Friday, September 26, 2008

Angel Thursday (25 September)

And then, there was one.

Show, that is. Tyranist and I finished "Buffy" last week, and even though he mentioned a hesitation to continue watching "Angel," I sure as hell wanted to finish out Season Four, and find out how they'd bring Spike back next season. So we had one of those marathon things.

Aside: In looking up "Angel" on wikipedia, I learned that Season Four had two different show runners. One, David Simkins, left partway through the season, and Jeffrey Bell replaced him. Considering how much better the season got as the year went on, I gotta think that Bell was a good choice. Either that or Joss Whedon began to spend more time on "Angel," after FOX killed "Firefly."

Well, I was totally thrilled with our "Angel" marathon, and when tyranist suggested we stay up until two to finish out the season, I didn't whine and beg him to reconsider, but was happy to.

I pity the fool that has to blog these, but I gotta say, the watching them was such a pleasure that I almost don't mind the work ahead of me. Almost.

First up was "Players," somehow written by Sarah Fain, Elizabeth Craft, and Jeffrey Bell.

It begins immediately after the last episode, with Cordelia stepping out, dressed all provocatively, and very, very pregnant. But it's not as ominous as we were led to believe, as Cordelia pretends to be as confused as everyone as to how this could be happening, and they all marvel together at the magickal pregnancy.

As if to interrupt our narrative, Gwen the electricity girl arrives at Angel Investigations, needing help to rescue a kidnapped girl. A moment before she entered, Gunn had felt slighted by the gang, and Gwen recruits him to assist her, taking advantage of his need to do some good.

Morimoto, a Japanese businessman, has kidnapped the daughter of a rival, and Gwen and Gunn get all dressed up and go to a party Morimoto is throwing. They nearly get thrown out, but Gunn smooth talks his way in, and they see the little girl, several bodyguards around her. Gwen causes a distraction and Gunn steals the child away, fighting with her bodyguards before discovering that the child is Morimoto's own daughter.

Gwen, meanwhile, has slipped into the vault in back and has found what she's looking for: a high-tech invention that can help her control her powers. When Gunn discovers he's been tricked, she explains how hard it has been not to be able to touch anyone, and he helps her escape. Later, she uses the device, and not only is she able to touch people, she's also able to have sexual intercourse with Gunn. A fine time is had by . . . well, both.

Back at Angel Investigations, Connor calls Cordelia on her trying to get him to kill Angelus. She explains that she only wants to protect her baby, and is (rather easily) able to sway him back to her side. Downstairs, Angel and Wesley and Fred are trying to remember what Angel saw in the book Lilah had, but as it's in an ancient and foreign tongue, he's not able to find out what it said about the Beast's master. They call this person/creature The Master, but that was "Buffy"'s first season Big Bad, and I'm reluctant to do that.

Basically, Lorne has found out about a ritual he can perform to restore his power to read people's auras, and promises Cordelia to find out what he can about her pregnancy as soon as it's done. He goes down alone to what I thought was the hotel's parking garage and prepares the ritual. Cordelia approaches him stealthfully, wanting to prevent it.

Just as she raises a knife, the lights go on, and Angel, Fred, and Wesley step out, pointing guns at her. The whole ritual thing was a ruse, and she stepped right into it. The end.

Not much to say about this one. Mostly filler, and I complained that we were in exactly the same spot that we were the last episode at the end of this one. Tyranist disagreed, but hey, he does that.

Next up was "Inside Out," written and directed by Steven S. DeKnight.

Cordelia looks at the four confronting her. Angel reveals that earlier, she used the same phrase as the Beast's master did in his/Angelus's head, making him suspicious of him. Suddenly, Connor appears to save the day. He fights Gunn, Wesley, and Fred, and Fred's rifle goes off, shooting Angel with a tranquiliser dart. Connor grabs Cordelia and whisks her away to safety.

At this point, tyranist paused the DVD (okay, it could have been any number of points during any number of episodes) and began to rant and foam at the mouth over how much he hates Connor and why Connor is still alive and all manner of filth . . . and you know what? I'm just gonna come right out and say it: by the end of the night, I kinda LIKED Connor.

So there.

The folks at Angel Investigations think about Cordelia's betrayal and wonder if it is even Cordelia that's been living among them. They remember the memory retrieval they did on her and that it was then she started acting strange. Or was the amnesia Cordelia not her, and that was why she had amnesia. And the stuff that Angel/Angelus was blamed for, like killing that guy in the locked room and killing Lilah, was probably Cordelia too.

Cordelia and Connor find a new hideout, and she thanks him for saving her life from those evil people and that nasty vampire father of his. At this point, I wonder if the fact that he KNOWS their weapons were full of tranquilisers instead of live rounds might sway him to realise she's not on the up and up, but Connor just nods and goes along with everything she tells him.

Angel, meanwhile, is bummed out that his would-be girlfriend is now a would-be world destroyer. Wesley thinks Angel should go to the Powers That Be and ask them just who and what Cordelia is and how to stop her. Angel doesn't want to, though, because, well, the Powers have proven to be bastards in the past. But Angel remembers Skip, the cool demon guy, from a season or two ago, and decides to go talk to him.

What follows was certainly odd: Skip, who was cheery and refreshingly amiable in the previous episodes, reveals that to just be an act, and is a giant tool now. He won't help Angel, but will beat him up. So Angel grabs one of Skip's "horns," for lack of a better word, breaks it off, and forces Skip to return with him to our dimension.

The others cast a spell to prevent Skip from leaving, and have another spell to torture him if he doesn't tell them what he knows. So Skip gives us a couple of overdue revelations: Cordelia is being controlled by another being, which was all part of of a greater plan, one responsible for Cordelia becoming a higher being and getting the visions in the first place, for Angel and Darla being able to conceive a child, for Wesley going off to the dark side, for Lorne and Fred coming to this dimension from Pylea, for Gunn joining their gang, for "Buffy" going off to UPN, heck, even for the WB originally buying "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" back in '96 instead of FOX, who would have canceled it long before.

To tyranist's credit, at no point during this speech did he cry "bullshit."

According to Skip--and I suppose we have to take his word for it--Connor's impossible birth was designed to impregnate Cordelia with the very being that's controlling her. When she has the "baby," it will probably kill her, and if it doesn't, the baby surely will destroy the world.

Meanwhile, Cordelia has a plan to have the baby immediately: there's a spell the two of them can cast, but she'll need Connor's help. So he goes out and rescues a virgin girl from a vampire, then decks her and takes her back to the hideout. Apparently, the blood of a virgin is necessary for this rite.

Then, something surprising* happens: Connor's mother Darla appears before him. She tells him he's good--better than what he's doing--and tries to get him to let the girl go.

She claims that the Powers That Be sent her to him, and I don't know if she's really there or just some dubious manifestation of Connor's conscience, and if it's possible Darla is some kind of angel now, but like Number 6 on BSG, only Connor can see her.

Back at Angel camp, Wesley and Lorne figure out where Cordelia is, and Angel leaves the others there to guard Skip while he goes off to find her. His purpose: kill Cordelia before the baby can be born.

Darla tries to get through to Connor, and then Cordelia comes in and starts pulling the other way. Connor can't deal with the stress, and finally drags the girl into the magical circle, where Cordelia cuts her throat. When Connor looks at the dead virgin girl, she looks like his mother.

Cordelia puts the girl's blood on her stomach, and the ground begins to shake. Labour has begun.

Back at the hotel, the shaking walls free Skip and he attacks. Wesley pulls out a pistol and shoots Skip, the bullets bouncing off harmlessly. Finally Wesley aims for the hole in Skip's head where Angel broke off the horn, fires, and Skip is no more.

Angel arrives at Cordelia's hideout, armed with a clothes hanger.

Okay, that was in tremendously bad taste. I'm sorry. It was a sword.

Connor stands up and defends her, and they fight yet again. Angel defeats his son, but he's too late: an intense light comes from Cordelia, and the baby is born.

Or rather, the fully-grown woman is born: Gina Torres in all her Amazon glory. When Angel looks at her, he drops his sword and kneels, beginning to worship her. The end.

An interesting episode, though I don't understand it at all. At least the character of Connor is consistent, huh?

I didn't know how many we were going to watch, but tyranist was willing to continue on to "Shiny Happy People," written by Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft.

So, the baby has been born, and she is Gina Torres. Instead of laughing and proclaiming this world hers for the crushing (as Suri Cruise reportedly did when she was born), she smiles and thanks Cordelia for bringing her into the world. She turns to Connor and Angel, both kneeling before her. She forgives Angel for trying to kill her, and both her followers have big, rapturous grins on their faces.

The four of them go back to the hotel (Cordelia is alive, but comatose), and as soon as Ginatorres arrives, Gunn, Fred, Lorne, and Wesley all kneel and worship her too.

Ginatorres is gentle and kind, bringing joy and inner peace to everyone who looks upon her. Cordelia is in a coma, but they put her in a bed, a holy woman for bringing the new Saviour into the world. Ginatorres explains that when Angel went through the trials to save Darla's life a couple seasons ago, she was watching, and gave Darla the power to have a special child. Then, when Cordelia rose to a higher plane, Ginatorres realised she had found the other piece of the puzzle, and orchestrated events so that the special pair would get together and bring Ginatorres into the world. It's all very complicated, but Ginatorres explains that everything is about to get a whole lot simpler.

Because we need our obligatory fight scene in every episode, we see a bunch of vampires hanging out at a bowling alley, complaining about the sun being back. Enter Angel and company, as well as Ginatorres.

You know what, I'm just gonna call her Jasmine. She explains that, because she was just born, she has no name, and someone should come up with one for her. When she mentions how much she enjoys the smell of night-blooming jasmine, Fred suggests that maybe Jasmine should be her name.

So, when the vampires see Jasmine, they attack her. One manages to scratch her arm before Jasmine's acolytes brutally turn them to dust. They go outside, and everyone who looks upon Jasmine begins to worship her. She bumps into a man, who falls down, and she helps him up in a demonstration of her kindness.

As Jasmine walks on, her entourage following, the man she helped up squints at her, then pulls out a knife to kill her with it. Angel stops him in time, vamps out, and begins to brutally pummel the guy so fiercely, you'd think he was in a hospital bed.

Jasmine stops Angel, touching the injured man's face, then announces that she forgives him. Everyone looks on in awe and rapture, but obviously that man saw something the rest of them couldn't.

They go back to the hotel, and Fred volunteers to wash the blood off Jasmine's blouse. Lorne decorates a room and presents it to Jasmine. Connor regrets not protecting his "child" from the attackers, but Jasmine shows that her injury has completely healed. She explains to him how special he is and that he was predestined to be her father, and honestly, it's the only time we've ever seen the kid with a smile on his face.

Angel goes outside (among the night-blooming jasmine), and begins to brood. When Jasmine comes out to visit him, he reveals that he's so darn happy being around her that he's afraid the Angelus curse will kick in again. She comforts him and quells his fears.

Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Fred is scrubbing at the bloodstains in the sink, trying--almost obsessively--to get the blouse clean. Hours later, it is revealed that she is still at it, still trying to please Jasmine. When Fred finally comes in to present the blouse to her, Wesley compliments her on her work, and she cries. It never came completely clean, even though she scrubbed until her fingers bled, so she went out and bought another blouse just like it. She hopes, pitifully, that it will be enough.

I don't know about tyranist, because I murdered him the other day, but I was getting more tense and nervous as the show went on, sure another shoe would drop, but freaked at how long it was taking.

Well, the other shoe drops when Fred presents the "cleaned" blouse to Jasmine. When she looks at her, holy god . . . standing in Jasmine's place is a rotting corpse, maggots covering her flesh and pouring out of her empty eye sockets. I literally screamed like the little girl I am. Fred reacts with more grace, turning and weeping and making a hasty exit. Everyone makes excuses for Fred, and continue grinning and nodding, all to ready for the Jim Jones Cocktails.

She goes into the room where Cordelia is "sleeping," and tries to figure out what to do. Angel comes in, and she asks him if he doesn't think it's strange that he went to kill the unborn Jasmine, knowing she would destroy the world, only to worship her instead. Angel doesn't think it's strange at all, actually.

At this point, we paused the DVD and postulated what had happened to break the spell on Fred. In retrospect, it's blatantly obvious (well, not blatant, but at least fairly obvious), but at the time, I thought that Fred had been insane once and none of the others were, and that the guy on the street must have had mental issues as well. Tyranist's theory was that it was all Connor's fault somehow.

So, Fred sneaks away and goes to the hospital where the guy who attacked Jasmine is being kept. He's in a room with his face bandaged, and Fred asks him what he saw, and if he had any history of mental illness (great minds think alike, apparently). He thinks she's calling him crazy, and unwraps his face, revealing some kind of sickening growth where Jasmine touched him.**

When Fred returns to the hotel, there is a throng of people there, looking to be near Jasmine, even if it means sleeping on the floor or toilet stalls. She takes Wesley aside and reveals to him what she saw. He nods, and immediately tells Jasmine about the traitor they have in their midst. Fred grabs a crossbow from the weapons cabinet and fires it at Jasmine, but Angel takes the bolt for her (in the shoulder). The others--led by Connor--begin to close in on on Fred like a frat boy at an Indigo Girls concert, and she grabs Lorne and holds a knife to his throat.

I thought he was a rather unwise hostage to pick, since he's literally the only character they've established can survive without a head, but it was all a bluff anyway, and she backs him to the door then runs for it.

Angel and the others think Fred has turned into Fredgelus and must be killed, but Jasmine, ever the picture of love and forgiveness, tells them they should try to help her instead.

The next morning, a skittish Fred goes into a diner and orders breakfast. On the television, the morning show presents their very special guest, Jasmine the Wonderful. As soon as she appears and gives her message of peace and tolerance, everyone in the diner kneel and worship her. Everyone except Fred, that is. The end.

Well, folks, I ain't gonna salt-coat it. This was easily the best episode of "Angel" of the season. I'd put it right up next to "I Will Remember You" as the best "Angel" ever. And heck, while I'm showering Jasminesque praise: it was better than ANY of the BTVS episodes this season.

Feel free to disagree, but wow, I literally had no idea what was going to happen through this one, and could not wait to find out what happened next. It's strange that neither Joss nor the longtime writers wrote this one, and yet it came out so well. Of course, it touched upon favourite topics of mine: pod people, individuality, evil babies, brain-washing religions, creatures masquerading as beautiful people, bowling, loneliness, and of course, lots and lots of maggots.


Rish "Night Blooming" Outfield

*Only surprising if you didn't see her name in the opening credits, of course. Can somebody tell me just why this is necessary?

**It looks like Bridgette Bardot compared to Jasmine's face, though.

1 comment:

The Rush Blog said...

For me, "I Will Remember You" is a piece of shit and a reminder of not only Angel's controlling nature, but some kind of sick justification for a patriarchal society . . . even when it is expressed by a fictional vampire character.

What Angel did by sanctioning the loss of Buffy's memories still disgust me to this day.