Cultural Catchup Project: “Judgment” (Angel)

“Judgment”

July 21st, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

The road to redemption is a rocky path.

There is no question that the conclusion to Angel’s first season, “To Shanshu in L.A.,” was a bridge to the second season, with the return of a figure from Angel’s past and a prophecy which indicated that there might be, to quote Angel, “light at the end of the tunnel.”

However, it’s important not to mistake momentum for structure, and “Judgment” makes it extremely clear that not everything is as clean as it seems. The show doesn’t abandon the ramifications of the first season finale, but it does indicate that moving on isn’t an immediate process: rather than clearly establishing a path to salvation, providing the series with a distinct sense of direction, the premiere instead focuses on how the characters are confronting their new reality, and how they will continue to confront it for the rest of the season.

“Judgment” is not interested in turning the series on its ear so much as it desires to establish that nothing has changed but the determination of our lead characters, which sets the stage for an engaging, and unpredictable, second season.

I think my favourite element of “Judgment” is easily the white board erected in Cordelia’s apartment, where Angel Investigations keeps track of their various cases and their conclusions. At first, it seems to signal that the group is simply more organized, that they are carefully doing their research and working as a team to systematically confront evil. However, when Angel discovers that he has murdered the very person he was supposed to help, you realize that the board is instead a signal that the group is going at things all wrong: we have learned in the past that few cases are identical, and that few cases conveniently fit into a set of categories. The board is their way of keeping score, of turning each case into a linear narrative, but as “Judgment” demonstrates this is woefully inadequate to capture the dynamism of supernatural forces.

One of the common issues with any drama engaging in serialization is the notion of a “Check List,” a set of dominos that a show sets up and knocks down in succession. Check lists create expectation, which in turns breeds disappointment: while the initial mystery can draw viewers in, the series can become so focus on solving that mystery that, upon its resolution, the show struggles to find a new direction. As much as I enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, the final season was so organized around knocking over dominos from earlier seasons that I felt it never quite found its proper pace. BSG started as a series built around the Quest Narrative, creating a clear goal (finding Earth) and then exploring how the journey affected the surviving remnants of humanity. However, when it came time to knock down the dominos in its final season, it was so focused on knocking them down that it didn’t have time to stop and consider the broader ramifications, rushing headlong into a conclusion which I personally found satisfying and yet which divided fans who had been analyzing the check list from their own perspective.

It’s why I enjoy the ultimate looseness of “Judgment,” unwilling to create some form of goal for Angel to achieve in order to reach the point of salvation. His goal is to help people in need, and to treat each of them as their own journey rather than as part of the big picture. It’s as if Angel was trying to force procedural structure into becoming part of the serialized storyline, making each case a step towards the light at the end of the tunnel even if there is no connection whatsoever. The series may be heading towards a more complicated world, what with Darla’s arrival and the presence of the Shanshu Prophecy, but it does not mean that Angel will start living his life or doing his work differently. He may need a new office, and he may have brought in a new partner in Charles Gunn, but the message of “Judgment” is that one cannot force prophecy, just as a series cannot force serialization.

This is not to say that Angel, as a series, isn’t changing. Cordelia, for example, has lived up to the character transformation in “To Shanshu in L.A.,” having switched her priorities from what we saw early in the series’ run. At first, she was working for Angel as a way to support her dream of becoming an actress, but we open with Cordelia abandoning an audition (or a rehearsal, it’s unclear) to help Angel stop a ritual sacrifice. She says that she still wants a day job earlier in “Judgment,” but she will always be there to help Angel, and this is now her priority. Wesley doesn’t need any sort of transformation, as the end of last season firmly established that this is his own path to redemption: after failing as a Watcher, his work with Angel allows him to put his training to good use, and so while his lack of an outside outlet beyond beating people at darts could become a story point in the future it isn’t as if he needs to rediscover something. Throw in Gunn’s arrival as a new member of the team, and all Angel Investigations needs is a new home for them to appear set to face any challenge which might arise.

And the central case in “Judgment” is such a challenge, as Angel kills a pregnant woman’s protector and places her in danger from some sort of medieval demon tribunal of unknown origin. The story doesn’t actually make a great deal of sense: we never learn why she and her baby are in trouble, and more importantly it’s not clear why the Powers that Be would send Angel to help them if the fierceness of the demon protector was already scaring away the various street thug demons who were looking to collect the bounty. However, the central conflict reveals how Angel is confronting his potential return to humanity being strung in front of him like a proverbial carrot, how killing the wrong person feels like a stupid mistake reflective of being on auto-pilot, looking too far ahead of himself with each case. I still don’t entirely understand how the psychic karaoke M.C. is able to know things that Angel himself has no knowledge of, but the idea of baring one’s soul speaks to the episode as a character study, and manages to combine unquestionable humour with a pretty meaningful moment for Angel as a character.

It’s why the episode ends with Angel’s visit with Faith in prison, rather than with a scene of the group banding together. Faith, more than anyone else, knows what Angel is going through, both in terms of this specific instance (killing an innocent being) and in terms of dealing with a form of salvation. While before Faith and Angel could understand each other due to their shared experience of living with regret for their past actions, now they share the experience of committing to salvation and yet losing track of themselves along the way. It takes resolve to live as Faith does, dedicated to reforming herself and yet living in an environment where she is threatened at every turn; she needs to defend herself, but she can only go so far. You can’t rush reform, which means she has to sit and wait through the various tests and challenges which she will face, just as Angel has to continue to help people as he did before rather than trying to reach a certain quota or try to force his way towards the end of the tunnel by being particularly heroic. That final scene really captures the unique sort of momentum the series has: it’s clear that the stakes have changed, and yet the characters are forced to keep their lives on a steady path lest they lose their way.

There’s every chance that this will all break open, “Surprise” style, in the weeks ahead: we still don’t know Darla’s motivations, or Wolfram & Hart’s plans for her, or what role the Powers that Be might play in the coming season. However, by resisting radical reinvention at this early stage in the season, “Judgment” nicely focuses on how each individual character or scenario is affecting the core of the series’ structure, which will allow any further changes to have that much more impact.

Cultural Observations

  • We only get a brief moment with Lindsey and Lilah as they keep Darla company with classical music and fancy globes, not enough to really go on. However, it is confirmed that Darla does remember Angel killing her (which, to be honest, I didn’t even remember), so we can presume that she doesn’t have an entirely peaceful reunion in mind.
  • Of note in the Wolfram & Hart scene: unless I’m mistaken, they specifically avoided showing Lindsey’s missing hand, instead hinting at it through his struggles with opening the CD case. I presume this was a cost-cutting measure, to avoid having to use makeup or special effects.
  • I got a kick out of the karaoke sequences, although following the pattern of “She” and its dancing montage so directly gave me unfortunate flashbacks to the rest of that S1 episode. When you think about it, singing quite that horribly is actually quite a challenge, so Boreanaz gave quite a strong performance there: “I think it’s pretty” was just the icing on the cake.
  • Always glad to see Ghost Dennis show up (not that he shows up, but you know what I mean), if only for a brief moment as he tries to help with the research by flinging a book at Wesley.
  • Justina Machado, who moved to Six Feet Under soon after this was shot, was fine as the pregnant woman, even if there really wasn’t much subtlety to be found. She never really got to evolve into a character, but the story was useful enough for the series thematically speaking that I’ll allow it.
  • Some fun stunt work in the Jousting sequence – you might normally expect green screen in a scene like that, but a premiere budget allowed them to really capture the intensity of the sequence without adding to the silliness of demon jousters in the middle of a city street.
  • The one moment in the episode was completely fell flat: the riff on Gunn’s last name being misinterpreted as “gun” and Cordelia and Wesley acting all weird upon his arrival. It wasn’t clever, it wasn’t useful, it was just lame.
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83 Comments

Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

83 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: “Judgment” (Angel)

  1. Susan

    I agree with you completely, and I’m so excited to watch you experience what’s about to unfold.

    Okay. Controlling hype.

    Two minor points–you do see in the scene with the jewel case that Lindsey has an artificial hand. And tsk tsk for forgetting that Angel killed Darla!! Though, true, the Darla of Buffy and the Darla you’re about to know are quite different.

    And The Host! Yay! Won’t say more.

    I have to do one rant that has nothing to do with your analysis. But there is a continuity glitch in this ep that drives me frakkin’ nuts. I torture my husband with this rant every time we watch it. Here goes: Okay, they make a big deal out of Angel being surrounded by mirrors in the gym. Angel makes a comment about it, and the gym dude reacts to Angel’s missing reflection. And they set it in a gym at all. You’d think they’d be extra-specially careful to make super-duper sure that ANGEL IS NOT EVER REFLECTED IN ANY MIRROR. And yet, as they come out of the secret room, having saved the innocents, there he is. Drives me nuts.

    Okay. All better now.

    • Susan

      I have a similar rant regarding Spike in the back seat of a car in Buffy S7. That one’s even worse, so I’m sure I’ll say something then, too.

      • greg

        Why don’t they just keep reflective surfaces off the sets when there’s vampires around. There’s a mirror right at Buffy’s front door that Spike keeps walking past and no one ever seems to think to angle the camera so we can’t see the reflection. And a scene where Xander and Spike are walking past storefront windows that clearly show both of them reflected. No reason in the world why they couldn’t just walk in the street away from the windows.

        And the worst one of all (for me) is one where Spike’s writing something in the fog on the glass in a shower and his hands is reflected the whole time – and it’s a closeup! (also, Angel’s hand reflected in the mayor’s desktop when he was pretending to be turned by Faith)

        • Susan

          I can forgive the ones that seem incidental as lapses of the kind that occur in every film or TV episode, but when they make a big production out of the presence of a reflective surface–gym mirrors, rear view mirrors, shower doors–those get me all ranty.

          You’re right, though–with all these vamps wandering around, you’d think they’d have avoided reflective surfaces in the sets as much as possible.

        • Aeryl

          Those don’t bother me as much, like when people complain about vampires panting. As Joss said somewhere, its real hard to find actors that don’t need to breathe, and it’s also real hard to find actors that don’t cast refletions.

          The one in Judgement is bad, as is the one in Buffy s7, cuz in that one they actually look at Spike in the mirror, in the shot. It’s horrible.

        • skittledog

          I can forgive an occasional lapse, but the one that really bugs me once I had it pointed out to me (*wonders if she’s about to wreck this for everyone else*) is the damn CREDITS SEQUENCE. Angel reflects in the freaking puddle as he walks away. Every episode. Argh. Though it’s become an in-joke amongst my friends now – we laugh and point whenever watching the credits. But dear goodness, having it there across all 110 episodes is particularly sloppy (unless somehow reflecting in a puddle is different from reflecting in mirrors, but that is a level of fanwank that even I’m not willing to go to…)

      • tjbw

        OMG! I never, EVER thought about that!

        Yet another reason for me to wish that the time spent on that episode was used to tell a different part of S7’s story!

        Don’t get me wrong, I love me some S7, but that episode is just a waste of precious time.

      • lyvvie

        SPOILERS FOR BUFFY

        Though I’ve not watched recently I always fanwank that moment away as RW looking in the mirror and seeing no reflection which thus confirms to him/reminds him (can’t remember if he knows at that point) Spike is a vamp.

        • Susan

          ***CONTINUING THE SPOILER***

          Except that later in the ep, RW has an “OMG, he’s a vamp!” moment.

          • Stevi

            I agree, Susan. I’ve tried lots of ways to work out some alternative explanation. But I really think it was just a lapse.

            I can forgive accidental reflections here and there. But when it’s actually part of a scene on purpose? Kind of unforgivable.

            It blows my mind that it got through scripting and rehearsal and filming and editing and not a single person pointed out that looking at a vamp in a mirror would not work. I mean… two of the actors in that scene should have known better, even if not all the writers and directors got the full Vampire 101 booklet.

            So annoying.

      • O. M. G. I have never, ever noticed a single example of this. Does that make me a bad fan?

        On the other hand, I usually have the episodes on while I’m doing something crafty, so I suppose I don’t actually *watch* them that often.

    • Eldritch

      “And The Host! Yay! Won’t say more.”

      I think the host steals every scene he’s in. He’s great. Pity his career is over.

    • Christopher

      I have an explanation that may alleviate your being driven nuts, Susan. 🙂

      As discussed elsewhere in these comments, you are probably watching this episode in widescreen, right? Well, in 4:3 aspect ration that reflection of Angel as he leaves the torture room would not be visible onscreen. So they were careful to make sure you didn’t see any reflection since this was broadcast in 4:3.

      There is another point a little earlier in the scene when Angel, Cordelia and Wesley are walking through the gym and the intention by the cinematographer and director is to have only Wesley and Cordelia reflected in the mirrors and then Angel appears. If you watch carefully you can see David waiting on the right side of the screen to walk out and join them just before the shot shows them non-reflected. The first time I watched this I thought “Well, that was sloppy” until I realized that again, David waiting to walk out was outside of the 4:3 frame and so the original airing preserve the illusion.

      There’s another scene, I think later this season, when Cordelia is waiting for Angel outside of a door and her voice is heard but her mouth isn’t moving. Again, she is outside of the 4:3 screen so they did a post shoot voiceover and didn’t worry about the video in that part of the screen since TV viewers of the time would never see it.

      I hope this helps, though it is distracting to see it.

      😉

      • Mez

        Same with Who Are You – when Buffy’s trying to sneak into the church, and Willow’s saying all sorts of stuff… except in widescreen, her mouth isn’t moving at all. 🙂

        • Erunion

          That one’s an even worse instance in that the conversion to widescreen was only done in certain regions – the R1 DVDs of Buffy are all left in their original 4:3 format (the exception is non-anamorphic as a result, unfortunately, but given that it’s the ONLY exception…). Joss later spoke out on the issue, saying that he didn’t approve that change and made damn sure it didn’t happen in R1.

          In the case of Angel, he approved the switch for S2, with this as the most major lapse, while seasons 3-5 were originally framed for widescreen. So anything else this season is legit, while any such errors later on is minor sloppiness. =P

          • Susan

            Huh. That does help. Here endeth my rant about “Judgment.” I’d never paid much attention to the aspect ratio one way or the other, but I *did* first notice the reflection in “Judgment” the first time I watched the DVD.

            Thanks! 🙂

      • Karen

        Exactly. I read a heartfelt rant somewhere that bitterly listed numerous examples of carefully shot scenes in many great shows,not just Buffy/Angel, which have been *ruined* by the widescreen presentation.

      • Susan

        Christopher–just wanted to pass on a “thank you” from my husband. He’s very happy he can now watch “Judgment” with me safe in the knowledge that I’ll never freeze-frame that moment and rant about Angel’s reflection ever again. 😀

  2. Cameron

    “The one moment in the episode was completely fell flat: the riff on Gunn’s last name being misinterpreted as “gun” and Cordelia and Wesley acting all weird upon his arrival. It wasn’t clever, it wasn’t useful, it was just lame.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s the only time. Certainly once he starts to develop as a character, the jokes stop short.

    Hurray for season two! Great stories coming up, can’t wait to hear what you think about ’em. 🙂

    • jbucksnb

      No, it happens one more time, I think. In season four. But it’s funny(er) there, at least to me.

      • mothergunn

        While the jokes may be a little lame, I can verify, as a person who’s name is actually Gunn, that sometimes people have a hard time believing that’s my real name. I mean, sometimes I have to bust out my ID. Also, people see it in writing and then pronounce it all wrong (I get Gwen, and Gen, and Gan, and Goon), like they see it and subconsciously think, “Oh, no one’s name could ACTUALLY be that.” So, I can dig when he gets a little upset about it. One of the writers (I believe, tho maybe he’s a producer) is also named Gunn, and I’m betting that all the jokes concerning Charles’ surname come straight from his real life experiences.

        • Becker

          None of the writers were named Gunn. Joss is friends with the actor whose last name is Gunn though. (Sean Gunn or James Gunn) but there was no writer with that last name on either S1 or S2.

  3. greg

    re: the psychic karaoke MC (heretofore known as ‘Lorne’) – much like prophecies love to be fulfilled by people trying to thwart them, what he provides is of specific use (not just for the audience’s amusement, but also for the self-aware characters.) He can tell someone’s path when they sing; identify what is likely going to happen or what they’re in for, but they can change that by altering their actions or attitudes. Unlike Greek Oracles, where the supplicants were usually blindsided by unwanted events occurring because they tried to stop them, people sing for Lorne specifically to see if their intended actions or attitudes are right for what they desire. It’s an interesting twist on an old cliche and they use it in unexpected ways.

    Also it’s funny because he acts like Liberace and sometimes people sing in front of him without knowing his talents and occasionally his makeup doesn’t QUITE go as far as it should so paying close attention to his collars and wrists is sometimes fun and distracting.

    On the depressing side, the actor who plays him (Andy Hallett) died tragically last year of heart failure at 33. Kinda makes the onscreen funny a little more painful.

    • Susan

      Well, he’s not known as Lorne for quite a while yet, but I don’t think that’s a *huge* spoiler. 🙂

      RIP Andy.

      • diane

        Yes, Andy’s death was a tragic loss. I remember that the day I heard about his death, I pulled some of his best episodes and watched them. “Judgment” was first.

        I love the way that the episode (and season) open with a shot of the Host, green in front of a blue background, no speech, no music, no clue about who he is or anything. Then he brings the mike up and starts singing. This is “Angel?” Just great.

    • Yeah, until we get to the end of this season it’s The Host. Geez, get with the program. 😉

      RIP Andy. 😦

      • Tausif Khan

        Andy Hallet started out as an assistant to Joss’ wife and then was an extra in Buffy as a college student in season 4.

        • Mel

          I’ve always looked but never been able to find him in Hush (as a college student in buffy’s start of episode dream)

    • Gill

      RIP Andy Hallett; such a very sad loss – and work overload apparently contributed to his neglecting a problem which led to his heart condition. The character was wonderful and he seems to have been a thoroughly decent guy.

      😦

  4. lyvvie

    “The one moment in the episode was completely fell flat: the riff on Gunn’s last name being misinterpreted as “gun” and Cordelia and Wesley acting all weird upon his arrival. It wasn’t clever, it wasn’t useful, it was just lame.”

    Agreed, but I think I tend to give that scene some leeway as it then continues with Gunn winding them up with, “I’ve seen you before… in bed” and Cordy’s and Wes’s reactions to that which always crack me up.

    I always forget how good this first episode is, The Host, Angel singing, Faith and of course the main element which you’ve described, the continuation of Angel’s journey being stopped from being just some linear box ticking/points scoring.

    Visually speaking I think this is where Angel (the series) starts to look really good as well. Not that it looked bad last season but it’s now that I really start to notice the beautiful cinematography.

    • You’ve reminded me that I forgot to mention the switch to Widescreen, which is part of what makes the series’ visual prowess more evident. Took me twenty minutes to notice the change in aspect ratio, though once I did it was a nice change.

      • An interesting note is that Buffy becomes widescreen after S3 on the R2/R4 DVDs and Netflix Watch Instantly. There’s an ongoing debate on which is better, although Joss is quite clear that he intended the show to be seen in 4:3 fullscreen. I think there are certain episodes (most of them Joss episodes, actually) that really do have to be seen in 4:3 (5×16 being the most vital example), but many others look a lot better in anamorphic widescreen (imo). 5×07 and the series finale are a couple examples that I feel are visually enhanced by widescreen though. 🙂

      • Susan

        Here’s a funny, Myles: until you mentioned that it had taken you several minutes to realize that S2 was shown in widescreen, I’d NEVER noticed the aspect ratio–in either direction. And I’ve literally worn out several discs of both series.

        I’ve read that Whedon considered aspect ratio when he shot the series, but it just never made it to my viewing consciousness.

        Yeesh.

        • One of the reasons I love OMWF so much is that it’s the only Buffy episode shown in Widescreen. It pains me that I’m forced to see such a wonderful TV show in 4:3 format (personal preference, I guess).

    • morda898

      I agree. From this point on nearly every episode of Angel looks like a full on movie. It’s action, cinematography, special effects and stunts are all of awesome-ly high quality. I’d say the only visual problem the show has from now on is some of the demon make-up/costumes.

  5. Interesting. A solid analysis Myles, but I actually didn’t care for “Judgment” all that much. It’s not a bad episode by any means, but I just find a lot of it a little boring. Angel’s realization about the race to the light at the end of the tunnel felt incredibly abrupt and unsubtle for my tastes. The Tribunal plot fell really flat for me too. I appreciate what the episode was getting at, but I just can’t bring myself to get excited over it.

    It does, however, do a decent job at further setting up pieces of the season, so I certainly appreciate it on that level. I guess this one just didn’t mesh for me. Some great stuff coming up though. 🙂

    • I agree that the actual “plot,” with the Tribunal and all, is completely meh.

      But everything else going on is stellar, so I forgive it.

      • Eh, ‘competent’ is the word I’d use to describe it, personally, if also a little boring in places. Taking the entire season to come into consideration, I still maintain “Buffy vs. Dracula” makes a much bigger splash of an opener, despite how unpopular that opinion is. 😉

  6. Witness.Aria

    Great review. Now I want to watch some Angel season 2. So much wonderfulness ahead.

    SPOILER follows

    Did anybody else get a tingly feeling after Myles said this: “There’s every chance that this will all break open, “Surprise” style, in the weeks ahead”?

  7. Eleanor (undeadgoat)

    . . . What, have you never met a white person who was bad at black people? A rich girl who doesn’t know how to behave around former homeless street thug types isn’t unrealistic at all. Suburban kids who “know” about black culture are usually very good at accidental racism. Or is it just that they don’t have black people in your part of Canada?

    • My issue is less to do with Cordelia being awkward around him, and more to do with that awkwardness being predicated on misinterpreting his name as Gun rather than Gunn – it’s not unrealistic so much as it just really lamely executed, is all.

      • diane

        And that’s the point. Even Cordelia figured out it was lame.

        • skittledog

          Nah, I concur with Myles – it’s a broader joke than was required, and falls flat. Wes and Cordy could have been believably awkward/lame around Gunn without having to use an odd play on his name as the basis for it. Because yeah, a black street-looking kid you’ve never seen before shows up at your door – you’ve got a reason for ‘humorous’ misunderstanding (though not of the sort I’m that fond of). But mishearing his name? Meh.

  8. lawrence

    The thing to keep in mind about Angel is that the seasons don’t really matter all that much.

    While Buffy’s plots are generally a year long and somehow always magically bound to the schedule of the school year, one of the central themes in Angel is that evil is pretty much constant in the world and it always needs to be fought.

    So the structure of the show (and the misapplied use of the whiteboard) reflects that. While each season has its own set of villains and sub-plots, there’s much more continuity of actual plot from season to season than there is on Buffy.

    And it just keeps getting better from here…

  9. greg

    Here’s a plot point that always bugged me about ‘Judgment’ – are we really to believe that the prison would allow Faith to have a visitor on the same day she got into a knife fight with another prisoner (whose wrist she broke) and then “took a good beating from the guards”?

  10. If it’s scheduled visitation (says the girl who’s taking the bar exam next week) then, depending on the state, they’re not supposed to deny her the visit based on any “misconduct” that day.

    Besides, if it’s one of the prisons where guards beat the inmates — and I know there are plenty of those — I doubt they’d be filing an official report about the knife incident.

    I could look up the California rules but I don’t wanna. 😉

    • Eldritch

      Good luck on your Bar exam.

      • To be completely and 100% off topic, thank you. This is definitely the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.

        However, getting into passionate Buffy and Angel discussions does help quite a bit 🙂

        • diane

          Having done serious study for high-level certification in software development, I know how important and stressful those big exams are. Pace yourself and be sure that you get enough rest the night before the exam. Good luck!

        • Becker

          A friend of mine from the old Bronze had to pass the bar, twice (different states) during the initial Buffy run. (and a third state since) She spent a lot of time “on the ledge.” I do not envy you at all and hope that it went well as it should have just happened.

          (And I just remembered that I’m going to be offline for a while after posting this reply, so you’ll probably have your results by the time I see any further replies to this.) 😉

    • Susan

      Good luck!! 😀

    • skittledog

      Good luck! If we see you commenting on here next week, are we allowed to kick you off for your greater good? 😉

  11. skittledog

    I love this episode. It doesn’t stand out as a high point or a particularly special episode, but I just deeply appreciate it. Partly for how well executed it is and partly for how effectively it course-corrects from the S1 finale. Myles, you’re a little kinder towards the dialling down of the prophecy elements than I am; to me it feels like they went that way in To Shanshu in order to give the season finale sufficient weight, and to create this new purpose for the show… but then over the summer realised that any such blatant purpose or target would pretty much kill off what were the strengths of the show (the relationships, the banter and the more nebulous sort of world-saving that Angel does compared to Buffy). Therefore, Judgement puts us back in a better trajectory, where we know there may be an ultimate target but we are not expecting every episode (or monster of the week) to take us towards it. But it does it very well and with a certain quantity of subtlety, so I forgive it.

    Otherwise, great review and pretty much 100% in line with my feelings on the whole episode. Which gives me hope for you agreeing with me throughout the rest of the show and saving me from having to defend some seasons and episodes where I know I’m in the minority. 😉

    • If it’s about defending AtS seasons 3 and 4, count me in as a defender.

      • While I’ll defend certain aspects of A3 and A4 with you, I find both to be pretty notably flawed. They are both seasons that were kind of a fun ride the first time, but on subsequent viewings have really gone downhill for me. There’s still some worthwhile stuff in both of them though, mostly from you know who. 🙂

        • skittledog

          Heh. I suspect I do.

          I find s3 to suffer a bit on a rewatch, especially around the middle section and then towards the very end, but it has some stellar episodes and probably my favourite antagonist of any season.

          Season 4, however, I find just as much of a fun ride on a rewatch. Sure, there are some dud episodes between the mini-arcs, and there’s that one bit of character writing/arc I won’t even attempt to defend, but the overall show sustains its tone and quality better in that season than in any other, I feel. (Possibly joint with s2.)

          But then, I am a sucker for you know who (Voldemort?), so it’s inevitable I’m going to love those seasons regardless of any weaknesses.

          Good to know I’ll have some company in my defensive positions though. 🙂

          • I would argue that season 3 has the best villain of the series. Considering who Angel is and what his struggles are, the best villain.

            The only downside to season 3, IMO is some weak stand-alone episodes towards the middle of the season, as was said. The general arc of the season was engaging, and no one is a bigger fan of the new character of that season than me.

            Which is the main reason I struggle with season 4, which has some brilliant moments, a very flawed arc, and rushed ending. And for deeply personal reasons, I can’t rewatch the last episode of that season, ever.

          • *GENERIC ANGEL SPOILERS/THOUGHTS!*

            The first and last episodes, from a writing standpoint, are easily the highlights of A4 as far as I’m concerned. But, I can potentially see how that ending episode could strike a personal chord. It’s one of Angel’s most emotional/character-based episodes, which is why it’s one of my favorites.

            I have to disagree about A3 having the best villain though. Again, on first viewing it was a fun ride, but after that I realized just how incredibly one-dimensional he was I came to really not care anymore. There’s absolutely zero added insight or growth to the character throughout the season. With that said, there’s not much competition in this department on Angel. I feel that A3 is probably Angel’s weakest season, although a case could also be made for A1 and A4 as well.

            A2 and A5 are the only seasons that have their act together, and only A5 comes to close to putting together a full quality season, from start to finish (although it still struggles a bit until the final arc).

          • skittledog

            **GENERIC SPOILERS POSSIBLY CONTINUED**

            Which is where I disagree and am going to cause some annoyance myself when we get there – I really don’t like the first half of season 5 and don’t feel like it gets its act together until 5.11 or so. (After that, though, I pretty much adore it.)

            Angel’s more human villains are a little too undeveloped generally – even of the W&H folks, I’d say there’s only one who gets character development I find satisfying (i.e. which is not reversed at some later point for story convenience). But s3’s is very personal for Angel and thus great on that level for me.

            I… am not so much of a fan of the new character introduced in s3. 🙂 Which might explain my liking 4.22 without reservation because I focus on what it is doing to Angel rather than anything else.

          • *GENERIC SPOILERS*
            Oh, I agree that the first half of A5 has some issues, although there are a few gems in there. That’s what I meant by “although it still struggles a bit until the final arc” (which is really from 5×15 on, although I like to lump 5×14 in there ’cause it’s just so much fun).

          • Susan

            (GETTING IN ON THE GENERIC SPOILING)

            I agree that S2 and S5 are the strongest seasons. IMO, S1 (despite some strong eps) is the weakest. S3 and S4 have some big problems–especially S4, from 4.16-4.21. Yuck-O.

            I’m pretty uninterested in S3’s main villain, and too much time is spent there. However, what happens within the group–and especially with one character–because of that villain (well, mostly) is so frakkin’ fascinating that I have to admire the season as a whole.

            S4 has a great premiere and finale and some strong eps, and some fun ones, too, in the middle, but that one stretch is just awful, awful, awful, IMO. I usually skip right over them these days–or pick and choose scenes to watch.

          • skittledog

            *SPOILERS GETTING A BIT LESS GENERIC*

            Hmm, interesting. So… is your problem with the villain of that arc (from 4.18-4.21), or with the group dynamic around the aforementioned new character from s3, or with… what? I’m finding it hard to remember anything particularly ‘yuck,’ although I know a close friend of mine who absolutely hates Angel for how he behaved to said new character in that stretch, so I could understand it if that were so. I’ve also come across criticism of that particular villain before, but for me it is a huge improvement on, well, the previous half a season… (Mostly I am just relieved that they finally stopped the awful character assassination that that plot arc required. Ugh.)

            I’m actually kind of looking forward to discussing seasons 3 and 4 as we get there now. This should be fun. 🙂

          • Susan

            AND THE SPOILING CONTINUES . . .

            (Myles, I hope you’re avoiding this whole thread.)

            Actually, skittledog, I’m going to try to answer your question and stay generic. We’ll see how it goes.

            While I have a LOT of affection for the actor (and the other character that actor is known for), I find the villain of 4.18-4.21 to be frustrating. I can’t get into specifics until Myles has seen that stretch, but it causes me almost physical discomfort to watch. However, I do like the last, say, 10-ish mins of 4.21, and I think the villain’s parting words with Angel are pretty interesting. Doesn’t redeem what’s come before, though.

            I will have a great deal to say about the way in which said villain comes into the world. Boy, will I have a lot to say about that. Boy oh boy. Oh boy.

            I tagged the yucky stretch of eps as 4.16-4.21. That’s when the arc picks up steam. But my hatred for it starts at the very end of 4.7. What saves the intervening eps is all the very cool stuff going on in the other plotlines.

            And, yeah, the group dynamic in S4 is a problem. Mainly because the character that has everyone in a dither (and with which one main character in particular acts just really oogily) is such a twerp.

            Not exactly generic, I guess, huh?

          • I don’t actually hate that character. But, my first crush was on Link from The Legend of Zelda, so that might have something to do with it 😉

            Oh. And Wesley on TNG. My fourteen-year-old self had bad taste.

          • Susan

            voluntarymanslaughter–do you watch _The Guild_? There’s Wesley Crusher love to be had there.

            And, um, shouldn’t you be studying? 😉

          • I haven’t caught up with The Guild season 3 yet, though it’s definitely on my list.

            I loved him on HIMYM though!

            And please, please, don’t take away the few moments of happiness I manage to clutch from the interwebs! I’m reciting the St. Crispin’s Day speech over here 🙂

          • skittledog

            Tut tut. 😉

            **GIVING UP ON THE GENERIC SPOILERS BECAUSE IT REQUIRES TOO MUCH BRAINPOWER**

          • skittledog

            Ack! **AND USING SOMEONE ELSE’S COMPUTER WHERE I HIT THE WRONG BUTTON**

            Um, anyway. I don’t think we can go further into this without completely spoiling, so I’m happy to stop there for the moment and await s4’s comments threads with interest. 🙂 4.8-4.17 is the part where I really hate the arc stuff and want to skip every scene it affects, but there’s definitely other good stuff in those episodes. I can see how if the villain of 4.18-21 is a problem for you, there is probably isn’t much else to like there (though 4.19 would probably still be my favourite episode for a character I usually struggle to like).

            *happy sigh* I love discussing Angel… 🙂

  12. Bob Kat

    voluntarymanslaughter; And take a candy bar along :-).

    Perhaps I shouldn’t be commenting since I probably only saw this show once on reruns in ’02. Angel just doesn’t inspire me to go back to it like BtVS, HIMYM or certain favorite films, maybe because the better the story itself gets the less I like the underlying plot assumptions. But it’s nice to show just *how* fallible a flawed hero can actually be!

    On the vampire reflection issue, my fanwank is that the invisibility is an illusion which kicks in automatically when anyone is looking at a surface a vamp could be reflected in. (It doesn’t depend on any knowledge of the vamp or onlooker.) So, a reflective surface nobody is looking at shows the reflection. We, audience, camera operator, director, etc. are not *in* the Buffyverse so we can see those “stray” r eflections.

    Andy… I sometimes imagine a planet, somewhere, I don’t have a good anme for it, where all the stars form the great days of Hollywood, the 20s thru the early 60s, plus soem younge rones we lost too early, and the directors, writers, studio execs, are brought back at the age of their greatest ability (but with their whole-life memories.) But with access to the full library of films, TV shows, books about “The Biz,” etc. done since they were active. And access to the latest technologies. And Andy would be right there a the reconstituted MGM. Sigh

  13. Mel

    “and more importantly it’s not clear why the Powers that Be would send Angel to help them if the fierceness of the demon protector was already scaring away the various street thug demons who were looking to collect the bounty. ”

    I’ve always seen it as TPTB’s way of nudging Angel back on track. I hope its not to spoilery to say that they do that again, later in the series.

  14. I CANNOT resist posting this. A woman in Germany is terrified of rabbits.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/294980

  15. Becker

    I hate to say it but I’ve never really liked this episode very much. I hate when a show, any show, uses a single word over and over to describe something (my aversion to “DESPAIR! DESPAIR!” in “Anne” for example) and this one was champion. I wish I never had to hear it again, but I’m not that lucky. It’s not a bad episode exactly, but I just had issues with a lot of it. Again, “champion”, the who sudden jousting, the unclear reason anything was happening, it was just unsatisfying to me.

    This is also where I have to admit that I was highly, highly against how the episode started. First off, I’m not a fan of karaoke to begin with, but having the season start with some guy no one knows singing just seemed like a good way to get people to change the channel. I thought it was a huge mistake. I still have issues with that, but I’m glad I didn’t have decision making powers. I feel bad about it, not for what happened with the character, but because of what thinking about it does to me. I got to know Andy Hallett quickly. You meet the man, you got to know him quickly. It’s just a fact. I didn’t hang out with him off set really, but we were friendly enough that he introduced me to his mother as “this is my friend”. Barring Alzheimers, it will be impossible for me to ever forget about Andy because of something else that happened. On 2/26/09, 3/12/09, 3/24/09 & 3/29/09 the following things happened: my brother-in-law’s uncle died, my father died, my uncle died and Andy died. It was a crappy month. When I watched ep2.1 recently, it hit me and when I got to 5.22 it beat the crap out of me. Between there, 2.2-2.22/5.1-5.21 (as I don’t own S3 or 4) I’m a detached viewer, but the very beginning of 2.1 and end of 5.22 are now inseparable from last winter, regardless of what is happening on the screen. This is deeply off-topic and personal and not what I planned on writing, but the second I brought up that first scene, the rest of this needed to follow, sorry. He was a great person and for those of you who never got the honor of learning that in person, I’m sorry and I wish you could have. You’d think with a heart that big, it wouldn’t have betrayed him. I just miss the guy.

    Though there were good moments mixed in this episode, the odd opening, the word choice, the silly tribunal/jousting stuff, the lack of reason for all of that, those are why I had issues with the episode.

    Thank god for ep 2, my all time series favorite. Which I’ll talk about later.

    Random note, due to her moving and some other odd things, the Faith scene got delayed and was shot during the filming of, I believe, episode 4. A long wait for a tiny scene, but we all thought it was worth it.

    I thought you did see Lindsey’s “hand” in that scene.

  16. Pingback: Cultural Catchup Project: Fighting the War (Angel) « Cultural Learnings

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