Sunday, 28 October 2012

Angel: First Impressions

"Somebody better attack me soon. I can't take much more of this."

At last it begins. This feels like Angel has finally finished evolving and embraced its destiny as a fast-moving, arc-heavy mix of plot threads that weave themselves around the action and give the sense of there being no status quo. Suddenly, there seems to be an awful lot going on.

It's good to see the Host again, and also David Nabbitt, a handy excuse for how Angel is able to buy such a swanky old hotel on the earnings of a not exactly money-grabbing private eye. But it's shocking to suddenly see how Darla is occupying Angel's dreams, seducing him in increasingly erotic ways and gradually encouraging him to look to his own needs instead of helping others. She inhabits his sleeping hours like a drug, and already it's being noticed that he's sleeping longer. Worse, this is probably connected with the fact that he has an "off day" fighting the vampires that initially attack Gunn. The implication is that this has been going on for a while, too. This sub-plot clearly has a long way to run.

The episode manages to nicely establish a bond between Gunn and the increasingly brave Cordelia- although not Wesley, at least not yet, from a position of awkwardness between him and "C-3PO and Stick Figure Barbie". We get a lot of subtle allusions to the gulfs of race and class that separate Gunn from the other regulars, but he and Cordelia also get to know and care about each other in spite of their very different backgrounds. We get a fair bit more depth to Gunn's character, too. His responsibilities are huge. He puts the weight of the world on to his shoulders an a way that is ultimately self-destructive, and being so defensive when others try to help him isn't helping. Cordelia's right to call him self-destructive, yet he's also right to call her out for several ill-judged stereotyping comments as he shows her all around the world he lives in.

There's a definite social commentary to this episode. As with War Zone, we get to see a lot of working class LA locations and a lot of the side of life we don't usually see on Angel. Indeed, this episode is set almost entirely within that world, and we're given quite a tour. It's interesting that uber-billionaire David Nabbitt should appear at the beginning, too, and be given dialogue paralleling Gunn's. The comparison we're being invited to make is clear, but it's done with subtlety.

There's humour here too, though. I love Angel and the girly helmet. Although I had to raise an eyebrow at Wesley calling Angel a wanker, which most definitely would have had to have been censored when shown on British TV. Note to American TV scriptwriters: the word "wanker" is a rather strong swear word, not some quirky thing that British people say. Wesley calling Angel a wanker is about on a par with calling him a prick. It is not a friendly insult.

This season is getting very, very exciting, and it's only been three episodes.

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