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.


Lisa said...

As much as I love Wesley, I never liked him and Fred together. I don't think he was really in love with her - more like the idea of her, if that makes sense. She represented all the innocence that he had lost. I think his relationship with Lilah was more poignant. He loved her but not the idea of her. It was almost the opposite.

Now, Faith is the one I really wanted him with ;)

Miriam said...

What you wrote makes total sense to me! What's really striking is how the whole Fred/Wesley relationship seemed to really resonate with a huge percentage of the viewing audience. If I could just get a little bit of insight as to how others felt about their relationship, I have a feeling I'd be viewing Wes and the entire series in a completely different light.

And three cheers to Wes and Faith!!! They needed their own series, or at least a made-for-TV movie to continue their story just a little bit more.