War Zone
Written by Garry Campbell
Directed by: David Straiton
Air Date: May 9, 2000

warzone

Ladies and gentlement, James Gunn. Roll credits! I don’t hate Gunn. In fact, some of his later development is easily some of the best this show has to offer in regards to character arcs. But his introduction is so stilted, flawed, and uninteresting. And rushed. Did I say rushed? It is rushed. Street gangs, inner-city youth, troubled family life, and misunderstanding lead to further misunderstandings, quick judgements, and – in more than a few cases – death. And for a character introduction episode, it does very little to bring us an understanding of the newbie and as an episode of the season, it only drives home the most basic point or part of the message: fight the good fight. Past that, its all a bit… lacking. I’ll explain.

It all starts out so OK: vampires attacking and getting cornered and then the reveal that it is not Angel or his team, but Gunn and his gang of street-smart vampire hunters who are just trying to keep their neighborhood safe. They are all homeless and starving and look to Gunn as a leader and protector. And he wears those mantles as well as he can, often times though he appears to only really want to keep his little sister, Alonna, safe. She is the driving force behind his need to fight the good fight, something that mirrors Angel’s drive and, likewise, makes them fairly comparable in more than a few ways. This is about the only bit of development past the surface that we get for Gunn, and it is entirely reliant on your understand of Angel as both a character and a series.

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The street war with some random vampires that have been in the area for a long time is interesting to a fault; the idea is only toyed with and never given time to grow. This is one of the major issues with the episode as a whole. If we’d had more time dealing with the gang warfare going on between Gunn’s group and these vampires, leading to some kind of major climax, I think it would have worked better. Instead, we’re introduced to Gunn, his sister, and the bad guys in one episode and all but one of those survive to the ending. Take the “shocking” conclusion and its fallout for an extreme but perfect example: the vampires trick Gunn and his crew and kidnap his sister, kill her, and turn her into a vampire. Gunn then has to kill her again and its all for naught because we didn’t really get enough time to develop feelings or ideas about these characters. Its only heartbreaking because we know it is supposed to be. Not to fault the acting (or the extremely awful vampire makeup on Alonna), but the script does not favor this moment in the least.

On the flip-side of this we are introduced to David Nabbit, a pseudo-series mainstay who hires Angel Investigations to track someone who took illicit pictures of him at a demon whorehouse. He’s a computer programmer and former D&D player who has no social skills and hires people to come to his parties. That this story is more compelling and it features a character who gets more development than the new character who becomes a series regular is telling of the poor writing this episode suffers. Angel’s involvement with Gunn is pure coincidence (unless everything is fate, which – sure – I can buy on this show), basically being in the right place at the wrong time while investigating the indecent photos. You can make a case that “social outsider-ness” is the theme of the episode, but I fell like this is covered better in the tale of “Angel and David” than “Angel and Gunn”.

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Likewise, this episode just doesn’t do anything with Wesley and Cordelia. They drive around, they get ice cream, they talk about whoring themselves out (or, at least one of them does), they arrive in the nick of time to save their boss and make a joke about cell phones, and then just sit around and talk about money. Its funny, but it is all very shallow and does them no justice as characters. Cordelia actually seems to have forgotten some of her development until the last minute(s) and Wesley does almost nothing at, period. He attempts to offer advice to Angel, who more or less shoots him down, and then that’s it.

I don’t know. Its the end of the season and real estate is valuable. After spending time developing Wolfram & Hart and the major themes of the show in the past few episodes, this feels like a hiccup that should have been either much earlier in the season or saved for the following one. Or, at least, they could have tied it in better or dealt with things a bit slower than they did. As it stands, this is a rush job that is so dependant upon your understanding of the underlying message of the show and not much else. And as one of the last three episodes of the season, I don’t know that we needed another character introduced who is none-too-trusting of our friendly “Vampire with a Soul” – its all familiar ground and a retread of it is unnecessary.

Episode Rating: 70

Additional Notes:
-That one demon hooker’s boobs, tho…
-Having said that, the bit with her tail was stupid and amatuerish
-David Nabbit is a great character because he’s just a nice guy who knows demons are real and is just chill
-Where is Lorne.
-I don’t mean to knock this episode so much, it just seems like bad timing
-Note: the dusting effects have come so far on these shows vs where they were a few years prior
-What a difference a budget makes!
-Best line? David, revealing the number of times he’d gone to the brothel: “Once… twice… twelve times…”

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