Monday, April 27, 2009

DVD review - Buffy season 4/Angel season 1 episodes 2

Continuing with my viewing and reviewing of season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and season 1 of Angel...


B4-2: Living Conditions

Synopsis: A series of nightmares involving a soul-sucking demon leave Buffy convinced that the best way to deal with her overly perky college roommate is to simply kill her. (written by Marti Noxon, airdate 10/12/99)

After a rocky start, for me, this season kicks in nicely with something everyone of us who went to college can relate to: living with a roommate for the first time. Ah, I remember that fondly - freshmen year. My roommate Steve (God rest his soul) and I had some stuff in common but also some differences too. We did the whole window-open-window-shut routine. He liked to listen to music to study while I was more of the quiet study person. He liked to hang out at the room while I came and went at all hours on the weekend. So, this episode really capture a lot of that for me again - I smiled a lot at some of the same things. Okay, he didn't listen to Cher over and over while ironing - it was more Quiet Riot while ironing. And I wasn't going on patrol and having to keep it a secret. Nor did we do the clothes borrowing thing like Cathy did with Buffy (guys don't borrow each other's clothes - that's an unspoken rule). Buffy certainly was acting more and more protective about stuff - clothes, friends, potential boy friends - but we soon learn the reason why. There is more to Kathy than meets the eye, and Buffy's instincts, as misguided and over the top as they were, were right. Loved when the guys got the drop on her to keep her from doing something rash - only for Oz and Xander to get knocked out a bit when Buffy broke free. In the end, the demon is dragged back home by "Dad", and Buffy and Willow end up as roommates - something that will certainly make things a bit easier for all (or will it?). Wonderful episode and my favorite of the season, so far.

A1-2: Lonely Heart

Synopsis: Another of Doyle's visions leads the newly formed Angel Investigations to a trendy bar where they face off against a worm-like demon who eviscerates its victims. (written by David Fury, airdate 10/12/99)

Okay, so series premieres can vary so maybe the second episode would be better. Yes, it was a bit better. I think I realized what it is though that has me "off" - the tone of this show is different, more somber, more "mature". It doesn't have the playful humor mix in it that Buffy episodes have. Here we have Doyle and his non-specific visions. We have him fancying Cordelia but not really knowing where to go because he's half-demon. We have Cordelia living in poverty - something like a harsh reality there. And we have a brooding, lonely Angel. This whole episode gives a look at the bar scene in the big city - lonely people bumping in the night trying to make a connection. It was all sort of slow. It isn't until we find out that one of these lonely hearts is a worm-like demon looking for the perfect body and that we find out that the woman Angel first talks up in the bar is in fact a cop. Clearly Kate is going to be a re-occurring character as the vigilante hero needs the police connection, even if she doesn't learn the truth about the perp (i.e. that it was a demon) or that Angel is in fact a vampire. That'll come down the road I am sure.


Michael O'Connell said...

BUFFY (LIVING CONDITIONS): Know what made this an awesome ep? Because they went to the formula! Remember the formula for Buffy success in the first three seasons - take a concept from high school we all remember, then somehow involve a demon and make it a metaphor? Now we're in college, and I can just picture the scene in the Whedon Pals Writing Room. They're brainstorming college ideas, and someone brings up getting stuck with the roommate from hell. Then Joss rubs his chin and says, "What if the roommate from hell...actually WAS from Hell...?"

Me, I never went away to college, so never had the college roommate situation. And while I had a number of roommates thereafter, luckily for me, all of them were friends, whose quirks I generally already knew. Well...most of them. You never really know someone until you live with them. So we all had our moments of having to find patience with one another. Luckily - no clothes-stealing or Cher! Thumbs-up to Marti Noxon for this one, as who else would you want writing an episode like this, with girls living together unable to get along? Hilarious bits all around. The passive-aggressive milk thing ("I know, it's fine. I was just wondering if it was you"), leading to the name-on-the-egg thing (I loved that). And everyone having to put up with Buffy's increasingly aggressive ranting about the roommie. Creepiness with the dream stuff, though. What COULD be going on? We find out soon enough. And it's roommie fight! Which was probably a nicely cathartic moment for anyone watching who ever dreamed of doing that with their own college roommie... Finally, Buffy and Willow room together (as it should have been from the start!). Perfect ending, too ("You going to eat that?"). Thumbs-up, with the fun returning to the show after a mildly depressing start.

ANGEL (LONELY HEART) - Okay, clear theme - a whole episode about "connecting", and the problems people have doing it. Cool. What better way than an ep surrounding a singles bar? And unlike the pilot, we get to see, this time, how Doyle gets his visions (ouch!). Loved the business cards thing, too ("An owl?"). Lots of fun bits with Angel trying, once more, to fit in with normal people (and really, is a singles bar in L.A. the best representation of "real" people?). But more importantly, it gave us a chance to meet Kate. LOVE HER!! She's awful purty. And a cop! Jinkies! Like her as a character a lot. And I bet, too, that this isn't the last time she appears. She does appear to be a good NPC to have around (did he pay points for a contact, or get points for a DNPC? Hmm...). Nice metaphor with the who's just out there trying to find the right "connection" (in his case, right body) and having no luck. He was a creepy one. Oh, and loved all the Cordy/Doyle stuff in this one. Forced to research together, so getting to know each other a little more. Doyle finding out how she feels about demons. The bar fight moment (a good Irish head-butt! Excellent!) with him defending her honor when she doesn't need it defended. Glad they're getting a chance to bond a little. I will say this, regarding the "somber" aspect...again, give it some time. It does start to find the mix as we go. It'll start feeling more "Whedon", you'll see...

Martin Maenza said...

The formula - that's exactly it. I love the formula because that's kind of what Buffy was built on in the beginning - take common premises we all can relate to in life and throw in some demons/vamps/etc. That's what makes it work. Marti scored well with this episode. And, as I said, it was spot on about the whole first-roommate-thing. Add to it that Buffy is an only child and never had to really "share" just makes it more interesting as it explores that aspect about her character as well.

The formula sort of pops up in this Angel too. Take something we all have dealt with (the single bar scene trying to make a "connection") and add a demon/vamp/etc. While I did a lot of the bar/club nights when I was single in college and the year after, I don't miss it at all. It was a brutal, brutal process that ended up with too many drunken nights home alone (and the hangover next day). Yuck.