We’re professional monster killers!
April 24, 2003
Harumph…the line above is Cranky Reviewer’s Exhibit A for everything that’s wrong with this week’s episode.
CR Exhibit B is the fact that Angel follows it up with “Let’s go get professional on that monster.”
Let me start out by saying that I am a huge fan of Ben Edlund (this week’s writer and producer). The Tick was a fantastically funny comic (as was the cartoon). I also think his work on Firefly was brilliant. But the difference there was that he was writing for new characters, people that we didn’t really know yet. He could be quirky and slightly over the top with them and we would take it in stride. But here, writing for characters that are very well established, it just didn’t work. Fred’s alternate gushing and pouting, Gunn saying “Son” every thirty seconds, Angel’s, quite bitchy, brooding – none of it felt natural. And, judging by the stilted performance by almost the entire cast, I’m guessing they felt it too.
And what in God’s name possessed him to come up with the Wee Refugees? Was there a treacle deficiency in the show that I was unaware of? Do we really need any of the “oh so touching” scenes between Lil’ Orphan Matthew and Angel? Do they serve any purpose at all except to randomly remind us that Gunn is from the streets and, oh yeah, not everyone likes Lorne (though his “Knowing’s Half the Battle” speech was hilarious)? Do they think that a freaky looking kid badly lip-synching lines is important enough to build an entire back story around? Let’s not mention them ever again, m’kay?
Now, what Ben does do well is the aforementioned quirky. And when we get off the beaten path and into the meaty underbelly of the ep, it really shines. The spider creature is inspired and written with a perfect mix of menace and humor. His frustration at the “furry” vamp who wouldn’t die after being disemboweled and sewn back up, his “I’m not listening!” routine when Wes is trying to suss out Jasmine’s true name, his blasé attitude when escape is mentioned — all mix perfectly to create a quite enjoyable mini boss. Add in the fact that he’s from an ancient race that finds more power in blood than words (well, most words), and I can’t wait to see more.
Back to that name thing… now, while I’m annoyed at Ben for telegraphing this little plot development nearly half an hour before the reveal (“She’s millennia old, you think she’d already have a name!”), I’m quite happy to have it. “Jasmine” has been painfully devoid of backstory or even motivation since she popped onto the scene. Sure, she wants to take over the world…but why? What we’ve been watching is an all-powerful being slowly expand her sphere of influence and effortlessly enslave all that she comes into contact with. And, while it’s realistic — well, as realistic as something like this could be, it’s also quite boring. The fact that she’s already worshipped by another dimension of creatures, that they seem to want her back (implying that she either ran from them or was lost to them), adds depth that our resident Goddess has been sorely lacking.
Other high points? Well, the Moppet finally gets what he deserves…in spades. Watching Angel tear into him, I can finally see the level of frustration and anger that he’s been feeling since this whole incident began. I’m just glad that Connor’s on the receiving end of it. Speaking of Connor – is it just me or does that whole “Give me your pain” scene just play out strangely? The Boy Wonder acts like he can finally see her Maggotyness, but then it just devolves into this touchy, feely crap. I feel like there’s something else going on there, but I’m missing it. The boy does get props for a dead-on Jasmine emulation towards the end of the ep…while everyone else looks like zombies, I can totally believe that Jasmine is completely in his head.
And while props are being given — big ones go out to the CGI department this week. Not only was Spider-boy done really well, Jasmine’s “fight” scene at the end was brilliant. An evil goddess that has a hive mind and absorbs the wounds of her underlings? Now that I can dig.
I really do think that there were some great moments in this week’s episode (like Angel and Connor sensing each other in the tunnels), I just wish it had been handled by someone with a little tighter grasp of the characters. Thankfully our man David Fury is back in the writer’s chair next week. Here’s hoping he can turn blood into…um…bloodade?
Next Week: The WB ruins a perfectly good cliffhanger! Why? So that we can get a lame line of an incredulous Gunn saying “She eats people?” If that’s the best the next ep has to offer, we’re in for a bloodbath, folks.
Witty Observation of the Week: “Love? We define love same as anyone, same as Furries. Love is Sacrifice.” — Spider-boy