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On TV Today's Date:

Angel
Origin
original air-date: 04-21-04

One time in high school I went to see one of my favorite English teachers, Mr. Sexauer (really!) in a community theater production of The Real Inspector Hound. After the performance, I accidentally offended him when I innocently said that I saw a lot of his personality (which I admired) in his character.

But even that simple incident exemplifies an ongoing question involving the professional actors who portray Fanboy favorites as well as the hated: How much is due to the character, and how much is due to the actual performer underneath?

Such is the case of Connor. Is the character just that annoying, or is there something inherently unappealing about Vincent Kartheiser? In either case (or perhaps both) it is certainly appropriate that Connor return for the series end because one can argue strongly that the series is ending because of Connor. For when the adult Connor first popped through a portal (the #4 express from Quartoth) and aimed his silly spike launching wrist rocket at dad, the wheels began to come off the bus.

Don't believe it? How about those all too frequent and all too long Connor-Cordelia scenes with so little chemistry, they made The English Patient look like hardcore porn? How about the ridiculous "I've been pulling the strings all along" Jasmine plot that also took one of most beloved minor characters, Skip, from the hearts (and eyes) of the fans?

An arc so bad, it took a mindwipe to undo it.

Oh sure, there are fans who think VK is "dreamy" and/or even like the Connor character (just like there are misguided reviewers who like Eve). But no doubt many fans are a little apprehensive to see Connor return in this episode. At least they might get to see some resolution on the mindwipe issue.

In fact, that is the crux of the episode: Mr. Mindwipe, a warlock name Cyvus Vail, needs Connor to kill Sahjahn, who was last seen "summering" in an urn. If Angel doesn't help, Vail will wipe the wipe. Meanwhile, Spike is testing Illyria and the ever-suspicious Wes smells a rat with Angel's handling of the Connor situation when his "parent" comes looking for help.

Overall, Connor is more palatable than before, but that's still not saying much. Fortunately there are a few choice scenes, one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end. The beginning scene, when Angel first hears Connor, has a certain enjoyable creepiness. The middle scene starts with some fun banter between Connor and Angel before offering up some amusing moments with Illyria (really, if you were having a party and could only invite Fred or Illyria, who would it be? No contest!).

But it's the end scene, which closes the episode, that really shines. Here VK deftly displays an ambiguity that pairs well with some solid writing that leaves fans guessing yet satisfied. It's always good to leave on a high note.

The ending really is terrific, but the rest of the episode just doesn't have as much snap as the recent offerings. Fortunately, there are some very strong supporting characters to keep the ship afloat. One is an old enemy, Sahjahn (one of about twenty spelling variants). His wit may have grown tiresome just before his "bottling," but here it's welcome and fresh (BTW, the idiots at the WB might want to consult a dictionary about that particular word: "another fresh episode" ?!). The other is a newcomer, Hamilton, who so far is a lot of fun to watch. Part of his appeal is likely the contrast between his power and his polish. Mr. Hamilton is particularly skilled at sudden switches in dialogue and/or emotion.

Unfortunately, the interspersed scenes with Gunn don't add much (other than giving us one more opportunity to enjoy Hamilton). Worse, they result in two really weak moments. The first moment is the use of some truly awful special effects (think early 80s sci-fi TV) to show the healing of Gunn's chest. Why even bother? Fans already know what happens in the cellar. The second moment is Gunn's response to Hamilton's offer. Hello? At least hear it out to gather some intelligence. Or maybe Gunn just assumes he won't remember anyway one he puts the amulet back on. Except that he does remember about the amulet, so there is precedence to remember pre-amulet memories. Hmmm...

Next up: All about Illyria. Maybe the writers will surprise us with Wes and Illyria showing up on a episode of Springer. Now that would be fresh...


Chris Crotty

 

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