100 things to do in 1000 days; #65/72 Cont’d: Watch all of Buffy. And Angel.
(Buffy review available here.)
For completeness’s sake, I started watching Angel in conjunction with s4 using this as a watching guide. Again, spoilers ahead.
I had no interest in the show before because Angel bores (or, I guess I should say “bored”) me, and I’m generally pretty skeptical of spin-offs (this is what kept me from watching Futurama for ages, though, so shows what I know). On the other hand: Cordelia – I didn’t even realise she was in it until a friend convinced me the show was worth watching. Which was a bit of work. “Why bother watching Angel? He’s SO boring, I hate Wesley, and surely Cordelia can’t carry a show,” I said. But Wesley got good, Cordelia got great (seriously, I love her so much), and Boreanez got funny, so – problems solved.
Before I get to the seasonal review, there are a couple of things I want to get out of the way.
One: Angel on Netflix is WEIRD. The sound mixing is bizarre – it goes way too quiet and then way too loud in the same scene, and the music is always blaring. Plus, for about half of the first season episodes, a black screen where commercials should be went on for about 10 full seconds. So not the best viewing experience.
Two: Joss Whedon. Man, I have such mixed feelings about Whedon. Almost as though he’s an actual human being with faults, instead of the idol I prefer to pretend my celebrity objects of affection and admiration are. I often feel like I’m watching a different show than the one he thinks he’s putting on. Like, you can’t keep re-writing people’s characters and motivations (not to mention the rules of your supernatural universe and the actual history of your show), and expect people to roll with it. Or maybe you can, but you SHOULDN’T. His shows are like Jessica Chastain’s fashion choices. So close. And yet…
The first episode was surprisingly funny, if a bit slow, so I was, if not hooked, then at least vaguely intrigued right from the beginning. Here are the notes I had about season one:
- I’m getting a bit tired of characters telling me how hot Angel is. He’s no Giles.
- Is every episode of Angel about some poor, down-on-her-luck, abused blonde woman being taken advantage of by a guy?
Answer: by Hero, no. But until then (and a good deal after), good freaking grief.
Seasons two and three had my favourite Cordelia – recognizable as herself from Buffy, but with the more thoughtful, caring traits highlighted. There was a great moment on Buffy where she mentioned that she ran away from some fight or another, only to realise later that no one was chasing her. It was a surprisingly introspective moment, but one that (as well as some tough love advice for Buffy and friends, her entire relationship with Xander, and her intelligence) makes her transformation on Angel entirely believable (to me, anyway).
You can count me as one of the people who are not a big fan of s4 (as Skip would say, I didn’t love it). Part of it was the lack of Cordelia, part of it was the annoyingness of the by turns whiny and psychotic Conner, and part of it was the general lack of fun that was happening around this time in the Buffyverse (season four aired at the same time as season seven *spits* of Buffy). Jasmine was an interesting idea, but the way they got there – Jeebus. So this all powerful higher being needed to create an impossible vampire birth in order for that impossible child to impregnate a part-demon woman who spent some time on the same (?) higher plane as this being, because that’s the only way she could burst fully formed from Cordy’s thrice pregnant belly because…why? What part of that makes any sort of actual sense? Seriously. I just – what?
Season five, on the other hand, I flat out loved. I also loved the beginning of s7 of Buffy, though, so I was prepared for disappointment, but turns out I didn’t need to be. Of course, there were some major continuity problems (*sigh* as usual), but after 12 seasons in the Buffyverse, I just don’t care anymore. Plus, if you think of s5 as its own show, which I can’t help kind of doing, continuity isn’t much of a problem if the show started with “Conviction” (the episode, not the intensity of your belief system). Fred’s recognizable, but Gunn isn’t, Wes is back to late s2, early s3, and Angel’s a bit of a blank slate at the best of times anyway. But I like it. It’s got the self-assurance of later-season Whedon shows AND the light-heartedness of the earlier seasons. I even loved Fred in s5, despite being totally meh about her for the past two seasons. Plus, then sexy Adam Baldwin walked in, and it’s official, s5 is my favourite.
In fact, there were only about 3 or so episodes I didn’t particularly enjoy in the whole season. For every other season, individual episodes tended to be a mixed bag of things I loved and things I hated, which makes it difficult to pick out favourites for re-watch. If only they could have been s5 good when Charisma was still in the cast. Or kept her on through the season. Sigh. Well, you can’t have everything. Especially if Whedon’s involved. (And if you’re Wesley, you can’t have anything.)
I’d always heard of Willow and Fred as being the big, well-loved female characters from the Buffyverse. Maybe that’s true, maybe I was hanging out in the wrong circles. I’d also heard of Buffy and Faith. But somehow, I’d never heard all that much about Cordelia, and what I did hear suggested that she wasn’t well-liked. So I’m glad that this “must read about everything I watch” business has led me to seeing I am not at all alone in my CC^2 love (and frustration). First she was bitchy and hilarious. Then she was entertaining and interesting. Then she was lovely and thoughtful. And then she was quiet, bizarre, and, finally, dead.
Frankly, I was one of those who really couldn’t freaking stand Wesley until around “Eternity” (no matter how little sense that episode actually made). And by “Sanctuary,” I thought I might actually like him, and was having trouble figuring out how to deal with it. Was this going to be another Logan Echolls situation? (Answer: yes, but less intense.) So I stopped hating Wesley around the time Faith tortured the shit out of him in s2, but I actively started to like him after his tortured reaction to Fred at the end of “Billy.” Damn, but Denisof can act. Plus, for some reason, his hair in s3 is really doing it for me.
I know some people still hate Wesley, and he’s not a very likable person, but I think he may be the most well thought-out, consistent character on either show. His ruthlessness, insecurity, self-loathing – he’s the only one who seems to avoid the episode-by-episode change of motivations that haunts pretty much every long-running series and especially the “I only care about the truth of the emotion, not the facts or the actual logical SENSE” of a Whedon series.
I love phantom Dennis, but is nobody going to at least point out that it’s vaguely creepy him scrubbing Cordy down in the bathtub? Another character I missed in s5.
Lilah – I didn’t start liking her until Linsday left. Probably because she was always getting one-upped by Lindsey and Gavin and the other big boys at Wolfram and Hart. I like her and Wesley together because they’re on equal footing. And while it could be said that Joss and Co. are making a point about being a woman in a man’s world, sometimes empowerment isn’t running around shouting about how empowered you are while punching guys in the face, sometimes it’s just being empowered.
I don’t know if Eliza Dushku’s grown up, or if Buffy’s just gotten so terrible, or what, but I’m liking Faith a lot in s7/s4. Even her “I’m so tough” act didn’t seem as forced (on the part of the writers and actor; I realise it’s supposed to be forced for the character). I didn’t have any patience with Faith when she was supposed to be Fun!Buffy, I didn’t have any patience with her when she was supposed to be a misunderstood sociopath, but her breakdown to Angel in Angel, I thought, was really effective, and started to explore a situation I’ve always been incredibly intrigued by – what happens when an essentially good person accidentally commits murder, an act that is so contrary to how they see themselves and the world that they choose to deal with it by going all in – the “I can’t deal with the guilt, so I’m just going to become fucking evil and be done with it” approach. The more people you kill, the less each life means, perhaps diluting the guilt, but only on the surface.
I like Gunn, and J. August Richards is hot, but they didn’t really seem to have a good grasp on the character.
I didn’t like Lorne, and thought the karaoke thing is stupid. But when he started hanging out at the Hyperion…well, by late s3 I liked him fine. And even though I was fairly ambivalent toward Fred, I really liked how much Lorne liked her.
The arc of Chantarelle/Lily/Anne was very cool to watch, really bringing home the second (and third, and fourth) chance thing that the series harp on.
A note on ‘shipping:
I don’t really care about Fred/Gunn or Fred/Wesley. I guess I lean toward the latter just because the series suggests that they’re meant to be and all that. As for Cordelia? I really do think that Buffy and Angel make sense together, but Boreanez is really adorable with Cordelia. He just looks so happy and fond of her all the time. They did a really good job showing the relationship progression between those two. I guess in terms of the characters the show thinks it’s putting on the screen, I’d root for Buffy/Angel, but in terms of what I enjoy watching more, it’s definitely Cordy/Angel. I just love her and want her to be happy.
A note on some favourite episodes:
Fav seasons (in terms of overall enjoyment): 5, 3, 2, 4, 1
Favourite episodes: Parting Gifts, Expecting, Sanctuary, To Shanshu in L.A., Guise Will Be Guise, Reunion, Reprise/Epiphany, That Vision Thing, Birthday, Loyalty/Sleep Tight, Awakening, Sacrifice, s5, Lineage, You’re Welcome, Smile Time (!!!!!), Origin
(Darla and Fool For Love are pretty good together.)
“Expecting” It’s not the best episode ever, but a great one for Cordy. It was nice to see how much all the men in her life valued and cared for her (so, since Fred got about 20 episodes of mourning, it would have been nice if Cordy got more than the last 2 minutes of one). She just keeps getting better on Angel, managing to mature and become sweeter without losing her character. (Well, that’s what I thought UNTIL some of s3, and ALL of s4, but this was written before that). Her reactions to her situation in “Expecting” and “Parting Gifts” are wonderful, and she’s becoming more empathetic, shown in her clumsy but well-meaning talking-to of Angel at the end of “Somnabulist.” And I hope Phantom Dennis sticks around forever (*sigh* again, written before season 4/5).
“Billy” felt weirdly exploitative to me, despite what it was obviously trying to do, especially by implying that all men have inside them a primal hatred of women just waiting to be let out (actually, I’m not sure it was implied so much as outright stated…). And how dare Angel not let Cordy take care of Billy herself? It would have been a nice bookend to the opening, where he tried to be supportive (but was ultimately condescending) by not training her to kill because he’d be there to swoop in and save the day.
A kinder take on the message of Billy (although I don’t really agree): “What Billy reminds us of, as I wrote when discussing him last year, is that anyone has the capacity to be a misogynist. Anyone has the capacity to be evil. It is not that people are intrinsically bad, but that people are shaped by the people and environment around them. Even a ‘nice guy’ can be contaminated by the touch of misogyny, and internalise it along the way. The question in ‘Billy’ isn’t ‘how do you identify and protect yourself from a misogynist,’ but ‘how do you resist misogyny and find new ways to fight it?’”
“Reunion” was kind of kick ass, and while Dru’s loopiness is kind of hit and miss, I thought she was all hit that episode. And Julie Benz’s simper may make me want to hurt things, but she is a beautiful human being.
Anyway, “Loyalty” is another favourite Angel episode (the hamburger! Loa! Darth Burger!). I thought it would be painfully ridiculous with bad CGI on top, but instead it was funny and disturbing and affecting, just like the episode. Way to go. If all eps were like this, it could have been an all-time favourite series. Plus, it was around this time I stopped finding Lilah tiresome.
“Sleep Tight” was also effectively creepy. However, I thought they were going to address the perfect happiness problem, and instead all we got was a father drinking his son’s blood. Still creepy, though.
“Lineage” was good. I gasped out loud about three separate times in the last 10 minutes. Maybe I was tired or just gullible, but still.
“You’re Welcome” is another one I could watch over and over. I forgot how infectious Cordy’s smile and bubbliness could be. One episode doesn’t make up for a whole season of mistreatment, but it was so, so nice to have the old Cordy back. I just wish there’d been some, any acknowledgement of her death in the next episode.
“SMILE TIME!” I AM MAKING THAT PUPPET OH MY GOD.
Seriously, I don’t even know what else to say about this episode. It’s just the best.
Picking Some Nits
- Inconsistencies are driving me CRAZY. If a drug simulating “bliss” can cause perfect happiness, why the fuck would the effects wear off? Once he feels happy, the soul leaves the body, done. It doesn’t return when the drug wears off. Was Angelus climaxing the whole time he was evil on Buffy, or was he happy once, then done? The latter. THIS IS NOT HARD.
- And how long does it take to drain a body anyway? Sometimes, people are dead within seconds, and sometimes they’re, er, sucked on for ages and still live to see another day. Not to mention that half the vampires we see running around that used to be humans could not possibly have been sired.
- If vampire hearts don’t beat, why would a heart-paralyzing dart affect Angel? How would it be spread throughout his bloodstream? What difference would it make? I kept thinking he would reveal he was just faking the effects of the poison.
- What do you mean demons don’t work with vampires? Do you watch your own show? Come on, Joss. Get your life together.
- Like, do they ever think things through? Why does everybody act like Angel just up and decided to change his ways one fine day? (or night?) He was re-souled. That is an actual, obvious, external event that happened. So I’m not sure it’s all that fair or accurate to compare his journey so closely to Faith’s, or, as Wesley says (and then Angel acts all bizarrely offended by it): “We’re supposed to believe he’d change his modus operandi overnight?” Well, yes. Overnight, something big changed (i.e. A SOUL WAS ADDED), and he became a different person. And when he goes evil, it’s not because he just changed his mind about humanity. It’s because his soul is no longer in that body. Or it is, but somehow doing drugs makes it go away because who needs silly things like sense and continuity?
- In “Happy Anniversary,” the aliens are all, “He is the one, the one we were waiting for, the only one…who can write gibberish on a blackboard that we can later erase and replace with the correct calculation because WHAT THE FUCK?” SERIOUSLY. I KNOW 22 HOUR-LONG EPISODES IS A LOT, BUT COME ON. That episode was entertaining, but conceptually awful. Like a lot of this show.
- http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/angel/untouched.php?page=16 Oh please, please, please let Angel get a dog and name it Charlie.
- Darla’s at her best when barely tolerating Dru.
- I LIKED that swami guy. Why has no one ever brought up that convertible thing before?
- What happens to Cordy and what happens to Fred is very similar. So. Much. Rape/forceful penetration and sublimation themes. Maybe if I don’t like it, I should just go watch shows by a different show runner.
- Sahjhan and Skip and now this new demon – I’m getting a little tired of the ‘hilariously incongruent-slang-speaking bratty evil demon’ thing. It was vaguely amusing the first time, now it’s just tired.
- Did Angel seriously just say “supposably“?!
- Also, why does Wesley always speak like he’s talking to someone on their deathbed?
- The TWoP recappers really do take some of the joy out of watching the later seasons of Buffy and the earlier seasons of Angel, but I will say this; one of them mentioned that no matter how hard they try, Angel will never be as kinky as Farscape, and I have to “hear, hear” that statement, because dude. Don’t even try.
- Between the Trio and David Nabbit and Willow’s offence at being called a nerd, I’m getting a little frustrated here.
- The Dinza is my favourite Angel demon, but I thought it was interesting that Gnarl, who seemed very similar to me, appeared around the same time. Gollum! And then there was the spider monster.
- I liked “Tabula Rasa” better than “Spin the Bottle,” actually, because the framing device bugged me (even if it was eventually explained, 38 episodes later), and it was never clarified how Lorne knew what he knew (and why he randomly went unconscious AND didn’t lose his memory when everyone else didn’t, and did). So that I couldn’t enjoy the otherwise fun episode fully. But it was awesome to see so starkly how much Cordelia and Wesley have changed over the course of Angel.
- Fred and Willow together was actually adorable.
- Poor Charisma Carpenter for anything she has to do post season 3. I guess Cordelia only gets 3 good seasons per series. Which is a pity, because Giles, she, and Anya are my favourites, and they are all being marginalized. BORED NOW.
- I love that Fred points out to Wes (and, many episodes early, Cordy to Angel, although that clearly didn’t stick) how condescending and annoying the mens’ “I should have protected you, I should have known better” bs is when talking about grown ass women. Speaking of putting people in their places, I miss Cordy.
- TWOP isn’t perfect, but I loved this: “On the bright side, if there’s any justice, a few weeks from now Cordy’s ghost will inexplicably materialize in Italy and start bugging the hell out of Buffy.” No one’s ever dead for real on a sci-fi/fantasy show.
- Actually kind of cool to see Amy Acker playing a different person; she did twitchy and crazy well, and she does Illyria well, too.
- Illyria sounds like 7 of 9.
- I mean come on. I need that puppet.
I had a whole long thing here about feminism and Joss Whedon, but I think that’s a topic for another post (if I ever get it done). Anyway, I think my feelings have been made fairly clear in these last two posts.
Cordelia: “I probably look really scary. I finally get invited to a nice place…with no mirrors and…lots of curtains…Hey — you’re a vampire!”
Russell: “What? No I’m not.” (In the most Monty Python, “I think he’s dead”/”no I’m not!” way.)
Wesley: “For your information, I lead a rich and varied social life.”
Cordelia: “Oh, I know. Every night it’s Jeopardy, followed by Wheel of Fortune and a cup of hot cocoa. Look out, girls, this one can’t be tamed!”
Cordelia [as Angel]: “Oh, no, I can’t do anything fun tonight. I have to count my past sins, then alphabetize them. Oh, by the way, I’m thinking of snapping on Friday.”
Wesley: “I even spilled it on her in front of Mr. Fat Chow… Chow.”
Cordelia: “Chow. Yun. Fat!” (Ok, the quote’s not funny on paper, but the way she said it…)
Again, not a quote, but Cordy’s happy jumping and singing when Angel buys her new clothes. And then he joins in!
Fred: “I never understood that saying-right as rain. How is rain right? Or wrong for that matter? Okay, I suppose if there’s a flood it’s wrong, and speaking of floods, or just being overwhelmed, what’s it like to have a vision?
Cordelia: “Wow. Y’know, next to you, I am downright linear.”
Cordelia: “Hey! Do you like bribes?”
Guard: “Do I ever.”
Cordelia: “She’s got the big puppy love. I mean, who wouldn’t? You’re handsome and brave and heroic, emotionally stunted, erratic, prone to turning evil, and let’s face it, a eunuch.”
Angel: “Hey! How can you…I’m not a eunuch.”
Angel: “I was just thinking about things. People. You know, how they relate. Take you and me, for instance. We’re very different. Very different. Obviously. [points at Cordy] Human, [points at self] vampire. [points at Cordy] Woman, [points at self] man… pire.
Cordelia: “Has someone been putting vodka in your blood?”
Angel: [chuckles] “See? You’re funny! And I, well I get off a good one every once in a while, but you…”
Cordelia: “Angel, are you trying to say you love me?”
Cordelia: “I love you too.”
Angel: “You do? When did this…”
Cordelia: [calling into Wesley’s office] “Angel loves me! I love him!”
Angel: “Oh, my God!”
Cordelia: “You guys love us and we love you!
Wesley, Fred, Gunn: [offscreen, in chorus] “We love you, Angel!”
The three-headed scream when Wesley, Gunn, and Angel see Lorne’s head. The Pylea arc was unbearably cheesy, IMO, but it had its moments.
Connor: “What’s a zombie?”
Angel: “It’s an undead thing.”
Connor: “Like you?”
Angel: “No, zombies are slow-moving, dimwitted things that crave human flesh.”
Connor: “Like you.”
Lorne: “Can’t fight kyrumption, cinnamon buns. It’s fate. It’s the stars. Kyrumption is…”
Angel: “Stop saying that. And stop …calling me pastries.”
Fred: “I’m also detecting brainwave activity.”
Angel: “On Spike? Hmm. That *is* weird.” Hee hee. Although really, look who’s talking.
Angel: “Yeah, I never told anyone about this, but I–I liked your poems.”
Spike: [dismissively] “You like Barry Manilow.”
Angel: “What happened?”
Spike: “Oh, I just thought I’d see what it was like to bounce off the pavement. Pretty much what I expected.”
Angel: “You just like stabbing me.”
Spike: “I am shocked – shocked – that you’d say that. I much prefer hitting you with blunt instruments.”
When everyone shouts “Hip Hip Hooray” for Spike, and Angel walks away sadly, pushing a mail cart in “Soul Purpose” – BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
Fred: “That other girl. I couldn’t save her. I was arrested. They got her. She’s a slave. She’ll die!”
Angel: “Oh, Cordy. No, she’s fine. They made her a princess.”
Fred: “They… really? Oh. When I got here they… they didn’t do that.”
Lindsey: “Boo-hoo. Let me wipe away the tears with my plastic hand!”
Lindsey: “Stop it, evil hand, stop it! I just can’t control my evil hand.”
Woman’s voice: “Hi, you’ve reached the Tittles. We can’t come to the phone right now. If you wanna leave a message for Christine, press one.”
Man’s voice: “For Bentley, press two.”
Demon’s voice: “Or to speak to or worship Master Tarfall, Underlord of pain, press three.”
Lorne: [singing] “Go to sleep, lullaby, you’ve been fed and you’re sleepy. You’ll be with uncle Lorne, who in no way resents not being asked to go to the ballet. And is certainly, not thinking, of selling you to the first vampire cult that makes him a decent offer…”
Lorne: “They came out of your what? Okay, okay, well, did they get up there themselves, or was this part of a, y’know, a thing? No, I’m not judging!”
Groosalugg: [upon hearing Angel’s cellphone] “Angel, your coat is singing.”
Lilah: “Look, Angel, I know you’ve been out of the loop for a while, but I’m still evil. I don’t do errands. Unless they’re evil errands.”
Wesley: “Probably best we avoid brand names.”
Gunn: “Three-fifths of the world covered in water, the rest covered in me.” Best Gunn quote ever? Not quite, because there’s still Wesle, but still.
Gunn: “How’s Fred doing?”
Wesley: “I’m sure ‘Knoxy’ will take wonderful care of her. Don’t you think it’s a bit unseemly adding y’s to the ends of people’s names?”
Gunn: “Does that mean I have to call you ‘Westle’?” And then I died.
Probably liked Buffy more for longer, but Angel left a better taste in my mouth, and more prominently featured my favourite character in the Buffyverse (Ms. C. Chase, if that wasn’t clear). So let’s call it a tie?
Posted on January 16, 2013, in 100 things in 1000 days, Rants, TV and tagged 100 things in 1000 days, Alexis Denisof, Angel, Ben Edlund, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charisma Carpenter, Cordelia Chase, dramatic series, feminism, I LOVE TV, Joss Whedon, Smile Time, Wesley Wyndham Pryce. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.