Thursday, 10 July 2014

ANGEL, 2.20 & 2.21 - 'Over the Rainbow' & 'Through the Looking Glass'

Thursday, 10 July 2014
CORDELIA: I wanna go home. I wanna be in my bed. I wanna order some Thai food. I wanna read the latest issue of 'Marie Claire'. I wanna be doing anything but shovelling demon horse poo!
OVER THE RAINBOW offered something very different for an episode of Angel, and for that reason alone I found this hour entertaining. The show has been rather dour and has Los Angeles as its fixed location, so it's nice whenever it lightens up and goes somewhere sunnier. It also provided more evidence that having Lorne (Andy Hallett) around as an unlikely member of the team gives the ensemble a welcome dose of droll comedy.

Continuing from the last episode's cliffhanger, Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) has found herself transported to Lorne's homeworld of Pylea; an alleged dystopia, second only to Hell, where even the joy of music doesn't exist. Unfortunately, the makers of Angel had to conjure that from a sunny Californian countryside, an old stable, a town centre re-purposed from "Darla", and costumes from the Middle Ages. For awhile, this felt like a huge flaw in terms of world-building, because I didn't feel that Cordy was in epic danger, and the monstrosity of Lorne's birthplace didn't live up to his hype. Things did gradually become more nightmarish (sort of), once Cordy was reduced to being a "cow" slave with an electrified collar to ensure her obedience, shovelling horse manure, but perhaps it's for the best this episode ended on a more positive note.

There wasn't much to this story, when you stop and think about it. Cordelia adjusted to her status as a "beast of burden", meeting fellow "cow" Fred (Amy Acker) from her vision last week (who has now gone crazy after so long in captivity), and eventually her psychic abilities manages to earn her a reprieve with Constable Narwek (Brian Tahash). Indeed, she becomes the Princess of Pylea (shades of John Carter of Mars this episode?), in Angel's version of Leia's bikini from Return of the Jedi.

The other side of the tale was with Angel (David Boreanaz) and Wes (Alexis Denisoff) trying to figure out a way to rescue Cordy, by opening another portal to Pylea, against the advice of Lorne. Gunn (J. August Richards) spent awhile moping over the death of his street gang friend nobody else knew, or cared about, before seemingly realising that fact and jumping into Angel's convertible as it roared through the gateway to Pylea. It was quite fun seeing the team in the world of Pylea, too, and a nice touch that vampire Angel isn't affected by this realm's twin suns. His boyish enthusiasm over being out in daylight was amusing, although it's funny how quickly Boreanaz turns from cool to dorky simply by being upbeat.

Overall, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was basic fantasy storytelling we haven't seen versions of countless times in other genre shows, but still fun and a treat considering the complete change of colour scheme for the show. Also fun spotting Daniel Dae Kim as a Wolfram & Hart lawyer Gavin Park, poised to take over the Hyperion Hotel lease, years before he came to wider attention as Jin in Lost.

written by Mere Smith | directed by Fred Keller | 8 May 2001

CORDELIA: I want you to find me a dimension where some demon doesn't want to impregnate me with its spawn. Is that just too much to ask?
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS picked up exactly where "Over the Rainbow" left off, so can essentially be considered the same episode. I found it about as enjoyable as part 1, but this storyline does seem to have been very randomly thrown together. I read somewhere that Julie Benz was available to play Darla, so the writers had to improvise a different kind of finale for the season, and it shows. But that's not to say these episodes have been duds.

Cordelia finding herself the newly-crowned Princess of Pylea came with pro's and con's. She could help her friends evade harsh justice, but for awhile it seemed she'd have to fulfil a bizarre prophecy by mating (performing the "com-shuk") with the nasty-sounding "Groosalugg"—who turned out to a handsome fellow "cow" (Mark Lutz). Throughout this episode there was a pervasive feeling that Cordy's actually fallen on her feet, now her psychic gift's actually enabled her to become a princess with a hot would-be boyfriend... but obviously this wasn't going to hold true for long. The head priest Silas (Michael Phenicle, speaking exactly like cyborg Adam from Buffy season 4) intends to keep Princess Cordelia under his control, especially when she starts making unreasonable plans to help her subjects.

It was also an interesting episode for Angel, who, like Cordelia, had come to believe Pylea isn't such a bad place because he no longer has to avoid daylight and has a reflection again. Unfortunately, transforming into his vampire state results in a much stronger possession of the demon inside of him, transforming Angel into a rampaging 'super-vampire'. This made him more of a Jekyll & Hyde figure during this episode, with the rescued Winifred (Amy Acker) the only person capable of getting through to the human deep inside.

Beyond those areas of the story, there wasn't much about "Through the Looking Glass" to talk about, although it setup a few nice things for later. I especially liked how the horrible priests are linked to Wolfram & Hart back on Earth, via a trilogy of books marked by three animals (wolf, ram and hart). It'll be interesting to see what that means, exactly, because clearly the writers want W&H to now pose an interdimensional strength and rich history. It's just a bit disappointing they're a bunch of white-collar suits in L.A, much of the time.

And, of course, the cliffhanger with Silas revealing Lorne's (Andy Hallett) decapitated head on a silver platter was perhaps the strongest Angel has ever done. Also fun to realise Joss Whedon was the one playing Lorne's dumb brother Numfar (the one who did the idiotic Dance of Joy).

written & directed by Tim Minear | 15 May 2001