Monday, June 4, 2012

Angel: Players (4.16)

One of the possible side effects of such serialized-driven seasons like this one is that there are sometimes episodes that turn out to be nothing but elaborate placeholders delaying a cliffhanger ending. Release two weeks ago, while nowhere near a 'bad' episode, stumbled into this problem as it felt like a vast collection of slightly repetitive moments, purely designed to bridge the gap between the event-heavy episodes on either side of it. Players is another hour that struggles to become anything of much use, stranding Gwen and Gunn in a stillborn filler story designed to bide time until the effective cliffhanger at episode's end. Meh.

Appearing for the final time, Gwen gets what could be regarded as a strong send-off from a character stand-point. She manages to deactivate her electrical discharge, enabling her to finally touch other people -- and literally jumps somebody's bone in the thirty seconds post-deactivation. Heh. I guess there's some vacuous fun to be had during the elaborate Morimoto caper scheme, but it lacks some of the comic book flavor that made the similar breaking-and-entering wackiness of Ground State so entertaining.

Gwen herself, as cool as she was, feels like a victim of storytelling flakiness, though. I don't know if the writers felt like they couldn't make her work long-term, or if story opportunities just didn't present themselves, but her unexplained vanishing acts after Long Day's Journey and now Players both came off as a little lazy. Or maybe I'm just blinded by the hotness and she was never that interesting in the first place?

What works more successfully is the brief Angel Inc. subplot. Connor continues to be the tragic fall-guy in all of this, somebody who is still getting manipulated by forces beyond his control. It's all pretty sad. I also enjoyed the various reactions to Cordy's squirmy-belly pregnancy, notably Fred's icked-out vibe. That closer is also ridiculously spectacular, from the highs of seeing this hag of a character finally getting exposed, to Fred with that pistol, all the way through to the magic 8-ball coda shot. Aww. It's too badass for words.

Players meanders around for a while, before perking up with that doozy of a final scene. It's absolute filler material, but at least Alexa Davalos sparkles for most of it. God, isn't she just the total package, or what? It's unfortunate that major movie stardom has sort of eluded her. C

Guest stars Alexa Davalos (Gwen Raiden)
Writers Jeffrey Bell, Sarah Fain, Elizabeth Craft Director Michael Grossman

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