Derek’s Review – 1.19 “Sanctuary”

The Good:

This feels like Angel‘s thesis. This is the show (finally) realizing and establishing what it is about and what it means. They are in business of not giving up on people. While I think parts of Buffy’s appearance in this episode or a tad self indulgent, it does feel right she is in this episode. Buffy feels like such a foreign entity in this episode and I think that’s intentional. She (and her show’s methodology) don’t work with this universe.  Buffy is such a pure hero and Angel is not. Angel lives in the gray and it is a show about people who can’t be put into any kind of category. Faith is neither “good” or “bad”. She has done horrific things but we as the audience feel sympathy for her.

There is a real sense of urgency in Angel’s discussions with Faith because there is a feeling this “sanctuary” won’t last. No one is on Angel’s side and there are so many people after Faith. The police, Buffy, Wesley, Wolfram and Hart and the Watcher’s Council are all demanding some kind of punishment for Faith. The discussion scenes are so well written and acted but there is wonderful sense of consequence.

Speaking of Faith,  I think is the best Eliza Dushku’s best acting I’ve seen. Last week she was Faith at her most maniac and emotional. This is a very understated performance by comparison and it works beautifully. She is mostly silent and is being talked to by Angel but if we don’t see his words effecting her the whole episode fails. Even though she has only been in two episodes Faith feels very much like an Angel character.

Removing Cordelia from the episode is a very smart decision. Her humor and Cordelia-ness is missed but she would feel shoehorned. Every character and scene feels very natural and essential to the plot. Wesley’s arc picks up right where it ended in “Five by Five” and it is just as emotive if not more so. That is the other strength of the episode all the arguments feel completely justified on both sides.

The Bad / More The “Meh”

Buffy doesn’t dominate the episode, her presence serves a purpose. Yet the rooftop scene between Faith and Buffy feels self-indulgent. I think it’s a fantastic scene in the Buffyverse, but it relies so much on knowledge of their relationship. It works thematically but if your only exposure to Buffy as a character is the previous crossover, you would most certainly be lost.

The Unknown:

So what is Kate’s deal? I like how she is used in this episode. Her scene with Lindsey is absolutely riveting. Yet while she gives Angel a chance to confess, she really seems quite serious in her threat to have Angel see sunrise. I think this cold obsessive Kate is much more interesting character than her being attracted to Angel. It made sense she blamed Angel for her father’s death in that episode. However that was awhile ago and the hatred seems to have only intensified. Kate is not the most sympathetic character and this seems to only alienate her more from the audience.

Favorite Moment:

When Faith goes to leave and Angel stops is both of them at the top of their acting game. It is just beautifully shot and staged with Faith staying in sharp focus with Angel stalking her in appearance but trying to save her soul. So good.

Bottom Line:

After a shaky first season it finally feels like the show has found its voice. It’s a voice that it is very different from its parent show. It’s good that Buffy appears to demonstrate that but it does hold the episode back from standing fully on its own.

83 out of 100

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