Paranoia Cola

So, you're walking down a street, slugging back a nice cool can of Coca Cola, and you happen to notice that there's this big red van following you, with men in sunglasses inside, staring at you kind of suspiciously.

This freaks you out a bit, so you duck down a sidestreet, and lo and behold the van follows you. Now you're really freaked, so you walk faster, and the van speeds up. So you turn and dash down an alleyway, and the van screeches to a stop, the doors pop open, and the men with sunglasses and scantily clad ladies come after you shouting "Stop! It's the Coke Patrol!"

And now you're running, waiting for the sound of the drug dogs chasing after you, ready to run you down and tear your throat out, and you're twisting and turning in the back alleys, looking for a way out, for a place to hide, but it seems like they've got a homing device on you, man! They're not letting go! They're coming to take you away to Guantanamo Bay or Atlanta, and you're never going to see your family again, and you can never drink Pepsi again, and you don't like wearing prison red, even if it has the Coca Cola label on it!

And, in desperation, you realize that the Coke Cops are homing in on your can. Yes, that's it: it's the can! Quick, hand that can off to some homeless person in a dumpster and make your escape. Stare out from hiding in some darkened doorway as the scantily-clad ladies pounce on the startled disshevelled character, and the Coke police shake the man's hand, haul him to his feet and cart him away to who-knows-what tortures in the Coca Cola fortress of Atlanta.

And that, my friends, is what paranoia can do to people holding GPS locators cunningly disguised as Coca Cola cans.

I originally posted this as a comment over at Rick Jessup's blog, but I liked it so much, I cleaned it up and posted it here.

Angel Opens With Conviction


Well, I've come away from the season premier of :Angel: with a very good feeling. While Buffy Season 7 lagged, :Angel: Season 4 scrambled. It managed to pull out a number of good episodes, and use the uncertainty of its production office to its advantage, but I had a sense that the Buffy/:Angel: franchise had entered some rough waters, and didn't really know where it was going. Add to that the fact that Joss Whedon was forced by the network to sign James Marsters after the character of Spike had been redeemed and killed off, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the fifth season.

Note that some spoilers follow.

Joss Whedon wrote and directed this episode and all indications are that he's psyched by the show's return and its new story formula. Relocating Angel and company to the headquarters of Wolfram & Hart appears to have energized the scripts and the characters and there is renewed chemistry between the actors and the number of new faces to come aboard. Everybody is just flummoxed by the new digs and the sheer enormity of their new roll; how do they cope with Wolfram & Hart's evil client base? Even within the company, who is evil and who's just a collaborator? This uncertainty is played up to both comic and horrific effect, from the brilliant casting Harmony as Angel's secretary, to Angel's fight with the leader of the special ops team. Eve debuted well as the new connection with the Senior Partners; she almost makes me forget all about Lyla -- almost (though they were able to do things with her that they couldn't do with Lyla; with Lyla, you know what you're going to get -- Eve is a totally unknown quantity).

If I had to guess where the season is going, I think it's pretty obvious that the big struggle will be for Angel and company to cope with their new workload without getting corrupted by it. There were elements of that corruption already present, from Angel acting like a kid in a candy store choosing between the various hot cars to drive him to his latest rescue, to the viciousness of Angel's fight with his own employees, and the callous way he dispatched the special ops' team leader. Angel's going to have trouble pulling out of the dark side. Gunn's going to have even bigger problems. Wesley, Fred and Lorne may be islands of goodness in a sea of evil, but I'm sure the show will surprise me there. Fred's relationship with Knox is going to be especially interesting; both seem very alike in their love of science, but Knox is evil in that he's just a little too interested in the experiment and a little too callous about the possible outcomes. It's possible that Fred could redeem Knox, but it's just as possible that Knox will corrupt Fred. All in all, a lot of interesting character developments are ahead.

Finally, there is the arrival of Spike; the remaining big question mark for the opening of this season. His return could have been hokey, but I think Joss handled it well. Having Spike return screaming, and having Wesley and Angel react made it all look ominous, portentious and deadly serious -- and then Joss had to puncture his own balloon:

Wesley (shocked): Spike?
Angel (seething): Spike!
Harmony (popping head around door): Blondie bear?

It shattered the tension, as well as the fears that the series was going to louse Spike's redemption up, into laughter, and it removed whatever doubts I had about this latest run of the series. So :Angel: is off to an excellent start, and I'm looking forward to the next episode.

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