Monday, July 9, 2012

Angel: Conviction (5.1)

It's evident from that very first scene -- a generic copycat of that classic Angel trope of David Boreanaz swooping in like Batman and saving a pretty blonde from a vampire. Only this is the fifth season, and Angel isn't that lone hero anymore. So immediately a swarm of lawyers descend on the scene, armed with contracts and offers of coffee, and Angel is left just as bemused as the woman he saved from a blood-sucking fiend. This is clearly a very different show.

Conviction is pretty thin in terms of story, there being a ton of legal hoodoo involving a monster of the more human variety, the threat of a viral toxin being released upon the public, and a child in peril. But in a lot of ways it's intentional. This is Joss Whedon trying to not overwhelm, using the story as one small part of an introduction to Angel's new base of operations. Wolfram & Hart remains a fascinating new environment for Angel and his team, and if anything the case provides that moral ambiguity that has quickly become the entire crux of this storyline. The episode doesn't end with any explicit victories, since they've put a psychotic terrorist back on the streets and have merely delayed potential destruction. Like Fred asks, "is this how our lives are gonna be?" It's an interesting dilemma, proving that while they're operating the enemy, it's won't be as easy to take down as they previously thought.

With the absence of Cordelia, Harmony has been written in to fulfill the comedic role on the show, and her total lack of awareness and desperate need for approval shine through here. Mercedes McNab worked so well back in Disharmony that it's sort of a stroke of genius to bring her back in the role of Angel's assistant, and her immediate snap-back into normal mode following her shockingly brief monologue about Cordelia just reflects her entire character in a couple of seconds. Aww.

Elsewhere, while it's neat that the show have given Gunn something to do, I'm not entirely buying J. August Richards as some cutthroat lawyer. Gunn has never been a character with a particularly well-defined role on the show, and even here there's something generally 'blah' about him. Maybe I'm just not a Gunn fan.

I should also address Eve, even if you only leave the episode feeling bad for Sarah Thompson. It was always going to be an uphill battle for the actress playing her, since she's the heir to Lilah Morgan and our memories of Stephanie Romanov's slinky and intriguing femme fatale haven't at all faded, but it's hard not to agree that Thompson is horrifyingly miscast in the role. She really comes off like a teenage girl trying to be sexy, and struggles to get a handle on the wise-cracking, insidious-badass dialogue that Romanov just owned for four whole years. And, without trying to sound all lecherous, Romanov just exuded sex. Thompson really doesn't. It's just awkward, especially as Eve is supposed to be this irresistible enigma that Angel is fascinated by.

Conviction isn't a perfect episode, and there are definitely areas that need a lot of work, but the powerful resurgence of energy that the new location has brought to the show is ridiculously rewarding. It's just cool seeing the show experiment like this, and every character seems to have gained a new perspective of sorts. Whedon's script isn't as traditionally snappy as most of his work, but his direction is flawless, especially that opening tracking shot. And, oh yeah, Blondie Bear's back. B

Guest stars Sarah Thompson (Eve); Mercedes McNab (Harmony Kendall); Jonathan Woodward (Knox); Dane Northcutt (Agent Hauser); Jacqueline Hahn (Judge); Marc Vann (Dr. Sparrow); Michael Shamus Wiles (Spanky); Rod Rowland (Corbin Fries)
Writer Joss Whedon Director Joss Whedon


  1. Great review for the premiere. It definitely wasn't the best but did a great job of changing the vibe of the show like you said.

    I'm interested to see how you feel about this season since it was the most drastic change the show went under. A lot of people I knew complained about the new setting as well as the slow episodic nature it took as opposed to an arc story & finally the series finale to the show.

  2. I actually liked the change of locale, but the opening stretch was pretty terrible. It was all standalone-driven, but those stories didn't work for me at all. It picks up around Lineage and kicks into overdrive soon after, though.