Thursday, 2 July 2015

ANGEL, 3.18 & 3.19 – 'Double or Nothing' & 'The Price'

Thursday, 2 July 2015
FRED: If Angel sees you again, he'll kill you, Wesley. This time for real. Don't come back to the hotel. Ever. The prophecy was false. Angel was never gonna hurt Connor. It was all for nothing.
The problem with "Forgiving" and its harsh ending (which appeared to signal a huge change in attitude for Angel), is that its immediate follow-up could never hope to equal it. This is especially true of genre TV shows from Angel's era, which weren't as serialised as they tend to be nowadays, so "DOUBLE OF NOTHING" had the unenviable task of furthering the aftermath of Angel (David Boreanaz) trying to suffocate hospitalised Wes (Alexis Denisof) with a pillow, whilst spinning another supernatural caper.

Predictably, the latter component of the story was the least interesting to me—as we learned that Gunn (J. August Richards) once sold his soul to a demon gangster called Jenoff (Patrick St. Esprit), back when "Gangsta's Paradise" was riding high in the charts, and now payment is owed. This put Gunn's blossoming relationship with Fred (Amy Acker) on the rocks, after he ended things with her in brutal and public fashion, which for some reason he considered being for the greater good. Was it so she wouldn't care as much when news of her dead ex-boyfriend reaches her? Umm, it wasn't a great plan, but it led to an entertaining sequence at Jenoff's casino, when Angel interrupted the imminent 'soul collection' and tempted Gunn's creditor with a high-stakes game of cut the deck. If Angel wins, they all go free; if Jenoff wins, he gets Angel's soul in addition to Gunn's. I won't spoil the ending, but it subverted expectations in hilarious fashion, and then showcased one of the show's best ever practical makeup effects. A lovely effect that would be done faster and cheaper with CGI today, to much less memorable effect.

The Gunn storyline was okay (mainly because his romance with Fred felt genuinely sweet), and it helped that events ended in such an unforgettable way at the casino, but I still preferred everything else with Angel trying to make sense of losing a child. Which, for him, means sitting around staring at Connor's empty crib. The level of pensiveness was cranked up to eleven this week, as scenes of Wesley laying motionless in his hospital bed were also heartbreaking—this linchpin of Angel Investigations now a crushing disappointment to his friends and colleagues, outright despised by Angel, and now homeless. Denisof didn't utter a single word during this episode, he just radiated a deep sadness with his eyes, and acted everyone else off the screen.


written by David H. Goodman • directed by David Grossman • 22 April 2002 • The WB

ANGEL: At least we have one advantage.
CORDELIA: What? They glow in the dark? How's that supposed to help us unless we shut off all the lights in the--holy crap. You're not serious.
Pete Campbell? Pete Campbell is Angel's grown-up son, Connor? I hadn't expected future Mad Men star Vincent Kartheiser to turn up, playing this character, so the climax of "THE PRICE" came as a huge and hilarious surprise. Kartheiser doesn't strike me as the kind of actor to appear on a show like Angel, but particularly in a role that, on first impression, seems to involve dressing like a Mad Max extra.

This episode itself, up until the arrival of Connor 'The Destroyer' (any relation to Conan?), was largely stupid, riddled with cliches, and didn't interest me in the slightest. I've had my fill of CGI beasties running loose, requiring the regular actors to sneak about with weapons in the dark, until one of their group's endangered (Fred), leading to another realising their one weakness (Gunn; alcohol). "The Price" was a bad episode, poorly directed—lord knows what happened with Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) glowing violently bright, beyond the writers now using her half-demon DNA as a lame way to get themselves out of tight spots. I did like seeing Wes speaking for the first time, however, and letting Gunn know exactly what his thoughts are right now—that, yes, he made a stupid mistake kidnapping baby Connor, but expected better of his friends, who've instantly branded him a monster without hearing his side of the tale. You tell 'em, Wes! Cool throat scar, too.

Let's just get back to that crazy ending. The adolescent Connor arriving through a time portal, slaying one of the worst digital monsters that's even been programmed, then revealing himself as the future Mr Pete Campbell. It's a moment that would have played very different back in 2002, many years before Mad Men, but Kartheiser's appearance gave me the biggest laugh in ages.


written by David Fury • directed by Marita Grabiak • 29 April 2002 • The WB