You gotta do what you can to protect your family

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The face of intimidation

I really like “Origin.”  That seems somewhat strange considering I’ve always been a fan of (or at least apologist for) Angel’s son and this episode presents a Connor that’s almost unrecognizable.  At its worst, Connor’s presto-chango journey to mental health is a complete cheat, a way to avoid dealing with the baggage of season four and write-out an unpopular character to boot.  There’s a lot of truth to that but “Origin” proves the series isn’t quite willing to dispense with consequence altogether.  The best part of Connor, in my opinion, was his relationship with Angel and this episode is far from an easy out in that respect. Continue reading

Heroes don’t accept the world for what it is

OMG, we have so little to do these days!

OMG, we have so little to do these days!

“Underneath” makes for an interesting follow up to “Shells.”  Fred’s death was certainly a direct consequence of the team deciding to work for Wolfram & Hart, but the event’s such a heavy emotional gut punch that it feels isolated from the rest of the series.  “Underneath” is a somewhat jarring reminder that there’s a wider story going on; Lindsey and Eve and Senior Partners, oh my!  That’s not enough to kill my enjoyment of this trip to demonic suburbia and I actually appreciated Lindsay expositing on the series’ larger themes, but the need for such housekeeping highlights the structural problems this season suffers from. Continue reading

I’ve been unreasonable… because I’ve lost all reason

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Nerdy girls plus leather equals …

How could I have let over a month pass between the “A Hole in the World” and “Shells” reviews?  General blogging failure aside, these episodes are a two-parter in all but name and are best understood as such.  Where the first half looked at the increasing despair our heroes feel as they’re revealed to be powerless, this one puts them in full action hero mode… while still leaving them powerless.  “Shells” is peppered by some of the best badassery in the history of this considerably badass series, and none of it really means anything.  The world is saved, no thanks to our heroes, and Fred’s still just as dead at the end of the hour. Continue reading

The Cavemen Win

No wonder Wes was in love

No wonder Wes was in love

“A Hole in the World” ranks fifth amongst Buffyverse death episodes, but failing to place is no shame when you’re up against “The Gift” “The Body” “Seeing Red” and “Passion” so I admit to being a bit surprised by one of the comments a few weeks ago accusing this episode of melodrama.  It is, at certain points, but the emotions here are earned, for the most part, most particularly the team’s rising desperation as it becomes clearer and clearer that they’re not going to save the day this time. Continue reading

Self Esteem is for Everybody

You're a wee little puppet

You’re a wee little puppet man

“Smile Time” is one of those rare episodes that I love more each time I see it.  That’s somewhat easier to account for this time around as I now have a daughter and am more familiar with children’s programming.  There was always something hilarious in demonic puppets but, having now recently re-experienced the mind numbing wholesomeness, the satire feels far more poignant.  And it’s not just the evil of Polo and his crew, this episode deserves big props for twisting the tropes of children’s programming and Angels world together at every opportunity.  This may well be the best bit of genre bending we’ve ever seen from the Whedonverse and that’s really saying something. Continue reading

I declare myself conductor of this meeting as I have the bribe sheet

He's checkin' it twice

He’s checkin’ it twice

And just when I said that Deadwood couldn’t be cheery.  Maybe “No Other Sons or Daughters” doesn’t quite fit that description, but the humour here is superb and is almost enough to make us forget what a terrible place Deadwood can be.  Or perhaps not.  While most of the camp, particularly Al, is putting its best foot forward (new frock coats anyone?), Cy remains monstrous; all the more so for the contrast.  It’s interesting that a man introduced as a more “civilized” version of Al has emerged a less human one.  While civilization brings out the best in the town’s citizens, its representation makes us wonder just what the residents are working toward. Continue reading

I Was Rasputin’s Lover!

It makes complete sense that he's in this episode

It makes complete sense that he’s in this episode

Season five has dealt almost exclusively with the consequences of Angel’s decision to take over Wolfram & Hart.  It’s been fine fruit for storytelling but it tends to obscure the fact that Angel’s poor decision making extends a lot farther back than last year.  Angel has always been defined by his baggage and so it’s nice to see some of it getting pushed to the forefront again.  That said, “Why We Fight” doesn’t really have enough to say about Angel’s character, the flashbacks being more concerned with having some fun than with exploring anything profound.  That’d be fine, except I get the impression that it thinks a bit more highly of itself. Continue reading

I wouldn’t trust a man who wouldn’t try to steal a little

Take it easy, Veronica

Take it easy, Veronica

Well, that was depressing.  Deadwood could never be described as a cheery series but some episodes are a lot bleaker than others.  It’s somewhat ironic that the darkness moves in just as Alma learns what her claim’s actually worth but, as I said last week, the Garrett mine’s more important as a structural element than as a subplot, an excuse to tie the characters together and generate a sense of momentum for the season.  It’s irrelevance gets underscored here as all the gold in the world can’t change life for Trixie.  The world, or at least her world, is fixed and the impossibility of living in it is trumped only by the impossibility of changing it. Continue reading

I’m Angel. I Beat the Bad Guys

No need to CGI this group shot

No need to CGI this group shot

“You’re Welcome” is another one of those problematic episodes that manages to get so much right and so much wrong at the same time.  On the one hand it’s an excellent way to mark the series’ one hundredth episode; a celebration of its past, an underscore for its themes, a salve for fans who were (rightly) upset with the way Cordelia exited, and a pretty good case of the week to boot.  On the other hand it’s completely counter productive for the season arc, providing a payoff that’s merely “pretty good” after buildup that’s been largely excellent and leaving little momentum to take us into the second half of the season.  I certainly like this episode, but the price as too high. Continue reading

They’re nice here. And Mr. Swearengen’s funny as all hell.

Rough trip?

Rough trip?

“Bullock Returns to Camp” is, unsurprisingly, about Bullock returning to camp.  The episode title isn’t indicated within this or any other episode of Deadwood, but it’s hard not to let it impact my impression.  It’s mundane enough to suggest that nothing of particular import happens here, that this is a mere housekeeping chapter; Bullock’s a good character, but his absence from the camp hasn’t exactly been felt nor was his return ever really in doubt for the single episode that he was away.  But mundane events can have momentous consequences and Bullock, by his mere presence, changes the dynamic in Deadwood. Continue reading