Monday, July 30, 2012

Angel: Destiny (5.8)

There's definitely a fan-service quality to Destiny, if only because it seems like a response to one of those 'who'd win in a fight between...?' fanboy questions, along the lines of Freddy vs. Jason, or Batman vs. Superman. But it quickly becomes clear that Destiny, while eventually settling for rock-'em, sock-'em hysterics, does at least have a conscience. It continues to explore one of season five's few running themes, the show wondering whether merely having a soul is tantamount to being a good person, and whether Angel will ever get himself out of this funk that he's been in for a while. It's no Lineage, but definitely another strong episode that sets the show back on track.

Should we read a lot into Spike's besting of Angel? Probably not. While it's true that Spike sought out his soul and Angel was merely cursed with his own, Spike is still in that moment where he's been surged by it. Angel did have that, but you can only experience so much failure and philosophical beatdowns before it totally consumes you. Angel's tired, withdrawn, and no longer has a ton of emotional investment in the Shanshu prophecy. Spike, on the other hand, is only just discovering his own potential, so it's understandable that he'd be a little more strong in the conviction stakes. It makes an interesting contrast, though, and neatly restructures their relationship, Angel now unable to disregard Spike as a fool.

In between all of this, there are some fun flashbacks that follow straight on from the last time we saw 'ye olde William the Bloody' over on Buffy, this time with Dru bringing her latest victim home to meet her parents, one of whom she totally ends up banging. Because these people are strange. The flashbacks actually brought to mind Angel season one, particularly Five by Five, in which historical moments weren't entirely necessary for the story, but definitely enhanced the power of the present-day scenes. Here we see Spike quickly discovering that Angel always takes what he deems to be 'his', and it creates a neat book-end to Spike's emotions in modern times. Plus, it's always fun seeing the pseudo-sexual undercurrent between Spike and Angel, never more present than in that great scene where Angelus tells him he's always wanted to experience 'sinning' with another man. Aww, those crazy sexually ambiguous kids!

Of course, Destiny builds to one of the more shocking Angel cliffhangers, in which we discover that the person behind Spike's resurrection and the events depicted here is none other than... Lindsey McDonald! Whose gotten all ripped and tatted in the interim! Must be them fightin' boots. Eve is still a drag, but at least she seems to have a greater purpose for existing now.

Destiny is standalone in structure, but has loftier aspirations than initially implied. The Angel/Spike antagonism is far more interesting when they're not merely squabbling over stuff, and the ambiguous pay-off is particularly rewarding. The wheels are really in motion now... B+

Guest stars
Sarah Thompson (Eve); Mercedes McNab (Harmony Kendall); Juliet Landau (Drusilla)
Writers David Fury, Steven S. DeKnight Director Skip Schoolnik

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