Derek’s Review – 2.04 “Untouched” Review
The uncompromising way this episode handled Bethany’s abuse needs to be applauded. It was very uncomfortable at times but it wasn’t without purpose. There was a real sense of the trauma she suffered and how horribly it affected her. It also wasn’t exploitative. I don’t know if it was creative decision or a limitation of the network/time slot but never explicitly stating what happened to Bethany, though it was clear it was some kind of sexual abuse by her father, was very effective.
It was also nice to get more of the Wolfram and Hart story. This isn’t more really more than stuff we could have already guessed but it’s nice to see them have a real plan in place when it comes to Angel. The further hinting in this episode that Darla might get Angel to turn on his friends is legitimately terrifying to me.
The office politics between Lilah and Lindsey were also intriguing. Wolfram and Hart were woefully unrepresented last season but it’s little tidbits like this that show faith in those characters as well. They won’t be background side characters who shake their first at Angel. They’ll be real people this season who is ultimate goal is evil and the destruction of Angel. But they’ll be fully fledged characters while they do it.
When Cordelia tells Bethany not to sleep with Bethany it could be a terrible trainwreck of a scene. It is so close to being “victim blaming” and after Wesley yelling at Bethany it just feels like too much trauma is being heaped onto by the “good guys”. To the scene’s credit Cordelia makes some good points, mainly about Angel, but it is not a really necessary scene. The episode acts at times like Bethany’s desire to have sex is just a foolish action by a slightly moronic girl. When it really it is a coping mechanism of a deeply traumatized person. All the episode really needs to do is have one character tell Bethany she isn’t a “big ole slut” but they don’t. As I said it’s not exactly victim blaming but he’s icky enough to call the episode out on it.
It helps that Bethany is supposed to be troubled and a bit off but I don’t know if the actress is 100% successful. The role asks a lot of her and she does an adequate job but she’s not doing a great job at playing all the different facets of Bethany. She is undoubtedly the best “damsel” on the show because of the writing. Bethany makes a conscious effort to act like a “damsel”. She also really takes control of the situation and gains all the power at the end. However the actress is so sort of bland and I’m okay this being the last time we see the character.
On rewatch my opinion on Wesley has a character has taken a downturn. Quite plainly Wesley has a lot of unlikable character traits. He exhibits them in the argument with Cordelia and his confrontation with Bethany. His main point in the (humorous) argument with Cordelia is that she can’t be smart because she has big boobs. I’m oversimplifying but essentially that’s it. Wesley comes off as a very condensing a lot of the time. When he confronts Bethany it’s incredibly reckless and stupid not to mention insensitive. There is recurring pattern where Wesley thinks he knows best and acts out without consultation. So far the episode calls him out on it because usually there are some dire consequences. For the most part, this episode continues that pattern. His confrontation with Bethany really almost gets Angel and him both killed. It’ll be interesting to see if that pattern continues.
When Angel snaps at Cordelia earlier on in the episode is a really upsetting moment. We’ve seen Angel lose his temper before and even with his friends. He has never gotten angry with Cordelia. The idea that the Darla dreams are manipulating him enough to make this happen is a terrifying. I also in a perverse way want to see where this story goes because it’s just as interesting as it is distressing.
This may be the best case of the week episode we’ve gotten so far. Yet it’s still a case of the week episode so there is only so much to praise. If Bethany had been a better actress and there was less unintentional ickyness this could have been a great episode. As it stands now it is just pretty good.
67 out of 100