Thursday, 28 May 2015

ANGEL, 3.16 – 'Sleep Tight' • BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 6.13 – 'Dead Things'

Thursday, 28 May 2015
ANGEL: You look like hell. And not the fun one where they burn you with hot pokers for all eternity, but, the hard-core one--you know, Nixon and Britney Spears.
The problem with traditional U.S season lengths, from the not-too-distant-past, is that shows would usually try to stretch one narrative out all those episodes, with some filler in the form of 'standalone' adventures. These days, you tend to find that either seasons are cable-sized (10-13 episodes), or the writers fill seasons with more than one storyline, so they feel fuller and there's less chance of boredom. Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer exist before this change really sank in, so in re-watching these old seasons my attention does tend to wander after the first dozen hours or so. Thankfully, "SLEEP TIGHT" was exactly the kind of late-season wallop you need to wake you up, and hopefully the rest of this third season will race along much better.

I don't think the idea that Wes (Alexis Denisoff) would keep secrets from Angel (David Boreanaz) is completely convincing—mainly because surely the best way to prevent a prophecy of Angel killing his own baby is to reveal this fact to him?—but for dramatic purposes this episode made it worthwhile. Wes is now sneaking around behind Angel's back to see Holtz (Keith Szarabajka) and try to reason with him, but starting to realise the best course of action is to kidnap Connor and take him away from the whole situation. The way Lorne (Andy Hallett) got involved in the story was also very unexpected and exciting, with him psychically linking to the lullaby-singing Wes and realising something's up, forcing Wes to clobber his friend unconscious. Desperate times, call for desperate measures.

A vague sense of what's going on between Angel and space-time travelling demon Sahjhan (Jack Conley) was also given, in the sense we realised Angel has no idea who Sahjhan is or why he's this demon's "nemesis"—so one presumes Angel's destined to do something terrible to him in the future. I also appreciated the brief scene between Angel and Lilah (Stephanie Romanov) at a bar, as their discussion made it slightly more obvious why Lilah works for Wolfram & Hart and has little choice but to do bad things (essentially, they pay very well and there are perks of the job money can't buy).

The climax of the hour was surprisingly huge, considering this isn't a finale—with Wes getting his throat slashed by Holtz's acolyte Justine (Laurel Holloman), and Holtz kidnapping Connor and surprising everyone by leaping through a portal to the dark dimension of Quor'Toth to evade capture. The idea that Holtz plans to raise Connor as his own (replacing his own dead child) isn't something that sits right with me, however—as it's a hard to believe anyone would want to replace their murdered daughter with the infant son of the person you blame for her death—but, hey. Let's go with it. Holtz's laser-focused intention to kill Angel was getting a bit repetitive, so repurposng him as an alternate father to the hero is better... but it's shame this sudden change didn't feel smoother or more plausible.


written by David Greenwalt • directed by Terrence O'Hara • 4 March 2002 • The WB

ANDREW: This sucks! Couldn't we at least have gotten a lair with a view?
I hated this episode. It didn't help that it was heavily focused on the Trio, as my thoughts on Warren (Adam Busch), Andrew (Tom Lenk) and Jonathan (Danny Strong) are well-known by now—but it felt ludicrous to me that writer Steven S. DeKnight would intentionally turn them from horrendously clichéd nerds to nasty misogynists and murderers. Half this episode concerned them using a Cerebral Dampener to turn women into sex slaves, which Warren used on his beautiful ex-girlfriend Katrina (Amelinda Embry) so she could walk around their lair dressed as a French maid in fishnets. Worse was to come, when Katrina awakened, equated her experience to rape, which prompted Warren to kosh her over the dead—killing her!

Dark stuff, man. I mean, there's nothing wrong with BtVS edging into adult territory, but it felt sorely misguided to me. Didn't Joss Whedon create Angel so they could tackle darker material over there? That show's comparatively lightweight compared to where "DEAD THINGS" went, and season 6 is taking on a very unpleasant feel.

Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) continues to have violent sex with Spike (James Marsters), but eventually she broke down in tears after admitting their secret relationship with Tara (Amber Benson), and the whole matter took on a far uglier tone than necessary. I mean, I've been enjoying the idea that Buffy's sexually drawn to her handsome erstwhile nemesis, and Spike's now a rehabilitated vampire who's clearly in love with her… and yet now Buffy's confiding that she hate-fucks him and is disgusted with herself for letting him "do things" to her? For a show like this, that amounts to the existence of handcuffs in the bedroom (alluding to some mutual kinkiness between Buffy and Spike), but suddenly it felt like Spike's supposed to be a sexual deviant Buffy can't help indulging. I don't buy that, and to be honest Buffy's behaviour throughout this hour didn't ring true to me.

To be charitable, "Dark Things" felt like the kind of episode that wanted to take the show into deeper sexual territory, but for me it completely dropped the ball. The crux of the episode concerned Buffy being framed for the murder of Katrina by the Trio, in a very confusing sequence involving demons whose presence cause time to run non-linearly (why even add that complication to the story?), but that didn't happen until a good half-hour into the episode! The idea of The Slayer having to take responsibility for accidentally killing an innocent human bystander is a great one, but it deserved to be done better. At least Gellar's performance was good throughout, but I didn't envy her having to try and make DeKnight's material work. While I understand this episode was supposed to make you feel grubby, I just found it very depressing and badly handled.


written by Steven S. DeKnight • directed by James A. Contner • 5 February 2002 • UPN