“The Ring” would’ve been a merely another bad episode of Angel had it arrived at another time, but just after the apparent game-changer of “The Prodigal,” it becomes almost unwatchable. What’s frustrating me is how this seems to retreat from the right direction. This show has a voice, it damn near found it in Angel’s struggles to save Trevor Lockley. Having come so close to finally fitting everything into place, why is it now jerking us around with a story that is, at best, intensely silly and, at worst, lazily stupid?
The Spartacus story has been done to death, and while Joss may be the master of breathing new life into old ideas, his skills seem unfortunately lacking here. Angel’s predictably against the demonic blood sport, and offers the predictable pacifist response. The other gladiators are predictably resigned to their fate and dismissive of the violence-hating newcomer, but, predictably, not so much so that he doesn’t win them over with his courage and honour. Combine this with some mustache twirling villains who put a hokey amount of scorn in the word “slave” and the fact that the audience are the not-so-subtle real monsters and you’ve got a fairly by the numbers episode.
I could forgive such formulaic plotting if it was accompanied by something worthwhile, and demon-on-demon deathmatches seem like a fine excuse for some truly excellent fight scenes. Sadly, this seems to be the choreographer’s day off and we’re instead offered a mere smattering of grounded pugilism. “Realistic” fights are rather baffling when supernatural creatures are the combatants, and these ones are utterly grit-free, network friendly slug fests that can’t even offer up some visceral interest. Angel’s got more interesting action sequences in its opening credits and I’m at a loss for how these scenes are supposed to entertain. Did no one think to give any of this host of demons some more interesting powers that being a less outrageous Gene Simmons.
Obviously, I’m not a fan of this episode, but I will give it credit for making me think. I puzzled for some time about why, if it’s possible to reach across the red line and grab a captor, why more demons didn’t do the same thing. I mean, they’re demons, right? Or why didn’t Angel do the same thing when Darin was within arms reach? Or since when are a couple of guys with tazers enough to subdue him? Or why don’t the demons throw their weapons at the crowd of onlookers? I mean, they’re demons, right? Or why doesn’t Lilah just kill Angel after freeing him? Or why doesn’t Angel take the opportunity to free himself, does he somehow feel obliged to honour the deal that sees him enslaved? And why the elaborate ruse to capture Angel? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to say, “someone at this address needs your help?” Why did I just waste 44 minutes watching this crap?