Monday, April 30, 2012

Angel: Supersymmetry (4.5)

Supersymmetry continues this season's trend of feeling remarkably un-Angel, in the best possible sense. Characters have been granted stronger definition this year, while Cordelia's amnesia has been a daring decision that has produced better use of her character than it easily could have done. There's also this pulpy sensibility to most of the year's episodes so far, with the comic book references, grandiose plot mechanics and the decision to cast Angel as a Batman figure of superhero intensity. In some ways, it feels a lot like the first season, only with three years-worth of intrigue and story arcs making up for some of the weaker elements that harmed Angel's opening year.

Fred is one of the more obvious representations of all these changes, rapidly swinging from gawky, weirdly tween-ish annoyance to confident, badass woman in the space of a couple of episodes. Her evolution is most notable here, when she becomes this aggressive pursuer of vengeance when she stumbles onto the origins of her Pylea trip. While her voice is still kind of shrill, Amy Acker convinces in every other area, able to find that hidden rage in Fred that had never really been glimpsed before. In her hands, she saves what could have been an unbelievable character change.

The episode also features additional gray areas of moral ambiguity. In the end, Gunn murders Professor Seidel, something that is arguably deserved for a man who has been responsible for repeated horror spurred out of pure bitterness, but it's also something that is undoubtedly provocative. Seidel would have gotten away with his crimes, but murder is so finite and destructive, and Fred seems to agree. From a character stand-point, this is all really interesting. Equally absorbing is Fred's decision to go to Wesley for tips on badass-ness, Wesley's obvious attraction to her, as well as Lilah's jealousy. It's all pretty soapy, but somehow works in spite of that.

Elsewhere, Cordelia and Connor's 'thing' continues to be icky, but there's something almost poetic about these two blank slates finding each other despite how wrong it all is. Granted, it's not fun television, but it's mightily intriguing.

Supersymmetry has an interesting tone to it, playing around with new characterization as well as pre-existing character work to produce something that looks and feels pretty different to what we're used to. Strangely, it's Angel's involvement in the story that jars every once in a while, notably his tonally awkward battle with that unkillable demon at the end, but the episode still remains a strong detour. B

Guest stars Andy Hallett (Lorne); Stephanie Romanov (Lilah Morgan); Randy Oglesby (Professor Oliver Seidel)
Writers Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain Director Bill Norton


  1. I love this episode, if only for Fred's insanely entertaining need for revenge. Basically the entire cast treat her like some delicate little princess (case in point, Gunn murdering her professor to protect her from becoming a killer), when she survived a hell dimension for several years. Alone. Her rage is a little jarring at first, but, intent to murder aside, it is pretty justified.

    I'm always down for Fred-centric episodes, and I love her here. The payback line is still pretty wonderful. Really need to start a rewatch. I watched Angel after Buffy, but my memory of Buffy is a lot clearer, for some reason.

  2. Post-Fredless, I also enjoy Fred-centric episodes, especially the ones towards the end of this season.

    And it's interesting you mention your clearer memory with Buffy, since the same happened with me. I had completely forgotten a lot of the intricacies of Angel over the years, and while I don't have that deep love for it that I have for Buffy, it's been consistently badass for at least three seasons now (that I've re-watched, anyway).