What if it means I’m not the one?

The best of friends

The best of friends

I can’t tell if there’s a large segment of Angel fans out there who hated Spike’s addition this season or merely a very vocal small minority.  Episodes like “Destiny” make me lean towards the latter.  How can anyone not love Spike here?  It’s not just that I’m a big fan of the character (I am), I’m a big fan of what his presence does to Angel.  Some people seem to be offended at the mere suggestion that anyone but Angel could be “the” Champion, seeing this as flimsy fan-service for Team Spike at the expense of Angel’s story.  Such people are missing the point.  Spike hasn’t diminished Angel here, Angel’s diminished himself; Spike’s simply the one who won’t let him forget it.

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You people must’ve trained with the heathens… come upon us unbeknownst

"Friendly" Competition

“Friendly” Competition

Three episodes in and we get a significant expansion to Deadwood’s already sprawling cast.  It’s yet another testament to the show’s superbly balanced ensemble that the arrival of the Bella Union crew still isn’t enough to make the series feel too crowded.  The opening of the new saloon proves that Al’s power isn’t absolute and that certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it’s hardly a problem that needed addressing at this point.  The “status quo” of Deadwood was barely established enough to qualify for the name and Milch is already introducing a disruptive element.  It’s a bold move that pays immediate dividends. Continue reading

What Can’t You Just Accept that I Know What I’m Doing?

Finish Him!

Finish Him!

I really don’t want to call this episode a cop out.  It’s an easy accusation to level at it given the conclusion, but the rest of the episode works so well that, even with disappointing ending, I can’t reduce it to an exercise in narrative cowardice.  Wes’ child abuse has been alluded to since the first season and finally seeing it represented onscreen doesn’t disappoint.  The adult Wesley’s relationship with his father is about what we’d expect; much as he might hate Rodger, he’s still desperate for his approval and this fact reduces him to the sort of ineffectual over-compensating we haven’t seen since his days in Sunnydale.  This isn’t the Wesley the audience has come to love and we want to see Rodger pay for what he’s done.  We’re robbed of that in the end, but that fact need not rob “Lineage” of its significance. Continue reading

I got a whole operation here to consider

How many times to we have to say "Hardware Store"?

How many times to we have to say “Hardware Store”?

“Deep Water” takes Deadwood from good to great in only its second episode, most notably for the superb way it makes use of its supporting cast.  “Supporting” is probably a misnomer.  While the show’s central conflict is still being framed as Bullock vs Swearengen, the fact of the matter is that Deadwood‘s a thoroughgoing ensemble piece.  It’s difficult for any series to balance a cast of this size but what’s remarkable about this one is that it pulls off the balancing act with such BIG characters; for all the show’s grit and realism, there’s something epic about the personalities clashing here.  Much of the credit for making this work needs to go to the show’s cast, and this week’s honours belong to Robin Weigert. Continue reading

Did You Know the Devil Built a Robot?

Five on five tags are rarely exciting

Five on five tags are rarely exciting

Six episodes in and season five finally stumbles.  “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinquo” isn’t nearly as bad as many people make it out to be, but it isn’t particularly good either.  The chief problem is that the story is at odds with itself.  A group of demon fighting luchadors is an inherently silly premise and the episodes delivers some solid laughs anytime it embraces this but, perplexingly, it attempts to meld the premise with a thoroughly morose tone.  This story’s too bleak to let us spend much time laughing, and too silly for us to really feel for Angel.  The resulting muddle has its moments, but never really comes together as an episode. Continue reading

No law at all in Deadwood… is that true?

My money's on Montana

My money’s on Montana

Deadwood has long held the title as my favourite series that I haven’t finished yet.  I watched the first two seasons back in my days of extralegal downloading before realising that it was simply too good to watch in anything less than sterling quality.  5 years later I finally have the blu-rays in hand and I’m ready to give this series the attention it deserves.  Of course, the side effect of so much anticipation is to put the show on a pedestal.  My memories of this show are all jaw dropping brilliance and the premiere doesn’t quite qualify.  I know that’s more unfair expectations on my part than any deficiencies on its, but it’s still hard to judge just how effectively it draws us into this world when I’m left feeling slightly dissatisfied. Continue reading

Lorne Told You to Pee All Over the Office?

Still better than Bana

Still better than Bana

Five episodes in and this seasons still firing on all cylinders as it delivers Lorne’s best outing.  That might not sound like much as his only other spotlight episode wasn’t that great but “Life of the Party” is an excellent episode, evoking the sort of anarchic Halloween special vibe of classic Buffy but rooting it solidly in Angel’s corner of the universe.  Fun costumes abound as Lorne’s inverted empathy has everyone stepping outside themselves, but the best one is worn by the Host himself.  Lorne’s not nearly as comfortable at W&H has he’s pretended to be and while everyone else just has to deal with some embarrassment, he’s falling apart. Continue reading

What Else Are We Gonna Do?

More Cowbell

More Cowbell

Dark as Angel could be, it seldom strayed into the realm of straight horror and “Hellbound” comes a very pleasant surprise.  Not only do we get some great creepy visuals and a satisfyingly sadistic villain, but the story gains a lot of weight by the fact the Spike actually deserves the abyss that seems to be pulling him in.  The episode wisely avoids the pitfalls of delivering an unearned redemption narrative; this isn’t about Spike dealing with his past sins, it’s about him being punished for them.  Much as we may not want Spike to go to Hell, this story won’t really let us pretend he’s not going there. Continue reading

He’s an Equal Opportunity Saver

Way to not be typecast

Way to not be typecast

“Unleashed” is a great episode.  I never expected to say that as Nina’s debut had largely faded from my memory.  Truth be told, there’s little here to distinguish it from any other case of the week but perhaps that’s why I found myself smiling throughout most of it.  There’s a very old school Angel vibe here as the gang must ostensibly help someone with a supernatural crisis while in truth helping them with a personal one.  Angel has to make a connection with Nina in order to save her, everything else is just window dressing.  After a couple of weeks of the firm colouring almost everything Angel & co have done, it’s nice to see that they can still be the sort of heroes they once were. Continue reading

Control, That’s All Anyone Really Wants

Nothing about this is remotely sexual

Nothing about this is remotely sexual

Spike’s first Angel outing is good but not great.  I remember being disappointed in ghost-Spike the first time around; I wanted to see my favourite Buffy character on a new show and the insubstantial version just felt like a cheat.  It is, when you get right down to it, but it’s a necessary one.  Spike’s too antagonistic for it make sense for him to stick around without some sort of mystical excuse.  The antagonism is fun enough to make that excuse worthwhile (especially on subsequent viewings) and “Just Rewards” wastes no time sliding Spike into the role of naysayer.  The exposition regarding the move to W&H is still a bit clunky, but Spike more than holds up his end as he repeatedly reminds Angel that he’s sold out. Continue reading