Power Play works like a cleaner, punchier version of season four's Awakening, with every corner of the script building to that inevitable plot twist. But while Awakening lived and died by its ending, Power Play is strong enough on its own to not feel like filler material leading to a cut-and-dry resolution. While you're never left wondering if Angel really did travel over to the dark side, the episode does a wonderful job of depicting the corruption of power, continuing the idea of an end of the world not brought forth as a result of one singular threat, but of the merging of various acts of negativity -- crossing human, demon and satanic bounds, this is an elaborate convergence of every type of evil, from the calculating to the mundane to the anarchic.
And it's not at all depicted as something that can be easily disposed of. Ironically for an episode anchored by disillusion and the dissolution of friendship, the hour ends with one of the finest depictions of togetherness ever seen in the Buffyverse. Angel hasn't got some master plan to seal the fate of the Black Thorn and therefore bring about, gosh, world peace or whatever -- this is merely a stand, one last fight to prove your own worth in the face of so much evil. And our ensemble blindly jump on board. Their futures aren't at all insured and the odds are stacked against them, but they sign up because it's the only thing they can do.
David Fury's script unfolds spectacularly. It has the difficult job not only of rounding off the season but also of bringing together the entire series, Angel swiftly cancelled with only a couple of months' warning. Miraculously, little is clumsy or opportunistic. Lindsey's return is finally explained, while the deaths of Cordelia and Fred both impact the storytelling, their respective demises suddenly becoming far deeper than just "a couple of developments that occurred a while ago". It grants an illusion of incredible intricacy, and while I'm sure all of this would have been raised at some point down the line if the show survived for another season, it's handled with deft precision here despite it all occurring so fast.
There are also a ton of cool moments this week. I loved that mutual concern the Angel team began to express, coming together to try and figure what's actually happening. The Circle themselves are crazy intense, too, in all their Eyes Wide Shut-Illuminati-ish spookiness. There's also necessary levity, the Crash Bandikoot scene being hilarious on its own, but also winding up a major turning point for Illyria, exploring her sadness and feelings of insignificance.
In terms of mission statement, Power Play leaves you with a lot to think about. Its intentions are marvelous, a rousing testament to friendship and strength of heart, even in the face of ultimate power. And it leaves you aching for more... A
Guest stars Christian Kane (Lindsey McDonald); Dennis Christopher (Cyvus Vail); Alec Newman (Drogyn); Jenny Mollen (Nina Ash); Leland Crooke (Archduke Sebassis); Stacey Travis (Senator Helen Brucker); Adam Baldwin (Marcus Hamilton)
Writer David Fury Director James A. Contner