Friday, 27 June 2014

ANGEL, 2.18 & 2.19 - 'Dead End' & 'Belonging'

Friday, 27 June 2014
ANGEL: You know, when I was in charge here, nobody questioned my methods, or my singing.
CORDELIA: You're half right.

Of the issues I have with Wolfram & Hart being the show's face of evil, lawyer Lindsey McDonald (Christian Kane) was one of the brighter areas, so it was a shame DEAD END signalled his exit from Angel. I guess he'd exhausted his usefulness in some ways, but as a rival to Angel (David Boreanaz) it was a shame the writers didn't do a better job fanning those flames. The actors have a good rapport together—comfortable being fierce enemies, and yet aware there's an unspoken mutual respect. They might actually have been great friends under different circumstances. They certainly share a taste in women, if not a talent for singing...

Lindsey's exit played out with a fun episode that toyed with an old trope: post-op body horror. Whenever people are given new eyes or hands in supernatural shows, you can almost guarantee things will take a peculiar turn. And so it proved here, when Lindsey was given a hand transplant by boss Nathan Reed (Gerry Becker) on the eve of a decision about his future career against job rival Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov). It wasn't long before Lindsey's joy at being able to strum a guitar again turned to horror when he caught himself unwittingly scribbling 'KILL KILL KILL' on notepads during meetings.

There wasn't much about "Dead End" that wasn't predictable, as it was a classic situation and the end-result wasn't in too much doubt. I didn't quite understand why W&H wanted to give Lindsey a transplanted hand, as they must surely have known their process is prone to such issues. Angel, Wes (Alexis Denisoff) and Gunn (J August Richards) here entered the story from a different angle—trying to find a man who stabbed himself in the eye after an ocular transplant—and ultimately wound up helping Lindsey with his menacing limb because answers led in the same direction. Still, it was fun seeing Lindsey mix with the good guys (praised for his singing abilities at Caritas, too!), and suffer through an uneasy partnership with Angel in order to discover where his evil hand came from.

While not everything about this episode felt logical to me, it kept me entertained and ended Lindsey's time on the show in a memorable way: a board room meltdown involving a gun, as he "retired" from his top job, recommended Lilah as his successor, then rode off in a rusted pick-up truck. Plus, this episode appears to represent a change in how the visions Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) experience actually operate; moving from a short blast of headache-inducing imagery (clues to jump-start a mystery), into something that now has after-shocks for as long as a case goes unsolved. That seems like a better idea to me, although the whole notion of these visions ultimately feels like a cheap narrative shortcut. Why can't the show just have characters coming to the team and asking for their help, which is what normal private investigators rely on?

ANGEL [to Cordelia]: Do you want me to rip that guy's head off for you? Because you know, I can. Really. I can just actually rip his head right off his body. I can do that.

BELONGING was one of those episodes where the thrust of the story was the weakest thing about it, and yet it provided a backbone to hang some interesting character beats and scenes. The problem is that only a few of those moments clicked for me, but Shawn Ryan's script was dynamic enough to keep me watching without growing bored. I just feel it could have been a much better hour.

The best thing about "Belonging" was getting a sense of the character's lives away from Angel Investigations. The show suddenly remembered that Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) is supposed to be a budding L.A actress, so it was good to see her pursue that dream agai. And while everyone was excited for Cordy's acting job, Angel's visit to the set of the advert she was shooting revealed she was verbal fodder for a clich├ęd director who only saw her as a pair of boobs. While it wasn't anything very fresh or interesting, it was nice to see both characters doing something more unusual together. It was just a shame the whole story evaporated as events evolved into the gang slaughtering a rampaging Drokken demon that entered our realm via a portal at Lorne's (Andy Hallett) karaoke bar.

We also saw Gunn's street gang make a reappearance Angel, to remind us he was once their streetwise leader and had commitments to a bunch of vampire-hunters who've missed him. Unfortunately, while I like the idea of revisiting Gunn's recent past, the death of Gunn's friend George (Darris Love), who might possibly become a vampire, wasn't handled very well. It never felt like a big enough part of the story, and because we have zero connection to George (has he been on the show before?), it was impossible to feel anything about his plight.

Finally, in an episode full of characters dealing with other halves of their lives, Lorne's back-story was teased out when his warrior cousin Landok (Brody Hutzler) arrived through a portal and helped the team find the Drokken creature. It appears that Lorne escaped his dimension and fled to Earth—essentially because he never fit into their bellicose warrior culture as, one assumes, a gay demon with a penchant for banana-yellow suits and Elton John tunes. It was good to get some insight into mysterious Lorne's background, and revealing a background of persecution and familial disappointment certainly made him more appealing to me. His personal history was even echoed, briefly, in a scene where Wesley called to wish his father a happy birthday, and it became clear their relationship is very strained and Wes doesn't get any praise.

Overall, it's just a shame there were some nice ideas floating around this episode, because it was all anchored to a rather dull monster-hunt. Also funny to note that librarian Winifred "Fred" Burkle was played by a pre-Dollhouse Amy Acker, and that's a character we'll apparently be seeing more of. Oh, and the denouement with Cordy waking up on an alien world heated by two suns was also a nice cliffhanger, and suggests a bit more imagination being employed on the show.

written by David Greenwalt (2.18) & Shawn Ryan (2.19) | directed by James A. Contner (2.18) & Turi Meyer (2.19) | 24 April & 1 May 2001