor to realise how misguided and wrong he was about Holtz. Connor is suddenly forced to realise his whole upbringing was a lie and in the next minute, Angel throws him out of the house, leaving him alone, scared and confused. While Connor sinking Angel to the bottom of the ocean was truly malicious and unjust, I don’t believe Angel handled it well. Turning Connor away tells Connor that Angel doesn’t care about him, doesn’t love him - everything Connor has always believed. Once again, Connor loses both his fathers - the memory of Holtz and the safety and security of Angel.
Over the course of Season 4, Connor is emotionally and sexually manipulated by Faux Cordy (and raped in the process) jerked back and forth by her until he literally does not know what’s right or wrong or who he should or should not trust. In addition to this, he has to deal with the constant mistrust and fear from the rest of Angel Investigations which make him wonder if he is evil, if he is a freak and whether he will ever find anyone who will understand and accept him. He is forced, through circumstances beyond his control, to face Angelus and to hear all the poisonous and damaging things Angelus has to say, including the lovely anecdote about Darla loathing Connor and wanting him out of her.
All of this results in Connor feeling persecuted and unworthy. He is still only a teenager and is having to deal with contempt, distrust and sometimes outright hatred which is all due to ignorance about his origins. He doesn’t know where he fits in the world and is not even sure of whether he is fully human.
Connor continues to be twisted and groomed by Faux Cordy until he crosses the line and kidnaps an innocent girl in order to bring his and Faux Cordy’s child into the world. Darla appearing to him as he contemplates the moral implications only further confuses him. During said scene Evil Cordy and Darla each try to convince Connor to choose a side and as we watch him struggle with the choice we end up seeing something break inside Connor. He has been so manipulated, so beaten down and defeated that he loses it and ends up crossing the moral event horizon when he participates in the murder of an innocent.
When Jasmine arrives, bringing fake peace, fake love and filling L.A. with fake joy, Connor knows that she is a lie. However his world is finally happy, people finally accept him and he and Angel finally form some kind of a relationship. And this, at his core, is all Connor wants. He wants love, acceptance and happiness, things he has never received in full from anyone. So he believes the lie because, as he says, his whole life has been built on lies and this one just happens to be the best one.
This is why killing Jasmine has such a huge effect on Connor. It’s not about the fact that he is Jasmine’s “father”. In killing Jasmine, Connor is killing what he believes is his last chance at happiness. Killing her forces him to face the world in much the same way Angel has had to for years – Connor realises how bleak and desolate the world can be. He realises that no matter how much they fight, how much they try to make the world better, there will always be evil. He has to face the fact that evil rules the world, that everything in it is hard and harsh and that nothing is as it should be. This is what breaks him. This is the final nail in the coffin. He is so confused, he is so torn up and devastated that he doesn’t know how to fix it. And this is why Angel makes the biggest sacrifice he has ever made and gives up his son.
Connor is given a new family and all his memories of Angel, Holtz, Quor-toth and every other horrible trauma he went through are erased. And through this, we finally get to see what Connor would have been like had he not gone through everything he did. We see him as a well-adjusted, happy kid who seems to have a good head on his shoulders and a good sense of right and wrong. He is so well adjusted, in fact, that when he is whomped with eighteen years worth of extremely harsh and traumatic memories, he is able to deal with said memories and does not allow them to overtake him.
This is why I say that Connor truly is a victim of his circumstances. Because we are allowed to see what he would be like were it not for all the trauma in his life and what we see is a likeable, well-adjusted and happy young man, who comes through for Angel in the end. Connor is a victim but he was able to overcome everything and grow into a likeable and engaging character and I truly wish that more of the fandom would see this, instead of writing him off as “whiney”, “annoying” and “unlikeable”.