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April 20, 2004
by Daniel Erenberg
When Is A Door Not A Door?
Lately, I’ve been getting crucified on various comment boards for an article I didn’t even write. A month or so ago, Ron, the big man of the site and long-time regular Buffy and Angel reviewer, wrote an article called “We’ll Always Have Sunnydale” that sent a chill through my spine by listing all the ways that Ron hated season five of Angel, a season that I’ve been enjoying immensely (though it has had more than its share of bumps in the road). It surprised me. I thought that generally most people dug the latest season. I was write, I soon found out, when a bunch of people that thought I had written that article, responded to my last one “To Shanshu On TV” by asking why I would want to write about Angel if I hate it so much. But I don’t. So I offer my capsule reviews of every episode of season five. Here you go.
Angel 5.1: “Conviction”, written and directed by Joss Whedon.
This wasn’t one of Joss’s better efforts. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Nothing the man writes is without merit (have you read the comic “Tales Of The Vampire” lately?), but this just wasn’t a classic. It did a nice job of setting up the season and introducing a few new characters, but so did Tim Minear’s “Home” at the end of last season. The one thing it did wrong was not letting every character have something interesting to do. It was very much The Angel Show, which is what the show was initially, but it’s evolved into an ensemble drama, and this has to be taken into account.
Angel 5.2: “Just Rewards”, written by David Fury and Ben Edlund, and directed by James A. Contner.
This was the first major Spike-driven episode on Angel since episode three of season one (“In The Dark”). At this point, a good rapport was developed between Angel and Spike, but Spike was still comic relief and the non-corporeal angle wasn’t worked well. The villain in the episode was smartly written and had a good motive, but this one was strictly stand-alone.
Angel 5.3: “Unleashed”, written by Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft, and directed by Marita Grabiak.
Another stand-alone, but this one slightly better than the last. However, in a weird move, this season has chosen to ignore a lot of Buffy continuity and there is no Oz reference to be had in this Werewolf-Centric episode. It does introduce the character of Nina who, while having virtually nothing in the way of actual character, is at least pretty and does add a much-needed female voice to the show that is sorely lacking being that Fred is the only regular at this point.
Angel 5.4: “Hell Bound”, written and directed by Stephen S. DeKnight.
This one was typical DeKnight darkness and nowhere near as successful as his brand of writing was in season four (in instant classics like “Deep Down” and “Apocalypse, Nowish”). This is yet another stand-alone and not as good as the last one. Spike is the star of the show here.
Angel 5.5: “Life Of The Party”, written by Ben Edlund, and directed by Bill L. Norton.
Edlund shines in this one. I’ve been a big fan of his writing in the past (in The Tick and last year’s great Firefly episode “Jaynestown”), but last year’s Angel offering “Sacrifice” was the one blunder of the season. However, “Life Of The Party” is a step up giving Lorne a rare center stage, and his first since episode three of season four (“The House Always Wins”). It’s funny, it’s interesting, and it’s probably the best since “Conviction”. Also, Eve gets to be a far more interesting character right here.
Angel 5.6: “The Cautionary Tale Of Numero Cinco”, written and directed by Jeffrey Bell.
The last boring stand-alone of season five and the last stop before the major plotlines ramp up. This reintroduces the idea of the Shanshu prophecy. Some mildly diverting stuff happens and, before long, we’re right back where we started. Might hold up over time though.
Angel 5.7: “Lineage”, written by Drew Goddard and directed by Jefferson Kibbee.
Well, okay! This is one of my favorite episodes of the season. Drew Goddard’s first Angel, and he knocked it out of the park. A beautiful characterization of Wesley. It’s good to see him take center stage. He’s probably my favorite character on the show, and he hadn’t been given anything to do really since last season. There’s good stuff with Knox in this episode, good stuff with Eve in this episode, and Roger Wyndham-Price is exactly how I imagined him. The plot twist at the end could have come off ridiculous, but somehow didn’t.
Angel 5.8: “Destiny”, written by David Fury and Stephen S. DeKnight, and directed by Skip Schoolnik.
Sure, the appearances by Drusilla seem arbitrary and needless. Sure, the idea of a Cup Of Perpetual Sorrow seems stupid and embarrassing. Sure, Spike’s recorporealization seems sudden and jarring. But, all that aside, it works. Spike and Angel work truly great together for the first time since “Just Rewards”. Harmony’s funny, Eve is enigmatic, and Lindsey returns (!) in a masterstroke.
Angel 5.9: “Harm’s Way”, written by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, and directed by Vern Gillum.
For the first time since season two’s “Disharmony”, Harmony Kendall takes center stage and blows the house down with her particular brand of humor. It’s light, it’s funny, it works. This is one stand-alone I didn’t mind in the slightest.
Angel 5.10: “Soul Purpose”, written by Brent Fletcher, and directed by David Boreanaz.
Boreanaz did a really good job directing this one actually. The visuals are interesting and rich. The mystery draws you in. The creatures are a better version of the ones in Buffy’s “Bad Eggs”. The dream sequences are in turn bizarre, funny, sad, dark, interesting, terrible, or great. This one works, particularly Spike’s newfound work relationship with Lindsey acting as Doyle.
Angel 5.11: “Damage”, written by Stephen S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard, and directed by Jefferson Kibbee.
Andrew is as good here as he was in season seven last year. He probably gave his best performance here since Buffy’s “Storyteller”. We see the fall-out from “Chosen”, we see the Scooby Gang’s new opinion on Angel, we see some big funny, Spike is great, the information on the Scoobys is PERFECTION. And Crazy Slayer Girl kept my interest too. The only downside was the real lack of tension when Spike’s hands got cut off. That should have been a bigger moment.
Angel 5.12: “You’re Welcome”, written and directed by David Fury.
Up to February 4, when this episode aired, it was the crown jewel of the season. Cordelia came back and was fantastic, Lindsey returned and was equally brilliant, the final fight was brutal and great. Seeing Glen Quinn in video from season one’s “Hero” was heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as the last scene of the show, a scene that made me cry and effected me for a long time after the credits rolled. Also, David Fury proves himself an excellent director. He’s done a fine job.
Angel 5.13: “Why We Fight”, written by Stephen S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard, and directed by Terrence O’Hara.
This episode didn’t need to exist. “Smile Time” should have come immediately after “You’re Welcome”. It’s a blemish on the fine records of Mr. Goddard and Mr. DeKnight. The supporting characters are stupid, the flashbacks don’t work, and, for a character so unique to the Buffyverse as Lawson (as the only human ever turned by a vamp with a soul), he certainly isn’t paid much mind. There is some good tension in Act 4, but it doesn’t matter.
Angel 5.14: “Smile Time”, written by Ben Edlund from a story by Joss Whedon and Ben Edlund, and directed by Ben Edlund.
Another fine offering from Edlund. This contains one of the funniest scenes in Angel history when Puppet Angel fights Spike. Spike’s, “Well you’re a wee little puppet man” is laughing-fit-inducing. Also, it was an easy joke, but Puppet Angel vamping out was hilarious. Nina comes back in this one and is far more interesting than she was in “Unleashed”. Harmony and Knox also continue to work well as characters. Only downside is the initiation of the Wesley/Fred relationship which, while great, seems a bit rushed.
Angel 5.15: “A Hole In The World”, written and directed by Joss Whedon.
Now THIS is a Joss Whedon episode; full of revelations (Knox is EVIL), great characters new (Drogyn) and old (Pretty much the entire cast), beautiful dialogue (Spike’s monologue about the titular hole, and the various arguments about Astronauts and Cavemen), great fight scenes (Spike and Angel—“you remembered”), wonderful continuity references (Eve singing Lindsey’s song from season two’s “Dead End”), and a pulse-pounding cliffhanger (Fred dies and becomes Illyria).
Angel 5.16: “Shells”, written and directed by Stephen S. DeKnight.
I don’t know how others feel about this one, but it really hit home for me. I’m not going to give you a list of great moments, because I feel it’s the best episode of the season so far. I loved it so much. Everything was great, especially the book-ending conversations between Wesley and Illyria. Not to mention, the death of Knox, the stabbing of Gunn, and just Dark Wesley in general.
Angel 5.17: “Underneath”, written by Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft, and directed by Skip Schoolnik.
Fain and Craft did their best writing here since last year’s “Soulless”. The Illyria/Wesley stuff is emotionally draining and brilliantly written. The stuff with Harmony (a new regular), Lorne, and Eve running from the new character Hamilton is fantastic and it really moves. (And I love Firefly’s Adam Baldwin. Sing it with me if you know the words—“A Man naaaamed Jayne.”) Finally Lindsey returns and is just as exciting as he was back at the front end of the year. It can only get better from here.
|Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone except for the mind-numbing loneliness he feels on occasion. If you’re a beautiful woman that’s fallen in love with Daniel, or you just want to talk Buffy with him, you can contact Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.