Thursday, March 31, 2011

Buffy: Angel (1.7)

This episode marks the point where the series raised the stakes and demonstrated that it's not a simple, occasionally silly, girl-fighting-monsters show. Most TV shows have that one couple who define the series and cement it in pop culture. Ross and Rachel, David and Maddie, Mulder and Scully, Dawson and Joey, etc. What is introduced here is the most epic TV couple in recent memory, the beginning of a doomed love affair that could never work and should never work, but the undeniable chemistry and heated passion between them make the two of them pretty much inseparable. A couple whose love shakes up the rules, brings about death and destruction and defined the high school years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It works not only as a gothic romance, but also as a wonderful metaphor for teenage love. It's unexpected, usually restricted or frowned upon by certain parties, and is wrought with just as much pain as there is pleasure. Obviously, I'm talking about Buffy and Angel.

It's easy to forget how complex Angel is as a character. Sure, David Boreanaz isn't the world's most dynamic actor, but he does manage to sell the inner torment of a conflicted soul, a man weighed down by the pain of his past victims and his evil misdeeds, seeking some form of redemption and unexpectedly falling for a girl entrusted with killing his kind. This episode barely scratches the surface of Angel's character, but his history is already fascinating, entangled with the lives of both the Master and Darla, cursed by the family of the young gypsy girl he murdered. He's a wonderful character, and it's no surprise he was given his own show a couple of years down the line.

Buffy and Angel have immediate chemistry, and I loved the various tones that the show gave their scenes here, all of which will resonate with those who had their first real relationship in high school. There's the goofy awkwardness of Buffy covering up what was written in her diary ("your eyes are penetrating... I meant to write bulging!"), those first attempts at flirting ("Do you snore?"), as well as that cute moment the next day when you tell your friends what happened. Their banter here works on so many levels, and it's immediately absorbing.

Unlike recent episodes, the pacing in the action sequences actually works this week. While she's dispatched a tad abruptly, the image of Darla armed with pistols, in full vamp-face and dressed in her trademark schoolgirl's outfit is plain awesome. Speaking of Darla, she's a ridiculously sexy character, Julie Benz easily conveying a woman who, while physically a young woman, has the confidence and sexuality of an adult who’s had literally hundreds of years of experience. Yowza.

Angel is definitely that moment when the show embraced the sweeping melodrama of epic romance, using it to contrast the death and violence everywhere else. It's not an original idea, but it fits this show to a tee. Buffy as a series was always about sex and violence, and the very first hints of that are so crazily powerful. Plain awesomeness. A

Guest stars Mark Metcalf (The Master); David Boreanaz (Angel); Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers); Julie Benz (Darla)
Writer David Greenwalt Director Scott Brazil

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