Thursday, 15 May 2014

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 5.14 – 'Crush' & ANGEL, 2.12 – 'Blood Money'

Thursday, 15 May 2014
BUFFY: He's a killer, Dawn. You cannot have a crush on something that is dead, and, and evil, and a vampire.
DAWN: Right, that's why you were never with Angel for three years.
BUFFY: Angel's different. He has a soul.
DAWN: Spike has a chip. Same diff.

This season's sub-plot about vampire Spike (James Marsters) slowly realising he loves vampire slayer Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), the mortal enemy of his kind, has entertained me more than expected. It makes a weird sense for Spike to feel this way, especially as he's currently dating vapid Harmony (Mercedes McNab) and missing his ex Drusilla's (Juliet Landau) evil influence. CRUSH dealt with this love mismatch head-on, at last, with Buffy finally aware of Spike's feelings for her. The result was an enjoyable romp that left a good impression.

I really like the development that Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) fancies Spike, because he's the dictionary definition of the older man many girls develop a crush on in their teenage years. He's classic "bad boy with good hair" type. The fact Spike's only interested in Dawn's older sister also rings true of countless situations amongst siblings in reality, so that all helped lift this episode for me. The story may involve immortal vampires with murder-inhibiting chips implanted in their brains, but the basic foundation is something ordinary folk can relate to. The sign of a strong genre show.

Buffy's reaction to the news Spike carries a torch for her wasn't in the least bit unexpected, but I have to admit there's a part of me that hoped she would admit to having some affection for him (at least), but perhaps that was just wishful thinking—as I'm clearly going to be on Spike's side in this situation, as a red-blooded man. We've all fallen head-over-heels for someone when your love isn't mutual, and "Crush" did a terrific job communicating Spike's inner torment. He learned a hard lesson: you can't make someone love you, and it perhaps doesn't help when they discover your creepy shrine to them, either.

This episode also saw the return of Drusilla, who apparently must have asked Darla for a day off to catch-up with he ex in Sunnydale. It's strange, but Landau's character works better for me in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer milieu—perhaps because she's so overtly comical, and Angel is striving for more seriousness (which is a tricky balancing act at the best of times). Dru's reappearance threw Spike into a tizzy, as he could easily nix this improbable situation with Buffy and restart a relationship that's proven its longevity before.

It all led to a great climax in Spike's lair, where he literally had to choose between the two women he loves. And despite having that chip in his head (which he's apparently learned to override with Dru's help?), I thought it was a big statement that he was willing to stake her in front of Buffy. Seems Buffy didn't feel that way, leaving the episode on a realistic but slightly sour note that seems to confirm they'll never be anything more than 'frenemies' (at best). Oh, and Spike's also now lost Harmony thanks to this mess, but I don't know anyone who ever took her seriously as a romantic proposition or character to begin with. That said, I had to giggle at the scene where she tried to reawaken Spike's mojo by role-playing as The Slayer.

ANNE: What's this?
ANGEL: Blood.
ANNE: It'll wash.

Meanwhile, Angel (David Boreanaz) is entangled with an attractive blonde, so it's business as usual for the lone wolf investigator. In the coldly efficient BLOOD MONEY, Angel decided to help the owner of a homeless shelter, Anne Steele (Julia Lee), whose charity is being bankrolled by Wolfram & Hart—whom Angel believe are planning to steal the contributions received during an extravagant charity ball.

This was another hour where Angel helps a beautiful woman with a problem, which admittedly is the backbone of a lot of crime fiction Angel riffs on. I'm just not particularly keen on that trope unless it's done really well, but Shawn Ryan and Mere Smith's script felt rather basic and obvious to me. It was nevertheless fun to see Wolfram & Hart lawyers Lindsey (Christian Kane) and Lila (Stephanie Romanov) working badly together, giving us more of an idea about what W&H do via their Special Projects division.

One thing that escaped my notice until I lightly researched this episode, is that Anne Steele is the same character who's appeared twice on BtVS—first as a vampire worshipper in "Lie to Me", then as Lily in "Anne" (so-named because that's the alias she eventually adopts). The actress did look familiar to me, but I must admit I watched this episode ignorant of the fact she's a recurring character making an unexpected crossover on Angel. I wish more had been done to make this clear, as it may have provided an undercurrent of enjoyment during my first viewing.

"Blood Money" also gave us out first look at the splinter agency being formed by Wes (Alexis Denisoff), Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Gunn (J. August Richards). It strikes me as highly unlikely they'd be an effective demon-fighting trio, going on what we know about them from past adventures, but it's still entertaining to see those characters interacting without their eponymous boss brooding over their shoulders. In particular, Gunn and Wes appear to have now bonded over a mutual appreciation for the strategy board game Risk.

Overall, this episode came and went with me. There were some amusing moments (the unseen fire-breathing dragon, Cordelia's audition tape, Wes doing a James Bond impersonation), and a demon called Boone (Mark Rolston) who had a beef with Angel certainly had plenty of screen presence, but this was otherwise a pretty forgettable episode.

written by David Fury (5.14) & Shawn Ryan & Mere Smith (2.12) | directed by Dan Attias (5.14) & R.D Price (2.12) | 13 February 2001 & 23 January 2001