Derek’s Review – 1.16 “The Ring”
Locking Angel up in a literal cage, gave Cordelia and Wesley a nice chance to shine. No matter how silly the episodes get (and this episode is laughably dumb) the core cast is always really strong. These people (and vampire) are funny, interesting and likable. The only bad thing I could say about Wesley and Cordelia is there not in enough. They are kind of sprinkled throughout the main plot to provide comic relief and some levity but they are far more compelling than the actual “A story”.
Except for the introduction of the character of Lilah Morgan. Wolfram and Hart desperately needs a presence on the show and if they are like Lilah, then I need to meet them now. There is just something about women who are morally ambiguous and confident in their moral ambiguity that I love. In other words, I love strong independent evil women who don’t need no man! She is only in two scenes and sort of dominates the episodes. Most of that is due to the episode being flatter than Angel’s forehead but still.
Her deal with the devil to Angel is appropriately seductive and threatening. The show has struggled with creating their own characters but I think Lilah could be called a success at least for the moment. She comes on the screen fully formed and as a human face of Wolfram and Hart it does make their law firm even more intriguing. Morally grey is a tough thing to do but if done right they could be a very compelling villain.
Let’s face it, American Demon Gladiators is a dumb idea. However when you show is based on gypsies cursing a vampire with a soul there are no dumb ideas, only dumb writers. This episode is just not executed well. All of the demons look like evil demons so it is bizarre that Angel is so opposed to killing them. It might have been better if they were all like the squirrelly demon whose meal Angel saves but as it is I find it hard to find sympathy for demons that look like they enjoyed ripping humans in half.
Which of course they do at the end of the episode. The moment where the demons break out of the pit and start killing everyone in sight is played like a triumphant moment. Now while I’m not sad that the horrible one-dimensional evil slave owner guy is being torn apart by his slaves it isn’t exactly inspiring. Furthermore there is huge mixed signals because the episode ends on the joke that maybe they shouldn’t have saved all the murderous demons. If you’re going to have an episode about Angel inexplicably not killing demons, when that is what he does literally every day of his life, then commit to that. Don’t end on this joke ending that is more horrifying than amusing.
I enjoy Wesley immensely in this episode but I had a teensy problem with his interrogation scene. When he breaks into the bookies office and does the Angel routine of torturing him for information. I have no problem believing there is a darkness in Wesley. In fact, I think that’s an awesome route to take him. The problem is there almost no connection to the Wesley in that scene and the one in the rest of the episode. Obviously he needs to get the information but I would just like a slight Wesley screw up. Just a little reminder that is he at least a bit incompetent. He’s less “I can easily break into a room of seven scary dudes and win” guy and more “I am the worst at everything can’t even open drawers” guy.
I’m desperate for more Wolfram and Hart so obviously it was Lilah’s scene with Angel. I can’t call it a great standalone scene on it’s one but it so intriguing and a great introduction for her character.
The Bottom Line:
This is a dumb episode. It is a stupid concept that is executed even stupider. The sections of the episodes with Angel in the demon gladiator pit drag so long and by comparison Lilah, Cordelia and Wesley’s contributions feel far too short.
53 out of 100