“There is nothing that I want” was nearly the title of this post. An understated summation of the bleakest of mindsets, delivered with complete conviction and full of bitterness that falls just short of self-pity; it’s the perfect Wesley line. Except that it’s not. Much as I think of latter-season Wes as an uncompromising badass with a penchant for self-destruction, that’s not how he makes his exit. Deathbed repentance would seem to be the ultimate cheat for a character so committed to being miserable, but Wesley and Fred’s farewell capitalizes on the shows themes of redemption and forgiveness and delivers an emotional closure that feels entirely earned. Continue reading
No, why would Buffy be here? We wouldn’t want to mess with such an awesome episode.
Well, here we are, the last crappy episode of Angel. I tend to Google episodes before writing about them (it’s a good way to gain perspective) and I was shocked to discover that “The Girl in Question” has its defenders. I just don’t get how anyone could like this episode. Having a comedic departure at a time when the series should be building momentum was ill advised to begin with but, if you’re going to do it, don’t forget the “comedic” part. Even if we put aside the bafflingly placement in the season and the equally baffling bait and switch of not getting to see Buffy, we’re still left with an episode where the overwhelming majority of the jokes don’t land. The quality of the Angel & Spike’s bogus journey hovers somewhere around the series’ first season, and that’s just inexcusable at this juncture. Continue reading
OMG, we have so little to do these days!
“Underneath” makes for an interesting follow up to “Shells.” Fred’s death was certainly a direct consequence of the team deciding to work for Wolfram & Hart, but the event’s such a heavy emotional gut punch that it feels isolated from the rest of the series. “Underneath” is a somewhat jarring reminder that there’s a wider story going on; Lindsey and Eve and Senior Partners, oh my! That’s not enough to kill my enjoyment of this trip to demonic suburbia and I actually appreciated Lindsay expositing on the series’ larger themes, but the need for such housekeeping highlights the structural problems this season suffers from. Continue reading
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
Five on five tags are rarely exciting
Six episodes in and season five finally stumbles. “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinquo” isn’t nearly as bad as many people make it out to be, but it isn’t particularly good either. The chief problem is that the story is at odds with itself. A group of demon fighting luchadors is an inherently silly premise and the episodes delivers some solid laughs anytime it embraces this but, perplexingly, it attempts to meld the premise with a thoroughly morose tone. This story’s too bleak to let us spend much time laughing, and too silly for us to really feel for Angel. The resulting muddle has its moments, but never really comes together as an episode. Continue reading
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
Are we boring you Angel?
“Supersymmetry” is almost a great episode. Unfortunately, the stakes are so high and the character turns so drastic that it needed to be great in order to work. From a raw narrative perspective, “sweet, innocent” Fred seeking revenge on the man who sent her to Pylea has all sorts of juice, particularly in the various reactions of her friends, but this is the first time it’s ever been suggested that her interdimensional odyssey was anything but an accident. Its also the first time in a long time that we’ve seen her exhibit any sort of trauma from the experience. Such an out of nowhere story needed to be nigh-perfect in order to justify the stakes it’s aiming for, and being “merely” good makes this episode feel half baked. Continue reading
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
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
I can also make the ground hate women
For an episode focused on misogyny, “Billy” sure doesn’t have a lot to say about it. The titular villain runs amok in LA, turning any man he touches into a female hating psychopath and… and nothing. There’s certainly a lot of misogyny on display here but the question of where it comes from, whether Billy’s imparting it on his victims or merely drawing it forth is raised without being explored. But, despite the serious thematic shortcomings, the B-story with Wesley stalking Fred through the Hyperion is more than enough to save the episode. Alexis Denisof had been a stellar supporting player since he first appeared on Angel, but this episode casts a welcome spotlight on his dramatic abilities and offers a tantalizing promise of things to come. Continue reading