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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 11-19-03

There are two forces more powerful than the Senior Partners, the Powers That Be, and the Shanshu Prophesy combined. The first is the strange compulsion of Whedonites to mess with character hair styles. The second is the inevitability that Spike and Angel will fight at least once this season.

Bowing to that second immutable law, the writers have constructed an episode leading to said fisticuffs. The universe is atilt now because there are two souled vampires to act as champions in the coming apocalypse (what, again with the apocalypse? You can't swing a dead cat on this show without hitting an apocalypse...)

But since the actual fight is rather boring, perhaps the writers are doing the fans a favor by getting it out the way early in the season. The fight is probably not exciting because the stakes are low (pun intended); neither souled vamp can win, i.e., kill the other. Besides, did any self respecting fan really think the key to the Shanshu Prophesy was so readily at hand all those years?

It's a good thing Wes was conveniently away in England visiting his would-have-been-deceased-father-if-he-hadn't-turned-out-to-be-an-android-instead. And some people think stepparents are confusing.

In an attempt to make that key fight more significant, the writers also offer several flashbacks that explain the root cause of the rivalry between Spike and Angel. These scenes draw attention to several questions. First, there is the ongoing question as to the actual integration between a vampire's demon and its former human host's personality. Second, there is the question as to why, if you're going to use Dru at all, don't the writers give her more and/or better air time? The writers waste an opportunity to show her as more of a mischievous instigator. And finally, why is Angel's hair lighter in the past?

Oh yeah, it's that first force mentioned above. The same force that rendered Eve's locks lifelessly limp in this episode. At least the writers do a much better job with her character this week. Once again scenes between Eve and any character other than Angel work well. The exchanges with Gunn are particularly entertaining, with a dynamic that borders on jealousy of their respective connections to the higher powers.

Given Eve's genuine fear while choking, the writers seem to have settled the question of whether or not she's human. More importantly, they deliver a surprise ending that reveals a bit of Eve's agenda while raising a lot more questions.

Some of the little touches are fun. Harmony looks fantastic and adds some well placed laughs. And certainly most adult working fans will chuckle at the idea of someone going berserk because their lazy co-workers don't change the toner. But the bloody eye effects just didn't cut it.

The writers, however, missed a golden opportunity for a huge laugh during the Angel/Spike mutual pummeling. It would have been classic if in the middle of trading blows, they suddenly stopped, began to chuckle, and one of them said "What are we doing?"

But now it seems that the two will competing for the post-Shanshu Pinocchio prize. Hey, why not ensoul some other vampires, too? Then they can change the name of the show to "The Amazing Shanshu Race." Or maybe "Shanshu Surivor" where each week another vamp is voted out of the prophecy.

Really, it's not that far fetched because everyone knows Mark Burnett must be a demon for starting the whole reality television movement. Pure evil!

Chris Crotty


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