Discussion, critique and fannish obsession over the works of Joss Whedon and his band of merry geniuses
Density......I mean, Destiny
Well, talk about polar opposites. My reaction to DESTINY was quite the reverse of Brian's.
Having not seen the trailer to last night's episode, I walked into it wondering what I was going to see. As usual, the episode started in a very matter-of-fact way. Spike gets a package (?) and BOOM! He's corporeal. Whoa. I have to apologize, because many of the wonderful morsels of dialogue featured in this episode were blown out by the surprise ending, but more on that later.
Blood from the eyes, and everyone acting irrational was, to me, totally expected. It has become an unwritten law in the M.E. universe that nothing good happens without something bad having to happen as a result. So, there we go. I did think it was nifty, but I do have to agree that locking down the building is getting to be old hat. It just doesn't mean that much anymore. Why does it seem like the place was that much harder to get into BEFORE the good folks at Angel Investigations took over?
I don't believe that it should have been a surprise to anyone that the fight between the two heroes was the least heroic thing they could have done. I am mildly disappointed that it didn't occur to either of the combatants. However, the fight was cool in and of itself, and set a precedent. Usually in comic-dom, or genre fare, when twp titanic characters such as these duke it out, the outcome is usually left unresolved. We never find out if the JLA could beat the Avengers, or if Batman could beat Captain America. Something always gets in the way, or there is always some cop out like "he wasn't himself. His mind was controlled, so it wasn't fair." This time, the writers took the bold move of answering the question, plain and simple. Spike beat Angel in a fair fight. Case closed.
Past that, I enjoyed the historical interludes, simply because they did show us something we had never seen before. What was Spike and Angelus' relationship like back in the day. Yes, we knew that they had a falling out over a girl, but what about before that? They were friends? No. But they were pals. And that was something new again. Kudos again go to the writing staff, however, for not copping out at the end and having Spike and Angel put their differences behind them.
Finally, to the finale. Lindsey. My freakin' god, it's Lindsey. The moment I saw him I was left speechless. I couldn't make a sound. You have to understand, watching Eve undress and hearing her talk to someone, I quickly shot down the list of potential bads she could have been talking to. At no point did his name cross my mind. It was totally unexpected and totally awesome. This was one of those surprises that you pray for, and was delivered right on cue. I can't believe this. I mean, Angel and Lindsey were never the best of friends or anything but they left on quasi-decent terms. His exit was made as the kind of person who is leaving the show, never to come back. I just found it amazing, and can't wait to hear all about where he's been, what he's been up to and all that stuff. Damned cool to me.
As for Eve being evil. Again, this is the "d'uh" factor that we experienced earlier in the season. In an earlier episode (and we all remember when it was) we were re-introduced to Spike, who spent the entire episode in moral ambiguity, but claiming he was one of the good guys. We watched him play his game, and despite a moment of perceived evil, at the end we were shown that he was indeed a good guy (for now, at least.) If we had listened to him from the start, we wouldn't have had a problem. That story was told. End of story. To tell it again, with Eve, would have been repetitive. Instead, we are introduced to the other side of that coin. Someone who is professing their innocence but who is, in fact, guilty. And perhaps the lessons "learned" from the Spike incident will be their undoing in this new situation.
Overall, I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable ride. I loved every minute of it, including the ten minutes of speechlessness that I was left with when the show was over. GOD how I loved that!!!
posted by J @
Well, that was a bit much, wasn't it? Pretty deep stuff. Let me just say, flat out, that I really loved the episode. It had some great moments all around (comedy, drama, etc.) and set the stage for some great stuff in the future.
I wish that I could write more about this episode, but there are two other things that I feel the need to address more.
One, should be a relief to anyone who has read my ramblings. I am finally going to put to rest my feelings of paranoia, regarding the end of this ANGEL. According to E! ONLINE, Angel has been picked up for another season already. Not bad. Also, having watched last night's episode (preceded by Smallville) I was beseiged by commercials from THE WB touting all the trade magazines/newspapers/critics that LOOOOOOOOVE Angel. So, again, how could I possibly be right?
Of course, this does leave me with my only complaint about last night, but I can't imagine that it could matter anymore. Still trying to watch the show as an objective newbie (although we all know I am not,) I found last night's episode steeped in more canon than most of the other episodes this season. Mention of Connor is the foremost on my mind, because of the whole episode, it was the one that my father brought up. He has only seen the first two seasons of ANGEL (which we have on DVD) and then started watching this season. He found it to be inconceivable that Angel could have a son, and wanted to know all about it and how it was possible. This, to me, seemed like what most of the new audience would have felt. Then to be bogged down with references to the Watcher's council, it just seemed a bit steeped in continuity. Not much to bother me as a fan, but enough to get the Spidey-sense tingling for the newbies. Besides. Next week we have Drusilla, and boy is that steeped in continuity.
Second, is again I couldn't believe how far this show has come from its original feel. Even from the original feel of BUFFY. I believe that there has been a very stark shift in direction since the Buffyverse came into existence. This was evident in the days of BUFFY as well, but seemed to be highlighted even more last night. It is OK for characters to change, but could we all reflect for a moment on how much, for example, Angel has changed as a character since we first met him?
Still Brooding? Yes. Still dark? Yes. But just look at what he has to deal with on a daily basis now, versus what he did then. He reminds me of myself. Ten years ago I never would have envisioned myself doing what I do today. A few months ago, I had to marvel at the fact that I was actually IN A MEETING. When did that happen? When did I become old enough, or responsible enough to attend meetings? Well, Angel is kinda the same way. Almost ten years ago, he was running around with his girlfriend, saving the world, and master of his own destiny. Now, he too is attending meetings and has all this responsibility thrust upon him. From the Shanshu prophecies to the day to day managing of Wolfram & Hart, he has grown to be a man, from the adolescent we met so long ago.
Maybe it was Brian's last posting that has made me more introspective lately, but this was just something that stood out to me. I don't believe that I have articulated most of my feelings on this matter. Last night, though, it also occurred to me that back in BUFFY Season 1, I may have found it hard to believe that the characters would be chasing down a bunch of killer androids, and that a law firm would be the central point of the show.
posted by J @
Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?
First and foremost, KUDOS to Brian for tackling a subject as fundamentally introspective and defining as this. Second, KUDOS again to Brian for putting me in the position of focusing my critical lens on myself. To that end, I have had to structurally look for what I glean from these and other stories. What I have come back with is probably a bit less spectacular than your explanation, but seems to serve me well. All I can ask from Brian is that he extend me the same courtesy of language and vocabulary understanding.
Before I begin, a little backstory:
As a child (isn't this neat? kinda like flashback in italics!!!!) I was very fond of role-playing. I don't mean role-playing in the sense of "Dungeons & Dragons" or CCGs, but in the simple sense of play-acting. As a kid, I was able to surround myself with people who either shared my passions for this, or who simply placated me out of some childish sense of allegiance. Either way, I am grateful. Usually my role-playing fell into one of three categories, none of which should surprise readers of this blog. They were either "Star Trek," "Superheroes" or "Doctor Who." Bum Bum Buuuuuuuum.
The plot thickens as we examine that in each of those "games," respectively, I was always Captain Kirk, Superman, and The Doctor. Certainly the lead characters, but also the ones for whom I always wanted to be like. This caused quite a bit of chagrin with my friends, as that they never got a turn to be these characters (except in he last case when my friend and I were almost always BOTH the Doctor in what seemed a never-ending series of cataclysmic events that necessitated the meetings of more than one Doctor.)
It's a little embarassing to admit it, but these games stayed with me into Junior High School, where we finally matured to the point where playing around was just not done anymore.
Back to the present day. It occurs to me that my enjoyment of these shows is partially about finding the character that you identify with, but MORE importantly, I enjoy the worlds that I want to be a part of, in one way or another. In the case of SUPERMAN, hell, I would want to BE Superman. In the Buffyverse, I'm not so sure that I would necessarily want to be any of the characters as much as I think I would want to know them.
And how does Canon fit into this? Well, quite simply. Immersing yourself in these universes allows you to share the experiences with those who live there. Therefore, as cool as it is to reminisce with your friends about experiences that you shared in the past, it's just as cool to reminisce these canonical moments with the characters. This coolness factor is elevated when you can share it with your friends because, fortunately, they can answer back.
But these canonical moments are also like the touch of God. God (for our purposes Joss Whedon who, by the way, I do not look at as God, but who is arguably the God of the Buffyverse) has allowed something to happen, which he expects that we will recognize and appreciate. He sets it up like a game. He does it, not only to further a story, but to test to see if we are paying attention. If we recognize it, we passed. And we are all happy. God and ourselves.
Now, is it really as religious and thought out as that? No. That would be the height of hubris, among other problems. However, it is that same kind of feeling.
Do I look for truth in these stories? Certainly. Some of the more fundamental truths can be found in many things that I watch. Allow me a quote. I have edited out certain bits to keep it from being too obvious until we get to the end. By then, I'm sure you will have figured it out:
"There are many questions to be asked,
and it is time for you to do so.
Here [EDIT] we shall try to find the answers together.
How does a good man live? What is virtue?
When does a man's obligation to those around him
exceed his obligation to himself?
Your powers will far exceed mortal men,
it is forbidden for you to interfere with human history,
rather let your leadership stir others to.
It is now time for you to rejoin your new world,
and to serve it's collective humanity.
Live as one of them [EDIT] to discover where your strength and your power are needed.
But always hold in your heart, the pride of your special heritage.
They can be a great people [EDIT] if the wish to be.
The only lack the light to show the way.
For this reason, above all, their capacity for good.
I have sent them you. My only son."
That was all part of a larger monologue that was spoken by Jor-El (Marlon Brando) to his son Kal-El, in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. I memorized it long ago, not because I am a geek (although, admittedly I am,) but because it held a bit of resonance to me. I won't get into which parts and why, necessarily, because it would just take a while. It is moments like that from which I carry my depth and what you call TRUTH.
Admittedly, those moments are few and far between. Maybe for me, they have to hit me in the head, but that is just that way these things are with me.
Again, going back to my point on living in the worlds of these characters, anyone who has watched these shows with me knows how much that can affect me. Happy moments make me happy, sad moments make be sad (even having shed tears on occasion.) All this, most importantly because I can sympathize with what is happening, one way or another.
As a child, seeing Spock die in STAR TREK II was very painful to me. At the tender age of 5, I felt that loss, and it was for the first time in my life. I had been watching STAR TREK almost since I was born. On a very visceral level, I was met with the death of a friend. Someone who I had known all my life, and whose experiences I had shared. He was as much a friend to me back then as anyone I had known, such was the imagination of a 5-year-old. To this day, I carry a small part of that empathic ability with me. Hence, while I didn't really like Anya, I was saddened by her death, because it hurt Xander, who I like. Funny thing that.
I suppose that on the whole, my appreciation of these things is more emotional than intellectual, and that makes it more primal ana a lot less deep.
Imagine, if you will that we are in the episode "BEER BAD." Brian is the intellectual who knows the whys and wherefores of what he likes, and can examine the depth of each moment. Put some "beers" in him, however, and he becomes me. A simple creature of stimulus, who can still say what he likes and why, but not give quite the intellectual response.
posted by J @
The Life of the Party
Before I dive headlong into this week’s tasty Angel morsel, let me take a brief moment to address last week’s offering. To be honest, I walked away from it satisfied with a job well done. While Brian did point out that it did make use of most of the conventions/clichés that we’ve come to expect from any sort of horror story, again I believe that it is the execution, above all else, that separates this one from some of the dreck that is out there.
As usual, the acting was top-notch, and the writing (while derivative in plot-points) was still spot-on for dialogue and timing. I do have to disagree with Brian’s assessment of the addition of Eve to the story. Perhaps, though, it was simply because I missed her .
And now, before I tackle last night’s episode, let me say that I actually did feel a disturbance in the force. It happened at the exact moment that Brian was swayed (not converted, mind you) but swayed over to the dark side. And so my pessimism is rubbing off. I wonder if this does indeed bode sour for our friends over at Angel Investi--, I mean Wolfram & Hart.
One final note. From now until the end of the season, I will be keeping the majority of my reviews on topic. With regards to how each episode will affect the future of the show, I may give the occasional update. However, for now, it may be safe to assume that unless stated expressly in the review to the contrary, each episode, while being good, does not seem to be helping attract new viewers or helping the show stay on the air for another season (and I’ll address whether or not that is a good thing, much further into the season.)
As for Life of the Party, I had a great time. This was what I was talking about before, about one of those episodes intended to lighten the mood. It was pure fun, with the usual suspense added in. It was full of gems that were dramatic/comic gold, but did have an unfortunate moment in it, that was more a problem of timing than anything else.
It was that one moment when Lorne’s subconscious was talking to him. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have a problem with the sight of one Lorne talking to the other, but for the fact that F/X is currently showing season 7 of BUFFY, and I had just come from two hours of watching one Spike talk to the other (granted that was The First, and all, but I think I just overloaded on the idea.) That, was probably nothing to be ultimately held against the episode, just my own little problem.
The pairings off were great. I was glad to have the Fred/Wesley issue addressed more outright. I just can’t help but feel sorry for poor Wesley. I don’t know how many people out there have been where he is (not the whole “former rogue demon hunter, in charge of the mystical division of an evil law firm, trying to destroy it from within” thing, but in his relationship with Fred,) but I know I’ve been there, and that’s just painful.
I couldn’t figure out, at first, why Gunn was peeing everywhere, but that was absolutely hysterical when it was explained. It’s one of those jokes that really funny as it’s being told, and then the punch line cinches it. Very nice.
Angel and Eve was just damned funny, but a bit out of left field. Did Lorne see something that I didn’t? (could be, since he’s an empath.) I have never seen much in the way of sexual tension between the two of them, so where did that come from? But let’s hear it for Eve’s dismissal at the end of the ep.
So, with a minor exception or two, I had a great time. Woo hoo! Now, all I have to know is, is DC Comics aware that Bane is going to be in the next episode of Angel?
posted by J @
Now it's my turn:
1) Regarding the point of humor in the ME shows:
I still can't agree with your overall summation of the Jossiverse shows with regards to comedy vs drama. And that's ok. To me, they were definitely not sitcoms, not exactly dramedies (comedy/dramas) but more like dramas the way they are supposed to be. Buffy, for example, treated these situation as real people would. While I would never presume to believe that I am as witty (?) as Buffy herself, I certainly would like to believe that healthy banter is good for any situation, especially if I spend all my time in these dire situations. I also think that the fact that these episodes weren't DRIPPING with humor is a reason why specific episodes can stand out as being much more comedic than the others. Arguably, ever episode had a healthy dose, but I rarely thought that these moments took away from the drama of the situation, or made the characters seem any less as though they were in peril. The comedy also never detracted from the core essence of who these characters were.
Buffy Summers is a Vampire Slayer. Everyday she weighs life or death situations, and handles them. She saves the world....a lot. Without her, we would be in deep trouble. She wasn't always a professional, but she eventually came into that role. She was a teenager, and not always eager to accept her responsibility, but when the time came, she stepped up, and we had complete faith in her (no pun intended.....well, maybe.)
Xander Harris, was always in over his head. As a result, he probably came off as the most intentionally funniest. He WAS the comic relief. Yes, he had skills, but they weren't much, and we knew that. That's why he WAS the comic relief.
Moving over to Angel:
Angel is a brooding fellow. He is deadly serious, because he is a man with a monster trapped inside. He is a Vampire with a soul, cursed to relive the horrors of his past and perpetually seek redemption for his horrible past. He is not much of a people person, as that this may lead to temptation. He is uncomfortable, also, perhaps because he does not see himself worthy yet. He is, however, confident in his mission and his abilities.
The world of Angel depends on fundamental truths like that to keep its world fluid. My fear (and this comes more from what you hear from the networks than it does in my faith in Joss) is that if the show becomes too funny, it will lose the sense of believability that we have in its characters. Again, I have faith in Joss. I just don't trust the network, and feel that they may try to exert too much control.
2. Gunn is still a sticking point with me. It's usually good to have a character change and evolve. I just don't know if this one seems right to me. I agree that Gunn has always been about doing what he can, whatever he can. I just do feel, however, that this was a bit much. This is a loyal man. Remember that he almost didn't go to Pylea because he had been ignoring his crew. What about that crew now? That is why this whole thing seems so out of character for me. Yes, he finally went to Pylea. Out of loyalty as well. I just don't see that Gunn would ever willingly sacrifice his link to his old crew.
As for the rest, Brian, you've made excellent points all around. My basic problem is that I feel that the show is still beyond the average viewer's grasp. I couldn't stand to have it dumbed down, so I am happy for that. But, ultimately, as we have had the unfortunate tendency to learn, television is about ratings and viewership. If Angel can't build on the audience that it had last season, the show is in serious danger of being cancelled. Current evidence proves that the changes are working and that viewership is up. I'm glad. I just hope it can stay that way. My initial fear was that it wouldn't work, old viewers would be alienated, viewership would drop, and we would lose yet another ME show, a bit prematurely.
As the season is progressing, I am becoming cautiously optimistic. I will continue to keep my fingers crossed.
posted by J @