Saturday, July 26, 2008

Angel Wednesday (23 July)

Tyranist and I, knowing that he was going off to plant explosive devices and I was going off to Comic-Con, tried to get in an extra night of "Buff-gel" viewing, and though I was really anxious to watch the "Conversations with Dead People" episode of BTVS, we started with "Angel," and that's where we stayed.

First up was "Supersymmetry," written by Elizabeth Craft y Sarah Fain. This was an interesting episode. It focused on Fred getting a paper published in a scientific journal, and then being sought out by her old physics professor, who wants her to give a lecture about it. I believe the professor was called Doctor Sidel, and he has an irritable blond assistant, who was his T.A. years before, when Fred was one of his assistants also. She was always jealous of those with more ability than her (such as Fred), and of their relationship with Dr. Sidel, who seems to look at Fred with the fondness of a father.

We do catch up with Cordelia for a bit, and see her training with Connor to kill vampires. Obviously, he's quite smitten with her, but she seems unaware of this. How someone like Cordelia could be blind to this I don't know, but I'm willing to accept it, since lots of weird stuff happens on this show.

Across town, Wesley seems to be shaking of his new life, including evillawyerwoman Lilah Morgan.* She thinks it's because of Fred, who Wesley still carries a torch for, but I think Wesley has just been unhappy for a long time, and realises what changes need to be made to fix that. He goes to Fred's lecture, but chooses to sit in the back rather than by Angel and Gunn. I wonder what they would've said had he asked to sit next to them.

Well, at the very beginning of her presentation, a portal opens up above her, and a bunch of tentacle-critters reach out, either to kill or drag people in with them. Well, the team springs into action and rescues her, but all are suspicious how this could've happened. Obviously, Doctor Sidel was responsible for sending her to Pylea (as he's had a couple other assistants disappear under mysterious circumstances), and was trying to do it again. He never sent the useless blond one to another dimension because she wasn't smart enough to pose a threat to his position at the college. I guess.

Well, Fred is furious about this discovery, and wants to kill her old professor. Because Angel and company would try to discourage her, she goes to Wesley and asks for his help. He too tries to dissuade her, but he does drive her to Dr. Sidel's lab. Meanwhile, Angel has confronted Sidel in Fred's stead, but a demon appears and attacks him, allowing Dr. Sidel to escape.

Unfortunately for him, he runs right into Fred, who levels her weapon at him and tells him she's going to pay him back for what he's done to her and others. She opens up a portal to a horrible demon dimension, meaning to send him there as punishment. But then Gunn arrives and grabs Sidel, breaks his neck, then throws him into the portal. His reasoning, it would seem, was to take the burden of murder (or otherworldly torment, at least) from his girlfriend, and onto himself. The portal closes, and the two of them leave, uncertainty in their future. The end.

Actually, that's not the end of the episode, really, but I'll get to that later. Throughout, tyranist and I had our theories on this episode, stopping it to talk through as we are wont to do. You see, it was obvious to us, at least from a writer's standpoint, that Professor Sidel wasn't the one responsible for sending Fred to Pylea, but the blond assistant. They pointed the fingers at the professor again and again and never question it, but go out of their way to remind us of this assistant who a) knew Fred, b) expressed jealousy at her and the other "disappeared" assistants, and c) wasn't as talented/beloved as the others were. Hell, there was even a line at the end where Fred explains why Sidel didn't dispose of the blond assistant too, which was a nice way of reminding the audience that the other character is still out there, and exists.

Because, if she didn't do it, then why didn't Dr. Sidel express anything other than confusion at the attacks on him, and more importantly, why have the blond assistant character appear at all??? After all, there was an extra at the Fred's lecture who got a line (which makes him not an extra), and that was so they could set him up as a possible suspect later in the episode, when he had a whole scene with Angel and Gunn.

Anyway, what ended up happening at the end of this episode was, well, so much less effective than what we theorised that I'm still about 80% sure our suspicions were correct, and either someone lazied it up, or the truth will come out somewhere down the line. After all, how much BETTER a rift between Fred and Gunn would it be if we discover that the man he/they killed was innocent?

We'll see.

The next episod--

You know, I'm not sure if I'm done ranting about the last one. I know a little bit about screenwriting, and have written a couple of episode television scripts, and I just don't know how something like "Supersymmetry" can happen. Tyranist and I, in our horror movie viewing days, saw a flick called CUTTING CLASS, where there was a psychopath in a high school and everybody thought it was the weird loner kid that nobody liked. Our hottie lead actress saw him stalking her, and her a-hole Brad Pitt-looking boyfriend chased him off, but the loner kept coming around. Her boyfriend suggests the loner kid is a serial killer, and soon everybody else, including the hottie Jill Schoelen-type, become convinced that the loner is a murderer. So, the movie comes to its triumphant end and the killer is revealed to be . . . wait a minute . . . the weird loner kid? What the hell?

That movie sucked, my friends.

And SCREAM 3 had a similar problem, where the person they insist did it at the end of the film, not only probably DIDN'T do it, but in this case, COULDN'T have done it. Arrrrrgh.

Anyway, I just needed to say that, since I pride myself in figuring out plot twists, and enjoy it even more when I am surprised by (an effective) one.

Okay, back to the countdown. The next episode was called "Spin the Bottle," written and directed by some guy named Whedon. At the end of the last episode, Cordelia had seen some of her pictures with Angel in them and decides to come talk to him at the hotel. She still doesn't have her memory from before, as you know, and asks him if maybe the two of them were in love.

This one picks up where it left off, but now it's Lorne, at some kind of lounge act, telling the tale. Angel doesn't know how to answer that question, and Cordelia is understandably frustrated. Lorne has an idea, though, a spell that will return lost memories, but with a complicated set-up.

It requires six people, apparently, all of whom must be close to the amnesiac. So, Wesley arrives to participate in the spell.

Strangely, Gunn is hostile to him at the very offset. He only gets worse when he discovers that Fred went to Wesley for help in killing her professor, something that is already straining the bonds of their relationship. Gunn accuses Wesley of skulking around the hotel again, sniffing after Fred like a horny dachshund, even though I thought it was Gunn who went to Wesley before when Fred was in danger. Confusing, and more than a little irritating.**

Gunn does ask Wesley what happened to turn him into such a tool, and Wesley responds, "I had my throat cut and all my friends abandoned me." This was another pause-the-DVD moment, as tyranist expressed disgust at Wesley's narrow-minded recollection of the incident, and I strutted around in self-righteousness, insisting that Wesley was damn right to feel that way, and that tyranist was as much responsible as anybody else was. Probably not my finest hour. Eventually, we came to an understanding, and continued the episode.

They sit in a circle--Cordelia, Angel, Lorne, Fred, Wesley, and Gunn, a magic bottle in front of them, and something starts to happen to them. Everyone is spooked and confused, and Cordelia breaks the bottle. The spell is broken, and suddenly, nobody remembers how they got there. They don't remember one another, either. All they remember is that they are teenagers, ripped away from their former lives: Cordelia is a bitchy Sunnydale High student, Gunn is a kill-happy street punk, Wesley is a prim and proper attendee of the prestigious Watchers Academy, Fred is a marijuana-obsessed Texan teenager, and Angel is Liam, the Irish youth from the 18th Century, forever under his religious father's bootheel.

Lorne has gone away, for purposes of the plot. Ah well.

It is quite amusing to see them the way they were before the series started (though Cordelia we've actually seen that way***), and they try to figure out how they got there and what their situation is. Wesley is very much the way he was when introduced in "Buffy"'s third season, and Gunn is tempted to pummel him.

Before we become convinced we've got a bottle show on our hands, we do see Connor fight a couple vampires in an alley, saving a hooker who wants to reward him . . . by letting him pay to sleep with her. Nice.

They do stumble upon Lorne's unconscious body and, realising he's a demon (at this point, only Wesley and Gunn know of the existence of such things), they tie him to a chair. Wesley tells them of a Watcher tradition of locking a teenager in a building with a vampire as a test of skill and training (which we also saw in the third season of "Buffy"), and suggests that this is what's happening. If they kill the vampire, they will be set free.

So people split into groups, to search the hotel for a vampire to kill. Cordelia & Liam go one way, while Fred, Gunn, and Wesley go the other.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Cordelia is quite attracted to Liam, and comes onto him eight or nine times through the course of the episode.

Liam realises, not long after being alone with Cordelia, that he is a vampire. He turns back to his human self before she notices, but is worried that he is the one the others are supposed to hunt and kill. He also realises that his Irish accent is gone, and while that makes absolutely zero sense to me, it's not something I minded.

And speaking of which, just last year, we had the BTVS episode "Tabula Rasa," where our characters forgot who they were and had a memory loss adventure. The fact that this is more than a little similar should have irritated the poo out of me . . . but it didn't.

To escape, Liam takes off outside (lucky thing it's night, huh?), and is frightened by the demons whizzing by on the street (just as Buffy did in the "Halloween" episode. Heck, she even called them demons), and runs back inside.

When he does, Wesley announces that one of them must be the vampire, and he produces a cross to see who can't hold it. As they give it to Liam, Lorne wakes up and still has his memory. He doesn't realise their situation when they ask him who the vampire is, and when he answers, Gunn and Wesley attack Liam.

He runs off, and Connor jumps out, thinking Angel is attacking Cordelia (which, technically, he may have been). They fight, and sorry, I'd be so grateful to get a "Buffy" or "Angel" without a fight scene. I know it ain't gonna happen, t'would be like a porno with no sex****, but I do get tired of it, and I can't imagine the cast and crew don't.

Lorne talks Fred into releasing him, and they do a spell to restore everybody's memories. When Cordelia gets her memory back, she has a vision about a hulking black demon, and then leaves with Connor. Before she goes, though, she tells Angel that yes, the two of them were in love. The end.

I did like this episode, but I didn't think it was great. It didn't accomplish a lot, plot-wise, and I still don't know why they reverted to teenagers. But hey, things could be worse, Cordelia could be impregnated by Connor or turn evil or die. So there's that.

Rish Clifford Outfield

*I would've liked to see a Welsey-centric episode, where we see how his team dynamic worked and if they respected him, as the Angel Investigations team (with the occasional exception of Fred) did not.

**I remember when Gunn was first introduced, and how difficult it was to like him, especially when he was written as a jive-talkin' 1974 black stereotype. But that time passed, and I actually learned to like Gunn, in the same way that I learned to like Angel. For some reason, in this and the next episode, Boyz in the Hood Gunn returns, and all that good will headed for the nearest exit.

***And technically Angel as well, but that shouldn't count.

****Or a cartoon without animation, if you're easily offended.

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