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?

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