Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Tangled Webs They Weave

 Who's Scamming Who?

I seriously thought about posting just one combined review of Angel's final two episodes, "Power Play" and "Not Fade Away", mostly because I thought I'd be repeating myself too much if I broke up the discussion into two separate posts. I changed my mind after thinking about how much additional material I'll probably gain after I listen to the commentary for "Not Fade Away". Which brings me to.....
DVD Commentaries (or lack thereof). I'm disappointed that this final stretch of Season 5 of Angel has a dearth of DVD commentaries. In absolute terms I don't think Season 5 has any fewer than other seasons. However, I was hoping that the fact that the entire series had come to an end would have motivated Mutant Enemy into giving the audience a few more commentaries and other special features than usual. If memory serves me correctly, I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer might have received a more substantial send-off.

I have yet to hear Jeffrey Bell's commentary for the final episode, "Not Fade Away", so maybe he solved a lot of the little Season 5 puzzles that I've been wondering about lately. Regardless, I'm thinking that there were probably several reasons why the end of Season 5 was treated roughly the same as the end of any other season.

First, when it was time to record the commentaries and release the DVD's, the series was well into the history books. Perhaps it would have been too depressing to lavish a lot of attention on a show in which the cancellation came as a complete surprise (as far as I can tell) to just about everyone. However, it's more likely that most of the parties involved had already moved on to other projects, and were wanting to look forward rather than backward. I also can't discount the possibility that since Buffy the Vampire Slayer was off the air, perhaps the entire Buffy franchise was starting to lose steam with both viewers and the creative staff. If Angel was over, then there might have not been that much more to talk about, particularly since the commentary about old episodes couldn't be woven into commentary about new episodes that were currently airing. I hope to spend more time on this topic in a future post.

Second, I have (albeit more often in the past) the tendency to think of the end of Season 5 as being the logical culmination of  all of the prior events that led up to Angel's final decision to take the fight directly to Wolfram & Hart. I've written before about how Angel's decision could have been the defining moment of the entire series. If that was the case, wouldn't such a profound and dramatic conclusion have been worth a few more explanatory DVD commentaries?

The only problem is that, particularly when you put the Angel comic continuation series into the mix (where it was revealed that the Senior Partners tricked Angel into starting the Apocalypse), his dramatic decision might not have been the landmark moment that it initially appeared to be. Unlike Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon did not start off Season 5 of Angel thinking that it would mark the end of the season, much less the end of the entire Buffyverse TV franchise. I could talk a lot more about this, but simply put, the end of Season 5 might have not been the final ending that Joss Whedon initially had in mind, particularly since he was probably already thinking in terms of a comic book continuation.

Nina Ash and Angel. I've been a good girl up to this point and haven't written too much about actor David Boreanaz's physical appearance in Season 5 of Angel. It's been widely noted that it looked like he had gained a considerable amount of weight during this time. I even question the wisdom of allowing Boreanaz to appear shirtless since his less-than-buff appearance tended to be a distraction. Some commenters have guessed that Boreanaz gained weight because his earlier knee surgery might have kept him out of the gym. The fact that he looked slimmer than ever in Season 1 of Bones the following year lends quite a bit of credence to that theory. It's too bad Boreanaz had to go through this process, but kudos to him for finally getting back to his fighting weight.

Despite all of this, I've always held this post-coital cuddle scene between Nina Ash and Angel in fairly high regard since it seemed to emphasis the strong point of their relationship, in that it was refreshingly normal in contrast with Angel's overwrought and doomed love affairs with Buffy Summers and Cordelia Chase. Unfortunately, upon my latest viewing, I was kind of disappointed with Nina's dialogue since I thought it contained a few too many hints of precocious Buffyspeak. I know Nina was quite young (early 20's?) in Season 5, so I might have been asking for too much by hoping for a girl who didn't have the demeanor of a recent graduate of Sunnydale High.

Regardless, the bedroom scene was a nice set-up to their Casablanca-style scene in the park where Angel implored Nina to leave town with her sister and niece. Besides the fact that he deeply cared for Nina, Angel was also trying to do one final good deed before he went on to perform some pretty harrowing ones. Again, I cringed at some of Nina's dialogue ("That's typical. You sleep with a guy and he sends your entire family out of the country. No, wait, that's actually not that typical at all........."), but this scene formed a wonderful bridge between Angel and Nina's relationship in Angel and their relationship in After the Fall.

I would like to think that the fact that Nina lived on in the comic continuation series is a testament to the strength of her character on Angel. You can tell by clicking on my "Nina Ash" tag that I'm a pretty big fan of her. However, I also can't help but think Nina Ash continued on as Angel's girlfriend in After the Fall  only by default, since she was practically the last girl standing.

Drogyn. I love Alec Newman's Drogyn character, and it's too bad he didn't appear a lot earlier in the series. As a quick summary, Drogyn was a 1,000 -year old noble warrior who could tell only the truth. One lovely surprise was that Mutant Enemy tried to rectify this situation by giving us intriguing glimpses of how Drogyn had crossed paths with several Buffyverse characters many times in the past.

If interested, I highly recommend you read the Buffy Wikia entry listed above for more information about Drogyn. However, I will start off by saying that before "Power Play" we found out that Drogyn had some sort of undefined past history with Angel. (Note: The fact that Drogyn informed Angel he'd only been appointed Guardian of the Deeper Well "decades" earlier tells us that their last contact had occurred relatively recently.) We then found out in "Power Play" that he also had some sort of equally undefined past history with the Watchers' Council and Marcus Hamilton.

The fact that Wesley apparently knew Drogyn only from reading dusty old tomes implies that Drogyn must not have had a lot of regular contact with the Watchers' Council over the years. What really interests me is the idea that there might have been a significant number of noble "battlebrands" roaming around the Buffyverse. We know an awful lot about the bad guys, but not too much about the good guys outside of those who had ties to the Watchers' Council. I had always suspected the Watchers' Council wasn't the only game in town when it came to battling evil. For example, we can hardly believe that Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was the only "rogue demon hunter" out there.

That's why I became so excited when the idea was briefly floated in "Lineage" that there was some sort of shadowy operation running attacks on bad guys in three different parts of the world, including the Los Angeles offices of Wolfram & Hart. (I talked more about it in this post here.) Although the attacks against the "demon cabal in Jakarta" and the "Tanmar Death Chamber" were probably false flag operations, the idea that Angel might not have been totally surprised that some other demon-hunting enterprise even existed seemed quite noteworthy.

Marcus Hamilton and Eve. The history between Drogyn and Hamilton also intrigues me, since it shows that Hamilton must have been a long-time regular on the evil villain circuit. The fact that Drogyn immediately recognized him implies that Hamilton was a long-time steady operative (or go-to guy) for the Senior Partners, and that Hamilton's physical appearance perhaps had not changed too much over the years.

This BuffyWikia entry indicates that both Marcus Hamilton and Eve were considered to be "Children of the Senior Partners", who "were human-like beings created by the demons known as the Senior Partners through unknown means, to act as agents for Wolfram & Hart. Depending on their purpose, they are granted different abilities." The entry then went on to describe that Eve was sent as a "liaison" whereas Hamilton was "...some kind of emissary and/or enforcer..." Again, I'll let you read the rest if you're so inclined.

I don't want to spend too much time on this, but I question whether Hamilton and Eve were cut from the same cloth. Unquestionably, Hamilton was tough and ultra-capable (helped in no small part by the fact that the blood of Wolfram & Hart ran through his veins), whereas Eve had every appearance of having been promoted to her own particular level of incompetence. Assuming we can take this dialogue from "Life of the Party" at face value, I wonder why the Senior Partners would have even bothered to send Eve to U.C.-Santa Cruz for her university training if they could instead fill her pretty little head with whatever knowledge they desired.

I even wonder if Eve had only recently been recruited right out of college a la Lilah Morgan and granted immortality, only to have had that immortality revoked a relatively short time later. Unfortunately, I don't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Other than the fact that she existed long enough for Lindsey to have established a relationship with her, we really don't know how long Eve had been around. Whereas Hamilton seemed to be a deliciously old-school non-human villain, Eve definitely represented new school ideals.

Circle of the Black Thorn. The After the Fall comic continuation series revealed that Angel had been manipulated into starting the Apocalypse. Indeed, Lindsey McDonald explained to Angel's cohorts that the Circle of the Black Thorn was the Senior Partners' "instrument on earth" whose duty was to keep the Apocalypse "rolling along". I interpret this to mean that the Circle of the Black Thorn was practically indistinguishable from the Senior Partners. One could then logically make the inference that the Circle of the Black Thorn was responsible for bringing both Eve and Hamilton to Wolfram & Hart to make sure the next stage of the Apocalypse occurred on schedule.

From this point on, it appeared that the entire Wolfram & Hart cast of characters became expendable dupes in one form or another, as layers upon layers of complexity became woven into the story lines. For starters, none of these people enjoyed anything resembling a happy ending. Eve lost her immortality and apparently perished when the offices of Wolfram & Hart came crumbling down at the end of "Not Fade Away".  Hamilton perished moments before in the same scene after Angel managed to get some of that special Senior Partners blood for himself. Lindsey not only had to spend time in a hell dimension earlier in Season 5, but he suffered the ultimate humiliation of being killed by Lorne in "Not Fade Away".

Ironically enough, the members of the ultra-important Circle of the Black Thorn themselves became the biggest dupes in that they all had to be killed before Angel could start the Apocalypse. With this in mind, I can look at this scene, where Hamilton was spying on Team Angel, in a whole new light. Rather than being satisfied that Angel was completely alienated from his friends, Hamilton could have been quite pleased that Angel was using magic to try to trick him into believing that Team Angel was literally at each other's throats. So, in essence, the Senior Partners paid one of their highest compliments to Hamilton by entrusting with the task of manipulating their top emissaries on earth!

Spike. I feel like I should really be keying in once more on the significance of Spike being the first one to raise his hand when Angel asked who was going to join him in the fight against the Senior Partners. Spike raised his hand almost matter-of-factly, like it was the most natural thing in the world, in contrast to how Wesley and Gunn appeared to hesitate just a little bit.

Spike certainly must have been thinking about how far he had traveled through his newly-ensouled existence. For viewers, this moment was obviously the culmination of Spike's multi-season Buffyverse story arc, where he went from a totally evil soulless vampire into a top-notch champion for justice.

Idle Thoughts. I liked how Angel's friends initially gave him the benefit of the doubt when faced with evidence that he had perhaps turned evil. (Here's an example.) This was a refreshing change to how people were only too willing to believe the worst about Angel at times. (Here's another example, where Fred seemed to believe Spike when he told her Angel attacked the Numero Cinco mailroom guy.)

I'm surprised that I haven't written about "Power Play" too much in the past, particularly since it's one of my Top 10 Favorite Episodes. If you're interested in what I've written about this episode before, you can click on the previous link, as well as here and here. I could almost say that this episode is more fun to watch than to analyze, but that's not quite true. The themes presented, although profound, are also quite self-explanatory. Too much discussion would be overkill.

It's so well-established by now that Angel did not have anything to do with Fred's death, it's tough to have to sit through scenes like this where people are asking, "Did he, or didn't he?"

It's quite widely known that the producers hoped that Sarah Michelle Gellar would appear in this penultimate episode.  (Here's a link to a David Fury interview that has a few juicy tidbits.) Unlike "You're Welcome", where I could envision Buffy fighting with Angel and Spike in place of Cordelia in this zombie scene, I can't imagine how Buffy would have fit into "Power Play". Was Nina a substitute for Buffy? Or would this episode have been radically different if Sarah had been able to appear? Your guesses are as good as mine. Regardless, I'm still glad Sarah did not make any appearances in Season 5 of Angel since it helped solidify its reputation for being a strong series in its own right away from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I wonder if "rogue demon hunter" Wesley ever ran across any of the Winchesters from Supernatural?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Through the Ringer

Decisions, Decisions; or So Many Men, So Little Time
(Nestor Carbonell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ioan Gruffudd)

The season finale of Ringer that aired earlier this week may very well have been the last episode of Ringer that will ever be produced. Although "I'm the Good Twin" pulling in a 0.5 rating based on 1.1 million viewers is seen as a good thing, very few people expect the series to be renewed by the CW network.

I absolutely adored Ringer, mostly because of the acting and the characters' lavish lifestyles. I thought Sarah Michelle Gellar was brilliant in her portrayal of twins Bridget Kelly/Siobhan Martin, as she was able to bring an enormous amount of emotional depth to her characters. I fell head-over-heals in love with Ioan Gruffudd as Andrew Martin, and I hope his latest brush with American television won't scare him away for good. And what can I say about Kristoffer Polaha as Henry Butler? I'd probably fall in love with his character even if Polaha was playing the Boston Strangler!

I don't have time to go on and on about how much I also loved all of the other characters, but I will give special cudos to Zoey Deutsch, Andrea Roth, Jaime Murray and Tara Summers for making their off-putting characters of Juliet Martin, Catherine Martin, Olivia Charles and Gemma Butler a lot of fun to watch. On another note, although I equally adored Mike Colter and Sean Patrick Thomas as NA sponsor Malcolm Ward and driver/bodyguard Solomon Vessida respectively, I felt a bit uneasy about how their characters veered uncomfortably close into undying loyalty of the African slave territory. I also thought the producers were awfully brave (no pun intended) to make their chief villain, Bodaway Macawi (Zahn McClarnan), a Native American, which probably explains why his character hardly ever appeared on the show.

Watching Nestor Carbonell's FBI Agent Victor Machado turned into a real eye-opening experience for me. Initially, Machado was the only character that I actively disliked, to the point where I wondered at first why he was even on the show. I didn't even find Carbonell to be all that attractive! I think I started gradually warming up to the character when I found out Machado had been romantically involved with the murdered stripper Shaylene Briggs (Nikki DeLoach). However, I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw the bar scene in "Let's Kill Bridget", where the demoralized and (temporarily) ex-Agent Victor Machado opened up to an extremely sympathetic Bridget Kelly/ Siobhan Martin, aka, "Shivette". At that moment, my least-favorite character turned into my favorite one outside of Gellar's Bridget.

I was happy to find an active forum for Bridget/Victor shippers over at FanForum. It turns out that a lot of people got caught up with that pairing quite a bit earlier than I did. Regardless, in addition to a lot of longing to see them together in upcoming episodes, there was also a lot of good-natured comments about how Sarah seemed to have an almost endless supply of good-looking men to nuzzle up with every week.

Carbonell himself probably said it best when he stated last year that "She [Sarah] has chemistry with a chair!" Although that's kind of an odd way to put it, he did bring up a point that I've been wanting to write about for a long time: Sarah Michelle Gellar is at her best when she's interacting with a strong co-star. That's not to say that Sarah is incapable of carrying a scene on her own! It's just that I've noticed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer that although Sarah, as Buffy, was a lot of fun to watch when she took on vampires as a solo act, she was that much more enjoyable to watch when she had a solid ally by her side, like Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), David Boreanaz (Angel), Eliza Dushku (Faith), and James Marsters (Spike). It was almost as though having a partner made Buffy more complete. That "chemistry with a chair" is actually Sarah's incredible ability to develop marvelous chemistry with just about anyone, which makes everyone's performances that much stronger.

The Bridget Kelly/Victor Machado relationship on its own is enough to make me want to buy the series DVD's if and when they're ever released. It would be nice to look at all of Nestor Carbonell's performances one more time with a fresh set of eyes. An analogy I can make is that a woman can work with a male co-worker for quite a while and never give him a second thought. Then, one day, she passes him in the hallway and wonders, "Wow! Who the hell is this guy? He's hot!" (Let's forget the idea that he may have switched aftershaves.)

Despite the fact that I'm a huge fan of Ringer, I can certainly understand why a lot of viewers must have been turned off by the series. Executive producer Pam Veasey hinted that the show may have been too "complex" for viewers, but I think "convoluted" is the more accurate term. "Complex" implies that viewers might have had some difficulties understanding or interpreting some of the themes that were being presented.

When a viewer watches a show and shakes his head in disbelief after ten minutes while snorting, "I'm so sure!", that's never a good sign. If you're incapable of suspending disbelief for an hour while watching Ringer, you're doomed. Continually whipsawing characters and events back and forth (e.g., is Andrew Martin evil, or isn't he?) is not the same as creating intriguing plot twists and turns. With Ringer, the producers were only inducing motion sickness in their viewers. In the end, it all boils down to respect for the audience.

Despite some major criticisms, I'd love to see a second season of Ringer. Many of the issues from the past were resolved (including the fact that evil villain Macawi was killed and Bridget found out Siobhan was still alive), but the season finale kept a lot of issues up in the air. Will Andrew grow to love Bridget even though he kicked her out of the apartment after he found out she had been impersonating Siobhan? Will Siobhan try to find other ways to kill Bridget? Will Bridget be able to reconcile with Juliet? Is Malcolm really dead?

Most importantly, will Bridget ever get together with Machado? This seems highly unlikely, mostly because the series itself never promoted the idea that the two of them were potential love interests. The continuing Bridget/Andrew story line is too compelling to bring in Machado as a complication. It's also worth noting that actor Nestor Carbonell has been cast to appear in the pilot of a new ABC comedy series, Smart One. But it appears there's plenty of wiggle room that would allow him to return to Ringer if a miracle occurs and CW brings it back for a second season. Nonetheless, there certainly is a lot of room to speculate about Bridget and Machado, particularly with how he openly admired her Siobhan persona for being a good wife and mother, and how he made it a habit to swoop in and dramatically rescue her on a pretty regular basis. Even Machado's willingness to keep risking his FBI career increasingly seemed to spring more from a motivation to help Shivette rather than a desire to take revenge for the killing of his former girlfriend.

Which brings me to a frequent problem I have as a casual TV viewer, in that I'm often willing to two-time on my favorite characters. Andrew Martin established himself as my one-and-only in Ringer, yet it didn't stop me from casting my eyes towards Victor Machado. Although it would be interesting to see a Bridget/Andrew/Victor love triangle, my wishes for TV shows are rarely ever granted, which makes me all the more certain that we'll never be able to see that happen.

So, long live Ringer, and if the series disappers from our TV screens for good, may the characters enjoy a long prosperous life in the hands of fanfic writers.

Idle Thoughts. I was disappointed with Misha Collins' appearance as Dylan in "Whores Don't Make That Much". It looked like he was constantly trying to keep from cracking up, and I thought the episode itself was way too calculatingly melodramatic.

Someone needs to come up with a Ringer episode name generator, where the words "bitches" and "whores" and "ho" can come up on a regular basis, and new terms like "skank" and "douche-bag" can be added . (Here's a list of the actual episode names.)

It was a mistake to make Siobhan Martin a much less sympathetic character as the series went on.

I also liked Ringer's theme music, which I believe was composed by Gabriel Mann. I thought it fit the mood of the series quite well.

Notice that, as of this date, Zahn McClarnan's Bodaway Macawi doesn't show up in the "Cast and Characters" section of Ringer's main Wikipedia page. The names do, however, show up in the series synopsis. Hopefully this will be corrected soon.

I was absolutely certain that it would be revealed that Bridget's driver/bodyguard Solomon was actually one of Bridget's potential assassins. That never happened.

I hope Carbonell's reference to Sarah's chemistry with a chair wasn't a reference to Bridget's profession as a stripper.

I've never had such a hard time spelling actor/character names as I did with this post.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ciao, Baby

La Dolce Vita
Drusilla and Spike circa 1960 Rome

(Actors Juliet Landau and James Marsters)
(Image courtesy of Screencap Paradise)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that "The Girl in Question" from Season 5 of Angel was not as horrible as I remembered. As soon as I told myself that I'd be keying in on a few recent pet themes of mine, my attitude adjusted quite beautifully.

Production Values: I had written in an earlier post from July 2009 that:
The first time I saw the episode, I really tried to get into the Angel v. Spike rivalry over Buffy, but I just couldn't do it. I thought every joke and sight gag absolutely fell flat on their faces. Plus, those Italian accents were horrible. I've seen my share of Fellini movies, so it's not like I'm just not getting it. I finally had to give up and start scanning through to the Wesley/Illyria "good parts". The second time around, a few days ago, I didn't even try to sit through the Angel/Spike scenes, and, again, I just scanned to the "good parts".

I'm keeping this episode around for posterity, and I'll try to wade through it at a later date. I'm consistently finding that the episodes I didn't care for the first time around get better on subsequent viewings.
(I focused mostly on the Wesley/Illyria scenes in the above-referenced link, so I encourage you to click on it if that's what you're interested in.)

What bothered me the most on this viewing was the overall substandard production values, from the fake Roman bar, to the even fakier Italian accents, and the Italian nighttime streetscapes that were so painfully obviously filmed in a studio. Even the Wolfram & Hart offices (both the LA and Rome locations...wink, wink) looked distressingly cheap, and I used to really like that set design! I was always willing to cut Mutant Enemy some slack, particularly since I knew they were working with tight Season 5 budget constraints, but even I have my limits.

On the positive side, there were two minor characters who I liked considerably: Vikki Gurdas as the bartender, and Carole Raphaelle Davis as the CEO of the Roman branch of Wolfram & Hart. You can tell from the link above that Carole spent a considerable amount of time in Europe during her childhood. I wouldn't exactly say that made her Italian character all that convincing, but that's not really the point. Both Gurdas and Davis were bright and funny, and were able to transcend their performances beyond being stock caricatures. Also, both women seemed to have had considerable live performance singing careers, which probably helps explain how they were able to successfully project their bubbly personalities onto the screen.

Finally, that brief Spike and Drusilla circa 1960 black-and-white Fellini scene left me cold at first, but this time around I thought it was way too brief! I've become a big Drusilla fan after first viewing this episode, and I'd love to have seen more of that European beatnik vampire culture.

Buffy Closure. I'd written in this April 2011 post that:
More than anything else, I felt that both "Damage" and "The Girl in Question" were sops that were thrown to please Buffy fans who had crossed over to Angel after Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air. Although I haven't read any of the Buffy comics, I suppose these two episodes could have potentially acted as bridges between the TV show and the comic continuation series. (Again, I'll ignore the part about how it was revealed in the comics that Buffy was not actually the girl who was seen dancing with The Immortal in "The Girl in Question".) Unfortunately, the Buffy crossovers in Season 5 of Angel weren't nearly as strong as the Buffy crossovers in Season 1 of Angel (with Buffy and Faith) and Season 4 (with Faith).
I can certainly understand how the final season of Angel doubled as an opportunity for a final farewell to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From little hints scattered here, here, and here, I'm under the impression that Joss Whedon was hoping that Season 5 of Angel would have been considerably more Buffy-centric. (And this was even before he received the news that Angel had been cancelled.) Long story short, he was hoping that he would be able to bring in both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Anthony Stewart Head at some point in the season. Instead, he was only able to snare Tom Lenk as Andrew.

I also understand that some fans might have needed some closure to the Buffy/Angel/Spike triangle. I was actually quite satisfied with this dialogue sequence in "Harm's Way" when Spike told Harmony that he almost set off to see Buffy:
SPIKE: I was on my way. Had a boat ticket and all. Then I put a little thinking into it. A man can't go out in a bloody blaze of glory, savin' the world, and then show up 3 months later, tumbling off a cruise ship in the south of France. I mean, I'd love to, don't get me wrong, but, uh, it's hard to top an exit like that.


SPIKE: .....
Oh. I expect Buffy would be happy enough to see me. It's just, I gave up my life for her, the world, and if I show up now, flesh and bone, my grand finale won't hold much weight. All of it... won't matter. "
I don't remember if there were any off-camera phone calls between Angel and Buffy during Season 5. However, a few deft lines of dialogue from Angel could have cued us in that he spoke with Buffy, she was happy, and both of them were ready to move on.

Joss Whedon himself might have been the one that was having a hard time moving on. I can't help but notice that there were quite a few similarities between "The Girl in Question" and the earlier Season 5 episode "Destiny". Both Angel and Spike turned into driveling morons when their personal rivalries came to the forefront, and they came to blows during particularly heated exchanges (albeit the fight scene in "The Girl in Question" was a lot less climactic than the fight scene in "Destiny".)

In the DVD commentary for "Destiny", David Fury made it quite clear that Joss Whedon wanted Angel and Spike to fight about Buffy. Indeed, the subject of Buffy did come up during the fight conversation. However, other staff members (and presumably David Fury himself) convinced Joss that the fight really needed to be about which Vampire With a Soul was the better vampire. That way all aspects of their troubled relationship and rivalry throughout the years could bubble up to the forefront.

About all I can say is that Joss finally got his Angel/Spike/Buffy triangle episode with "The Girl in Question", and bully for him. However, to back up a bit, some reviewers have labelled this episode as being a bonding experience for Angel and Spike, where the two vampires worked through their differences and became closer as a result of their shared hardships. Thematically, I think it would have made a lot more sense for Angel and Spike to have bonded after they had been duped into the Mountain Dew-in- the-Cup of Perpetual Torment disaster that occurred in "Destiny". Obviously, they would have known that someone was messing with both of them, and they should have been able to join forces and act against after their common foe. Instead, Spike pulled away from Wolfram & Hart and started his own separate, albeit short-lived, career as a champion demon-fighter.

Another problem with the "Angel and Spike got closer" theory is that any bonding that occurred between the two of them was squandered pretty quickly when Angel apparently turned evil at the end of "Timebomb" and remained seemingly evil throughout the penultimate episode of the series, "Power Play". One can argue that Joss Whedon always liked to pull the rug out from beneath his characters when things started to look good, but I don't think the series had enough time to establish that Angel and Spike were Best Buds before the producers pulled them apart again when Angel turned rogue.

Retcon. It's pretty well established by now that the Buffy comic continuation series retconned "The Girl in Question" by informing us that Buffy Summers was not in fact dancing with The Immortal in the Roman bar. It would be dangerous for me to summarize the newer version of events since I haven't read any of the Buffy comics, so I'll just give a few links and quotes:
Wikipedia - The Girl in Question. "The canonical eighth season comic retcons the identity of the Immortal's blonde consort; Buffy (as narrator) says: 'The guys figured I was a target. Set up two other Slayers to be me. ... One's in Rome, partying very publicly – and supposedly dating some guy called "The Immortal." That part was Andrew's idea. He did research on the guy, said it would be hilarious for some reason' — apparently the reason being a prank aimed at Spike and Angel."


Wikipedia - Buffy Summers. "In Season Eight (2007–11), it establishes Buffy is not living with the Immortal in Rome which is simply a cover story to ensure her safety as she is now the leader of a global organization which recruits and trains Slayers to deal with demonic threats worldwide."
I actually think the retcon version makes a lot more sense than the version that was presented to us in "The Girl in Question". Although this Wikipedia entry makes it quite clear that Sarah Michelle Gellar was never scheduled to appear in "The Girl in Question", the final product (minus the retcon) made it look an awful lot like the producers were left scrambling after they failed to secure Gellar for the episode.

It's too bad that the complete story did not come out in Season 5 of Angel, since it would have been wonderful if the writers had emphasized how Buffy didn't like being followed around by Angel's proxy in Italy any more than she liked being followed by Angel himself in Season 1's "I Will Remember You". She was happily living her own life, and the guys desperately needed to get over the fact that her plans no longer included Angel or Spike.

Idle Thoughts. Despite the fact that I'm looking at "The Girl in Question" a lot more favorably this time around, I still have to chalk it up as a solid miss. This is surprising since episode writers Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight are hardly a couple of hacks. "The Girl in Question" had a lot of potential, but I think the main problem was that the timing was all wrong, since the episode had all of the hallmarks of being crammed in around the time the series was being cancelled.

I found Andrew's dialogue in this scene to be terribly simplistic, when he was telling Angel and Spike that Buffy was off living her own life. Oddly enough, the printed word in the link above doesn't look as bad as it should. On-screen it seemed a lot more like Andrew was pretending to muse to himself while also pretending to be blissfully unaware that his words were having impact on Angel and Spike. In other words, he was trying to lecture to Angel and Spike without making it look like he was lecturing them. Most two-year-olds aren't stupid enough to fall for this. The fact that Angel and Spike did fall for Andrew's little ploy may have been the whole point.

"The Immortal" sounds like a fascinating character, NOT for the reason you might think. I'd like to hear a lot more about the "centuries-old guy with a dark past who may or may not be evil".

Past and present and reality and fantasy can warp and shift in so many interesting ways. I know this makes no sense whatsoever, but when I see actresses Julie Benz (Darla) and Juliet Landau (Drusilla) in Season 5 on Angel, I have a hard time thinking of them in terms of making return appearances to the series simply because their characters appeared in flashbacks sequences. That's ridiculous because I know damned well that the producers didn't film these scenes in Season 2 and wait three years to insert them into Season 5 episodes.