Okay, the latest episode of :Angel: (Power Play) mentioned Holland Manners, the old head of Wolfram & Hart twice, bringing the final tally of his namedropping this season to just over half a dozen.
There’s no doubt about it: he’s in the finale.
:Angel: is definitely feeling the compression of having its two-year Wolfram & Hart storyline shoehorned into one. It’s a testament to the strength of the :Angel: writing staff that the show continues to hold together, but significant character changes have been plunked in front of us with little set-up and a number of plot elements seem rushed and underdeveloped.
This makes the inclusion of The Girl in Question last week all the more surprising. I’ve no real objections to the story itself as it was quite well made, funny in places, horrific in others. I feel it solidified Angel and Spike’s strength as a double act, and it showed us that just when we thought that Wesley couldn’t get more tortured, the writers and Illyria could still pull the rug right out from under him. I did not feel that the two subplots clashed as both shared the same theme of letting go of lost loves (Buffy in the case of Spike and Angel, Fred in the case of Wesley).
However, while the Italian farce did resolve Angel and Spike’s lingering issues with regard to Buffy, the sudden reappearance of the Buffy issue doesn’t fit with the deepening storyline revolving around Angel, Illyria and the senior partners. It’s interesting to see that, while praising its strengths, Dan criticized the Wesley/Illyria subplot as clashing with the Spike/Angel main plot. But it is the Wesley/Illyria subplot that has more relevance here. Strictly speaking, Spike and Angel’s comic double act is what’s out of place this late in the season.
This especially becomes clear in Power Play, wherein Angel gives the appearance of having been corrupted by power. Again, while the episode is well executed, the character development is very clearly a put-on by :Angel:. I have no complaints about David Boreanaz’s acting (the impression given is that Angel has struck upon a plan to bring about a final confrontation, and this makes his character stronger), but on the other hand, it strains the audience’s suspension of disbelief and makes Wesley and Gunn look stupid for them not to realize, right off, that Angel was making a ploy.
What would have saved this was setup. And there was some setup… two weeks ago at the end of Time Bomb. Having just two weeks to show Angel’s character falling deeper into the dark side would still have made the character development a tough sell, but plunking The Girl in Question right in the middle of it sabotages the writing team’s own efforts.
Witness the care the writing staff took back in the second season to bring Angel from noble hero down to a person willing to lock lawyers in a wine cellar with two monstrous vampires. The “to be honest, I can’t seem to care” line as Angel slams to door on Holland Manners puts the cherry on top of a major character arc and it is still one of the best moments in history of the program. It’s also a moment that took almost 13 episodes to set up. In Power Play, the moment when Angel unleashes the glamour and tells everybody what’s up, should have been a major release to a similar 13 episode build up. Unfortunately, that’s not possible under the current conditions the show is operating under.
Another thing that could have worked is if the sacrifice that Angel needed in order to convince the Senior Partners that he’s firmly in their camp was Wesley or Gunn. This requires less setup, especially if Wesley and Gunn clue into the ploy, realize what Angel is doing and what he needs, and if one or the other accepts the roll as sacrifice. Again, this did not happen. Drogyn, hauled out of nowhere in A Hole in the World and handed a personal history with Angel, is brought back instead. There is no emotional resonance to his death.
So, while I am enjoying the final episodes of :Angel:, I am enjoying them on a somewhat removed level. I appreciate how what the writers are trying for, rather than what they’ve actually achieved. I’m saying that the episodes “are good, considering…” It’s a somewhat unsatisfactory way to be watching a series but, given the conditions the writing staff is working under, it’s still impressive. And it’s still better than the closing weeks of Buffy Season 7.
Random Angel Thoughts
The best actor on the show at the present time is Amy Acker. Any remaining doubts should have been dispelled with The Girl in Question, where the actress had to switch between Fred and Illyria within single takes. Not only was the actress able to do this, she didn’t need her voice for it. Her whole body language changes when she swaps characters, and it’s really quite remarkable to see.
If Fathom Five gets published and made into a movie, I want Amy Acker cast as Fiona. She’d be perfect.
Erin and I both agree that, while bringing back Spike was a mistake that violated his character’s redemption, he and Angel have developed such good chemistry, we’re willing to forgive the network’s mistake. Spike and Angel have become an incredible double act, like two brothers who hate each other. It’s a joy to watch.
I clued into Angel’s plan the moment Lindsay said that the Circle of the Black Thorn was the grease that made the Senior Partners’ machinery on Earth work. I actually turned to Erin and said:
Me: That’s what Angel wants to do! He wants to stop the Grease of Evil!
Erin: (looks at me)
Me: Did I just say “the grease of evil”?