You had Me at Fire

Nothing can withstand my gimmace

Nothing can withstand my gimmace

Man o man, what’s not to love about “Apocalypse Nowish”?  Well, there’s that one thing, but ignore it for just a minute and think about how epically badass this episode is.  The “thing” that’s served as nothing but a vague threat since episode 4 finally shows itself and, for the first (and only?) time in the history of the Whedonverse, actually lives up to the hype.  Don’t get me wrong, the Big Bads are almost invariably great, but their reveal always, of necessity, falls short of the promised apocalypse.  You’ve got to give it up for ME going all in this time; rats, birds, snakes, puss, it all would’ve rung false had the climax not felt like the beginning of the end.  They succeeded in a big way, handing our heroes their collective asses and then capping it with fire and brimstone.  It’s audacious enough on its own to make me completely love this episode.

Well, almost completely.  While I don’t hate the Cordy/Connor hookup with the same passion that many fans do, it does require a significant logical leap.  I’ve said many times that such leaps are fine so long as we land somewhere good, but the payoff to this one is long delayed and while there’s a spoilerific explanation that makes it somewhat more sensible, the experience of watching it is still a perplexed “ick.” That said, it isn’t enough to spoil my fun.

We’ve seen plenty of portents on Angel and Buffy before, but none have really landed the way these ones do.  Perhaps that’s because we haven’t really seen such portents.  Actually seeing rather than simply hearing about blood on the windows and a whole lotta rats go along way to selling just how bad things are about not get and serve as a necessary set up to Wesley extending an olive branch to the AI team.  Seeing him catch that crossbow is a great moment and in typically delightful fashion, they proceed to do a great job undercutting it.  The band gets back together only to take the beating of their lives.

I can’t really praise the fight with The Beast enough, both in terms of raw action choreography and in its storytelling.  To use some wrestling terminology, Connor gives Big Bad the necessary rub by getting slapped around in the opening match, so we know he’s tough going into the main event, but who saw this coming?  Whatever their personal problems, our heroes deliver their best, but their increasingly heavy offence just gets shrugged off.  Wes serves as a particular highlight as the cool crossbow becomes the cooler dual-pistols, becomes the even cooler shotgun march, becomes getting tossed around like a ragdoll.

Angel sums it up best when he boasts, “we’re just getting started” and then gets thrown off the roof.  Such a thorough defeat could only be capped by a rain of fire.  The good guys lost, so badly that the bad guys doesn’t really need to bother finishing them off; his apocalypse has begun and he can simply move onto whatever phase 2 is.  In that context, it might be easier to accept Cordy believing that the end is nigh and apocalypse-sex is a good idea.  It might be, but not really.

Final Thoughts

Poor Angel, beaten like a government mule and then cuckolded by his son.  I love how this comes right on the heels of him starting to connect with both Connor and Cordy.  How many more kicks to the teeth can this guy take?

More awesome in this episode, Wes telling Lilah to leave the glasses on.  It continues to be great to see these two roll in it.

Stephanie Romanov once again proves how underrated she is in that moment.  The hurt expression appears and disappears so fast you have to wonder if it was really there. I checked, and yes it is.

4 responses to “You had Me at Fire

  1. The season 4 Angel arc is probably my favourite. I’m a big fan of can’t miss tv. Must watch to follow the story. The stand alone nature of the beginning of season 5 left me a little cold despite it being a really strong season for the show. maybe it was before its time? And 22 episodes was too many to fill for such an arc. But overall, loved this season. And this episode still gives me goosebumps when the beast beats the holy bejeezus out of team Angel.

    • Season 4 was my favourite for a very long time for the same reasons you mentioned. I’ve since come to appreciate s5 a bit more, but I am looking to re-experiencing the intensity of Beast/Angelus/Jasmine.

  2. Why did you leave out “Supersymmetry” the fifth episode of Angel season 4?

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