Monday, July 16, 2012

Angel: Unleashed (5.3)

Unsurprisingly for a show that only got a last-minute renewal from its network, season five's opening stretch has a ratings-bait feel to it, the writers concentrating on standalone mysteries to lure in new viewers rather than over-complicated arcs like last year, in which you were completely lost if you hadn't watched the previous four or five episodes. With that, though, comes a real generic quality, and Unleashed is probably the most mundane episode since early season one. But it even lacks the noirish sparkle of those initial 'damsel in distress' hours, eventually becoming pretty blah-worthy in how safe it is.

Much of this seems to gravitate from the central star of the episode, Jenny Mollen's infected damsel Nina, who spends most of the hour being convinced to not freak out after she's bitten by a werewolf and finds herself rapidly turning into one. She's just not that strong a character, given so little personality that it's hard to care much about her, let alone the family she has at home. There's also a lot of weirdness with characters talking in circles, having the same conversations over and over again with little individual depth.

It's unfortunate, though, since the actual idea that rounds off the episode is pretty cool -- a supernatural pastiche on those freaky eating-Sushi-off-a-nude-woman parties that sleazy stockbrokers and businessmen supposedly enjoy so much. I guess it would be hard to get a ton of material from that concept, but it at least perks things up a little after such a flat episode.

I should also add that there's some weird stuff going on with the Angel regulars this week, too. The final scene, with the gang hanging together and ordering take-out with that horrible 'self-important guitary pop music' playing in the background, is so un-Angel that you can't help but wonder if it was meant as some sort of weird satire. I guess the show was testing the waters and trying to work out how season five would work long-term, but it doesn't make it any less jarring.

Unleashed has a couple of cool moments, but continues this season's general flatness. Unlike the previous two episodes, however, this one didn't have the interesting character work to fall back on, leaving standalone sauce that can't help but feel regressive. D+

Guest stars Jenny Mollen (Nina Ash); John Billingsley (Dr. Evan Royce)
Writers Sarah Fain, Elizabeth Craft Director Marita Grabiak

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