I Fall to Pieces
Written by: David Greenwalt and —–get this—– Joss Whedon
Directed by: Vern Gillum
Air Date: Oct. 26, 1999


I’m just gonna get this out of the way immediately: Andy Umberger, who plays the episode’s “monster of the week” Dr. Meltzer, does a great job. Really, a great job. He plays creepy, calm, collected, and homicidal so well. There is a level of coolness to his job in this role, that of a doctor who can disassemble and reassemble his body at will, float body parts around, and even throw his goddamned teeth at people… really, a mess of a role mixed with shit 1999 CGI… well, he takes the role on and makes it his own and, for the most part, it works. I get that his “girlfriend” Melissa is scared of him. Who wouldn’t be? It works because he believes it. I believe it because he believes it.

Having said this, however, “I Fall to Pieces” marks the first episode in the series to be a real goddamned clunker. I mean, a real shit house. It’s bad. How bad? Bad. How bad?! I suppose we’ll go over that, here. The plot revolves around a woman (Melissa, natch) who has some problem with a guy (Dr. Meltzer, natch). He’s stalker-ish, but because he is under the protection of Wolfram & Hart, the police won’t touch him. Why would the law firm that handles vampires take on this neurologist? Because he’s a freaky-deaky son of a bitch that can disassemble himself at will, doy. So it is established, here, that Wolfram & Hart take on predominately supernatural clients. That’s about as much development as we get. We don’t see these lawyers, we just hear about them, off-hand, by Police Woman Kate, Angel’s “never-gonna-even-make-out” girlfriend on the squad.


I get that, while “BtVS” is a show that deals mostly with the trials of “college is hell” life, “Angel” is a show about “the real world is hell” and, yeah, creepy stalker dudes are bad news and we should be wary lest we either become them or suffer them. I get this. And most of the episode’s dedication to this theme works; Kate’s description of the damage that can be done to Melissa’s psyche, some of the background on why Dr. Meltzer is the way he is (I say sometimes with a reason, but more in a bit), and even the way Angel treats his new damsel in distress are all expertly executed. And the dialogue throughout, what with Whedon’s help and all, really cuts to the bone half the time, and brings the laughs the rest of the time.

So why the hate? Well. It just… drags. The episode is slow going and it immediately halts the season thus far. Its a brick wall that I’m shocked happened this early. I had forgotten about this episode entirely prior to starting the series up and am glad to have forgotten it, a bit, but sad, too. Glad because I got to review it fresh, but sad because I didn’t have an internal warning. The pacing sucks, and – as a result – the pacing of “Angel”s first season takes a major hit. Not to mention that it has a ton of elements that simply don’t work in its favor.


The fight scene at the end, in particular, kinda sucks. There is a level of eeriness, yes, to a guy that can move his hands apart from his body. But its all done in such a hokey fashion. I feel like they tried their best given their likely strained TV budget, but the best effect in the whole episode is when his CGEYE (get it?) goes into his head. Otherwise it’s all Addams Family from here. And the entire conversation between Angel and Meltzer’s mentor, the guy that taught him how to do his nasty magic trick, is corny and shit-faced. I don’t like it. That moment slows the whole episode down to a crawl as fast as can be. In an already uninteresting episode, its not good to bring the action to a screeching halt. And then there’s the dark gun the doc shoots Angel with. I understand it won’t kill him, but if it really attacks the heart, how in the world does it really stop a vampire, a being whose heart isn’t even a big deal?

It all ends predictably enough. I like that the lady doesn’t die, and in turn beats the bad guy before Angel gets a chance to physically beat the bad guy. I like that Angel finally asks for payment. I like that the little bit of character building they did with Melissa sticks through the episode, with her continuing to give plants as gifts, and I like that Doyle has a bit more to do than drink, say goofy shit, and get punched in the nose. But its all featured in such a blah fashion and has nothing greater to say about the characters, the world, or us as a people. The best episodes of this show and “BtVS” tell us something about humans as a whole. This episode makes me want to crawl INTO a hole.

Episode Rating: 72

Additional Notes:
-Doyle spending a whole day doing word puzzles cracks me up
-Cordelia and Doyle trying to silently convince Angel to ask Melissa for money is also funny
-People fucking get murdered in this episode. The doc’s hands strangle the shit out of that cop
-When does Lorne show up?
-The missing teeth effect near the finale, during the boss battle, is so good I actually wondered aloud if the actor has no real teeth
-When does Angel sleep in this episode? He’s shown up all day, sometimes. At the office, at the police station, and then at the office, again
-…oh yeah, when the doc knocks him the fuck out