Derek’s Review – 2.08 “The Shroud of Rahmon”
The episode starts off pretty good. Opening on Wesley completely distraught and the image of Angel biting a faceless blonde woman is an evocative start. There is a sense of dread instilled you from this cold open. There are so good lines from Cordelia and Gunn. However…
This, for me, is probably the worst episode of the series thus far. It is true that season one has its fair share of stinkers. I still haven’t recovered from the insult that was “Excepting” and Bai Ling haunts my nightmares, but those episodes didn’t have the structural problems this one does. The opening is strong but about half way through it descends into completely insanity.
The worst thing an episode, or a show, can be is unsure of its identity and this episode has a huge identity crisis. I don’t know if this a comedy, horror or dramatic episode. Angel can balance all those elements in the same episode very well, probably only eclipsed by Buffy. This episode doesn’t balance them there will a “funny” moment followed by a “scare”, followed by a “super serious dramatic” beat with no transition. They just happen.
A lot of this has to do with the Shroud itself. Curses that affect personality can be a lot of fun and can create great character moments but only if the curse is consistent. There are absolutely no rules to The Shroud. For some reason Angel is affected immediately by the Shroud even when it is in protective case and he begins to act like Angelus. In fact all the thieves begin to act aggressive. If that’s what the Shroud does fine but Wesley and Cordelia as soon as they enter the building start acting like they are experiencing the biggest high of their life. But Kate who has the same level of exposure as them just gets one headache.
The worst thing is that Angel is seemingly the one most affected by the Shroud, but can also resist it. The only reason I can see he has this resistance though is because he is the show’s namesake. It wouldn’t take a lot of effort to explain the Shroud’s powers, but they don’t even try. The most they really do is have Wesley who is high as a kite say it effects people “differently”. Bravo. How wonderfully vague and lazy!
Let’s face Kate is still horrible, but she is become so erratic a character that I’m pretty much willing to accept her weird mood swings and radical belief changes. I could take the episode to task for Kate suddenly being on the warpath for justice to bring Darla in for the murder that happened in “Dear Boy”. Especially because when Kate was faced with overwhelming evidence that Darla was guilty in that very episode she refused to believe it. But fine, it’s pretty clear that Kate has some immunity to logic and reason at this point so whatever. There is the teensy glimmer of hope in this episode that as illogical as Angel saving her life is, it may thaw her attitude towards him.
Of course on the other side of the coin the episode ends with Angel brooding over her delight in tasting Kate’s real warm blood, so maybe it’s best to just all pretend this episode never happened. I certainly would like to but I’m afraid it’s terribleness with stick with me for a lifetime.
Obviously I struggled with this; I almost went with a Cordelia line because she still manages to bring some effective humor. However I went with the cold open with Wesley being interrogated. There is a real sense of suspense created by the scene. It ultimately goes nowhere but it is a good attention grabbing opening.
There have been bad episodes of Angel, but often time it has been the content of the episode. Mystical pregnancies, ill-conceived demons and just disappointing executions of good ideas, this where the show normally struggled. The first twenty minutes have weird tonal shifts but there is a sense that the story is going somewhere but when it is time to get there the story completely collapses. It descends into some juvenile humor and heavy consequences that have no business being in an episode this poorly made.
37 out of 100