Thursday, 18 July 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 4.6 – 'Wild at Heart' & ANGEL, 1.6 – 'Sense & Sensitivity'

Thursday, 18 July 2013
Buffy: Clearly we need to get you kicking some monster bootie, stat.

I had no idea Seth Green left Buffy the Vampire Slayer as early as this, but 1999 was the year Green co-starred in box-office juggernaut Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, so it suddenly made perfect sense. I wonder if Green would do the same thing with the benefit of hindsight, because his film career didn't soar to any great heights... and he's now best-known for voicing Chris Griffin in Family Guy and making animated Star Wars parodies.

Joss Whedon apparently wanted to give Oz (Green) a big juicy storyline this season, in the form of a love-triangle between geeky girlfriend Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and rock chick Veruca (Paige Moss), but the actor's abrupt exit meant the whole idea was reduced to a few episodes. I had barely remembered Oz was smitten by sexy Veruca after seeing her perform at The Bronze, so the sudden love affair in this episode did feel rushed, but in understanding the circumstances I can let it slide.

Marti Noxon's one of my favourite writer of BtVS, and "WILD AT HEART" was pretty good considering the problems of concluding a storyline few people knew had actually begun. Oz isn't a character I enjoy watching that much because he's too stoical for his own good (which sits awkwardly amidst a clique of jokers), but I must admit his relationship with Willow is probably the most realistic one BtVS has given us—including poster couple Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Angel. Hannigan tends to overdo the lovey-dovey stuff, however, which makes me nauseous, but she really sells how emotionally attached Willow is to her first love. The scene where Willow said goodbye to Oz was very well performed and utterly believable.

This episode's theme of people having a darkness inside themselves that makes them do terrible things, despite their better judgement, also worked well as a werewolf parallel. I didn't even guess the rather obvious twist Veruca is a 'she-wolf', to further promote the idea she's a more suitably lover than Willow. Paige Moss was good fun as the bad girl werewolf, too, with her unusual head cocking and surliness being a quirky highlight.

Plus we had strong inferences that Riley's (Marc Blucas) part of the khaki-clad commandos patrolling campus, is in league with Professor Walsh (Lindsay Crouse), and both clearly have knowledge of the weirdness that permeates Sunnydale. Although it would be hard not to be, given what's happened to that town over the past three years. I'm always a little unsure just how much people outside of the Scooby Gang understand about the town they live in.

"Wild at Heart" was a good episode, certainly, and a decent swansong for Oz... although it's definitely a shame he couldn't be persuaded to stick around to do this storyline full justice. How did he wriggle out of his BtVS contract, anyway? I thought those things were watertight for at least seven years...

written by Marti Noxon | directed by David Grossman | 9 November 1999

Allen: That's good. Give yourself permission to open up. What were your parents like?
Angel: My parents were great. Tasted a lot like chicken.

I've been told Angel's first season is pretty weak, and that's proving to be largely true, but there are occasional glimpses of something more interesting seeping in around the edge. "SENSE & SENSITIVITY" earned credit for approaching a story in a different way, with Detective Kate Lockley (Elisabeth Röhm) requesting Angel's (David Boreanaz) help in finding a mob boss called Anthony 'Little Tony' Papazian (John Capodice). The supernatural stuff was dialled back for the most part, which was interesting to experience, and the show had fun with the idea everyone thinks Angel's insensitive—a trait shared by Lockley, who embarrassed her father with some home truths during his LAPD retirement party.

It wasn't too long before "Sense & Sensitivity" fell back onto familiar ground, however, once it became clear cops are being brainwashed by a mole sent undercover as "sensitivity training" guru Allen Lloyd (Ron Marasco)--effectively worsening their ability to work because they've all become too sensitive and can't help wearing their hearts on their sleeve. Having Angel affected later in the episode also provided lots of amusing out-of-character moments for Boreanaz to play, and in general there was a shrewd idea swimming around in here. The significance of law firm Wolfram & Hart (mentioned throughout the season) also grew in status with the appearance of Lee Mercer (Thomas Burr) as Little Tony's shrewd lawyer. W&H are clearly the Big Bad of this first season, and I'm enjoying how Angel's chosen to have an organisation as its villain rather than an individual... although I guess there's still time for the CEO of W&H to make an appearance later.

Tim Minear's first episode for Angel was pretty good, all things considered, although much of that was because the core idea to explore sensitivity was handled well. The characterisation of Little Tony was far too clichéd (the clue was in his name), and Röhm's acting isn't always the strongest, as I found her heartfelt 'retirement speech' heavy-handed and unnatural. Oddly, Detective Lockley's being developed more this season than regular fixture Doyle (Glenn Quinn) has been, which is great for her character but quite clearly a problem that needs fixing. I know we're only six episodes into the show, but what do we really know about Doyle? He's Irish, he has spooky visions, and he fancies Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter). It's just not enough, creative team.

written by Tim Minear | directed by James A. Contner | 9 November 1999