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Out With The Bad

Angel Episode 4.14 Release
AirDate: 12th Mar 03

'Release' was… a solid enough episode. I was captivated right up until Faith & Angelus' big scaffold match, and then the long period of fighting and quipping started to bore me. It was the same with ‘Showtime’ (Faith & Buffy have had really similar experiences lately, haven’t they? Just like Angel & Spike). It was a good, interesting episode that degenerated into one big brawl and everything I was enjoying took a back seat to punch-punch-kick-kick-oof-ouch-kick-punch. A lot of you write me after episodes like this to enthusiastically dissect the fights and compare them to other donnybrooks and slobberknockers (weeeeee!) that have occurred on both shows, but with only a few exceptions (Buffy & Faith handcuffed together and fighting with knives on a ledge, for example), they all just kind of bleed together for me.

Speaking of bleeding, the Slayer did her share of it following her knockdown-dragout with the Beast in the last act of ‘Salvage’. The aftermath of that battle made for a great sequence, and Eliza packed a lot of emotion into her performance as she stared at her battered self in Wesley’s bathroom mirror. It tied in well with the episode’s conclusion, as Faith was there in the opening, full of rage and self-hatred, feeling like she’d tried her best to be the hero she was destined to be, only to wind up failing and nearly getting herself killed. This is a lot different than the times when Buffy blows it and blames herself, because Miss Sunnydale has proven her worth on countless occasions. Buffy gets the job done. Buffy saves the world. Faith has had a lot of time in the joint to look back over her brief career as a murderous rogue Slayer who wasn’t in Sunnydale very long before going to work for the Big Bad and trying to kill the good guys. Not exactly a sterling track record, but this latest tour of duty was her big shot at redemption. The mission: Kill the Beast, and bring Angelus in alive so his soul could be restored. It’s just the sort of thing Slayers are chosen to do, right?

Well, Faith’s impromptu renovation of Gadget Guy’s bathroom was a glaring testament to the fact that things didn’t go so well. But is she a quitter? Not any more. With the blood washed off and her wounds quickly on the mend thanks to her accelerated healing, Faith was ready to head back out and find Angelus.

And where was our motormouthed menace while all this bleeding and showering was going on? Back in one of L.A.’s seedier demon bars, gloating about the day’s events to a guffawing audience of bumpy-faced yokels. Angelus is the classic bully, showing off for his pseudo-friends who only stick around because they’re afraid of him, as he occasionally pauses to dunk some unsuspecting demon’s head in the toilet. Figuratively speaking, of course.

That is, until Cordy stepped in with her best “old scary guy” voice and got Angelus chasing his tail. His annoyance with the voice he couldn’t tune out made for some funny dialogue, particularly his, “You’re preaching to the guy who ate the choir.” Knowing what we know about his history, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he really IS the guy who ate the choir!

Meanwhile, back at the hotel (did I really just get to use that expression appropriately?), Corny & Cornier – I mean Cordy & Connor, continued to ick us out as they played house. It seems pretty clear that Connor can tell something’s wrong (beyond the fact that Cordy looks seven months pregnant after about a week), and all the time he’s pledging to take care of her there’s a nervous look in his eye that goes beyond what you’d expect from the average teen father. Bottom line? She’s acting very weird and I think it’s starting to scare him, so I don’t think his resolve to stay by her side is quite as strong as he says, but time will tell.

Angelus’ one-man raid on the hotel was the highlight of the episode, with the exception of the very last shot (more on that in a minute). It’s one thing to see him push around the other vampires, but he’s clearly at his best when he’s mixing it up with the people he’s closest to. He had me fooled right along with Fred that he’d found a way around the sanctuary spell, and thanks to the joys of staying spoiler-free, I had no idea if he was going to end up eating her. The whole sequence was like a rollercoaster ride, as he tangled first with Fred and then Connor (it didn’t occur to me that the sanctuary spell would block the kid’s attacks too, but as Angelus said, “Isn’t that interesting?”), before the pulse pounding standoff out front. Heavy action. Hey James, remember when you didn’t want to start watching Angel because you thought it was lighter and fluffier than Buffy?

Despite the fact that I’m disappointed in Angelus for how little actual mayhem he’s caused on this go-round, I’m thrilled by the way Wesley’s continued his ascent to Supreme Badass of the Fang Gang. It was great watching him and Faith playing ‘bad cop – worse cop’, and I love that the same guy who once stumbled around the Sunnydale library, stuttering and excusing himself, is the same one now showing people like Faith how to be cruel and ruthless to get what you want. It’s a shame Eliza’s signed on for a proposed new series (non-Buffy related), because Faith & Wesley kicking ass in the demon underworld sounds like a hell of a spinoff. Maybe they could decide that their best mission is to mobilize, and the series would take them through different cities and even to other countries in their battle against the undead. But alas…

It’s also been nice to see the way Gunn and Wesley have been putting aside their differences in this crisis. You could see a look of appreciation and pride in Gunn’s eye when Wesley asked him to stay back and guard the hotel, saying, “I need someone I can trust.” In my opinion, when Connor was still a baby, Gunn’s protective instincts were as strong as Wesley’s, and a big part of his anger now stems from the fact that Wes acted on his own without trusting him enough to share the information he’d uncovered in the prophecy. Gunn has a hard time trusting vampires as it is, so if he had reason to believe, as Wesley did, that Angel was going to kill Connor, he might well have participated in the abduction. As it stands, he’s angry with Wes for taking Connor, and he’s angry that he wasn’t deemed trustworthy by someone he considered a friend. Still, the squeeze that Angelus put on them is forcing everyone to remember why they trusted and respected each other back before The Unfortunate Incident.

And then there’s Fred – the other bit of awkwardness between Wesley and Charles. I really figured that Fred & Wesley were on their way to full-on romantic involvement, and things between Fred & Gunn were irreparable. But the moment that they shared in this episode leads me to think that Fred now knows what she wants, and it isn’t Wesley. Gunn seems less certain, but the impression I got was less of a rejection and more of just needing time to think about things when their boss isn’t a bloodsucking lunatic on the loose.

When we next saw the aforementioned lunatic, it was in the shopkeeper’s office at the occult bookstore. My first thought as Angelus sat in the big comfy chair and peered at a book through the reading glasses was that he looked like Andrew at the beginning of ‘Storyteller’ -- He could easily have been reading, ‘Buffy: Slayer of the Vampyr’. I LOVED this scene, beginning with the bit with the glasses. It was fantastic morbid humour as Angelus toyed with the shopkeeper and thoroughly enjoyed terrifying and then torturing him. Now we see why EvilCordy didn’t want her lapdog to kill Angelus in the previous episode, as she had an ace up her sleeve that would see the vampire far more useful alive. She was in possession of the one thing he feared most – his soul, and the threat of its restoration. So with the use of a nifty visual aid, our Even Bigger Bad convinced him who was boss and sent him off on his first mission: Turn Faith.

Okay, I’m ASSUMING that was the plan. Maybe this being that either looks like Cordy or controls Cordy didn’t actually suggest that her new slave go out and make Faith a vampire, but if your goal was generally spreading evil and mayhem, turning a Slayer would be a pretty good way to start, right? This is the main drawback of being behind by a couple of reviews. Had I written this before ‘Orpheus’ aired, this stage of the article would’ve been loaded with wild speculation about whether or not he was going to turn her, and what that would mean to the Buffyverse. For someone to become a vampire they have to die, and if Faith dies, a new Slayer is called. So not only would we get to see what happens when a Slayer becomes a vamp (veddy skeddy), we would no doubt have a new Slayer, too. Know what that is? Balance. Just as things got way more messed up for the good guys (Faith’s back in Sunnydale! And she’s a VAMPIRE!!), Buffy’s unit would be blessed with the mighty addition of a second Slayer. It sounded like a recipe for delicious chaos, and as Angelus sunk his fangs in her neck and drank deeply, I was absolutely shocked that Joss had concocted this kind of unprecedented twist in the sordid saga of Faith.

But then, as it turned out, he didn’t. And that’s a matter for the next review.

Take care, everybody.


PS – Congratulations to Charisma and her husband Damien on the joyous birth of their new little pink thing, Donovan Charles Hardy! In honour of his arrival, I’ve written my shortest-ever Angel review (yeah, that’s it).

About Ron : Email Ron
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Latest Comments

Quit whinging about having to wait a couple of weeks for the new eps! In the UK, we're up to episode 8 of the new season, and if you don't have cable, we're on series 2!!

I only get to see the new eps thanks to the wonderful world of divX and internet piracy!

Posted by: Matt on April 5, 2003 05:51 PM

I live in Ont too. And they didn't air it on tuesday, but i also get the WB and they did air 'Players'. I hope they show both new ep's of Angel next tuesday so we won't be behind. I don't get WB in my room so i have to watch it in the living room and i like to enjoy the show alone without my family talking through the whole thing.

Posted by: Ro on March 28, 2003 05:27 PM

According to my sister in Boston, WB did show the new episode, but she thought that next week's Angel was a repeat, so maybe we won't be behind, up here in Ontario.

Posted by: Sheilah on March 28, 2003 05:04 PM

I don't know, but I'm hoping VR sees the wisdom in running two episodes in a row next week so they can get caught up with the WB. I'm behind enough with the reviews as it is, so I'm not too pleased about having to wait an extra week for each episode for the rest of the season.

Posted by: Ron on March 28, 2003 01:04 PM

Thanks for the info, Ron. Yes, I am in Ontario, and while I wasn't too worried when the episode didn't air on Tuesday, I don't understand why it wouldn't air Thursday on Space, assuming it did air Wednesday night on the WB. I'm just wondering if it did air on the WB, or whether it's just us here who are missing it.

Posted by: chloe on March 28, 2003 12:56 PM
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