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Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer DVD Club: The genius of Joss Whedon in "Angel"

My friends and I have a weekly tradition of getting together on Monday nights to watch "Dexter" and cook dinner. We will often warm up with the latest "Bill Maher" on DVR while trying our hand at new recipes.

Thai peanut spring rolls and New Rules go surprisingly well together.

With no new episodes since December, we resorted to TV on DVD – resurrecting the oldies but goodies. Being that we are big Joss Whedon fans, we started with "Buffy" Seasons 1-3. Alas, unable to bring ourselves to spend the money on purchasing or renting the awful Season 4, we decided to switch our Whedonesque focus to "Angel," Seasons 1-5.

This week, approximately two months after starting this project, we celebrated the season one finale with Buffalo Wild Wings takeout and a sample of microbrews.

In Season One we see Doyle die (oops, Spoiler Alert everyone!), we meet Dennis the friendly ghost, and we even see Wesley try to be a man (which he does not achieve until Season 5, if I believe what I’m told).

The full rundown:

First Impressions:
The makeup jobs and special effects in the early episodes are laughingly amateur, but we deduce this might be a result of The WB (pre-CW for all of you tweens) not wanting to invest too much cash into a show that had not yet proven itself worthy.

Familiar Faces: Sarah Michelle Gellar makes two appearances. One as detailed in the Most Memorable Episode below, and the second when she follows Faith (Eliza Dushku) to L.A. At the end of the season finale (spoiler alert!) we see the return of Darla (Julie Benz, aka: Rita Bennett on "Dexter"). Elisabeth Rohm plays Detective Kate Lockley in the first season, but all are in agreement that when she quit "Angel" to play an A.D.A on "Law & Order" she made a good career move. In the season finale we were delighted to recognize one, David Herman (Michael Bolton in "Office Space").

Most Memorable Episode: In one particularly heart-wrenching episode for all of you "Buffy"/"Angel" fans, Gellar guest stars in a cross-over episode in which Angel becomes human through some ectoplasm-like demon goo. He spends the day in the sun, they make sweet, sweet love, and then the Powers that Be tell him it cannot last for the sake of mankind. You see, Angel’s superhuman, er, vampire power is eliminated when he’s human – as we see when he gets his booty handed to him on a platter by aforementioned ectoplasm goo-spewing demon. Without his strength and quasi-martial arts fighting abilities, he cannot save the innocents in Los Angeles (hm, never realized what an oxymoron this show’s premise was before). The twist? All can be put back the way it was, but for the exception that Angel alone will remember this beautiful, sublime, human day…because he needs more angst.

Most Memorable Episode 2: In the very next episode (not yet fully, emotionally recovered from the last), we are treated to another heart-wrencher in the death of Doyle (Glenn Quinn). His adorable Irish drawl forever silenced by an heroic effort to save the world, he passes his special ESP powers on to Cordelia. If you couldn’t already tell, he was our favorite character of the season. I’m too verklemped to remember the details, but it had something to do with a giant Origami mirror ball destroying humans and half demons.

Season Finale: The first season ends with a bang as we see Wolfram & Hart, the arch nemeses, resurrect a pitiful, shivering, in-need-of-a-shower-but-wouldn’t-you-be-too-after-being-resurrected Darla. Cordelia almost goes insane from a demon-induced onslaught of visions, doesn’t because Angel saves her, and then finally grows a partially selfless heart. Wesley incorrectly translates an ancient scroll that says Angel will die, only to realize at the end that the scroll really says he’ll live, but only after fighting a bazillion demons, surviving innumerable plagues, pestilence, and the end of the world. And by live he means become human. Angel cuts off Lindsay’s arm through impressive axe wielding, oh, and the Angel Investigations building is blown up by an Assassin demon. Watching this a second time, my friends tell me this one episode neatly introduces things that will affect the show throughout the next four years.

Even though it’s a spinoff of "Buffy," "Angel" is intended to be darker and more urban than it’s Sunnydale counterpart. The general grittiness of L.A. helps in this respect, but the more sinister plotlines and undercurrents solidify this goal. I’m excited to begin Season Two, where the one episode I watched in “the year 2000” (Conan, anyone?) has Team Angel traveling to a different dimension in which Cordelia is queen and Lorne is a slave.

-- Recapped by Ms. Quarter

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You're in for a treat, Ms. Quarter. Season Two goes to some dark, fascinating places. I've said before that, overall, "Angel" is a much more consistantly great series than "Buffy." And by the time you get to the fantastic, final Season 5, maybe you'll agree with me.

Happy viewing.


By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At June 21, 2008 at 9:52 AM  

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