Derek’s Review – 2.09 “The Trial”

The Good:

In many ways this is the culmination of the Darla storyline up to this point, which considering the ending is pretty fitting. Julie Benz has taken a character who is not very sympathetic or likable on the page and made it a true tragedy when she meets her end here. It is true that Darla has been struggling with guilt but until this episode she’s more than willing to go back to the life of an evil soulless vampire. She honestly hasn’t been too good of a person and while she’s been sympathetic before, this episode really sells her as ultimately tragic figure.

The eponymous trial is the obviously focal point of the episode. It is probably the most important sequence of the entire Darla arc and while I would have liked more time on it, they manage to make it work. The entire episode, the entire Darla story, hinges on the audience believing that this experience will change Darla and it completely works. The tasks of the trial, with the exception of the last one, are pretty lackluster but Darla’s silent and not so silent reactions to Angel’s suffering is incredibly effective.

The ending really does play as a shocking twist. So this being a rewatch, I think there is a little something lost but it is still effective. The feelings I felt on first watch and this time are the same. I feel enormous anger towards Wolfram and Hart for robbing Darla, as a human, of the peace that she has earned. There is something undeniable sad about Darla accepting her death but there is a beauty in it too. It’s the most spiritual the show has probably gotten ever and there is a real weight to her decision. When it is ripped from her, I feel Angel’s anger and pain. It levitates Wolfram and Hart in terms of threat too. They were an evil organization but now I share Angel’s sense of vengeance.

The Bad:

There is nothing really bad about this episode but considering how important the trial is there should have been more screen time to it. The first two tasks feel very eh. The last one more than makes up for it but still there isn’t as much tension built as there could have been built. I would have liked to see more interactions between Darla and Jeeves, this is how you use a character actor, but it’s still good. It’s just not as great as it could have been.

A lot of the setup in this episode is necessary but it could have been trimmed in places. Just a few minutes from some scenes here and there would have added up and it could have been a much tighter episode where the trial was given enough time to truly breathe.

The Unknown:

One of my favorite things about this season and the show is that it never backs down from admitting that Angel is not that good of a person. There is always an undercurrent of darkness and rage to him. We’ve seen that all season with Wesley and Cordelia interaction with him. They obviously disapprove of his actions but are seemingly too scared to do anything about it. While I’ve liked that, a lot, I think it’s time for Wesley and Cordelia to actually do something. As excellent as the main plot has been it has been very Angel centric and the show has a great ensemble. I’m ready for Cordelia, Gunn and Wesley to take a bigger piece of the main story pie.

The introduction of Drusilla threatens to engulf them though. Her recurring appearances in the flashbacks make much more sense now but by her very nature Drusilla is erratic and unpredictable. I’m excited for where the story is going but I hope that Drusilla doesn’t overshadow everyone.

Favorite Moment:

I surprised myself with this one. I haven’t disliked the flashbacks but they certainly haven’t been the best scenes in whatever episode they appear. They only ever supplement the main story. Yet I thought this episode with Darla leaving Angelus to possibly die at the hands of hunters so she could escape was really strong. They’ve seeded Darla’s fear of death in previous episode but in this scene almost all her actions become clear. We’ve seen how deeply Darla cared for Angelus but she will give up if it means she gets a chance to live. It makes the ending scene with present day Darla accepting her death all the more powerful.

Bottom Line:

Darla-centric episodes continue their winning streak. This more great work by Julie Benz and David Boreanaz for that matter but as good as it is it could have been better. We are just talking about shades of greatness though. This might be the weakest of the Darla episodes but that is condemnation of the quality of this one. The other two were just better, if only by a smidge.

71 out of 100

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