Friday, December 31, 2010

Followed by a Happy New Year

Talk about from beyond the grave! I ran across a reference to a real live (dead?) zombie situation when I read Yves Smith's post at Naked Capitalism, "Woman Deceased in 1995 Continued to Robo Sign Till at Least 2008". It appears that Wolfram & Hart isn't the only firm that keeps their employees around courtesy of their "standard perpetuity clause". (Minor clarification 1/1/2011 - the dead robo-signer was actually the mother of one of the company's employees.)

I'm actually hard at work on my next post, which is a review of "Lineage" from Season 5 of Angel. I can't give you an exact ETA, but I'm hoping it comes out sometime over the weekend.

Thanks for being so patient with me everyone, and please have a wonderfully Happy and prosperous New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Last I heard Santa was making his way over Bintulu in Malaysia, but you can keep track of his progress for yourself at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. Remember to wave when he flies over your house!

Merry Christmas to all and I hope everyone has a safe and happy Holiday Season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Denisof Genealogy

I knew some of Alexis Denisof's ancestors came from Russia, but this takes researching family history to extremes.

(H/t Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism).

(The Denisof family has evolved quite nicely since then.)

Not So Giant Leap

I've often wondered how Fred made the jump from being a history major to becoming a physics grad student as described in Season 4 of Angel's "Supersymmetry". John Horgan offers a clue in his Scientific American article, "Science Faction: Is Theoretical Physics Becoming 'Softer' Than Anthropology?"

(H/T to Mark Thoma at Economist's View.)

Finally, thanks to a h/t from reader Patrick at Economist's View, Columbia University physicist and mathematics lecturer Peter Woit, Ph.D., informs us in his blog Not Even Wrong what's currently happening in the theoretical world of string theory and low-energy supersymmetry. Short answer, not much.

Afterthought. Per this post from Peter Woit, I wonder if this New York Times article from 2000 influenced Fred's story line.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vote for Your Favorite Celebrity Parents of 2010

I'm pretty late with this, but it looks like you still have time to vote for your favorite celebrity parents of 2010 over at Celebrity Baby Scoop. As of this time, Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof have a huge lead, with well over 55% of the vote!

One pet peeve I have is that these articles never seem to have a cut-off date for voting. I'm such a stickler for detail.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Alexis Returning to HIMYM

(Alexis Denisof as Sandy Rivers)

Great news! According to Velda Gelman's post at the Los Angeles Times Showtracker blog, on January 3, 2011, Alexis Denisof will make a return appearance as Sandy Rivers on CBS' How I Met Your Mother. Of course, his lovely wife Alyson Hannigan plays Lily Aldrin on the show.

I have never seen any of Denisof's performances as Sandy Rivers, mostly because his character looks like a gorp and is reportedly quite annoying. Not that Alexis has any experience playing those types of roles!

As a side note, a few days ago I found another article online that seemed to indicate that Alexis would be returning as Sandy Rivers. I almost pulled the trigger to post the link to that particular site, but then I realized that the article was very poorly written and was perhaps simply stating that Alexis is one of the recurring characters on HIMYM. I still have no idea if that article was providing an early scoop or not.

I promise to tune in on January 3 to see what all the fuss is about.

And the Award for Asshole of the Year Goes To ..... (Updated January 3, 2011): .....nice job, Alexis, in being both horribly obnoxious and funny. I certainly wouldn't have minded showing up at Sandy's apartment and giving him a good, swift kick in the balls.

Regarding the numbers countdown and the "Bad News" at the end of the show, I really can't say anything since this is only about the third episode of HIMYM I've seen in my entire life. I'm so far removed I can't put anything in perspective. However, I can't help but notice a lot of interesting reactions that people are having to feeling sad after watching a sitcom. Shades of M*A*S*H in the early 1970's when the show was criticized for not being strictly a comedy or a drama.

Top Angel Episodes Reprise

Whedonesque is currently featuring a thread based on the recent Syfy/UK blog post, "Top Five Angel Episodes". Naturally, readers are chiming in with their Top Five or So favorites. This is still kind of early in the game, but so far I'm struck by the fact that Season 5 episodes seem to be faring quite well.

Here's a Top 10 list of favorite episodes that I compiled back in July 2009, plus a Top 6 Story Arc list companion piece I did a few weeks later. My lists would definitely be different today, but I don't obsess over that too much since my favorites change all of the time depending on my mood.

Without putting too much thought into this, here is yet one more list from me, (in chronological order), Top 5 Criminal Omissions From My Top Favorites Lists:
  1. "Darla" (Season 2), with all of those wonderful flashback sequences plus a magnificent performance from Julie Benz.
  2. "Dead End" (Season 2), the episode that proved that the series just wasn't big enough for both David Boreanaz and Christian Kane.
  3. "Waiting in the Wings" (Season 3), which is absolutely the loveliest episode of the entire series. (Technically I included this in what I called an ill-defined Cordelia arc of early Season 3. However, "Waiting in the Wings" certainly deserves its own top spot on a podium.)
  4. "Apocalypse, Nowish" (Season 4), a very taut, exciting piece of storytelling that managed to rise way above its basic everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach.
  5. "Not Fade Away" (Season 5). The only thing wrong with this series finale episode is that I like the preceding episode "Power Play" just a little bit more.
Any thoughts from anyone out there?

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm Easily Amused

I should be watching and reviewing and Angel and Buffy episodes. Instead, I'm playing this game while I'm waiting for the gingerbread to bake. (Click here for the game.) (Object - you're WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, and you're trying to steal secrets from President Obama's laptop.)

(Wikileaks: The Game, at (H/T Switched, via reader Ninel).

I hope everyone is having a lovely time preparing for the Holiday Season. Hopefully I'll be back for good at the beginning of 2011.

Joyeaux Noel, everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

21st Century Buffy

What do I think of the recent announcement that Warner Brothers is going ahead with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer motion picture reboot sans Joss Whedon? My first reaction is, I think it's a horrible idea and it sucks! io9 features the official press release here.

Here's what Joss Whedon had to say about the announcement ("I have strong, mixed emotions"), and this is what the Whedonesque commenters are saying here and here.

Joss Whedon's specialty is producing exceptionally strong characters that we can really wrap ourselves into and identify with. The actors tended to become strongly intertwined with their characters, to the point that it was difficult to separate the actor from the character. No other TV shows have grabbed me the way Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have, and it's all because of the character development.

A few things I fear about a Buffy remake is the potential for the characters to be changed to the point where they're completely unrecognizable. For example, Buffy could turn out to be someone who spends more time fighting the Forces of Darkness with her iPhone apps than with her fists, and a Spike-like vampire could turn out to be a woman. Worse yet, most of the characters we've grown to love will probably be completely discarded, as though they've been erased from photos during Stalinist purges.

Also, Buffy fans have always considered the series to be a show that stands out by itself. By producing a new Buffy movie during the middle (or hopefully, the waning days) of a pop culture vampire craze, we run the risk of BtVS being remembered as just one more franchise that's lumped together with Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, etc.

The biggest thing I fear is that the new movie could supplant the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series in people's memories. For example, do people now mostly remember Maverick as being a 1957 - 1962 TV series starring James Garner, or a 1994 feature film with Mel Gibson (albeit I admit Garner was also in the feature film)? A few years ago I told a woman who's actually a little bit older than me that I enjoyed seeing The Producers again, and I was surprised that she automatically assumed that I meant the 2005 Nathan Lane/Matthew Broderick remake rather than the much better 1968 Zero Mostel/Gene Wilder original version.

Despite all of this, I still might manage to keep an open mind if the new Buffy actually gets filmed. One recent example of a successful remake I can think of is the new Hawaii Five-O that's currently being aired in the U.S. on CBS. All of the new versions of the characters are completely unrecognizable from the originals, but the show works because the new characters are almost just as compelling as the old ones thanks to some fairly spiffy writing. If the producers don't screw up too badly, the whole Buffy reboot thing just might work!

Idle Thoughts. There are a lot of article out there about the remake, but I might as well include this link to a LA Times Hero Complex article, "Joss Who? Meet the Writer of the New 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Film".

I wish I had more time to get into the whole issue of, how much will the remake take as canon from either the original movie and the TV series? They both seem to exist in somewhat parallel universes. Whedonesque commenters posted their thoughts about Kristy Swanson (the original Buffy) wanting to appear in the remake here.

Sweet and Adorable Alert!

I've sanctimoniously stated in the past that I don't want to enable paparazzi photographers who make their livings by violating the privacy of celebrity children. However, there's been such a flurry of adorable photos of Satyana Denisof being posted online lately I knew I'd reach a breaking point sooner or later. It's hard to pick out just one source to link to, but I'm particularly fond of this post from the UK's Daily Mail, "Is Alyson Hannigan's Daughter the Happiest Little Girl in Hollywood?" I chose this because I loved the combination of the lovely photos coupled with an actual article.

And I fully admit one of the reasons I love this photo set is because it shows a lot of interaction between Alexis and Satyana.


P.S. Did I forget to say that Satyana is about the cutest little thing in the world now? I'd like about three of her for Xmas.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hulu Plus Buffy

I was delighted to find out last night that Hulu is offering one free week of their Hulu Plus programming to U.S. viewers, where all seasons of their TV shows are available for viewing. After that, it costs $7.99 per month to continue the service. As usual, we're required to enter credit card information before we sign up for the free service.

My understanding is that viewers who had already been paying $9.99/month will be credited for their $2.00 monthly differentials in the next billing cycle, and will also be credited for one free week of service. Hulu posted a lot of good additional information in this blog post.

I don't have time to look this up today, but I think I found in my online travels last night that if you previously paid some sort of Sony PS3 monthly network charge, the fee is waived if you subscribe to Hulu Plus. (The above-referenced Hulu blog post says "All PlayStation 3 owners with a PlayStation Network account, which is free, can download the Hulu Plus application".) Regardless, it's worth looking into if you have a PS3 system.

After doing a little bit of due diligence where I determined that it appears we can cancel at any time, I decided to take the plunge. My original intention was to see if it would be possible to cancel before I get hit for the monthly charge, but I might go ahead and decide to keep Hulu Plus around for a while. In the meantime I'll give updates about their actual billing practices.

Naturally the first thing I wanted to see was a new (for me) Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. (I've only seen Seasons 1 -3 and the second episode from Season 4.) The episode I immediately chose was Season 5's "Fool for Love", since I'd always been intrigued by what I'd read about Spike comforting Buffy while she was crying on the back steps of her house. What a goldmine the episode turned out to be since it hits on key themes regarding Spike's human background, and also his early relationships with Angelus and Drusilla. This Buffy episode will be invaluable to me when I resume my Angel "reviews", since my next real post will be about Season 5 of Angel's "Destiny".

"Fool for Love" also keyed in on some twin subject matters I've been wondering about for a long time: what mistakes do Slayers make when they get killed, and what qualities did Spike have that allowed him to kill two Slayers? I wish I had time to get into it more, but, judging from the flashbacks, to me it looked like the Slayers were more keyed into the fight than the kill. Spike, of course, had this famous piece of dialogue where he informed Buffy,
Death is your art. You make it with your hands, day after day. That final gasp. That look of peace. Part of you is desperate to know: What's it like? Where does it lead you? And now you see, that's the secret. Not the punch you didn't throw or the kicks you didn't land. Every Slayer... has a death wish.

Even you.

The only reason you've lasted as long as you have is you've got ties to the world... your mum, your brat kid sister, the Scoobies. They all tie you here but you're just putting off the inevitable. Sooner or later, you're gonna want it. And the second- the second- that happens...
From where I'm sitting, Buffy the Vampire Slayer consisted of two distinct TV series: Buffy at Sunnydale High School in Seasons 1 -3, and Buffy post-Sunnydale High in Seasons 4 -7. My first impressions are that the Buffy episodes at Sunnydale High were highly entertaining, while it was more challenging to sit through the later seasons. I'm also thinking that James Marsters could act circles around just about everyone else in the Buffyverse, and his character Spike was the sole reason the series continued on as long as it did. I am certainly looking forward to finding out if I'm right or wrong.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

See You Again, Don't Know When

It pains me to say this, but I've decided that I need to take a break from I Heart Wesley W-P for an unspecified period of time. Long story short, I'm working close to full-time, I'm the personal representative of the estates of three people who've passed away over the last two years (what was I thinking when I agreed to all of this?), and Christmas will be here before I know it. My last post wasn't one of my best efforts, and I really think I'd be better off waiting until my life settles down before I start blogging again.

I fully intend to come back; I just can't give you a time frame. In the meantime, I might pass along a few minor interesting tidbits that I find along the way.

And good grief! Don't be afraid to leave a comment! I'll still be stopping by to see if anything's going on around here, and I'll still be answering my emails.

Peace and Love, and Happy Holidays to everyone out there.

'Til we meet again.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beautiful Loser

Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce,
from Buffyverse Dialogue Database

There are some scenes in Angel where the dialogue says it all, with "Lineage" from Season 5 providing us with at least three great examples. The first instance occurred when Eve cast Wesley's reckless endangerment of Fred within the larger context of Angel's inherent mistrust of Wesley. The second instance occurred when Angel confessed to Wes that he was just starting to understand that Wesley was the one who made all of the hard decisions. The third instance occurred in this less wordy (but still effective) scene where Fred and Wesley were talking about how he killed his "father" in order to save her life.

I've tried to gloss over these scenes in previous posts, mostly because deconstructing the dialogue seemed like overkill. However, I know I'll have this nagging feeling of unfinished business hanging over my head until I get this done, so, here I go.

Angel and Eve and Wesley. I've discussed in the past how Eve is not one of my favorite characters in Angel. Sarah Thompson seemed to be miscast, and it's hard for me to separate the character from the actress when I watch the performances. What irritated me the most was how Eve would clumsily explain the obvious, apparently for the benefit of the more ignorant members of the viewing audience. Paradoxically, some of my favorite dialogue sequences in the entire series involved Eve, with this scene in the Season 5 premiere episode "Conviction" being a good example (particularly the part about evil going "next door".)

I felt that Angel was overreacting a bit in this scene when he chewed out Wesley for putting Fred's life in danger. There were obviously other issues involved besides Wesley's momentary lapse in judgment. Luckily for me, I achieved an almost immediate catharsis when Eve strode into the office and declared, "Kinda hard on him, weren't you?" She then pointed out, "I think you're making too big a deal about this. And from what I understand, her wound wasn't all that severe." That was definitely a true statement, since I can't watch Angel's and Wesley's reactions to Fred's wound without thinking of a short but hilarious scene in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, where hero Jack Spade (Keenan Ivory Wayan) similarly overreacted to a minor papercut (click on the "'Film" button) that he received under urban battlefield conditions.

Eve also nailed it when she continued on that Angel might have also been irritated with Wesley because he "Focuses too much on the big picture? Overlooks the people involved?" and for being "Willing to risk anything... or anyone... for the greater good."

Similar to how I described Buffy and Faith in a much earlier post this year, Angel and Wesley had an interesting yin/yang thing going on, where their seemingly contradictory styles and philosophies actually complemented each other. This was the opposite of Angel's relationships with Spike and Gunn, where these similar alpha males regularly butted heads in their quests to become top dogs. Angel was Numero Uno by just about everyone's standards. Wes was never going to be the hero of epic proportions, and, for the most part, he actually appeared to accept his first lieutenant status throughout Season 5.

Although the lyrics don't come close to accurately describing Wes and Angel's relationship, I can't help but think of Bob Seger's song, "Beautiful Loser", particularly this verse,
He's your oldest and your best friend
If you need him, he'll be there again
He's always willing to be second-best
A perfect lodger, a perfect guest
As Angel hinted in this scene with Wesley later on, he never really understood Wesley's better qualities, probably because he never took Wesley all that seriously. His exact words were.
"You do what you have to do to protect the people around you. To do what you know is right, regardless of the cost. You know, I never really understood that. You're the guy who makes all the hard decisions, even if you have to make 'em alone."
He could have also continued on that rather than accepting Wesley as an equal, Angel historically considered Wesley to be more of an irritant, or the guy who got in the way of Angel's more emotional, full-speed-ahead approach to problem-solving.

I always thought that the Angel/Wesley relationship should have been explored quite a bit more in the series, and we're fortunate that someone at Mutant Enemy made the decision to include this above-referenced scene in "Lineage". Although their relationship became seriously strained at times later in the season (particularly when Wesley was briefly convinced that Angel was responsible for Fred's death), the steady and solid foundation of their friendship was enough to keep them going through even the worst of times. Perhaps working through the adversities of late Season 3's unfortunate events, where Wesley kidnapped Connor and Angel tried to kill Wes, eventually brought the two of them closer together as a result.

Fred and Wesley (Mostly Idle Thoughts). Regular readers are probably tired of hearing me talk ad nauseum about how I never found Fred and Wesley's relationship to be all that convincing. In other words, I never felt that they were "made for each other". Although Wesley was obviously obsessed with Fred, there were seldom any moments where I felt that Fred absolutely could not live without Wesley.

Wesley couldn't help but make a positive impression on Fred when he saved her life by killing his cyborg "father". As an aside, I can't help but notice how certain emotions can continue on for a long time after the fact. Perhaps this has something to do with stress hormones still lingering in the system? Regardless, even though Wesley realized almost right away that he actually killed a cyborg, it took him a while to get over the notion that he was fully capable of murdering his own father.

As I mentioned in my last post, Fred had this irritating quality of seeing the best in everybody: "Part of you knew. Even if you can't admit it to yourself, part of you knew it wasn't him", which forced the other party to openly admit his guilt in excrutiating detail: "No. I was sure it was him. You were there. I killed my father." I really should cut her some slack, because Fred was simply being her wonderfully nurturing self.

I've commented in the past about Wesley's generosity in gracefully giving up Fred to Knox. I would like to add that, although it seemed like a selfless act, Wesley might have been a little too wrapped up in his self-congratulations, since he totally missed out on the fact that Fred was starting to develop some feelings for him. Similar to how she just let the matter drop when Wesley pulled away from her in this closing scene from Season 3's "Billy", Fred also let the matter drop when Wesley gave her up for Knox. I'd like to think that she was letting Wes savor his little moment of moral triumph before starting in on him again, but I doubt that. Instead, I think Fred was once more being the confused little waif, perhaps feeling obligated to spend time with Knox since, after all, she did encourage his attentions for quite some time.

More Idle Thoughts
. I consider "Lineage" to be the best episode of the ill-defined "early" part of Season 5. Kudos to Drew Goddard (and to any other uncredited writers who may have had a hand in this episode) for churning out some absolutely outstanding dialogue.

The creators of the After the Fall comic continuation series did a beautiful job of exploring Wes and Angel's friendship, ending with Angel's poignant "Thank you, rogue demon hunter" as Wesley faded away for the final time.

If I was really ambitious, I'd try to do a post linking Wesley Wyndam-Pryce with Charlie Brown.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is Wesley New and Improved?

(Roy Dotrice and Alexis Denisof as Roger Wyndam-Pryce and son Wesley)

I've been working under the premise lately that Wesley Wyndam-Pryce from Season 5 of Angel (whom I've somewhat incorrectly dubbed the "New and Improved Wesley") was somewhat less than whole after his memories of Connor were stripped away by the mindwipe spell that Angel agreed to as a condition for accepting the Wolfram & Hart job offer. Although Wesley's involvement in Connor's kidnapping and his subsequent banishment from the group were terrible experiences, he undeniably become much more tougher and mature as a result.

I'm not convinced that the Mutant Enemy writers put a whole lot of thought into how Wesley's personality may have changed as a result of the Connor mindwipe (at least until his memories were restored later in the season in "Origin"). However, the episode "Lineage" was the closest thing to a blueprint of what exactly was going on in Wesley's mind during that part of early Season 5. As usual, I accept what's presented to me by the writers unless later events prove otherwise.

I've written about this episode before at great length in the Idle Thoughts portion of my "Lilah's True Feelings" post, and also in "Wesley's Grumpy Old Curmudgeon Dad". I also wrote a wee bit in "The Unsinkable Wesley Wyndam-Pryce" about how there were hints in "Lineage" that Wesley might have gotten along quite nicely with his mother. As usual, I don't like to repeat myself too much, so I encourage you to check out these posts if you're interested.

Finally, I'm going to immediately break my promise not to repeat myself too much by stating that I still stand by what I wrote in this final paragraph from my "Wesley's Grumpy Old Curmudgeon Dad" post referenced above:
I chose to take Roger's personality at face value in "Lineage" even though he was a cyborg. As Wesley and Angel pointed out, whoever was behind the cyborgs (the Circle of the Black Thorn?) probably had access to old Watcher's Council files, background information, character assessments, and psychological profiles. Wesley was fooled, so I'm allowing myself to think that cyborg Roger was a more than acceptable substitute for the real thing.
Wesley and Fred. Throughout most of their relationship, Wesley repeatedly showed poor judgment in matters involving Fred Burkle. Wes, who was hopelessly in love with Fred, made way too many nervous mistakes. There were a few signs during the waning days of Season 4 that the two of them had reached some sort of uneasy understanding with each other. Unfortunately, his new-found maturity seemed to disappear by the time Season 5's "Unleashed" came along, as Wesley started acting like a jealous schoolboy when he started making pointed remarks about Fred's relationship with Knox.

This scene featuring Wesley's confrontation with Emil the Weapons Guy is pretty self- explanatory. Wes was effectively doing some Season 4 Bad Ass posturing as he pretended to negotiate with his former supplier. (It was eventually revealed that Fred and Wesley were "infiltrating a weapons ring".) The lovely Fred, a tough cookie in her own right, put on a wonderful performance of her own as she explained the inner workings of the altered sniper rifle. When the negotiations soured and everyone started shooting at each other, Fred was wounded when she got caught in the crossfire. Fortunately, Angel arrived just in the nick of time to save the day, albeit after an unknown Ninja-type warrior showed up and wreaked his own special kind of havoc.

Fred took Wesley to task later on for being all apologetic about failing to protect her and for otherwise making patronizing remarks. What was even more interesting was the conversation between Angel and Wesley that took place a few minutes earlier. Angel rightfully didn't buy Wesley's story that he took Fred along to the secret meeting because she was the right person for the job. It was obvious to everyone that Wesley took Fred along as a way to spend some quality time with her.

Although the dialogue I linked to above doesn't seem to support this, I was under the impression that Angel was being equally disingenuous with Wesley. I might be wrong, but Angel appeared to be pretending that Fred should not have gone out in the field because her work was too valuable in the science lab. They were no longer the understaffed Angel Investigations team where each member pitched in to help with a variety of tasks. Instead, they were part of a much larger organization where it was more efficient for everyone to stay confined to their special niche roles. Angel, again rightfully, was also upset that Wesley hadn't informed him ahead of time of his plans. Of course Wesley didn't inform Angel, because Angel would have nixed the plans. Despite Angel's well-reasoned arguments, it was equally plain to see that he simply didn't want her put in harm's way.

In fact, the whole issue of placing Fred in danger provided an interesting contrast between Wesley and Angel. Although Wesley could be every bit as gallant and chivalrous as Angel, he had no qualms about putting women whom he considered to be ultra- competent into extremely dangerous situations. Wes might have even thought these women would have considered this to be a compliment! I had said before in an earlier post that Wesley had misplaced pride of ownership over both Faith and Willow, and seemed to enjoy showing them off as though he was displaying shiny new trophies. Wesley could have easily felt the same way about Fred, whom he might have regarded as his protege. Any heroic action on her part would have meant reflected glory on Wesley. Although I believe Angel and Wes were equally as fond as Fred in their own ways, Angel's instinct was to protect her, while Wesley's reaction was to work side-by-side with her in the battlefield.

Bad Ass Wesley. The thought crossed my mind that Wesley might have lost a little bit of his edge in the Bad Ass department in Season 5, but his scene with Emil proved otherwise. He was just as cool and ruthless as ever. Even more tellingly, Wesley had already turned Bad Ass by the time he started confronting Holtz and Justine in Season 3 before he kidnapped Connor. It would therefore be a mistake to assume that if he lost all his memories of Connor, he would have reverted back to his old sweet and lovingly inept ways. In spite of this, I still think a lot of his Season 4 darkness carried over into his Season 5 persona, even if he didn't fully understand the reasoning.

Wesley and His Father. As I mentioned above, I wrote at great length about their relationship in "Wesley's Grumpy Old Curmudgeon Dad". At the risk of making this post incomplete, I'll focus mostly on some minor details that I didn't touch on earlier.

I'm always fascinated with the attitudes that blood-sucking organizations have about their employees' family lives. I know of many real-life companies whose entire Human Resources model revolves around hiring young people right out of college and keeping them on the road so much it's impossible for them to form romantic attachments. If an employee defies all odds and actually marries someone, he or she is somewhat forced to seek employment elsewhere in order to preserve the marriage.

Naturally, I also know of many organizations where the opposite seems to be true. In these companies you can't get promoted unless you demonstrate your "stability" by raising a family. Oddly enough, Wolfram & Hart seemed to follow the latter model. Besides the obvious advantages of being in a position to be able to physically sacrifice your children for personal gain, employees needed families to keep them grounded so they could more effectively carry out their corporate duties. As Holland Manners effectively hinted to Lindsey McDonald, if employees had "healthy attachments", they would be less likely to engage in dubious sideline operations on their own. Finally, we can't forget the obvious implication that if you have a family to support, you'll be more likely to do whatever it takes to keep your job.

I'm not sure if I have enough information to make this sweeping generalization, but the entire Watcher organization (or at least the British contingent) seemed to have the same philosophy. I could never figure out how Roger Wyndam-Pryce had the time to be both a Watcher and have a family, and in reality he probably didn't. He appeared to be doing active fieldwork for the Watchers' Council back in 1963, which I'm reasonably sure was well before Wesley was born. Regardless of what type of work Roger was doing for the Council while Wesley was growing up, it's entirely possible that Roger was only going through the motions of being committed to his family, leaving the bulk of the work of running a household and raising Wesley to his wife.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Roger must have at least been around often enough to thoroughly terrorize Wesley and give him a miserable childhood. If Roger was married more to his career than to this family, he might have resented the required face time that he had to put in with Wesley. I'm guessing that active Watchers like Rupert Giles and Wesley might have found it almost impossible to find time for marriage. However, it appeared the Watchers' Council had a large number of ancillary employees (some of who may have been former Watchers themselves) who performed administrative functions and carried out field operations. These employees may have had a little more time to raise families on the side.

Roger made it quite clear that he thought Wesley and "Winifred" would make a good match. By extension, Roger was also making it quite clear that he thought it was time for Wesley to settle down. As I wrote above, it would be difficult for active Watchers to raise a family, and damned near impossible for Slayers to do the same (despite the lip service in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the idea that it was possible to have something resembling a normal life and carry out slaying duties at the same time.) But why would it be so important for other people associated with the Council to have families?

We can't discount the possibility that a lot of Roger's attitudes might have been attributed to old-fashioned values, where people are expected to settle down, get married and have children by a certain time in their lives. Any single person over the age of 30 who has ever attended a family gathering is fully aware of this notion. But probably the main reason for this push was the fact that the Watchers' Council was an extremely nepotistic organization that literally liked to keep all of their activities within the family. It was therefore the duty of their operatives to keep producing little foot soldiers for the cause.

Lilah. References to Lilah Morgan in Season 5 of Angel were few and far between. In fact, I think "Lineage" marked the first reference to Lilah in the entire season when Wesley informed his father, "The last girl I was with I had to chop into little tiny pieces because a higher power saw fit to stab her in the neck."

I won't get into how Roger thought Wesley was either being facetious or melodramatic. However, I will add that I could have just as easily titled this section "Don't Worry Dad, I'm Not Gay". Roger put his son on the defensive by prying into his love life, and Wesley may have felt compelled to bring up the subject of Lilah just to reassure his dad that he did, in fact, have girlfriends from time to time.

Despite what may have been his less than noble reason for talking about Lilah, I still have to stick with what I came up with in my earlier post "Top 5 Wesley and Lilah Scenes" when I wrote, "Even his reference to "the last girl I was with", although not a ringing endorsement, was still what I considered to be a healthy acknowledgment that Lilah had been a significant part of his life." Wesley didn't have to bring up the subject of Lilah at all! He could have just glossed over that part of his life and talked about Virginia and some of his one-night stand playmates that he might have spent time with in earlier seasons.

Which brings me to the puzzling question of, how could Wesley have remembered Lilah if all of his memories of Connor had been erased? His kidnapping of Connor was a direct factor in hooking up with Lilah in the first place. Logically he must have had some set of false memories that would explain why he took the drastic action of sleeping with the enemy. For example, it would be perfectly logical to think that Lilah just appeared on his doorstep out of the blue one day to recruit him to work for Wolfram & Hart, and things got out of hand.

I don't fault Mutant Enemy for not explaining Wesley's memories of Lilah during this part of the season. The writers had too many story lines to juggle around as it was. This just falls under the category of intriguing little riddles that we can try to solve on our own time.

Cyborgs. I read somewhere that the symbol for the Circle of the Black Thorn showed up in "Lineage" during one of those quick series of images that acted as scene dividers. According to the Wikipedia link above, the symbol made its official debut in "Power Play", although I thought it showed up earlier than that. Regardless, I've also read that the symbol also briefly appears in other episodes to indicate that Wolfram & Hart had been gunning for Team Angel all throughout Season 5. If true, this acted as an attractive foreshadowing of coming events. I just wished Mutant Enemy would have offered up some easier clues so that even us slower-witted audience members would have had a chance to catch on.

Angel et al never did come up with an explanation of who was behind the cyborg assaults. Some intriguing clues included the fact that they had previously taken out some serious evildoers in at least two other parts of the world. The obvious implication was that if this shadowy organization routinely went after bad guys, then they must have felt that Angel was also a bad guy for taking over the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart. Did the cyborgs really take out the "demon cabal in Jakarta" and the "Tanmar Death Chamber", or did Wolfram & Hart plant a false story? If the stories really were true, did Wolfram & Hart destroy those two groups just to shake Team Angel from the scent of the true identity of the organization behind the cyborgs?

What would Wolfram & Hart have hoped to accomplish from this mission? I can't honestly believe that the Senior Partners really wanted to do anything so crude as to turn Angel into a zombie slave who would forever do their bidding. The best I can come up with is that this was yet one more part of Wolfram & Hart's overall plan to institute a Reign of Terror so Angel would turn into a killing machine during the Apocalypse as described in After the Fall.

Eve and Angel and Spike. I'd love to write more about Eve's excellent dialogue in this scene where she discussed Wesley's focus on the big picture and his potential to betray Angel while doing the "right thing". Instead, I'll point to this as one more instance where Eve was continuing to act like she was one of Angel's best friends and confidantes even while it was obvious she had ulterior motives. Angel didn't trust Eve, but was forced to put up with her the best he could. It's interesting that there was very little in-your-face sexual attraction between Angel and Eve in this episode (though I've been wrong about this before), and it appeared that Eve was starting to get a little more serious about carrying out Lindsey's plan to set up Spike as a serious rival for Angel's claim to being the pivotal Vampire with a Soul as referenced in the Shanshu prophecy.

Of course Spike had no way of knowing what Eve was up to, but he clearly knew she was up to no good. I love how he consistently threw tact and diplomacy into the wind and charged right in with his accusations. Angel just didn't have the same talent for telling Eve to "cut the crap and tell me what you're doing". Eve was actually quite clumsy in carrying out the plan, but she at least was skillful enough to convince Spike and Angel that she was acting purely on behalf of the Senior Partners.

Wesley and Spike. I've also been working under the premise that Spike really couldn't stand Wesley in this part of Season 5, and I was wondering if there was a definite turning point in their relationship. I always pointed to this scene as an example of Spike's total disgust with Wesley. Upon viewing the scene one more time, I'm now starting to think that Spike's remark about Wes growing up in a "greenhouse for dandies" was actually kind of mild. Any fellow Alpha Male would have been a natural target for Spike, so I don't think Wesley was being singled out for any special treatment.

Also, I've always interpreted this scene to mean that Spike was sincerely trying to reach out to Wesley by talking about his own issues with a parent. Although Spike's story was bizarre, his intentions were good. All in all, Spike didn't have to seek out Wesley after his rooftop altercation with his father. Was this the turning point in the Wesley and Spike relationship I've been looking for?

Idle Thoughts. It's always bugged me that the character "Emil's" name wasn't spelled "Emile". "Emil" is Teutonic in origin, whereas "Emile" is French. The character was obviously from Haiti or some other French West Indies nation, so therefore he should have been named "Emile".

I was disappointed that actor Sven Holmberg (Emil's delivery guy in Wesley's apartment) didn't appear in "Lineage". However, I concede that it would have been a mistake to include him. Holmberg's Delivery Guy was easy-going and mellow, whereas Emil's men in this episode were brutish thugs.

I included this closing scene between Angel and Wesley in my list of favorite Angel/Wesley moments. I hope I talk more about this at a later date.

I loved the contrast between how Wesley acted around his father (clumsy and nervous) and how the other characters reacted (mature and self-assured). Is it ever possible for a child to act as an equal to a parent?

I also loved the look on Spike's face when he was confronted with the fact that he had met Roger back in 1963 when Spike was slaughtering children in a Viennese orphanage.

Regarding the spell of the Orlon Window (as described by the demon Cyvus Vail in "Origin"), I've often wondered how many false memories were actively created from the spell, and how many were organically created by the brain in an attempt to make sense out of the remaining disconnected memories.

When Wesley tortured the captive cyborg, he was able to determine that the plan was to use the Staff of Devosynn to turn Angel into a zombie slave. However, I was surprised that Wes didn't find out who was behind the cyborgs. Apparently he just assumed they were former members of the old Watchers' Council?

Although Roger Wyndam-Pryce turned out to be a cyborg, he was being astute when he pointed out to Wesley that Angel was "...a puppet. He always has been. To the Powers That Be, to Wolfram & Hart...." I always wished the series would have explored the idea that The Powers That Be might have been malevolent.

Roy Dotrice is an excellent actor who seemed quite taken with his role as Wesley's father. Actor Alexis Denisof seemed to equally enjoy playing his son. I'm not sure if Dotrice and Denisof had ever acted together before, but it's quite possible they might have bumped into each other in England. Similar to their onscreen father/son portrayals, do you think the ultra-experienced Dotrice schooled the younger Denisof a bit in their performances? It must have always been a great joy whenever an actor of Roy Dotrice's caliber came onto the Angel set.

Whereas I think Dotrice and Denisof complemented each other, I think Andy Hallett Lorne's offered a marvelous contrast to Dotrice's character.

Trust Wesley to gracefully surrender Fred to Knox just as she was starting to warm up to Wesley. This scene also highlighted Fred's unfortunate tendency to put everything in the best possible light, this time when she insisted that part of Wesley always knew that the cyborg wasn't really his father. The problem with Fred acting that way was that it always forced the other party to come right out and say what a mean, horrible person he really was.

I cover too much territory in my blog posts, so it's always a challenge to stay within Blogger's 200-character tag limit. The victims of my tag purge this time around included "Alexis Denisof", "Angel and Eve" and "Sven Holmberg".

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Angel: Time to Get His Groove Back

Numero Cinco, from Screencap Paradise

I've learned from past experience that whenever I sit down to watch a particularly satisfying episode of Angel, it's not too unusual to see Jeffrey Bell's name plastered all over the opening credits. For pure entertainment value, his "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" from Season 5 is one of my favorite shows of the entire series. It's also one of the few episodes of Angel that I've shown to the rest of my family, since I knew they could watch it with a minimum of additional explanation. As usual, this is less a review and more of an exploration of some of my current pet themes.

Shanshu Prophecy. We learned a little bit more in this episode about how Angel had just about completely turned his back on the Shanshu prophecy which, in the words of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, "....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." It's a little too much for me to go into how Angel was feeling "disconnected", how Spike realized the prophecy could have been about him instead of Angel, and how Wesley confronted Angel about how hope was "the only thing that will sustain you, that will keep you from ending up like Numero 5."

Wes was always the one who felt the most attached to the Shanshu prophecy, probably since he bonded with it considerably while he was translating the scrolls that Angel had swiped from Wolfram & Hart in Season 1. Wesley also acted borderline patronizing toward Angel concerning the prophecy, somewhat like a parent keeping a fairy tale alive in order to maintain a desired behavior from a young child. In this case, Wesley was the "parent" who was keeping "child" Angel focused on his mission of being a champion. Spike picked up on this fairy tale aspect pretty quickly when he described the prophecy as being the one "that says that Angel gets to be a real boy again."

Angel's attitude toward the prophecy tended to run between hot and cold, depending on how well things were going for him at the time. In early Season 5, he was running "cold" since, as he described to Wesley, "The prophecies are nonsense. You know that. Oh, come on, Wes, after everything we've seen the past couple of years? 'The father will kill the son'?"

I'll stop at this point simply because whenever I write about the Shanshu prophecy, I feel that I'm doing so out of a sense of obligation. I can't deny that the prophecy, which was introduced in late Season 1, played a huge part in shaping almost the entire series. However, the Shanshu prophecy itself never really grabbed my imagination. I often feel that I'm not entirely grasping the concept, even though it seems pretty simple when I type it out. What's particularly troubling to me is that half of the time I can never really figure out how the prophecy's being interpreted and how Angel is reacting to it. After looking at this Buffyverse Wiki entry, now I'm really glad I haven't devoted a lot of time to the Shanshu prophecy. It appears that, rather than changing through an organic process, the prophecy seems to go through abrupt changes in order to make it fit into whatever agenda the writers are pushing at that particular point in time. In other words, I should stop trying to analyze the process of change and just take what the writers are giving me at face value.

New and Improved Wesley. The Season 5 version of Wesley was obviously a lot more mature than earlier versions. Paradoxically, although he went through definite character growth, Wesley was closer in spirit (good-natured and naive) to Seasons 1 through the early part of Season 3 Wesley, rather than the "Dark Wesley" who emerged after he kidnapped baby Connor in late Season 3's "Sleep Tight".

When I first saw Season 5 I tried to ignore the nature of the Connor mind wipe, which was a magical procedure that Angel allowed Wolfram & Hart to perform as a condition to accepting the law firm's job offer. After the mind wipe, most of the characters had forgotten all about Connor, which allowed Connor to be placed in a normal family and live as though his hellish nightmarish years had never happened. I therefore saw Wesley's Season 5 character as someone who had successfully integrated the best of his Old and New (Dark) Wesley personality traits and emerged as someone who was much more well-grounded and mature. This theory didn't hold up too well after I witnessed Wesley's obvious disintegration in "Origin" when all of his dark memories returned to him after he released the spell of the Orlon Window. Wesley obviously couldn't have "integrated" personality traits that he didn't even know existed.

At some point, after probably about three seconds of thought, I decided to dub the Season 5 version of Wesley as being the New and Improved Wesley. What complicates things a bit further is that I've recently discovered that in earlier posts I used Dark Wesley and the New and Improved Wesley as somewhat interchangeable terms. Regardless, although I still consider most of Season 5 Wesley as being more well-grounded, confident and mature, there definitely seemed to be something missing from his personality.

Indeed, this part of the dialogue sequence where Wesley lectured Angel on the importance of keeping the faith regarding the Shanshu prophecy (and where Wesley revealed that he had no memories regarding Connor) is reminiscent of this dialogue sequence from Season 1's "To Shanshu in L.A." where Wes voiced his concerns to Cordy on how "there's nothing in life he [Angel] wants". So rather than being New and Improved in Season 5, it appeared that Wesley actually regressed a bit.

Another clue I often point out regarding Wesley's character regression is the fact that he just did not dress as well in Season 5 as he did in Season 4. I've often wondered if this was a result of a decision by the producers to have Wesley go through a definite style change, if the production staff members themselves lacked fashion sense, if maybe I lack fashion sense, or if I'm being too nitpicky and should really move on to other things.

Although I can't criticize Wesley's clothes in all of the Season 5 episodes, what he wore in "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" was not one of his better looks. For one thing, the brown pants he wore wouldn't have looked that good with much of anything. (Or, as my husband claims, "nobody looks good in brown".) For another thing, the combination of those same pants with the dark blue shirt, where the brownish/tannish vertical stripes may have almost matched his slacks, looked like an ensemble that one of my sons would have put together. The son in question has no fashion sense whatsoever, and he has a tendency to take the fashion rules that I've taught him and twist them around in order to use them against me. So, whenever I see Wesley in that particular outfit, I can just hear my son telling me, "But Mom, the stripe in my shirt matches my pants."

Yes Sir Mr. Boss Man.
In my "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce Agency" post, I mentioned that Wes tended to be arrogant and dismissive toward people he considered to be his inferiors. This was a trait that dated at least as far back as his Sunnydale days. Although there was nothing overtly offensive in the way he treated his Wolfram & Hart employees in these scenes here and here, there was still something about his attitude that would have rubbed me the wrong way if I was working for him.

The real kicker was how his underlings called him "Sir". Sir? "Sir" comes trippingly off the tongue to Southerners in the U.S., but I'm a lifelong Yankee. I've worked for some very conservative companies over the years, and the only people I ever called "sir" were much older important clients. (Not to mention complete strangers, like, "Sir, you dropped your keys".)

We can attribute part of Wesley's attitude to what may have been his Old World sense of propriety. However, I can distinctly remember Lilah calling her superiors "sir" during her Wolfram & Hart days. Since Wolfram & Hart was as big and formal a company as you could get, the practice of calling male superiors "Sir" might have already been ingrained into the corporate culture long before Angel and his crew arrived.

We also have to be mindful that Wesley was not the only one who treated his people like dirt. Fred came out and said once that her people deserved to die, while Angel had a brutal way of terminating less-favored Wolfram & Hart employees. I don't recall Gunn ever taking direct action against any of his immediate underlings, but he certainly had his hands full when he was acting in an advisory capacity.

Respect for Subject Matter.
One of the aspects that I admired about Jeffrey Bell's "The Magic Bullet" from Season 4 was how, even though he poked gentle fun at Jasmine's followers, he avoided crossing the line and out-and-out ridiculing them. I wrote in a previous blog post that this attitude of respect for the characters seemed to permeate from the top, from Joss Whedon all the way down through the ranks of the Mutant Enemy production staff.

The subject matter of "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" also presented a lot of opportunities for ridicule, with its exploration of Mexican wrestlers and bad horror films. Again, Mutant Enemy and Bell decided to present the subject matter with an attitude of simple respect, which made the episode all that more effective.

What really interested me about this scene, where Numero Cinco described the exploits of "Los Hermanos Numeros" (aka the "Number Brothers"), was how Angel scoffed at some of the more outlandish aspects of the story. But as Numero Cinco reminded Angel, "It was a different time. One that no longer exists". Two hundred forty-something year-old Angel should have realized this, but in this scene he quite effectively stood in as a proxy for skeptical modern-day audience members. This point about bygone days was also driven home by the fact that the brothers' stories lived on as a freakish sideshow "farce" being played out by midget wrestlers.

This scene also featured that beautifully choreographed sequence where Los Hermanos Numeros "fought" the bad guys in a tag-team wrestling match. As I listened to the music I couldn't help but be reminded of the lovely background music for the iconic Cartoon Network Quick Draw McGraw short, "El Kabong Rides Again". Sure enough, the closing credits confirmed that the eclectic indie band Calexico indeed provided the music. Based on the list of current members of the group, Calexico seems to be as authentically Mexican as the Baja Marimba Band. As a Midwestern WASP, I know only too well that, for Anglos, the most Spanish-sounding music (to Nordic ears) is written by Frenchmen (e.g., Bizet's Carmen). By extension, if it sounds authentically Mexican, it probably isn't. (Note: not meant as a criticism. I adore Calexico.)

I'm always fascinated with how the real and supernatural worlds collided in Angel, and also how the supernatural elements tended to haunt the lower-class areas in town. Think of the vampires in Gunn's old neighborhood as an example. Demons needed a place to hang out in the Angelverse, but it also appeared that they wanted to avoid all-out warfare with the human race. By living amongst and exploiting the people in poorer neighborhoods, the demons instinctively knew that they could basically run amok almost unseen by the rest of society. Wealthier people tend to justify their lack of interest in what's going on in poorer neighborhoods by stating that poverty will always be with us and there's nothing much that can be done about it.

In "...Numero Cinco", although the victims of the Aztec demon Tezcatcatl didn't seem to be exclusively Hispanic, the demon still appeared to confine his activities to the Hispanic neighborhoods of East LA. Another fascinating element was how Numero Cinco described the wrestling matches as being genuine, in that the Numbers Brothers really were fighting the Bad Guys in the ring. I highly doubted that was the case even when I allowed myself to suspend all sense of reality long enough to watch the episode. Instead, writer Jeffrey Bell was tapping into the concept of how ritual storytelling in just about every culture is as important (or even more important) than the actual events.

Idle Thoughts. On the surface it seemed as though Angel was quite abusive to Numero Cinco when he arrived at the ex-mailroom clerk's apartment. Quite tellingly, Numero Cinco didn't seem to put up too much of a fuss after Angel established his Alpha Male status. I won't even try to go into the psychology of the machismo culture, but I will state that it did seem to be a necessary ritual that needed to be performed before the guys could get down to the nuts and bolts of the business at hand.

Similar to how I feel I neglected Gunn's character at times during Seasons 2-4, I'm really not talking too much about him during this stretch of Season 5. There aren't too many ways I can describe how he really loved being a brainiac lawyer without being repetitive.

It was annoying to find that both Fred and Lorne chose to believe Spike when he claimed that "Angel went right off on the mail guy" at the beginning of the episode. Angel, of course, was provoked into his actions when Numero Cinco attacked him without warning. Angel never could figure out how to accurately describe his side of any story, but Fred and Lorne should have remembered that particular character trait and not rushed to judgment. It just goes to show how working at Wolfram & Hart was really doing a number on everyone's thought processes. (And let's not lose sight of the fact that Fred had developed a sweet spot for Spike, which he was not above exploiting for his own personal gain.)

The final fight scene had the potential to be a ridiculously cliched over-the-top portrayal of champions fighting (and winning) an epic battle between Good versus Evil. Instead, Jeffrey Bell again displayed a deft touch by giving the scene a wonderful sense of decency and quiet dignity.

Danny Mora was excellent in his portrayal of Numero Cinco. I'm sure the entire audience was anxiously waiting to find out his character's back-story the moment they first laid eyes on him earlier in the season. (Or did he appear in the final episode of Season 4?)

I didn't think the Aztec demon Tezcatcatl was scary enough. Again, we seemed to be reminded that the production budget for Angel was reportedly slashed for Season 5. I've always heard that if you don't have a very convincing monster, then it's best to use him sparingly.

I've often thought that the major flaw in Wolfram & Hart's magic books was that, if a character was trying to solve a mystery, he already needed to know what he was looking for in order to find the clues. In other words, the characters needed to have studied the actual texts ahead of time in order to get much use out of the newer system.

One of the things I'm watching in Season 5 is the relationship between Wesley and Spike. In this scene they weren't really at each other's throats, but they're both clearly irritated with each other. I'm looking for a clear turning point, where Spike stopped treating Wesley like he was a pompous sissy and started treating him more like an equal.

I thought it was a nice touch to (very briefly) bring Holland Manners back to the series, even though actor Sam Anderson didn't actually make an appearance. It gave us more insight on how Wolfram & Hart preyed on people during their weakest moments in order to recruit them to work for the firm.

I've already mentioned this in a much earlier post, but it bears repeating: I always thought Wesley's "I'd forgotten that Aztec culture was so violent" was an uninspired piece of dialogue. Anyone who's ever heard of the Aztecs also know that they were extremely violent. I try to explain it away by saying that English-born Wesley wasn't up on Western hemisphere demonology, since a surprisingly large percentage of demons who showed up in California seemed to be of European origin.

I can't decide if it was well-established that Tezcatcatl will make another appearance in 50 years, as evidenced by the fact that Angel wanted to make sure the demon would have a hard time finding the amulet when he came back. I'm also not sure that it's all that obvious that, according to Gunn, it's normally not a great thing for a dead being to be cursed to come back to life on a periodic basis.

If I had worked on this post last year, I would have felt obligated to come up with some thoughts about how Angel appeared to be regaining a sense of the mission, particularly in the closing scene where he revisited the Shanshu prophecy. Unfortunately, the looming dual specters of Wolfram & Hart grooming Angel for the Apocalypse in After the Fall and Lindsey McDonald setting up Angel for his own power play grab once again put a damper on things. I don't think either Wolfram & Hart or Lindsey McDonald had a direct hand in the events of "...Numero Cinco" outside of the fact that the Senior Partners would have known that Tezcatcatl would be making another appearance. Again, I believe the Senior Partners were letting events unfold and being watchful for how they could take advantage of the situation. About the only thing I can add is that I guess it was important to rebuild Angel's sense of confidence so it could be cruelly dashed again in "Destiny" when Spike defeated him in the fight for the right to drink from the Cup of Perpetual Torment.

I'll be busy with estate work over the next week or so, but I'm hoping to start a more regular posting schedule by the end of the month. It's nice to be back at least for a little while.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Hiatus For A While

We recently had another death in the family, so obviously I won't be blogging for a while. I can't give you a return date, but I of course want to come back as soon as I can. I may or may not publish some shorter posts in the interim. If you're getting bored, feel free to poke around my site and find all of my mistakes.

I'll still be checking in on a regular basis to see what's happening around here. If you leave any comments or emails it shouldn't take me too long to answer.

Take care, and I hope everyone's doing well.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Trying To Get a Post Out

I'm not sure how many more of these "I'll be back soon" posts I'll be able to get away with, but I'm hard at work on a post about Season 5 of Angel's "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco". I can't seem to be able to sit down and work on it for more than a few minutes at a time, but I hope I'll be able to finish it soon.

Enjoy your weekends everyone!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Posts are Few and Far Between

I again apologize for my lack of posts lately. I've hit another busy stretch, and I don't have a lot of time to devote to my blog. Things will settle down again in the near future - I'm just not sure of the exact date.

Take care of yourselves everyone.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hawaii Five-O All Grown Up

Even though I'm still quite busy I'm still around. Tonight I saw "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" from Season 5 of Angel. Naturally, it turned into one of those episodes where I can devote about eight paragraphs of text for each two-word line of dialogue, so the review for that show will come at a later date. Fortunately, I can pound out a few impressions of the series premiere of the 2010 version of Hawaii Five-O without too many problems.

Overall Impressions of Hawaii Five-O. I actually saw it for the first time when I was out of town a few nights ago. I was all by myself, watching the show on what was not the greatest TV set in the world, and I honestly didn't enjoy it that much. My family and I just finished watching the first season of the original series on DVD a few months ago, and naturally the new series just couldn't compare. I thought the colors were much murkier in the new version (too much computer-generated assistance?), the editing was too fast-paced, the characters blew through enough ammunition to supply our U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan for about a year, and the love/hate turning into buddy/buddy relationship between characters Steve McGarrett and Danno Williams seemed too forced. Believe it or not, the wooden acting performances from the non-professionals in the original series added to the charm, whereas the new version of the show was a little too slick. Finally, that strained easy-going chit-chat at the end of the show was a little too much for me to put up with.

Fortunately, my husband recorded the episode and I just finished watching it again a few hours ago. It certainly made a difference watching the show with my husband and two of my sons, with them whooping and hollering and giving them each other fist bumps every three minutes or so. I had a lot of fun with my family tonight and I look forward to seeing the show again next week.

Spike, er, Victor Hesse. I have to start out with this character first, since he was the main reason why I saw the show. James Marsters was magnificent, at least from what little I saw of him. I honestly don't ever remember seeing the main villain of an episode get so little airtime. We saw Marsters for a few minutes in the beginning of the show, for a few minutes at the end, and never for longer than about 1/8th of a second at a time (or so it seemed). I felt like dope-slapping the editors and saying, would it kill you to let us get a good look at the guy? Was Marsters so hideous or his acting so deplorable the editors were forced to do all of that fancy splicing? At times it seemed more like we saw a series of video montages of Marsters interspersed amongst the other action rather than a performance from him.

I'm wondering if this was a conscious decision to focus more of the attention on the main characters so we'd get to know them before the season really kicks into high gear? In the original series, the villain of the week usually got as much airtime as the main characters. I know, I know, I shouldn't compare the old with the new. Regardless, Marsters certainly made the best of a very limited opportunity.

Steve McGarrett and Danno Williams. On the second viewing, I thought Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan were excellent as Steve McGarrett and Danno Williams. In the original series McGarrett was very much the tyrant. I always wondered why no one ever told him to shove it somewhere. In the new version McGarrett is again very much the alpha male, but Danno did not allow himself to be pushed around. Although McGarrett is technically of higher rank, Danno appears to be very much an equal.

Incidentally, I love Danno as the sensitive dad.

Chin Ho Kelly. Just as I figured, Daniel Dae Kim is excellent as Chin Ho Kelly. Has Kim received very many awards for his performances? He certainly deserves them. Regardless, I really had my doubts when I read the original story line several months ago about how Chin Ho Kelly was an embittered ex-cop who had been kicked off the force (wrongly, it appears) for being on the take. The original Chin Ho was much older and as square as they make them. My only criticism is that I don't feel convinced that Chin Ho is native to the island, but I can easily overlook that.

Kono. This was the toughest part for me, trying to accept Grace Park as Kono. The original Kono was played by a gazillion-pound non-professional actor named Zulu. Some people would say that Zulu was one of the wooden actors that I referenced above, but I prefer to call his style stoic bemused detachment. Whatever you want to call it, my family loved the original Kono! What can I say about Grace Park? Well, let's see. She's half my age (not really) and twice as lovely (closer to the truth), and seems to spend most of her waking hours in a bikini. Also, her character can do just about anything even though she's probably only in her mid-20's at the most. Fortunately, she fights like Buffy, so I'll grudgingly accept her for now.

Closing Thoughts
. My sons informed me that as long as we judge the new Hawaii Five-O on its own merits rather than compare it to the old series, we should be OK. Anyway, of course I'm wondering how long the new series will last?

We were a bit worried going into this about how bad the show might be. I wouldn't exactly say that we had high hopes for the new Knight Rider series that aired in 2008, but still we could only stomach about the first 10 minutes of the premiere episode. Even then we had to force ourselves to watch it that long.

The opening theme music for the new Five-O pays homage to the music in the original series, but just doesn't last long enough. Rather than being disappointing in comparison, perhaps the producers should give the theme music in the new series some more of its own personality.

As far as I know, there doesn't seem to be any concrete plans to bring back Marsters as Victor Hesse. I have no inside knowledge so I hope I'm wrong.

I'm wondering if part of the reason we saw very little of Marsters at the end was because a lot of the action was apparently performed by a stunt man?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Busy Stretch

I'll be pretty busy for the next few to several days again. I hope to have my next post up by the end of the week. Take care, and I hope everyone's having a good start to their week.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Two Faces of Lorne

(Andy Hallett as Lorne.)

I was really curious to see how I'd react this time around to "Life of the Party" from Season 5 of Angel. I thought it was absolutely hilarious the first time I saw it, yet on subsequent viewings I thought it was one of the more cringe-worthy episodes of the whole series. Do you ever feel so embarrassed for a group of actors you feel like crawling under a rock to get away from it all? That's about how I felt at times.

This time around I didn't have any strong feelings for this show one way or another. I could recognize some humorous situations, and I don't recall turning red-faced with shame at any other time either. As usual, I discovered a lot of references to some key topics that I'm focusing in on while I'm working through my DVD set, so I still found a lot of interesting (to me, at least) aspects to write about.

Lorne - In His Element? I had noted in a previous post, "Lack of Conviction", that Joss Whedon remarked that Andy Hallett's Lorne was really in his element as the wheeling-dealing head of Wolfram & Hart's Entertainment Division. I disagreed, since I felt that Lorne was forcing his way through a situation where he was clearly in over his head. However, I will grant that perhaps Lorne always perceived himself as, or wanted to be, an open-collared, "Ciao"-spouting, hep cat dealmaker. If he was really in his element, I doubt if he would have needed to have his sleep removed in order to keep up with his new lifestyle.

We'd seen hints throughout Lorne's appearances in Angel that there was a little bit more to him than met the eye. In Season 5 we increasingly became aware of how Lorne's nurturing peace-and-fun-loving persona was, in many ways, somewhat of an act. It might have been part of his true nature, but he was dangerously sublimating his baser emotions and more selfish needs. Scenes in "Life of the Party" that brought out this aspect included the part where he was pouring out his frustrations with his subconscious alter-ego in the mirror; when he almost completely lost it when he was talking to Angel; when he explained why he felt it was necessary to have his sleep removed after he was confronted by the rest of the Angel Investigations team; and obviously when his massive out-of-control alter-ego came leaping down from the balcony and almost killed him (which was a notorious side effect for an empath demon who'd had his sleep removed.)

The dialogue that brought all the pieces together came up in this scene, where Lorne and Angel were riding in the limousine while they were on their way to try to convince the powerful Archduke Sebassis to attend the all-important Halloween party that Lorne was organizing.
ANGEL: This really matters to you, doesn't it?

LORNE: Well, of course. The new Wolfram & Hart— I mean, we have to—

ANGEL: No. I mean, this really matters to you. Personally.

LORNE: Yeah. You know, Angel, I— I don't have superhuman strength, and I'm not a fighter. Quantum physics makes me nauseous, and I barely made a passing grade at mystical studies, but I'm on your team. This is something I can do. I believe it has a purpose that can help you, even if you don't.

ANGEL: Well, I'm here, aren't I? I agreed to this.
Similar to how Cordelia often had her doubts on her worthiness (which was why she desperately clung to her visions even though they were literally killing her), Lorne felt that he desperately needed to make himself invaluable to the group. This ties in with how I've said many times in the past that Lorne seemed like he was trying to carve out a niche for himself within Angel Investigations ever since he left Caritas.

Although Lorne was correct in that be was uniquely qualified to pull off this event based on his past career as a pacifist demon nightclub owner, sometimes the skills that served you so well in one area don't necessarily transfer over to other situations. At Caritas, Lorne provided a valuable service by allowing demons to get away from their troubles for a while and relax and have a good time. At Wolfram & Hart, Lorne had the added pressure of making sure the word got out that Angel was the top alpha dog in town, his company was open for business, and he was planning to stay around for a good long time.

Angel and Eve. I also mentioned in my "Lack of Conviction" post referenced above that Joss Whedon clued us in on the DVD commentary for "Conviction" that Angel and Eve had established some chemistry with each other in their first meeting. Before then, I honestly couldn't tell if Angel was supposed to be appreciating her efforts or if he was barely tolerating Eve because she was his only link to the Senior Partners.

Even I'm not stupid enough to deny that something might have been going on when Eve walked in on Angel when he was stark naked and accused him in so many words of masturbating in the shower. However, before hearing Joss' commentary, I felt that Angel was being forced to put up with a smarmy little bitch, not too dissimilar to how in the movie Major League, the craggy manager of the hapless Cleveland Indians refused to dive for a towel when the dreadful ex-showgirl team owner decided to stride into the player locker room. When you tie that in with how later in the episode Angel and Eve had sex while they were under a mystical spell, it looks like I really have my work cut out trying to deny that Angel had any sort of feelings for Eve.

To back up just a little bit, Lorne gave us a broad hint that Angel and Eve were wildly attracted to each other when he advised them, "Oh, you two. Really. The sexual tension? Oh, with a knife you could cut it, huh? Get a room." I certainly wasn't sensing anything between these two, and on the first viewings I put it down to Lorne being heavily sarcastic. I even felt that Angel and Eve having sex was such an unlikely event, the only way it could happen was if they were under a mystical spell. I tried to ignore the fact that, in the Buffyverse, mystical spells tend to bring out subconscious thoughts and behaviors, e.g. Joyce and Giles having sex in Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Band Candy", and Angel and Cordelia making out in Season 3 of Angel's "Waiting in the Wings".

Regardless, at no time could I ever deny that Angel was confiding more and more with Eve, probably due to his isolation and the fact that she might have more fully understood the unique challenges that he faced better than the members of his old gang. This piece of dialogue particularly struck me, when he wearily confessed to Eve (after she asked how things were going), "Oh...I don't know how to answer that question. I—I don't know. Good. Bad. Look, I spent years doing everything I could to bring this company down. Now I'm the CEO, and I have to question every move I make because any one of them could be exactly what the Senior Partners want, so, no, I have no idea how it's going."

I've been in situations before where it's easy to talk a little indiscreetly to an individual even though you've been warned ahead of time that the person is the Office Snitch. People like Eve are so easy-going, and seem so sympathetic to your plight, that it requires your full concentration to watch what you're saying. If you're tired or otherwise distracted, it's easy to let something inappropriate slip out. Angel knew full well that Eve was not to be trusted, but it still didn't stop him from venting his feelings to her once in awhile. Little did he know at the time that she wasn't so much serving the interests of the Senior Partners as much as laying the groundwork for a trap that was being set up by ex-Wolfram & Hart lawyer Lindsey McDonald!

I also couldn't help but notice a few similarities with Wes and Lilah's relationship. Alexis Denisof said this regarding Wesley's state of mind, "Of course it's perfect that the person that he sees very clearly at that time is Lilah...." Similar to how Lilah kept bumping into Wesley, Eve kept coming around to see Angel while he was struggling through a particularly difficult stretch in his life.

Wolfram & Hart Employees - Evil or Amoral? My theory that many employees of Wolfram & Hart weren't necessarily out-and-out Evil took somewhat of a hit when it was revealed that they looked forward to the excessive debaucheries of the annual Halloween party. It's hard to defend a group of people who, in the words of Knox, enjoyed it immensely when "...Last year, uh—They took a bunch of cows and put them in a giant wicker effigy of Krishna, uh, doused it with sambuca, and it— Uh, well... anyway, it—it's a hell of a good time."

By the way, where did all of these employees enjoy their past Halloween parties, since all of the LA branch workers were killed by The Beast in Season 4' s "Habeas Corpses"? Regardless, Harmony pointed out quite clearly exactly why the party was just as important for the employees as it was for the Wolfram & Hart clients, "The morale around here stinks..... Everybody thinks you suck. Well, come on, boss. They're all out there, through their Matsudas, worried if you're gonna axe them or, you know, axe them."

It's pretty well-established that workers take a lot of their cues from upper management. For example, corrupt management makes for corrupt employees. We'll never know for sure if the workers of Wolfram & Hart would have changed their ways if truly effective top-down management practices would have been put in place to encourage a more ethical workplace.

As a sidenote, T.J. Thyne made a wonderful return to the series as "Lawyer #1" here and here. It says a lot that he got so much mileage out of delivering a couple of lines that really didn't look like much on paper. I started noticing Thyne when I first started watching Bones last year. Prior to that time I only knew of him through his work on commercials. While I was watching one scene where I wasn't being particularly impressed by what I was seeing from some of the younger actors, I thought to myself, "Damn! He's [Thyne] the only who can act!" Ever since then I always key in on his performances when I see him on TV, and he has yet to disappoint me.

Wes and Fred. One huge problem I've had with Wes and Fred's relationship throughout Angel is that I could rarely figure out what was going on in her mind. It was easy to see that Wes was madly in love with Fred, and I really don't need to say much more than that. Fred, on the other hand, seemed to view Wesley at various times as a mentor, a father figure, a big brother, a generic nice man, someone who it wouldn't be too horrible to date if he was the last man on earth, and a chump to be played to her advantage. I was therefore thinking "Where the hell did that come from?" when she practically threw herself at Wesley during the waning days of her relationship with Charles. Fred was obviously confused at that point and acting out as part of a rebellious streak she was experiencing.

"Life of the Party" gave us a lot of insight when a mystically inebriated Fred spilled out her thoughts to Wesley,
FRED: And I'm having such a good time right now. We should do stuff like this more often. You know, just hang out like we used to. Friend stuff.

WESLEY: Absolutely. Frankly, I always— I always thought we'd be better friends than we are.

FRED: Oh, we should be. Let's be better friends than we are right now.

WESLEY: Great.

FRED: You know, share stuff, talk to each other, tell each other what we're thinking.

WESLEY: Yes, that would be—I would—

FRED: It would be nice. We could be confidantes. Confiding confidentially.

WESLEY: (Whispers in Fred's ear) I've been wanting to do that for some time now.

FRED: (Giggling, whispers in Wesley's ear) What do you think of Knox?
Up to this point, Wesley and Fred had been hanging out with each other at the party, and were literally falling all over each other ever since they fell under Lorne's mystical spell. Wesley was hoping that the conversation would lead up to a vastly different outcome. However, it does tie in to how I've said in the past (and what Wesley seemed to understand only too well) that Fred really was only interested in holding hands, and furthermore needed a girlfriend that she could giggle with and share stories. Needless to say, Wesley was not willing to step into that role.

I think it's always dangerous to assume that Fred was an asexual creature. (Remember, she did have a healthy active sexual relationship with Charles). I'm not sure if I'm totally convinced of this, but it's possible that Fred was totally not seeing Wesley in a sexual light at all, which made it all the more shocking to her when she found out he was having an almost purely physical relationship with Bad Girl Lilah.

Fred wanted to hang out with Wesley "like we used to". Other than working with each in the offices of the Hyperion Hotel, I don't think they ever really hung out with each other. Wesley was also correct when he told Fred that "I always thought we'd be better friends than we are." There was always too much baggage between the two of them to allow them to be "better friends". Think of how Wes and Cordelia used to effortlessly goof off with each other while they palled around, and had an easy intimacy with each other that many people could only dream about. It shouldn't take so much work to just "be friends" the way that Fred was thinking.

Idle Thoughts. About 98% of the humor in "Life of the Party " came from the element of surprise. A lot of it just doesn't carry over to subsequent viewings.

Spike was an exception. I never get tired of this scene where the Archduke Sebassis and his entourage burst into Angel's office and Spike marveled, "What a fantastic entrance!"

Mutant Enemy came up with some absolutely exquisite demons for Season 5. Surely, there must have been some sort of award that could have been handed out to actors Leland Crooke and Ryan Alvarez for their portrayals of the Archduke Sebassis and his slave.

It was quite fitting that Charles was the only one who thought it was a great idea that Lorne had his sleep removed. Charles, of course, was the one who agreed to have his own brain upgrade.

It's hard to believe that Fred still harbored some possibly romantic thoughts about Knox even after he admitted that burning animals alive made for a rip-roarin' good time.

I pointedly left this episode off of my list of "Top 5 Favorite Lorne Episodes" since I thought Andy Hallett was sorely misused in Season 5. Although I didn't like the turn that his character made, I still thought Hallett put in an excellent performance in this episode.