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
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
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
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 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
I’m not crazy, you’re crazy!
One of the disadvantages of this season’s intensely serialised storytelling is that the show has lost much of its variety. The few forrays outside the realm of apocalyptic epic (e.g. the Gunn and Sparky caper) have felt more distracting than refreshing. “Shiny Happy People” proves that Angel can still colour outside the lines, even ones it drew itself. I won’t say that I’d become desensitised to all the doom and gloom, the series has done a good job preventing that, but the time was still right to change gears. Rather than trying to top the Apocalypse thus far, Jasmine takes us in the opposite direction and the effect is satisfyingly creepy. All the peace and happiness makes for a new kind of dread and Fred is an inspired choice to serve as the audience’s surrogate. Continue reading
“Inside Out” requires more than the usual dollop of suspension of disbelief. None of the events are what I’d call story-breaking, but there’s an awful lot packed into this episode that needed a bit more room to breathe. I’m not going to complain too much. This series has had the plot pedal to the metal all season and that sort of pacing inevitably leads to stumbles, I’m surprised it took this long. Between Connor’s sudden turn to the dark side and the strained exposition attempting to tie everything together, this episode is asking the audience for a lot of slack. But the series has earned it. All the buildup kept me excited to see what would come out of Cordy, even as evens around the reveal fizzled. Continue reading
I can see where hanging with Gwen would make you feel important
“Players” isn’t nearly as bad as I remember it being. It still isn’t particularly good, but Gunn’s not so excellent adventure takes up a minimal amount of screen time and the B-story manages to deliver on all fronts. It’s not just Gwen’s return that drags this story down (although that certainly doesn’t help) it’s the way it twists itself into knots to elevate Gunn. Charles has been wallowing in the sidekickery all season and I can understand the desire to give him the rub, but such episodes almost never work. The mere fact that there’s a need to prove he’s not “just the muscle” is evidence that he actually is. Couple that with the fact that with Gunn looking not so bright on his side quest and the AI team getting by better than fine without him and you’ve got an episode that only serves to undermine his worth as a character. Continue reading
Funny enough without a caption
Angelus’ return has been a delightfully intense chapter of Angel and its conclusion doesn’t disappoint. The first time we saw Angelus, however briefly, was at the end of “Awakening,” probably the single best look at Angel’s character in the series’ run. “Orpheus” isn’t quite on the same level but it’s still an extremely good episode and its intense focus on our hero makes it a fitting bookend for this mini-arc. Flashbacks have always been wisely used on this series and this trip down memory lane is no exception. It’s inherently satisfying to see some of the gaps in Angel’s history filled in but, more important than the chronology, this episode explores the space between the soulful and demonic egos. It’s conclusion underscores a fact that’s been hinted at since the series’ beginning; that space is an illusion. Continue reading
Biting you is the best idea ever
The sudden departure of The Beast may cause some structural problems for season four as a whole, but the break neck pace established over the past few weeks continues here and it’s enough to make me not particularly care for the moment. The Angelus/Faith mini arc is so good that the lone intrusion from the wider season feels like a distraction. That said, it’s the season arc that lends cohesion to “Release” and helps it be more than just super fun chaos. This season’s been about the dominance and submission since it began and this episode sees almost everyone jockeying for position. Cordy manipulates Connor, Wes pushes Faith, and Faith just tries to keep a hold on herself. The only one here who’s striving for freedom is Angelus, and he’s being fitted for a soul shaped collar on all sides. Continue reading