Monday, May 14, 2012

Angel: Long Day's Journey (4.9)

This is right around the time when Angel season four begins to project itself like an epic novel and less like a television series, meaning events occur not within the vacuum of an one-hour format, but in grand statement stories that cross several episodes. It's sometimes wonderful from a viewer perspective, like vintage 24, but doesn't inspire a whole lot of material for a writer critiquing each hour. Then again, Angel isn't exactly made for those of us annoying enough to write lengthy assessments about it every week. Long Day's Journey, on its own, is another entertaining chapter of the story -- lacking in the elaborate set pieces of last week, but maintaining that high level of apocalyptic absurdity.

The Beast remains more of a plot device than an actual character, but it's hard not to love his ability to single-handedly dent our heroes' group confidence as well as inflict all kinds of end-of-the-world misery on Los Angeles. The episode quickly becomes a cat-and-mouse race, the Angel Inc. team playing catch-up when the Beast begins to slaughter the members of a mystical order, their collective demise ensuring that the sun gets blocked out. Like I said, end-of-the-world misery.

Electric hottie Gwen Raiden also re-appears, once again showcasing her leather fetish as well as her expensive digs. I missed her butler though. Gwen's presence allows for some catty sniping between Angel and Cordelia -- Angel still angsty over the fact that Cordy's been boning his son, and desperate to make her jealous over his flirtatious relationship with the new girl. It's all sort of dumb, but Cordelia has become such a major pain in the butt (God those breath-in visions are annoying) that you can't help but adore watching her squirm.

This brings me to one of the major problems of this current arc, one that isn't an all-out plague on the story, but something that naturally distracts. The big reveal here is that Cordelia's vision implies a one-time relationship between the Beast and Angelus, leading the non-Angel members of the team to assume that bringing Angelus back is the only way to stop their latest enemy. Uh... that's probably not a great idea. My issue with this is that so much of these storylines depend on the audience just running with the latest plot twist, meaning characters exhibit sometimes questionable behavior in the writers' desire for attention-grabbing thrills. Would Wesley of all people really gravitate towards resurrecting Angelus? It all seems far too risky a deal for something that may prove entirely pointless in the end...

Like most of these episodes, Long Day's Journey works as a superficial thriller episode, but sometimes scratching beneath the surface really weakens the foundation of this current narrative. It's all fun and remains pretty nuts... but it's lacking in the usual Angel depth. B-

Credits
Guest stars Andy Hallett (Lorne); Alexa Davalos (Gwen Raiden); Jack Kehler (Manny); Michael Chinyamurindi (Ashet); Vladimir Kulich (The Beast)
Writer Mere Smith Director Terrence O'Hara

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