Angel Invesigations: City Of…

aka “Thoughts I have when I really should be writing my cover letter.”

I’ve been a fan of the TV show Angel for a while now– ever since I watched all 5 seasons in the (emotionally traumatic) space of about 3 weeks my junior year, and its been my favorite show ever since. No, it’s not perfect, and yeah, there’s some pretty funky and questionable content, but there’s something incredibly resonant about it that most other stories lack. I loves it bunches.

But ever since that first crazy run-through, I’ve just been watching random episodes as they strike my fancy. I thought the time was ripe to watch it through again in order, which gives me a perfect opportunity to blog about it (yay! yay?). I’ll try to hit every episode if I can, but no promises. There will be spoilers (obviously), and I’m not sure how interesting it will be if you haven’t seen the show, but…well…too bad. So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Season 1 episode 1: “City Of…” As always, I welcome your thoughts.

City Of…

Okay, first off, bravo on the title. It’s not the most subtle thing in the world, what with the story being about a guy named Angel living in LA, but I think it sets a nice tone for the show. It sets up the city as both the setting and a metaphor. What is LA the city of? Is it angels or is it demons? Is it an Angel who is a demon who is also angelic? Is it all of the above? *pause for thoughtful ponderance*

Anyways, Joss and Co. had a bit of a challenge with this one since not only were they introducing a new show, but a show with a pretty hefty amount of really important backstory. I think they did pretty well all things considering, but it does make for a bit of a clunky opener. Doyle’s little recap of Angel’s history was an effective way to get all the necessary info out there, but it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing Doyle would actually say. Like, “Hello, you don’t know me, but I’m a half-demon and here is the story of your life.” Um, okay.

Mr. Broody-Pants himself

But back to the introduction of characters. Let’s look at them one by one, shall we?

Angel

Having our first look at Angel be a drunken rant about Buffy was an interesting choice. It sets him up immediately as a very unconventional (and somewhat questionable) hero, and sets up the show to be much more adult than Buffy, while still acknowledging the connection. Add to that that it was a funny drunken rant, and we know that we’ve got a very different look at Angel’s character than what we saw on Buffy (aka Mr. Ihavenosenseofhumor). And add to that the fact that he was only faking being drunk so that he could kill some vampires and, well…

More than anything, the fake-drunken-Buffy-rant introduces Angel as a very complex guy. Thank God. The Buffy version of Angel was just a little too Knight In Shining Armor-esque, too perfect, and too tragic. Of course that was his role in the show, so it made sense, but he was more of a symbol (Perfect-Yet-Unattainable Boyfriend Man/ Guy that Doesn’t Call After Sex) than a character. It was only in rare moments like “Amends” that he became something more complex, and then he’d pop back into symbolic mode. That’s what made it acceptable for Buffy to be such a gawdawful girlfriend to him– because he wasn’t a guy, he was just a guy… if that made sense (There will be a rant post on this topic in the near future, never fear).

Suffice it to say, I like Angel complex. I like him screwed up. I like him quirky and dorky. And most of all, I like the fact that the Knight In Shining Armor mystique is not his identity (the way it seemed to be on Buffy), but is rather his way of coping with his identity– he’s not perfect, he’s just vain and broken. I like the fact that he can make a fool of himself in a bar and then walk outside to kill some vampires and then struggle not to eat the girl he just saved. Why do I like that? I think I might have to devote a whole other entry to that question. I seem to be saying that a lot, don’t I?

Moving on…

Doyle

Like I said, I think Doyle’s introduction was a wee bit awkward. He was Backstory-Man with the strangely spikey face.In a sense, I guess that was appropriate, since he always was a little bit awkward, but this was storytelling-awkward, not adorable-character-awkward. But again, I suppose there’s not really a better way for Joss and Co. to tell the backstory. So, we’ve got an Irish half-demon with a sense of whimsy who knows a little bit too much and is leaning towards alcoholism with a side of gambling.Again, awkward, but not a bad intro.

As to Doyle’s role in the rest of the episode, I’m not really sure what to make of him telling off a homeless woman in the middle of his speech to Angel about helping people. It’s a joke, I get it, but I guess that’s the crux of what has always annoyed me about Doyle: he’s a hypocrite. Here he is, telling Angel he needs to open up, but then refusing to tell Cordy he’s half demon and declining to tell Angel what he’s trying to atone for. Is he a commentary on the struggle against cowardice? Is he more along the lines of Whistler– balancing the scales of good and evil but staying out of its way? Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, I just don’t know if I get him. Maybe I’m not supposed to. *cough* But more about that at a later date.

I guess another important thing that is established from the get-go is that Doyle is also struggling with his demon half and his past, and although we don’t get as many gory details as we do with Angel, it sets them up for a camaraderie that Angel was never able to have in Sunnydale (or anywhere else, for that matter). To his credit, Doyle also tries to be heroic for Angel’s sake. I guess they really are rubbing off on one another.

Cordelia

“So, are you still… GRRR?”- Probably one of the most classic lines in Angel canon, and a great intro to Cordy. I’ll say right from the start that I love Cordelia. I don’t know what I thought of her the first time I watched this episode, but watching it now knowing who she becomes always makes me smile. (keep in mind that I didn’t start watching Buffy until I was well into Angel) In her first scene we have all the early-Cordy essentials: she’s at a party, she’s gorgeous and she knows it, she’s trying to bean actress, she’s all about social networking, she’s brutally honest, and she fully accepts vampires as the way of the world. Vapid, but not stupid.

And then the bombshell drops: she’s dirt poor, she can’t get a job, she has no friends. I guess she’s a better actress than everyone thinks. I wonder if this is not so much a way of changing Cordy from her Sunnydale days as it is an insight into those days– a “she bows to no one” kind of deal. She’s resourceful, hence the starting of Angel Investigations.

My one complaint about this Cordelia in this episode is that even after her “I’m from Sunnydale, we had our own Hellmouth. I think I know a vampire when I’m…locked in a room with him” moment (another great Cordy line), she still needs Angel to rescue her. Come on, that vamp was pathetic– she could have taken him. This is the girl who bites vampires back and won a staring contest against a vampire assassin. I know, I know, necessary for plot purposes, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Lindsey/Wolfram & Hart

Not much to say about them here other than that I thought they were nicely and subtly introduced. They had enough of a presence for us to know they were important and not good, but it’s not entirely clear how so. At this point, we just think they’re scumbag lawyers. Silly, silly us.

I am curious as to why nobody pressed charges against Angel when he kicked an important client through a window. Too much bother? Too curious about who the new player is? No body ergo no case? Also, why didn’t they already know who Angel is, what with being the Scourge of Europe and all that? I suppose the minds of the Senior Partners are not to be probed.

Other Notes:

  • The phone call to Buffy. Nice crossover moment, although if you’re only watching Buffy, it wouldn’t make sense. Also a nice reminder of how alone Angel feels.
  • I love Angel’s apartment, but I want to know if it came with the upstairs office and if so, why on earth did Angel rent it that way?
  • How did Angel rent anything when he doesn’t have a job?
  • I love the fact that Angel doesn’t save the girl. He’s fallible. Perhaps more importantly, on a thematic level, he’s not always going to win against evil. Keep an eye out for that theme– it’s a doozy.
  • I heard in the episode commentary that they wee originally going to have Angel lick his fingers after they’re covered with the dead girl’s blood, but decided it was too dark. I kind-of wish he had.
  • We see Angel driving for the first time. Hmm. Not sure if it signifies anything since nobody seems to drive in Sunnydale. But of course Angel has a flashy convertible in one of the sunniest cities known to man. Silly vampire.
  • Angel smiles at the end. Who knew he had it in him?
  • The transitions are  unique and certainly help set the tone, but I remember being scared to death the first few times I saw them. Too, loud, too bright, too distracting. That said, I think they refined the idea a lot more in the later episodes/seasons into something pretty cool.

So, overall, I’d say it was a good introduction to the show and the characters, but slightly clunky for all that. But who minds a little clunk when you’ve got a brooding vampire detective to watch? That’s what I thought.

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~ by ntertanedangel on May 29, 2010.

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