Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Angel Friday (Part the Second)

19 September 2007

Okay, so the last post seemed a little half-assed. I assure you, however, that I put close to three-quarters of my ass into it. I don't know why it's so much harder for me to review the "Angel" episodes than it is the "Buffy"s. I just remembered that I stated from the beginning that I would be much shorter, much less detailed, and much less diligent about blogging about "Angel," and I guess I forgot about that these past few months.

And the two episodes I have to blog about today, I actually want to talk about. One had a twist that was so excellent and so wonderful that I just . . . well, I never would've thought someone would go there. Maybe that's one of the best compliments you can make to Joss Whedon: he's not afraid to go there.

The first one we watched was called "I've Got You Under My Skin," and I didn't feel it started well. Angel accidentally called Wesley "Doyle" and Cordelia took him to task for it, claiming Angel never mentions Doyle's name.

We cut to some kind of middle American suburban home (I know the show takes place in and is shot in Los Angeles, but where the hell was this supposed to be?) where the two parents are worried about their two darling, bickering children. The father says something ominous, padlocking the kids in their rooms, and instantly, we're supposed to suspect he's a bastard. Why? Well, folks, you know why.

And I won't complain about that here. Instead, I'll focus on the positive: where the show ACTUALLY went.

So, Cordelia has a vision about the family, and Angel and Wesley go out there. As they pull up in the car, they see the young son (name o' Ryan) in his peejays, wandering out into traffic.* Angel moves quickly and snatches the boy from almost certain stitches, and drawing the attention of both his parents. The father yells at the boy while the mother gushes at Angel for being her hero and invites him inside. We find out the family has just moved under unhappy circumstances, and that there's clearly something they're not telling us (or Angel). The father wants Angel to leave, but the mother takes it as a sort of divine omen that their son's guardian protector is named Angel. The mother invites him to dinner the next night (much to the father's disapproval).

Wesley, meanwhile, has been gathering demon mucus from the foundation of the house, which he uses as evidence that one of the family members is possessed by a horrible, murderous Ethros Demon. They bake a powder into a batch of brownies that will make the demon manifest itself, and Angel takes them over for dinner. In the middle of the awkward meal, the son begins twitching and transforming into a freakish Carol Channingesque creature. Angel explains that he's there to help, the mother freaks out about it, but the father actually seems relieved, as he suspected there was something wrong with his son all this time (mysterious "accidents" seemed to follow them around) and now perhaps something can be done to help Ryan.

They take the boy to Angel's bedroom and surround the bed with a circle of protection. They seek the help of an exorcist, only to find he was killed while attending Dakota Fanning's last birthday party. Angel is unable to even hold a cross, so it looks like it's up to Wesley to perform the exorcism. Cordelia, in a scene too hilarious for me to recap, goes to a local magic shop to buy a box to trap the Ethros demon when it is cast out.

Meanwhile, the parents are suffering not being able to comfort the boy-thing, which seems to know the worst thing to say to everybody. For example, Wesley seems to have never been good enough to please his father, Angel is apparently a vampire,** and Rish Outfield once had a broken tallywhacker. The demonboy tries to turn the two men against each other, revealing that Wesley originally came to L.A. to kill Angel, and tries to choke his own mother to death. In the middle of the ritual, it uses its powers to make Wesley stab himself in the neck with his own cross. When everybody retreats to the kitchen, a message appears in marbles on the table. "Save Me," it pleads.

In the next room, the possessed boy taunts Angel by imitating Doyle, who wonders why Angel would have let him die like that. Buoyed up by this, Angel grabs the cross and, hand sizzling, finishes the exorcism, casting the demon out. It smashes right through the box that was supposed to hold it, and disappears, leaving the boy pale and exhausted, but human again.

While Cordelia takes the family home (we didn't actually see this, but it explains why Cordelia isn't there), Angel and Wesley track the Ethros demon to some nearby caves (I am truly grateful it wasn't the sewers again), where it has taken on a weak physical form. They find the demon and have a conversation with it. What occurs next is, in my humble opinion, the second-best moment in the series so far . . . the demon reveals that it was the one who sent the "Save me" message, and that, as cruel and destructive as an Ethros demon is, that was nothing compared to the evil soulessness of Ryan, the little blond haired boy. The Ethros demon was trapped inside the boy, and terrified by what it found there . . . so much so, that it relished the escape that death would bring, hence its walking the boy into traffic. The demon embraces the death that Angel and Wesley offer it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Ryan and company are getting ready for bed, but his sister got more marshmallows in her hot chocolate than he did. So, when all have gone to bed, Ryan locks his parents inside their room, and begins to douse his sister's bedroom with gasoline. Before she can perish in the blaze, Angel arrives and saves her, and the firemen are able to contain the fire.

The police (led by Policewomanofficer Lockley) take the boy away to social services, where I'm sure they will blame the parents and place him in the care of the American ambassador to England, while Angel tries to reassure the family that four was a crowd, but three's company. The end.

Holy hand grenades, this was a great episode. I am scared to death of children, and this felt like sweet justification for all those years of paranoia.
It was written by Jeannine Renshaw, who wrote the greatest episode of the season, "I Will Remember You," and now deserves to be placed on my list of favourite writers (though I checked and it appears she soon left this show to write "Charmed" and "The Ghost Whisperer").

Immediately afterward, still keen to catch up with "Buffy," we watched "Prodigal," which, I was happy to see, revealed more of Angel's backstory. We get to see him when he was Liam in bonnie Ireland, and the conflicts he had with his father, who was a harsh, religious man with nothing but criticism for his layabout son. This was so shockingly familiar to me I would not be at all surprised to find that Liam's father's last name was Outfield.

In modern times, Angel is fighting a demon in the L.A. subway tunnels, where a trainful of commuters was being threatened. As Kate Lockley arrives to investigate, the demon clutches its chest and falls over dead on its own, as tyranist is bound to do someday soon. The chief witness, a delivery guy, describes the attacker as nothing special. Kate doesn't know how to report the incident, and is surprised when her father shows up at the scene. We assume that he was concerned about his daughter and showed up to give her moral support.

Kate finds it difficult to reconcile the world she's used to and the supernatural world Angel lives in, and refuses to call the subway attacker a demon. Angel tells her that particular species of demon is peaceful and female and make really good pasta primavera. He wants to see the list of passengers, suspecting something else was behind it, but she refuses him.

Meanwhile, Cordelia and Wesley are put in charge of disposing of the demon's body. Fun. Angel finds the delivery guy and follows him around, his Angel Sense tingling when he shows up at Kate's father's apartment, picking up a brown package. Angel talks to Mr. Lockley about it, accusing him of removing it from the crime scene that morning. Of course, the old man does not take that lightly, and tells Angel to scram and that he can't understand what it's like to be a father.

We flash back to Angel's youth again, when he decided to pack up and leave his father's house, bidding his mother and little sister goodbye. His father says, "Rish, you don't have an ounce of ambition, no work ethic, no maturity, no reverence, and you think everything is a joke. Also, 'a lot' is two words, not one." Well, maybe Liam's father didn't say those words exactly, but he tells him off and not to come back. Liam goes to the local pub and there he encounters Darla the Vampire, who is the only person in 1753 to speak in modern American. She comes on to him, promising him all sorts of wonders, and takes him to a dark alley. There, she bites him and gives him a drink of her own blood.

Liam's family mourns him at the funeral. That night, Liam crawls out of his grave where Darla awaits him. He sees the cemetery caretaker and transforms, leaping upon him hungrily. Thus, it begins.

Back in the present (or the present seven years ago), Wesley discovers that the subway demon had been hooked on some kind of drug and didn't attack under its own free will. Kate's father tells her that her "new boyfriend Angel" is an alright guy and she changes her mind and gives Angel the list of subway passengers.**

Also changing their mind are the bad guys Kate's father has been dealing with. Two of them go to his apartment and ask if he's told his daughter about any of it. When he says no, they reveal themselves to be vampires and attack him. Angel arrives just in time . . . but can't enter the apartment without being invited. The vampires kill Mr. Lockley. As soon as he's dead, Angel can enter the place, and he kills one, but the other gets away. Kate arrives at that moment, and I was sure she would think Angel had killed her father, but she doesn't. Instead, she and Angel go to the where the escaped vampire hangs out and kill all those behind the shady business, including their demon boss. Kate is distraught, having lost her father, something she thinks Angel could never understand.

We flash back one more time to two hundred years plus ago. Vampire Liam has gone home, where his sister and mother lie dead on the floor, having invited him in. He tells his father that they thought he had returned from the dead an angel. He then kills his father, boasting that he's proved him wrong by finally making something of himself. The end.

Wow, very nice show. Despite my inability to buy Julie Benz as a vampire, or even an actress, this was quite a solid episode. You'd have thought that a mythology episode this big would've been written by Joss (or at least David Greenwalt), but it was penned by Tim Minear. Its director was Bruce Seth Green, who's directed quite a few of these, but creeps me out that his name is so close to the guy who played Oz. It was like when the first HARRY POTTER film came out and one of its producers was named Mark Radcliffe, inspiring people to say, "Well, we know how the kid got the part." Apparently, there's no relation in either case.

With these two episodes, tyranist and I are one "Angel" behind, after which, we can go back to the old switching off schedule. As fun as it was to do the "Buffy" marathon, I hope we never do that again, since it's been difficult to catch up. Part of the reason for this is my new, unpleasant schedule at work, and the fact that we've been (in keeping with the vampire theme) trying to watch all the Hammer Dracula films before Halloween.

So, if all goes well, when next we meet, it'll be Buffy Wednesday again.

Rish Angelus Outfield

*You know, the speeding-for-no-reason traffic that happens on television where a car nearly hits someone and then never, ever stops to make things right.

**I can't really remember what this accomplishes, but it seemed like an important plotpoint at the time.

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