Monday, July 23, 2012

Angel: The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco (5.6)

'WTF?!' is not a good reaction to have when you're watching a television show. This is Angel's very worst episode, and just like Buffy's worst hour, all you're left feeling is complete disbelief that anybody thought it could work in the first place. Even if you excuse the flamboyant wackiness of the Mexican wrestling, it's rare to find a Buffyverse episode that's such a drag. Whole streams of dialogue are given to a mumbly wrestler in a mask, ugly exposition is tossed around like confetti, and the Angel team do little but stand around pondering the mystery. It's plain horrible.

It's easy to see what the show was trying to do with this one, especially since the symbolism is bashed around your head with zero subtlety, and it's nice seeing the show acknowledging Angel's recent pessimism and his lack of interest in champion-ing and fulfilling the Shanshu prophecy. It ties in neatly with Number Five's own recklessness, and the ending resolves Angel's issues and sends him forth back on his mission... to an extent.

But, damn, it's depicted horribly. There are unnecessary flashbacks, drab dialogue, a clunky narrative, that annoying pattern in which we bounce back and forth between action scenes and investigative moments. There's no Whedon sparkle here, few bits of humor that aren't strained and calculated, and a final battle sequence bathed in so much darkness that you can barely see anything that's happening.

At the same time, the story itself is ridiculously thin. A demon wants a talisman, and only a guest star can save the day. There are past episodes that had a similar simplicity, Spin the Bottle and Lessons over on Buffy being two I can think of right now, but at least they featured strong character moments and some semblance of spark. This is just slight drama with zero magic. Even David Boreanaz looks bored as he stands on the sidelines while a bunch of wrestlers fight an Aztec monster. Put on your Comic Book Guy voice and state the obvious... F

Guest stars
Danny Mora (Number Five)
Writer Jeffrey Bell Director Jeffrey Bell

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