Saturday, September 15, 2007

Angel Friday (14 September 2007)

We've had to reschedule our Buffy Wednesdays the last few weeks so that tyranist can torture political prisoners (one of his day jobs), but I wonder if I should keep calling them "Buffy Wednesdays," especially if we watch no "Buffy."

Like yesterday's. We were six episodes behind on "Angel" (I tried to convince tyranist that we were actually seven episodes behind, but he convinced me I was an imbecile), so as much as I wanted to find out what was going on in Sunnydale, that'll have to wait a couple of weeks.

I'm still hesitant to embrace "Angel." I don't know how long it will take me to get over it (if ever), but I just don't seem capable of enjoying it as much as its sister show.* Part of it is the ensemble nature of "Buffy," and the affection I have for those characters, but in "Angel"'s defence, I have to admit that "I Will Remember You" was better than any "Buffy" episode this season.

The first episode we watched was called "Somnabulist," and was written by "Firefly"-co-exec Tim Minear, and was directed by Winrich Kolbe, who used to direct all the "Star Trek"s. The episode now features Alexis Denisof instead of Glenn Quinn in the opening titles, and was notable for shedding a bit more light on Angel's past, as we get to see him back in his Angelus days in a couple of flashbacks.

There's a wave of murders happening in L.A., and the victims are not only drained of blood, but a cross is cut into their cheek as a sort of calling card.** Worse, Angel's been having dreams about them, in which he is the killer. When he goes to see Policewomanofficer Kate Lockley, he sees photos of the victims that are all too familiar. Kate's profile on the killer seems to match the head of Angel Investigations exactly.

Wesley too reads about the murders and in doing a little research, begins to suspect Angel. He comes to AI HQ with a stake, but Angel disarms him (really easily) and tells him and Cordelia about the dreams he's been having, and that he may be committing the murders in his sleep. So, they tie him to the bed and Wesley keeps guard that night.

Now wait, Angel sleeps at night? That's news to me. It doesn't make a lot of sense, since he shouldn't be able to do a lot during the day, but . . . Hmmm.

Anyway, another murder does occur, and Angel says he's responsible. How? Well, a couple hundred years back, Angelus sired a little sidekick by the name of Penn. Angelus took him under his wing and showed him the ropes and pick your cliche and helped Penn get back at his Puritan father by killing his entire family. In a new twist, vampires have some kind of psychic connection to the vamps they sire, and Angel knows Penn is in Los Angeles, doing his thing.
Angel goes to see Kate again at the police station and asking if she trusts him, gives her a sketch of what the killer looks like. I was reminded that Angel can, indeed, draw very well (way back when he became Angelus again and terrorised Buffy and Company, one of the things he did was sketch them and leave the drawings nearby). Figuring that Penn is re-enacting the murder of his family, he tells Kate that the next victim will be a teenage boy and where to find him.

Sure enough, that night, the cops rescue a kid from his would-be murderer and Penn flees into an abandoned building. Kate goes after him, alone for some reason, and shoots Penn several times. It doesn't kill him, though, and he pops right back up. Luckily, Angel bursts in to save her. Penn seems happy to see Angel, who disappeared on him years ago when the gypsies cursed him, and is disappointed when Angel tells him he's there to kill him. They fight.

Penn seems young, scrawny, and slightly effeminate, and I suppose that was intentional, though I'm not sure why. Though I'm no fan, one of the things they scored with in the casting of David Boreanaz is that super-hunky or no, when he's vamped-out, he's really intimidating.

Kate watches them fight, doing all sorts of neato undead acrobatics and such. Just in case she missed that detail, when Penn flees, she sees Angel with his vampire face on. She seems more confused than terrified, and the next time we see her, she's doing research, not only on similar killings in the past, but on vampires.

The next day, Cordelia welcomes a new client who's asking an awful lot about Angel and Kate Lockley. She realises about halfway through who she's talking to, and Angel shows up to threaten him, then Wesley shows up to get threatened by him, and Penn escapes.

When Angel goes to talk to Kate, she won't invite him in her apartment.*** Having found out that he's a rather famous vampire, all her trust in him has vanished. Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia do a little research on their own, discovering a hotel that's common to several years worth of killings. When they go to Penn's hideout, they find notes he's written about killing a bunch of children on a schoolbus (you have to wonder, though, how he would've managed this, since children typically don't ride the bus when the sun is down).

Penn's real plan, however, is to kidnap Kate, which he does in the middle of one of her police briefings. He takes her underground, where Angel catches up to him. Penn is very disappointed at what Angel's become, since Angel is ostensibly his father. They have another one of those trademarked epic battles, until Penn catches Angel in a headlock. Kate grabs a piece of wood and, rather cleverly, jams it through Angel's stomach and out his back, into Penn's heart. He turns to dust.

Later, Angel is on the roof, being all introspective, and Cordelia goes up there and has a heart-to-heart with him, telling him it's not who he used to be, but who he is now, and that the man he is now is a good man. She also tells him that if he ever turns again to the dark side, she'll strike him down with all of her hatred. He thanks her for that. The end.

This was a good episode, but not a great one. My favourite parts were definitely the glimpses at Angel's past, and as I discussed with tyranist afterward, I just couldn't buy Cordelia's peptalk at the end. She's just an eighteen or nineteen year old former cheerleader/bitch, and she's telling Angel about all of the twisted paths he's taken in his life. It felt very much like a speech written for Doyle, or some other kind of contemporary of Angel's, someone who'd had similar struggles, or at least the weight of a few years under their belt. I've found it really hard to accept the wildly inconsistent nature of Cordelia's character (especially based on what we saw in three seasons of "Buffy"), and it seems to me that if we had a couple more characters on the show, they wouldn't keep forcing the three they've got into so many different roles. A pity Doyle had to die, since he and Wesley could've co-existed quite entertainingly.

I found out today that Glenn Quinn who played Doyle died in 2002 of a drug overdose. I have to wonder if there were troubles that led to his character's way-untimely death on the show, and if he might have come back had he still been around to come back. Life is cruel.

And Kate Lockley seems almost to be a regular character, but they don't have business for her to do each week. It's too bad; she has grown on me quite a bit.

Next up was a Cordelia episode. It was called "Expecting," and we're back, at least at first, to the happy-go-lucky self-absorbed party girl Cordelia we know and l-- well . . . Apparently, she's been seeing this L.A. photographer dude, and has a couple of shallow and babetastic friends that think Angel is "all that."**** When Cordelia gets a vision, we got an entertaining moment when Angel and Wesley had to cover for her.

Later, Cordelia brings this new boyfriend, name o' Christopher, home, and despite her ghostly flatmate Dennis, they manage to copulate quite successfully. When she awakens the next morning in her bed alone, we think Christopher has "pulled a Buffy" on her, but it turns out to be much worse: Cordelia is somehow very very pregnant.

Obviously something supernatural is going on, and Angel heads off to check out the "father," while Wesley takes Cordelia to the baby doctor. I know there's a word for it, not gynecologist, is it obstetrician? Or is it a--ah screw it, the baby doctor does an ultrasound and finds seven heartbeats. He also finds that the fluid from her belly is some kind of acid, which eats through the floor when it's spilled. Ouch.

Angel goes to talk to Cordelia's hot friend, and finds that she too, is in a family way. Turns out there was a group of guys--all friends--who managed to get Cordelia and pals into bed, and now they're all incubators for slimy demon offspring! Having gone to a couple of L.A. nightclubs, I can bear witness that this sort of thing does happen, and explains why the dating scene and the freeway traffic are so bad.

Cordelia starts feeling her fetus' influence, first causing her to drink a carton of blood from Angel's refrigerator, then encouraging her to watch reality shows on VH1, then drawing her to where the creatures' true father, a Haxil demon, lives. The many brides gather there to give birth in a big vat of mung, and Wesley and Angel arrive just in time. Not much can harm the big old Haxil demon, but Angel throws a tank of liquid nitrogen at it and Wesley shoots it with a pistol, freezing the demon colder than Walt Disney's head in Hillary Clinton's lap. Instantly, the women are no longer pregnant, and Cordelia shatters the demoncicle, somehow resisting the urge to say, "Hasta la vista, baby's daddy." She is embarrassed at what's happened, but glad she has two friends as loyal as them. The end.

I don't know, this was a pretty light episode. It wasn't necessarily played for laughs, as would've been my inclination, but we get a lot of silly stuff, like the premise. I mean, nobody's ever found themselves impregnated by a seemingly-decent guy only to find that he was no good and what's growing inside you is threatening to destroy your world. Okay, maybe not NOBODY . . .

The last episode I'll blog about (though it wasn't the last one we've watched), was called "She," which reminded me that it's about time tyranist and I watch the Ursula Andress SHE that Hammer did. In this "She," Angel meets a mysterious woman played by Bai Ling from another dimension. It would seem that the women in their world are kept docile/subservient by removing the Klingon-like ridges from their upper spines. Bai Ling's character has brought some of the females of her species to our dimension to keep them safe, but she is being pursued by a group of males who want to take them back (and take their independence too).

You know, I thought they were aliens, but I guess they were actually demons. Furthermore, I don't remember any of their names. This is why they don't pay me to do this. At first, we think Bai Ling's character is evil, as she is described as being filled with rage, and has the ability to burn people with her mere presence. I think it was Jeera or something, and maybe I'll look it up now.

Okay, maybe they should pay me to do these things; it was Jheira, and she and Angel forge a tentative alliance when she realises he is a vampire who helps people and he realises she's a freedom fighter protecting refugees. Oh yeah, she is also, apparently, hyper-sexual (maybe all of her "uncut" species are), and Angel finds himself very much attracted to her.

Jheira is very independent, and resists accepting Angel's help (whether it's because he's not from her dimension, because he's a vampire, or because he's male, we have to figure out on her own). Even so, Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley, all struggle to help her and her girls against the bad bad men who would turn them into Stepford Demons, even when Jheira would willingly sacrifice Cordelia and Wesley to achieve her honourable goals.

In the end, Angel fends off the villainous males long enough for Jheira to get her girls to safety, and threatens them into staying out of our dimension. Jheira comes back long enough to thank Angel in her way, and for a moment there, it looks as though they might get it on. Then she walks out, and neither of them are left satisfied.

This was, in my eyes, a fairly weak episode. It had its moments, such as Angel pretending to be a guide at an art museum and Wesley slipping on coffee beans. We got an amusing scene where Cordelia threw a party and Angel and Wesley have difficulty mingling (Angel actually turns out to be the more socially awkward of the two of them). Also, Angel officially hires Wesley on as an employee (we are informed that Angel Investigations doesn't offer a dental plan). But I wasn't thrilled with it.

It was written by Marti Noxon and David Greenwalt, and, I don't know, I suppose it was doing what "Star Trek" used to do, where it talked about a social issue of the day by veiling it in a Sci-Fi disguise. It's a thin disguise, however, but I suppose it's at home with the semi-didactic morals episodes like "Beer Bad, "Premarital Sex Naughty" (the last episode), "Abuse Not Cool," (the working title for "Beauty and the Beasts"), and the fifth-season episode "Eating Meat Is An Abomination."

But hey, what is one man's cup of tea is another man's . . . the opposite of a cup of tea. What is the opposite of tea? I nearly made a really bad T & A joke which would have brilliantly played on the pun of "tea" and "T," but I restrained myself.

I really ought to do that more often.

Rish "Iron Will" Outfield

*Or is "Buffy" its mother show, since "Angel" was spawned from it?

**My own calling card during my own murder spree a few years ago was to leave a doll on the body of one of the characters from "Welcome To Pooh Corner," usually Eeyore or Roo. The Topeka Police Chief called it, "One of the sickest things I've ever seen in my nineteen years on the force."

***I really, really enjoy the concept of a vampire not being able to enter where he is uninvited, and later in our marathon, they'll use the rule to its furthest extent.

****I had a friend who would often use the saying "All that and a bag of chips." He's dead now.

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