Thursday, 7 November 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 4.21 – 'Primeval' & ANGEL, 1.21 - 'Blind Date'

Thursday, 7 November 2013
Buffy: This... is not your business. It's mine. You, the Initiative, the boys at the Pentagon—you're all in way over your heads. Messing with primeval forces you have absolutely no comprehension of!
McNamara: And you do?
Buffy: I'm the Slayer. You're playing on my turf.

The penultimate episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's fourth season played exactly like a finale, which has me intrigued about what the actual finale will bring. Is this where True Blood got the idea of ending the majority of a year's storylines early? "PRIMEVAL" made be grin a lot, with some unexpected moments and fun action sequences (well, for this show), and it managed to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. The only reasons I can't score it higher is because it didn't move me emotionally, and the manner in way in which Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) managed to defeat cyborg Adam (George Hertzberg) felt silly. It may have worked with foreshadowing of a powerful spell to bestow Buffy with the amassed power of her Slayer lineage, via the spirits of her friends. Or whatever the hell happened.

There wasn't much to "Primeval", but it was a very entertaining blow-out from writer David Fury. I especially enjoyed the return of Professor Walsh (Lindsay Crouse) as an ambulant corpse, kept alive by tubes of blood and fluids wreathed around her body; plus the endlessly punchable Forrest (Leonard Roberts) as a Frankenstein's Monster-like protege of Adam. Last week's shock ending that Riley's (Marc Blucas) in league with Adam probably fooled some people, but it would have been a step too far to pull that trick on audiences after all we've been through with Riley and Buffy. So it was a relief to be told Riley's simply the unwitting owner of a chip that gives his psychotic "brother" control over his actions. I still enjoyed that development, however; seeing action man Riley unable to act on his feelings, stuck with the nightmare of being the Big Bad's puppet.

It all came down to a big attack on The Initiative, of course, where Adam was hiding in Walsh's "secret lab" the facility's staff—headed by Colonel McNamara (Conor O'Farrell)—have no knowledge of, and the expected clash between the US government and The Slayer's group when it came to saving the day. In yet another precursor to Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods, the Initiative's jailed beasties soon got loose and terrorised their captors. I only wish the budget for BtVS could have done justice to a 'supernatural prison break', as the most interesting thing we saw were tentacles assaulting a man. The other creatures tended to blur into the background as "men in funny masks" fighting "men in lab coats". (To be honest, I spend a lot of time imagining what a modern BtVS would resemble, visually—as it's obvious today's digital effects could do many of the show's ideas far better than was possible around the millennium.)

As I mentioned before, I wasn't a big fan of how Buffy managed to kill Adam by invoking the power of the First Slayer. That whole idea only just came up in this episode, so didn't really feel earned or very clever. There's no pleasure if Willow's (Alyson Hannigan) just going to start discovering amazing super-spells to get the gang out of whatever comes their way in the future. However, I could appreciate the thrill of seeing pompous Adam cut down to size by golden-eyed Buffy pulling Matrix-y moves on him (like stopping a hail of bullets mid-air), but it would perhaps have been better if the First Slayer invocation had been on the table for longer.

Overall, "Primeval" marked a strong end for many of season 4's plots, and I'm intrigued to see what next week's "Restless" will even be about—seeing as all the key villains are now dead, Riley's been rescued, Buffy's friendships have been restored, Spike's (James Marsters) treachery isn't a secret, and the government have mothballed the Initiative.

written by David Fury | directed by James A. Contner | 16 May 2000

Lindsey: Sorry I'm late. Hope I didn't worry anyone.
Cordelia: We just figured you were dead.

It's taken too long to get an episode like "BLIND DATE", which finally gave us overdue insight into Wolfram & Hart as antagonists. Angel's tip-toed around W&H this year, but beyond their involvement in the Faith plot they haven't struck a chord with me. Thankfully, this hour gave us a much better idea of this legal firm; its influence, its motivations, and a sense of how its power structure works. A lot of this was achieved thanks to the emphasis on the character of Lindsey McDonald (Christian Kane), who struggled to leave W&H after his boss Holland Manners (Sam Anderson) informed him they've hired an assassin to kill children. Unable to work for such a despicable company, Lindsey decided to part ways with the firm and help Angel (David Boreanaz) find the hired child killer, Vanessa Brewer (Jennifer Badger Martin); a blind assassin with the power to see movement. Sort of like a T-Rex.

"Blind Date" wasn't a great hour, but it did a few things very well and was successful in giving W&H a greater sense of purpose on the show; not to mention a feeling of intrigue. I also loved seeing Sam Anderson in this role as a devil perched on Lindsey's shoulder, tempting him to return to the dark side with the promise of fortune and clarity about his role in the world. Speaking as a Lost fan, it was great to see Anderson in a menacing role, which was at complete odds with his role as lovable Bernard. He was great, and I also enjoyed Christian Kane this week—whose 'redemption vs power' dilemma was at the forefront of events, and for once felt like a grown-up issue I can't quite imagine BtVS doing as well. Maybe Angel is beginning to find its feet, in terms of how it uses its supernatural trappings to explore the human condition in a more nuanced way?

Overall, "Blind Date" was a strong step forward for this show in the eleventh hour of its inaugural year. I hear W&H are still the main antagonists of season 2, so I'm relieved they aren't going to be removed from the board after next week's finale. That would have been truly unforgivable. It was also fun to realise that actress Jennifer Badger Martin is Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku's stunt-double, so this episode was something of a reward for all her hard work.

written by Jeannine Renshaw | directed by Thomas J. Wright | 16 May 2000