Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Angel Season Two Begins

19 November 2007

The other day, tyranist threw his two cents in about my recent blogging. I realise that some of the things I say in these "Buffy/Angel" posts may be a little inflammatory. Some of it may well be unfunny and/or untrue. But adulthood has made me opinionated.

It may well do the same to you, someday. Consider yourself warned.

We made it through "Angel" season one (a much better first season than "Buffy" had, though it had its weaknesses), and I was happy to start the second season this week.

The first episode was called "Judgement," and I'll be darned if I didn't think it was spelled with only one 'e' all these years. The episode was written by co-exec David Greenwalt, with a story by Greenwalt and Joss Whedon (I found it surprising that of the four episodes we watched, none were directed by Whedon and this was the only one he got a writing credit on).

We are reintroduced to our three main characters at their various hangouts, and with a shock, I see that Gunn (J. August Richards) has been added to the opening titles. Angel calls them together to put a stop to a human sacrifice a couple of demons are having. Afterward, Cordelia gets one of her patented visions, this one of a pregnant woman and a big unidentified demon. It doesn't stay unidentified for long as Cordelia describes it to Angel who sketches it for Wesley who looks it up in a book.

To discover where the demon may be found, the gang goes to a karaoke bar that caters to demons. This is where I wish I had spent my formative years, kids. They meet green skinned Lorne, a smooth-talking gay demon who hosts the entertainment and is able to read the destinies of those who sing at the bar.

Angel gets the information he needs and goes to (yet another) sleazy part of town to find the demon, and presumably, the pregnant woman too. He does, and attacks the demon. They fight, but Angel is easily victorious. It's only after he's killed it that he learns that the demon was PROTECTING the pregnant woman. It would seem that her unborn daughter will be of great importance, and demonkind wants her terminated. Angel feels bad for his mistake, and tries to make it up to the woman, who has more than a little difficulty trusting him.

Over at Wolfram & Hart, Lilah Miller and Lindsay McDonald fill us in on what's been going on with the newly-alive Darla. She has regained her memories and is almost strong enough to go after Angel, who, if we recall "Buffy" season one, killed her in the episode that explained his origin.

Angel enlists the aid of Gunn, who delivers a talisman they found on the dead Kyle Reese demon to Wesley to study. Angel leads the pregnant woman to a crumbling old hotel, and he is attacked by more terminator demons. He tells her to go to Cordelia's house, and there is an extended fight. When Angel gets to Cordelia's the woman isn't there, so he's forced to go back to the karaoke bar (I looked it up and it's called Caritas, which is Mexican for "little faces") to ask Lorne for help.

To get the help, Angel has to sing. He chooses Barry Manilow's "Mandy," and is supremely awful. Afterward, Lorne tells Angel that the woman is facing a tribunal of sorts, and that the slain demon was her champion to fight for her survival. The talisman is the champion's calling card, and Angel goes where Lorne tells him to and throws it down just as the pregnant woman was about to be killed.

Angel fights the other champion, another demon astride a horse. We get to see Angel ride--and joust--on a horse, and is knocked off, then stabbed by the evil champion. But Angel, being a vampire, doesn't die, and when the evil champion turns his back on him, Angel kills him. The pregnant woman and her unborn child, who we can only presume grows up to be that really cute girl from "High School Musical," are safe.

The next day, to my surprise, Angel goes to visit Faith in prison, where he gives her words of encouragement while she does her time and attempts to learn to control her violent tendencies. Forget monasteries, the American prison system really is the best place for that. The end, though we get an amusing credits sequence with David Boreanaz continuing to sing "Mandy" most awfully.

Good stuff, and fun. This was a fairly light episode, which, being "Angel" is still darker than most "Buffy"s. They've started their second year strong, with a bit of tasty subplots that hopefully will pay off soon.

And soon came in the form of "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been," an episode title not taken from a song (for once), but referring to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's. A good chunk of the show is a flashback, and I really like those.

Turns out the hotel Angel went into in the last episode was significant for him. He asks Wesley and Cordelia to do some research on it, and we flash back to the Fifties, when Angel was a tenant there. We get to see the racism of the time, a very little of the glamour of Los Angeles, and the assortment of odd tenants of the building, all amid the backdrop of the H.U.A.C. coverage on television. Beyond that, there seems to be a creepy voice in the hotel that sometimes tells people to do bad things, like kill themselves or hide bodies or text message in movie theatres.

A detective-looking guy is snooping around Angel's floor and Angel discovers a young woman in his room, hiding from the man. When the dude comes to his door and demands to come inside and get the woman, Angel decks the block and I get that little familiar thrill I get whenever people find out the hard way that Angel ain't human.

Back in 2000, Cordelia and Wesley delve into the mysterious history of the hotel, with unexplained phenomena and deaths, and a photo from 1952 with Angel in it. Even then, he had really good hair.

In '52, Angel's next door neighbour has shot himself in the head, and the hotel manager decides to stick the body in a meat locker, since it's the third death in a row and hey, that kind of publicity is bad. The guests wonder if it wasn't suicide after all.

Angel talks to Judy, the woman he rescued. Turns out she's wanted for stealing money from a bank in the Midwest where she worked. She was fired when it was discovered that she's really a light-skinned Negro just passing as a white woman (this is sad, since even if being black were a crime, if you couldn't tell by looking at her--not to mention if her coworkers got to know her--then why not just let it go?*), and stole a suitcase full of cash out of fear or anger. Angel takes the bag down to the hotel's basement and hides it up in the rafters. While he's there, he hears the creepy voice telling people to do bad things, which explains why he appeared in VALENTINE shortly after this.

In the present, our trio visits to the run-down, abandoned hotel (still there because it's a historical monument or something, like your house). Angel goes downstairs and finds the money still there. He also finds the creepy voice still there, and tells Cordelia and Wesley that it's a demon that feeds on peoples' insecurities.

In the past, Angel goes to a bookstore where they have the sorts of occult books you don't find at Barnes & Noble, and reads about a ritual to make the hotel demon materialise/corporealise so he can kill it. When he gets back to the hotel, he finds the Judy being accused by the detective-looking guy of being brown on the inside. Before the guests can respond badly to this revelation (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the hotel's owner seemed to have a whites only tenant policy), Judy immediately accuses Angel of being his neighbour's killer, pointing out that he has blood in his room (a yummy bottle conveniently marked "human blood" on the label).

Egged on by the demonic whispering, the tenants lynch Angel, hanging him from one of the banisters, breaking his neck. Almost immediately, the thrill is gone, and everyone wanders off to . . . I don't know, not surf the internet. Angel pulls himself free and as he's walking toward the door, the demon appears to him, laughing about its victory. It found the paranoia of the tenants delicious, and especially the betrayal Judy fed it. Angel tells the demon its welcome to the tenants, and leaves.

Back in 2000, Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn help Angel perform the ritual to corporealise the demon. It is cool-looking (though at this point, they pretty much all are), and Angel fries it with the fuse box. After the demon is dead, Angel goes upstairs and finds Judy still living in her room, now an old woman. She hasn't got much of a mind left, but apologises to Angel for what she did, and he comforts her as she dies.

When Angel goes downstairs, the gang is happy to be getting out of the hotel, but Angel decides it is going to be his new home. The end.

This episode was written by Tim Minear and was another good one. It was nice to see such an ugly side of people, since you don't expect it, and 1950's Angel abandoning them to the hotel was another unexpected twist . . . which I've come to expect from this show. Having never seen an episode, I never said I wouldn't watch "Angel" (no, that would be tyranist), but I was pretty wary of it. So whoever would've guessed that tyranist and I would not only still be watching the show into its second season, but be looking forward to it?

And speaking of looking forward, I think I'll have tyranist as my guest blogger in my next post, just to see how he . . .

Actually, I'm just lazy. There's no other excuse.

Rish "The Blog Princess" Outfield

*But hey, I'm something of a product of my times; I can't really imagine what the "good old" segregation/racism days were like, or the mindset of the people then.

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