Cultural Catchup Project: Defying Seriality – The Catharsis of Pylea (Angel)

Defying Seriality – The Catharsis of Pylea

“Belonging”/”Over The Rainbow”/”Through the Looking Glass”/”There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”

November 25th, 2010

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Gee, do you think Pylea and Oz might have something in common?

The Pylea arc, which concludes Angel’s second season starting with “Belonging” and ending with “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb,” (with “Over the Rainbow” and “Through the Looking Glass” in between) is obviously playing on the classic story through episode titles, explicit references (Cordelia’s first instinct, for example), and in the general theme of being taken away to a different world to save the day and learn something about yourself in the process.

To get it out of the way, this was a highly enjoyable arc: Pylea offers some strong story possibilities along with some surprising connections to the series’ mythology, the introduction of Fred and the prominence of The Host are most welcome, and seeing Cordelia front and center has been two seasons in the making. Plus, the Pylea arc offers some of the series’ strongest balancing of suspense and comedy yet, successfully mixing some strong emotional moments with some truly hilarious ones.

And yet the Pylea arc wants to be more. Instead of being your traditional conclusion to a serialized season of television, resolving ongoing tensions, it introduces something entirely new. It wants to be a sort of catharsis, an exciting adventure to another world where every character is offered a sort of trial run for their lives back in Los Angeles. Cordelia discovers what it is like to be revered, Angel faces the true potential of his inner demon, Wesley must take a society’s future into his hands, while Gunn…well, Gunn sort of learns a lesson along the way, I guess?

While I think the arc largely works extremely well, there are moments where this sort of fantastical allegory for their real world problems becomes a bit contrived. This has been a complicated season of television, and at times the story tries too hard to speak to arcs which were developed to varying degrees during the year. Some individual stories do risk being a bit on the nose at the expense of Pylea itself, but as a broader coming together of our central characters, a realization of their friendship and a true reconcilation in the wake of Angel’s return to the fold, the arc works well.

Especially considering the gutpunch at the end.

To start with a brief concern, the point where Wesley and Gunn are creating a strategy for the Pylean forces to storm the castle and kill the Covenant’s leader is one which stands out for me. It’s the moment where Wesley takes over, where he gets to show his leadership prowess independent of Angel (who, let’s remember, had some trouble relinquishing that role in “Becoming”). Gunn, meanwhile, realizes that the plan will sacrifice many of the people they are helping, a clear reference back to his friend’s death in the same episode. The message ends up being that Wesley is a capable leader, whose plan eventually works to perfection, while Gunn needs to learn that sometimes people need to be sacrificed for freedom to win out in the end.

I have two problems with this scene. The first is that the Pyleans are largely irrelevant, turned into chess pieces; I get that this isn’t about them, but these rebels are given so little personality that they become a tool to make these connections back to their lives in L.A. I might normally not consider this a problem, as we do have Fred and The Host’s family, but those are such isolated characterization that the simplicity of this organization limits the impact of their sacrifice. I wanted to feel the meaning of their sacrifice, what this meant to Pylea, but instead it became all about Wesley.

My second problem is that Gunn’s storyline is woefully underdeveloped in comparison to his co-stars. Admittedly, this is representative of the season as a whole, but the way that his decision to tag along is worked into this scene just seems lazy. While Wesley’s story is not quite on the level of Cordelia and Angel, at the very least there is a sense that he is given a position of importance that asks him to make a tough decision. By comparison, Gunn gets a brief lesson from Wesley on the value of sacrifice, a nod towards the fact that Gunn is going to need to realize that the big picture is more important than a few of his fellow vamp hunters being felled. I don’t necessarily think this is wrong, but it’s more than a bit forced, and struggles to resonate for more than a few seconds.

The trip to Pylea is all about answering the questions of identity raised in “Belonging”: Cordelia’s big commercial is a disaster thanks to a despicable director, Angel is still sort of recovering from his time with Darla, Wesley struggles to reconcile his new leadership position with his father’s lack of approval, and Gunn thinks that he doesn’t want to fight evil so much as he wants to protect his friends. Pylea is meant to offer all of them a mirror into their own lives, and for Wesley and Gunn this takes the form of minor moments like the above. They are there to rescue Cordelia, and in that effort they learn lessons that they’ll take back through the portal – done and done. It’s almost like they’re on the Holodeck, to bring in another bit of genre television: in an alternate reality, they find situations that can be applied to their own lives.

By comparison, Pylea is more than that for Angel and Cordelia. They get the full-on Dorothy arc, being whisked away from a dreary and depressing world to discover a land filled with opportunity. Of course, Cordelia discovers a world where humans are called cows and considered slaves first, but eventually she becomes a princess and achieves the fame and fortune she always thought acting would provide her. Angel, meanwhile, doesn’t burn up in the sun on Pylea, offering a life apparently free from the limitations and pressures that he left behind. It is a world where he walks free from his burdens, whether they be sunlight or Darla, and where Cordelia’s aspirations have been fulfilled.

As you likely all know, this all goes horribly wrong in time, but I love the moments where they realize everything they ever wanted. I love Angel checking out his hair in the mirror, and I love Cordelia discussing her throne. There is nothing better than seeing a wish fulfilled, and nothing worse than those moments where the consequences become clear. The arc gets things right by having enough moments of calm that the fun elements of the story have some time to breathe, but maintaining a strong enough pace that we never feel entirely comfortable in Pylea. There’s always something that’s a little bit off, something that keeps this from feeling like “home.”

Or, perhaps more accurately, something that makes it feel too much like home. I loved the discovery of the Trionic texts being the origin for “Wolfram & Hart,” as it does two key things in the episode. First, it’s a reminder that there’s a real world back in Los Angeles, which is key to the episode’s success (if, as noted, a bit too prevalent in some key moments towards the end of the arc). And second, it ensures that Pylea won’t just be a trip a daily trip to the Holodeck. Even if it’s just a red herring, an Easter Egg and little more, the potential for Pylea to be somehow connected to a larger origin of the evil that Angel Investigations fights on a daily basis is key to ensuring that we haven’t forgotten what the series’ real focus is, striking a good balance with our empathy for Pylean society.

Of course, it’s a small moment in the grand scheme of things, since the arc is primarily concerned with Angel, Cordelia, and a certain young physicist/librarian named Fred. I’ll start with Cordelia, as I was probably the most outright pleased with her development here. It wasn’t exactly a surprising arc: she’s terrified by the slavery, delighted to end up a princess, wooed by her champion, and eventually satisfied with her life of searing pain with the reward of knowing she is helping to save the lives of the innocent. She proves herself willing to look the gift horse in the mouth by doubting the glitz and glamor, and I like that she discovers a prophecy driven not by some sort of demonic impregnation (which, as she points out, would have been déjà vu) but rather a scenario wherein her burden transfers onto another. While her life is still in danger, and the cult is still a bit broad, the story allows Cordelia to make complex decisions along the way. That she gets to choose to redefine that burden as a blessing, and to strike the final blow which allows her champion to take over Pylea and usher in a new era of reconstruction, is a real point of empowerment for the character. Charisma Carpenter was great throughout, and the story is a testament to this character as the true heart of this series (despite whatever sort of ice queen reputation she might have at one point held within this universe).

As for Angel, I buy the effect that this transformation has on him. It’s about Angel finally seeing in himself what others see in him all the time, the visceral manifestation of the descent into darkness that scared his colleagues earlier in the season. There we could say that Angel was perhaps overreacting, perhaps having been better off if his friends could have helped him through that rough period, but here there is no doubt that he has crossed a line. While I thought the demon seemed pretty tame, perhaps damaged by the fact that it continued to wear Angel’s clothing, the symbolic meaning behind the scene was a nice upending of Angel’s own brush with fame immediately beforehand. I almost feel that his attack on Gunn was unnecessary, that an isolated sense of terror would have been equally effective.

It does help, admittedly, that Amy Acker becomes a prominent presence. I am not so “unspoiled” to not know that Fred will play an important role in the seasons to come, and that Acker will become a key figure in the Whedonverse because of it, but I was still delighted by Fred’s introduction. The role has a chance of seeming too distant, perhaps a precursor to a figure like River Tam who lives in a liminal space between realities, but Acker has a brightness that reads through even her most esoteric moments. Even that brief glimpse in Cordelia’s vision and some kind words from her former colleague are enough to give us hope that she is still human, making her loss of humanity that much more tragic. It also makes her role in assisting Angel in his moments of reflection – that pun was unintentional when I first wrote it, but intentional in keeping it – that much more important: she is also trying to hold onto the last remnants of her humanity, whether through calling her breakfast oatmeal or experimenting with tree bark enchiladas, which makes them a perfect pair (who have a couple of borderline romantic moments, although I have no idea if the show intends to move in that direction).

Now, while these individual stories work out nicely, the conclusion of the Pylea side of the arc is a bit more ragged. Leaving Cordelia’s Groosalugg in control is fine, but the character never really evolved into anything but a pretty face, and the lack of any further personification of the people beyond either slave owners or authority figures rings hollow. The final showdown is similar, in that the kill switch is built up as this big threat but yet the dude takes time to monologue before hitting it? If we had met more of the slaves that he threatened to kill, and if he had perhaps been forced to choose between killing them (and crippling the work force) or surrendering and still crippling the work force due to Cordelia’s intention to free them, I think the situation could have felt more tense and personal. Instead it felt perfunctory, and as much as I enjoy Cordelia knocking an evil dude unconscious it could have been a lot more.

In writing about that moment, and imagining a more complex scenario, I realize that a televisual comparison for an arc like this one is Doctor Who. There, while there are expectations that each episode might reveal something about the Doctor and their new companion (this was especially true in the most recent season), the standalone story has to make a more substantial statement on its own. Here, that didn’t quite happen, which I’ll admit was a bit disappointing. And yet I was aware that this was the characters’ story and not Pylea, and so it was more about Cordelia turning her back on a potential life as a princess to fulfill the bidding of the Powers that Be, Angel coming to terms with who he almost became and who he wants to be, Wesley finding new confidence in his leadership abilities, The Host closing the book on his past, Fred returning to the world she left behind, and Gunn…well, Gunn was there too.

And yet perhaps the finest moment in the entire arc is that it doesn’t end with The Host singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or Angel saying that there’s no place like the Hyperion. No, it ends on Willow in the Hyperion’s lobby, a gut punch in every possible way. My staggered viewing patterns, necessitated by the sheer volume of work I’ve been dealing with between teaching and classes this fall, was advantageous in only one way. For people watching live, I can imagine going from the conclusion to Buffy’s fifth season and having to compose one’s self for the action-adventure fantasy ongoing in Pyrea; then, just as you’re ready for a happy ending, you see Willow and your heart sinks in your chest.

For me, that was that much more powerful. Not only did I spend two hours in Pyrea without any sort of break, but it has been over a month since I watched “The Gift”: I had completely forgotten the context in which this episode aired, and I found myself scrambling for a breath in that moment. It was as if Dorothy had come home from Oz to discover that her family’s farm had been destroyed, that she was in a hospital instead of her own bed. It was a sign that, no matter what this trip into another dimension told these characters about themselves, the world they’re returning to is the antithesis of magical and wonderful.

It is a dark and dreary world, and Pylea does nothing to change this. It does, however, offer a fun and intriguing backdrop on which some very strong character consolidation is completed. Since Angel doesn’t have “seasonal” arcs in the same way as Buffy, it’s an ideal conclusion in that it really does tie everything together without necessarily “resolving” anything. The world they return to is the same world it was before, but this brief foray into another world offers interest and novelty that gives way to character and emotion which reflects strongly on the quality of the season which came before it.

And on the season to come.

Cultural Observations

  • Yes, as noted, this one took me a while. I probably could have done it earlier, but I think I was always consciously holding off until Thanksgiving when I knew I would have a day to turn over to it. Hope it was worth the wait, and no – I do not know when the next leg is starting.
  • I enjoyed that Angel was turning previous episodes of the series into hero stories for the villagers (I believe it was “I Fall to Pieces,” correct?).
  • I’m really paranoid about spoilers when it comes to Pylea: in setting up the whole end of slavery point, as Gunn points out the political unrest that is about to take over, the door is open to a return, but I don’t want to know about it. Not that I think you’d spoil it, but I’m sure you’re going to be tempted (I know I would be!).
  • As noted, there was some great comedy here, and Numfar and his dances were probably the highlight. It was just a really great running gag, with the shifts from Joy to Honor and then, perfectly off-screen, the Dance of Shame.
  • With each passing episode, Andy Hallett’s too-early passing becomes more tragic – much love for The Host, even if his role (for a return to his home dimension) seemed pretty limited here.
  • I’ll save any substantial thoughts on the proposed Buffy reboot, by the way, until the thing exists beyond a script. For now? It’s a terrible idea, but its ability to change what has already been made is nil, so I’m largely nonplussed.


Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

41 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: Defying Seriality – The Catharsis of Pylea (Angel)

  1. Great post Myles! Just a few thoughts on a very solid analysis:
    * Numfar is Joss Whedon himself!
    * Amy Acker is consistently wonderful in Angel, although her really standout moments in the show are not super soon.
    * “Through the Looking Glass” is easily my favorite of the Pylea episodes. It just has a vivid style and sharper edge about it that really stood out from the others. I can thank Tim Minear for that. 🙂
    * I found Pylea as a whole a bit overly silly at times, a bit overlong in general, and a tad jarring from what came before in the season (tone-wise, mostly). While the arc certainly did many of the characters justice, I can’t help but regret not having an explosive end to the season that more directly tied in many of the season’s plot threads. Instead, it almost feels like the main story just didn’t have enough gas to sustain the length of the season. The characters are certainly more important, but it’s still a shame that they feel wrapped up in an overall frivolous story with no real stakes.
    * Totally agree on the Willow gut-punch at the end.
    * When you start up Buffy S6, I strongly recommend watching the first three episodes in one session (“Bargaining” [Pt. 1 and 2] and “After Life”), as they really combine to make a sort of three parter. Angel S3 starts off with some one-off episodes, so no need to worry about it there.

    I’m really curious on your take of Buffy S6. It’s no doubt a flawed season (in one particular way, imo), but it’s also one of my favorites due to the risks it takes, how psychologically complex it can be at times, and how well it follows-through from S5. Angel S3, on the other hand, is probably (could be S4 instead) my least favorite season of that show (although it is not without its moments). Most people tend to love A3, and while I enjoyed the ride on my first time through it played off a lot more tedious for me on subsequent viewings.

    I hope we don’t have to wait too to find out how you see things though. 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving! Nom nom nom…

  2. “Since Angel doesn’t have ‘seasonal’ arcs in the same way as Buffy…”


    The third season of Angel has no connection whatsoever to Buffy’s sixth season, so you can stop the back-and-forth approach now.

    • Tausif Khan

      For me Angel is more serialized than Buffy. Which is odd because David Fury in a random interview said that Buffy is more serialized than Angel and that Angel is more conducive to one off episodes. After having seen both series I don’t agree with that characterization.

    • Morda

      That’s not quite true. The initial four episodes of each season should be watched thusly for full effect;

      That Vision Thing
      That Old Gang of Mine
      Bargaining Parts I and II
      Carpe Noctem

      After that the seasons can be watched in any order up until the half way mark of seasons 7/4.

      P.S. That Old Gang of Mine could easily come after “Afterlife” but it just seems to make more chronological sense this way.

  3. Gill

    You see why we were so adamant that you watched The Gift before the final arc of Angel – that ending with Willow would have been meaningless otherwise.

    As you’ve been told above, Numfar was played by Joss Whedon himself, a wonderful little cameo. The socio-political dynamics of Pylea were sketched in a little too loosely, I agree, but the family dynamics of the Dethwok Clan almost make up for it. The wonderful inversion that makes Lorne’s greatest talent in our world a source of shame in our own id both amusing and ties in well with the overall theme about discovering who you really are and making choices for yourself.

    This catch-up is a nice Thanksgiving present, especially for those of us in other countries who don’t actually celebrate the day. I’m more than eager to see your take on Buffy S6, which is still hugely controversial within the fandom. I love it, while others believe nothing ever worked after Buffy jumped off the tower.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations!

    • While I certainly understood your adamant nature as soon as I saw the scene, I think one could argue that the resulting tension that it would build for Buffy would probably have still resulted in a satisfying experience.

      I do, however, appreciate the advice since I prefer the more visceral punch to the gut than the subtle building of suspense. Which seems masochistic when I put it that way, but you know what I mean.

  4. Morda

    Loved the review and loved that you finally finished the season. I wasn’t even watching the show and I felt a lose end needing to be tied up. A couple of things though. You said you loved the moment where Cordy “knocks a dude out”. The only moment I can think of where this happens is when Silas is threatening to kill every human on Pylea and then Cordy CHOPS his head off. I hope you meant this moment cause it’s one of my favourite Cordy moments; “Your cow princess is tired of hearing you yak, podrai!” Also, as I’m sure you’ve read, Numfar is indeed Joss Whedon doing his silly dance – Probs the best cameo in the whole show (I can’t actually think of any others). And yes you are correct – The episode Angel describes is “I Fall to Pieces”. A fun little reminder of the “old style” of AtS (Angel the Series). Also, I completely agree with everything you said about Gunn. I found him to be very entertaining this season but the fact is that he just doesn’t have a good arc. Joss has talked about this in commentaries and the like that he and the writers just didn’t know what to do with Gunn’s character which is a shame cause I think Richards is a really solid actor (Apparently he’s really professional as well – Like Sarah Michelle Gellar professional). You’ll find that this uncertainty prevails throughout the show although the fact that Gunn doesn’t know where he belongs in the make-up of the series (especially come the end of season three, start of season four where he is made almost completely redundant considering the role he plays now, i.e muscle) becomes his central arc and theme. But yeah, out of the “five” central characters of Angel, Gunn always seemed to me to be the least developed (I’m sure you’ve gussed who the “five” are).

    • diane

      Joss’s only other cameo is in Firefly at the end of “The Message.” He also does one or two radio/TV announcer voices in early seasons of Buffy.

      • Morda

        Oh yeah I remember from “I, robot…you Jane”. Although I really cannot recall his appearance in “The Message”. Is he in the funeral?

        • diane

          Yes, he’s in the funeral. And recognizable, if you know to look for him. That was shot right after the series cancellation, so it’s really a double funeral.

          • Mel

            his voice is used in Serenity (the movie, not the episode) also, during the bank heist (he voice-overed the old man who opens the little tiny vault)

          • skittledog

            Not one of his own shows, but perhaps also worth noting that Joss did have a cameo in Veronica Mars (in the episode ‘Rat Saw God.’) Did Myles know who he was when watching VM?

            Numfar’s definitely the best, though. Heh.

  5. Morda

    One more thing. Now that you’ve seen “enough” of both series’ to make some kind of evaluation/comparison, do you prefer Buffy’s “Seasonal serialisation” or Angel’s more “overarching serialisation”. The fact that Buffy’s arcs fit inside year long blocks is convenient but rather unrealistic when you consider that this happens seven years in row – I mean, what must the Scoobies be thinking. They should just assume crash positions come May and pump their artillery/soldiers/skills up months in advance :P. Whereas on Angel, considering that the main villain is the unbeatable Wolfram & Hart, the serialised nature is bit more complex (which is actually ironic considering that Angel was original pitched as more of an anthology show). Anyway, I’m interested to know which one you’re prefering SO FAR, because your opinion could seriously change come later seasons – I think fans of Angel will know EXACTLY which season I’m referring to here.

    • I hate to be all wishy-washy, but still too early to tell. I think that Buffy gets to feel more transformative thanks to the life-altering, substantial events that the characters live through, while Angel gets to feel more introspective and “meaningful” thanks to the lack of such moments.

      One primarily makes you keep watching to see what could happen next, while the other primarily keeps you watching to see if the characters can survive what continues to happen. And yet because Angel does still offer some elements of suspense and tension, and because Buffy still has the strong characters that inspire simple interest and dedication beyond the serialized storylines, their differing approaches to serialization are more differences than preferences.

      At least for now.

  6. diane

    Numfar! Do the dance of a new Myles post!

    This was a very solid analysis of the Pylea arc. Not much to add to that, really, except to note that Gunn almost always seems “tacked on”, and there are times when that comes to the surface in the stories.

    The reason that the main season arc was cut short is that Julie Benz was not available through the end of the season. So we can thank Julie’s ongoing career for one of the comic highlights of the entire series.

    Good to know that you’re surviving graduate school. It’s a grind sometimes.

  7. Tausif Khan

    Myles did you notice the Buffy references in How I Met Your Mother’s Blitzgiving episode. The shot where Ted first receives the curse of the blitz is exactly like the shot in “Hush” when The Gentlemen steal the voices from the town of Sunnydale. Also the trick in the episode is called “The Gentleman”.

  8. Tausif Khan

    “…while Gunn needs to learn that sometimes people need to be sacrificed for freedom to win out in the end. I have two problems with this scene. The first is that the Pyleans are largely irrelevant, turned into chess pieces; I get that this isn’t about them, but these rebels are given so little personality that they become a tool to make these connections back to their lives in L.A.”

    The lesson you point out that Gunn learned is something I think that Gunn should not have learned given what you say right about Pylean’s being nothing more than set pieces. Whedon believes in two things (among others), one is secular humanism and the other is setting to characters with strong opposing viewpoints against each other while neither is entirely right or wrong. If Gunn could have maintained his position that every life matters this would have pushed the importance of humanism and provide a necessary character trait to push against Angel’s pessimism of just getting through life and doing what needs to be done and killing what needs to be killed. Gunn potentially represented the humanity of the other and gives the other body. The other thing about the trip to Pylea is that it signaled for me an end to Gunn’s relationships with his old vampiring hunting group which is also a problem for Gunn because that gave him depth. Gunn could constantly be voice of reason and point out that there are consequences to the violence that Angel perpetrates and it might hurt the very people he is trying to help. Therefore Angel the tv series could still maintain its place of exploring real problems within LA through metaphor but instead it chooses to go further into fantasy and talk about larger structures of battle and existential torment on an epic scale (the fight between good and evil).

    “I loved the discovery of the Trionic texts being the origin for “Wolfram & Hart,” as it does two key things in the episode. First, it’s a reminder that there’s a real world back in Los Angeles, which is key to the episode’s success (if, as noted, a bit too prevalent in some key moments towards the end of the arc). ”

    I read this as the group figuring out that Wolfram and Hart is an interdimensional law firm in that Angel’s LA is a universe equal in reality to that of Pylea and that Wolfram and Hart binds them all together at the center point connecting all to the hell that is real life (Pylean and Los Angelean).

  9. greg

    One thing I thought was kinda cool with watch Buffy & Angel back-to-back in these episodes is the disparity between Buffy insisting that NONE of her team die – we all make it or none of us make it vs. Wesley’s insistence that refusing to sacrifice anyone can only result in sacrificing everyone. Nice to see the writers didn’t have one singular agenda to put forward. I love it when they take advantage of the ability to emphasize the differences between the two shows. It also makes me wonder what Buffy (and Giles!) would have made of latter-day Wesley.

    I know it’s pretty standard on TV that everyone everywhere (even in alternate dimensions) speaks perfect late 20th Century English, but it still seems weird to me, especially when the Pylean language (one language for the entire dimension? and why doesn’t our dimension have a name?) being so different is repeated so emphatically (at least in written form) I’m also still somewhat confused as to why Fred read the Pylean book aloud to get herself sucked into the portal. It’s a nice circular event, though, as its pretty heavily implied that Fred’s attempts to open a portal to get out of Pylea was what caused Lorne to escape to LA. There are other issues regarding the logistics of all this, but some of them are dealt with in later episodes. (and some, sadly, are not)

    And I love Angel (well, the writers, really) making fun of how lame ‘I Fall To Pieces’ was.

    Buffy’s father, Willow’s mother, Xander’s parents, Angel’s father, Lorne’s mother, Wesley’s father … is there ANYONE on a Whedonverse show (up to this point (no spoilers!)) with decent parents?

    • Denita

      One thing I thought was kinda cool with watch Buffy & Angel back-to-back in these episodes is the disparity between Buffy insisting that NONE of her team die – we all make it or none of us make it vs. Wesley’s insistence that refusing to sacrifice anyone can only result in sacrificing everyone. Nice to see the writers didn’t have one singular agenda to put forward. I love it when they take advantage of the ability to emphasize the differences between the two shows. It also makes me wonder what Buffy (and Giles!) would have made of latter-day Wesley.

      Oh, that’s good! I never thought of the finales of these two season that way before.

    • lyvvie

      Don’t forget Giles’ father who pushed him to become a Watcher, Cordy’s dad who was done for tax fraud, Tara’s father who tries to keep her enslaved, Faith’s alcoholic mother and I suppose also Amy’s evil witch mother.

    • Aeryl

      Oz’s parents’ didn’t seem too bad. They seemed to encourage his creativity and non conformity, instead of trying to stifle it, as you see with so many intelligent under achievers who like to defy authority and expectations.

      His aunt though, she needed to be investigated!!

      For those who don’t remember, Oz was turned into a werewolf by a bite from his little nephew Jordy, who was a known werewolf, according to the conversation Oz has with her on the telephone.

      From Phases:

      OZ: Aunt Maureen. Hey, it’s me. Um, what? Oh! It’s, uh… actually it’s healing okay. That’s pretty much the reason I called. Um, I wanted to ask you something. Is Jordy a werewolf? Uh-huh. And how long has that been going on? Uh-huh. What? No, no reason. Um… Thanks. Yeah, love to Uncle Ken.

  10. Eldritch

    “… kinda cool … is the disparity between Buffy insisting that NONE of her team die … vs. Wesley’s insistence that refusing to sacrifice anyone can only result in sacrificing everyone.”

    Interesting point. I can see that these different decisions came out of different characters making decisions in different circumstances.

    Buffy was making a decision about her close circle of intimates, while Wesley decision was concerned a much larger group of people he didn’t know personally. (Hope I don’t get roasted for this next remark, but) I believe women tend to make decisions from a more personal place than men do. While women tend to first consider personal relationships, men tend to make decisions based on rules and guidelines. So in this case, Buffy’s judgement would take the form of which friend should she send to die, while Wesley is thinking in terms of “greatest good for the greatest number,” so he is able to do that.

    This isn’t to imply that one decision making strategy is superior to the other. I’m saying that each grows naturally out of the story situation and the characterization of the decision maker in each instance.

  11. tjbw


    The comments I want to make have already been made in various ways, but I still want to make sure that you realize that it is very important for you to remember how you feel about Gunn and his role in the group.

    Very. Important.

    Also, I partially agree with Tausif Khan about the Trionic texts. While I don’t agree that W&H binds all dimensions to the hell that is real life (specifically I don’t agree that in the ‘verse, real life = hell and that W&H doesn’t bind so much as they are just opportunistic), I do agree that the discovery of texts alerted the team that Wolfram and Hart is an interdimensional law firm and that the Pylean ruling class is in cahoots. In other words, I disagree (surprise!) with you that the texts are the origin of W&H.

    I am not a fan of AtS seasonally; I am more of a favorite episode kind of fan. But season 6 and 7 are my favorite BtVS seasons, so I am really excited that your project is moving right along.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Thanks for the Thanksgiving gift!

    • Eldritch

      Perhaps we agree here. I inferred from the Trionic texts that there was a common source of evil which reached out to many (perhaps all) other dimensions. In our dimension (and perhaps all), evil does not equal reality, though evil is part of the fabric of reality. It’s unavoidable, yet good exists in the world, too.

      Agreed that Pylea’s ruling-priest class had partnered up with evil. However, I don’t believe the entire dimension was evil. Judging by Lorne’s mother, it was a rough dimension to live in, yet Lorne’s cousin basically seemed like a decent kind of guy.

    • Mel

      I’m the same way about Angel–there are episodes and small arcs I enjoy, but season-wise I tend to group them with which arc I like the least (in this case, season 2 always means Pylea to me, and its my least favorite arc.)

  12. Mel

    The way they use Gunn, especially in the first two seasons, drives me nuts. He could have an arc almost as amazing as Wes’ if they had done something with him sooner. It’s still a compelling arc, but it could have been so much better.

  13. Pingback: Cultural Catchup-Lite: Parenthood, Doctor Who, Community | Cultural Learnings

  14. Susan

    A new CCP post. Huzzah!

    Basically any interesting thought I had while reading your analysis, Myles, has already been said, and probably said more eloquently that I would have. So I’ll just say that the siren song of the spoiler sounds more and more seductive (okay, end of alliteration binge) with every new post. I won’t say where, and I won’t say what, but my reaction to at least four different statements you made could best be summed up thusly: “Heh. If only you knew. Just you wait.”

    And now, I suppose, our waiting commences anew.

    • skittledog

      my reaction to at least four different statements you made could best be summed up thusly: “Heh. If only you knew. Just you wait.”

      Hee. Yeah. When are we going to be able to stop thinking that? When he gets to the last line of Not Fade Away…?

  15. Jac

    “the potential for Pylea to be somehow connected to a larger origin of the evil that Angel Investigations fights”

    Myles when you say “origin of the evil” do you mean the Wolf, Ram & Hart organisation (as in the Senior Partners and/or the writers of the Trionic texts)?

    because i am with tjbw in that they are just a very good oppurtunistic/manipulative collective that have agents and minions in multiple dimensions and that there is no source/origin of evil – see elevator conversation between Angel and Holland.

    Cordelias and Wesleys discovery of the Trionic texts is the equivalent of Angels conversation with Holland in that they realise that this ‘evil’ can not be fought in the traditional chop of their heads way, but of course it is fun to chop of the heads of their minions

  16. Jac

    Fred was a librarian? when was that mentioned in the episodes? she just happened to be in the library when the portal was opened.

    completely agree about Amy Acker’s brightness it even makes me overlook her boneiness

    • Susan

      She worked at the library. The librarian the gang speaks to when they arrive (and to whom Cordy describes the apple pendant Fred wore) explains that Fred had been working, reshelving books in the foreign language section, when she disappeared.

  17. Eldritch

    “I’ll save any substantial thoughts on the proposed Buffy reboot, by the way, until the thing exists beyond a script. For now? It’s a terrible idea, but its ability to change what has already been made is nil.”

    I should probably save any comments myself, but I can’t resist. One reaction is at intellectual one. In principal, a reboot potentially could be good. In fact, what the heck, it could even be great. When “Star Trek, the Next Generation” was first announced, I shivered in dread. But once it got two or three seasons in, it turned into a fantastic series. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the J.J.Abrams Star Trek movie reboot, but I have to say, it wasn’t a bad movie.

    Then consider the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot, which most people will easily concede was quite good, far better than the original series. I’m one of the ones who have problems with the series finale, nonetheless, until then, even I have to agree I enjoyed the characters, drama, and tension. It was well done.

    With that out of the way, the track record on successful reboots and remakes is piss poor. There have been so many horrible movie reboot/remakes of treasured, old TV series. “Bewitched,” “Wild, Wild, West,” “The Avengers” (the one with Emma Peel), ad infinitum. My hopes for a great “Buffy” reboot are not high.

    Add to this the miserable complication that they are only talking about rebooting the original “Kristy Swanson” movie, not the TV series, since it’s characters are owned by a different studio. They won’t be rebooting Willow, Giles, Angel, Darla, Spike, Dawn, or Xander. As I recall, the Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, and PeeWee Herman movie characters all died, so chances are good they won’t be rebooting those either.

    This is actually a good thing, because it means they will be starting from scratch and will have to develop something entirely new. They won’t be mucking around with our beloved characters. It probably even means an entirely new Buffy. The whole thing will be something entirely new and different. Whedon is terrific, but he’s not the only good writer. It could work.

    And if it doesn’t, then it’ll die quickly and soon be forgotten. As example, how many among us can still remember what big name actors starred in the “Wild, Wild, West” movie?

    And as Myles points out, it can’t change what has already been made.

    • Susan

      I get your point, Eldritch, and I agree with the larger elements, I think–though the very thought of anything even called Buffy that isn’t part of the Whedonverse makes me sigh audibly. And then vomit energetically. I can’t imagine thinking the reboot is anything other than an abomination.

      You’re right that failed reboots don’t diminish the originals irrevocably (Eric Bana didn’t ruin the Hulk, after all, nor did Jessica Alba destroy the Fantastic Four), but I would say there’s usually some tarnish.

      And I can’t resist this: the principals of the awful Wild Wild West reboot: Kevin Kline, Will Smith, Salma Hayek. 😉

  18. skittledog

    Yay. I’d almost forgotten the joy of a new CC Angel post.

    Most of what there is to be said on your review has already been said above, but there’s just one thing I wanted to draw attention to: Wesley’s decision that sacrificing people was justified, vs Gunn’s unwillingness to do so. I agree that Gunn is under-used in these episodes (and, indeed, in general), but I see this usage of him differently. Wesley’s judgement is apparently borne out by the rest of the episode – the fight is won, ish – but I don’t actually think this is the show saying that Wesley was right. Or that Gunn is wrong and needed to learn that lesson, as you phrased it. Instead, I see this as the first time that Wesley is allowed to put his ideas along these lines into practice – he has been ruthless in ideas ever since he first arrived in Buffy – witness his willingness to let Willow die for the sake of stopping the Mayor’s plan, but there (because Buffy is Right) he is clearly in the wrong. Since Angel abandoned his team, Wesley’s methods have naturally come more into the spotlight, and he is undoubtedly more willing to sacrifice others for the greater good than Angel is/was. This time, he either succeeds or gets lucky, depending how you see it, but I believe Gunn is there to challenge him because he should be challenged, not because Gunn is wrong.

    And it’s hard to say more without spoiling, but in looking back on their character arcs, I don’t see this as ‘Wesley was right to do X and Gunn needed to learn that.’ I see it more as ‘Wesley is not questioning what he’s doing, so Gunn needs to be there to do it for him.’

  19. Pingback: Cultural Catchup Project: Angel – “Heartthrob” | Cultural Learnings

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