Monday, March 29, 2010

Top 5 Favorite Lorne Episodes

Andy Hallett as "Lorne"
(August 4, 1975 - March 29, 2009)

I had this weird Circle of Life vibe going for me about a year ago. I fell in love with Angel:The Series (not to mention a certain character on the show), plus I learned via the MSN homepage about the death of Andy Hallett and the birth of baby Satyana Denisof, all on the same day. Far from being bittersweet, it seemed only fitting that we could allow ourselves to be saddened by the loss of Hallett, while still being able to totally rejoice in the celebration of a new life.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was the character I fell in love with on Angel, but Andy Hallett as Lorne was the person who first drew me into the show and helped keep me hooked. Prior to last year I had seen Angel in bits and pieces, literally while I was walking in and out of the family room, and I always recognized it as "Oh yeah, here's the cool show with that funny green guy." When I sat down to really watch the show for the first time about a year ago, (I was flipping through the channels trying to find something to watch so I wouldn't fall back to sleep after a rough night at work), I got really excited when I spotted Lorne! I was so happy that I'd finally be able to sit down and enjoy the show that I would eventually find out was called Angel.

I always seemed to find Angel while the network was showing the Pylea episodes, which, as we know, was a highly Lorne-centric story arc. In one of life's wonderful coincidences, the Pylea arc was being broadcast again on TNT immediately after Hallett's death was announced to the media. It was only fitting that some of Andy's best work was being featured on TV at that time.

This is another one of those Top Lists posts I've wanted to do for quite a while, with this being my Top 5 Favorite Lorne episodes on Angel. Without further ado, and in chronological order:

1. Happy Anniversary (Season 2). This was the episode where Angel and Lorne (then called "The Host") palled around as an unlikely Dynamic Duo in their ultimately successful quest to stop a pathetic physics grad student (Gene) from unwittingly ending the world. Angel was going through a particularly dark time in his life, while Lorne had to talk Angel into helping him find the kid who sang the sad song the night before at the Caritas karaoke bar. Some of the best scenes in the entire series centered around Angel's interactions with Lorne, and I think this episode featured a lot of their best moments.

Highlights of this episode include: Andy Hallett giving one of the best renditions of the "Star- Spangled Banner" I've ever heard in my life, which he sang in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel; Lorne's conversation with Angel while he described what happened at Caritas the night before; Angel warning the bartender, "Oh, you know, he's a demon. You better do what he says or he might ... talk your ears off." (And let's not forget that dirty look Lorne gave to Angel); Angel and Lorne's visit to the university library and their subsequent encounter with the Lubber demon; and Angel and Lorne's post-disaster rap session with Gene that also doubled as another counseling session between Lorne as psychoanalyst and Angel the patient.

2. Pylea Arc (Season 2). ("Belonging", "Over the Rainbow", "Through the Looking Glass", and "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb"). I'm usually a horrible cheater with my Top 5 lists, so naturally I've lumped together an entire story arc as one episode. In "Belonging" we learned all about Lorne's backstory and his escape from Pylea, while in the remaining episodes we journeyed back with him to his home dimension. There are just way too many highlights, but here's my best shot:

From "Belonging": Lorne being not-too-forthcoming with information while simultaneously trying to get Angel and the gang to hunt down the Drokken demon that appeared through a portal in Caritas, including a favorite line of mine, "Are you gonna help me or do I have to break out my Champion Rolodex?"; Lorne's hilarious reunion with his warrior-cousin Landok who himself burst through a portal in the Los Angeles public library, in which we found out for the first time, among other things, that The Host's real name was Lorne; in another great Lorne/Angel moment, Lorne explaining the screwed up value systems of Pylea while Angel wistfully dreamed about living in a world of black-and-white with not a shade of gray in sight; in the same scene, Lorne telling Landok "What do you want, a medal?" after Landok explained how he determined the direction the Drokken was heading.

From "Over the Rainbow": Lorne's detailed explanation of how he left Pylea, including the part where he said succinctly, with accompanying shadow-puppet hand gestures, "gift horse...mouth"; Lorne in one of the rare moments where he was the client in a counseling session, when the marvelous Aggie informed him, "And be honest. Deep down you've always known you'd have to take that one last trip back home."; when Lorne marveled "You mean he actually really says 'Eureka'? " when Wesley had his "Eureka" moment (which is the exact scene where I fell in love with Wesley and Angel: the Series); when Lorne tried to weasel out of returning to Pylea at the last minute; and Lorne's great line "Back up, Copernicus. [Points to the sky] That's suns. Plural." when Angel was wondering why he wasn't bursting into flames in Pylea.

From "Through the Looking Glass": Lorne's hilarious reunion with his mother and the rest of the family, which coincidentally featured Joss Whedon's equally hilarious performance of Numfar's Dance of Joy.

From "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb": Lorne's talking head debut; Lorne getting uncomfortably close to certain parts of Groo's body; Lorne's surprising reunion with Angel, Wesley and Gunn, and his introduction to Fred; and Lorne's not-exactly-a-Hallmark-moment farewell to his mother, including his explanation of how he realized that LA was his home, because no one belongs in LA.

3. "The House Always Wins" (Season 4). This was Andy Hallett's ultimate showcase, though I don't think it featured his best, best work. Having said that, he still did a marvelous job with his Las Vegas stint, and reportedly enjoyed himself tremendously while filming this episode.

Highlights include: Lorne singing "It's Not Easy Being Green" and "Lady Marmalade" while working the casino crowd like an old pro; life as a prisoner inside his dressing room (I thought it was wonderful how was still able to be sweet to the Lornette who brought him his drink despite his predicament, since he knew she had nothing to do with his fate); when he chided Fred for not recognizing that "Fluffy - the nonexistent dog" was the "The universally recognized code for I'm being held prisoner. Send help!"; and Lorne helping Fred and Gunn get out of a jam in Glitter Gulch along Fremont Street when he grabbed the microphone and made everyone double over in pain by giving his patented ear-splitting screech.

4. "Spin the Bottle" (Season 4.) It's not often that I can easily pick a favorite in any category, but this one was a no-brainer for me. Andy Hallett, somewhat revisiting his Host of Caritas persona, showed off all of his best qualities in this episode, with his warmth and humanity shining through from beginning to end. What a wonderful device it was to have Lorne frame the entire episode as he poignantly described the absolute hope and faith that Cordelia's memories would be completely restored, only to have everything go horribly wrong.

For whatever reason, I can't do "Spin the Bottle" any justice by simply rattling off the highlights. Suffice it to say, Lorne was an absolute knockout in every scene. (Here's the Buffyverse Dialogue Database index for this episode.) I will give give special kudos to his final scene, where it was revealed that he was performing in front of a non-existent audience in an empty nightclub. In what I consider to be Hallett's finest scene in the entire series, and in what I also consider to be somewhat of a farewell speech to his fans, Lorne told us:
LORNE: Always leave 'em wantin' more, kiddo. That's the rule. Anyway, I've got no more to tell. Applause, applause. I got a sea breeze that's gonna up and leave with someone else if I don't get to her soon. So you kids be good and go home. Hug your families while you can. And stay away from the magic. Trust me.

5. "Apocalypse Nowish" (Season 4). This might seem like an odd choice to round out my Top 5 list, but there's a certain method to my madness. I'm just now beginning to realize how outstanding Andy Hallett's performances were throughout Season 4, even though I always considered Lorne to be a bit of a fish out of water outside of Caritas. I could have easily substituted the episodes "Slouching Toward Bethlehem", or "Supersymmetry" in this list instead. However, I chose "Apocalypse Nowish" simply because it showed Hallett making the most out of some relatively ordinary moments, particularly when he was working the phones here, here, here, and here. (I'm always a sucker for a good phone scene from an actor.)

In the voiceover commentary for this episode, writer Stephen DeKnight and director Vern Gillum hinted that perhaps Andy Hallett was not at his peak during the filming of this show due to a back injury he had recently suffered. I certainly couldn't tell from viewing the final product.

Final Thoughts. Season 5 also featured another Lorne-centric episode, "Life of the Party", where he was stressed out to the max trying to plan the all-important annual Wolfram & Hart Halloween Party. I thought the episode was hysterically funny the first time I saw it (probably because just about anything was better than the closing episodes of Season 4), but it didn't look nearly as good on repeated viewings. And who can forget his "Is there a Geppetto in the house" in "Smile Time", or his heart-breakingly poignant farewell to his fans when he uttered the now famous "Good night, folks" after he shot Lindsey in "Not Fade Away"? I ultimately made a conscious decision to not include any of his Season 5 appearances in my Top 5 simply because I thought Hallett's talents were severely wasted in that final season.

Also, I have not included any Season 3 episodes, not because I'm making any sort of grandstanding statement, but just because none of his appearances made it into the Top 5 for me. Hallett was uniformly excellent, as always, through all of Season 3. Highlights include him counseling Angel about Cordelia's affections pre- and post-Groo in "Waiting in the Wings" and "Couplet"; his "Well aren't you just sneaky with the subtext" with Groo in "Benediction"; and one more heart-to-heart with Angel about Cordelia and his final goodbyes before he left for Vegas in the Season 3 finale "Tomorrow".

Finally, via Whedonesque, I found this wonderful tribute to Andy from his good friend Mark Lutz (the Groosalugg) which he posted to his MySpace page. This is the same tribute that appears in the special Angel:Lorne comic that was released last week. Naturally, the good folks at Whedonesque added their own fond memories of Hallett. I expect there will be many more wonderful tributes to this remarkable actor over the next several days. I'll try to collect some of those links and add them to this post from time to time.

For having such a brief career in showbiz, Andy certainly left a large body of work for us to enjoy. This week I plan on watching all of the episodes in my Top 5 list along with some of his other great performances. As I watch the remainder of the Angel episodes on my DVD's, I'll look forward to rediscovering some of his additional fine moments that I've forgotten about since my first viewings.

Andy, you've been gone for a year, but you're still warmly remembered in the hearts of your many friends and adoring fans. Thanks for the memories.

Update: Here are links to some more Andy Hallett tributes that run the gamut from formal blog postings that pay tribute to Andy, reviews of the new Angel:Lorne comic that include a few words in Andy's memory, to fan forum threads. I'm being somewhat subjective as to what I'm including here, and I'm always capable of overlooking some others. So if you'd like me to add any other links, please let me know.

"Andy Hallett" from "Random" at All Aboard the Appalachian Express.

"Andy Hallett Tribute Book" thread at IDW Publishing forums.

"Angel:Lorne" from Chris Ryall at Ryalltime. NEW

"Angel:Lorne Special Discussion" thread at BuffyForums.net.

"Angel Special:Lorne" thread from The John Byrne Forum at Byrne Robotics. This is the thread where comic book artist John Byrne revealed that proceeds from the sale of the Angel:Lorne comic would go toward heart research.

"Angel Special Lorne (One Shot)" from Powerdad at iFanboy.

"For the Discussion of a Special Issue of Angel:Lorne" threat at Whedonesque.

"Independent Wrapup: Deep Space 9, Lorne:Angel, and FVZA" from Jill Rayburn at Roddenberry.com.

"In Memoriam: Andy Hallett" from Araceli at Mystical Magick.

"Interview with David Boreanaz of Bones!" from Jenny at TV Is My Pacifier.

"Missing You Andy" from Sasburgerr at Death Gurgle.

"Remembering Andy Hallett" from arbre_rieur at Scans-Daily. This has actual scanned pages of Mark Lutz' tribute to Andy that appears in the Angel:Lorne comic, complete with photos.

"TV Tunes: Made for TV Bands That Rocked Our TV Sets Part Two: 1980 - 2009" from Sam Tweedle at Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict. This might not techincally be a memorial tribute, but it's definitely good enough for my standards. NEW

3 comments:

Lauren Johnson said...

The Plyea arc is what had me interested in Angel in the first place.

Spin the Bottle was an excellent episode.

I love Lorne, I always wanted him to meet Buffy's gang. I would've loved to see a Xander/Lorne conversation, lol.

(maybe in book format?)

He was wonderful. I was so shocked when he passed. These are great picks.

Miriam said...

I was just thinking the other day of how the character of Lorne seemed to represent just how far Angel evolved away from Buffy. I think Lorne would have had a great time with the Scoobies.

It was a bit disconcerting for me to start my Angel viewing with the Pylea arc, since in many ways those were the least typical episodes of the series. It was like watching a completely different TV show when they finally arrived back at the Hyperion Hotel.

Random said...

Hey! That's me in your tribute list! Thank you for mentioning it.
And thank you for your "Top 5" list. I think I'm going to go back and re-watch those five episodes now, just because I'd like to see them again with your comments in mind. (And, also, just because I'd like to see them again.)
Thanks for making sure the day didn't pass unnoticed.