It's interesting at this time to see the writers approaching season four with something of a blank slate. The stories are more standalone-driven, characters have become a little less angsty, and every member of the ensemble seems to have a comfortable new role to inhabit. It's all pretty funny considering season four became that notorious Angel year that got way bogged down in story arcs, all of which ran so consistently that the show sometimes ended up resembling a supernatural version of 24. The House Always Wins, while a standalone, cribs from the sensibility of Ground State in that it's very filler in nature but features some wonderful character-driven drama. This week, it's all about Lorne.
The House Always Wins is the last pit-stop before we hit Misery City, and it's appropriately a loud and lightweight affair. Andy Hallett is unsurprisingly hilarious, and we have a couple of Lorne-related show-stoppers here, from the Las Vegas glitziness of his Lady Marmalade performance, to the caper fun of Fred dressing up as a Lornette and conspiring to get him out of his hotel room prison. Las Vegas itself is a sometimes tired location for 'out-of-town' vacation episodes of long-running TV shows, but it's photographed particularly well here, especially in the great scene with Angel Inc. on the run from DeMarco's goons.
The DeMarco story itself is more problematic. It's one of those ideas that works well as a concept but falls apart in execution, the idea of stealing people's drive, ambition and future success rendered a little thin. That last face-off is also a little flat and contrived. At least we've reached the end of Cordelia's heavenly bitchiness, scenes that I never felt really worked. She's better here when she's glimpsed narrating over her old friends, but there's something annoyingly sedated about Charisma Carpenter's performances in these scenes, like she needs to be a little more animated to be believable in the role.
The House Always Wins doesn't have a great pedigree among fans and it's one of those episodes that's easily forgotten considering the stronger hours that surround it, but it works well as a breezy comedic filler. B-
Guest stars Andy Hallett (Lorne); Clayton Rohner (Lee DeMarco)
Writer David Fury Director Marita Grabiak