Derek’s Review – “To Shanshu in LA”

The Good:

I had no real expectations going into this episode (besides vague memories of first watch) because the show didn’t set up anything finale-like going into the episode. That being said this was a pretty solid episode. The reveal and the idea of Shanshu prophecy is something I can really get behind. There wasn’t a whole lot of tension in the misdirection that Angel might die but I’m not sure if that’s a symptom of this being a rewatch, the show didn’t do a good job or the show didn’t want you to really be concerned with that information. The idea that Angel’s reward will be that he will turn human doesn’t revitalize the show in the same that the Faith episodes and “we are about redemption” stuff but it gives the show a nice focus. Presenting a light at the end of the tunnel makes the show’s gloomy bits a little brighter.

Speaking of which blowing up the office building was incredibly gratifying. I can’t say I hated Angel Investigations office but it felt really claustrophobic. Even though it isn’t readily apparent the mood of a set really matters in how you respond to the show. The office felt very limiting in what they can do and it was just a real bummer.

On the subject of emotion, Angel’s reactions to Wesley and Cordelia’s hospitalization was really strong. It didn’t quite reach the almighty heights that Faith’s breakdown in “Five by Five” did, but I got a real lump in my throat when Angel told Cordelia he needed her back. I love stories about misfits forming a family and it’s been an unsteady season but they have always had a strong through line of building the core relationships.

The Bad:

So it’s weird that Angel is so disconnected in the beginning of the episode. It’s certainly in character for him to be a downer but he is at an extreme of apathy in the beginning of this episode. The episode didn’t outright say this but it implied that Angel didn’t realize how much he cared about Cordelia and Wesley before they get taken out. That is kind ridiculous to me. He obviously loves both of them so it was out of the blue, left and other places that suddenness originates from how mopey he was in the first couple acts.

Vocah was pretty generic. I liked how he chipped away at all of Angel’s connections to the world and in quick fashion but he did it without any style. Or the style he did with is nothing we haven’t seen before in a dozen other supernatural settings.

I’m also pretty over Lindsey. I get I’m not supposed to like him, he is the bad guy but he doesn’t hold my attention in the same Lilah and Holland have in the past. He’s there and he’s punchable but he’s punchable in a way that’s not appealing. I want to be entertained by villains and want them to get the comeuppance, not want them to just shut up.

The Unknown:

So Kate is an antagonist now? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about her character. For a while they were trying to make her sympathetic and adversary for Angel but now she just seems like a jerk. It’s incredibly satisfying when Angel rips into and my hope would be that they start to adjust her character now. My memory fails me but I’m pretty sure they are not going to do that. I’m glad I’m not excepted to think she is the right anymore but this whole switch just seems like a stupid story decision.

“New Cordelia” isn’t really “New Cordelia”. You could argue that Cordelia has been building up to this point since the pilot but definitely since “Parting Gifts”. The show has done a really good job in developing Angel, Wesley and Cordelia the whole season. I understand experiencing all the vision sparks activism in her but it has been lying under the surface. “Old” Cordelia and “New” Cordelia have always existed in the same person and I hope they continue to do so.

Favorite Moment:

I got a real lump in my throat when Angel talked to catatonic Cordelia promising to save her. Angel and Wesley have developed a great friendship but Angel’s relationship with Cordelia has really grown over the season. These two shouldn’t work so well together but they do. This is obviously the closest Angel has ever been to a human being that isn’t Buffy and it is a really strong relationship to build a show around.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t much of a finale but that’s really a season problem not an episode problem. This episode does the best it could do to create a finale with the little that is there to step it up. Darla was an interesting character in the flashbacks but I don’t feel it is a great cliffhanger to wait for next season. This is a really solid episode but if I wasn’t doing a podcast about this show and am aware of such things I would have no idea this was a finale.

67 out of 100

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