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Leaving Las Vegas

Angel Episode 4.3 The House Always Wins
AirDate: 20th Oct 02

Someone recently pointed out that my Buffy reviews tend to be quite critical and unforgiving, whereas I drooled praise all over the first two episodes of Angel like they could do no wrong. If this is true, I'd have to attribute it to the fact that I've spent so much more time with the Scooby gang, and I feel I know the intricacies of each character and the subtle nuances of their relationships so well that I'm more aware when something's amiss, or when a writer has, in my opinion, dropped the ball. As a relative newcomer to Angel, I'm still riding the high of discovery and the honeymoon is far from over.

That said, those of you who feel like I'm treating Angel & his pals like my spoiled daughters while Buffy has to stay home from the ball to do chores each week can sit back and delight as things begin to even out a bit.

Don't get me wrong. I thought 'The House Always Wins' was a solidly entertaining episode, but there were at least three separate elements that made me cringe.

The cliffhanger ending didn't come a moment too soon, because I'd had all I could take of Cordy Chase, Babe in Space. After her intriguing ascension in the season 3 finale, doesn't it seem like Joss & Co completely dropped the ball? She was en route to the most important moment of her life when Skip showed up and convinced her (and all of us) that she was destined for a much higher purpose. It was time for her to take her rightful place as a champion on a much larger playing field than just Earth. As she floated up into the great beyond, we contemplated the myriad possibilities of where her new mission would take her this season (before she eventually returned to LA, as we all knew she would). So now, after a summer of waiting, we see that she's, what – driving a desk? Getting her nails done? Has she not been implying in all of her "Get me out of here" close-ups that she's done absolutely nothing and is bored out of her tree? Where's Skip with this juicy appointment schedule he was waving last season? Wouldn't you have liked to see at least one little subplot that had Cordy doing SOMETHING up there? If nothing else, I'm in favour of the outfit they gave her, which seems to be a whole lot of nothing. Time to bring her home, but whatever you do, don't resort to another patented Mutant Enemy amnesia storyline, okay? Promise?

I was all for Angel, Fred & Gunn going to Vegas. It works as both a location and a motif, and it was always fun when old TV shows would hit the road (I'm thinking of the infamous two-part beach vacations on Happy Days, Different Strokes and Full House). And since they can't go to Sunnydale, it only stands to reason that sooner or later the Fang Gang would end up at the OTHER main hotspot for the unholy pursuits of the living dead. But I thought David Fury overdid it a bit with Angel's reminiscences of his brushes with Vegas royalty. Angel played tennis (at night, I guess) with Bugsy Siegal. Okay. And he used to party with the Rat Pack. Gotcha. And he was at Elvis & Priscilla's wedding reception. Okay, enough! I'm sure Liza Minelli & David Guest really missed their old pal Angel the vampire at their wedding this year. Oh look, here's a picture of Angel on the Apollo 11 mission, and there he is helping Paul Mc-freakin'-Cartney write Hey Jude! Who is this guy – Forest Gump?!?

I love Lorne (that pun never gets old, does it?) and his cover of 'It's Not Easy Being Green' was nice, but if his CD features that nasally nails-on-a-blackboard rendition of Lady Marmalade, it won't be making my Christmas list. It was, however, great to have our resident Auntie Mame back in the thick of things. He's a fun character and Andy Hallet brings a lot of life to the role. But when he, Fred & Gunn were making their escape and he temporarily thwarted the cops by assaulting everyone's eardrums with his air raid siren wail, it made me wonder how people managed to stay upright through all that "Gitchy gitchy ya-ya ta ta" stuff.

Lorne's return to the foreground is brought to you by Fluffy ™ -- The Dog You Don't Have. Thanks to everyone who gave me a gentle "Is anybody in there?" knock after my review of 4.1 – I'm definitely familiar with this general usage of a code phrase to let people know you're in trouble, but in this particular instance I was as in the dark as Fred was when she first got off the phone that night. Since I still have a lot of backstory for this series to catch up on, when someone says something I don't get I assume it's pertaining to an episode I haven't seen yet.

They were a bit light on the Wesley & Lilah this week, but I understand. There are only so many minutes in an episode and the heavy presence of Lorne meant that someone else had to get their screen time dialled back. The phone sex scene was cute and it still managed to present another angle to the unlikely pairing. Sing it! "Loverrrrrrs… in a dangerous time. We were loverrrrrrrs…" I appreciated the tiny glimpse into the operations of the Pryce Club, even if it was only Wes bossing around some Fabio meathead. Like the Tom Waits song asks, what's he building in there?

Sometimes the plots on Buffy & Angel fall into the trap of beating you over the head with a thinly veiled magic-as-an-allegory-for-life message complete with heavy moral. For the record, I usually feel a bit insulted because it's so obvious but they keep rephrasing it in different ways throughout the episode just to make sure that every half-wit gets what they're implying. Let's do an episode where drinking beer makes you a crass neanderthal. Let's do a whole season about alcohol & drug addiction with every classic aspect, but it's not heroin. It's MAGIC (ooh… ahhhh). In this case, people go to Vegas and lose their dreams and ambitions as they live out their days throwing money away in the casinos. Brilliant, David Fury! Between this episode and Buffy's wacky invisibility tale from last season, you're really starting to go down in my mind as the guy who writes with Olaf's hammer. But I loved you as the Mustard Guy. Really.

So Angel & friends broke up the game, everybody got their destinies back (does EVERYONE know that Angel is in line to be a big part of the apocalypse?), and Lorne has officially been rescued and brought back to LA. It's smiles all around and a line-up for the bathroom, when who should appear in the hotel lobby but our very own Cordelia Chase, who managed to find her dress just before she caught a whiff of some of Willow's fergit-it flower. What a novel idea – a set-up for a plot about memory loss.

While 'The House Always Wins' had its share of fun bits (loved Angel's revelation about Blue Man Group), it was lacking the intensity and fire of the first two episodes of this fourth season – I've come to expect a particular blend of drama from this series, and this week's foray into lighter territory left me wanting more. And while we're on the subject of wanting more, bring back Gwen Raiden. Now.

Take care, everybody.


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