Monthly Archives: April 2013

Let Him Suffer

90% of all kidnappings...

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

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It’s a Wedding, Honey. We’re All Bored

Why is the Slayer ignoring us?  Haven't we killed enough people?

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

You Twenty First Century Types are so Jaded

Do not anger the Loa!

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

You’re a Hell of a Woman

Don't pretend that the scar doesn't make me more attractive

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

I Pray to Myself for Myself

house_of_cards

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

It’s Your Mission That Animates Us

Peas in a pod

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

We do not Joke About Eating People in this House

Mmmm, inertia

Mmmm, inertia

“Great, a Dawn episode.”  That’s what I thought during the cold open and I must admit to being pleasantly surprised.  Not that this was somehow a good Dawn episode, but that it’s a good episode in spite of her.  It speaks a lot about how far the character’s stock has fallen than I, once a staunch Dawn apologist, now sigh anytime she’s on screen.  She’s the weakest part of this episode, despite being the ostensible centre of it.  Fortunately, the rest of Scoobies are more than capable of carrying the episode, with Dawn’s loneliness driven angst being far less relevant than the increasing stress of their enforced confinement. Continue reading

Deeper into the Woods

house_of_cards

I really wish that episode twelve (or something like it) had arrived earlier in the series.  I’ve long complained about the lack of any real challenge for Frank and while the show has provided answers of a sort before now, none have been this good.  At long last, Frank meets someone in his own league, someone equally as deceptive and manipulative and whose more than willing to pull strings to get what he wants.  Perhaps most importantly, Raymond Tusk recognizes Frank for what he really is, and the exposure robs Francis of his most potent weapon, finally forcing him to deal with someone as an equal.  It’s really a dynamic we could’ve used over the course of the entire season, not just as a final hurdle to the Vice Presidency. Continue reading

You’re a Man of Many Limitations

Moments before she was triggered

Moments before she was triggered

“Gimmick” is an unfortunately weighted term, but I think of no better term for that special class of Buffy and Angel episodes where the premise dominates the narrative.  Gimmick’s aren’t necessarily bad things, they gave us some of Whedon’s best work, but they do tend to define their stories: the silent episode, the musical episode, etc.  “Waiting in the Wings” may not quite be up to the level of those heavyweights but it does do a far better job of integrating its premise into the show’s universe.  Do get me wrong, this story’s a delightful departure from what qualifies as normal in Angel’s world, but it gets there far less abruptly than the other gimmick episodes.  The shift into a more theatrical version of Angel is almost seamless and keeps the central conceit from overshadowing the characters. Continue reading

Hey, We’re Supervillains. Call us “Master”

Gasp! A murder in Sunnydale!

Gasp! A murder in Sunnydale!

Well, that was grim.  Off the top of my head, “Passion” and “Helpless” are the only Buffy episodes (thus far) to go to the kind of dark places that “Dead Things” takes us, and it does it without the aid of killing or terrorizing someone we care about.  The Trio has been one of Buffy’s most entertaining villains since their first appearance, but their ability to bring the story to such a dark place indicates there’s more to them than empty amusement.  There’s actually very little new here (people die all the time in Sunnydale) but highlighting the impact they have on our characters is enough to illustrate how horrifying they are. Continue reading