It's interesting to see the radical changes that have occurred in both Wesley and Faith, as depicted here. Faith's jail time has given her a greater appreciation for life, as she's no longer the self-destructive psychotic that wreaked havoc on Los Angeles four years ago. She's grown up, matured and honed her strengths. But the spell in prison has weakened her defenses, leaving her vulnerable to attack and lacking some of the focus and intensity she once had. It's in direct parallel to Wesley, who has become ruthless and uncompromising in the intervening years. Their relationship has always been particularly intriguing, with the power balance constantly changing. Here Wesley took control, pushing her to be the baddest she can be, as that's the only way she could actually stop Angelus.
Release is very much a traditional 'part two' of a trilogy. It's wildly entertaining, but struggles to have a whole lot of individual identity. As much as I liked it, most of the stories here have the exact same rhythm as last week. There's a Faith/Angelus fight sequence, more Connor/Cordelia ick, more Fred-in-peril hysterics. Some of these are particularly strong, the showy scaffolding fight being crazily impressive, but it only furthers the feeling of repetition that creeps in here.
I should also add that Cordelia makes for a surprisingly effective antagonist. It's something of a stretch that Angelus isn't alerted by the Beast Master's weirdly feminine dialogue, but it's such an arresting surprise at this point to see her act so un-Cordy that it doesn't impact things too negatively. This is a season that is totally getting off on surprising the audience, and Cordelia's evilness is the kind of nutty 'WTF?' wackiness that is giving the year a sinister edge.
It's a transition episode, but Release has enough charm in certain scenes to make it at least pretty damn fun. And Eliza Dushku has a natural energy which can't help but radiate off the screen. B
Guest stars Christopher Neiman (Froter Demon); Eliza Dushku (Faith)
Writers Steven S. DeKnight, Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain Director James A. Contner