Thursday, April 29, 2010

Early Season 4 At Random

I sometimes regret that I've never sat down and worked on a genuine series of episode reviews for Angel. I'd like to say I'm not doing it because there's already a great body of work out there and I don't have anything to add. That's actually quite true, but misleading. If I really wanted to review each episode I'd be doing it. It's closer to the truth that I don't have the discipline to write up formal reviews for each and every episode. It would feel more like a daily chore, and I blog so I can get away from the normal humdrum of everyday life. So instead, I've just been putting some random thoughts down on somewhat of a hit-and-miss basis.

One challenge is that I've already written an awful lot about the series, and I don't like to repeat myself too much. I don't want to bore my regular readers, but I also acknowledge that the majority of people reading my posts don't read everything that I publish. So I wrestle with the problem that if I'm writing about a particular episode and I leave out something because I already wrote about it six months ago, the post may seem incomplete. I don't know if I'll come up with any solutions, but it's at least something I keep in the back of my head.

Regardless, I'm still working through my complete Angel DVD set and I've now seen all of the episodes up through Season 4's "Apocalypse Nowish". My last (sort of) reviews were way back in early March when I did some write-ups for episodes from roughly the later part of Season 3. So I've got some catching up to do.

Season 3. The only thing I care to add about Season 3 is that I found the only scene in the entire series so far that I felt compelled to fast-forward through (Season 5's "The Girl in Question" will be my ultimate test). It was a scene in "Benediction" where Holtz was telling Connor he needed to be with Angel. Unfortunately, when I looked through their written dialogue a few minutes ago I couldn't remember the exact scene that bugged me so much! I'd have to look at it through the context of seeing what happened immediately prior to it. All I know is that I was thinking that Holtz was full of shit and I was upset that he was destroying Angel and Connor's relationship.

Early Season 4 Overview. It's revealed somewhere in the Season 4 commentary (by Joss Whedon in "Spin the Bottle"?) that most of Season 4 is compacted into a few short weeks, since most of the episodes pick up immediately where the preceding episode left off. I might have eventually figured that out on my own. However, I did notice at times that Season 4 must have created quite a challenge for fanfic writers, since there didn't seem to be a lot of "off" time where the characters could go out and have their own adventures.

This is another piece that I can be filing under the "I'm repeating myself" category, but I'm noticing again that Season 4 really started off with a lot of promise. So much seemed possible at that point, and it was too bad the season had to degenerate into the "let's turn Cordelia into the cheesy villainess" mode. Co-executive producer David Greenwalt had left the series around this time (though he did make a few brief return appearances later on), and Angel possibly suffered from his absence. I've also read in more than a few places that Charisma Carpenter considered David Greenwalt to be somewhat of a champion of Cordelia Chase's character (as hinted in a Charisma Carpenter interview here), and I wonder if the whole Cordelia/Jasmine arc would have happened if Greenwalt was still around.

I hadn't noticed yet that Tim Minear had also left the series somewhere around Season 4 until I re-read Carpenter's interview in the last link above. He was a staple of the Season 3 episode commentaries and was a lot of fun to listen to. Minear was also an excellent writer for Angel. If I can believe his own commentaries (hah!), Minear also seemed to have a lot of input into the overall shape of the story arcs as well. There was always a noticeable change between seasons, but the differences between Seasons 3 and 4 seemed particularly disturbing since there seemed to be an overall air that something was missing from Season 4.

Even the opening credits weren't as good in Season 4, since they just seemed to be a bunch of random images strung together. Unfortunately I don't know enough about television and editing to be able to put my finger on why I liked the opening credits from Seasons 1 - 3 better than the ones from Season 4. (Maybe the Season 4 credits were missing some of the playfulness that was featured in the other seasons' credits?)

Deep Down. I did not like Amy Acker's "Fred" at all in "Deep Down". I hated her hair (two thin strands around her face braided and pulled back), and I hated the way she treated Connor. It seemed ridiculous for a quavering little-girl figure to be bossing him around like she was his mother. It might not have worked for me since the two actors were very close together in age in real life. (Vincent Kartheiser was born in 1979 and Amy Acker was born in 1976).

It still bothers me that in this delicious Wesley/Lilah scene, Stephanie Romanov's hair fell down and covered up their final kiss. It kind of ruined the whole exciting Wesley-grabbing-Lilah-for-one-more-quickie vibe thing that was going on.

I didn't realize until recently that I actually liked John Rubinstein's Linwood character in this episode since it seemed like he was finally growing a brain. (His comment to Lilah about Wesley taking advantage of her was quite Holland Mannerish). Trust the creators to kill off a character just when he's starting to get interesting.

Speaking of Lilah, how did she manage to meet with the Senior Partner Mr. Suvarta? (I'm assuming that it happened sometime after Linwood gave Lilah the veiled threat in their previous scene.) Judging from Season 2's "Reprise" it would seem that a whole lot of black magic would have been involved, or at least a trip to the White Room for a talk with the evil little girl conduit. I don't think something like that could have been arranged on the spur of the moment, so it makes me think Lilah had already had some direct dealings with the Senior Partners. Also, I believe this scene marked the only time a Senior Partner was given a name.

Preview. In my next posts I'll talk briefly about "Ground State", a little bit more about Wesley's intriguing life away from Angel Investigations, Lorne's adventures in Las Vegas, Amy Acker's and Vincent Kartheiser's screen tests, and Cordelia during her early Jasmine arc days.

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