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On TV Today's Date:

Harm's Way
original air-date: 01-14-04

This episode starts off with an hilarious Wolfram and Hart corporate training film. The Fifties-esque narration points out, among other things, important clients (the easily recognizable Newscorp and the more subtle, but equally pleasing, Yoyodyne. "John Shanshu" anybody?) as well as the opportunities for all employees.

Well, except perhaps one very blonde, unicorn fixated young secretary slash reformed vampire that the audience knows and loves as Harmony.

What follows is a fun and generally satisfying glimpse into Harmony's life at the firm. This includes both the routine --- office gossip, microwave waits, and the vamp equivalent of drug testing --- as well as the atypical, such as catering a sit-down between some hyper-etiquette sensitive Hatfield and McCoys of the demon world (this is the secondary throwaway plot).

Oh, and not to mention waking up with a hangover to a dead, vamp-bitten guy in your bed (a clear no-no in the revised W&H employee guide).

Mercedes McNab, who can give any Whedonette a run for the money for looks, does a splendid job as Harmony. She is especially good at executing sudden emotional shifts to comedic effect. Ms. McNab also deserves kudos for her commitment to the role. Harmony is really an absurd character, but her strong performance has the audience believing in, if not rooting for, Harmony.

And as with other episodes that show the inner workings of the firm, there are lots of nice little touches, e.g., "non-human resources." But despite the fun, the episode does have a few flaws that might put off seasoned fans.

First, the Fang Gang, especially Angel and excluding Fred, seem too harsh. That generates some confusion as to whether or not the audience is seeing how things actually happened or from Harmony's point of view.

And where did Gunn go? Enough of the all-too-convenient mind-implant-of-the-week. Bring back some of his real personality instead.

Far worse is Spike's explanation of why he's not seeking out Buffy. Even though no explanation would probably work, the writers could have done better.

Finally, there is the overall question of the timing of this episode. After enduring many weeks of reruns, most fans were probably expecting some follow-up to the Lindsey-Eve zinger. Standalone episodes can work well enough, but work even better when they have some tie to story arcs and/or character development, e.g., "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco."

The preview for next week's entry suggest an alternate reality storyline. Such episodes are usually entertaining enough. But if not, the teaser shot of a dorky Angel in a bad tie and short sleeves should be enough to get skeptical fans to tune in.

Chris Crotty


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