Thursday, 5 June 2014

ANGEL, 2.15 & 2.16 – 'Reprise' & 'Epiphany'

Thursday, 5 June 2014
WESLEY: Things'll pick up. They're bound to.
CORDELIA: Yeah. It's L.A. The evil's probably just tied up in traffic, or something.

We're inching towards the end of Angel's second season, and it's interesting to see the show going through changes and trying to find something interesting to say and do with its characters. I can't say everything is working for me right now, because Wolfram & Hart strikes me as a dumb concept, and I've never found Kate Lockley (Elisabeth Rohm) in the least bit compelling, but some things are working better; like the split of the detective agency, meaning Angel (David Boreanaz) is working alone and often making bad judgements without any guidance. That alone has resulted in some very interesting character moments.

I particularly enjoyed such moment in REPRISE where Angel nonchalantly walked into Wes's (Alexis Denisoff) office and plucked a book off Cordelia's (Charisma Carpenter) shelf they'd taken with them after parting ways. It was rude and underlined exactly how distant these characters have become, which will only make their inevitably reunion all the sweeter. Plus it's fascinating having the eponymous hero of a show spending a good portion of his time doing questionable (or downright terrible) things, even if his general aim still places him on the side of the good guys.

This week, Wolfram & Hart were celebrating their 75-Year Review, during which they were visited by a Senior Partner (a demon) from the Home Office (Hell?). Angel later stole the ring that allows the demon freedom between realms, using a magical gauntlet, and was taken down to "the source" by none other than ex-CEO Holland Manners (Sam Anderson). But you know what? The twist is that the elevator stopped where it started, at L.A street level, meaning Hell (and presumably Heaven?) co-exist alongside the everyday world of man. Rather than take this philosophically on the chin, a tormented Angel instead runs to the bosom of his vampire ex Darla (Julie Benz)... awakening the next morning blissfully happy, which of course should trigger the return of his evil Angelus persona.

"Respite" was enjoyable and included a few great moments (loved the sequence with Angel pushing a demon out of a skyscraper window), but there's just something about this Wolfram & Hart set-up that bugs me. I don't buy into them. Lawyers are evil is such a lazy trope, and the workings of the company haven't persuaded me W&H truly deserves to be a linchpin of Angel. There are occasionally fun glimpses at what goes on (like this episode's brilliant teaser with two men paid to sacrifice a room full of goats), and we know that they believe Angel has a role in the coming apocalypse, but the W&H scenes just reek of a bad '80s soap to me. Co-VPs Lilah (Stephanie Romanov) and Lindsey (Christian Kane) should be a lot more fun than they are; especially as the latter is in love with the hero's girl.

In terms of secret groups in the Buffyverse, I much preferred The Initiative on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 4), which fulfilled much the same role—only better, because those people always had good intentions, but ultimately wound up unleashing worse violence and horror on the townsfolk they were supposed to be protecting.

And don't get me started on Detective Kate Lockley getting fired from her job and taking an overdose of pills (she need a personality more pressingly than a career in the police), and the sudden loss of Drusilla from events.

ANGEL: I'm sorry, Lindsey. I really am. I'm sorry she'll never love you. I'm sorry you're gonna have to live with that. I'm sorry I didn't try harder to help you when you came to me. I'm sorry that you made the wrong choice.

While EPIPHANY was the conclusion of a two-part story, it chose the lamest parts of "Reprise" to feed into its own story. I was expecting Angel to transform into Angelus after sleeping with Darla (nicely teased by echoing the moment the same thing happened after taking Buffy's virginity), but the show completely avoided that and now appears to have tinkered with Angel's powers and weaknesses.

We're led to believe that Wolfram & Hart have removed the ability for Angel's curse to be reversed if he finds joy (right?), and a scene at the end suggests he's now able to enter places of residence without needing an invite. Both are interesting changes to the character, and they got me wondering why the writers chose to make these alterations. I can understanding the issue with vampire trespassing on a show where the lead vampire's a detective (who essentially can't search suspect's homes while they're out!), but does the other change mean the writers simply got bored of Angelus? Or they want to let their character enjoy moments of happiness and have sex without always turning evil?

Elsewhere, I thought the three-eyed Skilosh demons were only a minor component of "Reprise", so didn't even mention them in my above review, but here they were a bigger focus. I liked the idea the young girl who discovered an eyeball on the back of her head was part of the Skilosh reproductive cycle, and how those demons returned to impregnate Cordelia with another of their gestating cranial progeny. But these villains were ultimately just demons-of-the-week to slay, because "Epiphany" was more about Angel having the titular 'light bulb moment' and realising he needs his friends, and doesn't need his ex-girlfriend.

I also liked the scene where Lindsey attacked Angel by running him over in a truck countless times, then beating his body using blows from a sledgehammer, because he'd slept with his dearest Darla. These characters work better as enemies when there's a girl to fight over, and it was also a relief to see Julie Benz playing Darla more like her human self before Drusilla bit her. Maybe the writers realised Benz works best when she isn't in OTT 'vampire bitch mode', which the show's fearsome make-up tends to inspire in its actors. If she was passed a note to start playing Darla as she was doing earlier in the season, I'm so glad. I like that character when she's more emotionally open.

Overall, "Epiphany" was a fun and clearly important episode in the season's arc. Angel is now back with his estranged team (only he's the employee not the employer), the romantic 'will-they/won't-they?' with Darla feels resolved, Lindsey felt more threatening being physically violent, and I hear this is the last we'll see of Detective Lockley on the show. Let's thank The Powers That Be for small mercies.

written by Tim Minear | directed by James Whitemore Jr (2.15) & Thomas J. Wright (2.13) | 20 & 27 February 2001