Derek’s Review 1.03 “In the Dark”

The Good:

From the fantastic introduction of Spike to the sunset, I was hooked. This was a fantastic character study of Angel and an example of what quality this show can reach. The first time I watched this I absolutely hated the end where Angel smashes the ring. On rewatch though I was really impressed about well-constructed this episode was, the moment Angel receives the ring you know something is wrong. The way they kept in a mystery but still hinted at with the surprising effective scene between Angel and Rachel was very engaging. Then driving it home with Angel explaining his reason is a very economical and powerful way, it was just excellent. “In the Dark” more than “City Of” really gives you an idea of why Angel is such a hero but also why he is such an interesting character. His broodiness and stoicism isn’t just self-flagellation, there is a very deep very compelling character under all that forehead and hair gel.

Speaking of which Spike was obviously a stand-out. James Marsters embodies the role so well that is not necessary that a viewer would have seen the previous episode of Buffy or any episode of Buffy. His monologue on the roof which is essentially exposition but is so entertainingly delivered it doesn’t really matter. You get an instant idea of who this character is and what he is after. Oz feels more like fan service but not in a distracting way and he provides enough levity and likability that he comes off instantly charming anyway.

The Bad:

Marcus (the torturer vampire) was very creepy and from his torture scenes alone could have been very interesting episode on its own. However he had a bit too much screen time. I don’t really have a problem with the episode splitting its villains between Spike and Marcus though it could have been a very heavy episode if Spike was doing the torturing on his own. My problem is the final fight being between Marcus and Angel. Marcus isn’t established enough that we totally understand his betrayal of Spike and the fight between Angel and him doesn’t feel earned. It really is just so Angel has somebody to kill because the repeated times no one tries to kill Spike made it clear he wasn’t going to literally bite the dust.

The Unknown:

While this was a very strong episode for Angel, character and show, I’m getting a little weary of Cordelia and Doyle being regulated to background players. They hide in one of their respective apartments while Daddy Angel makes the monsters go away. They do ultimately come to his rescue but the story is still about Angel at that point. There is no B or even C plot of Cordelia and Doyle. It’s a shame because when they are on screen they are very engaging.

Sooner or later the show is going to stop referencing Buffy or Sarah Michelle Gellar is going to have to appear on the show. They mention Buffy so much and Angel’s relationship with her is credited as much as his soul in his shift from villain to hero. The exposition delivered by Oz and Spike at the start of the episode briefly recapping the previous episode of Buffy was enough. Anything more and there was more was too much.

Favorite Moment: I am torn between Angel walking out on the beach and the final scene but I have to give it to the final scene. I went into this episode fully excepting to hate that conclusion and I loved it. So well done.

71 out of 100

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