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Home is Where Your Fleet of Cars is

There are great season-ending cliffhangers where you're dying to know how they'll be resolved, and then there are season finales that let you know the whole series is going to be different in the fall. 'Home' definitely landed in the latter category, as it spun ATS off into an unexpected direction and opened up a whole world of new possibilities for the Fang Gang.

I like that Joss waited this long to move them into a position where they had such impressive resources at their disposal. It would have been hokey for Angel to move to Los Angeles and immediately start running a hugely successful detective agency, with a top staff of experts that lived in lavish apartments and employed cutting edge technology to get the job done. Early on, we needed to see Angel, Doyle & Cordy struggling with plumbing problems and worrying about how they were going to pay the rent. It was real and a natural progression for these familiar characters (2 out of 3, at least), and I appreciate the time M.E. has taken to grow the individual stories and the premise of the show. They've gradually worked in new characters, lost a few along the way (rest easy, Glenn), and put the group, collectively, through hell. None of these people ever had it easy. Fred spent a lot of time living in a cave, Gunn was a teenage vampire hunter, Wesley was a GEEK (with an abusive childhood), Lorne's a music lover who grew up in a dimension where there isn't any, Cordy grew up in a small town with a SERIOUS shortage of quality shoe stores, and I think it's safe to say that Angel's suffered more than any of them.

Connor? Who's Connor?!?

I must admit, though, that the fourth season of Angel lost me in the home stretch. I loved the way the season continuously built toward an apocalyptic climax, I thought The Beast was cool, and there were a lot of terrific episodes relating to Wesley and Lilah's doomed romance. I couldn't have been happier when the group decided that they needed to rob Angel of his soul and solicit his aid to defeat The Beast, because my impressions of Angelus on the loose were all based on his reign of terror in Buffy's second season. And while there were a few good Angelus episodes this year, that's unfortunately when things started to go downhill.

In previous reviews I've devoted substantial space to my issues with what's become of the great Angelus, so I'll try not to rant about it again. The nutshell version is that it was a big mistake for Mutant Enemy to present Angel and Angelus as totally separate people. He was terrifying in S2 of Buffy because the man she loved and trusted more than anyone in the world suddenly rejected her love, hungry for the thrill of using it to destroy her. Slowly. Teasingly. Sadistically. Remember? Buffy and the Scoobs had to keep reminding themselves that they weren't facing Angel, they were facing the demon that lived inside him. But Angel (they didn't even use the name Angelus back then) wouldn't stand for that. He wanted all of them, especially Buffy, to know that his love and loyalty up to that point were only a cruel joke - a mask that, once removed, was held up and mocked as a harbinger of her demise (damn!). This time it was like the Angel we knew got to take a holiday, while someone named Angelus subletted his room and insulted his friends.

Still, I loved a lot about Angel's most recent return to the dark side. Boreanaz did a phenomenal job of portraying Angelus. He was having a lot of fun playing the criminal mastermind, and it showed (I understand he ad-libbed a lot of the best lines). It was great to see the way he batted his friends around like cat toys, playing them off each other and controlling events at the Hyperion from inside the cage. People made a lot of comparisons to Hannibal Lecter, and they were totally justified. There's a reason why Sir Anthony keeps signing up for opportunities to play Hannibal, and it's not because he needs the money. It must be intoxicating to play someone that brilliant and evil, and to do it with charm and humour.

But again, they blew it with all the lines where Angelus criticized Angel as if they were totally separate entities. Pointing out to Lilah and Faith that he'd never actually met them before only served to protect Angel (the good side) from any lingering incrimination. In my opinion, Joss & co chickened out, because they knew that if Angel got to really flex his evil muscles, the show and the characters would be irreparably changed. If you take Angel's soul away and he's still Angel, only free of guilt, remorse and anything but a thirst for blood and chaos, THEN you've got a mess on your hands. Blood spilled can't be cleaned up so easily when the killer is still in the room. So instead, M.E. opted to put a lot of emphasis on the name Angelus, and as a result, once Willow came and restored his soul like she was changing a light bulb, it took everyone in the hotel about 30 seconds to forget it was ever missing. We got the fun of having Angelus on the loose, without any ugly repercussions clogging up the rest of the season's arc.

You know what? I LIKE those ugly repercussions. I thought that was the point, and anything else feels like a cop-out. After what Angel did to Jenny Calendar, and to Buffy's young heart, and to WILLOW'S FISH, the level of trust was permanently knocked down a peg or two. Giles never forgot the torture he suffered at Angel's hand, and any good deeds Angel did thereafter were tainted by the crimes the Scoobs had witnessed. Things in LA were back to normal before Willow even started the car. Thanks for stopping by, Red.

While I'm at it, I thought Willow's appearance on Angel was another misfire. There are writers who have an inherent mastery of a particular character's voice and reactions, and there are writers who assume they'll be able to nail it but they don't. I'm sorry, Mere Smith - you KNOW I think you're a great writer, and you did terrific work in season four. But the Willow you brought into episode 4.15 was, at the very least, about three seasons behind the Willow we knew from Buffy. You gave us cutie-pie, smiling, bad-pun-dropping Willow instead of the mature, battle scarred woman she'd become, mired in grief and straining under the burden of an awesome power that she couldn't control. That last part is also very important, as you had her whipping up some pretty major spellage as if she did it every day, and even when her eyes went black, she was fully in control. Immediately before that on Buffy, she was insecure about her skillz, and upon her return to Sunnydale, she went right back to that. So what was it about Los Angeles that made her giggle and quip her way through the magicks? Maybe she just needed a change of scenery. Maybe she needed some actual physical distance between herself and the Hellmouth. Maybe Buffy was just creeping her out. THE WORLD MAY NEVER KNOW!!

But for all the awkwardness of Willow's appearance on Angel, Faith shone like one of the revolving hubcaps on my new Lexus (you ride the bus - Ed.), and I was completely satisfied with her return to active duty in LaLa Land. Where Willow was just a convenient plot device like the goofy amulet that wiped out all the Turok Han in Sunnydale, Faith's story this season was logical, moving, and it had a strong narrative arc that actually saw her character progress beyond the state she was in when we last saw her. In fact, between the two shows, Faith may have developed the most out of anyone this season (with full acknowledgement of Andrew, Willow and Spike). She turned herself in with the hope of finding redemption through punishment. She felt that the end of her road meant accepting the wrongness of her deeds and paying the price. She was a failure as a Slayer and as a human being, and if it wasn't for Angel she'd be dead now.

Step one in her road to recovery came when Wesley let her know that she was needed. It was an opportunity to use her powers to help, and to help the person who mattered most to her. At that point, what she most wanted was to CHANGE - to know, and to have everyone else see, that she wasn't the same psychotic killer that went into that prison. She didn't necessarily believe it was possible, but a girl's gotta dream, right?

This goal was her first (okay, her 17th) mistake. Wesley didn't need a Faith who was changed or reformed, he needed the Faith that double-crossed the Scooby gang when they needed her most. He needed the Faith that gleefully shot Angel with a poisoned arrow and very nearly killed him. Wes needed the Faith who once tortured him mercilessly, because that's the kind of mind that could keep up with Angelus.

As we saw, Wesley had to lay down some Tough Love on Faith before she was able to really get her game face on, and once the two of them successfully conspired to bring Angelus in and get him safely locked away, it was Angel's turn to teach the lesson.

The spiritual journey through Angel's past initially seemed like it was for his benefit, as if HE was the one who needed to learn that we can't hide who we are, even if our true selves contain some serious darkness. We saw him doing good deeds that Angelus couldn't bear to watch, and we saw Angel at his lowest, unable to contain his bloodlust (by the way, the hood who held up the coffee shop in that particular sequence was played by Eliza Dushku's brother Nate. Neat!). But really, Angel knew bloody well that having an evil past is no reason to throw in the towel and accept your damnation. This little shadowplay was for the benefit of the Slayer, and it was Angel's way of showing her that if she really wants to be effective and make a difference, she needs to remember every square inch of her dark side, and use it as fuel to drive her desire to do good. Writing yourself off as evil and hiding away to be punished is the coward's way out - the real challenge is to accept what you've done and get back to work.

So, filled with hope, Faith headed off to Sunnydale where she made peace with Buffy, helped save the world, and even kinda fell in love.

This left us to deal with the lingering mystery of Bad Cordy, and in my opinion it was never fully explained. Okay, Skip was in on it from the start, and the plan goes back to his first meeting with Angel. Angel's hot night with Darla was guided by an unseen hand, as well - Jasmine's. From another dimension, Jasmine's been moving our heroes around like chess pieces, so that their actions would eventually lead to Cordy giving birth to her, bringing her into our world.

Okay, all that I get. But did it really take the presence of the Beast and his reign of terror to get Connor and Cordy to make love that night? If Jasmine wasn't directly controlling Cordy's actions until she was in her womb, does that mean it was the real Cordy who actually CHOSE to sleep with Connor? Because I like it a lot better if she wasn't in her right mind. And if the evil force that was speaking through Cordy and moving her hand was Jasmine, what was with all the trash talk, and the evil Vincent Price voice she used when communicating telepathically with Angelus? Once we got to know Jasmine, all that other stuff seems pretty uncharacteristic. She went from being evil and mocking and blatantly out to destroy, to being the sweet-talking mother type who just wanted everyone to love each other.

And now that the season's over, why did the Beast poke his finger into Lilah's stomach during his slaughter of the W&H staff?

I was bored through all of the Jasmine episodes. I was tuning in each week and they were having very little effect on me. While little elements here and there were cool (the way everyone chasing Fred The Renegade spoke as Jasmine - nice touch), the pace was a little slow and fluffy for my taste -- especially when you consider the home stretch of season three, which had me on the edge of my seat. But as I said, it's a question of personal preference - I think it was an unusual angle in which to steer this season, and I give them credit for originality. If you were into it, I don't intend to convince you that you were wrong.

I suppose I appreciate the concept more now that it's been resolved, because it meant that Wolfram & Hart's offer to the Fang Gang was completely logical, and fell in line with what's been established all along. Lilah's eternal employers are in the business of designing the apocalypse, and had Jasmine been successful, she would have ushered in an age of bliss and understanding - complete unity among all mankind. I loved seeing the egg on the faces of Angel & Co as they considered Lilah's statement that it was a small price to pay to let Jasmine consume a tiny fraction of the earth's population if it meant an end to war and suffering. But they successfully managed to destroy this blueprint for utopia, and the senior partners of W&H were very, very grateful.

So grateful, in fact, that next season is going to mean a whole new ball game. I'm really excited to see how the crew handles their graduation to the big leagues. Wesley's got access to the most extensive library of tomes and prophecies that anyone's ever seen, and, to some extent, he's got Lilah back. What does her reanimation entail? From what I gather, she's the hottest zombie in the history of the dark arts - you think there's a chance they'll get back together? Regardless, the complexities of their relationship broke my heart all season, and their scenes together in this episode were a perfect extension of that. I just can't get over Wesley's internal struggle over his feelings for Lilah, as were evidenced by his reaction to her, "Don't worry, lover - I didn't feel a thing" line (cynical, bitter, mistrustful), and his attempt to free her from her eternal contract, thereby finally granting her some peace (because he looooooves her).

I read a quote from one of the Angel higher-ups - maybe Minear, wherein he said we're going to see a whole new side to Fred this season, because she went from being a nave young physics student to living like a hermit in that Pylean cave for 5 years, to living in the hotel with the Angel Investigations staff. In season five, she'll finally get to have a life on her own terms. A great job, her own apartment, a car, and if M.E. is smart they'll give her plenty of screen time (and possibly an actual subplot) with that kid who plays her assistant - you know, the Holden Webster guy (when you first saw him on Angel, were you wondering if W&H had actually employed the late Mr. Webster? I was!). I was thoroughly impressed with his acting in 'Conversations With Dead People', and this is another example of Joss taking care of the actors who deserve it (Danny Strong, anyone?).

Lorne is as happy as a pig in space, now that he'll be working with the music industry's biggest movers and shakers. I'd love to see the occasional walk-on next season from some of them. I'm sure someone like Elton John is lighthearted enough that he'd be into having an onscreen drink with Lorne and mentioning that W&H are negotiating his next contract. Lorne, as usual, was hilarious in 'Home'. I re-watched the episode a couple of nights ago as a refresher, and I laughed out loud in the opening scene when Lilah said Jasmine's followers knew what they were getting into, and Lorne howled, "HER STOMACH?!?" The look on his face was priceless.

Chuckie Gunn! Mister badass just went a whole different kind of uptown. What was the deal with the panther? I don't know, but the scene was visually fascinating and I can't wait to see if he's got some new kind of strength or power as a result of his White Room encounter. Keep in mind, though, that whatever this gift was, it came from Wolfram & Hart and you can expect them to continually try to corrupt the good guys at every turn. Did they get to Charles first? And speaking of gifts, it seems Jasmine's lasting gift to Gunn & Wesley was the way she mended their fence by pointing out that they both care for Fred and that should unify them. Nice, and it seems to have worked.

Okay, I wasn't going to talk about Connor, because I thought it would be fun to play it like my memory of him was wiped along with everyone else's. But I have to acknowledge the fact that the last scene he had with Angel was pretty powerful stuff, and it affected me a lot more the second time I watched it. I've never been the biggest supporter of Vincent Kartheiser, but the kid definitely pulled out his best performance ever for this episode, and his last confrontation with Angel was extremely moving. Rebecca watched it with me, and it was unfortunately the first Angel episode she's ever seen. She asked why Connor was so messed up, and why he would do something as drastic as booby-trapping all those people in the sporting goods store. Why's he so messed up? God, where do I start? He's the child of two vampires, and as a baby he was kidnapped and taken into a hell dimension, where he grew up in the most savage environment imaginable. He's angry with Angel for letting Holtz take him, he's angry at Holtz for leaving him, he's angry at himself for not being able to forgive either one of them, and he feels like any instances of love he's ever felt in his life have been lies. Jasmine was the last straw, because when everyone else in the world felt her love like a warm, pure light, he had to fake it all along because it was the closest his life had ever come to having purpose and he couldn't admit that he wasn't feeling it.

I'm generally okay with how they resolved Connor's story. If it hadn't been for those monks working some mojo big enough to turn The Key into a teenage girl and convince everyone in Buffy's life that she'd always been there, I'd say this was far fetched. But since that precedent was already established, this really isn't much different. I didn't see it coming, and I could feel Angel's mixed emotions as he stood outside Connor's new home and saw how happy he was, so kudos to Joss and his smartypants creative team. My one issue with it involves whether or not Connor is still a superhuman who can leap tall buildings in a single bound. If he IS, won't that complicate his new life a little? And if he isn't, what does that say about the power Wolfram & Hart have at their disposal when they're able to just render someone like Connor powerless? Why didn't they do it a long time ago? Is there ANYTHING they can't do? Shouldn't they have been able to zap The Beast out of existence once he started slaughtering their staff? Pardon my nitpicking.

So where does this leave us? I'd say you'd better start doing your pushups and eating right in preparation for Angel's fifth season, because aside from a completely reworked and revitalized premise, it'll be the only show Mutant Enemy will have on the air. This means Joss and everyone else who's sticking around will be able to devote their full attention and creative skills to cooking up 22 first-rate episodes. It means Drew "I blow minds for a living" Goddard will be writing some episodes, and while Charisma is only penciled in for the occasional appearance from now on (my guess is she'll stay in the coma and we'll only see her in dream sequences or through telepathic contact), the full-time cast will be blessed with a very intriguing addition indeed (the mind reels). And Lilah's back!!

Take care, everybody.

Ron

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Latest Comments

Jesse just to tell you that Spike did not ruin Buffy and in fact he made the show better and that is why they made him permant and i bet that Angel will be a better show with him on it cause personally i hate the show Angel but since Spike is going to be on i think that it will be a better show

Posted by: Ashley on August 24, 2003 04:43 PM

Penn if anyone here is a mron it would be you it doesn't matter about who had a soul longer or who has they're own show Spike loved Buffy other to just got into her pants and he even said that in End of Days and when he was going to kill Dru to show her and loved her before he got into her pants and thing about the tooth pick well lets just say that if Angel and Spike fought that Spike would snap Angel in two just like a tooth pick and when Spike was a human he might have been a bad poet but it does not mean then he was not a strong fighter if he tryed because just because he is a vampire does not make him stronger

Posted by: Ashley on August 24, 2003 04:33 PM

I think that Spike is more deserving because he loved Buffy to death really. And I don't rember Angel giving Buffy the strength to fight someone as strong as Clemb and i think that Spike has loved Buffy from the beginning, but it took the chip to relize it. Angel broke up with Buffy, but Spike loved to the very end. And he sucifaceed his live for hers.

Posted by: Ashley on August 24, 2003 04:17 PM

i just wanted to say that i love both angel and spike....it is simply because they're both heroes and they both loved buffy. it doesn't matter who's more deserving of what...in the end, they both made mistakes and they both proved their worth. i truly believe that they both loved buffy till the end. angel had proved it in IWRY and of course, in season1,2 and 3 of buffy. and spike had gotten a soul for her (emphasizing that the EVIL spike had gotten a soul for her) and i just loved the moment when she was brought back alive and when she came down the stairs and he looked at her....the expression he had on was so real...that part seem to make me believe that spike really was 'in love' with buffy...and all the moments they shared after that...

but, i don't think spike deserves to be called a hero yet...angel has gone through so much..and we have seen personally how much of a hero angel can be (and sometimes a dork)...but we haven't seen much of spike's heroic side yet....perhaps in the future..

Posted by: wei_c on August 23, 2003 09:09 AM

Hey Daniel, read your recent article that should be out soon on this site. I agree with you about Season Seven. I loved it! It was a fine closure for the series. Some say that there were plots unsolved, but if you rewatch the episodes, everything comes full circle. There were best storylines this season, that haven't been seen since Season Three. And the most storyline that really is the best, is that the saying from Dracula, and Tara, "You think you know who you are, whats to come, you haven't even begun". That saying was fullfilled in "Chosen". Also the plot with the Slayers taking back their rights for destiny and fighting the unltimate fight with the ubervamps were awesome! And the First Evil, some say "IT" was the weakest big bad, but if you think about it, he was the best! He wasn't here to represent another big bad like the past, he was a representation of the Scoobies themselves. He effected them so much through the mind it was brilliant. No other baddie got that far before. And it was good that Xander and Anya had reconcilled and started fresh, before she died. It was great the Dawn found her place with the group. Same with Andrew. This year, Giles had to let Buffy finally grow up, like he wanted her to do last year, and it was great that he struggled to, and we were showen a deeper depth that the "Father" and "Daughter" reached in the end. Willow grieved for Tara, but found a person to lean on, and that was Kennedy. Yes her, she really cares about Willow, you'd see that while rewatching this year. And it was great that willow and both Buffy found confidence in theirselves, they finally came to the point where they're wise of what path they're planning to walk, and its great that Faith and Buffy resolved the past, saw Spike, and Anya come to terms with theirselves, and fought the inevitable and learned something about themselves, and loved "Chosen", each character came to terms, matured more than before, no other ending could be better!
The one theme this season had, it was the Season of the Slayer, brilliant plot, especially with the potential slayers. Not all were going to be like Buffy and Faith, but it was great watching them, and Buffy and Faith, fight back to reclaim their destiny that the First Evil, Caleb, Turok-Hans, and the Bringers, tried to steal and end. Great Season, great closure, its all why it was one of the best. Thats why the few flaws never bothered me, because its the stuff thats grand, that you should consider, not its slips, which were just a couple, that didn't matter. Go "Buffy"!!! Lonog live "Buffy", one of the best and grandest shows of all time!!!!!!!
*******Seven stars, for seven wonderful years!
Oh, and to just say, the Emmys have nomminated "Buffy" for Outstanding Special Effects In A Series for the series finale "Chosen"!!!!!!!

Posted by: RG on July 21, 2003 11:38 PM
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