I appreciate what "PROVIDENCE" was trying to do, in terms of the moral it was trying to impart, but the episode struggled with its juggling of a handful of storylines that were mostly poor. Angel (David Boreanaz) wants to provide for his newborn, so suddenly he's keen for Angel Investigations to become a successful and profitable business—with a flyer campaign and even a website (the '02 excitement over which was amusing to me). It works, as suddenly the Hyperion Hotel is a hotbed of clients—some demon, others jeopardised humans—and the team are so busy they're forced to take separate cases.
Angel is hoodwinked by a conman "Harlan Elster"/Sam Ryan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan in an early role) into busting up a nest of vampires who are threatening local employees for money, in exchange for $10,000 he doen't actually have; Gunn (J. August Richards) and Wes (Alexis Denisof) help a woman called Laurel (Justine Cooper) with her stalker ex-boyfriend, who's since been turned into a zombie; Fred (Amy Acker) is loaned to a group of chrome-faced demons, who need her to crack a puzzle for $50,000, chaperoned to their boat by Lorne (Andy Hallett), unaware they intend to decapitate her to replace their dying prince's head; and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) stays home to babysit Connor, because no matter how much the show promises to rejuvenate her character she's always revert back to square-one. Even that cool levitating byproduct of her visions appears to have been a one-off, just for a funny visual last time?
I quite enjoyed the Fred/Lorne storyline because it was so ridiculous (also because they're an interesting pairing I haven't seen before), but everything else was a bomb. Angel's story with the conman had signs of promise, but ultimately didn't go anywhere stimulating, and I'm still struggling to see why they bothered with the zombie boyfriend nonsense. As I said, the intention of "Provider" wasn't bad—with Angel realising making a quick buck shouldn't be their top priority, and how they work better as a team instead of being separated—but how it was dramatised just didn't click with me. Also a bit odd that Gunn's now falling for Fred's charms, which make him a rival to Wes. I see why she'd have this affect on men, but Gunn? She just doesn't strike me as his type in the slightest, and I'd prefer to see Gunn given his own love story that feels more plausible. And is Fred doomed to be written as this shy, quirky girl who's incredibly modest, cleverer than Wes, and has men swooning around her? It's a bit
written by Scott Murphy | directed by Bill L. Norton | 21 January 2002
It seems Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) are both 'good girls gone bad' this season; enticed by the allure of something darker and more dangerous than themselves. Willow's indulging herself in powerful magic, which she's using when it's unnecessary, and to cause chaos for fun—now encouraged by Amy (Elizabeth Anne Allen), the witch she accidentally turned into a rat back in season 3, who's now reverted to human form to become Willow's supernatural devotee. Buffy's still trying to quash her feelings towards Spike (James Marsters), which have already resulted in two passionate kisses, and now it seems "SHATTERED" is the unequivocal breakthrough she can't deny. Having sex in a dilapidated house, the earth literally shaking, will do that for a girl.
Both those developments were worthwhile, especially the latter, although how this episode unfurled wasn't great. I'm still not keen on the clichéd Trio of nerds, although appreciate it's refreshing to have super-villains who aren't supernatural entities—which is rendering the gang's book research completely irrelevant, and getting them nowhere. They're presumably going to become a more potent threat, and have got this far because nobody pays them any serious attention or believes they're anything to fear. And there wasn't a Star Wars reference until, ooh, a good half-hour into this episode—when Spike threatened to snap a Boba Fett figurine, lest Warren (Adam Busch) examine his "malfunctioning" brain-chip.
A chip that isn't broken, but proof Buffy's returned from the dead not entirely human, which means Spike can vent his frustrations about the Slayer's hot-and-cold attitude about their relationship by getting extremely violent with her. Yeah, that was a problem. I understand Spike's a dangerous vampire who's on a leash now, but the way he was pleased to be able to beat-up Buffy felt misjudged to me.
written by Drew Z. Greenberg | directed by Turi Meyer | 20 November 2001 | UPN