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Howl's it Going So Far, Angel?

Angel Episode 5.3 Unleashed
AirDate: 15th Oct 03

Episode 5.3 began and ended on a comfy note – the whole gang together, talking over their present situation as heads of Wolfram & Hart, and enjoying some Chinese food up in the hills. It was nice to see this kind of interaction, and it illustrated that they aren’t as fractured as we may have thought – they just don’t feel comfortable speaking openly while they’re in the office. The main topic on the agenda was their increasing feeling of being prisoners within the organization -- mistrustful of the people working for them, and eager to spot how and when the Senior Partners intend to flip the switch on whatever kind of trap the Fang Gang has allowed themselves to be led into.

But while they all seem, for the most part, to be on the same page, there are still a couple of unanswered questions among the group – in particular, what exactly did W&H put in Chuckie Gunn’s melon when they supersized it? When things get hairy, will he respond to some trigger word and pull an uncontrollable double-cross? He’s so defensive because OF COURSE he wouldn’t allow himself to be manipulated, and if anyone knows what’s going on inside his head, it’s him, right? But Wesley and the others are absolutely justified in asking these questions. When you’re dealing with the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart, leave no stone unturned.

All this suspicion reminds me of something I’ve been discussing with people lately. Have you noticed that there doesn’t seem to be any lingering tension between Fred, Gunn or Wesley, despite everything they went through in seasons three and four? For that matter, Wesley and Angel seem all patched up, as do Angel and Fred after the nasty (and oh so entertaining) way that Angelus tormented her from inside his cage last year. It appears that all wounds are healed and everyone is equipped to make nice on a full time basis with no noticeable repercussions.

I suppose the explanation lies in the mass memory-wipe in the fourth season finale that’s left everyone but Angel and a few Wolfram & Hart staffers completely unaware that Connor ever existed.

Fair enough, but doesn’t this explanation only open up a whole other list of questions? If people don’t remember Connor, what do they remember about the circumstances of Darla’s death? Does Wesley remember kidnapping baby Connor and giving him to Holtz? Does he remember getting his throat slashed? What’s his version of the events if there was no baby involved? Do any of them recall how divided they were in those days? Those events led to Wesley falling into bed with Lilah, and for that matter, Connor was intrinsically tied to the events that saw evil-Cordy murder Lilah. Does Faith remember being in L.A.? Can she explain why Wesley sprung her from the big house?

If they all know Cordy’s in a coma, do any of them even remember WHY?!?

Mr. Whedon, further explanation might be required, and I’ll trust that it’s forthcoming (I’m not saying what I’ve heard about casting for this season, and in the interests of those who are remaining spoiler free, I must ask that you keep the same info out of the notes section – thanks).

In the meantime, thar be werewolves in the L.A. area, and unfortunately, none of them ever played guitar in Dingoes Ate My Baby (as far as I know). There’s been a history on Angel of tackling premises that appeared previously in a similar fashion on Buffy (‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ / ‘Waiting in the Wings’, ‘Tabula Rasa’ / ‘Spin the Bottle’, and I’m sure there are more that aren’t immediately springing to mind), and each time they’ve done a capable job of adding a fresh perspective. This time it was the classic “Surprise, you’re a werewolf” tale, but instead of the Sunnydale version where hardly anyone had parents and it was up to the unfazeable Oz to just shrug and accept his wolfy lot in life, Nina was a woman with a family and a job and no one immediately on her side who understood the supernatural and could explain the strange days ahead.

Enter the ensouled vamp boss of an evil law firm. There’s nothing Angel likes more than a pretty blonde who needs his help whether she knows it or not (do I have to give you a list?), and no one was going to tell him that their other problems (namely how to get rid of William the Barely There) should take precedence over finding poor Nina and getting her safely stowed away so they could explain her condition and protect those around her. Call the DMV! Get some psychics to dream up an image of her bedroom (nice)! Mobilize the winged monkeys! Fly, my pretties, FLY!!

I’ve heard some criticisms since this episode aired that Angel’s single-minded drive to find Nina before nightfall was a little over the top. Someone pointed out recently that there are still people being maimed and killed by vamps and demons all over Los Angeles, and you don’t see him rushing out at every available opportunity to save as many people as possible. “Why Nina?”, they said. “How did this pretty stranger suddenly become the most important thing in his life?”

That’s funny, I thought Angel’s motivation was crystal clear. This isn’t about saving another beautiful girl from a monster, it’s about helping someone who’s BECOME a monster to get control of their situation before their inner beast drives them to kill any innocents. Nobody understands alcoholics like a reformed alcoholic, and no one understands better than Angel what it’s like to let your dark side harm the people closest to you. Angel is grateful to Willow for locking away Angelus (twice) when no one else could, and he saw this as an opportunity to help someone else in a very similar situation. Of COURSE he was consumed by this quest, because its essence is the most important thing in his life – fear of what he is, remorse for the things he’s done, and a desperate need to do good to balance the scales.

Isn’t it funny, though, that Spike didn’t seem to share this passion despite how similar his predicament is to Angel’s? As far as Spike was concerned, Nina had joined the kill-or-be-killed club, and any resulting nastiness was a done deal. He had little to no sympathy for her problem (which again calls to mind the discussion of what having a soul entails), and the sooner Fred turned her attention back to saving him from being pulled once and for all into the great fiery hereafter, the better. This supports Angel’s statement that he spent a long, long time coming to terms with his soul and its trappings, and Spike spent a couple of weeks in a basement before donning a blue sweater and going back to work for the Scoobs, and this unfair imbalance frustrates Angel to no end (okay, so he didn’t say it in those words, but the point was the same).

Spike may have a soul, and he may have saved the world (temporarily), but in many ways he’s the same self-centered, cynical prick that he’s always been (when it doesn’t concern Buffy). One of the more satisfying moments in the episode came when Spike was explaining in epic, melodramatic terms, why he could never go to Wesley for help, and Fred’s apparent sympathy quickly gave way to a mockery of his revisionist history and attempt at tugging at her heartstrings. It called to mind one of the only good parts of ‘Beer Bad’, when Willow listened doe-eyed to Parker’s sensitive guy routine, only to skin him and nail him to the wall for ever thinking that she’d be so naïve as to buy such garbage. More often than not, the women in the Whedonverse see through the pretty lies fed to them by the guys with the bedroom eyes (can I say with a certain note of hope that it’s the same in the real world?). I’m looking forward to seeing where Spike’s story is headed, and I like the fact that, at this point, it really could be anything. Maybe he’ll be the mole that Wolfram & Hart are looking for. Getting his proper fleshiness back might just be enough of a reward to screw Angel over. But then again, if the Senior Partners have a nefarious goal in handing over the keys to the Fang Gang, I have no idea what it could be.

I don’t have much else to say about the story of Nina the werewolf, since this wasn’t much more than one of the long-promised Monster of the Week stories that Angel’s fifth season will undoubtedly be full of. She got bit, they tracked her down, and the wrench in the machine came first in the form of a traitorous Wolfram & Hart scientist, and then a secret social club who eats rare creatures for dinner – in this case, Nina. There was a big rescue, the scientist got his just desserts by becoming the main course, and Angel took Nina back to her sister and niece with an agreement that they had a monthly date in W&H’s holding cells. What do you want? This episode still didn’t hold a candle to most of the third and fourth seasons, and even though I’ve now seen episode 5.4 (yes, I’m a bit behind already), I’m still waiting for one that does. But let’s save talk of ‘Hellbound’ for its own review…

My favourite line of this episode came from Lorne (which is far from an uncommon occurrence), when he came into Angel’s office to warn him about what seems to be going on (if there’s a developing season arc, this is it): “You’re fighting so many enemies around you, Angel, your punches are getting sloppy – and we’ve got the bruises to prove it.” I predict, and I know I’m not alone in this, that there’s some big internal strife coming for Angel and his crew.

If there’s anything that particularly BOTHERED me about ‘Unleashed’, it was the ongoing way that they’re (mis)handling Spike. I love Sarah Fain & Elizabeth Craft as Angel writers, but so far I don’t think any of the present roster of scribes has properly conveyed the way the Spike we’ve known for all these years speaks. I’m not just nitpicking about the overuse of British slang, I’m talking about something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Something’s missing, and it seems to materialize in the way James Marsters is performing in the role but I don’t believe it’s his fault. I’m really looking forward to Ultimate Drew’s first stab at an Angel episode in 5.7, because there’s a guy who knows how to write Spike well, and maybe then I’ll know for sure if there’s sufficient reason for hope, or if Spike’s presence on the show is just a tacked-on mistake. Because honestly, I want to love it and I’m hoping for the bigger and the better, but so far I’m a little unsatisfied.

Despite my observation that things seem wonky at Wolfram & Hart, I’m not made of stone, and I was left with a case of the warm and fuzzies at the episode’s conclusion, as our heroes put up their feet and ordered Chinese again. It was a nice little nod to the Hyperion as Fred explained the change in location to the guy taking her order. I miss the hotel.

Take care, everybody.


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Latest Comments

Buffy is great and Sarah Michelle Gellar is my all-time favourite actress.
Has anyone seen My Stepmother Is An Alien?(the film)? I think Alyson Hannigan acted great in it and she deserved to go on to be on Buffy as Willow.

Also email me -

Posted by: Nikki on June 13, 2004 09:52 AM

I love conner he is so sexy so is angel I wish cordy comes back!!!

TaTaTa for now!!

Love my fans

Posted by: sarah on April 14, 2004 12:29 PM

I have watched every show of buffy and now i am watching angel he is hot and I think conner is to i think that conner should be in more of the movies and he should get bit by a vampire and have a soul and that would be the coolest ever!! I love cordila to she is a good actor she should come back on the show to!!! I think they should make movies, shirts,posters,books,stores with everthing of angel to conner to buffy, gun ,wesley, fred,to cordela to darla, linsey, willow,doyle,and every buddy that buffy is freinds with.I love all ther shows and want more, more, more, more, more, more, and MORE I am conners angels and doyles biggest Fan!!!!!

Posted by: sarah on March 31, 2004 12:28 PM

We really need Cordy back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The show isn't the same

Posted by: Nemisis on January 3, 2004 03:55 PM

Season 5 is great because, working at W&H they're there is evil in and evil out. More suspense, more action, more jokes...I really hate Eve tough. I know she's not the innocent she's pretending to be. I really love the Lorne episode. Lorne is my favorite character. season 5 is great. The suspense kill me. Sound exciting, innit? I hope Fred and Spike will fall in love with each other. I see them as a couple. Sorry Knoxy, you're too ordinary. Lorne is my favorite character so I hope for more Lorne this season. He's just so cute and nice. We don't hear him singing anymore. That's disapointing, because he's such an honey voice. The most beautiful voice I've ever heard. *Raise bottle of beer* To you Andy Hallett!

Posted by: cassey Guy on November 29, 2003 05:43 AM
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