AngelDark Worlds - Review : Angel season premiere
By Amy Berner
Saturday 4 October 2003
And then there was one.
The new season of ANGEL wasn’t a sure thing until very late last spring. As the "Last Show Standing" from Joss Whedon and his production company, Mutant Enemy, the show has outlived long-time cult favorite BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and the far-too-short-lived (ah, we hardly knew ye) FIREFLY. Even now, who knows if ANGEL will last the season... and that would be a huge loss. The show has proven itself time and time again as being a quality television program, a phrase which isn’t an oxymoron anymore. The critics have noticed, but the audience - except for a devoted few - haven’t.
For ANGEL, it’s time to make a splash or turn to dust.
Last night’s season premiere, CONVICTION, could also have been entitled EXPOSITION. It was, in many ways, a reintroduction to the show in an effort to hook new viewers. "Hi. This is Angel. He’s a vampire, but he helps people. He has a soul. Yes, this is unusual. These are his friends, slightly stereotyped tonight to make learning their names a little easier. They work for an evil law firm called Wolfram & Hart now. Hmm, how will this work ?" This approach probably seemed a little tedious for long-time fans, but it could bring in the fresh blood - er, viewers - that it needs so badly to survive.
The episode valiantly tried to do a lot of things all at once : answer questions that remained from last season’s finale, re-establish the remaining characters, and introduce new characters. The members of Angel Investigations, Wesley (Alexis Denisof), Gunn (J. August Richards), Fred (Amy Acker)... of course, Angel himself (David Boreanz) are all stuck in a fish-out-of-water-and maybe-in-the-fry-pan situation in their new legal digs... all except their psychic demon buddy, Lorne (Andy Hallett), who seems to be in his element with his new swanky job working with the Hollywood elite. Each of them has a new job, a new office, and likely new strings attached that we don’t even know yet. And, only one episode into the season, the characters are already starting to change... most notably Fred, now in charge of the science division, and Gunn, who is suddenly evil. No, sorry, a lawyer. Well, maybe both. Hard to say.
Now that they’ve gone corporate, and are corporate bigwigs at that, they need flunkies, right ? Enter a very welcome, familiar face, Harmony (Mercedes McNab), a vampire who is blond in every sense of the word. Disappointingly, her appearance seemed a little contrived (supposedly, she’s a career-minded vampire who’s on non-human blood only these days... we’re not quite sure why), but other new characters made an impression right away : the geeky yet surprisingly charming scientist Knox (Jonathan M. Woodward) and the perky-yet-evil Eve (apple in hand, played by Sarah Thompson), who is Angel’s liason to his new employers, the uber-evil Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart.
Oh, and there was a plot, too. In the course of this first jam-packed episode, they save the world (well, the state) from a deadly man-made virus. Yay our side ! But, in order to do it, they have to get an evil, nasty, horrible criminal - who happens to be a client - off the hook and out of jail. Yay our side ? Yes, the world of Our Hero is a lot grayer than it once was.
ANGEL might seem like a "dark" show about a brooding vampire with a billowy coat (and it is), but ANGEL has always had a sly sense of humor. Last night’s premiere, written and directed by series’ creator Joss Whedon, was no exception. It mocked the L.A. fascination with feng shui, showed the light side of ritual sacrifice, and even (very subtly) took a dig at George W. Bush. That alone was worth the hour.
The absence of the "comatose" Cordelia Chase, a staple of Whedon’s vampire-filled universe since BUFFY premiered in 1997, was a gaping hole as big as the town of Sunnydale became in the BUFFY series finale. Cordelia, played by Charisma Carpenter, was best known for her sarcastic comments and unique view of events and the world around her. So... Enter another Sunnydale transplant, hyped to no end by THE WB... Spike, played by James Marsters. The only other vampire with a soul (and long time rival to Angel before that), his arrival - which happened with mere seconds to go in the premiere - should help settle the chemistry of the show into it’s new form. Whatever that may turn out to be.
And, with any luck, a lot more people will be watching to see where this goes.