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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Angel Episode 5.5 Life Of The Party
AirDate: 29th Oct 03

In talking to people about Angel 5.5 ‘Life of the Party’, I heard a wide range of opinions. Everything from “finally a killer episode” to “Worst… episode… ever.”

While I wouldn’t call it killer and I’m still waiting for an episode this season that will have me dashing for the phone as soon as the credits roll to call friends and scream “OH MY GOD!!”, it was still a lot of fun and worthy of praise. The stories that really turn my crank are the heartbreakers. Give me love triangles and betrayals, slashed throats and tragic prophecies, and I’m a happy Angel viewer indeed. But despite what that may imply, I’m not all about the boo-hoo-hoo. The best thing about Angel, and Buffy before it, is the way they mix styles and genres within a single episode to present a totally unique and satisfying hour of television. So while it’s the sad episodes that make up the majority of my all-time-faves, I like a good comedy as much as the next guy.

‘Life of the Party’ had funny in spades, and it continued a longstanding tradition on Angel of taking a concept or premise similarly explored on Buffy and putting the L.A spin on it. In this case it was Buffy’s fourth season corker, ‘Something Blue’, when Willow cast a spell so her will would be done, in the hopes that she could wash the recently departed Oz right out of her hair. Instead, everything she said to her friends (most of it metaphorical in the midst of arguments) came to be. Giles ended up losing his sight, Xander became a real demon-magnet, and Buffy & Spike were suddenly discussing wedding plans, much to Riley’s confusion and dismay.

Lorne wasn’t looking to impose his will on anyone -- he’s just an honest social convener with too much on his plate. So what’s a Pylean Party Prince to do but swing a little deal with the Wolfram & Hart med team to have his need for sleep taken right out of his demon brain and locked away safely in the lab, leaving Lorne free to stay up all night long, working the deals and getting the job done? It was a good plan for a while, until the inevitable problems surfaced.

First of all, it seems when a demon of Lorne’s breed has his sleep removed, his empathic powers flip around so instead of reading what’s inside heads, he begins involuntarily placing suggestions in there, which the recipients are powerless to resist. Suddenly Spike was Mr. Up-With-People, Gunn was peeing in the plants to mark his territory, Fred & Wes were drunk as hell despite not consuming much alcohol, and Angel and Eve? Missing and presumed GETTING’ IT ON!!

All of these mystical marching orders provided some very funny moments. I haven’t laughed at Spike like that since ‘Tabula Rasa’, and don’t front – who among us hasn’t been at a social engagement where we couldn’t stop peeing everywhere?

It wasn’t just the messed-up Fang Gang causing the comedy, either. One of the funniest elements of the episode was DEVLIN – a portly demon who came to the W&H Halloween party dressed as Chandler from Friends. It’s really too bad that Devlin had to die, because I would have loved to see him stick around for more cameos in the future. He could have ended up being the Angel version of Clem – a one-time bit part demon who charmed everyone enough that the writers couldn’t help but write him larger parts.

Speaking of Clem, would it be so much to ask to have him drop by L.A. to visit Spike this Christmas, Joss? From what I’ve read, James C. Leary would be happy for the work, so do us a favour and write him into an upcoming episode. Or hell – keep him around permanently! He’d probably fit in as well and be as entertaining as Harmony.

Speaking of Harmony, I have a few points I’d like to raise. Back in the season’s first episode when Lorne discovered she was working at W&H, he was shocked and dismayed. But didn’t I tell you that given time, they’d end up being cuddly buddies? The opening moments of ‘Life of the Party’ demonstrated that the inevitable has occurred. “Harmonica!” “Lorney Tunes!!” Every L.A. girly-girl shopaholic needs a gay best friend, right? Uh-oh – I’ve outed Lorne. The scandal!! In any case, I’m glad these two seem to be pairing up, because they have great chemistry.

What else did I want to say about Harm? Oh yeah. Is she still evil? She IS a vampire, right? She followed all the traditional steps – got attacked, got turned, effectively died and lost her soul, and now she’s a bloodsucking creature of the night. The only two vampires we know of who have souls, consciences, and a desire to do the right thing, are Spike and Angel. Remember that, Mutant Enemy. Harmony’s pretty tanned and friendly for a vampire, and I expect to see her acting like an evil bumpy-face in the near future, regardless of how inept she’s traditionally been at the job. Spike was supposed to be a rare exception – a vampire who, even without a soul, gradually saw the error of his ways, and out of love and consideration for a few humans (Buffy & Dawn, at least – the others are debatable), began fighting for the side of the righteous. Harmony has the demon inside her, no soul, and it’s not like she was EVER much of a humanitarian, so what’s her excuse now? She claimed in the season premiere that she’s not feeding off humans anymore. What would have even prompted her to stop?

But Harmony’s cuteness aside, the strength of this episode was that old tried-and-true narrative twist of seeing these beloved characters forced into situations where they were behaving in very unexpected ways – behaviour that, given the choice, they’d abandon immediately. Angel and Eve were funny, and I ASSUME Angel was having sex with her contrary to his own desires, but maybe that’s not the case. Maybe with all his sneers and putdowns and defensive body language, Lorne’s power of suggestion gave Angel license to do something that he’s been wanting to do for the previous four episodes. Despite my loud cries that Eve is a poor substitute for Lilah, I have to admit that the girl can be sexy when she works it. I’m not immune to the seductive purrs and winks, and maybe Angel isn’t either.

And while we’re on the subject of true feelings surfacing in this episode, Fred & Wesley went from making me laugh with their drunken stumblings and slurred epiphanies to providing one of the night’s most touching moments (I’ll get to the other one in a sec). We still have so much that’s unresolved and unexplained in terms of who remembers what from the last couple of seasons, but 5.5 finally confirmed that Wesley’s attraction to Fred has survived the memory wipe. Regardless of whether the drunkenness was real or mystically instilled, they were still left with the same loose tongues that often find their way into such moments. It allowed Wesley to screw up his courage enough to almost tell Fred how he feels about her, and it allowed Fred to beat him to it by letting him know that her interests are in Knox. Ouch. Poor Wes.

Okay, the other part of this episode that I found touching was Lorne & Angel’s conversation in the limo on the way to see Sebassis. It indicated that Lorne sometimes feels like he can’t measure up to the others in terms of readily-apparent usefulness – he’s not strong, he’s no fighter, and he’s no genius when it comes to quantum physics or mysticism. But despite Angel’s resistance to the party and his dismissal of its worth, it was important for the “new regime” to assert themselves both as fully in control of W&H’s operations, and also open to negotiation with the demon world. Who among the members of the Fang Gang can throw the meanest parties and make nice with the oddly-coloured upper crust better than Lorne? So as Lorne said to Angel in the limo, the party was important and it was a way for him to contribute to the cause and feel like a valued member of the crew. Angel might be a bit thick-headed, but it didn’t take long for him to understand this equation and agree to help Lorne pull it off, and I thought that was a sweet moment indeed.

A lot of people have been griping about the hulking manifestation of Lorne’s id at the party. Well insert raspberry here, because I thought it looked cool and it was a lot of fun. I’m viewing this move from the perspective of Joss and his writers. I can see them sitting around at a script meeting, thinking, “What would be a really hilarious visual for this episode?” “How about a three hundred pound Lorne swatting Angel around like a tissue?” “Brilliant!” And it was, you old fuddy-duddies! I laughed when I first saw Hulk-Lorne, and I’m chuckling when I think about it now. Lighten up. And while we’re on the subject of writers, I’d like to commend Ben Edlund for the work he’s done so far on this series. I’ve always admired his genius in creating The Tick, and he wrote some good stuff for Firefly. Now that he’s written two Angel episodes alone and he co-wrote ‘Just Rewards’ with Mustard Guy, I believe that he’s proven himself as an Angel scribe, and I no longer consider him some kind of novelty guest writer. Benny, you’re on the team. Now grab that ball, and RUN!!

I enjoyed 5.5 because it was the first Lorne-heavy episode since season four’s Vegas adventure, and I actually think this one was more entertaining overall. Lorne’s a fascinating character, Andy does a terrific job of portraying him, and ‘Life of the Party’ was a rare opportunity to get an inside view of what it’s like to be The Host -- in short, it’s not all champagne wishes and caviar dreams, is it? We’ve had sufficient opportunities to see how Angel, Fred and Gunn are managing at Wolfram & Hart, and Spike’s life is pretty much an open book these days, but Lorne & Wesley have been reduced lately to enigmatic walk-ons. Now that we understand the kind of strain Lorne’s been under and the steps he’s taken to cope with their new lot in life, it’s Wesley’s turn under the microscope.

Take care, everybody.


About Ron : Email Ron
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Latest Comments

I too am sick of seeing Spike as a hottie ghost - comedy sidekick has never been his thing.

BTW, has anyone else noticed how Angel is coming off really badly since Spike showed up? He doesn't trust Spike, he doesn't believe it is possible for him to change (despite the fact that Angel himself changed), he isn't trying to help him, he seems resentful that Spike's there at all. Angel is looking very childish and petty about the whole thing, whereas Spike is coming off much better. He seems to have got over his initial attempt to punch Angel's lights out and annoy the hell out of him - he sems to be wanting to help the Fang Gang. Spike is the one that has remembered that its about doing the right thing - Angel (the hero, the champion) has forgotten.

Posted by: Kathy on February 10, 2004 07:54 AM

I think this was a decent enough ep - but when are they going to reveal what the characters remember of the last 2 years? (due to the events of "Home"). I thought that they would have addressed this by now. Because Connor never existed, this means that Darla is still alive, yes? (well vampire anyway). I'd love to see Julie Benz back on Angel this season somehow.

Posted by: anon on November 22, 2003 02:00 PM

Continuation of previous post. Also Ron, as you pointed out, Spike could have been flesh in that episode but once again he gave up something for himself . I don't want the knowledge of the Shanshu to destroy that. I want him to do good because he chooses to and it's the right thing to do and not because he's seeking personal reward because of a prophecy. I don't want the writers to turn him into a dam Angel clone.

Posted by: Janine on November 13, 2003 10:16 PM

Hey Ron. I had misgivings about Spike finding out about the Shanshu in 5.4. Seeing previews for next week adds to it. I honestly have no desire to see Spike fight Angel to become human. Taking the easy way out using some magic potion. After what he did in "Chosen" it seems kind of lame. I don't want Spike's motivation to become tainted. As long as he doesn't go bad I'm not so sure I want him to become human. Am I overreacting or should I keep the faith in Spike. Thoughts?


Posted by: Janine on November 13, 2003 09:47 PM

Hey Ron. I had misgivings about Spike finding out about the Shanshu in 5.4. Seeing previews for next week adds to it. I honestly have no desire to see Spike fight Angel to become human. Taking the easy way out using some magic potion. After what he did in "Chosen" it seems kind of lame. I don't want Spike's motivation to become tainted. As long as he doesn't go bad I'm not so sure I want him to become human. Am I overreacting or should I keep the faith in Spike. Thoughts?


Posted by: Janine on November 13, 2003 09:47 PM
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