Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stupid Rant of the Week

Pretty much, with every one of my friends, there comes a point where the chief woman in his life (when I was a lad it was his mother, now that I'm semi-grown, it's his wife [which amounts to the same thing]) decides I am a bad influence on that friend. The women express this in different ways. For example:
1. Chris's wife expressed sad disappointment that he went to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN on opening night with me, or took me to THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY on my birthday.
2. Another friend's wife greeted me with a smile only to begin tsking the moment I was out of view.
3. I know of one friendship that simply dried up like an earthworm after a rainstorm fades because the new wife didn't want me around. Don't know where that guy even lives now.
4. As the months became years, Jeff's wife somehow overcame her revulsion of me and seemed to accept me as a sort of misshapen brother-in-law.
5. Merrill's wife intimated that I was unworthy to meet her sisters, and perhaps I should be kept from the children as well.
6. Matthew's live-in girlfriend shudders herself in her room when I come over, as if the mere sight of me might drive her to madness.
7. And Dennis's wife found me so threatening as to not speak to me, but tell her husband "to tell your friend" that it was time to go home, or people with jobs don't stay up late on a weeknight. She so hated me at one time that I fear she may have gone to her grave with that dislike not fully extinguished.

I could go on, but the dead horse has been soundly beaten.

In the last year, my cousin and I have become surprisingly close, finding that we both like comic books, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," movies, action figures, "Star Trek," and certain types of music. Though we rarely spent any time together in childhood, we now get together every Tuesday, collecting toys, watching "Firefly," eating at Wendy's, shopping, playing video games, painting, and conversing. While his wife initially said nothing, his mother was the first to express disapproval that we seemed to have formed a friendship. My mother's sister goes as far as to interrupt our conversations, asking him to go talk to someone other than me, which I can only guess that he finds amusing, or is somehow able to ignore.*

Sadly, though, it seems that the day has come when my cousin's wife has discovered my ill influence on her boy. She's smart and long-suffering, cooks good food, often takes an interest in our conversations (or seems to), and strikes me as quite easy to get along with. But it is inevitable that she--like all other women I encounter--discover that I am the source of all that is dark, dirty, and ill-smelling in the universe. Twas I who convinced Eve to take a bite of that delicious-looking bit of fruit. Twas I who introduced the black plague into merry old England. Twas I who suggested to young Hitler that maybe the Jews were getting a little too big for their britches. Twas I who urged them terrorists to do something about the great Satan America. Twas I who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator.

Lately, she has mentioned the messy blackness I represent in her clean white universe. And really, there's not much I can do to change a woman's mind about me. I'm just a bad person, through and through. Heck, I took a seven year old to "Sweeney Todd," what more evidence do you need?

So, my cousin came over this past Tuesday, sharing in my plan to drive all over the valley looking for rare toys that I could sell and he could put on his shelves, a sort of miniature road trip. Because my cousin has been having money difficulties of late--and who hasn't?--I suggested that I drive my soon-to-pass-away car up north and back. But when I mentioned that we'd have to clear out the trunk and back seat of boxes**, my cousin decided to drive instead (I guess I owe him some cash for gas, but since he owes me stacks of currency, the crown jewels, and his firstborn male son at this point, it didn't occur to me to pay him up front).

We drove around, discussing his lack of funds, his favourite Green Lantern, the disciplining of children, and Brendan Fraser, and he spent a great deal more cash than he intended to do. In fact, he was not relishing having to explain to his wife why there'd be no more hot meals this calendar year when . . . the flashing lights behind us caught our attention.

My cousin had been doing eighty in a sixty mile an hour zone, and just as the policeman handed him the speeding ticket . . . his wife called to check on him. The poor boy had to sign the ticket, thank the policeman***, then get back on the phone to explain to his woman why there'd be no hot meals in the New Year, and more importantly, why I wasn't driving the car like they'd/we'd agreed.

I had to sit there and listen to him writhe. It was very sad and I hope I can make it up to him someday.

Preferably in a way that involves no expediture or effort on my part.

But let this be a lesson to you: if ever you are unfortunate enough to befriend me, don't introduce me to your better half.

Maybe it would be a good idea not to hang out with me at all.

Rish "We are quite safe from your friends here" Outfield

*Besides, he doesn't live under her roof anymore, so I guess she can only cajole with no real power behind it.

**If you recall, I'm a box scrounger.

***Why is it that we feel the need to thank policemen when they harass us or fine us? If anything, they should thank us for giving them money. But I think I've done it every time I've been pulled over or pressed up against a police car. Are we just afraid of the nightstick?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Top Four Number Fours

I remember when tyranist and I first saw FRIDAY 4. I thought it was great, and a huge step up from part 3. Now, I feel quite the opposite.

There are some good fourth installments out there. HALLOWEEN IV was good, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD was probably last year's best summer action flick, and RAMBO was my favourite one in that series, despite the almost-sickening violence throughout. Hell, I didn't even hate INDY 4 as much as everyone else did.

So, my picks--difficult as they were to make--are:
1. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (my favourite of the series)
2. LETHAL WEAPON 4 (ditto)

My cousin told me the link I sent everyone was quite worthless, listing movies like THE MUMMY 4, the fourth PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, JURASSIC PARK 4, and countless video game movies. Whoops.

His list went like:
1. Star Wars: A New Hope
2. Star Trek: The Voyage Home
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
4. Lethal Weapon 4

And yeah, there it is. I just knew STAR WARS would make it on somebody's list. But you could burn my taint with cigarette butts and I'd still insist PHANTOM MENACE is the fourth film in that series.

Prison Guard Johnny sent me:
1. Star Wars episode IV
2. Star Trek IV the Voyage Home
3. Live Free or Die Hard
4. Lethal Weapon 4

Merrill sent me:
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2. Rocky IV
3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

He thought the pickings were pretty slim, and didn't even like INDY 4 all that much.

Tyranist was late in responding, and told me this wasn't a fun list to answer. He suggested Top Five Jim Wynorski movies for next time, along with this list:
1. Live Free or Die Hard
2. Thunderball
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
4. Lethal Weapon 4

The winners ended up being:
While I disagree that STAR WARS belongs on this list, I didn't specifically forbid it, so there it is. I'll be more careful next time.

Rish Outfield

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"He Never Forgot And He Never Forgave"

25 October 2008

I've always been fond of the theatre, and got it into my head to take my seven year old niece to a play sometime. This week I thought I'd take here to the local community theatre, which is performing "The Turn of the Screw" in honour of Halloween, the single greatest day of the year.

But then, last night, I discovered that "Sweeney Todd" is being put on in town. To say that I became ecstatic is most obvious, let alone that I changed my plans.

I was only familiar with the film, but it was the Sonheim musical, so I figured it would be similar. I told the child all about it, and even showed her the trailer to the Johnny Depp/Helena Bonham Carter version. She thought it looked great, and I made plans to take the next night (tonight).

In looking at the website to find directions to the theatre, I saw a small disclaimer at the bottom of the screen. The fine print read "Children under 13 are not advise to attend."

So, I had to make a decision. A command decision.

And, like any commander, I chose not to take her (recognising that there's a considerable difference between thirteen and seven), then went ahead and did the opposite (figuring, as Doc Brown taught us all, "what the hell").

The Castle Theatre, as they're calling it, is at the top of a hill--or more technically, at the very bottom of a mountain--on the property belonging to the only mental institution in town. They used to put on Halloween haunted houses there, and allowed the inmates of the hospital to participate, which always added to the chills of the season. As I drove the child up there, I'd point at anyone visible on the side of the road, asking, "Does that guy look crazy to you?" until she begged me to stop.

I have to admit that I did consider changing my mind back and just taking her home, especially when she was getting freaked out at the thought of "a scary play" and a castle, and escaped insane folk.

But to be honest, I wanted to see it, and wasn't going to let a little thing like inappropriateness ruin my evening. So in we went.

This is no exaggeration: she was literally the only child there.
There were a few older people, but it was mostly college students (probably forced to go to it for a class), and young people on dates (I read about those in a book sometime), but no one even around thirteen, let alone seven years old.

Now, of course I imagined the scornful gazes of the many zoobies noticing me there (and I hope they imagined my obscene gestures in their direction), but I am happy no one dared say anything to me, as I'd be an even worse example to her by shouting obscenities in a public forum.*

The play began, with a chorus of ghostly Victorians dressed in black introducing our story: "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd, his skin was pale and his eye was odd; He shaved the faces of gentlemen, Who never thereafter were heard of again..." And you know, it was pretty scary, even for me. But we stayed there and watched the play unfold before us.

And wow, it was a lot of fun. The kind of thing I'd go to all the time if I could. I don't know how much a kid could get out of the story, but the songs were catchy and the narrative compelling as hell.

Around the time Signore Pirelli met his demise, my niece was really enjoying herself. She . . .

Look, if I saw it in a movie, I'd roll my eyes, but the kid actually leaned up in the middle of the play and said, "This is awesome! Thanks so much for taking me to this!"

So, there's that.

Rish "Swing Your Razor High" Outfield

*Although on this same babysitting trip, I heard my niece use the F-word for the first time, combined with a rather odd racist remark, when she mentioned "blood fucking sikhs." Odd, we don't really have any Indian people around here, and what else could she have meant?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

I went to my aunt's house the other night, and found that she had decorated up her walls with paintings of children and unicorns and had plastic flowers everywhere and a big display over her fireplace, along with large blocks spelling out "Welcome Freinds."

I considered saying something, then decided to keep silent. Then, after everyone else had left the room, I snuck over to the wall and switched the "E" and the "I" so it said "Welcome Friends." Seemed like an okay thing to do.

It's only in retrospect that I wish I had changed it to "Welcome Fiends."

Now who oughtta feel dumb?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Angel Season Five Begins

My cousin Ryan and I went to a restaurant last week, talking about "Buffy" as usual. One of the restaurant's employees walked by and entered the conversation, saying, "Hey, I know what you guys're talking about. I love that show!" He seemed like a friendly guy, and it's always nice to meet a fellow fan, so I invited him to join our conversation about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

"Buffy?" he said, "Oh, I thought you guys were talking about 'Angel.'"

"What's the difference?" I asked, sort of considering them one entity, though that's hardly logical.

"Well, 'Angel' is cool," the guy said. "But 'Buffy''s just a high school soap opera. For girls."

My cousin nodded and said, "Go away now."

The guy tucked his tail between his legs and walked off.

That conversation notwithstanding, tyranist began the first (and only) "Buffy"-free season of "Angel" this week, season five.

That first episode was called "Conviction" and was written and directed by Joss Whedon.

I gotta say, I was not happy to see a computer-generated Angel at the beginning of this show. I may sound like an old woman, but I just can't stand CGI (more specifically, BAD CGI) the way my mother has trouble with all the cursing in movies in the Eighties and Nineties. The only difference is that profanity is cool, and bad CG just isn't.

It starts with Angel saving a chick from a vampire, just like the show used to. But then we are reminded that this is the new and improved "Angel," and our guys run Wolfram & Hart now. Not much time has passed since the last episode, but Angel is about thirty pounds heavier, and Gunn has hair now.

The credits roll, and a certain James Marsters now gets second billing on the show. It took a few minutes for me to realise that both Connor and Cordelia were absent from the credits now.

We are introduced to a couple new semi-regulars: Eve, Angel's evil contact with the Senior Partners (who pretty much replaces Lilah Morgan from the last episode), and Angel's new secretary, who is none other than Harmony Kendall, in a move I found pretty darn amusing.

Eve stresses that Angel and Company has to keep the lawfirm going if they want to stay in charge of it, and great news: that means doing evil stuff like getting murderers off and disposing of all the hookers Mark Wahlberg accidentally beats to death on long weekends.

We meet one of the clients, a guy named Fries, who is on trial for child prostitution, white slavery, and video game piracy. He's a slimy, sleazy individual proud of his guilt, and threatens to destroy the city with a bomb if Wolfram & Hart doesn't get him off.

And by "get him off," I mean, win the case . . . not the other thing.

Gunn complains that he's not really valuable to the firm, since he's something of a head-basher, and Eve sets him up with some kind of shady appointment to help him "feel like a new man."

So, I don't know if we're meant to really dislike Eve, or if it's just me, but compared to Eve, Harmony is my new favourite character.*

We also find out that Fries has placed a bomb inside his little boy's chest. Angel goes to the kid's school (despite it being daytime) to try and get the kid somewhere where he won't blow anybody up. A bunch of soldiers (in Wolfram & Hart's employ) fight Angel, and we get some wire fighting (which was almost as jarring as the CG Angel at the beginning). Angel wins.

So, Gunn goes in to have this procedure done, and when he comes out, he's been brain-fed all the legal knowledge necessary to make him a great attorney. He argues Fries case in court, getting the judge removed from the case, due to a prior connection with the client.

The others are dubious about Gunn's procedure, but Eve insists they need a lawyer more than they need someone to beat people up. Now with time to prepare for Fries's new trial, they are determined to do as much good at the firm as they can, while still doing what's required there.

Back in Angel's office, he gets an envelope in the mail, and when he opens it, he finds the medallion he was given last season (and gave to Buffy in her last episode). As soon as he touches it, it makes a bright light, and Spike appears in front of everyone. The end.

Hmm, well it looks like I'm going to be incapable of blogging these episodes (and maybe all of "Angel" season five). Which isn't to say that I have nothing I want to comment on (or snark about), but it does say a bit about how lazy I am. Certainly I don't have other obligations that keep me from blogging right now. Sorry.

So, very briefly, "Just Rewards" was written by David Fury and Ben Edlund, and it was a pretty great show. It not only picks up where the last episode left off, but also flashes back to Spike's death** at the end of BTVS. Spike has appeared in Angel's office at Wolfram & Hart, and he's a ghost . . . sort of. Somehow, his lifeforce was sucked into the medallion upon his death, and also somehow, that medallion made its way to Los Angeles, despite there not being any Sunnydale left.

So, is it The Powers That Be? Does Spike yet have some role to play on this show, for good or ill? Before he can answer, Spike fades away, and then comes back. He does that a lot now.

But dying and saving the world (or helping to, anyway) hasn't mellowed Spike none; he still seems the same cheeky dude as before. And he mocks Angel at every turn. Which is nice.

Angel wonders if maybe Wolfram & Hart gave him the medallion hoping that he'd go to Sunnydale and get killed (and out of their hair forever), but because Joss had Buffy send Angel packing, the whole ghost thing happened to Spike instead. It's an interesting point, I guess, but I'm about 99.375% sure it'll never be resolved.

Spike is mean to Harmony, then tries to leave Los Angeles, but is instantly brought back to the W&H offices. Fred volunteers to try and figure out what he is exactly, and if anything can be done to help him. In the interim, Spike decides to haunt Angel. Again, nice.

Meanwhile, Gunn and Angel have shut down a couple of the more unsavoury departments at the firm. One of these was some graverobbers who provided bodies to a necromancer named Hainsley. Hainsley isn't happy about this turn of events, and we find out that he can not only control the dead, but makes money by giving demons reanimated corpses to inhabit. When Angel meets Hainsley, he sends his goons after the vampire. When that fails, Hainsley uses his abilities to control Angel's body. The necromancer realises that the Senior Partners want Angel alive and he doesn't dare kill him himself. Angel gets free and has Gunn use his legalese to get Hainsley in trouble with the IRS (which even demons and wizards fear).

Wesley theorises that they can get rid of Spike's ghost by having an exorcism. Angel tells him to go for it, but it must be done on hallowed ground. Fred thinks it's wrong to just cast Spike into nothingness (or the afterlife, depending on your perspective) like that, and Angel says he'll think about it and decide in the morning.

Spike overhears their plan and goes to talk to Hainsley, who offers to give Spike a body again in return for revenge on Angel. Spike tells Angel what Hainsley proposed, but because he's good now, with a soul and a better understanding of heroism, he decides to let Angel exorcise him and send him on his way.

Spike and Angel go to the cemetery--hallowed ground--and Angel begins the ritual, only to have Hainsley step out and take control of his body. He knocks Angel out and takes him someplace where he can transfer Spike's lifeforce into Angel's body. That way, he can get Angel out of the picture, and the Senior Partners won't think he killed him.

Spike resents that Angel had a soul forced upon him instead of seeking one out, and yet Buffy mooned over only Angel. Also, he resents that Angel has nice new cars and a new place to live and lots of money and windows that let in light but not death, and Spike saved the world and gets . . . well, nothing.***

As Hainsley begins to transfer Spike's aura, Spike jumps into Hainsley's body, preventing him from doing his magic. Hainsley/Spike fights Angel for a while, but Angel kills Hainsley and turns Spike into a ghost again. It is revealed that Spike and Angel had triple-crossed Hainsley and that--except for using Hainsley's body to punch Angel a couple times--Spike was on the side of good all along.

The others at Wolfram & Hart (and maybe Angel too) don't entirely trust Spike, but Fred says she'll try and help Spike break free of the medallion, and maybe get corporeal form again. He hopes she does it fast, as every time he disappears . . . he goes to a place that's not at all pleasant. The end.

As I said before, I really liked this episode. The banter between Spike and Angel was great, and it was cool to see him interacting with all these characters he doesn't know. And Harmony too.

The beauty of Spike--besides his charming personality--is that I tend to believe he's sincere when he claims he's turned over a new leaf and wants to fight on the side of good, and yet, I totally believe him when he evilly wants to steal Angel's body and let his soul disappear into the ether.

I don't know if Spike and Angel could ever truly be friends (indeed, I get the impression they weren't friends even when they spent years terrorising Europe together in the Eighteen Hundreds), but I'm anxious to see them succeed or fail in upcoming weeks.

Whether I blog about them or not is anybody's guess.

Rish "Also Fired From Wolfram & Hart" Outfield

*She played an evil bitch on FOX's "Boston Public" during the year I worked on it, so maybe that has something to do with my dislike for her. I rarely felt like people who played bastards on shows were that way in real life, though, and I don't remember ever interacting with her.

**Or should I say "death" on this one?

***Technically, he gets second billing. And that's something, right?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week (sorta)

I didn't do a Stupid Thing of the Week last week, and I don't really have one for this week. But today, I mentioned to tyranist that my uncle continues to call me "Ricky," even though that is not my name, and I came to the realisation that he does it because it really, really pisses me off.

So, there's that.

Rish "Anything But Ricky" Outfield

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Angel Wednesday (October 1st)

I mentioned in my last post how much I loved "Shiny Happy People" (at least I think I did). So here's a spoiler: I really enjoyed all the remaining Season Four episodes, and told my cousin I thought they were much more solid than "Buffy" Season Seven. However, today in going on wikipedia to see who wrote each episode, I saw quotes from critics that claimed the end of the season derailed, and none of the Jasmine episodes were very successful. Hmmm.

Well, I may not be a big shot television critic, but Garry Marshall once accused me of trying to kill him, so I think I'm qualified to continue blogging.

Tyranist and I continued well into the night on episodes, starting with "The Magic Bullet," written (and directed) by Jeffrey Bell. As it begins, everyone in Los Angeles is getting along, at peace, full of joy. Everyone is under Jasmine's spell and is at peace . . . everyone except for Fred Burkle, who is being pursued by Wesley and Gunn.

Fred escapes by hiding in the sewer. Later, she surfaces and goes to a bookstore, The Magic Bullet, which seems to serve mostly conspiracy theorist clientele. She's been reading up on mass hypnosis, and talks to the nutjob behind the counter. The dude is a huge crackpot, but he's happy now that he's fallen under Jasmine's control. He shows Fred the gun he keeps under the counter, which he really has no need for now that he's found inner peace.

Back at the hotel, there are throngs of people begging to see Jasmine, or just be in the same building as her, and people stir themselves into a frenzy when she walks among them. Angel and company still can't understand why Fred would have abandoned them, and Connor thinks she should be killed. Nice to know a couple things never change.

Jasmine picks a handful of lucky people to go upstairs and commune with her, and while everyone else is jealous of the chosen . . . those Jasmine picks never come downstairs again.

Angel and Connor go into the sewers to find Fred, and they have a bonding moment when Connor tells his dad what his childhood was like, tracking Holtz in his hellish environment. Jasmine contacts them in their minds, explaining that she's able to communicate with all her followers telepathically. This is how she's going to find Fred. Jasmine concentrates and finds Fred at the motel she's staying in, seeing her through the people on the street and in the rooms.

Fred runs as the Jasmine followers, zombie-like, go after her. One of her pursuers gets in a car accident and bursts into flames, and back the hotel, Jasmine's hand catches on fire. She asks for a couple of chosen followers to join her in her room, and everybody else is even happier than before now that they have a psychic link with the others under Jasmine's spell. They start singing and bearing testimony of their love for Jasmine and all she's done for them. It's both amusing and disturbing, like me with no pants on.

Fred gets an idea, and goes back to the Magic Bullet bookstore. The crackpot behind the counter pretends to be on her side, but before long, the place is surrounded by Jasmine's followers, and soon, Jasmine, Angel, and the others arrive.

Jasmine steps in front of Angel to tell Fred that she can still come back into the fold, and Fred pulls out the crackpot's gun and fires it into Jasmine, through her, and into Angel. Angel snarls and jumps on Fred, about to kill her, but she tells him to look at Jasmine, and when he does, he sees that disgusting maggot-covered corpse Fred saw in the last episode. Fred shoots Jasmine again, but Connor gets her out of there, Angel--the spell broken--grabs Fred and gets her to safety too.

Jasmine realises that her blood was what broke the spell, and tells her followers that because she was merciful with Fred, she infected Angel with her hate. Now they must all die, including anyone else who falls from the faith. She picks a couple people to be her chosen, and uses them (we still don't see how) to heal her bulletwound. When the people don't come out, Connor (who was standing guard) asks where they went. Jasmine says that she ate them, and Connor doesn't have a problem with that.

Fred and Angel have a conversation about how happy they were under Jasmine's spell, and how miserable they are now. She explains how she figured out that Jasmine's blood was the key to breaking her hold over people. She also tells him how alone she was being the only one not under her spell, and he calls her a hero.

They get the idea that Cordelia's blood might also break the spell, so they sneak back into the Hyperion Hotel and to the room where Cordelia is still in her coma. They cut her hand and collect her blood, but Lorne discovers them. Before he can alert the others, they use Cordy's blood to "free" him, and he goes downstairs to get Wesley and Gunn, pretending that Jasmine needs them for something.

They too are "freed" from Jasmine's spell (with a little help from a baseball bat), and Angel wants to get Connor before they go. Despite tyranist's warnings, Wesley asks Connor to join them in Cordelia's room, where the others grab him and stick him with some of Cordelia's blood.

After a moment, Connor calms down, and Angel asks if he's alright now. He says he is, and they let him go. Immediately, he runs out into the hall and starts calling for Jasmine and her followers. The end.

We weren't about to leave things there, so we quickly went on to the last disc of the set, and the next episode, "Sacrifice," written by Ben Edlund. I knew Edlund as a kid from The Tick comics, but now I know him from "Firefly." I look forward to his work here too.

Picking up with Connor calling for help, Angel slams the door, bars it, and has the others exit via the fire escape. Connor tries to get in, shouting at how Angel is trying to screw up the one good thing he has in his life as usual. Did I mention that tyranist hates Connor? Well, he sure mentioned it.

Before Connor can get the door down, Angel leaps out and starts thrashing his son, catching up on about seventeen years of spankings. He then leaps down into the alley and makes his escape with the others (though at the time I wondered why he just left Connor there unconscious*). They drive off, hearing on the radio that the entire city of L.A. is now Jasmineland, and stop to get gas.

The people at the gas station attack them (including a little girl), speaking with Jasmine's voice, and the gang beat them up and drive away. Sadly, they didn't beat up the little girl. I would have enjoyed that. The gang abandon their car and flee down the sewers, observed by some sort of creature.

Jasmine takes Connor into her room and heals his wounds. She also devours some of her chosen followers while he looks on. Jasmine moves Cordelia from her room, claiming that she must be hidden away so as not to be used as a weapon against her followers.

Down in the sewers, Angel and company encounter a group of young people living down there. At first they treat them hostilely, but one of the youths recognises Gunn and knows his anti-vampire exploits. This gang has been living underground since the sun went out, barring themselves into a secure section and doing what they can to survive and fight vampires. One of their number, Matthew, is a little kid, and he's somehow managed to keep a bit of his innocence despite his living conditions.

There is, apparently, some kind of monster down in the tunnels that occasionally takes one of them, so Angel volunteers to help them kill it. When it attacks again, he fights it, but the kid sees his vampire face and flees from him, heading to the surface where Angel can't follow. Fred and Gunn go after the boy, but Wesley is snatched away by the creature, which appears to be half man/half spider/scorpion/crab/Nicole Richie.

The creature talks to Wesley, speaking in a broken, backward English that I found interesting and unique, but my cousin said was just a less fluent Yoda. This creature (which I'll call Crabman) begins to rant about loving her before we did, and Wesley asks if it's talking about Jasmine. The creature scolds him for giving her that name, and points out that Jasmine is not her real name. When Wesley asks what her true name is, Crabman gets all jittery and changes the subject.

Meanwhile, Fred and Gunn try and find Matthew, going up to the surface. They take the opportunity to talk about their relationship and killing that professor together, and I get the feeling we're supposed to now consider the matter closed. They find Matthew, who tries to run away again, so Gunn bops him over the head and carries him back. I guess this bothers Fred, but it was the coolest thing Gunn did this whole season.

Angel tells the gang members that he's a good vampire, and gives them the first three seasons of the show to watch. When they finish, they decide to trust him, and goes looking for Wesley.

The gang is upset when they see the kid unconscious, but Matthew opens his eyes and begins to speak in Jasmine's voice, which ought to make them even more upset. Since Jasmine knows where they are, it's time to run. Unfortunately, Connor and a bunch of acolytes arrive in the sewers then (which makes sense, since obviously Matthew was "tainted" by Jasmine when he was on the surface, giving her plenty of time to send her little squad after the others).

Crabman explains that it is from another dimension (as "she" is), and shows Wesley the crystal that brought it there. It taunts Wesley that a human could not survive going there and plans to kill Wesley as soon as it's done with the vampire it caught previously. It speaks about the magic in words--one word in particular--and Wesley puts 2 and 1.87259 together.

Angel arrives soon after, and saves Wesley from Crabman. Guess what, folks, there is a fight, and Angel manages to kill Crabman. Wesley grabs the crystal and explains what Crabman said about its dimension.

At that moment, Angel smells Connor nearby, and they go there, where Jasmine's thugs are already battling with the Gunn and the gang.

Hanging back, Wesley figures out how to activate the crystal, and opens a portal to Crabland. Angel figures he's the only one who can survive going there (though it would've been neat if Lorne had been the one), and enters the portal, taking the crystal from Wesley to help him get back.

Angel finds himself in an alien CG environment, and looking around, he sees an army of Crabmen coming toward him. The end.

This episode was something of a sidetrack, feeling pretty padded and similar to stuff we'd seen before, but all these episodes have been a bit slower than I would prefer. Luckily, we don't have to wait days or weeks between shows, so we went on to the next one immediately.**

The following episode was the irritatingly cleverly titled "Peace Out" written by David "Next Up Who's Gay" Fury. I know it goes without saying, but this episode picks up where the last one left off.

Connor and his brainwashed thugs are fighting Gunn and his gang in the sewers under Los Angeles. We see that Jasmine is "absorbing" all the injuries of her men onto her own body, so that they can be stabbed or broken, but then are immediately healed. Promptly, Jasmine's forces defeat Wesley and the others, and for some reason, Jasmine tells Connor not to kill them, but to take them prisoner. Also for some reason, it's only our main characters again, and they are brought before Jasmine at the hotel.

Angel has the crystal that brought him to Crabland, and all the CG Crabpeople back off at once. In the distance is a temple or palace or monastery, so Angel goes there.

Jasmine wants to know where Angel is, and Wesley mentions the Crabman and his world. Jasmine does not deny having been there, explaining that she went there and cleaned it up the way she's going to do with this world. Because of our technology, she predicts our world will be much easier to rule than the last one.

In fact, several camera crews are on their way there to do a broadcast of Jasmine's message, and transmit it all over the world. Fred tries to get through to Connor, telling him to see what Jasmine really is. He looks over and sees Jasmine standing there, a walking corpse overspilling with wriggling maggots. He tells Fred that Jasmine is beautiful, and I think tyranist was too shocked and horrified to pause the DVD and begin cursing Connor's name.

Connor leads the others down into the basement, locking them in the cage they built for Angelus, and explains that he grew up in a hell dimension, and Jasmine's ugliness doesn't at all bother him. And, of course, she is his little girl. Fred tries a different tact and asks about Cordelia. Wesley suggests that maybe Jasmine eats her followers and has eaten Cordy as well. This gets through to Connor, though he tries to hide it.

Wesley and Fred theorise that if Cordelia is a threat to Jasmine, but she hasn't killed her, then perhaps Jasmine CAN'T kill Cordelia, or needs her for something.

Back in Crabland, Angel enters the temple to find an elderly demon there, a priest who guards "the word," which I assume is Jasmine's true name. He refuses to help Angel, though, and explains that he doesn't even know her true name. There is a Keeper of the Name in there with him: a big ugly brute, and he will only speak Jasmine's true name with his last breath. The Keeper has even sewn his mouth shut so as not to accidentally say it.

So guess what Angel does? If you said "He fights the big ugly dude," you'd be totally right. The priest mocks Angel during the fight, telling him all his friends are dead and there's no reason to keep fighting. Angel insists that the world is enough . . . er, the safety of the world is enough to keep fighting, that even if he had no friends left, the world still needs him.

Connor goes to Jasmine and asks where Cordelia is. She tells him her mother is in a safe place, and that she's alive and uneaten. But where that safe place is, she won't tell him. The members of the press arrive and take away her attention, so Connor starts asking around until he finds the acolytes who moved Cordelia. Since he's Jasmine's father, they tell him what happened to her mother.

Angel actually takes the Keeper pretty easily, but the priest tries to confuse him with words about his son, and how Connor will never ever love him. Eventually, Angel knocks the priest out and continues fighting.

Down in the basement, Gunn thinks he can break the door of the cage off its hinges. Tyranist and common sense explain that if a monstrously strong vampire like Angelus couldn't break out of the cage, a bald street tough like Gunn probably isn't going to manage.

So, Gunn kicks the door off its hinges, and our heroes escape.
Connor goes into the city and finds a church where Cordelia is being kept (she's on the altar, still appearing to sleep peacefully). He knocks the consciousness out of the guards, and starts to talk to her, telling her it's hard to keep fighting, especially now that he doesn't have a reason to. He confides in her that he was able to see through Jasmine's spell all along, but just wanted to belong, and wanted to live in peace for once.***

Jasmine begins her press conference, and it is transmitted everywhere, even to your mother's house. She delivers her message of love, and suggests that her followers maybe build her a big cidadel or temple to give hope to those who look upon it.

At that moment, a portal opens up and Angel steps out. He holds the severed head of the Keeper of the Word, and as Jasmine's followers move to attack him, Angel cuts the thread that keeps the head's mouth closed. "Giiiiiiiiiiiiinatorrrrrrrrrres," the Keeper gasps, and suddenly, her spell is broken.

All around her, her followers begin to weep and snarl and kick things and shout and crap their pants. Jasmine tries to appear like Mrs. Larry Fishburne, but only manages to look like a boil-covered version of her previous self. She tries desperately to calm people down, proclaiming her love for everyone, but they refuse to listen.****

Jasmine goes out into the streets, where people are behaving as though the Lakers just won the Championships again, burning cars and shooting puppies and looting buildings and raping children. She calls her only remaining servant: Connor, and he leaves Cordelia's side to join her.

Angel catches up to her and boasts that he beat her. She isn't angry, just sad. She could have turned earth into a paradise, but look at it now: all of Los Angeles has become Compton. He tells her that even Compton is better than a world with no free will, and reminds her of the many people she killed (which I guess refers to all she ate, but he refers to thousands, and I don't remember that). She reminds him that without the peace she offered, millions will die in wars and plagues and the rest of the Bush Administration.

She tells him she just wants to be left alone, and he tells her she doesn't have to rule the world to make it better. And for a moment there, I thought that maybe they'd keep her around and try to make a good guy out of her, which would certainly be interesting, but no, she punches Angel, and he flies through the air, then she picks up a car and smacks him with it, which I don't think we've seen another character do on these shows.

Looks like those "Firefly" alumni have a lot more physical strength than the regular guest stars.

Angel tries to fight her, but she defeats him easily. She reveals that she is one of the Powers That Be, and gave up that power to come down and be on earth, to make a difference instead of just sitting around and observing.

Now she says she's going to make a difference, alright: she's going to do all that she can to wipe out the human race. Connor arrives and stands beside her. She asks if Connor still loves her and he tells her that he does. She tells Angel there's no chance he can defeat both of them, and then Connor does an odd thing: he punches his fist through the back of her head, and Jasmine's head explodes like an overripe pumpkin.

I don't know why he did it, exactly, but Jasmine lies dead before him, and Connor runs away into the night.

Angel trudges back through the doors of the hotel and is happy to see Wesley, Fred, Gunn, and Lorne there, all alive. Oh, and Evillawyerwoman Lilah Morgan too. Also alive. WTF? The end.

This was a lot like the end of "Buffy"'s Season Four, where the Big Bad of the season is defeated, and yet there's one more episode left to go in the season, even though it felt over. And like I said, even though it was late, late at night, we decided to watch it to the end, and that meant one more, "Home," written and directed by Tim Minear.

So, Lilah is somehow alive (and not a vampire), and she wears a scarf around her neck to conceal the scar from when Wesley beheaded her. Tyranist had it figured out before I did, but like Holland Manners before her, just because a Wolfram & Hart employee dies doesn't mean they are no longer required to work for Wolfram & Hart.

She is there to deliver a message . . . and a gift ("These two droids. Both are hard-working, and will serve you well."). The message is congratulations for ending the possibility of world peace, and the gift is control and total ownership over the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart. Basically, they are giving up and proclaiming Angel and company the victors in their little four season war. Obviously, everyone suspects a trap, but Lilah tells them there will be a limo outside to give a tour to anyone who is interested.

Amazingly, all of them--Angel included--end up meeting the limo, and going over to see what they've inherited, should they choose to accept it.

We do check in with Connor, who is walking the rioting streets of Los Angeles. He encounters a dude who wants to kill himself now that Jasmine is gone, but Connor beats him up instead.

The building is bustling, and each hero is given a contact/guide to show them around in their area of expertise. For example, Lorne is the new entertainment division head, and W&H represents tons of famous people (explaining how Vin Diesel had a career around this time).

Wesley discovers some magical reference books that automatically become whatever the reader seeks, no matter how obscure. Wesley sneaks down to the records room and goes through the files. He finds Lilah's contract and burns it, which I thought was nice. She discovers him and mentions that it's not that easy: the contract magically reappears in the drawer, and she's sort of stuck there.

Gunn is presented by a hot black chick, and she takes him in the elevator to that creepy white room, where he meets a black panther. Not one of the militant activist group, and not the Marvel superhero, but an actual black-furred leopard.

Fred is in charge of the scientific department, and her assistant is played by Jonathan Woodward, who was also in "Buffy" and "Firefly" this season. He's charming and geeky and if this weren't the last episode of the season, I'd swear he was there as a potential love interest for Fred.

Angel is in a spacious upper office, with special tinted windows so the sunlight won't hurt him. Lilah gives him an amulet and tells him it's for use in Sunnydale (which of course has already paid off since we saw "Buffy" first).

Like I said, we also check in on Connor throughout the show, and when next we see him, he's gone to a sporting goods store and has taken everyone in there hostage. He's wired them all with explosives, and taken Cordelia there, wiring her to explode as well. She sleeps on, dreaming of that "Veronica Mars" show she'll soon be appearing on.

Angel gets wind of it and goes there, trying to talk him out of it. Connor is also wired to explode, and he shouts at Angel that he can't feel anything anymore. Angel tells him things will get better, but the boy doesn't believe him, so Angel knocks him out (rather easily) and takes the detonator away. He tells his unconscious son that he does love him.

Everyone else, back at W&H, are in favour of taking the job offers, and Lilah tells them that Angel has already accepted. Angel arrives and explains that Cordelia is getting the best care possible, and that he has to go to Sunnydale, but first, he wants to see Connor. Lilah is unwilling to do this for him, but he reminds her he's her boss, and she takes him. The others wonder who this Connor is Angel is going to see.

Angel goes to a remote home out in the country, and looks in the window. A family is having dinner together, congratulating their son on his acceptance at college. The son--who is both loved and happy--is Connor, with a new family and a new start. The end.

I thought this was an interesting way to tie up the last couple threads of this season, and tyranist realised, with considerable glee, that we will never see Connor again.

I'm not as thrilled about that 'cause, somehow, I sort of learned to respect his constant bitterness, and enjoyed listening to my friend rant about him.

I did a tiny bit of research, and found that the WB Network was kicking around the idea of not renewing "Angel" for a fifth season, so the show's creators decided to revamp it and show them they were going to go in an interesting new direction next season. Only time will tell how right (or wrong) that direction was.

All in all, I'm quite happy with this season. I'd say it was the best "Angel" yet, and like I dared blaspheme before, felt it was a much soldier season than "Buffy" Season Seven. So there.

Rish Outfield

*Now I realise that Connor could have mentally told Jasmine where they were if they took him with them.

**I might mention now, though, that it was already much later than our Buffy/Angel Wednesdays usually go. It's a testament to how much tyranist was enjoying the run that he was willing to stay up until two or so to finish them.

***To his credit, tyranist didn't call "bull shit" on this (even though Connor was OBVIOUSLY under her thrall) or Gunn breaking out of the cage (which, hey, I'm going to call "bullshit" on).

****And dude, something really strange happened then: I felt sorry for Jasmine. I did. I actually pitied her as she tried to regain influence over her mindless slaves and they spat at her and continued to rage out of control.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Babysitter of the Year: Part II

My sister's regular babysitter committed seppuku, so she gave her child to me yesterday and today. The lad is extremely well-behaved, as usual, but I am a terrible babysitter, also as usual.

For example:

I changed the boy's diaper today and man, was it fragrant. It was this sickly sweet awful smell, and I not only had to burn the diaper, but I set fire to the bathroom floor as well.

A couple hours later, when the boy was asleep (I was so attentive, the poor kid had fallen asleep in the high chair), I had to, uh, "drop the kids off at the pool," and . . . well, it smelled the same.

Guess I shouldn't have taken a nine month old out for Chinese.