Guess that Drogyn spinoff isn’t happening
“Power Play” is the perfect episode at the perfect time. Beyond being a masterful lead-in to the events of “Not Fade Away,” Angel’s penultimate episode is a great story in its own right and more than enough to get the audience re-invested after last week’s unpleasantness (let us never speak of it again). What really sells this episode for me is the way it’s able to make us doubt our champion. We never really believe that Angel’s gone over to the dark side (I’m not sure that we’re meant to) but it’s abundantly clear that something’s wrong with him and figuring out what that is makes for a compelling piece of television. Continue reading
No wonder Wes was in love
“A Hole in the World” ranks fifth amongst Buffyverse death episodes, but failing to place is no shame when you’re up against “The Gift” “The Body” “Seeing Red” and “Passion” so I admit to being a bit surprised by one of the comments a few weeks ago accusing this episode of melodrama. It is, at certain points, but the emotions here are earned, for the most part, most particularly the team’s rising desperation as it becomes clearer and clearer that they’re not going to save the day this time. Continue reading
You’re a wee little puppet man
“Smile Time” is one of those rare episodes that I love more each time I see it. That’s somewhat easier to account for this time around as I now have a daughter and am more familiar with children’s programming. There was always something hilarious in demonic puppets but, having now recently re-experienced the mind numbing wholesomeness, the satire feels far more poignant. And it’s not just the evil of Polo and his crew, this episode deserves big props for twisting the tropes of children’s programming and Angels world together at every opportunity. This may well be the best bit of genre bending we’ve ever seen from the Whedonverse and that’s really saying something. Continue reading
It makes complete sense that he’s in this episode
Season five has dealt almost exclusively with the consequences of Angel’s decision to take over Wolfram & Hart. It’s been fine fruit for storytelling but it tends to obscure the fact that Angel’s poor decision making extends a lot farther back than last year. Angel has always been defined by his baggage and so it’s nice to see some of it getting pushed to the forefront again. That said, “Why We Fight” doesn’t really have enough to say about Angel’s character, the flashbacks being more concerned with having some fun than with exploring anything profound. That’d be fine, except I get the impression that it thinks a bit more highly of itself. Continue reading
No need to CGI this group shot
“You’re Welcome” is another one of those problematic episodes that manages to get so much right and so much wrong at the same time. On the one hand it’s an excellent way to mark the series’ one hundredth episode; a celebration of its past, an underscore for its themes, a salve for fans who were (rightly) upset with the way Cordelia exited, and a pretty good case of the week to boot. On the other hand it’s completely counter productive for the season arc, providing a payoff that’s merely “pretty good” after buildup that’s been largely excellent and leaving little momentum to take us into the second half of the season. I certainly like this episode, but the price as too high. Continue reading
Dark enough for ya?
“Damage” is yet another stellar outing for season five, one that somehow delivers a continuity-laden monster-of-the-week story. The episode succeeds because, much as it delves into this universe’s mythology, it never really leans on it. Seeing some of the repercussions from Buffy’s finale is pretty great, but the story works even if you’d never seen BtVS. It does this, as always, by keeping the focus on the characters. For all of season five’s alleged episodic nature, stories like this one drill home the fact that these people are still on a journey.
Far right, nice photo bomb
I really like “Soul Purpose.” As gimmick episodes go, it’s not Angel‘s strongest outing and nowhere near the heights of Buffy; Angel’s dream sequences are devoid of any subtlety and the happenings in the real world aren’t much better. But it’s this propensity to tell rather than show that makes this episode compelling. We’ve glimpsed the pain behind his brooding many times before but the naked insecurity on display here is something quite different. Angel’s in the midst of a full blown identity crisis, one that doesn’t just crack his cultured stoicism, but strips it away altogether. Continue reading
I would’ve expected more dust
I have fond memories of this episode. Not that it ever stood out as one of Angel’s greats, but I generally appreciated Harmony’s humour and “Harm’s Way” was certainly her finest showcase. So why was this particular rewatch such a complete slog? I actually had to view this in three separate intervals, it just couldn’t command 40 straight minutes of attention. I never do that for any show, least of all one I’m writing about, and I’ve written about far worse episodes than this one. So why did it fail to reach a bar that even “Doublemeat Palace” surpassed? Continue reading
The best of friends
I can’t tell if there’s a large segment of Angel fans out there who hated Spike’s addition this season or merely a very vocal small minority. Episodes like “Destiny” make me lean towards the latter. How can anyone not love Spike here? It’s not just that I’m a big fan of the character (I am), I’m a big fan of what his presence does to Angel. Some people seem to be offended at the mere suggestion that anyone but Angel could be “the” Champion, seeing this as flimsy fan-service for Team Spike at the expense of Angel’s story. Such people are missing the point. Spike hasn’t diminished Angel here, Angel’s diminished himself; Spike’s simply the one who won’t let him forget it.
I really don’t want to call this episode a cop out. It’s an easy accusation to level at it given the conclusion, but the rest of the episode works so well that, even with disappointing ending, I can’t reduce it to an exercise in narrative cowardice. Wes’ child abuse has been alluded to since the first season and finally seeing it represented onscreen doesn’t disappoint. The adult Wesley’s relationship with his father is about what we’d expect; much as he might hate Rodger, he’s still desperate for his approval and this fact reduces him to the sort of ineffectual over-compensating we haven’t seen since his days in Sunnydale. This isn’t the Wesley the audience has come to love and we want to see Rodger pay for what he’s done. We’re robbed of that in the end, but that fact need not rob “Lineage” of its significance. Continue reading