Derek’s Review – 1.20 “War Zone”

The Good:

Representation is something I feel pretty strongly about and I think it is super important. LA has been so white up to this point that I’m surprised Angel hasn’t burst into flames no matter the time of day he is outside. So it was nice to have Gunn introduced and it be basically confirmed he will be back again.

It was also nice to see people who appear to have lives outside the episode. There are myriad of problems with the earlier case of the weeks and they are chronicled in my weekly hour rants in every podcast for the past twenty weeks. One of thing they all shared though was that the characters always felt created for that episode. There was no sense of history or future for them. Gunn’s gang definitely feel like they’ve lived before Angel stumbles onto them.

Speaking of while there is some questionable race stuff in this episode, Angel isn’t “The Great Pale Hope” here. Gunn is pretty independent and doesn’t really need Angel’s help or wouldn’t have benefited from it. Angel doesn’t talk down to any of the kids and there is a mutual respect. He wants to help them not because they are helpless without them but because he wants to add his strength to their strength.

The Bad:

While I love that are characters of color with importance introduced in this episode, Gunn is such a stereotype. I’m not of the opinion that white writers shouldn’t write characters of color but is so clear that the writer(s) of this episode had no way to relate to Gunn and his gang’s experience. The disparity between classes is a serious issue and in this episode it comes off as very generic and clichéd. Gunn is the young angry black man which a stereotype that goes as far back as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Now while it is Angel MO to introduce characters initially as stereotypes (Wesley, Cordelia, Angel, etc.) none of them were racially charged.

I’m also not a fan of Alonna being resorted to a plot device. It was fun to watch the actress having fun at being a vampire but did she have be sacrificed for Gunn’s character development. When J. August Richards gets stuff to do in this episode he is rather good, but mostly Gunn is stotic and sullen. There is nothing for me to latch onto his character. Alonna wasn’t amazing but she definitely had a personality. If I had to choose between which sibling I would have liked to see more of, I would have not gone this route.

The Unknown:

What is going on with Cordelia in this episode? She is the mouthpiece for all the writer’s generic white guilt and as result she sounds super condescending. She also has the bizarre David Nabbit sub-plot which ends with her saying “prostitute myself” about fifty times. I wish the writers would understand that they don’t have to force comedic relief on Cordelia. If there is a moment where she can be funny then do it (i.e. the “You’re welcome” in the hideout), but she doesn’t have to do the Cordelia thing at every opportunity. The David Nabbit story just makes him seem really pathetic and depressing and Cordelia bizarre.

Favorite Moment:

This could have been much worst Angel really could have been this crusading (literal) white knight and he wasn’t. He treats Gunn and his gang as adults and respects them. While I hate the line, I like that he doesn’t get “all daddy figure” on Gunn. So for that reason the final scene really worked for me.

Bottom Line:

They’ve been selling Los Angeles has a diverse city where all these things can be hidden so it’s nice to know there are residents who are white middle class people. It is far from expertly done and nearly every scene has some of sort of problem, but it does work. Kind of. Honestly though the only reason that isn’t a complete train wreck is that Angel is a real dork throughout the episode and I love any time our 250 year old vampire is a doofus.

53 out of 100

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