William’s Review – 1.01 “City Of” Review

This had the unenvious task of both being a pilot and setting up pre-existing characters from a pre-existing show. For the most part “City of” worked, but unlike its predecessor Buffy, Its heavy focus on the noir aesthetic felt cliché at times. However, every now and again you would get that very witty and fun moments that Joss Whedon is known for.

It started with a girl…This was a nice crash course into this world. Getting the setup of who our main character is and the fact that he isn’t the perfect hero. Our brooding Angel makes for a more interesting focus because he’s not exactly personable (oh and there’s that whole vampire thing). I like setting him up as a loner and socially cut off. Yes, from one to twilight his broodiness is up there, but I liked getting the moments where he could appear very human. Moments like being awkward around Tina at the diner, genuinely happy to see Cordilia at the party, seeing his defeat at finding Tina’s body, etc.  All of these helped sell me on the character and the show.

Doyle I thought for the most part came across well enough. The plucky comic relief, half demon, and messenger for our hero make him more than just a one note character. The hint of a back story with “We all have something to atone for” was also nice. He’s not especially virtuous while spouting about Angel’s mission. He seems like a character forced into this position just as much as Angel is and it makes for an interesting dynamic.

Oh Cordelia, you vapid self-involved beauty you! As a fan of Buffy it’s hard for me to separate my already set up notions for the character, but what I liked about her as a character both in this episode and in this world is that she doesn’t exactly fit. She definitely represents the very superficial side of LA. The glitz, the glam, the focusing on number one. But they were able to add a lot of depth to her story by having insight into her personal life and her lack of success. I think most of her scenes stood out for me. She was able to add a lot of levity to a show that was still trying for the most part to be dark. Her humbly asking for a job at the end of the episode helps give us some insight that she’s more than just what appears on the surface.

Like Buffy did with horror, Angel seems to simultaneously be paying homage to the noir genre while at the same time poking fun at its tropes. It’s a fine balancing act that more time than not works in this episode. It wants to be gumshoe, it wants to be batman. And a lot of that worked. Come on the double staking is just cool. Only a few complaints remained and those happened to be stereotypes present in most noir storylines. The starving actress that’s in deep trouble, the hero and damsel getting a connection because let’s face it, they’re both just so gosh darn pretty, the wealthy billionaire that can get away with anything, etc. What I liked was the difference we got to see in this episode when they would subvert the genre. I think the actress that played Tina did a wonderful job in this episode. As stated in the audio commentary for the episode she was able to play the part with a certain tiredness behind her eyes. A women that was both beautiful yet worn by all the things she’d seen. Russell played his part quiet and on the level. Very less is more and I think that added to his portrayal. The obvious lies he’s promising with such charisma helps you totally understand why these girls fall for it. While I can’t say I was shocked to see Tina dead, I think it does put an interesting wrinkle on the story. I like stories where the hero doesn’t always succeed, that we get to see his failure, and then what comes next.

For the most part the storyline followed a pretty regular progression and had a nice bow for the “case of the week” that you might find in other shows, but ended with an overarching thread with the law firm Wolfram & Hart. And just who are the “senior partners”?

Conclusion – A valiant effort to both grab fans from Buffy, set up these pre-existing characters for new fans, and try and give this show its own flare.

Also I do believe that’s the first time I’ve heard “stiffener” on TV.

Favorite Moment – Angel, rushing to save the damsel in distress, jumps into his convertible only to find that it’s an identical copy of his car only parked a few places down. It was just one of those clever moments that was able to catch me off guard, poke fun at the genre, and be genuinely funny.

64 out 100

 

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