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SMG's new sitcom 
12:18am 29/09/2013
  It's The Crazy Ones, in which she plays Robin Williams' daughter. They run an ad agency that he started, and the chemistry is pretty believable. She shushes others when they laugh at Williams' riffing, because that just encourages him.

Okay, the first episode comes off as a huge plug for McDonald's, and there's an utter lack of kicking and punching and staking people so far, but I think it has some possibilities.

(I also enjoyed Whedon's new show, and it's NOT on Fox!)
Angel Flashback 
11:44pm 16/02/2013
  At a music event tonight, I saw a woman energetically dancing.

And I was reminded ... I couldn't remember the name of the character ... So I got out my phone and Googled "denisov watcher" ...

Yup, she was dancing just like Wesley Windam Pryce!

(I figured I could post it here 'cuz you'd know what I was talking about, and she probably will never see it.)
Joss Whedon endorses Mitt Romney! 
10:17pm 28/10/2012
How quickly things become outdated 
02:04am 28/07/2012
  I was watching the Angel Season One show with Faith, where she's torturing Wesley. She mentions five classes of torture, and they don't include waterboarding.  
James Wolcott reviews Sarah Michelle Gellar's latest show, "Ringer" 
05:45pm 19/09/2011
Anything SMG does post-Buffy will seem anticlimactic and it can't be said that she's expanded her acting range in the meantime, or carved deeper channels of implication and filigreed her facial expressions. And yet it doesn't matter. As an actor Gellar is a compelling anomaly. She has a somewhat toneless voice that tips up at the end of sentences and rhetorical questions to denote bittersweet sarcasm, her movements are mostly shoulder-propelled, and her raccoon eye makeup seems like an homage to Lisa Marie Presley--Gellar ought to have all the presence of a sad emoticon on the screen, a flat drip.

And yet she's never less then compelling and sympathetic, and believable in everything her characters do--there's a vulnerable note of pathos in SMG that always rings true, pun perhaps intended. It doesn't hurt that she wears clothes beautifully, her wardrobe as an ice-queen socialite the perfect marriage of money and monastic hauteur.

(Full review is in his blog at Vanity Fair)
By now, I bet Eliza Dushku says this in her sleep ... 
02:17pm 22/06/2011
  'Loud and clear.' Literally, it means 'loud and clear.' It's from radio -- shortwave and ham radio. The first number means the volume the person hears, and the second number rates the clarity. It's on a scale from one to five, so 'two by four' would mean you're not coming through very loudly, but at least you're mostly understandable.  
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been watching BTVS Season Four dvds 
10:58pm 29/10/2009
  ... and while "Hush" remains a great episode, it's now kinda weird to see how it obviously comes from a pre-Twitter world.  
Eliza Dushku meets with ex-Uganda child soldiers 
08:24pm 03/06/2009
  From playing Faith to meeting real child warriors:


(Sorry, I just couldn't resist forwarding it.)
NYTimes article on CURRENT Buffy story 
02:36pm 05/03/2008
In a new issue of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" comic book series, being released Wednesday, Buffy sleeps with a fellow slayer. And, oh yeah, she’s a woman.

It’s an unusual development for a lead character of a series, whether on television or in comic books.

The story line "evolved naturally," said Joss Whedon, who created Buffy for the 1992 film and the 1997 television show, which ran for seven seasons. Mr. Whedon is also executive producer of the comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics and promoted as "Season Eight."

The whole article.
Joss writes "Season Eight" Buffy comic, available now! 
05:12pm 06/04/2007
  I didn't know this until yesterday or so, but there a new BtVS comic book series out, written by Joss Whedon. I bought issues 1 and 2 today, and they're miles better than the last BtVS comics I sampled.

My main frustration is that each issue feels like maybe one act of a one-hour show. So it's two more issues before I even have an episode's worth of opinions on it. They're not even through introducing the heroes.

Oh, and Dawn is fifty feet tall.

(For those of you who forgot you even watched this LJ community: Boo!)
Re-watching Angel, Season Five 
11:31am 02/07/2006
  Y'know what scene I wish they'd done?

The bit after the S&M demon gets that amulet around his neck, making him the target of his own ministrations ... Yeah, having him impale himself was pretty funny, but I would have loved to see him helping the kid with his homework.
09:08am 08/12/2004
  i know that buffy has been over for a while but i saw in my neices room the 'buffy' cd from the musical episode and it reminded me of the show and i have been thinking about it a while now. but i cant really remember what happend at the end...

did zander and onya get married?
who died? onya and spike?
where is giels now?
where did they all go to live?
is buffy still the slayer?
did all the hopefulls die?
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AtS 5.22: "Not Fade Away" 
11:20am 31/05/2004
  The final hour of Angel brought the Circle of the Black Thorn and the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart crashing down in what looks like a budget-blowing fashion.

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
AtS 5.21: "Power Play" 
11:19am 31/05/2004
  Let's see if I can decipher my "notes" (read: brief phrases, questions) that I took during "Power Play."

Angel & Nina, re: Buffy. It's nice that Nina knows about Angel's history (at least he's more forthcoming with her than Buffy was with Riley). But why did Nina have to ask if Angel was thinking of Buffy during their sexcapades? What kind of faith does she really have in their relationship if she's having to ask if he's thinking of Buffy? She knows that she can't make Angel happy, but stays with him just because he understands the werewolf aspect of her? While I love Angel moving on and being more than a sexless shoulder to cry on, I wish Nina didn't accept this so well.

Act 2: All in Delivery. David Boreanaz's acting in the second half of Act 2 is what makes this episode. He tells the crew why he's doing what his is, but they are too caught up in his attitude to notice the underlying message. That whole scene depended on the actors' deliveries of the text, and Boreanaz knocked it out perfectly.

Crash Bandicoot? Why not Donkey Kong? Can you play Crash Bandicoot on a pseudo X-box? Was this David Fury's attempt to show the gaming community that he knows a little somethin' somethin'?

A & N Act 3 --> Actual pain. Oh, the last time we see Nina. Her real function in "Power Play" was to hint to the audience that Angel hadn't changed like the rest of the characters thought. She doesn't see what Angel is really doing at Wolfram & Hart, nor what his real intentions are about anything. Again, not a good hallmark for a relationship. Nina's broken about Angel sending her and her family away with no explaination, so she obviously cared. I guess if there was a sixth season, she would have joined the cast in a recurring way to flesh her and Angel out more. (The WB sucks.)

Why not call in Eve, too? Why Lindsey's chains? Ah, yes. Wouldn't it make more sense to haul in Wolfram & Hart's former liason to the Senior Partners to learn more about the Circle of the Black Thorn? And is Lindsey in a 21st century chain gang? He's reappearence just revives one of the ongoing annoyances of season 5: characters reappearing inexplicably. Where have Eve and him been since "Underneath"? Shouldn't the Senior Partners been after them? It's like the producers just haul in fan favorites (and Eve) when they need a one-shot to make an episode or be Captain!Exposition.

Realistic vs. Idealistic view of the world. Think back to "Reprise" & "Epiphany." Way back in season 2, Angel learns (by way of Holland & Darla) that there is no bigger picture to the world because it will endure beyond hin ("Reprise") but there's nothing wrong with that because what we do day-to-day is what matters then ("Epiphany"). To be in the world and endure to alleviate other people's day-to-day suffering is what matters. The system of good and evil will always wage on, and there will never been a winner in this machine. So I think that's Angel's main motivation for his plot to take out the Circle of the Black Thorn. His frustration at how evil will always be here despite the best of intentions of humanity has driven him to the point of being an anarchist. Angel's willing to fuck all the rules and just make himself an example of to the Senior Partners that we can stop them, even if it's just for a moment. It's a kamikaze mission that's doomed to fail in the big picture. But Angel & Co. won't live to see the big picture no matter what, so those rules don't apply. It's heroic in a suicidal way, and I don't know how I'll feel about it until I see the finale "Not Fade Away." I'm already spoiled by it, so I know how frustrating it's going to be, but I need to see this executed.

What notes didn't I take? Well, Gunn's still dressed like the fend-for-himself man that we saw in season 1 (minus the bandana, thankfully). It's all symbolic of returning to his roots of doing the right thing and not selling out to the Man. There's a restful break in the Wesley/Illyria drama, but it's at least mentioned to demonstrate evolution in the subplot. Spike & Lorne are kinda just there for this ep. And what was with the blue light between Cordy & Angel from "You're Welcome"? Guess they wrote themselves into a corner and decided to harken back to the days of "Hero" yore.

David Fury had the unevitable task of shifting what was a planned season finale lead-in into the first part of a two-part series finale. "Power Play" does set up the pins nicely so Jeffrey Bell & Joss can bowl us over. I can't determine if some of my dissatisifaction for "Power Play" (Lindsey's reappearance and the Angel/Nina relationship mostly) stems from the episode itself or from The WB for cancelling the show so John Wells could develop Dark Shadows (which probably won't get a Fall pick-up, meaning this was all for naught). Probably a little bit of both. But I'll blame the latter more.

"Power Play": B+/A-
AtS 5.20: "The Girl in Question" 
11:17am 31/05/2004
  Couples abounded in what will most likely be our last comedy-dominating outing on Angel.

The A story deals with Angel & Spike jetting off to Rome to retrieve a demon's head. Of course that becomes secondary when they discover Buffy is dating their arch-nemisis, The Immortal.

I can't picture how the story would have changed if Sarah Michelle Gellar was actually in the episode. "The Girl in Question" probably would have become more dramatic as the Angel-Buffy-Spike triangle would have been fully played out. As it is, we get the impression that all three parties are comfortable and have the ability to move on from their 7 seasons of relationship mess.

Though I did get annoyed by the glimpses of "Buffy" on the dance floor with the The Immortal. Deknight, Goddard, and Greenwalt should have taken a page from the Will & Grace or Frasier playbook and kept them off screen like Stan or Maris. Also annoying is how Andrew was written this time. He changed tones in the middle of the episode to become confident and tactfully correct, which definitely wasn't the Andrew we saw in "Damage." Plus, since when does he date women? And could we be even more stereotypical of Italians? Loved the Wolfram & Hart Rome CEO, but everything else just smacked of trotting out the preceived notions. It was funny, but that's a bone I have to pick.

Final thing: if you are going to have a throwback to the show's history, can it not be a throwaway scene? Julie Benz and Juliet Landau should have had an another scene or two. It's like The WB caved to the producers' requests for them just to use their return as promotional material. (One more reason The WB sucks.)

It may have been slightly out-of-character for Angel and Spike, but damn if they weren't hilarious this week. Glimpses of their petty yet comic rivalry were there in "Chosen" and "Just Rewards," but having it be the entire episode was just....great for me. I love the laugh, and the other Odd Couple provided it in spades (though I bet others were annoyed by it). As usual, though, there is some evolution of maturity between the two of them. Their competition is just a mask for learning and growing. Both are ensouled vampires, so they have to balance out that primal instinct to just be ruthless (whether it be in fighting style or verbal wordplay) against the capacity to have sympathy and reason. Showing that sympathy and reason, though, gives the other the perfect chance for a dig and some kind of victory. And "Destiny" showed that neither Angel nor Spike are comfortable 'losing' to the other.

The B story didn't detract from the main plot for once. Fred's parents, unaware that she's dead, come to visit. Amy Acker deftly displays why, in a perfect TV world, she would win the Best Supporting Actress in a Television Drama this year. She has to shift gears all over the place between Fred & Illyria, and never missed a beat in her interactions with Wesley and "her parents".

It's one thing if Fred comes to Wesley during a drunken sleep, but now that he knows Illyria can become her it's going to pain him more. There's a dichomy in his mind where he's comforted by the appearance of Fred, but intellectually knowing that it's not her. This is bound to taint his memories of Fred even more, knowing that he can see her but knowing it's not her.

"The Girl in Question" is a schizophrenic comedy that made me wonder if Jane Espenson had any hand in it. It could have been a lot more disjointed, but this works for me. If anything, this reminded of classic season 1 with Angel & Spike becoming the Cordy/Doyle or Cordy/Wesley comic relief. And based on the final 2 episodes, we'll need this reservior of laughs to draw on.

"The Girl in Question": B+
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AtS 5.19: "Time Bomb" 
11:17am 31/05/2004
  "Time Bomb" is one of those episodes that you wished you taped and rewatched to make sure the episode followed its own rules correctly. With Illyria doing the time warp again and again, I was looking for mistakes to happen. Fortunately, I didn't notice any glaring ones.

So let's get the plot mechanics out of the way, because I thought it was secondary to what the episode was really about. Ben Edlund was able to just make jaws drop by committing actions that aren't supposed to happen on Angel, like the title character being dusted. For those that weren't spoiled, I bet that knocked them over for a second. (Do have a problem with the appearance of Lorne dead, as he shouldn't have been since his body wasn't mutilated ["There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb"].) I also have a problem with Wesley's retraction of the device not killing Illyria. Seems like Edlund wrote himself in a direction and then brought in the Misdirection Fairy to get him out. We've now got a weakened but still ego-trippin former god on our hands, though. It'll be interesting how Illyria readjusts to this and how she'll fit in.

Wedged into this episode was an obvious plot device called "Amanda and the Fell Brethren." By episode's end, it was screaming at us in neon lights its symbolic meaning, which is so beneath Angel. It provided some brevity and lightness to the episode (who knew demons could also be Jewish mothers?) but it felt unnatural by the end because it appeared to have been dropped from focus after Act 2.

What "Time Bomb" was really about was the one-on-one character interactions. I think this was the most balanced episode of season 5 to date where almost every character (minus Harmony) got meaningful screen time instead of being slighted.

Wesley: He's bought a one-way ticket on the Cuckoo-Cuckoo train that's rapidly looking like it's non-refundable. After unleashing the memories of seasons 3 & 4 having to do with Connor, he's even more unstable here. His attachment to Illyria is growing, and despite what he does she is replacing Fred as his obsession/love interest. Did ya notice that Wesley referred to Fred as Illyria's "host body"? He's finally grasping Fred's death mentally and emotionally, and it's unraveling him even more.

Illyria: We aren't sure what's left of what she was, but at least she won't be a human atomic bomb. The motivation for rescuing Gunn? Perhaps it's a side effect from the broken Orlon Window that accidently gave her Fred's memories and a little bit of compassion. Now she has to cope again with being even less of what she once was, and even more of her shell. It's all full of sticky, convoluted characterization which is why I wish Angel had a sixth season.

Gunn: He's gotten some much needed perspective relating to Fred's death. Angel's "Underneath" conversation in the hospital coupled with his heart being ripped out every day for two weeks can do that to a man, I guess. Gunn's had his own epiphany with his place at Wolfram & Hart and he's trying to redefine it. (Shades of mid-season 2 Angel at work here.) Instead of being a bad lawyer joke where one actually has a conscience, he's trying to do the morally right thing in an evil law firm which just never works.

Lorne: He's making an effort to rejoin the team after feeling so helpless from "A Hole in the World." I think some of that depression is still lingering behind, but Lorne's pushing forward for some greater good. I was just happy they had something for him to do this week other than his typical one or two brief scenes.

Spike: "Origin" and "Time Bomb" have set up a great sitcom spin-off between him and Illyria. A supernatural Odd Couple if you will. He's relishing his attempts to tame a superstrong, leather-clad woman, which makes me question if he's living out his season 6 fantasy of the relationship he wanted with Buffy. Edlund redirected Spike's ego in a way that makes me start to like Spike again. Instead of acting above Angel Inc. who are more or less equals, he's trying to ground a former God. (Maybe he's releasing rage against Glory, too...)

Hamilton: I do like him more than Eve, I must say. I think the writers have a better idea of where they are taking him as compared to Eve; either that or it's a lot clearer with Hamilton. He's about as close as we are getting to a Big Bad this season with his Terminator-like strength (hope he has the body to match under those delicious suits) and snarky qualities. He could be the Anointed One that leads the gang into Hell and the Apocalypse. Can't wait.

Angel: He's starting to distance himself from the group, which was Wolfram & Hart's plan. Angel's turning into a cold, distant CEO that's lost his original purpose and is now focused on "the business." Or its all a ruse. You never know with this show. It's not like Darla and Drusilla are back in town to demoralize him, but he has felt beaten by the lawfirm like it was season 2.

I don't know how to rate "Time Bomb." The plot was uneven, but I loved the character interaction and set-up for the final 3 episodes. Mixed bag episodes are always hard to rate because the good and the not-as-good can cancel each other out.

"Time Bomb": B/B-
AtS 5.18: "Origin" 
04:53pm 29/05/2004
  I remember how much I loathed seeing Connor on screen during season four. Angel's son was nothing but a one-note, whiny drag that never fit in with the cast.

Once again, Angel season five has redeemed a past character, and one that I didn't think could happen. Cordy at least had a history and evolution that endured her to most fans. Connor, in his teenage form, was this show's Dawn: a character thrust upon Angel who's purpose really only lived for a single season. But this mop-top was too depressing and sullen to earn concern for the character. Now, this new and improved Connor has things called depth and likability. "What am I supposed to do, complain?" All these in-jokes into how Connor's different now versus last season make me love Drew Goddard again.

The dynamic between Angel and Connor is refreshing and light-hearted, something both of these characters deserved after this now-known shared history. This the kind of rapport Angel thought he would have with Connor before Holtz kidnapped him into Quor-Toth. So of course, it's given to Angel at the worst possible time.

What makes "Origin" a great episode is how there's still concern about the Connor vs. Sahjhan fight even though you should know Connor will win. And it's not because he's the good guy: Sahjhan himself said in "Forgiving" that Connor was destined to kill him. If there's one thing shows in this Jossverse consistently do, it's follow through on prophecies. The drama's present enough to suspend that disbelief that Sahjhan could win.

Not that the other characters are strictly on the sidelines this week. Spike and Wesley are working with Illyria's training. Our other vampire with a soul isn't as prominent as our brooding ex-Watcher as Wesley's the catalyst here. Signs are present that he's emerging from his vacuum and ready to live again, but he's still incredibly fragile. He's ready to still blame anyone he can for Fred's death, as is evident by his Act 3 stand-off with Orion's Window and Angel.

This episode also proved why I didn't want to judge Gunn's decision to remain in Wolfram & Hart's suburban prison. Hamilton couldn't sway him to allowing Gunn to escape, and he seemed more determined to be punished more. What intrigues me is why Wolfram & Hart are allowing Gunn to still take Lindsey's place. What the hell happened to him and Eve from "Underneath"? Considering that the Senior Partners thought of the couple as a threat and betrayers, you'd think there would have been a reference to where Lindsey & Eve are.

The final scene with Angel and Connor was one of the best. Clever, subtle wording (as well as improved fighting skills against Sahjhan) lets us know that Connor remembers who he was. But he wasn't immediately reduced to being a sullen bore again. His former character got resolution by learning that Angel went to great depths to give Connor what he demanded for his whole life. The alternate life created by Vail has given Connor growth and maturity that he was sorely lacking last season.

With comedy and drama blending almost as well as "Smile Time"'s, Goddard's "Origin" has redeemed him in my eyes: he penned a balanced, touching coda with wit and flair.

"Origin": A-
AtS 5.17: "Underneath" 
04:51pm 29/05/2004
  Well, this is an improvement from Fein & Craft's last script, "Harm's Way."

Once again, our teaser reestablishes what's been happening on Angel, and I have to say that I'm tired of it. I do have a memory, thank you very much. Granted this is/was part of the producers' attempts to make Angel more accessable, but since the show's been canned, I hope the final episodes throw the rule book out and go whole-hog with whatever they want, provided that it makes sense.

What's beginning to be a thorn in my side is how the Buffy/Angelverse would recycle basic premises and spin them in new ways. The spinning can be enjoyable storytelling that proves the creative staff at work, but I don't like recycling when it comes to plots. "Underneath" provides two such examples.

Wesley's isolation from the core group has been a highly overused one. This was something that started in Buffy circa mid-season 3 and carried over into Angel season 1 with his prissy, uptight GeekWatcher mode on all the time. Mid-season 3 Angel had him kidnapping Connor and on the outs with the whole until season 4's "Apocalypse, Nowish." Now he's off the deep end with Fred's death in "A Hole in the World" and obsessed with a Lilah-free darker side with Illyria. While it's a self-imposed isolation that functions as part of the larger whole on the theme of disconnect from this season (the creativeness at hand), it boils down to Wesley's general exclusion from the group.

Spike's inclusion into the main group has been another overused one. "Becoming, Part 2" was a temporary one, as was most of season 4 and latter-half season 5 Buffy. For the third time, he feels a "loose affilation" with the good guys and is ready to jump into the fray with them. Again, the storytelling and build up to this point have been creative, but the boiled down result is a worn tume that hints at the burnout factor of the writers.

"Underneath"'s plot, as a result, was a mixed bag to me. The Lindsey/Gunn switch in suburban hell was a nice satire on encoraching comfortity in current society and a false assumption of a happy life with the picturequse house, wife, and kid. The out-of-left-field violence with a wife-touting Uzi and S & M inspired demon guardian was the typical Angel shock that pleases me. Its partner story (Terminator!Liason's hunt for Eve and Lindsey's foreboding warnings) worked well to establish the seeds for the final 5 episodes and gave guidance to what we should have looked for in the past and where Angel's going from here.

On the other hand, the Wesley-Illyria story didn't fit for me. It was a shallow extension of the "everything has layers" metaphor that resounded through "Underneath" with a deafening tone.

Other than Wesley and Spike, I thought the characters were the biggest highlight. Angel & Gunn's reconiliation moment in the hospital spoke to atonement, the premise this whole show is based on. We may commit awful things, but we cannot be rendered inable by what's in our past and instead work to make other things better. Do I think that Gunn took the easy way out by replacing Lindsey? Well, he does at some point remember his reason for being there by going to the basement, and is tortured by whatever form his mind thinks of. Judgment's going to be reserved until after we see how Gunn feels about his Illyria-shaping role when he leaves. (Please, you think he's going to be stuck there? Someone's gonna have to get him out.)

Amy Acker deserves an Emmy nod as her Illyria is a radical departure from Fred. She hasn't missed a step in convincing the audience that our Fred is dead and this being has consumed her shell. All of Acker's mechanics (tone of voice, mannerisms, posture) are spot on in telling us that she's a new character, making me like this subplot all the better.

Hamilton, Lindsey, and Eve are obviously the biggest wildcards. Well, not so much Hamilton as Angel doesn't trust anyone working for/with the Senior Partners anymore anyway. But he's got that charming invincibility going for him, so I think we could have our Big Bad for the end. Lindsey and Eve are much more the gray area as they are willing to help our gang out, but have proven to stick knives in everyone else's backs. Their true intentions haven't been shuffled out yet, providing great tension to what their roles will be in the end.

And as usual, Lorne's brief moments pop out. His escalating depression and rant about his loss of the mission is just so poignant. There's another layer to him: he was willing to fight the good fight, but has now lost too much and is feeling handicapped as to how he can help if he even wants to. This should be built upon also.

"Underneath" is rusty on MotW plot, but a well-oiled machine with arc-like characterization.

"Underneath": B-
AtS 5.16: "Shells" 
04:47pm 29/05/2004
  I'm sure that stuff happened in this episode, so why does it feel as hollow as Fred's body?

Amy Acker gets her Alias on with her brand of time-stopping kung-fu and inventive outfits as Illyria, an Old One that's itching to end the world. Fred's mostly gone, but Illyria does have some of her memories (and perhaps feelings), which will factor into her relationship with Wesley.

Ah, Wesley. Alexis' takes his formerly dark attitude from late season 3/early season 4 and launches it off the cliff of sanity. He's like Dark!Willow without the magic or subtlety of fundamental goodness that's hidden. Wesley's done everything for Fred, from giving Gunn the alcohol in "The Price" to launching a hailstorm of bullets into Robot!Daddy in "Lineage." Finally, he's gotten everything he's wanted emotionally in a person, and she goes and dies. "Lineage" did show that he would go off the deep end for her, but now that Fred's gone, Wesley's lost a greater part of his life than everyone else and doing what's right is gone.

Gunn's continued fall from grace landed him in a hospital. But it's a character-redeeming effort that he's willing to become the muscle that only hits things again if it'll mean Fred'll live. It's too little, too late, of course. But it does beg the question: did the Senior Partners plan this or did Dr. Sparrow pull a fast one to entice Gunn back and get his package back? I'm guessing the latter as the Partners did lock Illyria's door to her temple.

The most significant thing our ensouled vampires had was in the beginning and end as they related to each other over choices. Angel knew that he couldn't kill thousands for one person, but I wonder if he had gotten to the Deeper Well in time if he would still have, "Screw[ed] the world." Spike, on the other hand, is now firmly based in L.A. as it's what "she" would have wanted. Whether that's Buffy or Fred is semi-unknown, but let's assume it's Fred.

But for all of its character analysis, "Shells" is hollow like Fred. We have mourning periods and a villain-of-the-week plot trying to jell together. Illyria feels like it should have been the big, final arc of the season like Angelus in Buffy season 2. Instead we are handed a weird, off-putting permutation of a stand-alone episode with fake-me-out arcliciousness. Plus I've got the nitpick of Angel killing off its female leads (both of them) in 5 episodes. This is not the way I wanted Angel to end its latest bunch of new episodes before the final push in April.

"Shells": B-/C+</font>
11:40pm 19/05/2004
  nooo I forgot to have my mother tape angel while I was at work. Did anyone by chance tape it? If so could you make a copy, I'd gladly pay, and for s&h too. Pleaseeeeee either reply to this or email me at : lipglossed @ care2.com thank you so much.