Monthly Archives: January 2014

Final Thoughts – Angel Season Four

The success of Angel‘s fourth season rests squarely on the strength of its season arc.  That’s somewhat strange to say when so many of the season’s fault can also be pinned on that arc.  Or perhaps not.  Far more than any of Angel’s other seasons, this one focused on telling a unified story.  A challenging, dark, EPIC story.  This allowed plot, theme, and character to all yield big payoffs as they capitalised on what came before.  It also meant that things weren’t pretty anytime this narrative behemoth stumbled.  In my opinion,  the successes of this seasons far outnumbered its failures, making it one of Angel‘s best. Continue reading

I’m a Wounded Dwarf with the Mystical Strength of a Doily

The one positive part of this review

The one positive part of this review

Thematically speaking, this ending may be perfect, if only it wasn’t a narrative train wreck.  To be fair, I think that most of the problems with “Chosen” are a product of the preceding season. I cared about very little going into this finale and so it was nearly impossible for anything to really feel like a payoff.  But that excuse only goes so far.  Whedon & Co. set this impossible task for themselves and, as an audience, we’re not wrong to be disappointed when they don’t deliver.  Sadly, the finale’s problems aren’t limited to providing a lackluster end to a lackluster season.  To call the wrap up of the series’ various thread “unceremonious” is a gross understatement.  This finale provides closure in name only as it relies on unearned character beats, flat exposition, and logic that isn’t in order to bring about its ending.  It’s exactly the sort of lazy, hamfisted writing I tune into Buffy to avoid and it’s all neatly encapsulated in the deus ex amulet. Continue reading

I Can’t be Saved by a Lie

We stick together... or not.   Your call.

We stick together… or not. Your call.

“Home” fails in a number of respects, most keenly in how obvious its efforts to shift the series’ gears are; after months of bleak, gloomy (and great) storytelling, we’re introduced to the bright, shiny, and new Wolfram & Hart and the episode strains to make us believe this is somewhere the AI team would want to be.  It makes little sense that they’d entertain this offer, let alone accept it.  But despite all of this, I still kind of like it.  Wolfram & Hart IS bright, shiny, and new and while I loved season four’s dark story, this still feels like a breath of fresh and fun air.  More importantly, the contrived stage setting doesn’t completely forget the characters.  While most of the AI crew has little to justify their decision, their leader is given one very compelling reason to sell out. Continue reading

I’m Cookie Dough

The more things change...

The more things change…

Where it is the task of the season finale to put an exclamation point on a single arc, a series finale must do so for an entire show.  That’s a tall order for any series, but it’s particularly difficult for one as diverse and innovative as Buffy.  How do you sum up a show that so often defied classification, even by the conventions it built for itself?  “You don’t” is the simple answer.  This episode wisely cuts through the extraneous elements and puts its focus on the show’s core themes.  This was, fundamentally, a show about growing up and while that’s a pretty nebulous concept to pin your exclamation point on, “Chosen” succeeds admirably in showing us just what it means for Buffy. Continue reading

You Don’t Have to Assume the Worst

Which one looks like a super soldier?

Which one looks like a super soldier?

I’m going to forego my usual prohibition on spoilers in the opening paragraph so stop reading if you’re looking to defer your inevitable disappointment is the Coulson question.  Turns out that the secret of his resurrection was that he was… resurrected.  I can understand why this might shock and disturb Coulson, but the audience figured that much out weeks ago and for the big reveal to be so thoroughly unimaginative is just an insult.  I thought that I was beyond being disappointed in this show but “The Magical Place” managed to slither beneath the incredibly low bar I’d set.  On a better series I’d be waiting for the other shoe to drop, but this is what passes for intrigue on SHIELD. Continue reading

You’ve Already Lost Everything

Ugly, and therefore evil

Ugly, and therefore evil

Much like Buffy’s fourth season, Angel’s goes and puts the big finish in the second last episode and, much like its predecessor, that’s not a bad thing.  The AI team has been losing all season and it’s made for a wonderfully bleak, dark, story but it also makes it difficult to deliver any sort of satisfying conclusion; do they lose some more or finally win one?  Most (good) modern shows would work their way out of a quandary by having victory come at a steep price, “We won, but at what cost?”  “Peace Out” poses a similar (though more interesting) question of “We won, but why?”  Victory and defeat are intriguingly conflated here as Angel’s once again asked what he’s fighting for. Continue reading

Thank God We’re Hot Chicks with Superpowers

See, best friends again

See, best friends again

As penultimate episodes go, “End of Days” gets the job done.  There’s a lot of obvious movement of pieces into position here and not a whole lot of interest in telling a story.  On the one hand, that’s particularly distracting as the wider season context does nothing to hide how contrived all this is; the season arc’s just been too weak to support such moves.  On the other, it doesn’t much matter if we’re pushed out of a narrative we were never particularly invested in, especially when such is the cost of setting up one helluva finale.  Leaving aside my actual thoughts on Buffy’s ending, the task of this episode is to get the audience excited for it and, in that respect, it’s a triumph. Continue reading

What We Need is a Break

What happened to the aspect ratio?

What happened to the aspect ratio?

There have been some great creepy moments in the last two episodes and while “Sacrifice” doesn’t have quite the same surreal vibe as its predecessors, it’s still able to get more mileage out of Jasmine’s love.  I always liked the Devowerer but I never really appreciated just how awesome she is until this rewatch.  Conceptually, Jasmine’s a winner in delivering the apocalypse of peace and love, but it’s the execution that makes her something special.  What she represents continues to weigh on our heroes even after her magic’s been dispelled, so much so that they’ve got no clear motivation for opposing her.  Jasmine’s a great villain not because of her power, but because some part of us wants to believe. Continue reading

I Don’t Want To Be The One

Finally

Hooray!

“Touched” is a very good episode.  You need to get passed the nonsense of last week (and the whole season really) but, if you can, you’ll be treated to some of the best raw storytelling the series has to offer.  And it’s not just that it only works in isolation either as many of the character dynamics I’d thought thoroughly played out or hopelessly boggled are able to yield new drama here.  It’s so good that I think I may have been too hard on Buffy last week.  This is still a great show, just one mired in a bad story.  Whenever it breaks free of that story and simply lets the characters be themselves, it can still sing. Continue reading

You Ruin Everything

I think the book depository would be a good bet

I think the book depository would be a good bet

What if  Peter Parker couldn’t hack it?  We’ve been conditioned by decades of origin stories to believe that with great power comes great responsibility, but what if both the power and responsibility are not only unwelcome, but also unhealthy?  What if what Peter really needed was to get help rather than fight crime?  These are the unwelcome questions Connor’s been posing all season, made unavoidable by this episode’s conclusion.  It’s enough to make me think that I may have been too quick in my assessment a couple of weeks ago that Connor’s homicidal turn came out of nowhere.  I knew that the turn in “Magic Bullet” was coming of course, but it didn’t really register until I rewatched it.  Connor didn’t move suddenly from troubled teen to murderer, he moved from being known as “The Destroyer” in a hell dimension to mutilating drug dealers, to sinking his dad to the bottom of the ocean, to being manipulated by an evil extra-planar entity.  The darkness was always there in Connor, if only anyone had bothered to look for it. Continue reading