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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 10-15-03

Despite some bumps and possibly the worst ending scene in Angel history (more on that later), this episode still manages to entertain for the most part.

It's not a big story, and one might wonder how Angel plans to solve his Senior Partner issue while tackling any small job that comes along (wouldn't it be funny if the face painted mail cart clerk turns out to be the Senior Partner?). But at least it gives the audience a needed break from the Angel-Spike banter and Harmony quips (not to mention yet another Whedonism on leprechauns).

Things get going quickly when Angel interrupts a Fang Gang picnic/strategy session to save a young woman, Nina, from a werewolf. Unfortunately the woman suffers a bite and flees by the time Angel kills her attacker with Wes' super-plot-device(tm) silver pen (now with 20% more coincidence!). The action that shifts to Nina's subsequent transformation and Angel's efforts to track her down before she does any damage.

Here the writers play it smart: They only show the actual change from human to monster partially or as seen on a surveillance videotape. This technique wisely limits the risk that the special effects might meet the budget but not fan expectations. But perhaps in an efforts to appease the young male viewer demographic that wants to see the full transformation, the camera later makes it very clear that Nina's condition does not affect her normal physiological response to the cold air conditioning of Wolfram & Hart.

Meanwhile Spike continues to implore Fred to help him from fading completely into Hell. Given the severity of the situation, it really doesn't make sense that the "new" Spike wouldn't swallow his pride and allow Fred to tell the others. Still, the short exchange between Spike and Fred about his history with Wes is one of the bright spots of the episode.

Another bright spot is the arrival of actor John Billingsley as Dr. Evan Noyce (holy typecasting Batman!), a specialist brought in to consult on the case. Billingsley has more recently shined as Dr. Phlox on the hit-or-miss Enterprise (insert gratuitous link to other Fanboy Planet reviews here). Billingsley has a very distinct voice and style that serves him well, at least in a doctor role.

The ultimate fate of Dr. Noyce raises another question about Angel's ethics of late. Is he now operating with the policy of a minor evil is OK in order to fight a bigger evil or save someone who's not evil? Sure, there's often some satisfaction in seeing people get what they deserve. But one might hope that a so-called champion might remember the simple rule that two wrongs don't make a right.

Fortunately for the show creators, several wrongs don't necessarily make a wrong either. For example, the heavy-handed scenes foreshadowing Gunn's alienation seem very forced. One can almost hear the pre-clapper announcement of "Angel Gunn Alienation Scene #1, Take 1. Action!"

Far worse is a forced good feeling ending that even features a hokey out-of-place song possibly left over from the defunct Dawson's Creek. Sure the writers wanted symmetry with the opening group scene, but, well, yikes!

Or perhaps they just wanted to create more contrast for the preview of the next week's episode, a creepy offering detailing Spike's visit to Hell, for which "partial nudity" is promised and "viewer discretion" is advised. Hmm...Seems like they should have warned against that ending scene instead.

Chris Crotty

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