Sunday, March 11, 2012

Co-watchers Assemble: Faith and Gunn and an Existential Crisis (Angel 1.19-22)

My intrepid co-watcher Jenn and I thoroughly enjoyed the final four episodes of Angel season 1. The series is beginning to trend away from classic detective noir tropes, and flirt more with supernaturally tinged questions of power, and freedom, and destiny. Also, Lindsey. This last day of Whedonverse Weekend brings you Jenn and tracy's take on the Angel guide to finding your place in the world.

DO beware the combination of power and trauma. "Sanctuary" picks up where "Five by Five" leaves off--Faith is all effed up. Her drive to destroy has becomes so powerful it is almost unconscious. The episode asks if rehabilitation is possible, and again, the possession of a soul turns out to be the tipping point. We have a rogue Slayer sponsored by a vampire, and the script, unlike the upcoming Buffy season 6 travesty "Wrecked," makes the addiction/recovery metaphor apparent and mocks it.

"My name is Faith, and I'm a  AAAARRGGGHHH."

This episode is on high crossover alert, with Buffy showing up to try to protect Angel, and being more than a little bit pissed that he seems to be Team Faith.

It's like "Enemies" all over again."

Also, the three Council cops again prove themselves to be the Riley of the Angelverse--completely unable to appreciate ambiguity.

The Three Douches.

The episode concludes with Faith giving herself up and getting ready to do her time.

Something tells me she'll do okay in prison.

We were especially grateful for the Angel getting out of the shower scene.

Never an unwelcome sight.

DON'T underestimate the power of a well-framed metaphor. Race and class inflect "War Zone," where we finally get the arrival of Charles Gunn, a key Angel Scoobie. He and his group of disenfranchised teens have constructed vampire slaying weapons that though crude, are highly effective.

I'm a particular fan of the stake machine gun.

Gunn is another character who has no place in the powerful strata of L.A.--he's black and poor and homeless. He and Angel recognize each other as kindred spirits, both in their commitment to fighting evil no matter what face it wears,

For example, his baby sister.

and in their similar marginalization in the world in which they find themselves.

They're both Batman.

We were especially grateful for Angel's little snit-fit when he had to be saved by Wesley and Cordelia. 

He actually says, "I'm the boss."

DO remember that you can't see the margins without a clearly defined center. In the Angelverse, that center of power and evil is more and more clearly identified as the law firm of Wolfram and Hart. Though "Blind Date" could be read as a monster of the week episode, the real monster isn't the blind assassin to whom the title alludes, but rather the series-long Big Bad of "the senior partners."

I used to work at a law firm. I can assure you this is not an exaggeration.

Linsdsey McDonald, the associate with a soul, enters into an uneasy alliance with Angel to save a group of children targeted by the assassin. In so doing, he sees what it would be like to live outside the protection of Wolfram and Hart, and what they can offer him for coming back. The children saved, Lindsey's boss offers him a promotion that is too seductive to turn down.

Whereas I am seduced by those curls. Is it me, or has Lindsey gotten hotter since I last watched this show?

We were especially grateful for Gunn's distraction-providing performance in the lobby.

Actual quote: "Evil white folks really do have a Mecca!"

DON'T forget that texts can tell you where you belong. Or scrolls, in this case. In "To Shanshu in L.A.," Angel's existential drama hinges on one word from the title, and it ain't L.A. Wesley initially translates an ancient prophecy that Angel snagged from W&H last episode as predicting the vampire with a soul's death.

Angel seems to take it in stride.

W&A are trying to retrieve the prophecy, as they need it for a ritual to raise The Beast. See what I mean about the show being less detective-y now? They set loose a particularly maggoty warrior of the underworld named Vocah who promptly puts Cordy in a coma and tries to blow up Wesley. Angel, not pleased, goes totally Darth Vadar on Lindsey's Luke Skywalker (a metaphor I don't particularly like, but my other option was Lord Voldemort and Wormtail).

He cuts off his hand, is what I'm saying.

Despite the hand-ectomy, W&A are able to complete the ritual, and Wesley cops to a pretty big "my bad." Turns out "shanshu" in this context means to live, as once Angel fulfills his destiny he will enter mortality, but as a human. It's a pretty nifty bit of writing, as it exposes the intricate interplay between seeming opposites, like life and death, margin and center, vampire and human. Oh, and one other thing.

Darla is the Beast. Oh, snap.

We also see the dismissal of some of my least favorite characters. Namely, 

this one,

and these two.

I was especially grateful to Jenn for coming up to visit, and being such an excellent co-watcher and all-around fabulous friend. Come back soon!

Next weekend, we enter seasons 5 and 2 of Buffy and Angel. That means, Dracula, Pylea, Dawn, Lorne, Fred, and a little episode called "The Body." See you there, Whedonites!

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