Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Angel Wednesday

April 30th-May 10th, 2008

So, in last week's post, I dragged my feet in the writing, since I really didn't have much to say about the episodes we watched. Not great, not bad.

But here I am, not three minutes home from tyranist's place, and I'm typing about tonight's Angel Wednesday. I guess I finally have something to say.

Unfortunately, it ain't good. And I'm finding it difficult to type up really lame synopses of all the shows we saw just to get to the part where I start to rant, rave, and foam at the mouth.

So, first up was "Couplet" by Tim Minear and Jeffrey Bell.

So, the Groosalugg (the correct spelling, apparently) is with Cordelia, and Angel is jealous. He tries to content himself with taking care of his child, and asks Wesley to research the prophecies concerning Connor.

Cordelia, meanwhile, is worried that she'll lose her visions if she has sex with the Groosalugg, since that was supposed to happen in Pylea. She has a totally run-of-the-mill and painless vision of a demon attack, and the Groosalugg (who they call Groo now, but I don't know that I can) volunteers to go slay it.

Angel and Groo go into the sewers to track the demon and find it, but it escapes to the surface, which, for once, is during the day, and Angel can't pursue it. But Groo can, and does, and kills it, and is everyone's hero.

Also meanwhile, Gunn and Fred seem to be continuing their relationship, having breakfast together and discussing the next step. While I do not dislike Gunn like tyranist does, I wanted her to hook up with Wesley enough that we're both on the same page as far as a relationship with Gunn goes.

Wesley finds some scrolls written long ago about Connor and goes to work translating them (or maybe it was a book that translated them, I can't remember).

Cordelia cuts Groo's hair, and he still looks like a male model, but an American rather than European one. She tells him about her fear of losing her visions and lets him wear Angel's clothes. We find out that there's a potion she can take to make sex with him safe, and she sends Angel and Groo to get it.

A woman hires A.I. to see if her fiance is having an affair with a witch that put a spell on him. Gunn and Fred take a video camera and watch the fiance go to a park, where he promptly disappears. Gunn and Fred find that he was pulled underground next to a big tree. When they investigate, they too are pulled under.

Turns out that the tree is alive, and has an underground internet cafe, where it lures lonely people to its location . . . and sucks the life from them. For once, one of them uses a cellphone to contact Angel and tell them they're in trouble.

Groo and Angel go to the park and the Groosalugg immediately attacks the tree, but is no match for it, and it begins to suck out his life. Angel steps forward and taunts the tree, which releases Groo and starts sucking on Angel. But Angel is a vampire, and apparently quite dead inside, and the tree dies.

Wesley tells Gunn that he shouldn't see Fred anymore, but Gunn realises that may be concerned for her welfare, but has other motives as well.

Groo tells Cordelia that Angel was the real hero that night, but his modesty only makes her that much more attracted to him. Angel gives Cordy a wad of cash and tells her to take a holiday with Groo. She does, leaving Angel alone.

Wesley is also alone, translating the Connor prophesies, and writes down six words: "The Father Will Kill The Son." The end.

I liked this episode, but as most serial shows are, it wasn't real satisfying. Of course we continued watching, and I will try to be even briefer about "Loyalty" by Mere Smith.

Wesley falls asleep during the translation and has a dream where Angel kills Connor, and the others just watch. He feels more protective of Connor than before, and when Angel takes the baby to the doctor for a check-up, Wesley goes with him.

Angel seems fine, though, and even trades baby care advice with women in the waiting room. The doctor takes a blood sample, but tells Angel the boy is completely healthy. After they leave, however, one of the mothers from the waiting room sneaks in and switches Connor's blood for another's. Uh oh.

Cordelia did indeed go away, and is not in this episode.

A woman comes to Angel Investigations and tells them about her son, who was taken and turned into a vampire. Turns out she is a member of Holtz the Vampire Hunter's little cadre, and is luring Angel into a trap. Holtz, and Justine his first lieutenant, have them training to kill Angel. The Scarface demon appears, wondering why Holtz hasn't killed Angel yet. For the first time, I noticed that Scarface has some personal interest in Holtz's mission, made all the more apparent when he goes to Wolfram & Hart to talk to Evillawyerchick Lilah Morgan. He wants Angel dead, and she says the lawfirm needs him alive, but secretly agrees to help him in his cause. Scarface (whose name is Sahjhan, but I will continue to not call him that) needs Connor's blood, and Lilah provides it.

Fred and Gunn (who are inseparable, despite Wesley's attempts to keep them apart) go to the Santa Monica Pier (gosh, I miss L.A.) to find the vampire lair (the trap set by Holtz), and sure enough, the trap is sprung and they are surrounded by vampires. Gunn fights them off, and Fred even dusts one.

Wesley has arranged a meeting with a god or demon to talk about the prophesy. In a very amusing scene, the unearthly being takes on the form of a giant hamburger mascot. The being known as the Loa tells Wesley to watch for three signs: the earth shakes, the air burns, and the sky turns to blood. Then the prophesy will be fulfilled.

Angel drinks his pig's blood (which he does several times during this episode), and I wonder why we don't see that happen more often. Is it because it's sort of gross and an unattractive thing to show in a series so filled with attractive people?

The woman who sent them after the vampires comes back to the hotel to thank (and pay) them. Angel and Wesley let her know who she really works for, but then . . . there's an earthquake. Sign number one.

Wesley follows the woman back to Holtz's lair, but instead of fighting them, he tries to reason with Holtz. He tells him that Angel has a soul and despite what he did as Angelus, he's a good man. But Holtz will hear none of it, and makes what sounds like a threat on Connor . . . but could actually be another clue that Connor is going to die at Angel's hands.

When Wesley returns to the hotel, he sees how great Angel is with his son, and begins to relax. But then, there's another earthquake, and the gas in the stove fills the air with fire. Sign number two.

Sign number three also happens, as the ceiling caves in around them. Angel gets a big gash on his head, but he, Wesley, and Connor get out of the room before it all falls down. In the hall, Angel licks his lips and says, "On the bright side, if we'd been trapped in there . . . at least I would've had a snack." The end.

The ending of this one really freaked me out (and oh, if I could only go back to those innocent, naive days), and I asked tyranist just what the hell Angel could've meant by that. He suggested that maybe, because Angel was bleeding, he was referring to drinking his own blood. I disagreed, but supposed he could've been referring to Wesley as food, but it sure as hell sounded like he was talking about eating his own baby.

So of course we hit the next show after that. It was called "Sleep Tight" and was written by David Greenwalt.

Wesley nervously tries to go about his business, while Angel sips a cup of pig's blood, and seems to be back to normal. It was around this time when I began to suspect what was happening to Angel and I thought, "Wow, that's pretty dark." Of course, I had no idea.

Wesley offers to take Connor for a day in the park and sunlight, and Angel agrees.

Justine tells Holtz that Angel's people seem decent, and he tells her that she chose to side with him and deserve to die. Not five seconds later, Wesley comes in again to meet with Holtz. Justine thinks Wesley is setting them up, but he tries to express to her that he's on the good side and would never betray anyone. Holtz tells Wesley he has a day to get the baby away from Angel . . . or he will. Wesley starts back and Justine stops him. They talk and he again tries to express that he is trustworthy, but Holtz is not.

A woman hires Angel Investigations to determine why she--

You know, that subplot wasn't important. All that's important is that Angel gets into a fight and is especially vicious.

Angel returns to the hotel, drinks more pig's blood, and begins to rant about Connor's annoying bawling. He throws the blood against the wall and everyone looks at him like he's dropped his pants in church. Lorne thinks something is wrong with the blood Angel's been drinking, and Fred studies it under a microscope.

Sure enough, it's not just pig's blood. Baby Connor's blood is in there too. Angel's enemies have been trying to get Angel a taste for his own child's blood.

Angel goes to the bar where evillawyerchick Lilah Morgan hangs out and threatens her like he always does. But Scarface demon shows up and tells Angel it's been a long time. Angel doesn't recognise him, but figures him for an enemy, since Scarface admits to bringing Holtz into the 21st Century. Scarface hates Angel for some past sin (though I believe he's a time traveler, so it could be a future one) and vows vengeance before bampf-ing away.

Wesley gets back to the hotel and starts packing Connor's things. He hums to the baby, and Lorne reads his intentions through the song. Lorne goes to warn the others, but Wesley bashes him over the head, leaving him on the ground. He scoops up the baby, turns, and sees Angel walk in.

Wesley puts on his poker face and says he's taking Connor for their play date in the park. Oh, and Lorne had to go run an errand. Angel doesn't seem suspicious, but takes his time in telling the baby goodbye and letting Wesley leave. He asks Wesley to research Sahjhan the Scarface demon, and Wesley agrees to, then slips into the night with Connor.

Gunn and Fred come in then and hear Lorne groan in the back room. Before he can explain, Holtz shows up with his followers (although not Justine). They fight. Lorne turns the tide by doing that high-pitched singing thing of his (which I honestly only thought worked in Pylea, but ah well), and chases Holtz off. He tells Angel that Wesley has been meeting with Holtz and stole the baby.

Wesley, outside his apartment, is about to get into his car, when Justine staggers toward him. She has been beaten severely and tells him Holtz did it. When Wesley tries to comfort her, she produces a knife and slits his throat with it. He falls onto the grass and she takes the baby and Wesley's car.

Back at Angel Investigations, Angel is furious with everyone, especially Wesley. And Holtz. And whoever messed with his pig's blood. And Gunn. And Joss Whedon for going off to make his gorram space western and leaving him in the lurch. He grabs one of Holtz's injured guys and forces the address of Holtz's headquarters out of him.

Justine drives to a rendezvous with Holtz, who gets inside and asks if Utah is nice. He and Justine are going to raise Connor as their own.

Angel grabs a truck and pursues. Lilah Morgan has a bunch of military dudes with her and they prevent Holtz from escaping. Everyone meets up on a bridge and Scarface appears, deciding that the best revenge on Angel would be to kill his son. He opens up a portal to Quor'Toth*--the most horrible of dimensions--and tells Holtz to kill the child or everyone will be sucked into the portal.

Angel doesn't know what to do, but Holtz acts: he grabs Connor and runs through the portal, disappearing into it. Angel tries to follow, but cannot, and the portal closes.

The Scarface demon laughs at the loss of Angel's son and disappears again. Angel is left alone to contemplate what has happened, and cries. The end.

This episode wasn't bad, really. It surprised me that Wesley was so brutally murdered, and that he would attack Lorne, but the loss of Connor didn't surprise me at all. The moment the baby was introduced, I knew it was just a matter of time before a) he was whisked away to be taken care of by some secondary character, b) he died, or c) he was replaced by a much older actor, all three irritating tropes in television series, since people can't abide change, and a child makes someone as sexy as a tumor does.

Unfortunately, we were on a roll, so we decided to watch one more "Angel" episode, to sort of put this whole Connor thing to bed.

That episode was called "Forgiving," and we'll see if it ends up being the last episode I see. It was written by Jeffery Bell, who I resolve not to lay any blame on.

Angel goes back to A.I., and everyone (minus Cordelia and Wesley) find out what happened to Connor. Fred and Gunn go through Wesley's papers, trying to find some explanation for his actions. But hey, doesn't anybody remember Angel drinking his own baby's blood? If not, the reminder is still splattered across one wall of the lobby.

Meanwhile, a homeless guy finds Wesley, still alive, and still laying where he fell with his throat slit. The homeless dude gets Wesley's cellphone, and we think the guy may help our boy out . . . but this is Los Angeles, remember, and the homeless guy takes Wesley's wallet and leaves.

Angel tries to open a portal to the demon dimension Connor went, but can't figure it out. He kidnaps Evillawyerdude Linwood to force the information out of him, and eventually Lilah Morgan helps him cast a spell to bring Scarface from his dimension to theirs.

Sahjhan the Scarface demon explains that he is non-corporeal, and can travel all over time, but has no physical body due to a curse. He discovered a prophesy that told how he would be killed: by the human offspring of two vampires. It was then that he enlisted Holtz to destroy Angel and Darla, but that plan didn't exactly work out right, and the baby was born.

So, he went back in time and altered the prophesy made about Connor so that Wesley would think the boy was in danger from his father (I guess the tainted blood was part of this secondary plan), and that worked out fine.

Fred and Gunn go to Wesley's place, and after a bit of searching, they find his discarded notes that say "The Father Will Kill The Son" on them. They realise why he did what he did, and find his body, which they get to the hospital.

So, Angel figures out a way to make Scarface a physical presence again and fights him, but isn't really a match for him. Ultimately, Justine grabs the mystic urn Holtz had set aside to trap Scarface inside of, and uses it to trap Scarface inside.

Justine gets Holtz's crew together and takes over the leader role, hoping to continue Holtz's goal of killing Angel and pals.

The doctors tell Gunn and Fred that they managed to save Wesley's life, but he's going to be weak for a while and can't speak. The others explain to Angel when he arrives why Wesley did what he did, and Angel says he understands. He slips in to check on Wesley, who is dazed, but awake.

Angel tells Wesley that Connor was never in any danger, and that Angel would never hurt him. He assures Wesley that he's calm, in his right mind, and is Angel, not Angelus. Then he leaps upon Wesley, grabbing a pillow and pushing it over his face, screaming, "I'll kill you, you son of a bitch! I'll kill you!" The doctors and Gunn pull Angel away from the gasping, terrified stitched-up Wesley Wyndom-Pryce, with Angel still foaming and shouting threats, his face not vampiric in the slightest. The end.

Well, now that I've spent weeks trying to recap it, it doesn't sound all that bad. But that's because I'm not nearly the talented writer I supposed myself to be, unable to do justice to this blackest turn I've ever seen on a Joss Whedon programme.

Your faults as a recap are my failings as a father, he said sadly and sincerely.

So, now we're back again to where I started (three minutes into the house, my shoes not yet removed, and a drive to type something up, despite allergies having robbed me of 60% of my sight and 80% of my will to live). We've watched both "Angel" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" delve into some real darkness, and some real corruption of its characters this season. And while I continue to look to "Buffy" for laughs as well as tears and unsettlement, I don't know how willing I am to pick "Angel" up again and keep reading.

Back when "e.r." was at its best, I had a circle of friends who watched the show and we'd often debate the moral issues of the show, sometimes agreeing, sometimes being unable to find a common ground (not just "e.r.," there have been a number of shows that do that, and I've found the best shows are the ones you can talk to others about and hear their interpretations, share your favourite moments, and sometimes disagree on what something means or how well it works). It's been something I've prized, often more than the TV shows themselves--the discussions I've shared afterward, with many different people.

Sometimes people do things that are questionable on television, and we can argue whether they were right or wrong, or if we would've done it differently. And over the last nine or ten years or so, I've talked with my writer friends (and annoyed my non-writer buddies) with how I might have written it differently.

And it's something I was talking with my cousin about during our trip, how "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" was the best of the "Trek" shows because there was so much darkness, both confronting our characters and within them. That Garak or Odo or Quark or even Commander Sisko made mistakes or chose poorly or did the wrong thing for the right reasons was something to discuss, and something that made the show a lot more interesting than "Next Generation," where most of the time, the characters walked the straight and narrow with absolutely no deviation.

And on Joss Whedon's two Buffyverse shows, we've seen characters take nasty turns, or do selfish or stupid things, and make mistakes great and small. But I don't know how much I want to watch the adventures of a titular character I dislike as much as I do Angel right now. They could have written the scene in any number of ways, but they consciously chose to have him explain, in no uncertain terms, that he was not Angelus, that he was not under any alien control, that he actually had all the facts, and that he calmly went in to murder a man in a hospital bed who was in no state to defend himself. That tyranist did not react the way I did gives me pause and I have to wonder, did I miss something? Have I painted the situation with my own feelings and experiences and prejudices? Am I wrong to just be sick about it and not want to continue to watch the show for a while . . . or ever?

And you know, it was my insistence that got us watching "Angel" in the first place. Tyranist was perfectly happy to skip the series altogether and watch only "Buffy," but I kicked and screamed and got my way, and he spent all that money on the series . . . and now we've come to this place.

It probably says something that when Connor was stolen away and into a demon dimension, leaving his father to gasp and reel at what had just happened, that I felt nothing. It was like when they killed Starbuck at the end of Season Three of "Battlestar Galactica." This was the death of a main character on a show I once proclaimed to be even better than "Firefly," and I just shook my head and said, "Meh." I didn't for a second believe they had killed Starbuck, because why would you kill her in such a contrived, overly-complicated, and easily-escapable way? It would be like having someone fall through a magic mirror and disappear and then have a character explain that that was a representation of death from whence no one could return? Why not just kill them, if you're really going to kill them?

I recognise that I am old and certainly have outlived my usefulness on this planet (if indeed I was ever useful at all), but when I like Gunn more than I like the main character on a show, I gotta wonder: what's broken, the show or the viewer?


And you know what, we were STEERED by the writers to feel certain things, by what information they allowed US to see (not the characters) and the time we spent with what characters for how long. So to have been steered this way by "Angel," no, I won't say that the problem lies with me. Fuck that. The problem lies with everybody else.

I was at a convention a few weeks ago and Jeph Loeb expressed frustration at the way audiences seem to think that the writers of "Lost" didn't know where they were going and were just making things up as they went along. He then explained how a writers room works and how a season is mapped out, and in the end, who did I believe: Jeph Loeb, a fine writer of television and comics, or my own eyes, which have taken in every single episode of "Lost" that's been shown (even the cute little cellphone shorts)?

Hey, I still watch "Lost." It's still a great show. But I'll go eight rounds with anyone (even Jeph Loeb, or Damon Lindeloff, or even Uwe Boll) who says the turns we saw in Season Two were even remotely considered in Season One, otherwise, why start up a bunch of subplots that never went anywhere with a bunch of characters who, with the exception of someone who was already mentioned in the pilot, are no longer on the show?

Gosh, I'm really living up to the name of my blog today. I may have had a point at one point, but like the creators of "Lost," I seem to have misplaced it. Maybe only temporarily. Maybe tyranist will, in gentle, comforting words, steer me back in the direction of righteousness, and we'll continue with "Angel" Season Three and things will be explained to my satisfaction and I will begin to love the character again and all will be made well.

And you know, I do apologise for the swipe at J.K. Rowling. Still the greatest book series I've been lucky enough to come across.

So, yeah, I hated the turn we saw on "Angel," and it has bothered me in ways I can't even express in two weeks of long-winded typing (it's now May 10th and I still haven't finished this post). I've seen shows jump the shark before ("Smallville" did it, "e.r." did it, "The Simpsons" did it, even "Battlestar Galactica" did it, though I continue to watch), and even seen a couple of them jump back. But I can't remember ever throwing my hands up and walking away from the gaming table like this before.

Oh wait, there was that alien abduction mini-series with Dakota Fanning in it. I did it with that one too.

Rish Frownyemoticon Outfield

*You're damn right I had to look that up.

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