Discussion, critique and fannish obsession over the works of Joss Whedon and his band of merry geniuses

"The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco"

THis was definitely a crazy episode, but it wasn't really as out there as it might have appeared. Quite the contrary, I found this rather melancholy little tale to be as moving, and as satisfying, as any episode of Angel recently.

I mean, yes, masked Mexican wrestlers. But you know, I think I found that less offputting than many would simply because I'm a longtime fan of professional wrestling (yes, I know it's fake, so's this show we're reviewing) and Mexican lucha libre wrestling is possibly my favorite variety. Much like Angel can be, it's breathtakingly silly and over the top but damned enjoyable for all that. Likewise, the concept of masked Mexican wrestlers fighting evil didn't bother me overmuch. Like most of Angel's stories, it's rooted in a folk legend tradition — in this case the specific reference is to El Santo, a luchadore in a silver mask who, in a series of popular movies back in the 1950s and '60s, faced off against werewolves and vampires and mummies and other supernatural ne'er-do-wells. (I know this because one such movie, El Santo contra las mujeres vampiros, was brought to America in dubbed form as Samson vs. the Vampire Women — with the intrepid El Santo renamed as "Samson, the Silver Maskman" — and subsequently turned into a highly enjoyable episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.)

All this is by way of explaining the this episode's central conceit, Numero Cinco and Los Hermanos Numeros, was not the unacceptably silly barrier to involvement that I suspect it may have been for some viewers. And the story at the core of it, a story of regret and faith and what being a hero really is, was rock solid and thus quite enjoyable. Danny Mora did a fine job as Numero Cinco, despite being behind a mask the entire time, and Spike's gleeful little game of Telephone was one of the funniest bits on Angel all season. Likewise the incorporation of the Shanshu prophecy, Angel's loss of faith in it, and the subsequent delightful little moment in which Wesley fails to remember those most traumatic events of the recent past, were top-notch Angel by any measure I can think of.

So yeah, I dug "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" mightily. This episode strongly reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, a short speech given by Amber the beadmaker in Robin Hobb's fantasy masterpiece The Liveship Traders: "Everyone thinks that courage is about facing death without flinching. But almost anyone can do that. Almost anyone can hold their breath and not scream for as long as it takes to die. True courage is facing life without flinching. I don't mean the times when the right path is hard, but glorious at the end. I'm talking about enduring the boredom, and the messiness, and the inconvenience of doing what is right."

  posted by Brian @ 08:06

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