Derek’s Review – 2.03 “First Impressions”

The Good:

This certainly isn’t the first episode I’ve noticed Charisma Carpenter’s comedic chops but this might be the first time I’m calling it out in a review. This episode thinks it is funnier than it actually is but the jokes that do land are all a credit to her. Cordelia is amazingly expressive and has great comedic timing and it does make her interactions with Gunn feel fresh and upbeat in this episode.  It’s a very classic “fish-out-of-water” scenario but Charisma Carpenter manages to make it work.

The Gunn and Cordelia interactions are the best part of the episode. Unfortunately most of my enjoyment comes out of the Cordelia side. I have problems with Gunn that I will get to later but I certainly dislike him in this episode. It was just the fact of the matter that I know Cordelia better and more impressed by her demonstrating how she’s grown as a person than watching Gunn be angst.

Gunn is back to his “War Zone” persona of being an angry young man on the edge. It’s not my favorite creative decision but I do think it was better performed and marginally better written than that episode.

The Bad:

The problem is I don’t know what Gunn’s baseline is as a person. It’s true we met Cordelia and Wesley at their rock bottom on this show but they had a history on Buffy that is hard to forget. Even if I didn’t know that backstory personally the actors performed the roles like they had lived a life before showing up in LA. It’s not fair to except the same as J. August Richards but the comparison is unavoidable. It should be said that he’s made Gunn far more likable since his first appearance.

The problem is that Gunn appeared to be a different character. The much happier and easy going Gunn we’ve got in the past episodes was a simpler character to be sure. He was also a lot more likable and authentic. Angry young people are the worst characters pretty much but I don’t feel Gunn’s anger. I don’t feel like he is on the edge, no matter how much pretty ladies tell him he’s a danger to himself.

I feel like I should praise to show for addressing Alonna’s death but it is done very sloppy. It also feels too late. If it was done better I would probably feel more positive about it but in the episode it just feels like it is trying too hard.

The demon side of the story makes almost no sense. I don’t know what why Deevak sends Gunn on this elaborate goose chase instead of just killing him any old time and not after forty minutes of story has been filled.  It also doesn’t help that he might be the worst looking demon the show has ever created. There are limitations to the budget and shortened schedules but Deevak looks completely ridiculous. His head is so obviously fake it’s embarrassing.

The Unknown:

The show has done a great job of making me afraid of Angel having sex so the Darla sex dreams are surprisingly tense. Julie Benz does a great job being seductive but also with a very menacing edge. There is a very possessive quality to Darla interacting with Angel. She is nurturing in the dreams but she is also obsessive. We don’t know a lot of the particulars in this story. How is she influencing these dreams? Is she really in the room at the end? What’s her goal?

These are good questions to have though. There just needs to be more information to form a solid opinion on the matter.

Favorite Moment:

Cordelia telling Gunn that she will be there to save him could have been a terrible scene. Fortunately the exact opposite is true. It is a lot like the scene where they very purposely avoided in “War Zone” where Angel made it clear that he didn’t think Gunn and his crew needed saving or a “daddy figure”. Cordelia delivers the speech in such a way that it feels more equal. She may be “saving” Gunn from himself but he has to accept the help as much as she has to offer it.

Bottom Line:

This is very much a sequel to “War Zone” but I think it does some things better than that episode. It also has a lot of the same problems as that episode.

59 out of 100

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