Thursday, 12 June 2014

ANGEL, 2.17 – 'Disharmony' & BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 5.15 - 'I Was Made to Love You'

Thursday, 12 June 2014
GUNN: Now we're saving a vampire from vampires? I got two words for that: Nuh and uh!

It was a relief to watch DISHARMONY because I'd grown weary of the Darla arc's diminishing returns, and it felt like Angel was getting back to basics. The new management structure of the agency will take some getting used to (the main character of the show isn't the boss?), but in many ways it makes sense to put studious Wesley (Alexis Denisoff) in charge of the business. Angel (David Boreanaz) probably wasn't very good at completing tax returns and all the boring stuff that goes into being a private investigator, let's face it.

Going in, I knew this episode was going to involve the crossover appearance of vampire "mean girl" Harmony (Mercedes McNab) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who recently split from boyfriend Spike and evidently decided to hookup with high school BFF Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter). That premise didn't fill me with confidence, because Harmony's character has run hot and cold (to be kind) and Cordy's my least favourite Angel regular right now. However, despite some apprehensions, this proved to be a very funny and well-written hour from David Fury. It was a humorous episode without being dumb, and I enjoyed the way the story handled the Harmony/Cordelia relationship. One I don't remember being very prominent in BtVS, but am I wrong?

One of the funniest Angel moments also occurred here, in the amusing sequence with Cordelia believing Harmony's now a lesbian after misconstruing her attempt to confess she's been turned into a vampire. Such wrong-end-of-the-stick humour, done well, can be a delight, and fed into an equally funny scene when Cordelia's error was corrected during a call to genuine lesbian Willow (Alyson Hannigan).

I also liked how the title also referred to the fact Cordelia and Angel haven't patched things up after recent events, and Angel's deeply wounded by the fact Cordelia told him they're no longer friends. Ouch. The whole episode was about friendship and reconnecting with people, and Fury's script did a good job keeping that theme feeling integral—even when the story broadened to involve vampire "self help guru" Doug Sanders (Pat Healy) running a pyramid scheme for his vampire acolytes ('turn two humans, keep one as food' being their mantra). This idea was robust enough to fuel a full episode by itself, really.

It was also nice to be reminded exactly what vampires are in the Buffyverse; as Wes mentioned that Harmony isn't actually Cordelia's ex-classmate, but a demon that now inhabits Harmony's body and has inherited all her human memories. You don't hear that mentioned enough on BtVS or Angel, as I tend to forget the true nature of both show's signature monster. It certainly makes you think differently about Spike and Darla; and in the latter's case it underscored how Angel truly lost his greatest love when she was turned back into a vampire.

Overall, there was a great deal to enjoy about "Disharmony" and it came as a pleasant surprise to me. However, it's a shame Cordelia's role on the show remains so thin. She's the "psychic hot line" whenever the plot requires an inciting incident, and Cordy ended this episode forgiving Angel's bad behaviour because he bought her new clothes?! That's a tiny bit insulting for a female character on the show, no? Worth it just to see Boreanaz crack a smile on the show? Well, maybe...

APRIL: Crying is blackmail. Good girlfriends don't cry.

After a long break on the catchup rota, we're back in Sunnydale for the ongoing fifth season of BtVS. I only wish I WAS MADE TO LOVE YOU had been a more welcoming return, but this loose companion piece to season 2's "Ted" was a bitter disappointment. It concerned a pretty teen called April (Shonda Farr) arriving in town, searching tirelessly for her boyfriend Warren (Adam Busch) and making the Scooby Gang suspicious of the fact she's a robot. Jane Espenson's script mined some humour from the fact it was obvious April wasn't human, which was certainly appreciated, but unfortunately most of this hour kept being too predictable.

There was a half-hearted attempt to make obedient April's existence echo the fact Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) realising she doesn't need a boyfriend to give herself an identity and sense of purpose, which was fine to a point, but "I Was Made to Love You" was just too thin. Buffy tracked down nerdy Warren, who had abandoned his 'dream girl automaton' when she started to get on his nerves (and forgot to simply deactivate her?), there was a Buffy vs April fight in a children's playground, a post-brawl tête-à-tête about the meaning of love, and the story was largely resolved. The only other things of note were hints Xander (Nicholas Brendan) and Buffy may develop feelings for each other (or that was my impression with their maturing friendship), and villain Glory (Clare Kramer) posing as hospital orderly Ben (Charlie Weber) to snoop on Buffy. (T-100-style, keeping to the robot theme?)

Interestingly, this was a story where the denouement was more interesting than the preceding story: with Spike (James Marsters) arriving at Warren's and demanding he make April 2.0 in the image of Buffy Summers (ewww), and Buffy discovering her mother apparently dead on the sofa after going on a date. A complication with her brain tumour storyline seems the likely cause, unless she encountered something far more frightening while dating?

written by David Fury (2.17) & Jane Espenson (5.15) | directed by Fred Keller (2.17) & James A. Contner (5.15) | 17 April 2001 & 20 February 2001