… Effulgent!

Take that, 19th century bullies

Spike’s slice of “Not Fade Away” is probably its most disappointing one.  Things are fine as far as they go, and I’m certainly pleased about the way he chose to spend his last day, but there’s not a lot of insight into the character here.  That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise; Spike’s arc stumbled once he got his body back, staggered once Lindsey’s deception was revealed, and stalled completely in his bogus journey to Italy.  Expecting <1/8 of an episode fix that is unreasonable.  We need to settle for confirmation of what we already knew: much as Spike’s grown, he’s still figuring out who he is. Continue reading

What If You Found Out That None of it Matters?

Vampires don't provide as much security as you'd think

Vampires don’t provide as much security as you’d think

I’ve said for most of Angel’s run that Charles Gunn was a good character in need of a good story.  Ever the valuable supporting playing, he also invariably stumbled anytime the spotlight found him.  I’d say “careful what you wish for,” but Gunn’s pain this season is our gain.  Like most great stories (and great Whedon stories in particular), Gunn’s involves making the protagonist suffer; not that Gunn hadn’t suffered before, but a vamped sister we never knew and a failed relationship we never cared about weren’t the most resonant of threads.  All of the “just the muscle” whining finally paid big dividends this season and it was fitting that the finale brought the character back to his roots. Continue reading

It’s Not My Kind of Work Anymore

Angel sure can use a friend

Angel sure can use a friend

I heard somewhere (the director’s commentary?) that the original plan was for Lorne to sing “Over the Rainbow” during his “last day” segment but it fell through due to rights/money issues.  Much as I appreciate the bittersweet second choice of “If I Ruled the World,” I can’t help but bemoan how perfect the first option would’ve been.  Season two’s final arc is one best forgotten, but callbacks are always welcome in finales and, much as we might’ve hated it, Pylea was the most extended concentrated look at Lorne we’ve ever received.  More importantly, the song would’ve brought home the most important element of Lorne’s character:  for him, our world is OZ; a wondrous, magical place where anything can happen.  Earth offers Lorne more than he ever dreamed possible, a fact that goes a long way to explaining his sunny disposition and near-bottomless tolerance.  Contrasted with this, his exit from the series is all the more tragic and enough to make me hate Angel just a little. Continue reading

You’re Not Part of the Solution, Lindsey



Bet you weren’t expecting me to start with Mr. McDonald, huh?  While Lindsey was, at best, under-utilized this season and, at worst, superfluous, his role in the finale is still critical to how I understand this series.  Angel had many foils over the show’s run but Lindsey worked best because he wasn’t “evil.”  Selfish, callous, and power-hungry?  Sure, but Lindsey never enjoyed the work he did for Wolfram & Hart, even turned on the firm when it went “too far.”  Lindsey was a basically good person trying to get ahead in a bad world.  It’s why the firm wanted him so badly.  It’s why he had to die. Continue reading

One Shining Moment

Guess that Drogyn spinoff isn't happening

Guess that Drogyn spinoff isn’t happening

“Power Play” is the perfect episode at the perfect time.  Beyond being a masterful lead-in to the events of “Not Fade Away,” Angel’s penultimate episode is a great story in its own right and more than enough to get the audience re-invested after last week’s unpleasantness (let us never speak of it again).  What really sells this episode for me is the way it’s able to make us doubt our champion.  We never really believe that Angel’s gone over to the dark side (I’m not sure that we’re meant to) but it’s abundantly clear that something’s wrong with him and figuring out what that is makes for a compelling piece of television. Continue reading

She’d never fall for a centuries-old guy with a dark past who may or may not be evil

No, why would Buffy be here?  We would want to mess with such an awesome episode.

No, why would Buffy be here? We wouldn’t want to mess with such an awesome episode.

Well, here we are, the last crappy episode of Angel.  I tend to Google episodes before writing about them (it’s a good way to gain perspective) and I was shocked to discover that “The Girl in Question” has its defenders.  I just don’t get how anyone could like this episode.  Having a comedic departure at a time when the series should be building momentum was ill advised to begin with but, if you’re going to do it, don’t forget the “comedic” part.  Even if we put aside the bafflingly placement in the season and the equally baffling bait and switch of not getting to see Buffy, we’re still left with an episode where the overwhelming majority of the jokes don’t land.  The quality of the Angel & Spike’s bogus journey hovers somewhere around the series’ first season, and that’s just inexcusable at this juncture. Continue reading

Serve no master but your own ambition

So, just how did you spot me?

So, just how did you spot me?

“Time Bomb” is a solid episode, dovetailing an advance of Illyria’s arc while neatly resolving some of the lingering problems she presented.  As an antagonist, Illyria was great; after brutally murdering Fred she’s established as a remorseless demon lord with godlike strength and intelligence, the ability to manipulate time and space, and possibly talk to plants.  She was someone we were definitely interested in seeing our heroes fight.  But, with the fight over, where does she fit?  That’s the central question of Illyria and what makes her such an interesting character but the things that made her a great villain also make her integration with the team impossible.  This story is about very human heroes; it’s not big enough for a god, so how can Illyria remain a part of it? Continue reading

You gotta do what you can to protect your family


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


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