Sunday, November 6, 2011

Angel: To Shanshu in L.A. (1.22)

One of the problems with a show that features so many standalone episodes is that the writers have to rely on stock ideas to make the season finale that little bit more special. To Shanshu in L.A. successfully ties in the overarching concept of Wolfram & Hart, but too much of the hour is filled with what seems like a checklist of 'finale' events. There are explosions and characters stuck in crisis, a demon of the week, and a couple of interesting cliffhangers. But while the episode is by no means 'bad', it feels a little underwhelming for the Whedonverse.

I love that Darla was brought back from the dead. It feels perfectly right that Wolfram & Hart would investigate Angel's history to find somebody who could potentially destroy him, and opens up a legion of possibilities for next season. And I know I bring this up every week, but I love the contrast between the melodramatic demon Vocah and the uptight lawyers in business suits that just summoned him. So ridiculously inventive.

Elsewhere, Angel's prophecy grants him a clearer direction to head down. If anything, it means he could be with Buffy, right? Cordelia's vision-o-rama was brilliantly performed by Charisma Carpenter, and allows for a fresher spin on her character. While she's still biting and humorous, she's now seen the world's pain, and it opens things up a little. The Oracles also bit the dust, but they were so vague and under-developed that their absence won't be a problem.

For a finale, this was a little 'blah' by Whedon standards, but it does promise a clearer focus for next season. The ensemble is coming together (Lindsey, Lilah and Gunn are all strong recurring characters), and we're beginning to see the series kicking up a gear after a mixed bag of an opening season. The show is impressive, but it's only truly hit its stride in recent episodes. B

Credits
Guest stars Elisabeth Rohm (Kate Lockley); Christian Kane (Lindsey McDonald); Stephanie Romanov (Lilah Morgan); Sam Anderson (Holland Manners); Todd Stashwick (Vocah); Carey Cannon (Female Oracle); Randall Slavin (Male Oracle); David Herman (David Nabbit); J. August Richards (Charles Gunn)
Writer David Greenwalt Director David Greenwalt

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