Monday, June 11, 2012

Angel: Shiny Happy People (4.18)

Yet again we're thrust into another relentless story arc, and so far this is way better than I remembered it being. Jasmine's arrival marks a major turnaround in tone this year, after the dark foreboding of the last, what, million weeks, here we have lightness and love and goddess worship. It's shocking, attention-grabbing, and in direct parallel to what we thought we knew about the monster baby in Cordelia's belly. Because it turns out to be a statuesque Gina Torres-shaped bringer of peace, which is... new. Torres is spectacular here, her soothing voice and almost alien beauty granting Jasmine this naturally regal and arresting presence, somebody you could believe would be captivating to those around her.

But, being Angel, there are dark corners to every avenue. Because Jasmine is a big ol' maggot-faced monster. Craft and Fain's script is wonderfully constructed, as we're immediately pushed into a new world where everybody is acting crazily out of character following Jasmine's initial birth. Soon after, we begin to realize that it's not just the Angel team that are enraptured by her presence, but actually everyday Los Angeles residents, too. Further after that, the episode suddenly adopts this intense tone ripped straight from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and we're given our own heroine in the form of Fred, who suddenly develops the ability to see her new leader's true face.

Amy Acker is naturally great here, her tiny stature and large, terrified eyes making her so vulnerable even before she becomes the lone voice of sanity. But the gradual tension created as she tells Wesley what she saw, followed by her slow realization that everybody is about to work against her, is particularly chilling. She's really alone in the world, and that final scene in which she flees the diner as patrons begin to fall at their knees over Jasmine's TV spot is stunning.

It's pretty spectacular to see Angel turn another corner, especially with an episode so atypical to anything we've glimpsed before. It allows Fred to take center stage after becoming a background player for most of the season, and grants Gina Torres a wonderful platform for her talents. Just a ridiculously strong episode all-round. A+

Guest stars Gina Torres (Jasmine)
Writers Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain Director Marita Grabiak

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