Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: David Grossman
Air Date: April 4, 2000


Its a weird day when you are over halfway through a season and you still haven’t spent much time developing your primary, season-long antagonist and instead devote an entire episode to a throw-away character who has no consequence on anything that has happened prior to this and has very little effect on anything that comes after. I’m not complaining, right away: I feel I’ve made my stance on Adam known and, well, I can’t help but feel that the writers for this show have done the same. He shows up in this episode and has his most interesting moments thus far, but really, he’s just as bland and one-note as always. So, while this episode isn’t the greatest, it gets by because it doesn’t move the arc of the season along that it should, namely the “Big Bad” – instead, it moves the character arcs forward with great times for every character to play off Jonathan.

I imagine Danny Strong had a great time with this one. He’s been a bit player in so many past episodes, now, that having a front-and-center roll (which he’ll have again in a larger capacity sooner or later) must have been a blast. From the onset of this episode, the world has changes in Jonathan’s favor: he’s cool, he’s popular, he’s loved by the masses. He’s also an accomplished demon killer, all the baddies fear him. No one cares about Buffy, the Slayer. She’s second-fiddle to super-spy-level Jonathan. I mean, she hasn’t put out albums of music, written a book, coached Olympic teams, or put out a swimsuit calendar (that I’ve been able to find, anyhow…). She didn’t invent the internet. And while the levels of “cool” Jonathan has achieved in his dream world does go a bit overboard by all accounts, it is still funny to see the universe bend around him. People interrupt him to get things signed, he just busts out a trumpet and plays live at the Bronze, and the press is there to hound him after a vampire attack goes his way. Its a stark contrast to the life Buffy has prior to this and – obviously – during this alternate universe episode.


But, while the Jonathan stuff is all fun and good, the episode only has a few real great moments that stick out as overwhelmingly positive. First and foremost, the Buffy/Riley relationship hurdle. The episode, as a whole, is about self-doubt and between the major thematic representation of the entire episode and Jonathan being a little baby, the Buffy/Riley thing is key and at the center. Even though it was just the last episode, Jonathan is such a powerful, smart man that he solves the major problem – namely him sleeping with Faith – in one episode. Its both convenient from a writing standpoint (they don’t have to focus on the issue for the rest of the season) and awesome (they don’t have to focus on the issue for the rest of the season). But, past this, the rest of the characters – Willow, Xander, Giles, etc. all suffer from an overall lack of confidence. They don’t fight the big fight anymore, so their skills and abilities aren’t as developed, they aren’t as sharp.

The other key thing they all doubt, though, and one thing that carries over from the previous episodes, is how to deal with Adam. Ever since he’s shown up, everyone has talked him up (all tell and no show, writers!). They don’t know how to fight him, or even guess at his plans. Here, though, the Initiative gets to find out his weakness, one that will be exploited in future episodes – his core. He can be killed if he is cut off from his internal power source. We find this out – surprise! – because Jonathan hacked Walsh’s files and found the blueprints for the “Big Bad”. Though this won’t be brought up again for a bit, this moment seals Adam’s fate, far before anyone would have guessed. Speaking of him, he gets his first cool moment of a scarce few: he isn’t affected by Jonathan’s spell. He “knows every molecule” of himself or some shit and thus has his memory remain intact. He also can sense that the magic is fragile and ready to crack, thus he isn’t even worried about it. He’s only on screen for maybe two minutes: what a bummer to be that actor and have to spend hours in makeup for this role. Ugh.


Adam was right, though; there is a monster on the loose that is hunting down anything in its path and Jonathan won’t stop it. Buffy and co. trust he will until it attacks Tara and she has to resort to POCKET SAND to save the day. The monster is dumb looking and not that threatening. Buffy would normally be able to stop it on her own, but since she lacks the strength of character (and of arm) to do it, she needs Jonathan, who won’t. This starts her on a journey of discovery that results in her having to convince everyone to agree with her that the universe isn’t as it should be. Eventually, it works, but only after Buffy and Jonathan go after the monster that binds them to this alternate universe together. The gang fears the worst, that he’ll kill her to keep his perfect world intact and there will be nothing they can do to stop it.

But in an awesome turn of events, Jonathan understands he can’t keep it going any longer, not if someone gets hurt. So not only does he not kill Buffy, he coaches her into killing the monster. This brings the Super-Jonathan universe to an end and showcases this background character’s greatest trait: he cares and doesn’t want to let anyone die, indirectly or otherwise. It will come to define him in the future, as well. The end conversation about what the differences between the universes is cut short by nerdy Jonathan returning to say sorry to Buffy, who – bless her heart – takes it in stride. No one died, afterall. She lays it out for him: stuff takes time, takes pain. Takes sacrifice, sometimes. And grand gestures rarely ever work. He understands and fades away, once more, but not before cementing his prior advice… that Buffy should now take her own and work on her relationship with Lord Commander Doofington the Third because its worth it. Its a sweet episode with very little to advance the plot, as I’d said, but everyone comes out wiser on the other end.

Episode Rating: 82

Additional Notes:
-Best line: Willow, after figuring out that Buffy had been right all along: “Buffy was right. Buffy was right?”
-Followed by Anya telling her that saying that doesn’t really sound right
-Universe of only shrimp? Universe with no shrimp?
-Anya has one character motivation: sex. Guess what we explore next episode?
-I liked Riley asking if anyone else felt tall
-Good work, Danny Strong. Good work.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Jonathan: Codename: Comrades”
Dark Horse Comics – Jan. 3, 2001
Writter: Jane Espenson
Aritsit(s): Cliff Richards, Andy Owens, Guy Major
Editor: Scott Allie


Before we jump into “Superstar”, I figure this is as good a time as any to get a few comics out of the way, particularly one that relates directly to said episode. Taking place in the same alternate, altered universe, this comic does a pretty good job of setting up how Buffy and co. would ever be working with super-cool, James Bond-inspired Jonathan and its a pretty obvious and clear narrative decision: he needs them because they know how to fight effectively and it helps him be closer to the kids he wishes he had been friends with.

Past that, its a harmless and fun comic because it takes place in an alternate reality, where all the comics take place. But this one isn’t a mirror of the show, so it lends itself to the fantastical a bit more. The characters get to just do whatever and not grind against their portrayal on the show. Not that this makes this a GREAT comic, but it allows them to play around a bit and its all mostly harmless.


The art is OK, the writing is OK, and the pace is brisk enough and never really falters. Even the inclusion of the proto-Initiative talk is kinda neat. I dunno. This comic is OK. And a good lead in to the episode. And, side note, a “Jonathan” comic shows up in the episode, cover done by Dark Horse. So they decided to go ahead and just make a real one. Neat.

Overall?: As I’d said… Harmless.

Who Are You
Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon
Aire Date: Feb. 29, 2000


Wow. What an episode. This is a 99/100 score, immediately. You don’t even have to read the rest of the review. It is masterful in all things: acting, directing, even the music, which I rarely talk about in a positive fashion. The only thing bringing this episode down is Adam, the “Big Bad” – so let’s get him out of the way, first. He sucks. In an episode that is all forward momentum, he brings it all to a crashing halt. He has a good line about vampires and their fear of death which is on point and insightful, but that’s it. He commands some vampires who regard him as a messiah after he pulls the head off one of them, but why? They are about as dumb as he is. Oh well, he wasn’t in the last episode and is barely in this one or the next one. I like that he barely has a presence this season: makes me feel like even the staff of this show knew better but had nothing else to work with. Oh well. On to the good stuff!

Let me just start by saying that SMG and Eliza Dushku must have had the most fun on this show, ever, playing against type and pretending to be each other’s character. They each do an amazing job, especially SMG who has to suddenly drop her entire demeanor to play sultry, slutty Faith in the most over-the-top way possible. Its still believable and right off the bat you can see the mannerisms shine through. And Dushku has a scene with Giles near the end that I’ll cover a bit more in depth further on, but – like I always say – she plays it through the eyes and lands the scene. Its such good acting and I’m assuming the pair of women shadowed each other, studied each other, and just had a gas playing each other. It shows in the episodes highest comedic moments as well as in its darkest, grimiest moments, too.


After being unable to stand a show of affection from Joyce Summers(!), Faith takes a spin in Buffy’s body in the most comical way possible, first taking a bath (with more water drip sounds than make sense, mind you), and then staring into the mirror to get her pouts, her lines, and her part down. Its a hilarious bit of acting for the camera where Faith has to make herself sound and appear as Buffy before meeting up with her “friends” – she also buys some plane tickets out of town, because not only is she going to ruin Buffy’s life, she’s going to simply take it as her own. She visits the Scoobies at Giles’ place and has a vivid vision of stabbing Willow in the gut, taunts Xander’s lack of sexual stamina in front of everyone, and lies about going out on patrol when all she wants to do is party. She also lies to Willow, doing her first great job of pretending to be Buffy by telling her that she’d never let Faith hurt her. And Willow falls for it, hook line and sinker. And she is overjoyed that Buffy, in her body, is getting taken back to England by the Watcher’s Council, permanently. All is going well.

Not so much for Buffy, who is arrested, crashed into, drug out onto the street, drugged, threatened, beaten up, spit on, and left alone in the dark, chained and under constant fear of simply having a bullet placed in her head. These scenes give Dusku a ton of screen time to get Buffy’s speech patterns down, but its obvious that this episode is more about Faith-as-Buffy instead of Buffy-as-Faith as she spends most of her time in the back of the Watcher’s vehicle, under constant watch. But eventually she breaks out, right after overhearing that the Council can’t secure them passage out of the country. This means she’s dead. She breaks free (after taking one of them hostage to no effect – they are prepared for possible suicide missions) and in a great moment of grim comedy, we are reminded that Buffy sucks at driving, even if she is in someone else’s body. Gold, my friends. Gold.

Who Are You.

The best stuff comes from the back half of the episode, though: Faith at the Bronze and Faith with Riley. At the former – where we are no longer forced to listen to awful 90’s bands no one has heard of – we have two great interactions. First, Faith runs afoul of Spike who she taunts and teases, all while laying out in plain English what she thinks of Buffy: stuck-up, full of herself, always right. Spike agrees and gets in close to remind her he is evil. Then Faith gets NASTY. She sluts it up hardcore, telling him she could pop him like a cork if she wanted to. Its more graphic than I’d remembered and neither Spike nor myself will forget it any time soon. He even gets so sexually frustrated over it he tosses a bottle and shoves people on his way out. Later, Faith runs into Willow and Tara and she continues to run people into the ground, reminding Tara that Willow was with Oz and even figuring out the relationship they have before anyone else. This clues Tara off that nothing is right about Buffy and leads to another graphic scene, later on, where she and Willow perform a spell to prove Buffy ain’t Buffy. Its extremely sexual and anyone denying that magic and spells on this show aren’t sex metaphors is fooling themselves. Faith also stakes a vampire in there, somewhere, and is flabbergasted when the girl she saves goes ape-shit over being alive, still. Faith can’t process this recognition of helping and she bails.

During this aforementioned spellcasting, she goes to see Riley and sex him up good. And this is where the episode takes its darkest and most striking turn for her: Riley doesn’t want to be like the other guys Faith is used to, people that just use her and move on. He loves Buffy and wants sex to be meaningful, not some twisted game or fantasy. She lets him in (hey-o!) and in the morning when he says he loves her, she can’t deal. She leaves, and almost leaves the country but a news report gets her attention: the vampires Adam talked to have attacked a church in daytime and have hostages (for some reason). Meanwhile, an escaped Buffy-as-Faith shows up at Giles and my god is the scene powerful. Buffy has to convince Giles she is who she says she is and this is the moment where Dushku just nails it. The eyes, the body-language. Man. Just watch the scene and imagine its SMG – it is extremely well acted. She hears about the dilemma at the church and goes to the rescue. She and Faith take out the vamps and a magic spell that Willow and Tara put together puts everything right. But Faith has seen and felt too much. She knows what love feels like, what appreciation feels like, and what Buffy’s life is actually like. It isn’t what she expected and she bails. Fallout hits hard and hits fast: Tara and Willow understand what happened, but Buffy learns Riley slept with Faith and it is a confusing cheating mess. And just another nasty roadblock for this couple on the road of love. Who wrote that last sentence? Good lord.

Episode Rating: 99

Additional Notes:
-Sorry for the crammed review: this episode is really good and deals with the start of Faith’s redemptive arc in a fantastic way
-I just wanted to hold myself to the format I’ve run with this whole time and, well, there was so much to say
-Seriously, just watch the episode and see if you can possibly disagree with my rating
-Real notes: That stupid train car set looked wonky as hell
-SMG also had to look extremely slutty. Wonder if the hair was her idea?
-Because it was awful.
-Also, Willow mentions Hyena possession. Risky move, Joss.

This Year’s Girl
Written by: Douglas Petrie
Directed by: Michael Gershman
Air Date: Feb. 22, 2000


Seventy years ago I was making good progress on this site, moving through this show, its spin-off, the comics, and video games at a good clip. Then I watched this episode and, for some reason, it all came crashing down. I don’t know why, but something caused me to snap and it was all over. And I wish that wasn’t the case (#1, I’d be done with this site by now…) because this first episode of Faith’s return is solid, has great comedy, a few good fight sequencs (minus a camera man or two popping into frame), and features some cameos from some great old cast members.

Opening with a delightful dream sequence that, in classic Whedon fashion, hints at things that are yet to come (“lil’ sis), the episode gets rolling with the heavy-handed and cheesy “Faith is going to wake up!”-junk, what with the lightning effect and the REM going on under her eyelids in the close-ups. More dream sequences follow and push the boundaries on being too over-the-top but never reach that spot, particularly because they give us a sweet picnic between Faith and The Mayor (Harry Groener!) and despite the crazy levels of beat-you-over-the-head symbolism with the graveyard bit, it all works. Because Faith is an over-the-top antagonist most of the time, so having everything be cliche and thunder-crashingly cheese-laden works. And that these dream sequences are split up over the first half of the episode works well, too.


Once she wakes up, the episode is all about the contrast between what Faith lost and what Buffy gained in the fallout of Season 3. Faith lost her father figure, her place in the world. She has no family, she has no friends. The school, the Mayor’s final battleground, is in ruins. She even longingly looks in on some knives in a storefront, looking for anything to connect her to her lost past. She returns to Giles’ place to spy on Buffy and the Scoobies to see what is going on. They have it all, in her eyes – boyfriends, girlfriends, they are all alive… college, life goals, Buffy still has the “Good Fight” and the team to see it through, with. But Faith was never dumb and notices a few things very quickly, chief amongst them? No Angel. If you remember correctly, Buffy was willing to kill Faith over her blood to save Angel from a curse that would claim his life… for, like, the seventh time. Now he’s nowhere to be seen. She done got stabbed for nuthin’!

During this look-in, Buffy gets “the call” (from who? The Watcher’s Council? The police? That nurse that called the Council? It is never explained) and everyone is aware that Faith is back. Buffy gives a rousing speech about what they need to do, maybe Faith is sorry and wants to reform? Doesn’t matter, they still need to find her. Riley is like “wut?” and doof-faces it up to an 11. You’d think Faith seeing this would make her hide out as long as possible, but in a badass turn, she just shows up at Buffy’s college (remember, she goes to college), and they duke it out in broad daylight with tons of onlookers. Its a great brawl because of the number of extras, the cops showing up, the chase after, and the tension and anxiety it adds. Buffy has a great life going for her, right now (despite Adam leaving demon corpses mined out for their precious organs, just hanging out in trees) and now someone who has nothing is willing to show what that means.


This leads to the two best moments of the episode. First up, Xander and Giles running around with a now-functioning gun (that previously electrocuted Xander to great comedic effect) on the hunt for a rouge Slayer. They encounter Spike in a darkened alley and he is very curious and wanting to help. He listens intently as they describe Faith and what she can do and Spike, in a dramatic moment, informs them that he’ll find this “Faith” and help her track down and kill them all. Giles and Xander’s expressions, paired with Spike’s frustration over the fact that they never remember he hates them is priceless. As is Xander’s best line in the entire series: “We’re dumb.” Its played so well and is all perfect. One of the great comedy scenes put to screen in the show’s history.

Elsewhere, Faith receives a gift from the Mayor (by way of killing the messenger) and in a heartfelt video tape, she gets the one goodbye that matters to her, her father figure Wilkins. He leaves her a parting gift – a magic device of unknown origin and with unknown (to us) consequences. She takes off to Buffy’s old house and there’s Joyce! Who gets just dropped like a sack of bricks. After she comes to, Faith attempts to dig at her by showing how little Buffy cares but we know Joyce gets it and before anything bad can happen, the climactic brawl of the episode comes to a head as Buffy and Faith smash up the Summers’ home again, resulting in broken furniture, banisters, and front door glass (awesome choreography on this fight) that all ends when the cops show up and Faith lets Buffy pummel her face in for a few moments before activating the device Wilkins left her, effectively switching their bodies. Faith, now in Buffy’s body, punches her opposite out cold, smashes the device, and then says she’s “Five by Five” when asked if she’s OK. Faith had nothing and Buffy had everything. Time for a switcheroo.

Episode Rating: 92

Additional Notes:
-Other good line? Willow: “That was the funnest coma ever”
-Riley gives a speech about how he has always taken orders and it is the most awkward, stilted speech ever.
-Xander tries to explain that he and Faith have a history. Giles is extremely uninterested
-Riley also says that, since he’s from Iowa and had to drive for hours to see a high school football game, he’s OK with long stories. Shut up, Doof.
-What if Faith just didn’t wake up? That’d have been an awesome twist!
-The Watcher wetwork team just sits by the phone night and day and answers in one ring, apparently
-“Hello, Rupert.” – solid delivery
-Willow and Tara continue to bond. Gonna keep bonding too, if you know what I mean. WINKY FACE

Written by: Tracey Stern
Directed by: Regis Kimble
Air Date: April, 4, 2000


“Angel”, as a show, enters its first season’s home stretch on a great first step. In an episode all about truth and honesty (as well as when it is appropriate to rely on such things), “Eternity” is an episode that introduces Angel having a celebrity crush, Cordelia having the same celebrity crush, and the return – albeit very brief – of Angelus, and his first modern day appearance on the show. Always a treat to have him around, but we’ll get to him in a bit more detail later on.

See, the theme of “TRUTH” comes straight at us from the start, with Wesley and Angel having to sit through an awful performance Cordelia has a part in, and subsequently having to lie about it to her face. This thread runs through the episode and brings up the question of if and when it is OK to tell someone the truth if it could ever possibly hurt them. This is made the most concrete in the character of Rebecca – an aging actress with a sinking career whom Angel just happens to save in the nick of time. She learns he is a vampire and it is Angel’s heart and boner that keep him from using his brain and denying it or staying away. He wants to get close and it is almost his downfall and the death of his friends by his own hands.


But nothing is as it seems. Rebecca was never in any real danger: her manager set up the violent stalker to drum up press and word-of-mouth so that she would land a new job. And Rebecca never wanted to be friends with Cordelia, she just needed information out of her to use on Angel, who I believe she didn’t care about either. Likely he was just a means to an end. I mean, she drugs him to turn him evil (unintentionally, though) and then not only tries to lie to him about it, but after narrowly escaping her own demise, she proceeds to keep the truth from Wesley and Cordelia for too long, resulting in a dark, poorly lit but expertly written and verbally brutal showdown at the episode’s climax, where Angelus tells Cordelia and Wes how he really feels about them. Even Cordelia lies, earlier in the episode – faking a vision of Rebecca in danger – just to get what she wants.

While these truths, big and small, have different levels of impact on the story, the characters, and the overall arc of the episode, when put together it brings about an interesting moral quandary I’d not really examined on prior viewings of this episode. All of our main characters are lying at all times, sometimes to themselves. Cordelia is an actress – or wannabe actress, anyhow – a professional liar. But she is also lying to herself about her abilities. Wesley is lying to himself when he thinks he can’t handle things or isn’t tough enough. And Angel has to lie daily about being human. These things define our characters from the start and breaking away from them is what drives them from here on out.


There is a lot of talk on the web about how stupid it is, though, that all it takes is some drugs in a drink to bring Angelus out, and this is a fair criticism of the episode as a whole. It works within the context of this 45-minutes, but outside of that, in the larger Buffyverse, it juts doesn’t smell right. Wesley tries to over-explain it away, saying its not even real, just a side-effect of the situation, but it was real all right, at least during the last 15 minutes of the episode when Angelus was totally going to murder this friends. It just seems like an easy, cop out answer to “how to we make Angel evil for one episode?” and I don’t like it one bit. Also, despite the fact that the actress playing Rebecca does a solid job, this episode suffers in that she never feels fully developed or realized, like her character motivations and the change they go through are so sudden and non-believable. Oh well.

“Eternity” ends on such a high note, though, as the truths come out: Angel is not free from his vampire self, Wesley can be a hardened badass, and Cordelia can act her ass off when she needs to, if only to create a distraction. Angel is saved, Rebecca vanishes between scenes, never to be heard from again. And the main Angel Investigations team is running smoother and stronger than ever before. Some rough stuff comes up pretty fast in the back half of the season, so it is nice to have a win, here. So nice.

Episode Rating: 89

Additional Notes:
-Rebecca’s agent is the guy from the very first episode, he gives Angel his card at a party
-Rebecca’s eyebrows godddamn
-Can vampires get drunk?
-Buffy and sex? Happiness. But Wes thinks that is a singular experience. This series explores this a few times
-Angel pulls his Batman stunt a few times this episode, to great effect
-I love that Rebecca is just gone after all is said and done. The selfish, stupid skank

The Ring
Written by: Howard Gordon
Directed by: Nick Marck
Air Date: Feb. 29, 2000


“The Ring” is an… interesting episode. It does almost everything it sets out to do within its 45-minute run-time, but never reaches any great heights. It comes close many times, though. Chief among those close calls is the setup for this episode: a man, looking awful and fresh from a beating, comes pleading for Angel’s help, only to meet a team ready and willing to provide everything they can to see the job through. This leads to an investigation that ends with Angel set up and trapped after confronting and threatening a bookie, menacing some albino monsters, discovering a nightly underground demon fighting competition, and eventually shocked and shackled and forced to fight, himself. This is all within the first ten minutes. Its a nice, brisk pace to get the usual set up (person needs help, Angel and co. investigate and solve the problem) which normally takes half the episode out of the way to dig into the “meatier” stuff.

I use quote marks because, well, this episode does a lot of surface skimming. Stay with me for a second. The overall theme of the episode seems to be the moral boundaries between “Good” and “Evil” and the perception of both as far as immediate, outward appearances. The client who hires Angel is the perfect example of this, because he appears as a man in need, a good soul trying to save his brother’s life, only to not only be the mastermind of the whole thing, but a regular sack-o-dicks who shoots his own brother to death just to prove how cool he is. The “don’t judge a book by its cover” line of thinking extends to almost every aspect of the episode, whether it be Wesley’s turn as a badass when he single-handedly takes on four men armed with only a crossbow or the introduction of a new player with Wolfram & Hart.


Back in “Sense and Sensibility” was the last time the evil law firm had come up, and now we meet the first female bad-“guy” of the series: Lilah Morgan. She plays it cool in their first meeting, but soon she and Angel are tucked away from the brutal bloodshed and in her office, where she suggests cutting a deal: keep fighting the good fight, but ignore any thing that has Wolfram & Hart’s scent. She makes an utterance of “picking fights you can win”, suggesting that there is no beating her and the rest of the firm, something which we’ll get to see Angel disagree with for the rest of the series. But she hints, here, for the first time, at one of the show’s greater strengths, and one of the things that keeps “Angel” from feeling like a spin off and more like its own show: Buffy has to deal with season-long threats to the earth or universe, Angel has to deal with the oh-so-“simple” task of saving souls. Even demon souls. He turns down Lilah’s offer because he can’t sell his if it means selling others’ at the same time.

These realizations, that those that seem just can be evil and those that appear evil can be just is a great idea for an episode, or set of characters, or even a full series. But “The Ring” dances around it too much to make it stick. It is too sublte much of the time and played too straight the rest. A prime example is Angel’s drive to help free the demons he is stuck in mortal combat with: he doesn’t even stop for a second to think about the consequences of letting these demons go free (something that is admittedly played for comedic effect at the episodes closing moments). Some weighing out the pros and cons over his choices would have been nice. I get that he’s “fighting the good fight” but it just seems odd for a character as forward-thinking as Angel to completely ignore the possible negative side-effects of letting some pissed off demons go free, especially when he just turned down working with Wolfram & Hart due to his ability to sense such stuff.


On the technical side, the episode also had a few faults, namely the fights. In an episode dedicated to an illegal fighting league, you’d hope for some solid battles. Not only are some of them off-screen, others are too short or, as is the case with the final battle, rely far too heavily on slow-motion tricks and the like. I get that they were going for an easy way to show how disoriented Angel was becoming from being tossed around like a rag doll, but come on. And then there’s the mixed bag of demon make-up – some of them looked really good, but others looked goofy and not interesting in the least. Some of the other effects work was OK, though – the shots of people going “over the red line” and turning to dust were pretty solid, as was this effects use of brutal murders.

When all is said and done, though, the thing about this episode that does work, 100%, is the new reliance on Wesley as a character. He and Cordelia haven’t had a ton of time together as of yet and this episode starts to bring the whole team together. They have to pair up to figure out what happened to Angel, how to free him, and how to make an effective escape. Despite some initial bumbling, the pair not only save the day, but they develop more respect for each other, and Angel does, too. Its a nice, touching moment as they limp away from a battle barely won and it shows how complex and nuanced this group is and can be.

Episode Rating: 81

Additional Notes:
Wesley only needs one weapon… but it is unfortunately barrel-of-monkeyed together with every other weapon in the drawer
-The database website, “Demons, Demons, Demons” shows up for the first time!
-The stupid move when Angel is going to light that guy’s smoke but it turns out to be money is so awful
-Kate referenced as “cop lady” and seems none too friendly
-Some demon’s name is Kafka!
-Why doesn’t Angel disintegrate when he reaches over the line? Just electrocuted?
-Great Lilah scene. Can’t wait for more!
-Best Line? Tom the demon: “Who da hell are you?”
-That pit of melted bodies in the albino lair was gross and a good quick-cut view of something awful and nasty without dwelling too long

Angel – “Beneath the Surface”
Dark Horse Comics – June – July 2000
Writer: Christopher Goldon
Artist(s): Eric Powell and Lee Loughridge
Editor: Scott Allie


This one is good. Eric Powell can draw, man. I love his art style. That, right there, gets it some major points. This story is fun to look at.

We met Clyde, a giant green, winged demon, back in “Earthly Possessions”. He is still sore about Angel and pals beating him up way-back-when and is now using a pissed off Kate and the LAPD to get back at Angel, leaving corpses at all the sewer exits our hero would take and even going so far as to draw the outline of a literal angel around a victim in the victim’s own blood.

Angel and Wes track the bodies to a large creature named Abner, who just wants to be left alone and doesn’t like mindless killing. At first they accuse this beast of being the murderer but – without the need to do any detective work at all – Clyde just pops in and is all “I killed everyone, y’all!” and police open fire, Angel tries to fight, and Abner ends up stabbing the guy to death.


All in all, its a tame story with great art and some fun to be had, and also our first comic with Wesley present. The characters are well-written and everything goes, more or less, well. Just, nothing really sticks out as being “great” – though, having said that? That is about the best praise one can give one of these comics.

So: There’s that.

Angel – “The Hunting Ground” (AKA: Lovely, Dark and Deep?)
Dark Horse Comics – April – July 2000
Writer(s): Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski
Artist(s): Clem Robins, Paul Lee and Brian Horton
Editor: Scott Allie


Another day, another stupid comic.

In this one, Cordelia lands a role in a found footage movie that turns out to be run by absolutely no one but two demons who want to use humans to obtain a dangerous and well-guarded mystical helmet because they are cowards and won’t do it themselves. Angel finds out about it by reading the script and goes out to save the day and does so by simply punching monsters until they explode (no, seriously).

Cordelia is the real winner though, by putting the mystical helmet on and finding she is able to control demons. She commands the two dolts that set her up (who comically drove there in a car, in demon form) to simply stand around while the big bad murders their necks so hard their heads fall off, he lets everyone go (everyone being Angel and Cordelia; the two other actors got totally killed to death) and the end.

angelhunting ground 1

The art is super-stylized and over-angled and the script for this one is a joke so awful I can’t even come up with anything else to say about it. Skip this one. You’ll be much better off.

For Some Reason They: Draw Cordelia with one button done in the middle of her shirt the whole time, like she is a super skank or something. What the hell, guys?

The Prodigal
Written by: Tim Minear
Directed by:  Bruce Seth Green
Air Date: Feb. 22, 2000


I love Buffyverse flashbacks. They are some of my favorite flashbacks in television history. They serve two awesome purposes: First, they reveal parts of the greater mythology of the show by showing rather than telling. Second, they usually allow characters to come back from the dead, so to speak, and show up on screen once more, like Darla in this episode. This episode also further fills in some gaps by tying into the events shown in flashbacks way back in “Angel” (the Season 1 “BtVS” episode). If I had to say there was a third awesome purpose, it would be seeing David Boreanaz slog through his lines with his over-the-top accent and his stupid wigs. Mind you, I don’t hate either of these things. I love them. Dearly.

This is an episode about fathers and their offspring: Angel – or Liam, in the flashbacks – and Kate and her father, the retired cop. It is about how stilted relationships can become by one or both parties simply not trying hard enough, or in some cases, at all. The parallels between the two lead characters in this episode are a bitch much, sometimes, but the device of having a word or phrase trigger a flashback works pretty well. Kate says she isn’t Angel’s girlfriend after they work together on a case in the subway station and WHAM! flashback to old-timey Liam meeting a busty-as-fuck Julie Benz in an ally way. I like that this show, too, uses an episode about father/child relationships to further investigate the relationship Angel has with two important – at this time – women in his life. Darla is both a lover and a mother to Angel in these flashbacks, and it is interesting to see this played out a bit more (though more is coming, fast), and Kate still hasn’t gotten over the events of “Somnambulist”.


Trying to help Kate uncover the mystery of the drugs and demons is a noble goal and until it leads to her father, Angel is very much all about trying to recover their relationship in any way he can. She isn’t having any of it, until her father comes to speak to her about Angel. See, he’d visited him the night before and pressed him for answers he had no way of knowing, really. Now he’s scared and looking for a way out without hurting his daughter, someone he does in fact love very much, though he obviously is a damned fool about finding legal ways to show it. Kate realizes that Angel might not be a bad guy, after all, seeing as how she had to defend him to her father. And just as things start to go well? Well, the bad guys that Kate’s dad were working with have him killed for asking too many questions. This leads to one of my favorite sequences in the entire series – and possibly the entire Buffyverse: Angel gets there before he dies, or is even attacked, but Kate’s dad doesn’t invite him in. So he has to watch from outside the doorway while they murder him and the second he dies, Angel bursts in and absolutely massacres one of them, letting the other one escape. Its a tense scene because you know there is nothing to be done but wait it out. And it is a merciless minute or two of waiting.

Kate finds her dad dead by vampire bite and immediately all the re-established goodwill is out the door. Angel is now doing things on his own again, as is Kate, who wastes no time putting her inherited detective skills to use and goes to an exotic car chop shop(?) where demon drugs are being produced. Angel gets there at about the same time, but not before Kate gets to go all “Kate the Vampire Slayer” on a dude, and is immediately surrounded by more vamps and a really tall demon who… doesn’t do anything but stand and watch the fight and then get his head lopped off. His plan was stupid and his death was fitting as a result. To say the “bad guy” of the episode was a huge waste would be both accurate and – thankfully – not the point of the episode, anyhow.


Back in flashback land, though, things get even more dark. Liam and his dad fucking hate each other. Like, hate each other. His dad doesn’t respect him or show any love, and as a result, Liam resents him, to the point of walking out of their life forever (which does come to pass in a manner of speaking). It is in the final moment of this scene that the dad almost cracks, almost shows some love, but he can’t. Too much time and too much pain have come to pass and its all for naught. Liam exits the house, his family, and – by the end of the night – the realm of the living. Its fun to see who Angel really was before, and nice to see that his father was a prick who said he’d amount to nothing. Even after he’s killed his whole family and gotten his revenge as a vampire, Darla – the queen bitch if ever there was one – reminds him that he will never have won because his father will never have accepted him, now. But he has a new parent in her, so why should he care? Clearly hundreds of years of regret crashing in on him after getting his soul back has made him care.

Overall, this episode does so many things right, that even the goofiest of stupid things can’t really bring it down (like Wesley’s lab coat. Why does he have a lab coat? Did he get it at the same store Buffy got her’s Buffy got her’s? Or how about the fact that Kate gets there just in time to see a lackey run off and walk in on her dead dad? The list goes on). The added developments to characters, mythology, and the world of “Angel” is welcome and this is one of the best episodes the first season had going for it. It complicates the relationships and furthers the themes. Nothing wrong with that. But, get this. I have to review a goddamned Angel comic, next. Have to, you ask? Yes. I have to. Get ready, too, because I’m sure it will be as great as this episode. Count on it.

Episode Rating: 97

Additional Notes:
Always a treat to see Julie Benz. And we’ll be seeing more of her very soon, as I’d said
-Mr. Lockley exposits like a mofo to those shady vampire dudes, though. Poor writing
-Cheesy but acceptable: Angel’s “Beloved Son” tombstone and Kate’s dad’s “Beloved Father” stone
-The dumbest thing in this episode, over Wesley’s lab coat? That the demon they are researching is wearing a trenchcoat just like the one they’d killed earlier, only shown to have this coat in an ancient, dusty tome. Really, guys?
-Best line? Wesley stating that the demon wanted the drugs because he was “Jonesing to get well.”
-The vocal music during the rebirth scene in the graveyard was awesome. Well done.
-I love the old ass cell phones. Man, technology really evolved at quite a fast rate, huh?

I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Written by: Jeannine Renshaw
Directed by: R. D. Price
Air Date: Feb. 15, 2000


This is a solid episode, even if it borrows heavily from other narratives of a similar sort, though it does have faults of its own. We meet the Andersons, a normal looking family with a dark secret. After receiving an increasingly violent looking vision through Cordy, Angel and Wesley head to their home to investigate what the problem is. We’re shown some stuff earlier that the characters don’t know: The dad is a creeper; they lock their kids doors with padlocks; children in India only have three cards. Angel stops a car from running the boy, Ryan, over, and the parents invite him to dinner the following night to repay him, though the dad seems reluctant. While this goes on, Wesley is out back, doing his best to be a detective… by going through the garbage (an old baby doll scares him witless by crying for two seconds. Come on, Wes, get it together). He takes a poop sample and the team determines they have a demon on their hands.

“Angel”, as a show, is a curious beast in its first season: it struggles to not be a “monster of the week” type show, but fails to manage that for the most part. This isn’t a fault, really, it just happens to be the way it is. But of all the episodes following this format, this is one of – if not the best. Why? Because of how freaking subversive it is throughout. And surprising. Throughout the episode, it goes to some predictable places, but twists them every time, defying expectation: The dad seems creepy and possibly evil, but it turns out the son is the evil one. The demon kid follows some extremely “Exorcist”-tropes to the letter, but it turns out that the demon possessing the kid? Doesn’t want to be in there and needs the Angel team to bust him out. And the good sweet kid that he was invading? He is neither good nor sweet on account of him having ABSOLUTELY NO SOUL.


The tension and atmosphere of the episode is downright creepy. The way the parents act; the way the dinner goes (how does Angel even make it through dinner since he doesn’t eat? Doesn’t the already-suspicious dad have anything to say about that?); and all the time the kid spends at Angel’s home are eerie. Some good, though rather basic effects (those marbles, for example) help add to the feel of the episode and then the clincher – finding that the priest they wanted to perform the exorcism died previously doing the exact same ritual. Now Wesley or Angel has to do it and, as Wesley points out in his first really bad-ass moment, Angel can’t quite hold a cross to expel anything, now can he? Cordelia’s side-story about going to the magic store and buying a specific box from Rick? Hilarious. Rick. What the hell, guy. What the hell.

The demon does everything it can to get out of the kid, too. He’s scared and trapped and, since he has no soul, he has no real power over him. He even tried to get him to commit suicide just to end his suffering. He taunts Wesley and Angel with harsh words about Wesley’s father and Doyle, respectively. And, whoops, cross in your neck! While on the subject of Wes, though, the inclusion of his father and that drama is so forced its sad. He brings it up earlier in conversation and gets all awkward. This is so they can Chekov’s Gun-it into the back half with the demon. Lazy and weak. Especially since the next episode is all about fathers and it would have been a perfect place to shoe-horn it in, there.


The ending is also kinda rushed and I feel a bit off. After the demon is expelled, it goes into hiding to regain strength. It is immediately tracked to a way-too-dark sea cave and the revelation that the kid was more evil than the demon is interspersed with scenes of Ryan starting to act in dark and unsettling ways. For the demon, its just what he does. But for the kid to do these things? That’s scary. Of course, the kid wastes no time in trying to light his whole family on fire in their house. Its been less than three hours since the exorcism. You’d think he’d wait a few days? Let things cool down? Kate shows up for half a minute to remind us she is there (again, she’s in the following episode, so better get some themes and characters rolling, I guess?) and Angel saves the day, but feels confused about the whole thing.

And that’s the best part of the episode, in my opinion. This show is all about “the good fight” and this is a great episode to showcase that major, overarching theme. Angel needs to save the kid’s soul, he needs to save the family. He lost Doyle and now has to protect not only the innocent people the Powers that Be sent to him, but his friends. His “family” so to speak. These are the main things that are brought up time and time again until the finale of the series, and here is further groundwork. It also lays out more of his detective skills, this time without the use of a crappy, early 2000’s computer and internet search. Also, props to the kid playing Ryan: Jesse James (seriously) does a damned good job.

Episode Rating: 92

Additional Notes:
-Wesley says Lizzy Borden was possessed by a demon. Seems legit!
-Best line? The demon, to Wesley during the first attempt at an exorcism: “Your latin sucks”
-Cordelia’s awful brownies
-Angel has no idea how to talk to kids
-Is a demon gonna have to choke a bitch?
-I’d completely forgotten it was the son, and I’d absolutely forgotten the twist ending. That was a treat
-Nice shot of Angel regarding the cross in the church with cold tension
-Fantastic acknowledgement that the nun knew Angel was a vampire from just meeting him!


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