Friday, May 1, 2009

Thoughts on Season 4

Episodes I've Seen So Far: (Season Two: "Over the Rainbow", "There's No Place Like Plrtz Girb". All of Seasons Three and Four (Except for "Peace Out"): Season Five Up through "In Harm's Way".)

I'll take a brief hiatus from my Wesley/Lilah blog posts (not that I'm bored with it) and talk about my overall impression of Angel up through the end of Season 4.

Wow, Season 4 was a challenge for me! I like to pride myself on watching shows and movies that dwell on the dark side and offer no easy choices, but I found out that even I have my limits. Between Wesley being estranged from the group for a while, Cordelia being lifted to a higher plane, Connor acting like an out-of-control monster brat, Angel existing in a watery grave, Skip the Demon telling the Angel crew that just about every choice they made was actually a preordained chess move (I choose not to believe him), Cordelia and Connor getting all "couply", Cordelia being first channeled by and then giving birth to whatever entity was controlling The Beast, my favorite character being forced to chop the head off of his lifeless "loved one", The Beast destroying everything in sight with the Angel Gang being completely helpless to stop it, Angel turning into Angelus for way too long, and the whole Jasmine deal.......I didn't think the season would ever end. (And wouldn't you know, TNT had to air "Peace Out", the episode that did away with Jasmine, out of its regular time slot, which I missed.)

I truly believe that if it wasn't for Alexis Denisof's acting, I probably would have abandoned the series several weeks ago. The Wes/Lilah relationship was about the only high part until Eliza Dushku returned as Faith towards the end of the season. (And didn't Wesley and Faith make a great team?)

Actually, there were a few more highlights of the season for me, mostly involving Lorne's and Fred's characters. One was "The House Always Wins", which, besides giving Lorne a much-deserved feature role, was a return to the more light-hearted episodes that originally attracted me to the series. Without Connor messing things up, I could just sit back and enjoy a show about good guys winning out over bad guys.

Incidentally, "The House Always Wins" also featured Wesley's marvelous phone sex scene, which producer Joss Whedon reportedly wrote because the show was running a little short. The equally marvelous Lilah wasn't in the scene, but I hope Stephanie Romanov got paid all the same, since the scene just would not have worked without us thinking about what she was doing. And couldn't you help but love how Wesley's voice changed from his "Lilah's lover" voice to Wesley the Tough Guy when he accepted his business call during his conversation with Lilah? I thought having Emile's middleman sitting there reviewing the plans during most of Wesley's phone conversation (before Wesley kicked him out) was a nice added touch, so in essence, both Wesley and Lilah were performing out in the open (with Wesley ordering Lilah to take off her panties at her desk while she was in the middle of a meeting).

Another highlight of Season 4 was "Spin the Bottle", but not for the reasons people might think. I thought the plot device of Lorne the Lounge Singer narrating the drama while being onstage at a mostly (and as it ultimately turned out, abandoned) nightclub was quite poignant, and gave me some of my favorite Lorne moments of the series so far.

The Return to the Teen Years aspect of "Spin the Bottle" was a little less effective for me, which pains me because I knew the writers and creators had the best of intentions. (Per this Wikipedia entry, the writers missed the old Sunnydale Wesley and came up with an excuse to bring his old character back. The actors also reportedly had a marvelous time filming the show.)

For whatever reason, I thought the timing of the dialogue was a bit awkward, as if everyone was a split-second too slow in delivering their next lines. The show really needed to be a lot more fast-paced for it to have succeeded. In fact, I spent more time paying attention to how the actors delivered their lines than getting lost in the story, which is never a good thing. One bright spot was the interaction between Wesley and Fred, when Fred was getting hysterical about the thought of aliens probing her naked body, and Wesley's dagger (ahem) inappropriately ejecting from his arm.

Another bright spot in the season was Fred's cover story for the Las Vegas thugs about the laser beams shooting out of Lorne's horns in "The House Always Wins".

These two scenes made me realize that Amy Acker was being underutilized as a comedienne. I also noticed that Acker seemed to grow into her Fred character a bit more in Season 4, particularly during the Jasmine arc, despite some rather embarrassing hysterical hissy fits she threw once in a while.

Sadly, Acker's Fred character seemed to have really come into her own in Season 5, as though running the Wolfram & Hart science department gave her confidence and a renewed sense of purpose. It's too bad that her character was just starting to get interesting before the Illyria arc started and the Angel series ultimately came to an end.

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