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.

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