Before I begin trashing this episode, let me say that I think that Gunn’s a good character. He’s come a long way from the non-credible street thug we were first introduced to and I think that he tangibly improves the group dynamic at Angel Investigations. Gunn’s a cool character… who’s seldom given anything cool to do. It’ll be a little over a season before he finally finds his groove, and I just can’t understand why that is. Here’s a guy who comes from a world wildly different than the one we’re familiar with at the agency, but one that neatly blends with Angel’s great demonic sub-culture universe. The collision between these worlds has been mined to success before and “Double or Nothing” would seem poised to do the same except that it never really finds its footing. This could’ve been another solid episode about Gunn’s past coming back to haunt him, instead its an unfocused look at his present in which he doesn’t even get to save himself. Continue reading
The fallout from Xander and Anya’s breakup is, fortunately, far more interesting than the breakup itself. Gone are the demonic hinjix, farcical delays, and toothless predictions. Instead, “Entropy” puts its focus squarely on what Anya’s going through and gives her emotions room to breathe. What elevates this story is that it’s all about Anya’s need to have somebody, anybody, validate those emotions. “Revenge is wrong” is a rather tired lesson to trot out and this episode wisely complicates the issue by never questioning Anya’s right to hate Xander or her legitimate desire for others to share this feeling. Continue reading
So much more fun than forgiveness
Holtz won. There are more episodes to the season, of course, but if you just consider “Forgiving” in itself then Holtz got what he was after. Whether you call it justice or vengeance, Daniel wanted Angel to pay for what he’d done to him. Make no mistake, much as Holtz loved his family, his quest was all about redressing what its loss did to him and the only way to do that was to take away everything Angel loved. The results speak for themselves as Angel’s become a man with a singular obsession that will justify anything; torture, murder, betrayal, dark alliances, black magic to rend space and time, does this sound like anyone else we know? Holtz won by making Angel into a reflection of himself. Continue reading
Where’s your power now?
Let me make clear from the outset that I am not one of those who subscribe to the idea that “Normal Again” presents “the truth” about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The simple fact that there are events in this world that occur outside the awareness of main character is sufficient proof that it isn’t all a product of her delusional mind. That said, this episode is still a fascinating exploration of the boundaries of fictional reality, presenting two alternative worlds without any definitive evidence as to which one is “real.” Despite this, Buffy still makes a definitive choice between them, and her reasons for doing so underscore just how much truth’s to be found in the world of vampires, magic, and heroes. Continue reading
90% of all kidnappings…
“Sleep Tight” is one of those episodes that requires a leap. It’s not inconceivable that Wes would work with Holtz, but his reasons for doing so don’t effectively make it onto the screen. But then, that development’s not really the point and we need to simply accept it if we’re to enjoy the meat of the episode. And what delicious meat it is. I’ve always said that it’s alright for fiction to ask us to make a logical leap so long as we land somewhere worthwhile. This one lands us in a world of escalating dread that culminates in a huge degree of pain for our protagonist. In other words, one great episode of Angel. Continue reading
Why is the Slayer ignoring us? Haven’t we killed enough people?
This should’ve been a great episode. Hell, it needed to be great. Not only have two main characters done little more than plan for it all season, one of them caps it with one of the biggest dick moves a character can make. I actually don’t think it’s inconceivable that Xander would leave Anya at the altar, but such a turn required a lot of finesse to feel earned, and finesse is far removed from “Hell’s Bells” as it seems more concerned with emulating every sitcom wedding episode ever than with doing the necessary character work. Continue reading
Do not anger the Loa!
“Loyalty” and the episodes that follow loom large in my memory of season three. Much of what’s come before has been good, even great, but this final stretch of episodes is so excellent that I often found myself wishing that the series would cut to the case. Knowing what’s about to unfold certainly contributes to my enjoyment of this episode but, even looked at in isolation, this is a pretty terrific hour of television. The cracks that have been forming in Angel Investigations are starting to split wide open just as those villains who’ve seemed cool but ineffectual thus far finally make their move. It all makes for an exciting promise of things to come. Continue reading
Don’t pretend that the scar doesn’t make me more attractive
“As You Were” is one deft piece of storytelling. Not an exceptionally good episode or even an exceptionally good story, but a clever one. Much like in Angel’s second season, the writers have been painting our protagonist into a progressively darker corner. It’s been entertaining to watch her fall but it’s also been getting harder to see how she’ll get back to the Buffy we love without some sort of narrative cheat. “Epiphany” was a huge success for Angel but not only has Buffy already slept with her unhealthy love interest, that trick’s been done. BtVS’s solution isn’t quite as brilliant, but it’s still a good one. By tying Buffy’s redemption to Riley’s the series is able to get away with the easy answer that people can and do get better. That’s not nearly as profound as Angel’s life lesson, but this episode’s still able to make it feel satisfying, and that’s impressive. Continue reading
For all the improvement this series has shown in its latter half, it still hasn’t managed to elevate itself beyond “pretty good” and, sadly, that label also needs to be applied to the finale. The execution remains at the same high level we’ve come to expect, but the expected sense of inevitability is also still there. Finales, particularly to stories that style themselves political thrillers, need to be suspenseful in order to work and while Chapter 13 does its best to make us think things may all come crashing down around Frank, it never really succeeds. Worse, it holds back its alleged trump card for next season which may make sense in terms of getting us to tune in again, but it does leave this season feeling like kind of a cheat. I’ve tried really hard to be fair to this show but, given that this is my last chance, I think I’m just going to dive into the negativity. Feeling free to stop reading if you’re a fan. Continue reading
Peas in a pod
Poor Angel. As I’ve said before, one of the great strengths of this series is its willingness to knock the stuffing out of its protagonist from time to time. He is, deep down, a fundamentally self-centred character, one whose own tortured soul is his primary preoccupation, and the thing that makes that bearable to watch is that it isn’t taken too seriously. There’s a lot of that going on in “Couplet” but, funny as the gags at Angel’s expense are, it’s not the jokes that make this episode great, it’s the fact that Angel actually starts to take his humiliations to heart. Much as we might enjoy our Champion being reminded that he isn’t all that, we don’t want him to actually stop being all that. Angel’s strong, and noble, and self-sacrificing; a hero, and any threat to that has the makings of great drama. Continue reading