Friday, July 04, 2008

Angel Wednesday (and Buffy too)

So, tyranist and I did watch an "Angel" and a "Buffy" that I never blogged about. So, maybe I should do so now.

Next was "The House Always Wins" written by David "They Got the Mustard Out" Fury. It takes place sometime later, as Angel is watching Connor fight a vampire, muttering to himself about his technique. At the same time, Cordelia is watching him from her, I don't know, heavenly perspective, muttering about how boring her life is. We haven't seen anything other that her standing amidst whiteness, so I don't know what her life consists of now.

Because Angel has made life difficult for his (few remaining) employees of late, he decides to treat Fred and Gunn to a trip to Vegas, where they can go see Lorne's show.

Lorne is headlining at the Tropicana, in his natural green visage. But as he has a bunch of back-up singers and dancers and waitresses all painted up to look like demons, people just figure it's a less-frightening version of Cirque de Soleil. At the show, he pretends not to see them in the autograph line, and then ignores them completely during his performance, which consists of him crooning and walking through the audience, handing the mic to people and letting them sing along.

It's actually pretty cool, really, and an occult-themed casino would draw me to Vegas like crabs to Paris Hilton.

But Lorne is actually a prisoner in his own dressing room, forced to read the destinies of the people in the audience and telling the casino owner who is going to go on to greatness. Those audience members are then taken to a special room in the casino, where they spin a wheel to win big money. Unfortunately for them, they always lose, and the casino ends up with their great destinies too. We see this happen with a young Asian girl, who then becomes a mindless slot machine jockey.

Angel and company are, of course, suspicious about Lorne's behaviour, so they paint Fred green and stick her in a waitress costume, and . . . well, green is hot. Dressed like that, Fred is able to get into Lorne's dressing room, and Lorne explains the whole situation. Guess I should've waited until now to lay out the scenario, but ah well. He basically can't leave or the people with stolen destinies (or whoever happens to be around) will be killed. Fred screams and pretends something terrible happened, which distracts the guards enough to get Lorne out of there.

Angel runs into the casino owner, who gives him one of the Spin The Wheel, Lose Your Destiny chips. Angel tosses it away, but it magically lands on the gaming table, and he gets zapped as well. Immediately, he shambles, zombie-like, to the nearest slot machine, and begins dropping money in.

Fred, Gunn, and Lorne try to flee the hotel, and they tell Angel to distract people while they slip outside. Instead, he goes back to the slot machine, and Lorne ends up having to save himself by singing that demon high note they do once a season.

After Gunn hears what Lorne's been forced to do, he realises why Angel didn't help them, and they all go back into the casino to rescue him . . . where they are promptly captured. The casino owner was impressed with Angel's destiny, and I guess his business has been to sell people's destinies to others, though I don't know how that works. Do the purchasers end up going on to do what the destiny-less zombies were going to do? Would Angel's purchaser then go on to play a major role in the Apocalypse, or does that just not happen?

Hey, I'm sure David Fury asked these same questions of himself or the dry cleaner back in 2002.

Cordelia, who's still floating around in her album cover dimension decides to save the day by causing Angel's slot machine to hit the jackpot. He is taken to the casino owner at the same time as the others, and he sort of vamps out when Fred and Gunn are to be killed. Mayhem ensues. Lorne takes the opportunity to smash the container peoples' destiny chips are being held in, and it frees all the poor zombie bastards. Except for those who have already been sold, right? Those guys are S.O.L..*

They all go home, refreshed and bonded, and when they get to the hotel lobby, they are surprised to see Willow there, telling them that Buffy has died yet again.

No, actually, it's Cordelia, still in the white outfit from all the heavenly scenes, looking confused. She seems to have forgotten who everyone is. The end.

This episode was a light one, fairly fun, and as a positive, featured pretty much no Connor. As a negative, it featured almost no Wesley. But ah well.

So, I did a bit of reading and learned that David Greenwalt left "Angel" to do a series called "Miracles" on a higher-paying network. I actually watched an episode of "Miracles," which had a "Firefly"-length run on ABC before fading into obscurity, but all I remember is that it was creepy and starred Skeet Ulrich and the "I don't want to lose heart! I want to believe, like Wallace believes!" guy from BRAVEHEART.

Having watched the beginning of this "Angel" season, I gotta say, it looks pretty darn good. I can't say I like Connor in the slightest, but I'm glad they've kept him morally ambiguous. Same with Angel and Wesley, though seeing them together again made me hope that the group dynamic could be back where it once was. It's strange how people get to love the routine of a TV show, and really struggle against the concept of change. I've commented before (though not in these pages) that "Buffy" was never as good once the characters left high school, but in rewatching Season Four, I found that there are plenty of great things about that season, only some of them are different things. You can have shows like "The Simpsons" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" that go on year after year without the status quo changing much, but Joss has never felt the need to ape that kind of TV show. He likes people to grow and change and switch allegiances and die, and while I suffer because of it, I understand that it makes his shows better than average television. It's very possible that, if FOX doesn't kill "Dollhouse" right out of the box, we will see that sort of thing happen on the new show, and long for the days when things were the way we loved them being. In fact, I can't imagine Joss NOT doing that on "Dollhouse," as long as it makes it on air longer than a season.

The solitary BTVS episode we watched was called "Same Time, Same Place" and was written by Jane Espenson.

So, Willow is coming back to Sunnydale. For the second time, we see Sunnydale Airport, and Buffy, Xander, and Dawn are waiting for her to disembark. Xander has written a welcome home sign in yellow crayon, and that's pretty damn cool.

But Willow doesn't get off the plane. The gang is bummed and decides she must have changed her mind, or been laid over, or taken a broom home or something, and they leave, dejected.

Over at the high school, a punk kid is spraypainting something on the construction site (I think it was "Principal Snyder, Burn In Hell"), when something creepy and chattery kills him with its long nails.

For the third time, we see Sunnydale Airport, and Willow gets off the plane. Sadly, Buffy, Xander, and Dawn are nowhere to be seen. No welcome wagon is there for Willow, ditto the yellow crayon. She leaves, dejected, and goes home. Which is Buffy's house, if you recall. She goes inside and finds nobody there. She goes upstairs and sees where Tara died, then hears a noise downstairs. No one is around.

Xander and the Summers sisters come home, and the house is empty. Buffy confirms that an offscreen Giles put Willow on the plane, but she is M.I.A.. They hear a sound upstairs, but no one is around.

The next day, Willow goes to what's left of the Magic Box, and sees Anya gathering up broken objects. Why it's taken her three months to do this I can't say, but maybe she's been busy turning mens' foreskins against them and causing them to vomit bleach, I don't know.** Anya reminds Willow that it was her fault her livelihood is gone (again, she was already a demon when Dark Willow showed up, but who's counting?) and makes Willow feel bad. She does tell Willow where Xander and Buffy are working, so Willow heads over to the high school.

On the construction site, she finds the body of the "tagger," which is what they used to call spray painting assholes. It has been skinned completely. Buffy and Xander are also looking at the body, and we're starting to realise that this is happening at the same time, but separated somehow. Buffy wonders if maybe Willow skinned the man, since she's done it once before.

Willow goes into the high school and hits the basement for some reason. There, she finds Spike, and in my favourite scene of the episode, he talks to her and to his imaginary companions in the crazy way that we've come to expect. But we are shown that the imaginary companions are Buffy and Xander, who are also talking to him, but think that he's fruit looping when he talks to Willow. Spike thinks Willow is to blame for her "invisibility" or whatever, and Buffy thinks Spike is saying that Willow made him insane.

Willow goes to Anya's apartment and asks her to help find the demon that skinned the tagger. They do that great Season Four/Five location spell and discover its cave hideout, but Anya tells Willow she'll have to do it alone because Anya's on probation from the Vengeance Demon Alliance of America for her actions last episode, and can no longer teleport. Willow walks to the cave and goes inside.

Dawn, interestingly, has become a pseudo-Willow now, and searches on the computer for a demon that skins its victims. She discovers one called Gnarl that has paralysing claws that immobilise its victims, which it eats the skin of. I read somewhere that that Kojo guy on "Entertainment Tonight" is also one of those.

Buffy goes to Spike to get him to lead her to the location of Gnarl, since he can smell the blood trail (?), and they (Xander and Dawn included) go to the cave. They go inside and Gnarl springs out. He's among the most elaborate demons they've shown us, with a full body prosthetic, claws, eyes, teeth, a spine, etc., and looks like the baby Hillary Clinton would have . . . if empregnated by Gollum.

Gnarl slashes at Dawn, who goes stiff, and Buffy and company get her out of there, closing up the cave's entrance behind them. Little do they know that Willow is inside the cave, also scratched by Gnarl, and lies helpless there. In one of the more disturbing "Buffy" scenes yet, Gnarl chitters and dances, then proceeds to cut a strip of flesh off Willow's stomach and eat it. The demon also reminds her that her friends abandoned her and that she'll be all alone when she dies.

At Buffy's house, Dawn is paralysed, and Buffy calls Anya to take care of her while she goes back to slay Gnarl. Anya mentions seeing Willow, and that she was going to the cave too, so Buffy takes Anya with her when she returns to the cave.

They go inside and Buffy fights the demon, while Anya comforts Willow. She tells her that her friends didn't abandon her at all. I guess Gnarl's weak spot was his eyes, 'cause Buffy gouges them both out and kills him. The paralysis of Willow and Dawn lifts, and Willow becomes visible again. They take Willow back home and lay her in her old bed, which may have been Joyce's bed too, but I don't know.

Fear not, midriff fans, Willow is able, with meditation and magic, to heal the skin that was removed. She also reveals that she inadvertently caused the invisibility when she was afraid to face her friends. Buffy reveals that she did wonder if Willow had skinned that guy, but that Xander never did. Which is cool, but it is defused by a comment that Xander can afford to think the best of people, 'cause he's just a normal old boring guy and not a superhero like the rest of them. Poor guy.

Hey, Batman ain't got no superpowers, and he's the second-best superhero of them all.

But you knew that, didn't you?


*And you wondered how Vin Diesel and Nelly Furtado were so famous for a while.

**A year ago at this time, tyranist and I were applauding with delight when Emma Caulfield's name showed up in the guest star list. I loved her so much and found her so uniquely delightful. But now, every time I see Anya, I want to yell at the screen, "Why are you still on the show? Go make DARKNESS FALLS and then disappear forever!" I'll admit it's unkind, and I can't really explain it myself. I guess I just dislike the change her character made, as I've disliked several arcs on these two shows lately. Sorry, Anya/Emma.

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