Everyone's bought into Angel's do-or-most-certainly-die mission to bring down the Circle of the Black Thorn. The best part is that it's not surprising or out-of-character to do this. Wesley's unstable, Gunn's not playing Wolfram & Hart's gray games, Spike's itching for violence, Illyria wants vengeance, Lorne wants out, and even Lindsey plays nice in hopes of his own "Power Play" for the firm. Now the arc that began in "A Hole in the World" comes into a clear, sharp focus.
Having the Circle force Angel to sign away his involvement in the Shanshu Prophecy is an interesting development that probably would have been fleshed out in season 6. Either one of two paths could have been taken: Spike would inherit the position, or Angel would after all. If there's one thing that's a constant on Buffy & Angel is the fulfillment of prohecies (something that I know I've said before). I don't see Spike becoming human only because it (was) Angel's show, and it fills like a cheat to invalidate something as huge as that for Angel,
The return of two guest stars really intrigue me. The return of Anne was pleasant, as she was willing to play whatever games needed to do the right thing by her shelter and her kids ("Blood Money"). She's had the idea of doing the greater good on her mind ever since Buffy set her right in season 3's "Anne," and she's been committed to that. Anne reappearance symbolizes Gunn really coming back to where he came from: the vamp-laden streets where you had to watch your brothers' backs. This time, though, he doesn't have a conflict of conscience like in "Belonging" and "That Old Gang of Mine." Gunn sees the world as he needs to be ready for his task of taking out Senator Bruckner and her vamp henchmen.
Of course, I bet more interest lay in Connor. He admits the obvious development from "Origin" that he remembers his life with Angel and Holtz. But blended with the memories of his 'family,' Connor grows up to see how much Angel and the others cared for him. They tried to provide everything they could for him, and in return he acted like a spoiled, whiny brat. Now Connor knows what Angel meant in "Home":
Angel: I really do love you, Connor.
Connor: So what are you going to do about it?
Angel: Prove it.
Even if I hadn't been spoiled, I would have bet the farm that someone would die. I thought it should and needed to be Wesley. Unlike Cordy, I think his story was done. Wesley went from prissy, insecure Watcher is prissy, insecure Rogue Demon Hunter, to insecure Angel Inc. boss, to the stubby and unstable Marlboro Man. There's not a lot more to do. Alexis Denisof gave a one-shot Buffy character a natural, whole person, so "Not Fade Away" provided a great exit.
Lindsey's death was a bit more intriguing. Though Lorne pulled the trigger, it was Angel that ordered the hit. No matter what crap he, Lilah, Gavin, Holland, or any Wolfram & Hart lawyers pulled, all Angel did was put them in their place (not counting "Reunion"). It bothers me that Angel was starting to really act like a member of the Circle of the Black Thorn with something like Lindsey's murder, especially since Lindsey was on his side again. How much was motivated by Lorne will always be a question mark, though. It's been evident that Lorne hasn't been five by five since Fred's death. He's fallen to Wesley's levels of despair and pain, but there was no one there to comfort him. It had to hurt, and had to be a big reason as to why he had to walk away.
Why was Eve really in this episode? I don't think Jeffrey & Joss could have won either way with me: having her absent could beg the question of her disappearance, while being here still didn't give her something meaningful to do. It's one of the two things that I nitpick on with the finale. (The second applies to the season as a whole, and I'll post about that in a later review.)
How "Not Fade Away" ended was much the same way "Home" ended. Both were cappers to the season and series as a whole in that a new adventure were waiting (though the one here was much more emiment). Both showed that fighting for what's right and seeking atonement are ongoing processes that don't have nice, clean endings. Everything endures beyond our time, and that's the message that Jeffrey & Joss were getting across.
Based on how the final scene was set up, I would have guessed that David, James, Amy, and J. August would have all been back for season 6. Plus, I'd wager that Jenny Mollen (Nina) would have been more prominent. But we'll never know since The WB sucks ass. I really hope the "Saving Angel" campaign shifts this summer into a Boycott The WB 2004-2005 movement. At the very least, I would like to see Wednesdays at 9 die (Blue Collar TV & Drew Carey's Green Screen Show); at the most I would like to see their entire schedule continue its decline from this season. The Frog treated Angel like crap since Buffy bolted for UPN, and that's a real shame because it's the fifth show that they've aired to last long enough to make it to syndication (the other 4 being 7th Heaven, Charmed, Dawson's Creek, and the first 100 episodes of Buffy).
"Not Fade Away" spoke to how Angel fans still wanted more, meaning that the high quality was still there after 110 episodes. "Not Fade Away" speaks to the irony of the honchos at The WB as they don't know quality from crap like High School Reunion and every sitcom it airs.
"Not Fade Away": A
The WB: F