Sunday, May 30, 2010

Not Wesley and Faith, but Wesley and Lilah Instead

This was supposed to be a post about Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Faith in Season 4 of Angel's, "Salvage". However, Lilah Morgan showed that she wasn't quite done with us yet, as proved by this macabre yet extremely moving "Wesley chopping off her head" scene.

I've already written quite a bit about that scene, where Wesley was working through his own feelings about his relationship with Lilah and his grief over his failure to protect her. About the only thing I'll add is that it was a clever plot device to have "Lilah" provide the dialogue about the positive aspects of their relationship, while Wesley provided the negatives and the denials. Lilah was the one who insisted that they had a bona fide relationship and seemed to be on the verge of telling Wesley that she loved him, which Wesley vehemently denied on both counts. More importantly, she let Wesley off the hook, as far as acknowledging his true feelings for her, by pointing out that deep down he was hoping he would be able to bring her redemption.

I didn't care for the "redemption" angle the first several times I saw this scene, since I thought Mutant Enemy was turning their backs on and even trivializing their past relationship. Now I realize that, as upsetting as it was that Wesley didn't seem to be mourning Lilah as a lost love, her continued positive influences seemed to snap him out of his funk and give him a renewed sense of purpose in dealing with the disastrous situations at hand, where both The Beast and Angelus were rampaging out of control.

I've written in the past of how we never knew the exact moments in which the members of Angel Investigations found out about Wesley's relationship with Lilah. I wasn't even sure that everyone was aware in this scene when Wesley volunteered to chop Lilah's head off. All I know is that the atmosphere amongst the team members had completely changed between the consecutive episodes of "Calvary" and "Salvage". The tension created by infighting and bickering was replaced with a calmer and more focused atmosphere even before Wesley cut off Lilah's head.

We know that Angelus informed Fred about what was going on between Wesley and Lilah. I've said in the past that Cordelia/Jasmine seemed to figure it out as soon as she saw the two of them walk into the Hyperion together (if she hadn't figured it out sooner). It's hard to say if and when Connor ever found out about Wes and Lilah, since he was a loose cannon who couldn't exactly be relied upon to speak delicately about such matters. He could have equally talked about "destroying" Lilah and asking "how long does it take to chop off Lilah's head" regardless of whether he actually knew about their past relationship.

Lorne was another special case in point. The only real hint we had that he knew about Wes and Lilah was the fact that he looked at the two of them kind of strangely a few times in "Calvary". We never knew the full range of Lorne's psychic abilities outside of when he read people who sang for him. However, there were a few hints sprinkled about throughout the series that he had a minor talent for reading people's auras. The creators took great pains to show that Lorne had lost his psychic abilities throughout a big chunk of Season 4. The upcoming episodes will let me know for sure, but I believe the Jasmine creature was responsible for putting some kind of whammy on him. Supposing that he actually had lost a lot of his psychic abilities, Lorne would have needed to have relied on his ordinary powers of observation and perhaps even have gossiped behind Wesley's back to find out the whole story.

Although I'm not sure if this was ever explicitly brought up in Angel:The Series, it was clearly stated in After the Fall Volume 3 that The Powers That Be shut down their communications when something dangerous happened to one of their conduits. For example, the multi-legged creature in After the Fall who was giving out information from The Powers That Be to (presumably) paying customers stopped receiving his visions when he was captured by vampires. It only makes sense that Cordelia would have stopped receiving her visions when she was taken over by Jasmine.

I discussed in a prior post that Lorne was never specifically linked to The Powers That Be. However, he certainly seemed sympathetic to them and even did everything he could to help carry out their wishes. The fact that he lost his psychic abilities while Jasmine was on the loose provides one more piece of circumstantial evidence that perhaps Lorne really did have somewhat of a direct line to The Powers That Be when things were going well. (And by extension, perhaps The Powers That Be were the ones who took away his psychic abilities when Jasmine entered the scene) That's just one more thing I'll be on the lookout for in upcoming episodes.

Charles Gunn's change in attitude was the most striking, making me think that we were cheated out of a wonderfully satisfying dramatic scene in which he first found out about Wesley and Lilah. The fact that Gunn apparently wasn't upset by the news is perhaps worthy of yet another Never To Be Written post in itself. Similar to what happened to Wesley, Lilah's death seemed to act as a catalyst for Charles to bury the hatchet with Wes and get on with finding solutions. In an extremely revealing piece of dialogue, Charles told Connor (who was not thrilled with the idea of taking orders from Wesley), "Boss or no boss, he's right when he says we stay together 'til we know what we have to do." Gunn would have never said those words in "Calvary" when he was still angry at Wes for trying to steal Fred away from him.

One also can't ignore the fact that since Fred did not take up with Wesley after she and Gunn broke up might have had a positive impact on Gunn's attitudes. To take it a step further, since neither Wesley, Fred or Gunn were currently in a relationship, and, more importantly, none of them looked like they'd be entering into any relationships in the near future, they could put their raging hormones aside and get back to work. Regardless, although we didn't see any "aha" moment where Gunn picked up on the Wes/Lilah story, there's plenty of room to interpret that he was being sensitive to Wesley's feelings of grief in the early part of "Salvage". The creators finally gave us a satisfying little moment between Gunn and Wesley in this scene from "Home" where Gunn, although not coming right out with the words, seemed to be implying that he was sorry for Wesley's loss.

Getting back to Lilah, it might be overstating things a bit to say that everyone in Angel Investigations was mourning her loss. However, she was accepted inside the Hyperion Hotel in a curious sort of way, and her death provided a definite wakeup call for everyone to pull together and get serious about defeating The Beast and Angelus. It was this renewed sense of purpose that allowed Wesley to follow through on his clarion call of "redemption" and spring Faith out of jail so she could help complete the mission of finding Angel's soul and putting it back into Angelus.

Closing Thoughts. To push the obvious a little more, "Salvage" provided yet one more example of just how much of the overall plot I can miss if I simply view one episode in isolation. I've seen "Salvage" many times since it has the twin virtues of having my favorite Wes and Lilah scene and some kick-ass action sequences with Wes and Faith. Although Lilah seemed to suffer a senseless death, I found, while I reviewed this episode within the context of the entire season, that she did seem to provide the inspiration for several people to continue on with their quest to defeat The Beast and bring back Angel.

I couldn't help but notice that as soon as I posted that Lorne was more in the forefront in Season 4 than I actually remembered, he started receding into the background, roughly starting with "Long Day's Journey". Although actor Andy Hallett continued to be prominently featured in at least one scene per episode, I can't help but think that the writers weren't quite sure what to do with Lorne once he lost his psychic abilities.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wes and Faith Overview

I did a post fairly recently called "Wesley and His Women" where I gave somewhat short shrift to Wesley Wyndam-Pryce's relationship with Faith in Angel. My excuse was that I hadn't yet written what I thought were any definitive pieces about Wes and Faith, and I didn't want to leave my best stuff buried in a post that covered a lot of other territory. As usual, my main problem is that I've already written quite extensively about the two of them. It's just that everything I've written is scattered in bits and pieces throughout my site.

One thing that's held me back from writing more about Wes and Faith is that it took me a long time to see all of their episodes in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I saw their appearances exactly backwards. I first saw them in Season 4 of Angel about a year ago last spring, then I saw them in Season 1 of Angel about a month later. I finally saw them in Season 3 of Buffy just a few months ago. All along I had this nagging feeling that I was really missing something crucial about their relationship in Season 4 of Angel. It seemed as though a lot of that sizzling erotic energy appeared out of nowhere, and I wanted to find out why they got along so famously. Did something lead up to this dynamic tension? Was it all organic between the two actors and it popped up out of nowhere? Or did the creators manufacture a little bit of their excitement just to give the Season 4 episodes more dramatic punch?

I was really hoping something from their earlier appearances would pop out at me. I'm not blind, and I can understand how their tortured pasts could lead into something quite spectacular later on. Unfortunately, I still feel like I haven't found what I consider to be the missing link. So, it's up to me to plod through the evidence and see what I can come up with.

Wes and Faith in Sunnydale (Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). These two did not get along very well in Sunnydale, to say the least. Wes was a young, inexperienced Watcher who was totally unprepared for the challenges of dealing with independent teenage American girls who refused to jump when he issued orders. We all know how Wesley, who was feeling left out of what Buffy, Giles and the rest of the Scoobies were up to, made the unilateral decision in "Consequences" to have Watcher Council operatives kidnap the increasingly unstable Faith (after she somewhat unwittingly killed the deputy mayor) and take her to England to meet the fate of whatever happened to rogue Slayers. The tragedy was that Angel seemed to be making some progress in turning Faith around. Naturally, Faith took care of Wes and the operatives without too many problems and escaped.

(As a side note, Watchers' Council operatives seemed to come out of the woodwork at the drop of a hat. Did they live in California, or were they just continuously shuttled back and forth between the U.S. and England?)

I'm leaving out a huge amount of the plot, but Faith started secretly working for the mayor while pretending to have made amends with Buffy, Wesley, Giles and the rest of the Scoobies. Eventually, Faith was outed, which freed her to devote herself 100% to the mayor's pet causes.

When I first viewed Wes and Faith together in Sunnydale, nothing really leaped out at me regarding their relationship outside of a slight rise in temperature that we can detect whenever Alexis Denisof and Eliza Dushku are within 30 feet of each other. Both actors just seem to naturally exude a lot of erotic energy. However, upon reviewing some of these episodes a few days ago, I confirmed that the two of them actually weren't together that much in Buffy. It's really not worth it to pound out a post that details the one or two times Wesley may have cast an appreciative glance towards Faith, or the few times that Faith spoke to Wesley and failed to insult him.

Granted, I was rather fond of Wesley putting Faith in handcuffs, and Faith knocking him out just before she escaped from the Black Maria. If these events had led to a more or less immediately positive outcome, I might view this little part of "Consequences" just for these scenes alone. However, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that one of the little incidents that struck me the most the first time around occurred in "Choices" when Faith possibly saved Wesley's life by throwing her knife at the nasty magic spider that was climbing up the wall right behind him. Of course when you really look at it, it's possible Faith didn't care if Wesley got out of the way or not when she threw the knife. Also, Faith probably would have thrown the knife regardless of who was standing there. It's just one of those crazy things that made an impression on me even though my mind might have been manufacturing something going on between them that wasn't really there.

One more intriguing little scene occurred in "Doppelgangland" when Faith and Wesley came back to the library after his formal Council evaluation of her abilities on the obstacle course. Faith was less than impressed with Wesley's ability to keep up with her. As far as I know, this was about the only off-camera time Wesley and Faith ever spent with each other in Buffy. I'd made a comment in a previous post about, how did Wesley know that Faith was a highly-sexed creature who got turned on by her slaying activities? If she had made any sort of risque statement in front of Wesley in Buffy, I would have been all over it. So, if Wes and Faith were able to get to know each other at all, it would have been on that obstacle course. And even that time together was tainted since Faith was a double-agent who was working for the mayor. As another aside, I don't think Wes even had a chance to really observe Faith in action except for the brief instances he saw her working on behalf of the mayor.

If you look at the dialogue, and if you look at what I've written, all of the elements should have been there for a hate/hate relationship that would eventually turn into a torrid romance. It was dislike at first sight for Faith, Faith was always making snide remarks, Wesley couldn't control her, Wesley handcuffed her, Faith beat him up; in other words, typical boy meets girl story. Unfortunately, as way-too-obvious as this all may seem, I personally didn't feel any sort of vibe going on between the two of them the first time I saw these episodes. I only saw the possibilities after I specifically looked for a vibe when I reviewed their performances a second time.

Wes and Faith in Los Angeles: Season 1 of Angel. Again, I'm not going into great detail about all of the scenes in "Five by Five" and "Sanctuary" where Faith said Wesley was an idiot and Wesley called Faith a rabid animal. Although Faith was fun to watch in certain scenes, like the ones with the Wolfram & Hart lawyers and the guy who picked on the wrong little girl, for the most part I had no sympathy for her (particularly in "Five by Five") when she was interacting with the members of Angel Investigations. I couldn't see that she had any redeeming qualities, which of course made it all the more powerful when Angel convinced her to turn her life around at the end of "Five by Five" and throughout "Sanctuary". In fact, the big story for me was the completely non-sexual but emotionally gratifying love that Faith and Angel felt for each other as he helped her take her first baby steps towards redemption.

Faith didn't bother to hide her dislike for Wesley. For his part, even though I don't think Wesley liked Faith at all, I sincerely believe that Wesley always had her best interests at heart, even if no one else believed in his methods. We always knew that the Watchers' Council was a nefarious, sinister organization, but I'm pretty sure Wesley (perhaps naively) felt during his Sunnydale days that taking her to London for rehab was all for the best. Wes tried to reason with Faith in Los Angeles, but he couldn't possibly make any headway with her since he represented everything that she hated. We then found out that even Wesley had his breaking point, as this torture scene so vividly shows.

As a matter of fact, simply based on my random findings on old message forums, the Season 1 of Angel torture scene seems to be their most widely discussed scene in the entire Wes and Faith Buffyverse story arc. This distresses me because I much prefer to talk about their dynamic pairing in Season 4. I also get the distinct impression that many people seemed to find the torture scene highly erotically charged. Again, all of the elements were there: cutting with shards of glass, bondage, lap-dancing, pseudo blow torches, etc. However, even I have my limits, and this goes way beyond Faith tying Wesley up in chains and maybe slapping him around a little bit. I also can't ignore the fact that my favorite character was a victim of such awful humiliating abuse.

I've also been struck by how it seemed like a large number of people admired how Wesley held up under those horrible circumstances. He was defiant, and refused to give her the satisfaction of hearing him scream. I will grant that it's a perfect example of one of Wesley's best qualities, in how he was able to endure some of the worst circumstances of captivity with quiet heroism and dignity. Nonetheless, that's one incident that I wish I could completely ignore and forget. Needless to say, I did not review that scene before I wrote this post.

We all know that after Angel arrived on the scene and Wes worked himself free, he was all set to stab Faith in the alleyway. However, he was profoundly moved by the sight of Angel soothing an emotionally distraught Faith who was begging Angel to kill her. Although Wesley had been pushed to the breaking point and would have likely killed Faith, he immediately knew Angel was doing the right thing for taking pity on such a poor, miserable creature.

In the next episode, "Sanctuary", Wesley was understandably upset that a murderous rabid animal was being "coddled". It's tough being a faceless pawn being sacrificed for the greater good. However, as much as Wesley was not loving Angel's methods for dealing with Faith, he was quietly being influenced by Angel's healing powers of redemption. One of Angel's best qualities in Season 1, and I wish this was carried over more into other seasons, was that he never gave up on people, regardless of how unsympathetic and unlovable they were.

As disgusted as Wesley felt by this turn of events, he never lost sight of his core values and sense of decency. Perhaps he had a sense that he was serving penance for his failures as a Watcher, which helped carry him through these times. Although it appeared that he was going to betray Faith to the Watchers' Council operatives, (to presumably face certain death), he was in reality setting the Council up for a double-cross.

These little segments (where Wesley came back to Angel's apartment to warn everyone about the operatives) got me going just a little bit since, for about three seconds, it appeared that Wesley had the upper hand with Faith and was actually ordering her around. (This is an example of "I love it when Wesley takes charge".) However, it was just an illusion since Faith took off for the roof, thereby setting up the terrific scene with her and Buffy fighting off the Council operatives while being menaced by the helicopter. Wesley made it clear to Angel that he was not doing all of this for Faith's sake, but solely for Angel's sake.

"Sanctuary" was a pivotal episode in that it set the groundwork for so many upcoming themes. Angel taught Wesley about the powers of redemption. Wesley himself became a much stronger person, by first standing up to Angel, and then standing up to the Council via their proxy operatives. This might be a minor incident in itself, but I loved this little inkling of Wesley's genuine admiration for Faith when he seemed downright proud and pleased that she had "cleaned" the "clocks" of the Council goon squad.

Most importantly for Wes, he seemed to make a clean emotional break from the Watchers' Council. Although he had been fired from the Council, it seemed pretty clear that Wesley would have loved to have been reinstated. After "Sanctuary", Wesley was 100% loyal to Angel. Most importantly for Faith, she learned that even though she had the power to pretty much do whatever she wanted, she realized that it was time to submit herself to higher earthly powers (the rule of law) and to serve her own penance for past misdeeds.

Although I saw a lot more promise in their interactions in Season 1 of Angel than in Season 3 of Buffy, I still don't think it was necessarily preordained that they had unfinished business that would compel them to meet again three seasons later. Rather than carefully laying the groundwork in Season 1 for their upcoming performances, I think it was more likely that Mutant Enemy took advantage of themes that had already been established in Season 1 and developed them further in Season 4.

Final Thoughts. After putting their Season 3 of Buffy and Season 1 of Angel appearances in perspective, I'm looking forward to reviewing their dynamic pairing in my next post(s) regarding their appearances in Season 4 of Angel.

The end of "Sanctuary" (where Faith surrendered herself to the police) set up the groundwork for Faith being able to relinquish control and somewhat subjugate herself to Wesley in Season 4. It also set the stage for some more delicious power fluctuations (in that, who's ultimately in control, Wesley or Faith?), not totally unlike what occurred inside the relationship between Wes and Lilah.

One can't ignore the whole theme of "redemption" that occurred throughout Season 4's "Salvage" and "Release", which I'll explore further in my next post(s).

Speaking of Wes and Lilah, the whole double-cross theme between Wes and the Council operatives seemed to be somewhat of a foreshadowing of the double crosses between Wes and Lilah in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem". Wesley was fully intent on double crossing the Council, but he was absolutely shocked to find out they were doing the same thing to him!

Even though Wesley accused Angel of crassly taking the moral high ground in his dealings with Faith, I think that Angel was quite impressed that Wesley was man enough to stand up to him.

I believe Wesley was genuinely sincere at the end of "Sanctuary" when he said to Angel, "I hope she's strong enough to make it. Peace is not an easy thing to find."

Although I think there were many legitimate turning points for Season 1 of Angel, the series seemed to really take off with "Five by Five" and "Sanctuary". These two episodes cranked things up to the next level and set the stage for "War Zone" to introduce Gunn. This finally allowed the creators of Angel to settle on a format that would carry the show throughout the next four seasons.

I'm particularly interested in hearing from people who saw Wes and Faith's appearances together in the proper order: Season 3 of Buffy first, then Season 1 of Angel, then Season 4 of Angel. Did you think their story ended with Faith going to prison in Season 1 of Angel? Did anyone think they were smoking hot together in their first appearances, or that they had the potential to really heat up the screen together later on?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Upcoming Wes and Faith Posts

As I'm watching my Angel DVD's, I've somehow stumbled into doing recaps/reviews for every single episode of Season 4. This is somewhat startling because this is my least favorite season of the entire series. I thought I'd get through the entire season with about a half-dozen posts and put my full concentration onto Season 5. However, I haven't seen a lot of these Season 4 episodes in about a year now, and I'm finding a lot of fascinating crucial information that I somehow missed the first few times around.

I'm coming up to the Faith trilogy of "Salvage", "Release" and "Orpheus". Since the Season 4 relationship between Wes and Faith is one of the highlights of the whole series for me, I don't want to rush through the posts like I have been doing lately. There's no timeline for when I'll be publishing my next series of posts, but rest assured, they're in the works.

Best wishes, and I hope everyone has a good week.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lost Opportunities

Wes and Lilah at the Hyperion Hotel

I've probably seen "Calvary" from Season 4 of Angel one too many times. I could tell that my mind wasn't totally into it while I was watching it yesterday since I was spending more time trying to confirm some of my earlier ideas rather than being on the lookout for things I might have missed before. Nonetheless, "Calvary" was another great episode that disproves my rule that everything after "Habeas Corpses" in Season 4 was absolute garbage.

Writing. "Calvary" was quite unusual in that it was written by three very strong individual writers: Steven S. DeKnight, Jeffrey Bell and Mere Smith. I don't think this Wikipedia page is 100% accurate, but it appears it was a rarity to have three writers working on the same episode scripts. The only other instances were when different people were credited with the "teleplay" and the "story", and when the writing team of Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain were paired up with another writer. The last example almost doesn't count since Craft and Fain are a permanent team.

I have no idea who wrote what in "Calvary", but I can make some outlandish guesses. DeKnight enjoyed writing action sequences, and he might have written scenes like the one where Gunn and Connor fought off the soul-eating demon and where Lilah took her final stand against Angelus and Cordelia. I couldn't help but notice that Jeffrey Bell had previously written (or was at least credited with writing) some exceptional dialogue between Wesley and Lilah, like their first meeting in Season 3's "A New World"; all those wonderful scenes in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" (including the signed $1.00 bill and "you played me"); and their powerful breakup scene as well as Wesley's rescue of Lilah from The Beast in "Habeas Corpses". Although there were no definitive earth-shattering scenes between Wes and Lilah in "Calvary", I thought this one where Wes caught up with Lilah in the sewer tunnels was particularly touching.

It's hard for me to come up with any special purpose for Mere Smith in "Calvary" outside of how she was a long-time talented story editor and versatile writer in her own right. I enjoy joking about how Wesley always seemed particularly sexy in her episodes, so maybe she was brought in to make sure there was enough fuel to keep his smoulder-factor in full force. Also, did any one writer write all of Angelus' scenes? Regardless, Mutant Enemy might have needed three writers on this episode due to time constraints. For all I know, Mere Smith could have written the action sequences, and DeKnight might have written all of those Wes/Lilah moments!

Wes and Lilah. I devoted an entire post to Lilah's appearance in "Calvary" last year in "Almost Goodbye to Lilah". Since I obviously don't want to repeat myself, I'll take the lazy way out and invite you to read my old post if interested. I will clarify a few things though.

First of all, I'd often suspected Lilah brought out Wesley's best qualities. In "Calvary", Wesley certainly seemed to step it up a notch in the brains and leadership departments while he was with her. Contrast that with how he completely fell apart again when he found out Fred broke up with Gunn. I'd even written a post several months ago called "Strange Comfort Zone" in which I noted Wesley seemed much more at ease with Lilah since he didn't feel any pressure to impress her.

I always feel kind of funny when I re-read "Strange Comfort Zone" because, first, I said Wesley was 100% himself when he was with Lilah, but then I also said that the real Wesley was the one who wanted to pick daisies with Fred. Isn't that a contradiction?

Commenter Lisa (who I might add is an excellent writer) brought up an excellent point in this recent comment when she said that Fred ".... represented all the innocence that he had lost." I really believe that underneath that calloused, tough-guy exterior there still existed a sweeter and more idealistic Wesley. He couldn't turn back the clock and regain all of that lost innocence, but he seemed to hope that he could find a way to reconnect with his old self again some day.

In my "Almost Goodbye to Lilah" post, I wondered when everyone found out about Wes and Lilah's relationship. I'm not even sure that "Calvary" was the episode when most of the members of Angel Investigations figured it out. Outside of Fred finding out in a particularly nasty way when Angelus broke the news, there didn't seem to be any additional "Aha!" moments with the group similar to when everyone found out about Cordy and Connor. As of this moment I'm still not sure when everyone put two and two together regarding Wes and Lilah. The only thing I can point to is how just about everyone gave them funny looks at different times within the episode.

I also have a few slightly different interpretations of what happened in "Calvary" than what I wrote in last year's "Almost Goodbye....." post. When Wesley chased after Lilah in the sewers and Charles ordered Connor to stay with the group in case it was a trap, I originally didn't think Charles was trying to get Wesley killed. Now, I'm not so sure. He might not have really wanted Wes to get killed, but similar to the scene in "Habeas Corpses" when Wes barricaded him and Fred against Charles and the zombies, it didn't make Gunn look very good.

Another part was the lovely exchange between Wes and Lilah on why their relationship would have never worked out. I had written in last year's post that Lilah was the first to mention it,"...probably to try to build up her own self worth." I'm now thinking that Lilah might have had another one of those "Who knows you better than I do" moments and said those things to try to absolve Wesley of some of the guilt and self-doubts that were racking him. That ties into this scene in the next episode, "Salvage", where the ghostly Lilah seemed to be comforting Wesley about his failure to protect her and help her find redemption.

Wesley and Fred. Once more, Wesley's timing was off with Fred. In a nutshell, Charles and Fred broke up; after Fred told Wesley she and Gunn were no longer together, Lilah and Cordy walked in on them before Wes had a chance to close the deal; Angelus casually dropped the bomb to Fred that Wes had been "banging Lilah for the last six months"; and Fred didn't take that piece of news very well and acted all funny and uncomfortable whenever she saw Wes and Lilah together.

I couldn't help but notice that, true to form, Fred automatically believed Angelus was lying when he told her about Wes and Lilah, until she saw Wesley's stricken face. Also, although Wesley could have gotten on his knees and begged Fred for forgiveness at some point, he probably quite wisely stepped back and gave her the time she needed to sort through some things in her own mind. I honestly can't remember if she and Charles somewhat got back together again, but Wesley was at least giving her the option to do so.

I'm sort of working on a theory that Lilah's arrival at the Hyperion was a net positive for Wesley. As I mentioned above, he always seemed to step it up a notch when she was around. Although it was too bad he couldn't hook up with Fred at that point, at least Wesley was able to put his thoughts back together and focus all of his attentions on the problems at hand. In my next post I'll expand on the idea that Lilah had a direct influence on his decision to spring Faith out of jail so they could capture Angelus.

Gunn. One of Angelus' biggest strengths was exploiting other people's weaknesses. In this particular scene he hit Gunn with his lowly "muscle" status within the group.
ANGELUS: You know what I like about you? You play to your strengths. You know what they are, and you stick to 'em. You don't find that much these days. Everybody always trying to expand their horizons, actuate their potential, and all that other touchy-feely crap. But not you. You don't try to change... because you know your place. That'll go a long way towards keeping you alive.
Gunn gave up quite a bit in the form of power and prestige when he joined Angel Investigations, even if he was an alpha male in one of the worst spots in Los Angeles. It hurt him immensely that he not only had to relinquish his top dog status to Angel, he was always at the bottom or (close to the bottom) of the totem pole within the entire group. And let's face it - having to answer to Wesley was the worst part about the whole deal. Even when Fred joined the group Gunn's status fell because he didn't have her "brains". Gunn was probably quite fortunate that he stayed above Lorne, not that Lorne was interested in usurping anyone's position.

Although Gunn desperately wanted some sort of leadership role, he was first and foremost a realist. His style was to hack away at his foes, and he seemed to lack the confidence to take on any strategic planning roles. He talked a big story when he would posture to Wesley "Who made you the boss?", but he never made any real attempt to take over the group. (One exception was the beginning of Season 4 when it was just Gunn, Fred and Connor.)

I was therefore delighted with this scene where Gunn and Connor went after the soul-eating demon. (Even better, the two of them seemed to be having having some fun on a bonding expedition!) When Connor uncharacteristically again was on the verge of being defeated in battle, Gunn cut off the demon's head and performed other acts of mayhem to make sure it stayed dead. "Yeah, sometimes you just gotta keep whacking" Gunn said.

Idle Thoughts. It was awfully classy of Lilah in this scene not to reveal to everyone that Wesley had helped her escape from Wolfram & Hart.

Once again, I liked Cordy in this episode. It's too bad she was revealed to be the villain. On a side note, Charisma Carpenter's acting was a lot more understated during Season 4 than in prior years. I liked both versions of Cordy: bright and bubbly, and more mature and serious. I'm trying to figure out if she turned down the volume on her energy levels because she was pregnant, because it was demanded by the script, or if Carpenter wasn't having as much fun anymore.

I enjoyed David Boreanaz' acting the most so far in this particular arc when he was playing Angelus pretending to be Angel. I also liked these scenes here and here where Angelus was basically telling the truth about The Beast having a boss and how the black magic ritual would not restore his soul. What made him really diabolical was how no one could ever tell when he was lying and when he was telling the truth. He was almost more dangerous when he told the truth because he only did so when it suited his purposes.

Wesley survived his ordeal of being the fallen member of Angel Investigations in Season 3 a lot better than Cordelia did in Season 4.

I wish there was more of an explanation of Lilah's stigmata wounds. I understand the connection between the word "Calvary" and the wounds. Was she supposed to symbolize one of the two thieves who were nailed to crosses next to Jesus Christ during the crucifixion? Or did she symbolize Jesus Christ because he was the one who was impaled with the spear by the Roman soldier? Did she die for Wesley's sins?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Big Oops

I accidently hit the "publish" button for a post I was working on rather than "Save". So if my draft showed up anyone's feeds, my apologies for the confusion. In the meantime, I hope to publish my finished version of my review of Angel's Season 4's "Calvary" some time later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Secrets and Lies

The first time I saw "Soulless" from Season 4 of Angel, I didn't appreciate how everyone was in a really bad place at the time they brought back Angelus courtesy of the extraction of Angel's soul in "Awakening". Angel was jealous that Cordelia had slept with Connor; Angel, although mad at Connor (for obvious reasons), was not making any headway in his attempts to reconcile with his son; and Cordelia was trying to mend fences with Angel while simultaneously trying to keep Connor on an even keel. She seemed like the most effective member of the group at that time, yet in reality she was an evil rogue Power That Be who was manipulating events from behind the scenes.

Connor was mad at Cordelia because she was acting less like his lover and more like a mother figure; Connor was mad at everyone because he thought they all thought he was connected to The Beast; and everyone hated Connor because he was a brat and he wasn't giving anyone any reasons to trust him.

Gunn was mad at Wesley because Wesley had barged into the Hyperion and was trying to snatch Fred away from him; Wesley was mad at Gunn for apparently not stepping aside and gracefully giving up Fred; Fred was mad at Gunn because he killed her evil oppressor Professor Seidel without her permission, but wasn't mad enough to break up with him; Fred was supposedly in love with Wesley, probably because he just happened to show up while she was in a state of emotional flux over her situation with Gunn; and Lorne was trying his best to keep himself out of everybody's way.

And all of this was happening when they should have been pulling together to try to defeat The Beast, who was well on his way to destroying the world.

About the best thing I can say about "Soulless" was that it wasn't as horrible as I remembered. It's just that the creators were piling on the melodrama deep and thick while turning everyone stupid at the worst possible moments just to keep the story line going until the end of the season. Although the evil little girl conduit at Wolfram & Hart had warned them "the answer is among you" as she lay dying in "Habeas Corpses" just after The Beast attacked her, no one seemed to be developing any healthy sense of paranoia.

Angelus. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been characterized as a TV show about teenagers, and Angel has been characterized as a show about young adults. Much as I love watching shows with a lots of highly attractive young people running around, I can't help but think Angel Investigations might have benefited from a few gray hairs on the team. I have a neighbor who retired a few years ago after serving 35 years as an elementary school secretary. After spending ten minutes with her, both Angelus and The Beast would have found themselves sitting in a corner doing their homework.

I haven't seen a lot of Angelus in Season 2 of Buffy, but from what little I saw he was fun to watch. I even enjoyed the ersatz Angelus in Season 1 of Angel's "Eternity", where a young actress slipped Angel a happy pill in the hopes he would experience his moment of perfect bliss and turn her into a vampire. Unfortunately, even though I'm stomaching David Boreanaz' performances a lot better on my third viewing, Season 4's Angelus seems more like some of my most irritating co-workers rather than the baddest vampire of them all.

Admittedly, being irritating was the only thing that Angelus had to do. Since he was trapped inside Angel all along, Angelus knew everyone's faults, weaknesses and dirty little secrets. Once he blabbed everything to the world like he was a Mean Girl at the high school prom, he could just sit back and let everything fall to pieces. (Here's that ludicrous scene where Angelus said to himself "That was fast" while Wesley and Gunn fought, and Gunn accidentally took out Fred with an errant swing.)

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Wesley warned the group ahead of time of Angelus' tactics when he told them,
WESLEY: Watch the monitor when I go down. Pay attention to everything he does, everything he says. He'll try to confuse you, to play on your emotions so you drop your guard. If he succeeds—even for an instant—we're all dead. I spent my life training for this, and I'm still not ready. He's smarter than I am, and a great deal more focused. He'll exploit everything Angel knows about me and go for the jugular. Whatever he's got, I'm not gonna see it coming.
In hindsight, he should have taken things a lot further. Wesley should have known from his Season 1 of Angel encounter that Angelus was a speaker of unpleasant truths and would probably try to set all of the members of the group against each other. If not Wesley, than at least somebody should have stepped up to the plate and reminded everyone that each and every one of them had something to hide. The team could get through the situation by keeping their egos in check and by staying focused on their mission. The ideal person to give this particular pep talk would have been Cordelia since she had the most dealings with Angelus, but she had her own agenda going at the time.

Although Wesley seemed to be well on his way to maturity while he was running his own operation, probably nothing prepared him for his encounter with the legendary Angelus. I'm not going to pick apart the dialogue between the two of them. You can see for yourself how things went down between the two of them here, here, and here. Suffice it to say, Angelus pointed out all of Wesley's weaknesses and screw-ups, including how: Wesley was trying to be the hero in order to impress Fred; Wesley felt, and in fact, was inferior to Angel; he allowed Lilah to extract part of Lorne's brain; he failed miserably as Faith's Watcher; he kidnapped Connor; his own father was ashamed of him; and Wesley would never amount to anything no matter how hard he tried.

We can see that Angelus spoke some uncomfortable truths, but liberally sprinkled in a lot of half-truths as well. For example, Wesley had no idea that Lilah was going after Lorne. He obviously would have tried to warn the others if he knew. However, the fact that he fell for Lilah's trap could be considered a failure, so Wesley would have still had ample opportunity to suffer a lot of guilt over that matter.

Wesley acquitted himself reasonably well under the circumstances, but he still left a lot of room for improvement in his dealings with Angelus. In what will become a repeating pattern throughout Season 4, despite being continuously beaten down (both literally and figuratively), and despite all of his failures and setbacks (like supposedly being responsible for the loss of Angel's soul), Wesley never quit. I spoke more about this particular character trait in my post "The Unsinkable Wesley Wyndam-Pryce" when I noted:
Although he was constantly being pulled down by his father, paradoxically, Wes seemed to have had an endless pool of self-confidence and egotism to draw from, which may have been distilled in him somewhat by his mother. Wesley knew his own self-worth, even when everyone around him viewed him as a failure. No matter how many times during the course of Angel Wesley was wracked with self-doubt, he was always able to pull himself through with his reserve strength. That egotistical streak that made him so insufferable at times was a great survival mechanism that kept him going through hard times. Wes knew he had something valuable to contribute. It was just up to him to find his niche in the world where he could play his strengths to everyone else's advantage.
Fred Burkle, Charles Gunn, and Wesley. Dear sweet Fred always had a maddening tendency to give out false reassurances when things were looking bad. However, this scene presented a special case in that Fred was actually being self-serving for once. In response to how Angelus had correctly stated that Wes had a crush on her, Fred said, "Charles, remember, we can't believe anything Angelus says."

Cordelia more accurately noted, "He distorts everything. He lies with the truth. It's part of what makes him so dangerous."

Then, in yet one more instance where character IQ's suddenly dropped several points, Fred got herself captured by Angelus under Charles' watchful eyes when they went down to give him some blood. Luckily, Wes saved her life by shooting Angelus with the tranquilizer gun. Then, in another one of those "Fred is sure sending out mixed signals" moments, she threw herself into Gunn's arms and told him, "I'm just glad you're here."

When I first watched the series I honestly couldn't tell at times whether Fred and Gunn had broken up or if they were still together. I just remembered that when they finally did break up for good (my apologies, I can't remember which episode), I was surprised by that development because I thought it was pretty obvious that they had broken up quite a bit earlier than that. Regardless, I couldn't tell if Fred was cheating on Gunn half of the time and if Wes was making inappropriate moves on Fred, since I was never knew the true status of Fred and Gunn's relationship. Suffice it to say, Fred and Gunn were still technically together in "Soulless", and everyone should have behaved accordingly.

Wes was obviously in love with Fred in Season 4, while it seemed Fred was more or less just taking advantage of a good opportunity that came along. She was having problems with Charles, and a good-looking man who absolutely adored her just happened to walk into her life. What more could she have asked for?

If Fred was looking around while she was still with Charles, that obviously put her in a difficult spot. I honestly didn't look at her as a two-timing, conniving bitch. I looked at her as a confused young woman who had lost several years of socialization while she was stuck in the Pylea dimension. In addition to giving false reassurances, Fred had the ability to put herself in a state of denial whenever she witnessed something bad or immoral happening. She tried to see the best in everyone and give everything else a positive spin. Wesley was giving her signals that he was interested in her, but, in her mind, Wes was a good man who wouldn't try to steal another man's girl. Fred obviously had some feelings for Wesley, but couldn't bring herself to break up with Charles because she was trying her hardest to deny that there was anything at all going on between her and Wes.

This is where a good adult conversation between Fred and Wesley would have done a world of good. Fred could have asked him how he felt about her, admitted that she had feelings for him, and then gone on from there. She could have also asked Wesley to give her some space so she think things through or give her a chance to reconcile with Charles. Or, she could have broken up with Charles and taken up with Wesley.

If this was beyond Fred's capabilities, then Wesley should have had the brains to tell Fred how he felt, then either given her some space if she so desired, or supported her if she chose to break up with Gunn. Regardless, in this scene it looked like Fred might have been at least attempting to start a conversation along those lines when Wesley, probably interpreting her actions as a big green light, came up to her and started kissing her. Fred, who was momentarily startled at first, quickly returned his kisses quite enthusiastically. Unfortunately for Wes and Fred, Charles caught them practically red-handed, which ended up with the big brawl in the lobby between Wes and Charles.

According to my "Ages and Stages" post, I figured Fred was about 28 or 29 years old in Season 4 (making her possibly the oldest human in the group), while Wesley might have been a year or two younger than her. (Not once during Buffy or Angel did we ever get a clue about Wesley's real age.) They should have been old enough to know better, but both of them were somewhat in a state of arrested development. Regardless, it's amazing how Wesley, who I figured was every bit Lilah's intellectual equal, turned into a complete schoolboy around Fred.

Connor and Cordelia. Out of everybody who had their turn with Angelus, these two had the best success against him. It's too bad Cordelia was really the evil Jasmine because I really liked her in "Soulless". I could actually see a little bit of the Sunnydale Cordy going toe-to-toe with Angelus, and I think she was the only one who didn't blink. (Though I admit I wasn't fond of the "you can have your way with me" part of the deal.)

Connor started off good, and I think he actually impressed Angelus a bit. However, Angelus knew how to get at him by starting off with blatant lies about why Darla staked herself and how Holtz supposedly also killed himself. I don't think Connor really believed him, but it was enough to get Connor riled up to the point where Cordelia felt compelled to come down the stairs and rescue the situation.

Idle Thoughts. It's amazing how hard it is to think outside the box, in that you think you're covering a situation from every angle but can't find your way to investigate that huge blind spot that's right in front of you. Of course Cordy, as a wise ancient demon, was very skillful at covering her tracks. However, the fact that she was one of the people in "Long Day's Journey" who was on duty guarding Manjet when he was slaughtered in Gwen's secret safe room should have at least signaled somebody to the fact that she should have been searched and interrogated for no other reason than to eliminate her as a suspect. I also thought somebody could have put two and two together that Cordy was the only one around who could have killed Manjet and swiped Angel's soul.

So far so good as far as Charisma Carpenter's performance as evil Cordelia. I'm amazed that I'm still liking her character, but that will probably end pretty quickly after I see "Calvary".

Now that I have a better understanding of the dynamics of the Fred/Wesley relationship, I'm looking forward to watching "Calvary" again to see how Wesley acted around Lilah compared to how he acted around Fred. I've actually seen "Calvary" a few times more than some of the preceding episodes, but it's tough to watch a single show out of context in Angel and be able to understand or even recognize everything that's happening.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Angel's Perfect Day

I had written in a previous post from last June that:
Season 4's "Awakening" was absolutely heartbreaking. As I told my husband, I'm not sure if it's a favorite or least favorite episode of mine. I was really fooled and drawn into it the first time I saw it, and I was absolutely crushed to find out that all of the wonderful things that were happening was just part of a dream sequence that Angel experienced before Angelus emerged.
What's amazing is that I was just as drawn into this episode the second time I saw it (when I wrote those words above), even though I already knew the outcome.

What's Reality? When I first started watching Angel a little over a year ago, my disciplined little Puritan voice told me that I should stay away from spoilers so I could enjoy the show as though it was a first-run series. Naturally, I was usually online within minutes after viewing each episode so I could see what everyone else had to say about it. You can guess the rest. One link would lead to another and before I knew it I was reading spoilers all over the place. When all was said and done, I knew just enough to get myself into trouble and draw the wrong conclusions.

I can understand the concept of how my mind can take over and fill in the gaps when I'm trying to figure out a story line. However, I can't understand some of the out-and-out errors I made while dealing with what was presented to me. I could have sworn that Faith would be torturing Wesley in Season 5 instead of Season 1. Also, I think I was coming across fan fiction and mistaking it for the real deal. For example, I had read somewhere that Lilah convinced Wesley to work for Wolfram & Hart in Season 4, and he showed up at the office everyday wearing suits. I think in one other instance I was picking up some plot lines from After the Fall and transferring them to the TV series. In my defense, I think I was getting a lot of my information from message boards, where you pretty much have to already know the series before the two and three-line posts start making sense. (Not to mention that undoubtedly some of the commenters were making errors.)

As a result, even when I knew an unpleasant plot development would be occurring, I always held out hope that I had made a mistake and the story would actually go off in another direction.

"Awakening" represented a particular point in my first run-through of the series where I hoped everything I saw was real. Perhaps Angel and Connor could reconcile and work together to destroy The Beast. Maybe Angel and Cordelia would finally became lovers. Even though I had a vague idea that Angel would be reverting to Angelus and that Cordy would become evil, I was still completely fooled by the story line. Unfortunately, it turned out that everything I saw had been conjured up by a mystically-induced dream sequence, which became the impetus for turning Angel into Angelus once he achieved perfect happiness.

I keep calling all of the episodes after "Habeas Corpses" the bad part of Season 4, but we all know there are no absolutes in life. David Fury and Steven S. DeKnight put together the perfect script, making the heartbreak that much more painful for rookie Whedonites who didn't fully understand the concept that there are no happy endings in the Buffyverse. Even though I can say "Awakening" is outstanding in every way, it isn't an episode that I watch over and over again either.

I did find that the episode lost most of its punch upon the third viewing, which is no real criticism since it's supposed to be just a one-time only deal. The fact that I enjoyed it just as much on the second viewing last year speaks to the quality of the writing, directing, acting, stunt work and all of the other things that go into production. On the second viewing I was able to start spotting a certain melodramatic flair. Yesterday, when I was watching "Awakening" for the third time, I could smile indulgently at some of the insights we received into Angel's fantasy world, where fighting and brawling ruled the day, where Cordelia came up with her visions at just the right moments, where Wesley could admit his failures and apologize for them, where Connor could reconcile with Angel (but not until he put up a spirited defense just to prove he was a chip off the old block), and where the lovely Cordelia could beg for forgiveness and fall weepingly into Angel's arms. I can't believe I fell for all of this the first time around! However, I won't apologize for how I can occasionally allow myself to suspend all sense of reality and get completely drawn into a show.

In fact, throughout the episode I tried to make a game out of, how much of what we saw represented Angel's wishful thinking, and how much was just necessary filler material connecting his fantasy pieces together. There was one segment where Angel, Cordy, Wes and Connor were descending into the center of the earth to retrieve the Sword of Bosh M'ad. There's no doubt in my mind that Angel chose his three favorite people in the world to accompany him on that trip. At one point they had to negotiate a "minefield" where little bells suspended from ribbons acted as tripwires for deadly wooden stakes (and other weapons?) that would spring out from the sides. Cordelia almost set off a deadly barrage when her sleeve caught one of the bells. Wesley was the one who saved the moment by carefully removing the bell from the sleeve. However, a moment letter, he set off a bell, and Angel immediately jumped in to save Wesley's life.

There are many ways to interpret that little sequence with the bells, but was Angel kind of missing the days when it was just the three of them, where Wesley could act heroically, but would always need and rely on Angel to get him out of trouble? Did this part of his dream act as a way to reassure Angel of his alpha male status within the group?

Angel's Soul. One reason I looked forward to seeing this particular episode again is because I thought it gave one of the clearest explanations in the whole series of the nature of Angel's soul. According to Cordelia:

CORDELIA: ........ The gypsies cursed him with a soul so he could feel remorse—to make him suffer for all the people he slaughtered. Removing that soul is the only way to change Angel back into Angelus.


CORDELIA: The gypsy curse was specific. For Angel to lose his soul, he would have to experience a moment of perfect, pure happiness. And right now, happiness of any kind is in... kind of short supply.

The real significance of this episode is that it ties together at least two competing theories floating around in the Buffyverse about the nature of the soul. According to one theory, the soul is existential in nature and gives a person the moral capacity to recognize and be able to make choices between Good and Evil. (In other words, an existential soul gives a person a conscience.) Another theory dates back to Plato and to some of the even earlier ancient Greeks, where the soul is a life-giving source, separate from the body, that gives each person his or her own individual free will and identity. The way I'm looking at it is, the gypsies cursed Angel with an existential soul, which the shaman extracted in the form of a Platonic soul. I went into this in much more detail in a post, "After the Fall Interrupted: Now Where Did We Leave Fred's Soul?" (I also discussed some of the events of Season 4 in this post as well.) For the best discussion around, I highly recommend Scott McLaren's "The Evolution of Whedon's Vampire Mythology and the Ontology of the Soul".

Persistence of Memory. TV trial lawyers know all about the value of bringing in testimony or evidence that will inevitably be stricken from the proceedings. Once a juror sees something, it's hard to discount it later on. I've often thought that many people continue to be confused by Skip the Demon's narratives for Cordelia in Season 3's "Birthday" and "Tomorrow". It's hard to reconcile the messages we had been relying on for roughly a year against Skip's final reveal that Cordy had been put on a path for a train wreck with Jasmine as he explained in Season 4's "Inside Out".

Even I relied on this scene in Cordelia's alternate timeline in "Birthday" as proof that Wesley felt humiliated ("forced death march down memory lane") by memories of his kisses with Cordelia back in Sunnydale. It appeared that all blame for the failed kisses landed on Wesley, with Cordelia being absolved of any failure on her part. It wasn't until later on that I realized that Cordelia's alternate timeline was really how she wished her life had turned out rather than what would have actually happened if she hadn't have met Angel in Los Angeles. (Wesley still could have been humiliated by those kisses. We just don't have positive proof.)

After watching "Long Day's Journey" for the first time, even though I found out at the end of the episode it was just a dream, I still looked back on the scene of Wesley's apologies for his failures as something that really happened. It wasn't until I saw it again a few months later that I realized that, in fact, Wesley never did apologize and take responsibility for any failures outside of Angel's dreams. Also, I couldn't remember which episode they retrieved the Sword of Bosh M'ad, and I remembered it as being a scene that took place in an episode some time in late Season 3 before Cordelia was elevated into a higher being.

Idle Thoughts. I loved Wesley's Uber Tough Guy personality that came out in this episode. How is it that I can put up with someone who is arrogant, acts unilaterally, barks out orders and literally pushes people around? I guess you just need to take one look at the picture at the beginning of this post for your answer.

To be honest, I always admired Wesley for sizing up a situation, making the difficult decisions and taking immediate action. Sometimes there's no time to form a committee during a dire emergency and reach a consensus after performing group hugs. Wes has been criticized a lot in the message boards for acting recklessly and/or shoving Angel out of the way in order to take over the group. I think these same people sometimes forget that Angel made the final decision on his own. (With the help of some evil manipulation from Cordy, but we'll ignore that for now.)

I loved this scene where Connor, forever the teenage brat, indicated he would have no qualms about killing Angel/Angelus if necessary.

I also loved Cordy's observation "what is it about evil that jacks up the I.Q. points?" I actually made a remark in a roundabout way that Lilah might have been more intelligent than Wesley, but sometimes evil people just appear to be smarter.

Fred and Wesley continued to swoon over each to a certain extent, but it really isn't worth writing about. I suppose I should add this one little uncomfortable slip-up where Fred complained, "I need Wesley - his expertise".

When I think of "Wo-Pang" (the name of the dark mystic who took out Angel's soul), I always think, "That's a phony-sounding Chinese name if I ever heard one." It reminds me of a name a non-Chinese speaker would have came up with for a Mandarin villain in a 1920's mystery novel. Ironically, the words "wo pang" actually show up in Filipino and Malay song lyrics in Google searches. For the record, I have no idea what the words mean. I just hope I'm not embarrassing myself.

I thought Roger Yuan did a great job with his limited role of Wo-Pang. I'm amazed at how shamans, mystics, psychics and other dark priestly types get kidnapped or otherwise involuntarily pressed into duty with great frequency inside the Buffyverse. They always seem to matter-of-factly go about their business regardless of the circumstances.

"Long Day's Journey" was written by David Fury and Steven S. DeKnight. In his DVD commentary for "Apocalypse, Nowish", DeKnight said he was really into writing action scenes. I think he delivered in a big way for "Long Day's Journey", assuming he wrote these scenes here and here. This might be an over-simplification, but I wonder if DeKnight was brought in to write the action sequences, and Fury was brought in to write the more sentimental scenes like the ones here and here? Regardless, it took a deft touch to write an episode that could poke gentle fun at Angel's secret fantasies without crossing over the line into mocking or ridiculing him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Into the Night

"Long Day's Journey" from Season 4 of Angel is yet another episode where the creators seemed to be marking off items from a checklist that they had assembled at the beginning of the season. It reminded me in spirit of "Slouching Toward Bethlehem", which was another pure story arc episode. However, "Long Day's Journey" seemed a bit more routine, had a lot of clunky dialogue, and just overall seemed a bit rougher around the edges. That said, it was still reasonably enjoyable to watch, warts and all.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Fred Burkle, and Charles Gunn. One challenge in watching Angel is that there are so many subplots, I can't possibly keep track of everything that's going on. When I first saw "Long Day's Journey", I must have been so wrapped up in "Is it Connor?" and "What's going on with Cordelia?" that I totally missed out on the blatantly obvious goo-goo eyes marathon going on between Fred and Wesley! It was particularly pronounced in this scene, where Wesley was showing Fred the pertinent pages in Rhinehardt's Compendium while they were both pointedly ignoring Gunn. Gunn reacted several times by both physically placing himself between them and jumping uninvited into their conversations.

Since I haven't seen this episode in about a year, I can't remember if I recognized what was going on and it made no lasting impression on me, or if I was genuinely too stupid to be able to see what was happening. Another thing that surprised me was that all along I figured Wesley was the one who was going after Fred, while Fred followed along somewhat cluelessly. Yet in this episode it was obvious that Fred was also quite smitten with Wesley. (Which she should have been since he was as sexy as ever.) The creators made sure that they were laying the groundwork for the never-ending "will they or won't they get together" trope, but it fell completely flat as far as I was concerned. I don't think my heart skipped a beat once the entire time I saw the two of them together on the series.

My main problem is that both Fred and Wesley were acting like a couple of lovesick teenagers. There was nothing classy or sophisticated about how they were dealing with this delicate matter. My heart completely went out to Charles since they were acting with total disregard to his feelings. (Hmmh. Similar to how Charles and Fred were acting around Wesley when they first got together.)

I was surprised that I genuinely wanted to see Fred and Charles reconcile, since I never totally understood why she turned against him after the unfortunate Professor Seidel incident in "Supersymmetry". Also, since it looked like Fred was recommitting herself to their relationship in the previous episode, "Habeas Corpses", this sudden about-face by Fred in "Long Day's Journey" seemed to come out of nowhere. I'm not saying that Fred should have dutifully surrendered herself back to Charles. Her feelings were valid, whether I understood them or not. I just wished that there was more of a buildup which led to Fred's infatuation with Wesley (besides the fact that he looked really sexy when he walked out of the office carrying his book). I suppose I should have taken it as a sign that she was falling for Wesley every time Fred looked at him or talked to him in "Habeas Corpses".

Another thing I would have liked is if Wesley had acted more like the adult with Fred, similar to how he acted around her when he was the group leader. Although Wes advanced in many ways when he turned dark, he actually regressed a bit in how he acted around Fred in Season 4. This should have actually have been expected, since he had a history of acting foolish around women he really was really smitten with, including Fred. But perhaps the fact that he was no longer the authority figure was what attracted Fred to Wesley? Perhaps she felt somewhat smothered by Charles and felt like she could breathe when she was with Wesley? Whatever the motivations, Wesley seemed to be lowering himself to her level so they could openly flirt and otherwise ignore everything else that was going on around them.

Cordelia Chase, Angel, Connor and Lorne. I actually liked Charisma Carpenter's scenes with Connor and Angel. Although she was well on her way to revealing herself as the real Big Bad, there was just enough of the old Cordelia left to make her scenes enjoyable. I'm watching these scenes with an eye towards how Cordy was putting Jasmine's plans into motion, but I'm not obsessing with what I think might be a few discrepancies. I know that things are marching on towards the final outcome regardless of whether they make sense or not, so that's good enough for me.

It's ironic that in my last post I praised Andy Hallett's acting abilities and said I was pleasantly surprised that Lorne was having more of an impact on the series in Season 4 than I had remembered. Then, in "Long Day's Journey" his character seemed to recede somewhat into the background again. However, I can't ignore how the beginning of the episode featured another great Angel and Lorne scene, which is always a plus in my book. Lorne seemed to be taking Cordy's spot as the comforting voice of reason in Angel's life!

Vincent Kartheiser and David Boreanaz were just as good as ever. The character of Connor seemed to continuously take us viewers on a roller coaster ride. This episode was the "upward" part of the loop, since it looked as though Angel and Connor might reconcile after all.

Angel and Gwen Raiden. As opposed to their scenes together in "Ground State", there seemed to be very little sizzle (pardon the pun) between Alexa Davalos and Boreanaz in "Long Day's Journey". (I assume it's no coincidence that Mere Smith wrote both episodes.) Actually, I thought Gwen Raiden's character was more into Angel than vice versa. Angel was going through the motions of sending signals to her, but it seemed more like lukewarm actions from someone who was on the rebound. I assume that Angel had taken Lorne's statement to heart that "....there's other fish in the sea".

This episode marked another maddening appearance by Gwen in that everything she did seemed to lead absolutely nowhere. It seemed like we were watching another subplot involving her unfolding right in front of our eyes. "Some day, all will be revealed", I thought. She did make one more appearance in "Players", but it's hard for me to believe that her entire story arc was simply building up to her and Gunn stealing the L.I.S.A. device so she could gain the ability to touch people for short periods of time without electrocuting them. About the only noteworthy thing that happened in "Long Day's Journey" was that we discovered that she was still morally ambiguous, when she admitted to Angel that she lied when she told Angel Investigations that she didn't see The Beast take anything out of the body of her client Mr. Ashet.

Gwen was also an expert at body language, and she could probably sense she was going nowhere fast with Angel. This scene where she was talking to Gunn about his romantic situation was a nice foreshadowing of their encounters in "Players".

One fascinating aspect about Gwen was that she apparently had no one in her life who took an interest in guiding an electric freak. People would offer to take her off of her parents' hands once in a while (for a nice fee, of course), but that was about it. Most of the time people were only interested in exploiting her, which obviously eventually led her to a life of crime. Gwen learned that the only way she could protect herself was by becoming totally self-reliant. I was really hoping she would eventually become a full-fledged superhero in Angel, but it wasn't in the cards.

Mesektet. I was also intrigued when Wesley stated that "My sources have already confirmed that, without the little girl, the earthly contingent at Wolfram and Hart is cut off from the Senior Partners, effectively neutralized. However, it appears that was not her only function. (shows Fred and Gunn a book) I've just found an entry in Rhinehardt's Compendium for that same little girl—or, rather, the entity presenting itself as one. Her name is Mesektet."

I never found the notion that all communications with the Senior Partners only took place via the conduit all that convincing. For one thing, the Los Angeles office was supposedly only one of many offices in the world. I immediately thought, doesn't each office have its own conduit to the Senior Partners? Then I realized that the little girl could have mystically been the conduit for all of the offices of the world. Hence, the magic elevator rides to see her.

I also think it was a good touch to have Mesektet perform double duty as a Wolfram & Hart conduit and as a totem to the ancient sun god Ra. I can't say much beyond that, but it just shows how wonderfully complex and intertwined the demon worlds could be in the Angelverse.

Idle Thoughts. I almost liked Manny (Manjet), the last living totem of the Ra-tet. It's too bad he was such a jerk when he was with women. I wonder if the creators made him that crude on purpose just so we wouldn't mourn his loss too much?

I don't ever recall pointing to a specific writer and blaming him or her for a sub par episode. The main reason is that I understand there are so many fingers in the pie during the creation of a show, it would be hard to fairly pin the blame on just one person. For example, along with the writer, there's also an executive producer or two who might have some say in the matter, the showrunner, the story editor(s), and whoever shows up at the planning meetings. If a specific writer has a sub par storyline that he or she needs to follow, then the person might not reasonably be expected to perform miracles.

Speaking of writers, I can't help but notice that it seemed like something interesting happened with Wesley every time Mere Smith wrote an episode.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Pause in the Season 4 Action

As I explained at the bottom of my last post, "Habeas Corpses" marks my informal ending to the "good" part of Season 4 of Angel, probably because it was Stephanie Romanov's last appearance as Lilah for a while. While there will be plenty of good highlights over the remainder of Season 4, I fully expect my DVD viewing of the series to be somewhat like a couch potato's death march until Season 5 begins.

So now's a good time to take a break from my episode reviews and get caught up on a few other things.

Andy Hallett as Lorne. My official line has been that I thought it was a mistake for Mutant Enemy to destroy Caritas and have Lorne move into the Hyperion Hotel. He became less interesting when he stopped being a neutral observer and started becoming Angel's cheerleader. Although he wasn't exactly an outsider, he never really completely fit in with the rest of the group either. He was always more of an honorary or associate member rather than a full-fledged member of Angel Investigations. I felt that for the remainder of the series, as wonderful as he was, Lorne never really found a niche for himself.

Now, even though I don't think my opinions have changed that much, I'm finding what's really keeping me going with Lorne is Andy Hallett's acting. Although he was always a good actor, he seemed to really step it up a notch in Season 4, which puts up him close to the head of my list for Best Surprises of Season 4. In reviewing my DVD's, he's seeming less like an outsider and more like someone who's slowly growing into his role with Angel Investigations. I've pledged to keep an eye on both Hallett's acting and Lorne's further development throughout the remainder of the season. It's too bad that his character seemed to suffer a painful setback when he became kind of the clown/buffoon for Season 5.

Wesley and Lilah. One thing that's always intrigued me about "Slouching Through Bethlehem" has been the sincerity of Lilah's affections toward Wesley in their bedroom scenes here and here. Despite the fact that she had to have been thinking about the whole upcoming Cordelia/Lorne caper the entire time, I still have a sense that she had actually fallen for Wesley in spite of herself. After Wesley confronted her for "playing" him at the end of the show, Lilah certainly went into full damage control mode over the next few episodes in an unsuccessful bid to keep Wes around.

One little clue for me was when Lilah took the phone call while they were sleeping in Wesley's bedroom. For one thing, they were actually sleeping in his bedroom, which obviously means they weren't just getting together for hour-long quickies. Plus, it really seemed as though Lilah was awakened by her cell phone rather than just lying in the dark waiting for it to ring. Another clue was how they were physically separated while they were sleeping in bed. I think Wes even had his back turned to her and was sleeping on his stomach! We all know that in real life very few couples sleep nestled in each other's arms. We usually migrate away from each other at some point. However, TV lovers always seem to sleep much closer together. Just based on that observation, Wes and Lilah seemed beyond the first stage of a highly impassioned love affair and had settled into a second phase of a deeper, more domestic type of love.

Lilah was either one cool customer if she could actually fall asleep while she was waiting to set a trap for her lover, or she was relaxed enough by Wesley's company to allow herself to be able to fall asleep. I think it was a combination of the two, as I think Lilah was able to compartmentalize herself between work and her personal life. Stephanie Romanov has said in at least one interview that Lilah didn't think of herself as being evil. Lilah might have justified her actions by telling herself that she still had a job to do. Therefore, the fact that she ordered her security detail to extract part of Lorne's brain without killing him should have mitigated the potential damage to her relationship with Wesley. Nice try, Lilah.

Don't Suffer on My Account. In their DVD commentary for "Apocalypse, Nowish" writer Steven S. DeKnight and director Vern Gillum told us in great detail of the pain and suffering stunt double Scott Workman went through during the filming of the full body shots of The Beast. I don't need to give too many details beyond his vomiting and the fact that the steel plate holding the horns onto the mask clamped down on his head like a vice grip. According to the Wikipedia link above, it also wasn't any picnic for Vladimir Kulich, the actor who did the face shots of The Beast.

I've similarly read and heard about how uncomfortable it was for Andy Hallett to be made up like Lorne, and I'm guessing it was probably a blessing for Amy Acker to not to have to go through an entire series dressed up like Illyria. The argument that these performers know what they're getting into runs a little bit hollow. I'm asking the producers, please don't make actors and stunt people go all through this pain just because you think audiences have these high expectations that need to be met. I can't possibly fully enjoy a performance when I know how much suffering these performers go through. Just paint these people's faces up or put Halloween masks on them. It doesn't seem quite fair that humans should be required to do things that would motivate PETA to shut down an entire production if animals suffered the same amount of pain and discomfort.

Joss Whedon's Grand Opera. Someone made the comment in one of the DVD extras that Joss Whedon kept saying something along the lines that Season 4 of Angel should be "operatic", with everything needing to be on a grand scale. It brings to mind some choice words Mark Twain had about opera, particularly while he was reviewing Wagnerian operas as featured in Chapters IX and X from A Tramp Abroad. This particular quote from Mark Twain in Eruption provides a striking parallel with my own personal feelings about the entire Season 4 of Angel .
"I have witnessed and greatly enjoyed the first act of everything which Wagner created, but the effect on me has always been so powerful that one act was quite sufficient; whenever I have witnessed two acts I have gone away physically exhausted; and whenever I have ventured an entire opera the result has been the next thing to suicide."
Supernatural World. Oddly enough, it wasn't very often that the words "supernatural", "paranormal", "hauntings" and "ghosts" were bandied about in Angel. They were probably used quite a bit when Kate Lockley was first figuring out that a demon world existed. However, the only examples I can think of off the time of my head was when Virginia proudly told Wesley in Season 2 that he was a "renowned specialist" in "supernatural aid and rescue", and when Fred told the homeowner in Season 4's "Apocalypse, Nowish" that "If it's a haunting, the longer a specter inhabits an area, the harder it is to convince them to leave." Fred also referenced "ghosts" later on in the same scene.

I'm not going to cheat and look up the dictionary definitions, but in my mind, "supernatural" and "paranormal" apply more to ghosts and poltergeists rather than the world of demons and vampires. To vastly oversimplify, I think of "supernatural" and "paranormal" as defining events that aren't real, whereas in Angel, demons and vampires were very much real! (I liked Wesley's term of "dark forces" in this scene.)

So it was disconcerting to me in "Apocalypse, Nowish" that Fred and Gunn were on what they considered to be more of a ghost-hunting expedition than a demon kill. I even thought it was odd in Season 3's "Provider" when Gunn and Wesley killed the zombie boyfriend since, in my mind, it was closer to a ghostly haunting than anything else. (Though, oddly enough, all of the items in Wesley's checklist of "Witchcraft, black magic, voodoo, zombiefication, demon possession, even vampirism" seems to fit in better with what I think is more "normal" in the Buffyverse). With all of the other crazy things Angel Investigations was confronted with, I just can't imagine them going through a haunted house like Jason and Grant on "Ghost Hunters".

From what I could tell on Angel, it was very difficult to communicate with the dead unless the person was used as a messenger from the other side. Dead relatives coming back to haunt family members just didn't seem to happen. However, from Fred's talk of "hauntings" and "ghosts", perhaps ghost-chasing was part of their lowbrow bread-and-butter business that helped pay the bills, just like their demon extermination services. Again, I can't imagine Angel Investigations burning sage, performing ritual blessings or cleansings, etc. What I can see them doing is casting spells similar to what Wesley did in Season 2's "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been" when he corporealized the Thesulac demon so they could vanquish it.

"Apocalypse, Nowish" - The Comma. I didn't realize until very recently that there's a comma in this episode title. I've got "Apocalypse Nowish" sprinkled all throughout this blog.

Upcoming Reviews. "Long Day's Journey", "Awakening" and "Soulless" are episodes that I've hardly ever seen, so I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself with them over the next few days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Adventures in Zombie Land

Wesley at the Hyperion,
after encountering The Beast

Last year I included Season 4 of Angel's "Habeas Corpses" in my "Top 10 Favorite Angel Episodes" list. I cited some magnificent scenes that appear in this show, such as, Wesley's breakup with Lilah, Connor's appearance at Wolfram & Hart, Wesley's rescue of Lilah from The Beast, and the rescue of Connor from both The Beast and the Wolfram & Hart zombies by the Angel Investigations crew. I should have also included the fact that it gave us a little bit of hope that, by working side-by-side, Connor and Angel would have been able to re-unite on a more permanent basis.

Upon seeing "Habeas Corpses" back-to-back against "Apocalypse, Nowish" a few times over the last few weeks, I suspect I might have put the wrong episode in the Top 10 list. (And this was even before I saw the DVD commentary for "Apocalypse, Nowish".) I still love all of the scenes I've cited above; it's just that "Apocalypse, Nowish" seemed to be stronger and more unified from beginning to end, probably because of how it was written specifically to give the series a powerful jolt just before it went on hiatus over the long Christmas break. In contrast, "Habeas Corpses" seemed like a classic example of how the good parts just don't quite add up to a satisfying whole. Still, I love the whole "suspend belief and watch it with a bag of popcorn" quality to the episode, where I felt like I was actually enjoying myself for a change when I first saw it.

Angel and Cordelia. When I first saw the episode I actually liked the interplay between Angel and Cordelia, where Angel thought Cordy was talking about one thing when she was actually talking about something else, plus the whole "oh shit I'm busted" thing at the end of the episode, as well as all of the moments in between. Again, my enthusiasm is tempered by how it plays out within the context of the entire story arc.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Charles Gunn and Fred Burkle. I hated all of that childish sniping between Wes and Charles here, here, here, and here. I tried to keep an open mind about Wesley's motivations for barricading the door inside of Wolfram & Hart, with he and Fred on one side and Gunn and the zombies on the other. However, it sure didn't look like one of Wesley's finest moments.

And what was with Wesley's sniping in the Hyperion in the beginning of the episode, where he, Gunn and Lorne arrived after their unsuccessful encounter with The Beast? It sure looked like he was taking his frustrations out on Fred as well as Charles when she ran (all sick with worry) into Charles' arms. We (as well as Wesley) may have thought Fred and Gunn were on the verge of a breakup before that point, but it certainly looked like true love was triumphing for a little while at least. I'm sure the entire time he was fighting The Beast, Wesley had been thinking of how he was doing all of that for Fred's benefit. When Wes arrived all battle-weary back at the Hyperion, the touching reunion between Fred and Charles didn't do much to improve his mood.

I could understand Wesley's profound disappointed for losing the girl of his dreams to Charles, but this was my first point where I really thought that Wes had sulked long enough and should have been glad that at least Fred was happy and safe. Regardless, I've always had a hard time getting any warm, fuzzy feelings about the Fred/Wesley story arc, and this part of Season 4 isn't helping.

Wesley's Breakup with Lilah. The timing of this scene was fascinating, since presumably Wesley was still smarting over losing out on yet another opportunity to pair up with Fred. Wes must have had a heart made of steel to not feel any compassion for the obviously distraught and worried Lilah who showed up at his apartment door. This was probably Lilah's most vulnerable moment, and I originally thought it must have been brutal for Wesley to have to force himself to go through with the breakup.

This just goes to show how important it is to see a scene within the context of the entire episode rather than just in isolation. I've seen this scene by itself many times and even included it in my "Top 5 Wesley and Lilah Scenes" list. I'm not sure if I'm ready to abandon my theory that it was hard for Wesley to break up with Lilah, yet he felt compelled to do so after achieving a moment of perfect clarity while he was battling The Beast. However, a few other ideas are admittedly popping up into my head.

Wesley might have hated Lilah even more than I imagined when he ordered her to "leave them on" when Lilah was playing her little "dress up like Fred" role-playing game. (Which, not so coincidentally, also made my Top 5 list.) Stephanie Romanov had said in an interview that Lilah dressed up like Fred to find out exactly where Lilah stood with Wesley. Lilah may have also unwittingly forced an early showdown between the two of them. She got her answer while giving Wesley the opportunity to pick a side once and for all. Their relationship was doomed to end sooner rather than later, but Lilah was the one who set the final gears in motion.

So, although Wesley had been spurned by Fred, it appeared that he had already firmly made up his mind that things were over between him and Lilah even before he observed Fred rushing into Gunn's arms at the Hyperion. Otherwise, he could have very easily accepted the beautiful and genuinely distraught Lilah who showed up at his place after the Rain of Fire. It was just typical bad luck for Wesley that he decided to end a relationship with one woman then struck out with another woman almost immediately after.

Regardless, this offers up yet one more example of where Wesley ultimately did the right thing by breaking up with Lilah, even if we can't completely admire his motivations.

Wesley's Rescue of Lilah. I've said before that we found out more about how Wes and Lilah felt about each other after their breakup than when they were still together. One big question floating around was, did Wesley love Lilah? The fact that he risked life and limb after their breakup to go into Wolfram & Hart and save her from the rampaging Beast speaks louder than anything. It just made it all the more heartbreaking when he left a severely wounded Lilah to fend for herself in the sewer system, particularly after she let Wesley know that Connor was still trapped on the third floor of the building.

That scene was truly remarkable, in that when Lilah called "Wesley" as he was walking away from her, in the words of the Buffyverse Dialogue Database link from above,

(she looks like she's going to make an uncharacteristic declaration, possibly "I love you". But changes her mind and says instead:)

LILAH: Connor's trapped up inside.

I personally thought she was going to beg Wesley not to leave her, but changed her mind when she perhaps told herself to toughen up, particularly since Wesley had admonished her "don't embarrass yourself" during their breakup scene when she offered to put the glasses back on. Regardless, the hard look Wes gave her apparently snapped her out of what she wanted to say, and instead Lilah did the right thing and told him about Connor. At the end of their conversation, in one of those perfect little moments of acting that I admire so much, Wesley rewarded Lilah with a slight softening of his face and a subtle nod, which she returned in kind (not too much unlike Wesley's and Angel's final nod to each other in the Season 5 series finale "Not Fade Away"). I can't emphasize enough how brilliantly Stephanie Romanov and Alexis Denisof performed in what must have been a very difficult scene.

Lost Opportunities with Lilah. If Angel was about nothing else, it was all about lost and squandered opportunities. Ironically, Angel himself had laid the groundwork for collaboration with Lilah when he talked her into sharing the information Wolfram & Hart had gleaned from the psychics about The Beast. When Angel was talking to his minions in the Hyperion Hotel about his conversation with her, he couldn't help but get a little bit of a dig in by stating quite pointedly in Wesley's direction,"Lilah - she can be very giving." Sort of like the dog in the mystery novel that didn't bark in the night, Angel had ample opportunity to banish Wesley from the Hyperion for good when he found out about his relationship with Lilah, and he had equal opportunity to tell everyone else about the relationship as well. We can take our separate guesses at why Angel was keeping things quiet, but the end result was that Wesley's little secret was safe with Angel.

Did Wesley take Angel's little comment about Lilah as a signal to choose sides? I don't think so, but it is possible. Regardless, if Angel was the one who found Lilah alive at Wolfram & Hart, I'm positive he would have rescued her and brought her back to the Hyperion. They might not have trusted each other, but it would have still made for a worthy temporary alliance. The fact that Wesley chose not to bring Lilah to the hotel indicated that he still felt insecure about his status and didn't want to do anything to jeopardize his standing with the group in general and with Fred in particular.

Another little wrinkle was that actress Stephanie Romanov had apparently taken a hard bargaining stance as far as compensation for her Season 4 appearances. I understand that she ended up receiving more pay per episode but appeared in a fewer number of episodes. Sadly, after "Habeas Corpses", Romanov only appeared two more times in the series, both in Season 4: "Calvary", where she was killed by evil Cordelia/Jasmine; and "Home" where the undead Lilah ushered Angel and his crew into their new lives at Wolfram & Hart. Lilah did eventually hook up with Angel Investigations, but the story line would have been a lot stronger if she had joined much sooner.

Finally, when Wesley went back to Wolfram & Hart with Angel et al to rescue Connor, he sure had his work cut out trying to hide the fact that he had already been there a few hours earlier.

Zombies. I don't think we ever received a definitive explanation as to why all of the employees at Wolfram & Hart turned into zombies after they were murdered by The Beast. Fred and Wesley came up with good guesses when Wesley offered "building lockdown protocol" or "security voodoo", while Fred thought maybe The Beast itself had something to do with it. Again, it didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, and the zombies made for good exciting viewing. I'm still stuck with the nagging feeling that either the creators forgot to tie up a loose end or were perhaps making some sort of profound literary or cinematic reference that's completely going over my head.

Idle Thoughts. I thought that was nice foreshadowing when Gunn wondered, "I don't get it. Wolfram and Hart is evil, the big bad is evil... why go all Terminator on your own team?"

I thought it was pretty cool that the pseudo Little Girl in the White Room transported Angel et al back to the Hyperion. She may have been evil, but she was incredibly wise to realize that Wolfram & Hart needed to keep the Angel Investigations team alive if there was any hope of defeating The Beast. I haven't thought this through too much, but I'm just realizing that any little miracles that might have occurred on their quest to defeat The Beast and Jasmine might have occurred courtesy of the Senior Partners rather than The Powers That Be.

"Habeas Corpses" marks my informal end to "the first part" (meaning the good part) of Season 4, probably because it marked the end of Wesley and Lilah's relationship. Although there are many truly outstanding scenes sprinkled throughout the rest of the season, it didn't take me too long to realize upon my first viewing that this dreadful story arc was seemingly never going to come to an end. My next post will be some sort of catch-up post where I discuss a few things that fell through the cracks in my more recent writeups. After that I'll continue on with my (more or less) series of episode reviews.