While I was doing my normal web surfing this evening I found that I can't get to several of my favorite sites without first running into an ominous "Fraudulent Web Page Blocked" message from Norton/Symantec. Unfortunately, my "I Heart Wesley W-P" site has been tagged with this warning as well.
In doing a quick web search I've found that this same message has popped up for Facebook and eBay users in the past. I don't quite know what to do at this point except get a good night's sleep and hope the problem magically goes away tomorrow morning. If that doesn't happen, I'll have to try to figure something out later on.
Update 6/24/2012. As far as I can tell, all Blogspot pages are being hit with this message. I blame it all on a Norton/Symantec update I installed about a week ago that either added or increased a Safe Web feature within the search results. (Obviously, not everyone is getting this message.) When I get around to it today I'll see if I can tweak some settings and get rid of the warning pages from my system. If I find any definitive solutions I'll pass them along.
Update 6/24/2012 Five Minutes Later. I ran a Live Update in Norton Internet Security and, voila, problem solved.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Alyson, Satyana and Alexis,
At last! US Weekly reported yesterday that on May 23, 2012, what appeared to be Hollywood's Biggest Baby Bump turned into a precious little baby girl, Keeva Jane Denisof. Keeva, of course, is the daughter of proud parents Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof. Older sister Satyana, 3, must be very excited!
We have very few details at this time, but everyone is reportedly doing just fine. However, here's beautiful photo of Keeva's hand that was posted at Alyson's Twitter page, and you can also see a nice progression of Aly's baby bump photos at the bottom of this Huffington Post article.
Congratulations to the Denisof family!
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Who's Scamming Who?
(Courtesy of Buffyverse Dialogue Database)
I seriously thought about posting just one combined review of Angel's final two episodes, "Power Play" and "Not Fade Away", mostly because I thought I'd be repeating myself too much if I broke up the discussion into two separate posts. I changed my mind after thinking about how much additional material I'll probably gain after I listen to the commentary for "Not Fade Away". Which brings me to.....
DVD Commentaries (or lack thereof). I'm disappointed that this final stretch of Season 5 of Angel has a dearth of DVD commentaries. In absolute terms I don't think Season 5 has any fewer than other seasons. However, I was hoping that the fact that the entire series had come to an end would have motivated Mutant Enemy into giving the audience a few more commentaries and other special features than usual. If memory serves me correctly, I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer might have received a more substantial send-off.
I have yet to hear Jeffrey Bell's commentary for the final episode, "Not Fade Away", so maybe he solved a lot of the little Season 5 puzzles that I've been wondering about lately. Regardless, I'm thinking that there were probably several reasons why the end of Season 5 was treated roughly the same as the end of any other season.
First, when it was time to record the commentaries and release the DVD's, the series was well into the history books. Perhaps it would have been too depressing to lavish a lot of attention on a show in which the cancellation came as a complete surprise (as far as I can tell) to just about everyone. However, it's more likely that most of the parties involved had already moved on to other projects, and were wanting to look forward rather than backward. I also can't discount the possibility that since Buffy the Vampire Slayer was off the air, perhaps the entire Buffy franchise was starting to lose steam with both viewers and the creative staff. If Angel was over, then there might have not been that much more to talk about, particularly since the commentary about old episodes couldn't be woven into commentary about new episodes that were currently airing. I hope to spend more time on this topic in a future post.
Second, I have (albeit more often in the past) the tendency to think of the end of Season 5 as being the logical culmination of all of the prior events that led up to Angel's final decision to take the fight directly to Wolfram & Hart. I've written before about how Angel's decision could have been the defining moment of the entire series. If that was the case, wouldn't such a profound and dramatic conclusion have been worth a few more explanatory DVD commentaries?
The only problem is that, particularly when you put the Angel comic continuation series into the mix (where it was revealed that the Senior Partners tricked Angel into starting the Apocalypse), his dramatic decision might not have been the landmark moment that it initially appeared to be. Unlike Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon did not start off Season 5 of Angel thinking that it would mark the end of the season, much less the end of the entire Buffyverse TV franchise. I could talk a lot more about this, but simply put, the end of Season 5 might have not been the final ending that Joss Whedon initially had in mind, particularly since he was probably already thinking in terms of a comic book continuation.
Nina Ash and Angel. I've been a good girl up to this point and haven't written too much about actor David Boreanaz's physical appearance in Season 5 of Angel. It's been widely noted that it looked like he had gained a considerable amount of weight during this time. I even question the wisdom of allowing Boreanaz to appear shirtless since his less-than-buff appearance tended to be a distraction. Some commenters have guessed that Boreanaz gained weight because his earlier knee surgery might have kept him out of the gym. The fact that he looked slimmer than ever in Season 1 of Bones the following year lends quite a bit of credence to that theory. It's too bad Boreanaz had to go through this process, but kudos to him for finally getting back to his fighting weight.
Despite all of this, I've always held this post-coital cuddle scene between Nina Ash and Angel in fairly high regard since it seemed to emphasis the strong point of their relationship, in that it was refreshingly normal in contrast with Angel's overwrought and doomed love affairs with Buffy Summers and Cordelia Chase. Unfortunately, upon my latest viewing, I was kind of disappointed with Nina's dialogue since I thought it contained a few too many hints of precocious Buffyspeak. I know Nina was quite young (early 20's?) in Season 5, so I might have been asking for too much by hoping for a girl who didn't have the demeanor of a recent graduate of Sunnydale High.
Regardless, the bedroom scene was a nice set-up to their Casablanca-style scene in the park where Angel implored Nina to leave town with her sister and niece. Besides the fact that he deeply cared for Nina, Angel was also trying to do one final good deed before he went on to perform some pretty harrowing ones. Again, I cringed at some of Nina's dialogue ("That's typical. You sleep with a guy and he sends your entire family out of the country. No, wait, that's actually not that typical at all........."), but this scene formed a wonderful bridge between Angel and Nina's relationship in Angel and their relationship in After the Fall.
I would like to think that the fact that Nina lived on in the comic continuation series is a testament to the strength of her character on Angel. You can tell by clicking on my "Nina Ash" tag that I'm a pretty big fan of her. However, I also can't help but think Nina Ash continued on as Angel's girlfriend in After the Fall only by default, since she was practically the last girl standing.
Drogyn. I love Alec Newman's Drogyn character, and it's too bad he didn't appear a lot earlier in the series. As a quick summary, Drogyn was a 1,000 -year old noble warrior who could tell only the truth. One lovely surprise was that Mutant Enemy tried to rectify this situation by giving us intriguing glimpses of how Drogyn had crossed paths with several Buffyverse characters many times in the past.
If interested, I highly recommend you read the Buffy Wikia entry listed above for more information about Drogyn. However, I will start off by saying that before "Power Play" we found out that Drogyn had some sort of undefined past history with Angel. (Note: The fact that Drogyn informed Angel he'd only been appointed Guardian of the Deeper Well "decades" earlier tells us that their last contact had occurred relatively recently.) We then found out in "Power Play" that he also had some sort of equally undefined past history with the Watchers' Council and Marcus Hamilton.
The fact that Wesley apparently knew Drogyn only from reading dusty old tomes implies that Drogyn must not have had a lot of regular contact with the Watchers' Council over the years. What really interests me is the idea that there might have been a significant number of noble "battlebrands" roaming around the Buffyverse. We know an awful lot about the bad guys, but not too much about the good guys outside of those who had ties to the Watchers' Council. I had always suspected the Watchers' Council wasn't the only game in town when it came to battling evil. For example, we can hardly believe that Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was the only "rogue demon hunter" out there.
That's why I became so excited when the idea was briefly floated in "Lineage" that there was some sort of shadowy operation running attacks on bad guys in three different parts of the world, including the Los Angeles offices of Wolfram & Hart. (I talked more about it in this post here.) Although the attacks against the "demon cabal in Jakarta" and the "Tanmar Death Chamber" were probably false flag operations, the idea that Angel might not have been totally surprised that some other demon-hunting enterprise even existed seemed quite noteworthy.
Marcus Hamilton and Eve. The history between Drogyn and Hamilton also intrigues me, since it shows that Hamilton must have been a long-time regular on the evil villain circuit. The fact that Drogyn immediately recognized him implies that Hamilton was a long-time steady operative (or go-to guy) for the Senior Partners, and that Hamilton's physical appearance perhaps had not changed too much over the years.
This BuffyWikia entry indicates that both Marcus Hamilton and Eve were considered to be "Children of the Senior Partners", who "were human-like beings created by the demons known as the Senior Partners through unknown means, to act as agents for Wolfram & Hart. Depending on their purpose, they are granted different abilities." The entry then went on to describe that Eve was sent as a "liaison" whereas Hamilton was "...some kind of emissary and/or enforcer..." Again, I'll let you read the rest if you're so inclined.
I don't want to spend too much time on this, but I question whether Hamilton and Eve were cut from the same cloth. Unquestionably, Hamilton was tough and ultra-capable (helped in no small part by the fact that the blood of Wolfram & Hart ran through his veins), whereas Eve had every appearance of having been promoted to her own particular level of incompetence. Assuming we can take this dialogue from "Life of the Party" at face value, I wonder why the Senior Partners would have even bothered to send Eve to U.C.-Santa Cruz for her university training if they could instead fill her pretty little head with whatever knowledge they desired.
I even wonder if Eve had only recently been recruited right out of college a la Lilah Morgan and granted immortality, only to have had that immortality revoked a relatively short time later. Unfortunately, I don't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Other than the fact that she existed long enough for Lindsey to have established a relationship with her, we really don't know how long Eve had been around. Whereas Hamilton seemed to be a deliciously old-school non-human villain, Eve definitely represented new school ideals.
Circle of the Black Thorn. The After the Fall comic continuation series revealed that Angel had been manipulated into starting the Apocalypse. Indeed, Lindsey McDonald explained to Angel's cohorts that the Circle of the Black Thorn was the Senior Partners' "instrument on earth" whose duty was to keep the Apocalypse "rolling along". I interpret this to mean that the Circle of the Black Thorn was practically indistinguishable from the Senior Partners. One could then logically make the inference that the Circle of the Black Thorn was responsible for bringing both Eve and Hamilton to Wolfram & Hart to make sure the next stage of the Apocalypse occurred on schedule.
From this point on, it appeared that the entire Wolfram & Hart cast of characters became expendable dupes in one form or another, as layers upon layers of complexity became woven into the story lines. For starters, none of these people enjoyed anything resembling a happy ending. Eve lost her immortality and apparently perished when the offices of Wolfram & Hart came crumbling down at the end of "Not Fade Away". Hamilton perished moments before in the same scene after Angel managed to get some of that special Senior Partners blood for himself. Lindsey not only had to spend time in a hell dimension earlier in Season 5, but he suffered the ultimate humiliation of being killed by Lorne in "Not Fade Away".
Ironically enough, the members of the ultra-important Circle of the Black Thorn themselves became the biggest dupes in that they all had to be killed before Angel could start the Apocalypse. With this in mind, I can look at this scene, where Hamilton was spying on Team Angel, in a whole new light. Rather than being satisfied that Angel was completely alienated from his friends, Hamilton could have been quite pleased that Angel was using magic to try to trick him into believing that Team Angel was literally at each other's throats. So, in essence, the Senior Partners paid one of their highest compliments to Hamilton by entrusting with the task of manipulating their top emissaries on earth!
Spike. I feel like I should really be keying in once more on the significance of Spike being the first one to raise his hand when Angel asked who was going to join him in the fight against the Senior Partners. Spike raised his hand almost matter-of-factly, like it was the most natural thing in the world, in contrast to how Wesley and Gunn appeared to hesitate just a little bit.
Spike certainly must have been thinking about how far he had traveled through his newly-ensouled existence. For viewers, this moment was obviously the culmination of Spike's multi-season Buffyverse story arc, where he went from a totally evil soulless vampire into a top-notch champion for justice.
Idle Thoughts. I liked how Angel's friends initially gave him the benefit of the doubt when faced with evidence that he had perhaps turned evil. (Here's an example.) This was a refreshing change to how people were only too willing to believe the worst about Angel at times. (Here's another example, where Fred seemed to believe Spike when he told her Angel attacked the Numero Cinco mailroom guy.)
I'm surprised that I haven't written about "Power Play" too much in the past, particularly since it's one of my Top 10 Favorite Episodes. If you're interested in what I've written about this episode before, you can click on the previous link, as well as here and here. I could almost say that this episode is more fun to watch than to analyze, but that's not quite true. The themes presented, although profound, are also quite self-explanatory. Too much discussion would be overkill.
It's so well-established by now that Angel did not have anything to do with Fred's death, it's tough to have to sit through scenes like this where people are asking, "Did he, or didn't he?"
It's quite widely known that the producers hoped that Sarah Michelle Gellar would appear in this penultimate episode. (Here's a link to a David Fury interview that has a few juicy tidbits.) Unlike "You're Welcome", where I could envision Buffy fighting with Angel and Spike in place of Cordelia in this zombie scene, I can't imagine how Buffy would have fit into "Power Play". Was Nina a substitute for Buffy? Or would this episode have been radically different if Sarah had been able to appear? Your guesses are as good as mine. Regardless, I'm still glad Sarah did not make any appearances in Season 5 of Angel since it helped solidify its reputation for being a strong series in its own right away from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I wonder if "rogue demon hunter" Wesley ever ran across any of the Winchesters from Supernatural?
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Decisions, Decisions; or So Many Men, So Little Time
(Nestor Carbonell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ioan Gruffudd)
(Nestor Carbonell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ioan Gruffudd)
The season finale of Ringer that aired earlier this week may very well have been the last episode of Ringer that will ever be produced. Although "I'm the Good Twin" pulling in a 0.5 rating based on 1.1 million viewers is seen as a good thing, very few people expect the series to be renewed by the CW network.
I absolutely adored Ringer, mostly because of the acting and the characters' lavish lifestyles. I thought Sarah Michelle Gellar was brilliant in her portrayal of twins Bridget Kelly/Siobhan Martin, as she was able to bring an enormous amount of emotional depth to her characters. I fell head-over-heals in love with Ioan Gruffudd as Andrew Martin, and I hope his latest brush with American television won't scare him away for good. And what can I say about Kristoffer Polaha as Henry Butler? I'd probably fall in love with his character even if Polaha was playing the Boston Strangler!
I don't have time to go on and on about how much I also loved all of the other characters, but I will give special cudos to Zoey Deutsch, Andrea Roth, Jaime Murray and Tara Summers for making their off-putting characters of Juliet Martin, Catherine Martin, Olivia Charles and Gemma Butler a lot of fun to watch. On another note, although I equally adored Mike Colter and Sean Patrick Thomas as NA sponsor Malcolm Ward and driver/bodyguard Solomon Vessida respectively, I felt a bit uneasy about how their characters veered uncomfortably close into undying loyalty of the African slave territory. I also thought the producers were awfully brave (no pun intended) to make their chief villain, Bodaway Macawi (Zahn McClarnan), a Native American, which probably explains why his character hardly ever appeared on the show.
Watching Nestor Carbonell's FBI Agent Victor Machado turned into a real eye-opening experience for me. Initially, Machado was the only character that I actively disliked, to the point where I wondered at first why he was even on the show. I didn't even find Carbonell to be all that attractive! I think I started gradually warming up to the character when I found out Machado had been romantically involved with the murdered stripper Shaylene Briggs (Nikki DeLoach). However, I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw the bar scene in "Let's Kill Bridget", where the demoralized and (temporarily) ex-Agent Victor Machado opened up to an extremely sympathetic Bridget Kelly/ Siobhan Martin, aka, "Shivette". At that moment, my least-favorite character turned into my favorite one outside of Gellar's Bridget.
I was happy to find an active forum for Bridget/Victor shippers over at FanForum. It turns out that a lot of people got caught up with that pairing quite a bit earlier than I did. Regardless, in addition to a lot of longing to see them together in upcoming episodes, there was also a lot of good-natured comments about how Sarah seemed to have an almost endless supply of good-looking men to nuzzle up with every week.
Carbonell himself probably said it best when he stated last year that "She [Sarah] has chemistry with a chair!" Although that's kind of an odd way to put it, he did bring up a point that I've been wanting to write about for a long time: Sarah Michelle Gellar is at her best when she's interacting with a strong co-star. That's not to say that Sarah is incapable of carrying a scene on her own! It's just that I've noticed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer that although Sarah, as Buffy, was a lot of fun to watch when she took on vampires as a solo act, she was that much more enjoyable to watch when she had a solid ally by her side, like Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), David Boreanaz (Angel), Eliza Dushku (Faith), and James Marsters (Spike). It was almost as though having a partner made Buffy more complete. That "chemistry with a chair" is actually Sarah's incredible ability to develop marvelous chemistry with just about anyone, which makes everyone's performances that much stronger.
The Bridget Kelly/Victor Machado relationship on its own is enough to make me want to buy the series DVD's if and when they're ever released. It would be nice to look at all of Nestor Carbonell's performances one more time with a fresh set of eyes. An analogy I can make is that a woman can work with a male co-worker for quite a while and never give him a second thought. Then, one day, she passes him in the hallway and wonders, "Wow! Who the hell is this guy? He's hot!" (Let's forget the idea that he may have switched aftershaves.)
Despite the fact that I'm a huge fan of Ringer, I can certainly understand why a lot of viewers must have been turned off by the series. Executive producer Pam Veasey hinted that the show may have been too "complex" for viewers, but I think "convoluted" is the more accurate term. "Complex" implies that viewers might have had some difficulties understanding or interpreting some of the themes that were being presented.
When a viewer watches a show and shakes his head in disbelief after ten minutes while snorting, "I'm so sure!", that's never a good sign. If you're incapable of suspending disbelief for an hour while watching Ringer, you're doomed. Continually whipsawing characters and events back and forth (e.g., is Andrew Martin evil, or isn't he?) is not the same as creating intriguing plot twists and turns. With Ringer, the producers were only inducing motion sickness in their viewers. In the end, it all boils down to respect for the audience.
Despite some major criticisms, I'd love to see a second season of Ringer. Many of the issues from the past were resolved (including the fact that evil villain Macawi was killed and Bridget found out Siobhan was still alive), but the season finale kept a lot of issues up in the air. Will Andrew grow to love Bridget even though he kicked her out of the apartment after he found out she had been impersonating Siobhan? Will Siobhan try to find other ways to kill Bridget? Will Bridget be able to reconcile with Juliet? Is Malcolm really dead?
Most importantly, will Bridget ever get together with Machado? This seems highly unlikely, mostly because the series itself never promoted the idea that the two of them were potential love interests. The continuing Bridget/Andrew story line is too compelling to bring in Machado as a complication. It's also worth noting that actor Nestor Carbonell has been cast to appear in the pilot of a new ABC comedy series, Smart One. But it appears there's plenty of wiggle room that would allow him to return to Ringer if a miracle occurs and CW brings it back for a second season. Nonetheless, there certainly is a lot of room to speculate about Bridget and Machado, particularly with how he openly admired her Siobhan persona for being a good wife and mother, and how he made it a habit to swoop in and dramatically rescue her on a pretty regular basis. Even Machado's willingness to keep risking his FBI career increasingly seemed to spring more from a motivation to help Shivette rather than a desire to take revenge for the killing of his former girlfriend.
Which brings me to a frequent problem I have as a casual TV viewer, in that I'm often willing to two-time on my favorite characters. Andrew Martin established himself as my one-and-only in Ringer, yet it didn't stop me from casting my eyes towards Victor Machado. Although it would be interesting to see a Bridget/Andrew/Victor love triangle, my wishes for TV shows are rarely ever granted, which makes me all the more certain that we'll never be able to see that happen.
So, long live Ringer, and if the series disappers from our TV screens for good, may the characters enjoy a long prosperous life in the hands of fanfic writers.
Idle Thoughts. I was disappointed with Misha Collins' appearance as Dylan in "Whores Don't Make That Much". It looked like he was constantly trying to keep from cracking up, and I thought the episode itself was way too calculatingly melodramatic.
Someone needs to come up with a Ringer episode name generator, where the words "bitches" and "whores" and "ho" can come up on a regular basis, and new terms like "skank" and "douche-bag" can be added . (Here's a list of the actual episode names.)
It was a mistake to make Siobhan Martin a much less sympathetic character as the series went on.
I also liked Ringer's theme music, which I believe was composed by Gabriel Mann. I thought it fit the mood of the series quite well.
Notice that, as of this date, Zahn McClarnan's Bodaway Macawi doesn't show up in the "Cast and Characters" section of Ringer's main Wikipedia page. The names do, however, show up in the series synopsis. Hopefully this will be corrected soon.
I was absolutely certain that it would be revealed that Bridget's driver/bodyguard Solomon was actually one of Bridget's potential assassins. That never happened.
I hope Carbonell's reference to Sarah's chemistry with a chair wasn't a reference to Bridget's profession as a stripper.
I've never had such a hard time spelling actor/character names as I did with this post.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
La Dolce Vita
Drusilla and Spike circa 1960 Rome
(Actors Juliet Landau and James Marsters)
(Image courtesy of Screencap Paradise)
Drusilla and Spike circa 1960 Rome
(Actors Juliet Landau and James Marsters)
(Image courtesy of Screencap Paradise)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that "The Girl in Question" from Season 5 of Angel was not as horrible as I remembered. As soon as I told myself that I'd be keying in on a few recent pet themes of mine, my attitude adjusted quite beautifully.
Production Values: I had written in an earlier post from July 2009 that:
The first time I saw the episode, I really tried to get into the Angel v. Spike rivalry over Buffy, but I just couldn't do it. I thought every joke and sight gag absolutely fell flat on their faces. Plus, those Italian accents were horrible. I've seen my share of Fellini movies, so it's not like I'm just not getting it. I finally had to give up and start scanning through to the Wesley/Illyria "good parts". The second time around, a few days ago, I didn't even try to sit through the Angel/Spike scenes, and, again, I just scanned to the "good parts".(I focused mostly on the Wesley/Illyria scenes in the above-referenced link, so I encourage you to click on it if that's what you're interested in.)
I'm keeping this episode around for posterity, and I'll try to wade through it at a later date. I'm consistently finding that the episodes I didn't care for the first time around get better on subsequent viewings.
What bothered me the most on this viewing was the overall substandard production values, from the fake Roman bar, to the even fakier Italian accents, and the Italian nighttime streetscapes that were so painfully obviously filmed in a studio. Even the Wolfram & Hart offices (both the LA and Rome locations...wink, wink) looked distressingly cheap, and I used to really like that set design! I was always willing to cut Mutant Enemy some slack, particularly since I knew they were working with tight Season 5 budget constraints, but even I have my limits.
On the positive side, there were two minor characters who I liked considerably: Vikki Gurdas as the bartender, and Carole Raphaelle Davis as the CEO of the Roman branch of Wolfram & Hart. You can tell from the link above that Carole spent a considerable amount of time in Europe during her childhood. I wouldn't exactly say that made her Italian character all that convincing, but that's not really the point. Both Gurdas and Davis were bright and funny, and were able to transcend their performances beyond being stock caricatures. Also, both women seemed to have had considerable live performance singing careers, which probably helps explain how they were able to successfully project their bubbly personalities onto the screen.
Finally, that brief Spike and Drusilla circa 1960 black-and-white Fellini scene left me cold at first, but this time around I thought it was way too brief! I've become a big Drusilla fan after first viewing this episode, and I'd love to have seen more of that European beatnik vampire culture.
Buffy Closure. I'd written in this April 2011 post that:
More than anything else, I felt that both "Damage" and "The Girl in Question" were sops that were thrown to please Buffy fans who had crossed over to Angel after Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air. Although I haven't read any of the Buffy comics, I suppose these two episodes could have potentially acted as bridges between the TV show and the comic continuation series. (Again, I'll ignore the part about how it was revealed in the comics that Buffy was not actually the girl who was seen dancing with The Immortal in "The Girl in Question".) Unfortunately, the Buffy crossovers in Season 5 of Angel weren't nearly as strong as the Buffy crossovers in Season 1 of Angel (with Buffy and Faith) and Season 4 (with Faith).I can certainly understand how the final season of Angel doubled as an opportunity for a final farewell to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From little hints scattered here, here, and here, I'm under the impression that Joss Whedon was hoping that Season 5 of Angel would have been considerably more Buffy-centric. (And this was even before he received the news that Angel had been cancelled.) Long story short, he was hoping that he would be able to bring in both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Anthony Stewart Head at some point in the season. Instead, he was only able to snare Tom Lenk as Andrew.
I also understand that some fans might have needed some closure to the Buffy/Angel/Spike triangle. I was actually quite satisfied with this dialogue sequence in "Harm's Way" when Spike told Harmony that he almost set off to see Buffy:
SPIKE: I was on my way. Had a boat ticket and all. Then I put a little thinking into it. A man can't go out in a bloody blaze of glory, savin' the world, and then show up 3 months later, tumbling off a cruise ship in the south of France. I mean, I'd love to, don't get me wrong, but, uh, it's hard to top an exit like that.I don't remember if there were any off-camera phone calls between Angel and Buffy during Season 5. However, a few deft lines of dialogue from Angel could have cued us in that he spoke with Buffy, she was happy, and both of them were ready to move on.
SPIKE: .....Oh. I expect Buffy would be happy enough to see me. It's just, I gave up my life for her, the world, and if I show up now, flesh and bone, my grand finale won't hold much weight. All of it... won't matter. "
Joss Whedon himself might have been the one that was having a hard time moving on. I can't help but notice that there were quite a few similarities between "The Girl in Question" and the earlier Season 5 episode "Destiny". Both Angel and Spike turned into driveling morons when their personal rivalries came to the forefront, and they came to blows during particularly heated exchanges (albeit the fight scene in "The Girl in Question" was a lot less climactic than the fight scene in "Destiny".)
In the DVD commentary for "Destiny", David Fury made it quite clear that Joss Whedon wanted Angel and Spike to fight about Buffy. Indeed, the subject of Buffy did come up during the fight conversation. However, other staff members (and presumably David Fury himself) convinced Joss that the fight really needed to be about which Vampire With a Soul was the better vampire. That way all aspects of their troubled relationship and rivalry throughout the years could bubble up to the forefront.
About all I can say is that Joss finally got his Angel/Spike/Buffy triangle episode with "The Girl in Question", and bully for him. However, to back up a bit, some reviewers have labelled this episode as being a bonding experience for Angel and Spike, where the two vampires worked through their differences and became closer as a result of their shared hardships. Thematically, I think it would have made a lot more sense for Angel and Spike to have bonded after they had been duped into the Mountain Dew-in- the-Cup of Perpetual Torment disaster that occurred in "Destiny". Obviously, they would have known that someone was messing with both of them, and they should have been able to join forces and act against after their common foe. Instead, Spike pulled away from Wolfram & Hart and started his own separate, albeit short-lived, career as a champion demon-fighter.
Another problem with the "Angel and Spike got closer" theory is that any bonding that occurred between the two of them was squandered pretty quickly when Angel apparently turned evil at the end of "Timebomb" and remained seemingly evil throughout the penultimate episode of the series, "Power Play". One can argue that Joss Whedon always liked to pull the rug out from beneath his characters when things started to look good, but I don't think the series had enough time to establish that Angel and Spike were Best Buds before the producers pulled them apart again when Angel turned rogue.
Retcon. It's pretty well established by now that the Buffy comic continuation series retconned "The Girl in Question" by informing us that Buffy Summers was not in fact dancing with The Immortal in the Roman bar. It would be dangerous for me to summarize the newer version of events since I haven't read any of the Buffy comics, so I'll just give a few links and quotes:
Wikipedia - The Girl in Question. "The canonical eighth season comic retcons the identity of the Immortal's blonde consort; Buffy (as narrator) says: 'The guys figured I was a target. Set up two other Slayers to be me. ... One's in Rome, partying very publicly – and supposedly dating some guy called "The Immortal." That part was Andrew's idea. He did research on the guy, said it would be hilarious for some reason' — apparently the reason being a prank aimed at Spike and Angel."I actually think the retcon version makes a lot more sense than the version that was presented to us in "The Girl in Question". Although this Wikipedia entry makes it quite clear that Sarah Michelle Gellar was never scheduled to appear in "The Girl in Question", the final product (minus the retcon) made it look an awful lot like the producers were left scrambling after they failed to secure Gellar for the episode.
Wikipedia - Buffy Summers. "In Season Eight (2007–11), it establishes Buffy is not living with the Immortal in Rome which is simply a cover story to ensure her safety as she is now the leader of a global organization which recruits and trains Slayers to deal with demonic threats worldwide."
It's too bad that the complete story did not come out in Season 5 of Angel, since it would have been wonderful if the writers had emphasized how Buffy didn't like being followed around by Angel's proxy in Italy any more than she liked being followed by Angel himself in Season 1's "I Will Remember You". She was happily living her own life, and the guys desperately needed to get over the fact that her plans no longer included Angel or Spike.
Idle Thoughts. Despite the fact that I'm looking at "The Girl in Question" a lot more favorably this time around, I still have to chalk it up as a solid miss. This is surprising since episode writers Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight are hardly a couple of hacks. "The Girl in Question" had a lot of potential, but I think the main problem was that the timing was all wrong, since the episode had all of the hallmarks of being crammed in around the time the series was being cancelled.
I found Andrew's dialogue in this scene to be terribly simplistic, when he was telling Angel and Spike that Buffy was off living her own life. Oddly enough, the printed word in the link above doesn't look as bad as it should. On-screen it seemed a lot more like Andrew was pretending to muse to himself while also pretending to be blissfully unaware that his words were having impact on Angel and Spike. In other words, he was trying to lecture to Angel and Spike without making it look like he was lecturing them. Most two-year-olds aren't stupid enough to fall for this. The fact that Angel and Spike did fall for Andrew's little ploy may have been the whole point.
"The Immortal" sounds like a fascinating character, NOT for the reason you might think. I'd like to hear a lot more about the "centuries-old guy with a dark past who may or may not be evil".
Past and present and reality and fantasy can warp and shift in so many interesting ways. I know this makes no sense whatsoever, but when I see actresses Julie Benz (Darla) and Juliet Landau (Drusilla) in Season 5 on Angel, I have a hard time thinking of them in terms of making return appearances to the series simply because their characters appeared in flashbacks sequences. That's ridiculous because I know damned well that the producers didn't film these scenes in Season 2 and wait three years to insert them into Season 5 episodes.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Amy Acker as Illyria
(Courtesy of Screencap Paradise)
(Courtesy of Screencap Paradise)
Although I've seen just about every episode of Angel 3 or 4 times, I'm currently working on viewing the entire series for the first time on DVD. As a result I've already hit upon several high points from Angel in previous posts, and I'm now currently working on a mopping-up operation, continuing this time around with "Time Bomb".
This is the part where I usually say, "I've written extensively about this episode before, here's the link, I don't feel like repeating myself, so I'll just write about a bunch of unrelated loose ends." However, I'll change my M.O. and use my "Instability" post that I wrote back in 2009 as a springboard for some further discussions here. So, obviously, if you're interested in a more thorough review of the episode, please click on the above link.
General Overview. Based on some quick searches I've made in the past, it appears that "Time Bomb" is not held in high regard by a lot of reviewers. The main criticisms are that the episode is too gimmicky and that it tries to make the subject of time bending a lot more complicated than it really is.
I admit that the first time I saw this episode I tried way too hard to ascribe some deeper meaning to every single twist and turn and jumps back and forth along the timeline. Once I realized that the story was just a simple narrative of how Illyria and Angel worked through their differences (with Wesley Wyndam-Pryce acting as a facilitator) and achieved something close to a mutual understanding, the rest of the pieces fell into place. Illyria's "instability" that resulted from her demon essence being trapped into her human body, with all of the attending time warping activity, turned out to be more of a McGuffin than anything else.
Wesley and Angel. I wrote in my "Instability" post that, in this early scene, "...Angel and Wesley were having a wonderfully frank discussion about Wes and Illyria's relationship." I won't go into a lot of details about their discussion except to say that Angel had some disturbing doubts about Illyria's motivations while Wesley openly mused about the possibility of integrating Illyria into the group.
Upon viewing this scene again recently I realized that, although Angel and Wesley were airing their viewpoints, they were hardly having a meeting of the minds. Angel was openly well on his way to deciding (in a later scene) that Illyria would need to be eliminated. For his part, while Wesley seemed distant and preoccupied, presumably because of his grief over the loss of his beloved Fred, he was also being cagey as he concentrated more on his own agenda of keeping Illyria around.
Since I'm a big fan of the Angel/Wesley relationship, it was therefore quite a relief to see them reconciled by the end of "Time Bomb". Illyria's powers were safely contained, and Angel had decided that she could potentially be a powerful asset after all. Angel and Wesley (in particular) were back to their old selves, and they were truly communicating with each other once again as close colleagues and confidants.
Wesley and Illyria. To expand on something that I touched on above, in "Instability" I had written that (regarding Wesley's depressed state):
Wes was obviously not dealing very well with the triple whammy of the loss of Fred, the appearance of Illyria within Fred's form, and the re-emergence of his forgotten painful memories when the spell of the Orlon Window was broken in the previous episode.Although these were all very powerful factors, I think I should have added that Wesley's demeanor was influenced by how he was obsessed with all aspects involving Illyria. He had apparently made the decision quite early on that he wanted to keep her alive.
I started off a fairly lengthy discussion about Wesley's motivations in his dealings with Illyria by stating:
I can't help but think that Wesley derived an enormous amount of satisfaction out of bringing down a once-powerful creature to someone who would now be under his control. I wouldn't call Wesley a classic control-freak, but there seemed to be somewhat of an erotic element to how he first ultimately put Lilah under his control, then Illyria. It was certainly different from dealing with alpha males! Wesley's actions with the ladies seemed to be a perfect illustration of the eroticism within Wesley's natural-born Watcher instincts, where he absolutely loved women and wanted to guide and protect them. In both instances, with Lilah and Illyria, he not only wanted to turn them into playmates of sorts, he genuinely wanted to "save" them and improve their lives.I should have brought up the possibility that, despite how Wesley told Illyria that he had accepted the fact that Fred was gone, perhaps he really was still motivated by the outside chance that he would be able to bring Fred back to life. The above-referenced scene did use a clever bit of time bending to raise suspicions that Wesley's wishes to bring back Fred were perhaps not as firmly left in the past as it appeared. However, if Mutant Enemy really wanted us to believe that Wesley's main motivation was to resurrect Fred, I think they would have made it a little more obvious. Above all, Wesley was a realist: he might not have totally reconciled himself with Fred's death, but I don't think he was actively looking for a miracle either.
The Apocalypse. There's an interesting tension between Season 5 of the TV show and the After the Fall comic continuation series as to what the Senior Partners had in mind for Angel during the Apocalypse. Wesley reminded us in Season 5's "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" that the Shanshu Prophecy ".... tells of an epic, apocalyptic battle and a vampire with a soul who plays a major role in that battle. And there's the suggestion that the vampire will get to live again."
Throughout Season 5, the audience (and probably Angel himself) was led to believe that the Senior Partners were actively trying to either corrupt Team Angel and turn them over to the dark side, or at least trick them into thinking they were on the side of good when they were in fact doing all of their work for evil. As this piece of dialogue from "Time Bomb" shows, everyone was feeling pretty helpless with how the events appeared to be unfolding:
GUNN: Yeah, for example, what about the Apocalypse? Still trying to get my head around that one. Lindsey said we're in the middle of it?It's pretty clear that Team Angel knew they were being manipulated by the Senior Partners and that they needed to take drastic action. The only problem was that they were only thinking in terms of reacting against the Senior Partners, which was close to impossible since they didn't know for sure what they were reacting against.
WESLEY: Oh, yes. The thousand-year war of good versus evil is well under way.
ANGEL: Evil just hasn't told anyone about it yet, which is probably why they're winning.
SPIKE: Oh, and by the way, we're apparently on the wrong side. Or the right side, if you like winning.
GUNN: Sounds like you guys are buying it.
ANGEL: Next time you go out there, take a good look around. 'Cause it's true, Gunn.
GUNN: Works for me. So what's that mean for us?
ANGEL: Tell us how we fight an invisible war. I don't even know who we're fighting. All the evil we've stopped so far, and we're still the partners' number-one earner.
I'm getting pretty far ahead of myself here, but Angel ultimately decided by the end of this episode (with a little help from Illyria), that the only thing he could do was lull the Senior Partners into complacency, then launch a violent preemptive strike. Unfortunately for Angel, and according to After the Fall, this played right into the Senior Partners' plans, since they were counting on Angel to play an active part in starting and sustaining the Apocalypse.
In a lot these types of shows (e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Supernatural, etc.) there was often a general sense that things were steadily getting worse out there. It was mostly a plot device to show that yesterday was normal, whereas today things are different. In this case, Lindsey McDonald clearly stated in "Underneath" that the Apocalypse was already well underway, which was in direct contrast to Holland Manners telling Angel in Season 2's "Reprise" that the Apocalypse was not yet underway. According to Holland:
"Well, it's true. We do have one scheduled. And I imagine if you were to prevent it you would save a great many people. Well, you should do that then. Absolutely. I wasn't thinking. Of course all those people you save from that apocalypse would then have the next one to look forward to, but, hey, it's always something, isn't it?"What I find interesting about Lindsey is that, for a guy who seemed to be on the outs with Wolfram & Hart, he certainly seemed to be doing the Senior Partners a favor when he first told Angel,
".....Every day you sit behind your desk and you learn a little more how to accept the world the way it is. Well, here's the rub... heroes don't do that. Heroes don't accept the world the way it is. They fight it."then a little later on,
".....The world keeps sliding towards entropy and degradation, and what do you do? You sit in your big chair, and you sign your checks, just like the senior partners planned. The war's here, Angel. And you're already 2 soldiers down."Clearly between what Lindsey McDonald was saying and Illyria's "If you want to win a war, you must serve no master but your ambition", Angel was inspired to change from defense to offense, or, from being reactive to proactive. Tragically, he decided to take the fight directly to Wolfram & Hart, just as the Senior Partners had planned.
Finally, it might not really matter too much whether an Apocalypse was or was not already raging during Season 5 of Angel. If you look hard enough, at just about any point in history you can look around and be able to conclude that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. The only analogy I can think of off the top of my head is how sometimes in retrospect it can be hard to assign a precise date for when a war started. For example, did WWII start when Japan invaded China or Germany invaded Poland? Or did it start during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, or when various nations started lending their support during the Spanish Civil War?
The Senior Partners/Wolfram & Hart. Although Angel wasn't sure how Illyria fit into the overall grand design, it's misleading to say that Angel was simply trying to figure out if she was an agent of Wolfram & Hart. I keep throwing out the possibility that she might have been deliberately introduced by the Senior Partners, but all indications show that she was a wildcard. Angel himself told Wesley, "She's still here because this place reeks of influence. She had everything, Wes. Everything. You think she's not lookin' to get that back?"
To push it further, maybe it was pure fate that brought Illyria to Wolfram & Hart. However, Angel couldn't ignore the possibility that she could team up with the Senior Partners in order to regain some of her past glory, despite the fact that Illyria remarked dismissively in "Shells" that "The wolf, ram, and hart? In my time they were weak, barely above the vampire."
I had written in my "Instabilty" post that, in this scene, where Angel and others expressed their doubts about Illyria, and after Illyria had returned with Gunn after she rescued him from the hell dimension, that:
When Hamilton came in and described, in great detail, how he was not happy about all of the the damage Illyria inflicted when she went after Gunn, and how the damages would be paid from their division, people must have really been wondering about her ties with the Senior Partners.Specifically I was referring to this dialogue sequence, where Hamilton stated,
HAMILTON: "Illyria destroyed 11 torture units before she found your man. 2 troop carriers, an ice cream truck, and 8 beautifully maintained lawns. Not to mention dozens of employees rendered useless to the company."It's been a recurring theme throughout Season 5 (and, really, throughout the entire series) that Wolfram & Hart was a for-profit enterprise, where budgets needed to be adhered to, and revenue was expected to exceed costs. In short, money didn't grow on trees.
ANGEL: Bill me.
HAMILTON: Oh, we will. The damages are coming directly out of this division's profits. Congratulations. In one swift stroke, you've gone from leader of the pack to staggering at the rear.
I used to wonder if the Senior Partners, through their Wolfram & Hart enterprise, were the supreme rulers of all of the demons within the Angelverse. However, if I've interpreted things correctly in After the Fall, it appears that Wolfram & Hart was simply the most powerful (and perhaps the largest) demonic enterprise. In other words, they were kind of like Microsoft Corp. about a decade ago. Although it wasn't a great idea to cross swords with Wolfram & Hart, there were plenty of other demons out there who didn't feel any particular loyalty to the Senior Partners.
We know that at one time Wolfram & Hart controlled the Pylea dimension through an order of priests called the Covenant of Trombli. As the above-referenced Wikipedia entry indicates, Angel informed us in "A Hole in the World" that Wolfram & Hart existed in many other dimensions as well.
We could make an argument that Wolfram & Hart was able to adapt to each dimension that they had a presence in. For example, Pylea was a medieval agrarian dimension, so it made perfect sense that their representatives were able to rule by spouting out mumbo-jumbo from what looked like sacred texts. In our earthly dimension, Wolfram & Hart adapted by becoming a hugely-successful commercial enterprise that consolidated their wealth and power through bribing officials, exploiting loopholes to their advantage, engaging in monopolistic practices, embezzling funds and otherwise stealing from associates and competitors alike, etc. One could make an equally convincing argument that Wolfram & Hart invented all of these practices!
Key to all of this was the fact that, powerful as they were, Wolfram & Hart did not have unlimited resources, monetary or otherwise. For one thing it appeared that demons like Cyvus Vail and the shaman involved in Lindsey McDonald's hand-transplant operation expected to be paid quite handsomely for their efforts. It was therefore quite important for the firm to maintain a constant stream of revenue in order to keep their operations going.
There must have also been a complex demonic bartering system in place as well, where the parties involved repaid each other back and forth through performing in-kind services. A better way to describe it would be they maintained a system of doing favors and calling in their markers. I won't get into the details, but one reason why Angel was able to achieve a major victory over Wolfram & Hart in After the Fall was that he was able to stretch their monetary and mystical resources to the breaking point.
Idle Thoughts. Wesley stated here that "The thousand-year war of good versus evil is well under way." Was that just a figurative nod to millennialism in general, or were they literally in the middle of a thousand-year war with Wolfram & Hart? I'm assuming the former since I can't remember hearing about any other details. Any corrections in the comment section would be much appreciated.
I thought David Boreanaz's wife Jaime Bergman did a nice job portraying Amanda, the impoverished pregnant woman who was dealing with the malevolent Fell Brethren. Bergman's character was sweet and vulnerable, with just the right amount of pathos that allowed her to gain our sympathy. Amanda could have potentially been quite unlikeable since she was negotiating to sell her baby!
It's difficult to write about the Senior Partners and Wolfram & Hart because it's sometimes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Presumably the Senior Partners were three demons (the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart) who operated through their Wolfram & Hart entity. "Wolfram & Hart" seems to be both the organization name and the umbrella name for the minions who worked for the Senior Partners. Did these three demons belong to a larger race of demons who had special privileges within Wolfram & Hart? I've never found any evidence to support this.
In Season 4's "Deep Down" Lilah Morgan met (off camera) with a Senior Partner named "Mr. Suvarta", who presumably gave her the OK for her "off with Linwood's head" power play. I've often wondered how Lilah was able to meet with an actual Senior Partner since it probably wouldn't have been all that easy to arrange. (Did Lilah meet him via the White Room?) I've also hoped that she would have been rewarded for her loyal service by being allowed to live a relatively more comfortable afterlife in her hell dimension.
I wrote in my earlier "Instability" post that:
I wonder if Spike knew ahead of time that the Mutari generator device would not kill Illyria? Wes and Spike certainly acted like two kids sneaking behind Angel's back when they were working together in the lab. The only thing that makes me doubt Spike's prior knowledge was his wisecrack to Illyria that "It's not murder if you say yes." I'd have to review the scene to see if Spike shows any sort of reaction when Wesley admitted that the device would not kill her.After viewing the episode again about all I can add is that Spike's crack about "It's not murder..." could just as easily be interpreted to mean that he did know that Wes wasn't going to kill Illyria. On screen, we only saw reactions from Angel and Lorne, and both of them were genuinely surprised to find out that Illyria wasn't going to be killed.
"The Girl in Question" is the only Angel episode that I haven't seen all the way through. Although it has its fans, I've found it to be almost completely unwatchable. I've only seen the episode twice, and both times I ended up scanning through most of the scenes so I could focus on the marvelous Wesley/Illyria sequences. Within the next few days I'll be forcing myself to watch the entire episode for the first time. Hopefully, I'll get more out of it now that I've seen all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I'm not getting my hopes up.