Derek’s Review – 2.10 “Reunion”
Antiheroes are not a modern invention but in a post Breaking Bad / Walter White world television seems to be drowning in heroes that are nice guys. But a lot of shows don’t seem to understand why an antihero is compelling. Angel, coming fifteen years previously now, does not have this problem. This episode, the best of the series thus far, ends with Angel in his darkest place and actions has a character. The moment where Angel locks Darla and Drusilla in with Wolfram and Hart has been building all season. It is not just for a cheap shock factor or a dramatic moment to end the midseason. (This episode aired before Christmas break in 2000). This an incredibly dramatic, emotive and daring move by the show. This is Angel not Angelus doing something that is pretty unambiguously wrong. Yet this is still our hero, the character who is out for redemption.
Antiheroes aren’t compelling because they do unexpected and dark things but because they are complicated and flawed people who can do terrible things. The reason this story has worked is because Angel remains self-aware. He knows he is going to down a dark path and he probably shouldn’t be doing this but he doesn’t care anymore. There is a genuine chill that goes down my spine when Angel fires the gang. The team, especially Cordelia, have always been able to humanize Angel but his utter indifference to their positive influence is enormously effective. There are so many ways this direction could have gone terribly but the show pulls it off incredibly well.
The same goes for Drusilla. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her on Buffy but I found her tiresome at times. She was also often times overshadowed by Spike. I enjoyed her much more on her own and I even found her oddly sympathetic at times. There is a lot of pressure on the actress to make her work, her dialogue is of course nonsensical. Yet Juliet Landau managed to pull off Drusilla’s vulnerability, she decided to turn Darla because she wanted her family back as well as make her absolutely terrifying.
Holland’s story could have ended in a creative misfire as well but ends up being exceptional television. It is enormously stupid that Holland believed that Darla and Dru would be able to be controlled but it comes off on screen in a completely plausible way. Holland has worked with vampires before, he is an incredibly charismatic talker and he doesn’t exert control over Darla or Drusilla. He just lets an evil helping hand in support. His hubris is ultimately what takes Holland out but it is constructed so carefully that is genuine tension throughout. The moment that Darla and Drusilla walk into the wine cellar the end of the scene is clear but the episode manages to create real dramatic tension and despair for characters we aren’t even meant to like.
This is very much a nitpick but it did hamper my enjoyment of the episode ever so slightly. While the three vampires struggle on the rooftop was pretty visceral, it’s always nice when the show commits to the raw power of their creatures. I found the staging of Darla and Drusilla street side fight rather underwhelming. It looked very much like the actresses, who appeared to be doing their own stunts, were trying not to hurt each other and that should not have been what I felt in that scene.
Unless he gets a face transplant and his look of perpetual smugness is wiped from his face, I’m never going to like Lindsey. This is the first episode where I found him somewhat compelling though. He obviously appears very naïve about vampires. His obsession with Darla is still way too creepy for words and hasn’t been properly explained but there is something interesting about a character who knows he might very well be murdered and smiling.
The firing of the rest of Angel Investigations is such an emotional gut punch for me but it better not mean the end of those characters screen presence. The show hasn’t done anything with Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn focusing much more on Angel. This isn’t a problem because if they hadn’t done that legwork with Angel this episode wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. I do hope that know that they have fired and isolated from Angel that trio is given their own adventures and stories. Even if their own adventure and story is trying to get un-fired.
Once again this week I surprised myself with my favorite moment. I was already to give it to Angel condemning Wolfram and Hart but Drusilla telling Darla why she turned her hit me in a surprising way. It helps that from that point onward the episode, which had been really good up to that point, goes into overdrive to excellent. Yet as demented and twisted as Drusilla I actually felt for here there.The vampires of the Buffyverse are among in the best incarnation in the long history and mythology of that monster. They are absolutely evil, reveling in all the worst actions that humanity can inflict but there is a part of them that is deeply human as well. They do feel real emotions. Drusilla missing her “daddy” and “grandmummy” is as real as her gratification from the screams of innocents.
Ending your episode with your lead character doing something incredibly dark is not revolutionarily. In fact “Are You Now or Have Ever Been” saw Angel do very much the same thing in the 1950s. Yet while that episode only had 44 or so minutes to build to its conclusion this is culmination of ten episodes worth of work. It’s not that the excellent things that episode has does have never been done before but they are rarely done this well.
91 out of 100