Derek’s Review – 1.11 “Somnambulist”

The Good:

While the misdirection was a bit heavy, so much that it cut any tension, this was a very interesting idea. There has rarely been episodes where Angel hasn’t had something to pout about and I thought it was good how they went with annoyed here. Angel’s annoyance could be attributed to several things whether it’s his lack of sleep, Kate, his enjoyment over his dreams or a combination of all three. It was a shade of Angel we haven’t seen before. Angel was not a particularly nice guy this episode. It was a incredibly effective way of showing how close he was or felt he was to Angelus.

Cordelia also really shined in this episode. This was a very good balance between the vapid humor that makes her so much fun to watch and genuine character development. The Angel and Doyle friendship was nice but never really was developed, it was just instantaneous. There is something richer about Cordelia and Angel’s friendship. That scene on the roof which is just like countless Doyle scenes feels a lot more deeper because it’s Cordelia. Not to mention it’s just a really well acted and written scene.

Wesley also continues to interact with Angel Investigations in new and fun ways. I like that he’s not an official member of Angel Investigations and he’s not Angel’s best friend like Doyle was; he feels like a very different, fully formed character. Something I could not have described him as when he was on Buffy.

The Bad:

Penn is just a wet fart of a vampire. He is just as hack and cliche as Angel accuses him of being and none of his scenes feel remotely threatening. I love when Cordelia reverses her damsel status in the office without brute force but I’m not scared of Penn at all. While the first Angel and Penn fight is brutal, after that Penn doesn’t do a whole lot. He shows up somewhere, threatens someone Angel likes and then uses them as a human shield and flees. He doesn’t hold my interest at all.

I think most of it is that Penn was never developed as a villain. Ultimately this episode is more about how close Angel is to Angelus which is an interesting idea, but they still want Penn to be a threat. Penn is about the least threatening villain we’ve so far though. He should have been developed more for me to get invested in him and he wasn’t.

The misdirection in this episode is WAY too heavy. The revelation that Angel might be killing falls completely flat for me because besides Angel wanting to drink Tina’s blood in “City Of…” Angel’s “dark side” hasn’t been developed much. So in a show where the main character is striving to become more human they aren’t going take 5,000 steps back and have him start killing out of nowhere.

The Kate monologue giving an exact description of Angel was terrible. Not only was it so specific to Angel (except I wouldn’t exactly call him charismatic) but it was well delivered. It was so heavy handed and made seem so obvious that Angel was the killer that for a TV perspective any tension that existed was immediately cut.

The Unknown:

As for Kate, logically I have no problem with her reaction to finding out about Angel. Her reaction makes perfect especially since Angel never mentions his soul. Even that I don’t have a problem with because Angel obviously thinks of himself as evil in this episode. The problem I have with the Kate storyline now is how long it lasts and how vehement her distrust of Angel grows.

It’s also just a personal problem I have with this kind of story. If there is a conflict between two good characters and one of them is the main character, my sympathies are usually with the main character. If I’m not sympathetic to the main character, then I’m probably not watching that show because it’s failed in some way. So while Kate has every reason to be upset, I don’t care because I like Angel more than her.

Favorite Moment:

When Cordelia stands up for Angel in the face of Wesley accusations, only to look for a killing stake moments later, is the perfect way to balance funny Cordelia with a emotionally maturing Cordelia. I’m not a fan of the jokes that make fun of Cordelia for being self-centered or clueless because they’re overdone. They also seem to be jammed into the scene for the sake of it. Especially when In this episode when Cordelia thinks Angel wants a steak not a stake.

The other thing I really like about this scene is demonstrate the character dynamics nicely. Angel and Cordelia are growing in their relationship and trust. Wesley is still on the outside but does have a knowledge that the other two lack.

Bottom Line:

The Angel and Cordelia side of this story is really strong, however Cordelia isn’t that big of a presence in this episode. Penn and Kate both have more screen-time than she does and they work much less well. Penn is a complete failure of a villain and I don’t care about Kate’s emotional turmoil as much as the episode thinks I should. So I can’t really give a good score to an episode that failed at two of its three intended big goals.

59 out of 100


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