AngelAngel 4x20 Sacrifice - Review
By Anthony Karcz
Friday 25 April 2003, by Webmaster
Harumph…the line above is Cranky Reviewer’s Exhibit A for everything that’s wrong with this week’s episode.
CR Exhibit B is the fact that Angel follows it up with "Let’s go get professional on that monster."
Let me start out by saying that I am a huge fan of Ben Edlund (this week’s writer and producer). The Tick was a fantastically funny comic (as was the cartoon). I also think his work on Firefly was brilliant. But the difference there was that he was writing for new characters, people that we didn’t really know yet. He could be quirky and slightly over the top with them and we would take it in stride. But here, writing for characters that are very well established, it just didn’t work. Fred’s alternate gushing and pouting, Gunn saying "Son" every thirty seconds, Angel’s, quite bitchy, brooding - none of it felt natural. And, judging by the stilted performance by almost the entire cast, I’m guessing they felt it too.
And what in God’s name possessed him to come up with the Wee Refugees? Was there a treacle deficiency in the show that I was unaware of? Do we really need any of the "oh so touching" scenes between Lil’ Orphan Matthew and Angel? Do they serve any purpose at all except to randomly remind us that Gunn is from the streets and, oh yeah, not everyone likes Lorne (though his "Knowing’s Half the Battle" speech was hilarious)? Do they think that a freaky looking kid badly lip-synching lines is important enough to build an entire back story around? Let’s not mention them ever again, m’kay?
Now, what Ben does do well is the aforementioned quirky. And when we get off the beaten path and into the meaty underbelly of the ep, it really shines. The spider creature is inspired and written with a perfect mix of menace and humor. His frustration at the "furry" vamp who wouldn’t die after being disemboweled and sewn back up, his "I’m not listening!" routine when Wes is trying to suss out Jasmine’s true name, his blasť attitude when escape is mentioned - all mix perfectly to create a quite enjoyable mini boss. Add in the fact that he’s from an ancient race that finds more power in blood than words (well, most words), and I can’t wait to see more.
Back to that name thing… now, while I’m annoyed at Ben for telegraphing this little plot development nearly half an hour before the reveal ("She’s millennia old, you think she’d already have a name!"), I’m quite happy to have it. "Jasmine" has been painfully devoid of backstory or even motivation since she popped onto the scene. Sure, she wants to take over the world…but why? What we’ve been watching is an all-powerful being slowly expand her sphere of influence and effortlessly enslave all that she comes into contact with. And, while it’s realistic - well, as realistic as something like this could be, it’s also quite boring. The fact that she’s already worshipped by another dimension of creatures, that they seem to want her back (implying that she either ran from them or was lost to them), adds depth that our resident Goddess has been sorely lacking.
Other high points? Well, the Moppet finally gets what he deserves…in spades. Watching Angel tear into him, I can finally see the level of frustration and anger that he’s been feeling since this whole incident began. I’m just glad that Connor’s on the receiving end of it. Speaking of Connor - is it just me or does that whole "Give me your pain" scene just play out strangely? The Boy Wonder acts like he can finally see her Maggotyness, but then it just devolves into this touchy, feely crap. I feel like there’s something else going on there, but I’m missing it. The boy does get props for a dead-on Jasmine emulation towards the end of the ep…while everyone else looks like zombies, I can totally believe that Jasmine is completely in his head.
And while props are being given - big ones go out to the CGI department this week. Not only was Spider-boy done really well, Jasmine’s "fight" scene at the end was brilliant. An evil goddess that has a hive mind and absorbs the wounds of her underlings? Now that I can dig.
I really do think that there were some great moments in this week’s episode (like Angel and Connor sensing each other in the tunnels), I just wish it had been handled by someone with a little tighter grasp of the characters. Thankfully our man David Fury is back in the writer’s chair next week. Here’s hoping he can turn blood into…um…bloodade?
Next Week: The WB ruins a perfectly good cliffhanger! Why? So that we can get a lame line of an incredulous Gunn saying "She eats people?" If that’s the best the next ep has to offer, we’re in for a bloodbath, folks.
Witty Observation of the Week: "Love? We define love same as anyone, same as Furries. Love is Sacrifice." - Spider-boy
From Zentertainment.com :
"Sacrifice" - Episode 4.20 (Original airdate 4.23.2003)
Directed by: Jeffrey Bell
Written by: Ben Edlund
Cast: David Boreanaz...Angel Charisma Carpenter...Cordelia Chase Alexis Denisof...Wesley Wyndham-Price J. August Richards...Charles Gunn Amy Acker...Fred Burkle Vincent Kartheiser...Connor Andy Hallett...Lorne
Guest Stars: Gina Torres...Jasmine
Everything that was lacking last week — genuine suspense, emotional tautness and action — comes crashing back in the latest episode of ANGEL. Though the pace takes a little while to pick up from the slowness of the last couple of weeks, once the pedal’s to the metal, "Sacrifice" takes off.
Connor, unaffected by the spell that freed the others, tries to turn Angel and the gang into Jasmine. Angel immediately goes into warrior mode, viciously smashing Connor into unconsciousness so that the others can escape. They run to safety, while Angel beats his son to a pulp and only just escapes with his life. However, his spirit’s broken — and it’s quickly obvious that he’s not alone. Nobody has a solid plan or the emotional strength to come up with one; even the simplest tasks, such as getting gasoline for the Plymouth, are now fraught with peril. Jasmine’s influence is expanding; in a creepy sequence at the service station, she speaks through all the people, using their bodies in turn to attack. In desperation, the gang flees underground. Angel in particular is driven to carry on without rest, without reflection. He doesn’t want to think about Cordelia, left behind helpless. He can’t take it. Only Fred has any misgivings about the harshness of their mindset — but even she has to face their dire straits when they’re accosted by a young, stake-wielding gang.
Speaking of the young and stake wielding, Connor recovers quickly at the Hyperion with Jasmine’s mystical help. He is still enthralled by her, still willing to help her bring about a world where everyone will surrender their pain and loneliness to love Jasmine (and maybe Connor) forever. He is somewhat taken aback when Jasmine removes Cordelia’s comatose body to parts unknown — her blood remains a threat. But when Jasmine tells Connor to give his last bit of himself to her, to finally surrender the one constant in his life — he does, falling even more under her control.
The teenage gang backs down pretty quickly. One of them turns out to know Gunn a little, and they share their struggle with a vicious demon that lives below. The youngest of them, a pre-teen, instantly looks up to Angel; his reaction — both moved by the boy’s trust and in pain because the reminder of Connor — is very nicely, subtly played. The burgeoning partnership breaks up when they’re attacked, Angel is revealed as a vampire, the boy runs away and Wesley is kidnapped by the demon. Angel manages to convince the gang to let him go rescue Wesley, but Fred and Gunn’s efforts to bring back the boy backfire: he is possessed by Jasmine, and once she’s glimpsed them, her armies — led by Connor — arrive to attack.
Fortunately for the fate of the world, Wesley’s using his captivity wisely. He learns from the demon that other powers worship Jasmine, and that they know her real name. Wesley divines that Jasmine’s real name has power over her. That word, and ONLY that word, would allow them to break her spell. He’s about to die with this information when Angel breaks in and kills the demon. Wounded and limping, the two of them try to decipher the demon’s magic. But they don’t have time. Connor’s there. The others run into the room, only a few steps ahead. Wesley’s able to open a portal into another universe — one with air the living can’t breathe. In a wonderful mirror of the opening scene, the others stay behind to fight while Angel escapes through the portal, their one and only shot at discovering Jasmine’s name and saving the world. As he appears in the new dimension, he’s in a gray, desolate landscape, surrounded by enormous, inhuman beasts. In an understatement, Angel says, "Oh, hell."
What’s not to love here? Well, a little. The pace does take a while to get going. It’s the second act before the adrenalin really starts pumping. Of course, after the last couple of weeks, anything’s an improvement. Also, despite very good work by Gina Torres, the Jasmine character doesn’t do a lot besides laugh evilly. Sure, she does it as well as anyone, and the scene in which she suffers the mortal wounds of her followers only to smile as they instantly heal is original and arresting. But you can only hear BWAH-hah-hah so many times before it gets old. At this point I’m wondering why the "emotional shutdown" issue is being raised and debated with Angel, when it seems like the natural character to explore this with is Wesley, who was all "no heart, all action" this entire year. This, however, may well be something they’re going to pick up on later.
But, oh, SO much more to love. Wesley and Angel fighting for each other’ defense. Angel freaking out about Connor’s blood on his hands. Fred finally talking about the professor’s murder in "Supersymmetry" with Gunn. A flash of WesleyClassic, timid and a teeny bit geeky, at the beginning of his captivity. Lorne’s quick, welcome flashes of humor — only Andy Hallet could make such great lines from a sensitivity lecture about demon slurs. And, yes, yet another cliffhanger. A friend pointed out this week that this season of ANGEL has essentially been one 20-hour-long episode. It’s that tightly linked, and this episode does a stunning job of pulling together a lot of diverse threads and forming a cohesive yet independent whole. This is Ben Edlund’s first ANGEL script, but let’s hope it’s not his last.
"Love is sacrifice," the demon said to Wesley, and we see it over and over this hour. Angel is willing to surrender Cordelia and even Connor to save his friends. The others are willing to give their lives to save Angel and, by extension, the rest of the world. Even Connor finally gives up the only thing he’s always had — his pain — because the one person he still loves in this world asks him to. The brilliance of this is not only in how much it hurts to see these people give up so much, again and again. It’s that, somehow, it’s still not yet enough.
ANGEL airs Wednesdays at 8 PM/ C on the WB.
By Peter David :
04/25/2003 Entry: "BELATED "ANGEL" THOUGHTS (Spoilers)"
A good episode, albeit playing a bit to the convenience factor...
Some weeks ago, "Angel" had a "dream" episode in which our heroes fell into one thing and the next and then the next which helped them resolve their problems, and the point was—and what should have made us suspicious—was that it was too perfect. There were echoes of that this week, except this time it wasn’t a dream. Our heroes Just So Happen to run into some refugees who Just So Happen to be menaced by a creature who Just So Happens to possess knowledge that can help our heroes against Jasmine and Just So Happens to blab just enough to Wes so that Wes can figure it out. It wouldn’t have been quite so annoying if the dream episode some weeks previously hadn’t deftly lanced that style of storytelling. Contrast it to the previous episode where Fred figures out exactly what to do from the situation handed her, conceives a plan and executes it flawlessly. That makes for more satisfying storytelling: The heroes initiate rather than stumble into something.
Still, it only bothered me after the fact, and we can of course accept Wes’ summary of what’s just happened: The universe just handed them a break. Heaven knows they needed it. And while we were *in* the story, it was once again gripping and involving. One of the few shows where, when they break for a commercial, you’re shouting "Hurry up!" at the screen. Except this time I watched it on tape, but I was shouting "Hurry up!" as I was fast forwarding past the commercials.