Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Trouble with Justine

Season 3 Preview of the New and Improved Wesley
(From BuffyWorld)

Yesterday, TNT aired the debut of actress Laurel Holloman's Justine in the Angel episode, "Dad". Although I didn't talk too much about Justine in yesterday's post about Daniel Holtz, her character is one of the main reasons why I was so dissatisfied with his entire story arc.

I found Justine to be curiously lifeless, unintelligent, colorless, humorless, sexless, and utterly repulsive. There was nothing about Justine that made me want to delve further into her character. Now, having all of these negative characteristics doesn't necessarily ruin a character. It's just that when I saw her on the screen, I did not see a tough girl filled with bitter rage. Instead, the only thing I saw was an actress pretending to be a tough girl filled with bitter rage.

I don't want to criticize actress Laurel Holloman for her performance, particularly since I realize she might have been performing exactly as instructed by the show's creators. Instead, I think the role cried out for a larger-than-life Eliza Dushku-type character. (Even Brigid Brannagh, aka Virginia, would have made a decent Justine.) Justine didn't have to be a laugh-a-minute type of girl, but flashes of a sense of humor would have certainly helped. Evil villains can become audience favorites just by creating those little sparks that make us identify with them in even the smallest of ways.

Honestly, when I first saw Justine, I wanted to like her character, and I kept waiting for her to become more interesting. The longer I saw her, the more I realized there was nothing about Justine that made me care for her or made me look forward to seeing her again.

Oddly enough, some of her later appearances seemed to bring out the best in Alexis Denisof's portrayal of Wesley. I plan to blog more about this later on, but I will say that she seemed to bring out some of his best tough guy qualities along with some of his always fascinating latent Watcher tendencies. I'll also discuss how, in one particular circumstance, her unsympathetic character actually seemed to work in her favor.

Speaking of Wesley, I had a delightful surprise in "Birthday", which aired today on TNT. In a precursor to Season 4, Alexis Denisof made his series debut as the New and Improved Impossibly Fantastic-Looking Wesley in the scenes that featured what Cordelia's alternate life would have been like if she had become a successful actress. And my poor Wesley was missing an arm, too! The first time I saw "Birthday" a few months ago, I totally missed the significance of Wesley's physical appearance. I just thought he was a little bit scruffy (albeit, in a very sexy way) because he was down on his luck. It was a bit jarring, yet enjoyable, to see the juxtaposition of the Old and the New Wesleys within the same episode.

"Birthday" was one of my favorite episodes for several weeks the first time I saw the Angel series because I grew to really like Skip the Demon (who also appeared in "That Vision Thing" and "Tomorrow"). After Skip was exposed as an instrument of evil in Season 4's "Inside Out", it's hard for me to enjoy his earlier appearances quite as much.

Another interesting aspect of "Birthday" was the fact that it was one of the few episodes that acknowledged that Wes and Cordy almost had a thing going on between them in Sunnydale. I think the last reference to their Sunnydale attraction occurred in "Waiting in the Wings".

And don't think I'm not paying attention to Wesley every time he holds Connor, talks about him or even looks at him!

One more idle thought. I noted in a recent post that I knew Wes and Gunn became close friends in Season 2. However, when I first started watching Angel last March while they were on the planet Pylea, I was under the impression that they weren't getting along very well. As I re-watch the episodes, I realize that Wes and Gunn were still friends well into Season 3. Any jabs they were tossing each other were actually light-hearted trash-talking. Of course that all became a moot point pretty quickly once they started fighting over Fred.

Regardless, I'm still enjoying this current batch of Season 3 episodes for all of the warmth and love that's still being generated between all of the Angel Investigations family members.

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