Monthly Archives: July 2012

I’m gonna need more than C-3PO and Stick-Figure Barbie backing me up

Sweet dream

I’ll freely admit that I’ve mostly made up my mind about Angel and Buffy episodes before this latest rewatch; it’s an inevitable consequence of having seen them all so many times before but, on occasion, one can still surprise me.  “First Impressions” is by no means a great episode, but it’s better than I remember and, more importantly, Gunn actually sounds like a real person instead of a broad stereotype.  It would take 3 more years before the character would finally qualify as “great,” but he’s thoroughly watchable here as he struggles to bring order to a chaotic world. Continue reading

He’s clearly a bad influence on himself

Dress for comedic success

At its core, Xander’s character is an Everyman surrounded by super beings (yes, I count Giles among them).  It’s an important role, as it keeps this show from being about some sort of demon-fighting Justice League, but, when not handled carefully, it can leave him looking like… well, Jimmy Olsen comes to mind.  He’s surrounded by people who are more capable than he could ever aspire to be and this forever begs the question of what contribution he makes.  “Humour” is the obvious answer, and it’s one that both works in the show and rings true to life; if you can’t be the smart guy, the cool guy, or the athletic guy then be the funny guy.  “The Replacement” does an excellent job of exploring what it means to limit yourself to “the funny guy” and while it may be a little on the nose in its messaging, it’s some necessary redemption for a character that’s become the butt of all jokes. Continue reading

Flight’s at 11:08

“Quietly compelling” is how I’d describe this episode of Damages.  I was far from awed by anything I saw, but something’s keeping me from writing this week off as merely “okay.”  There certainly weren’t any of the powerhouse dramatic moments this series is known for and some of the stuff with Ellen’s family was pretty yawn-worthy, but I spent 45 minutes watching and never once noticed the lack of flash-forwards.  With so much of this series being built around “what’s going happen?” it’s a refreshing change to just focus on what’s actually going on in the present. Continue reading

There is such a thing as forgiveness

Thanks for the help

Much like the episode before it, “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been” brings some big new ideas into the series but, unlike the season premiere, it proceeds with confidence rather than delivering season one style flailing.  The key difference is that this episode recognizes that big ideas need big consequences; taking us fifty years into the past reveals a story that has haunted Angel since that time, as opposed to the “chosen” child and all powerful tribunal and exist purely to get Angel onto a horse.  Like the earlier explorations of Angel’s past, this is one offers some significant insights into his present. Continue reading

What, “Evil for Dummies?”

Fan Favourite?

And so begins the long and difficult integration of Dawn Summers into the Buffyverse.  I said last week that I think the character’s been unfairly maligned, but episodes like this one do help me understand the haters.  Not that “Real Me” is bad, far from it, just that it perfectly illustrates the central challenge of Dawn’s character; she’s the younger sibling and, by definition, the character needs to bug the shit out of her older sibling.  The problem is that, in annoying another character, she also risks annoying the audience.  This is doubly problematic in that, as the main character, Buffy needs to have the audience identify with her most of the time, so we’re primed to sympathize with her annoyance without it being balanced out by any mystical false memories. Continue reading

The Dog is Happier Without Her

Damage’s second episode of the season takes the unusual track of answering many of the questions raised in the first.  Tom’s death remains just as much a mystery, but I was surprised by how quickly they revealed why he seems to have died destitute.  I don’t think I was alone in finding Tom’s situation as (or more) intriguing as his death itself, but the series may be better served in not drawing that particular mystery out.  One of the pitfalls of this series’ structure is that it can often feel like it’s standing still when the flash forwards aren’t advanced.  This reveal at least gives the illusion of momentum without compromising the A-mystery. Continue reading

I had to sing Barry Manilow

Seriously?

Angel’s second year was one of markedly higher and more consistent quality but, sadly, “Judgment” doesn’t fall into that category.  As premieres go, the episode does a solid job of pointing to Angel’s path forward, but the story itself just feels like a throwback to season one, hinging on a lot of high concept mysticism that doesn’t really have a lot to do with anything.  The Tribunal is essentially The Scourge revisited, a group of alleged immense power and influence in the demon realm that appears out of nowhere and is never heard from again; their sole purpose being to drive this episode towards its climax which, unfortunately, features Angel jousting. Continue reading

Check. No more butt monkey

Yep, that says it all

And then the genre bent too far.  I’ve heard mixed reviews of “Buffy vs. Dracula” but, for me, the episode is just too much.  This is the most specific spoof on horror that the series has ever done, and I honestly think it came too late in the game to work.  Buffy’s universe has been established as drawing on classic and popular mythology to create something unique.  Trying to shoehorn Dracula into such a developed world is not the right way to start the season.  The writer’s throw as many winks at the camera as possible to try to sell this, but it still just feels like a round peg in a square hole. Continue reading

Your Secrets Are Safe

I was, sadly, spoiled on this episode’s reveal, a fact that will cause me to be very deliberate in omitting the details until the second paragraph.  It’s unfortunate that my return to this awesome series is marred by a climax that falls flat, but it does underscore my only real problem with Damages, the series is far too reliant on its format.  The non-linear story-telling often felt counter-productive in season two, and I’m worried the same thing’s going to happen here.  The real strength of this series is Patty and Ellen, and the narrative twists shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way.  That said, the formula didn’t stop me from being thoroughly intrigued and I’m excited to see how things unfold. Continue reading

Final Thoughts: Angel Season One

Given my general distaste for this season of Angel, my usual “What Worked / What Didn’t” format would end up being rather lopsided.  The wild sweeps in quality made for a few superb episodes while others were impossible to sit through.  Combined with an ongoing identity crisis and dearth of a season arc, this make Angel’s first outing one best enjoyed in small doses.  To that end, I’ve created a brief episode rundown to help those trying to tackle this beast on DVD. Continue reading