Thursday, September 04, 2008

Angel Wednesday (September 3rd)

On this particular night, we had a conundrum on our hands. So far, we had been following the advice of some guy on the internet who suggested the order in which "Buffy"s and "Angel"s should be watched, as to maximize the pleasure of the crossover. And we were getting really close to the only crossover left before BTVS ended.

So tyranist and I had to discuss--or argue, if truth be told--how we were to proceed. My thought was because we had, like three episodes of "Angel" before the crossover, and two episodes of "Buffy," that we just alternate, one and one for the next two weeks until we were past the hand-off and could just proceed to the end.

Tyranist decided, though, that we'd just watch all the "Angel"s through the crossover tonight, and do "Buffy"s next week. It didn't end up sucking too hard.

So, of our "Angel" trio, first up was "Cavalry" by Mere Smith, Steven S. DeKnight, and Jeffrey Bell.

So, picking up near where we left off a couple weeks back, Wesley and the others go to the shaman that removed Angel's soul and try to get it back. He claims that the soul is still in the container he put it in, but he doesn't know its location.

Angelus is still locked in the cage downstairs, but evillawyerwoman Lilah Morgan appears and tells Angelus that she'll let him out if she'll partner up with her. She is still on the run from the Black Beast, and hopes that Angelus will take it down for her. Before he can betray and kill her--as he inevitably would have--Gunn discovers her presence and shoots Angelus with a tranquiliser.

Wesley goes after Lilah, and finds she's been living in the sewers. It's hard to see her in such a lowly state, but it sort of makes her more human, and hey, I like vulnerability in a woman.

Lilah has a book with a reference to the Beast in it. Wesley is surprised, because he has the same book, but it makes no such reference. It turns out that Lilah's copy isn't from this dimension, and Wesley realises that all record of the Beast (and all memory of it) were somehow wiped out in this dimension. It's kind of the opposite of the spell that brought Dawn into the world, isn't it? And it explains why Angelus knows something that Angel doesn't: when this forgetting spell was cast, Angelus didn't exist anymore.

Back at the hotel, Angelus gives up a tiny bit of new information: the Black Beast has a master, someone worse and more powerful than it is. It's like that great new saying: Hell has a basement. Later, we see the Beast communing with this master, speaking with someone in another dimension similar to how Vader communicated with the Emperor in TESB.

When Wesley returns, he has Lilah in tow, and gives her sanctuary in the hotel. This rubs the others the wrong way, and I have to wonder if Wesley is still the ranking officer in Angel Investigations now that Angel ain't around (and Wesley isn't in Angel Investigations anymore). He speaks briefly with Fred, and she mentions that she and Gunn aren't seeing each other anymore.

That seems to be an unmistakable opening of a door, but then Angelus mentions that Wesley's loins have been mighty busy with Lilah of late, and Fred scoffs at such an obvious lie, until she realises it's the truth.

Cordelia has a vision, showing them how to return Angel's soul. They have to get some ingredients for the spell, one of which involves digging up some kind of monster zombie that comes back to life and must be killed again by Gunn and Connor.

They set up the spell and perform it. A flash of white light hits Angelus, and knocks him on his tailbone. Then he smirks for just a second, and starts to blink and act confused. Angel has returned. To make sure his soul is really back, Angel sings "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," and Lorne is able to see that it's really our guy. But Angel tells them he'll remain in the cage, just in case there's any doubt.

Everybody goes upstairs except Cordelia, who gives him a little peptalk and he agrees to leave the cage. As soon as she's opened it, however, he bonks her on the head and Angelus steps out, happy to be free once again.

Now, I gotta wonder if any of the home viewers were fooled, even for a second. Once you saw that little grin, you knew it hadn't worked, and even with Lorne's somehow mistaken reading of the vampire, Angelus and Angel just have a differing way of carrying themselves and speaking, and it was definitely Angelus in the cage the whole time.

I guess that's a testament to what a good actor ole David Boreanaz is. Coming from a guy who "couldn't quite buy" his evil act back in "Buffy" season two.

Angelus goes out into the streets, but finds vampires everywhere, and absolutely no thrill of the hunt. The others, back at the hotel, discover Cordelia down in the basement, and realise they've been fooled. They go after Angelus, vowing to kill him now rather than bring him back alive.

As soon as they're gone, Angelus pops back to the hotel, eager to chase whoever's there around. And that turns out to be Lilah and Cordelia. Cordy shoots at him with a crossbow, but he catches the bolt and hurls it into her leg. Then he chases Lilah through the hotel until she gives him the slip. Lilah runs into Cordelia, who doesn't seem all that afraid. In fact, she seems somewhat murderous, and stabs Lilah in the neck, leaving her to bleed out on the floor by herself. Cordelia mentions that she let Angelus out on purpose, and Lilah dies. The end.

Well, this had a surprise or two. Tyranist, during the episode, theorised that Cordelia might be the one giving the Beast its orders. I found that unlikely, but was impressed when it was revealed a few minutes later.

Next up was "Salvage," written by David "Next Up, Who's Gay" Fury. It began immediately after, with Angelus finding Lilah in the hall, but seeing she's already dead. The others have figured that Angelus wouldn't want the human buffet the streets of L.A. have become, and have doubled back, and walk in to see him with Lilah. He doesn't try to explain that he didn't do it, but jumps through a window and escapes into the permanent night.

Lorne comes up with a plan to cast the "no demon violence" spell in the hotel that he used to have at his club, and gets to work on that. Wesley takes Lilah's body down to the basement, where he realises that she may rise as a vampire unless he beheads her. She opens her eyes and starts talking to him, but from the way she talks, the things she knows, we can see that it's really just him talking to a Head Lilah Morgan, the way Gaius Baltar talks to a Head Number Six that . . . well, I never really understood how she wasn't really there in some episodes, but could physically manipulate things in other episodes. But that's another series.

She tells him that this is how he ultimately wanted their relationship, and reminds him that that's what he called it that one time. Whether it might have worked out between them or if there was ever any kind of pseudolove there, we'll never know, because he brings down the axe and chops off her head.

Angelus goes to a demon bar (Los Angeles naturally has several), and is greeted as a celebrity there by the vampires and demons. In thanks for the darkness, they help him find out where the Beast is headquartered.

Lorne casts the no-violence spell. Now that we know that Cordelia is not to be trusted, she begins to get stranger and stranger. She sequesters herself inside her room, claiming to be injured from the crossbow bolt, and has Connor waiting on her hand and foot. She communicates with the Beast and gives it the dagger she used to kill Lilah.

Wesley comes upstairs with a renewed sense of purpose. He says he knows where to go and what to do. Cut to: a maximum security womens prison, where our Slayer Number Two Faith is still locked up. A big ole hairy woman tries to kill her, but Faith easily kicks the stuffing out of her, and all the guards are on her side. I guess she's been a model prisoner.

When Wesley arrives to talk to her, she is more than cooperative, and smashes through the safety glass to walk out with her former Watcher. I guess we can see that Faith was in jail of her own free will, sincerely attempting to change her crazy ways, ya hear me?

Wesley explains the situation, but Faith says she absolutely won't kill Angel, since he was the only one who believed in her when she was at her lowest. That doesn't go over well with Connor, though he does find her attractive. She proclaims herself in charge, and they go out to hunt down Angelus (non-lethally). When Connor disobeys her orders and kills the first vampire he sees, she beats him down (rather easily, too) and sends him home.

Well, the word's out on the streets, the devil's in your kiss... Whoops, I was quoting Aerosmith just out of control there. Actually, the word on the streets is that the Slayer is in town. Angelus hears this and immediately calls Buffy's house. When Dawn tells him she'll get Buffy, he hangs up and says, "It's the other one." Cute.

Wesley and Faith discover Angelus in the midst of telling the Beast he won't join it 'cause he doesn't really want a master. Angelus smiles and steps out of the way when Faith readies herself for a fight with somebody . . . who turns out to be the Beast. And for the next few minutes, Faith is totally and completely, utterly and hopelessly beaten down by the Beast. Wow. From her bloodied prone position on the ground, she watches the Beast give a speech about how weak she is compared to it. And then she sees Angelus sneak up behind the Beast and stab it with its own dagger (one made from the stone-like material the Beast was made of). Well, the Beast reacts badly to this, and dies. It releases the energy it took and the sun is restored. Angelus barely escapes as daylight takes over, angry that that part of Angel's happy fantasy turned out to be true.

Everyone in Los Angeles, except the vampires, goths, streakers, demons, gangmembers, taggers, and poor Edgar Winter, rejoices. Connor goes to Cordelia's room to tell her the good news, but she has a bit of good news of her own. She's quite visibly pregnant, and the child is his. Even though they only had sex days ago show-wise, she's all swollen and pregsy, which proves there's something special about this child. But it should remain their little secret, 'cause the others wouldn't understand. The end.

Heck, I've seen every episode of the show and I don't understand. Still, this was good stuff, and dang, was I happy to see Faith again.

Next up was "Release," written by Sarah Fain, Elizabeth Craft, and Steven S. DeKnight. To which, tyranist asked, "Who the hell didn't write this episode." I guess the answer was "That Whedon guy," but hey, I could be wrong there too. For some reason, Andy Hallett (Lorne) is in the opening credits now. I sort of understand why these things are done the way they are, but . . . oh heck, I have no idea why these things are done when and how they are.

So, Wesley takes our gal Faith back to his apartment, and she's bloody, swollen, and pissed off. She takes a shower and we see that most of her anger is directed at herself, and apparently the bathroom wall, 'cause she punches the crap out of it.

Angelus goes to a demon bar (the same one he was in the episode before, I'd guess), and finds that demons are upset about bringing back the sun. He also finds himself being addressed by a disembodied voice--that of the Beast's master, which tells him he's gonna take the Beast's place as the new number two man in town. I'm not sure why he accepts the offer, but I seem to recall threats being involved.*

Angelus goes back to the hotel, startling Fred, who realises later that she could have hurt Angel even though the spell meant he couldn't hurt her, and stealing all her research on the Beast and its master. To our girl's credit, she does grab the tranquiliser gun and fires it at Angelus . . . but ends up hitting Lorne.

Fred beats herself up about this and Gunn tries to comfort her (and get a little), but it seems that time has passed.

Wesley takes Faith to the same demon bar Angelus hung out in earlier, and they go in the back room, where human junkies like to shoot themselves up with supernatural opiates and let vampires feed on them, 'cause it's supposedly a super-powerful high for both the humans and the vampires. One of these junkies remembers Angelus talking to someone who wasn't there, and in between bitch-slaps from Faith and stabwounds from Wesley, she tells them what he was saying.

Faith calls Wesley on this, thinking he might be going too far, and he turns rather nasty, calling her a hypocrite and a murderer and way beyond any moral high ground, even in a room full of televangelists, meter maids, and Republican Senators.

At this point, tyranist paused the DVD (okay, he did it one hell of a lot more than one point, maybe twenty) and announced that he, like I was last season with the Wesley/Baby Connor storyline, was pretty much finished with the show. The last character he liked had now become unlikable.

I'm not sure why he continued to watch it, but he did.

Well, Faith decides to put Wesley through a wall for saying that, and he tells her that the anger she's feeling now is what she'll need to take down Angelus. Her compassion for Angel is a stumbling block, and they need her fierce. I'm not sure if that made tyranist feel better (he has since made no mention of watching "Angel" again), but it worked for me.

Faith and Wesley track Angelus down. It looked like a museum under renovation or a warehouse or something, and Angelus isn't too surprised to find them there. If I were him, I'd be surprised to see Faith walking without crutches, let alone in a battle stance, but maybe she worked on her healing factor in prison all that time.

The battle begins. Wesley is the first casualty, tossed like a boneless doll onto a scaffolding, where he is forced to watch Angelus use his Slayer as a speedbag. Faith gets a couple punches in, but either she's still hurt from her Beast battle, or Angelus is just that much better, 'cause it's really no contest. Finally, he grabs Faith, licks his lips, and Pac Man's her neck for a dose of tasty Slayer blood. The end.

I'm really starting to have issues with this blog program. I got to the end of my post, did the spellcheck, and hit "publish" and then I lost everything I wrote tonight. It's not the first time it's happened, or the second, or the fourth. But I think this is the angriest I've been.

I'm almost tempted not to rewrite any of this, but that would sort of insinuate that it was somehow my fault and not this @#*& program, and I'm not about to let it win. So, here we go again.

Last up was "Orpheus," written by Mere Smith. She's the one I'm never able to remember the background of, so I won't look her up again.

This episode begins immediately after, with Angelus gasping at something Faith has done to him. We flash back to Faith and Wesley in the demon bar, where Faith injected herself with that messed-up drug, planning on having Angelus bite her. He pulls away from her, but it's too late, and he tips over into unconsciousness (or a drug-induced haze). They get both of them back to the hotel, where they stick Angelus back in his cage (chained this time), and stick Faith in bed where, poor thing, she's in a coma again.

Lorne is angry at Wesley for what he did to Faith** and even though he couldn't possibly know her, he sits by her side and holds her hand through the entire ordeal.

About half of this episode is played out in Angel and Faith's heads, where they seem to be sharing a drug-trip or a stroll down memory lane, and I guess they have established that Faith can enter people's dreams, so why not?

We see a couple of previously-unrevealed moments in Angel's life, such as his arrival in America at Ellis Island in the Teens or Twenties. He's lonely and weighed down with guilt over his many acts as a vampire. Angelus looks on with disgust as Angel runs into traffic to save some flapper's little dog in the Twenties, then eggs him on when Angel eyes her bare neck and feels the temptation of blood within himself.

We get a moment where Connor seems to find Faith pretty cool, but Cordelia nips that in the bud right quick.

Fred calls Sunnydale and asks Willow Rosenberg to come over and give Angel his soul back like she did in "Buffy" season two, and I gotta say, the moment she arrives, the show gets classier.

Willow goes up to see Cordelia (who has spent the last couple episodes holed-up in her room), and Cordelia tries to get her close enough so she can kill her with the knife under her pillow. But Willow realises she can cast a spell to shatter the container that holds Angel's soul, no matter where it is, and leaves before Cordelia can make her move.

We see a long-haired Angel in the Seventies walk into a diner and play some Barry Manilow, much to Angelus's irritation. Then a dude comes in and robs the place, shooting the cashier before running off into the night. Angel tries to help the wounded cashier, but when he sees all the blood he's unable to help himself and drinks from him. I think Faith understands Angel's struggles and the mistakes he's made, and can certainly relate.

Angelus explains that, to punish himself, Angel hung out in sewers and ate rats for twenty years after that slip-up, which helps to explain why he was that way in the first flashback we saw of him back in "Becoming Part One."

Cordelia casts a spell to keep Willow from casting hers, and they have a little magical tussle. Connor interrupts Cordelia by going up to check on her, and Willow shatters the jar Angel's soul is in. Then Willow and Fred cast the "Becoming Part Two" spell to stick the soul back inside Angel. It's amazing how long ago it seems Willow did that the first time (five years in real time), even though I haven't been watching all that long.

Well, Cordelia's less than thrilled, and she demands that Connor go down to the basement and stake Angelus before he can get out and harm their baby. He lapdoggishly obeys.

Later we see Angel in an alley, dirty and hunting vermin. When Angelus mocks him, Angel notices and the two of them engage in a SUPERMAN III-esque battle. Angel is able to overcome his evil counterpart and vanquishes Angelus.*** Angel thanks Faith for what she did for him. Then Faith wakes up from their drug-coma.

She goes down to check on Angel and stops Connor from killing his father. She beats the potato salad out of him until Angel wakes up, his old self again. He stops the fight and--I assume--is filled in on everything that happened while he was away.

Faith hears what's going on on UPN and decides to go with Willow to Sunnydale. She says goodbye to the "Angel" gang but refuses to hug anyone. Angel tells her to say goodbye to Buffy, and I just realised that, with her show ending, those two probably won't have any more encounters (let alone "get together" again). It may make me a sappy romantic, and very different from the guy who started this series just 18 months ago, but I have begun to see Buffy and Angel as soulmates and hoping they end up with one another. Weird.

After Faith and Willow are gone, Angel marvels at how complicated things have gotten lately. Then Cordelia walks in, her stomach all swollen and repulsive, and lets them know it's even more complicated that they thought. The end.

I really enjoyed this round of shows, and am a big fan of Faith. I think her fall and redemption has been quite compelling and organic, and I gotta wonder what the "Faith" series might have been like. I also wonder how far along it got before Dushku abandoned it for ABC. Was there a pilot written? Did it have a home at a network? Was it a missed opportunity like the BTVS animated series, or was it just a pipedream like "Ripper" seems to be?

Oh, and I really like Cordelia as a villian.

With her getting rounder and rounder, I didn't know what to think, but her evil was pretty impressive, and I complimented her during the show. She didn't seem to notice, though.

It looks like we might stick with "Buffy" to the end, so it might be a while before we check in with the gang in Los Angeles again. I'm pretty fine with that.

Rish Orpheus Outfield

*Oh, I remember now. She threatened to restore his soul if he didn't cooperate.

**Now might have been a good time for some of that patented Watcher self-righteousness, but Wesley just takes it.

***I get a feeling that it's the last we'll see of him in the series, and that's too bad, but I understand. He's a great villain, but he's also one of those that gets diluted the more often he's used. As a comic book fan, I've seen that happen with far too many of my favourite baddies.

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