Monday, July 2, 2012

Angel: Peace Out (4.21)

There's interesting moral complexity at the heart of Peace Out, something far removed from the pod-people sci-fi of the early Jasmine episodes and the exhausting melodrama of last week. Here we actually see the person within the illusion of Jasmine, as well as her generally good intentions. It's sometimes hard to rectify the Jasmine seen here with the Jasmine inhabiting Cordelia's body during the opening stretch of season four, but her plan raises some intriguing questions about freewill and Angel's arguably short-sighted decision to bring her down. Because, as she says, while she does a lot of damage and eats her own worshipers every once in a while -- is it really a worse situation than a world overrun with war, poverty and corruption?

But why, you ask, is it a good thing that everybody becomes brainwashed into becoming what is essentially a world of slaves and dictatorship? Of course, it isn't. But Jasmine's plan is merely a different direction for the human race to experiment with. Just as the concept of freewill culminated in the depressing world we live in today, here's another concept with tighter controls but arguably a more peaceful and sustainable outcome. It's a question that has no definitive answer, but provokes an intense reaction from any open-minded viewer. Would we collectively sacrifice our own minds if it meant everything around us was bright and happy?

Jasmine's personality fluctuated every week over the course of her arc, but the lofty concepts at work are so fascinating that, in the end, the problems don't really matter. I also loved Gina Torres in the role, especially the contrast between the floaty wisdom of her reign and the destructive, pissed-off 'nobody' she became right before her demise.

Peace Out is also an extraordinary episode for Connor, finally bringing to a head his entirely confused existence with his last-minute beg for some kind of respite from the consistent manipulation he's only ever experienced. It's just a tragic story, this character who has only known betrayal and only been used as a lackey or a pawn in somebody's game. I've always been a Connor apologist because of just how sad his character genuinely is, and Vincent Kartheiser does his very best work here. That whole scene at the church was heartbreaking: "I know she's a lie... I guess I thought this one was better than the others."

This episode takes a while to start up, but the highs of the script far outnumber the 'blah' lows. It's also a testament to just how cohesive the various story arcs this year have been. Not all of it was executed perfectly, but the relentless narrative never ran away from the writers and always made perfect sense. And when so many shows that utilize that formula wind up crumbling under the weight of the various balls in the air, it only makes Angel season four that bit more impressive. A-

Guest stars Gina Torres (Jasmine); Stephanie Romanov (Lilah Morgan)
Writer David Fury Director Jefferson Kibbee

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