Monday, September 10, 2012

Angel: The Girl in Question (5.20)

I remember seeing this years ago and thinking it was ass. With Buffy at arm's length throughout the whole thing, glimpsed only from afar in a nightclub, played by some bony stand-in that is so not our Sarah... why bother all-together? But watching The Girl in Question for the second time, I was mystified that I could have ever thought so much negativity about it. It's probably the silliest thing the show has ever done, but has such a spitfire of zany energy that you're completely carried by it for the whole hour. And the real message of the episode is worthy of additional acclaim. It's no classic, but a hilarious book-end to all the Buffy angst.

It's only fair that Buffy is out there enjoying the world. One of her grander speeches in Buffy's final season involved a cookie dough analogy, in which she insisted that she wasn't done baking just yet, wanting to experience real-life in order to find out what kind of person she wants to be. So all that discovery and wacky emotional growth usually experienced in college is something she's actually experiencing now, now that all the horror and Hellmouthy goodness is over. But Angel and Spike, meanwhile, are still holding a torch for her, believing that constantly looking out for her will in some way prove their devotion. And that she'll eventually settle down with one of them.

But what the episode does so well is push the belief that all good things come to those who wait -- that eventually life will force you down a certain road, and that no party in this romantic triangle is ever going to do anything to make that choice occur. Buffy now has her freedom to do whatever the hell she wants, and she's going to enjoy it. Angel and Spike, instead of pining, really ought to move onto greener pastures as well. It's an important story to tell, and I loved the moral of it.

The episode itself is also a total riot. It's a wacky Hunter S. Thompson-style road trip saga, full of ridiculous demons, Italian crime factions, Darla and Dru being all sexually ambiguous and awesome, genius black and white flashback cameos, hilarious gypsy-bashing Wolfram & Hart C.E.O.'s (who's all "Cordelia in You're Welcome? Pfft, bitch ain't got nothing on me!") and a frenetic momentum that constantly entertains. This is outlandish Euro-centric comedy with a trademark Angel touch, something that exploits the humor of Angel and Spike's long-standing rivalry instead of being consumed by all the available angst.

It's debatable whether Wesley's subplot with Fred's parents (in which Illyria impersonates their daughter to keep up appearances) is at odds with the rest of the episode, but I liked the horror of it all, as well as Amy Acker's unparalleled ability to snap between characters at the drop of a hat. It's random as a subplot, but doesn't impact too heavily.

This is actually one of the finer Angel comedy episodes, elaborate in scope and supported by a wonderful music score. At its heart, too, are real feelings, emotional depth that could have so easily been forgotten in pursuit of zany comedic highs. I still don't get how I once disliked it so much. A

Guest stars
Julie Benz (Darla); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); David Lee (Alfonso); Gary Grubbs (Roger Burkle); Jennifer Griffin (Trish Burkle); Carole Raphaelle Davis (Ilona Costa Bianchi); Juliet Landau (Drusilla)
Writers Steven S. DeKnight, Drew Goddard Director David Greenwalt


  1. This isn't a bad episode but the main problem is it's placement in the season. With the series finale around the corner it feels like a wasted opportunity to do an episode that relates more to the main story arc.

    Seeing this episode makes me wish they had a season 6 because everything in season 5 starting from Illyria until the finale felt like it needed more time to be explored.

  2. Agreed that it's not the greatest place for it, ideally, but I liked that they dedicated time to Buffy in some form, especially because she was such a huge part of Angel and Spike's lives. I can understand why some people may disagree, though, considering she's so unrelated to the show itself at this point in time.

    Thanks for writing.