Derek’s Review – 2.14 “The Thin Dead Line”

The Good:

Conceptually, an episode about “zombie cops” sounds like my idea of entertainment hell. Yet I enjoyed this episode quite a bit, certainly more than I expected and maybe more than it deserves. I have extreme zombie fatigue, it borders on outright hatred. However the aforementioned “zombie cops” were genuine threats to me. I stopped watching The Walking Dead regularly years ago but I definitely felt more threat from these zombies than I have felt about a walker attack in years. Quite simply the imagery of the symbols of protection and order turning against helpless populace is effective. When you make them unstoppable and unkillable it is even more terrifying.

I don’t think police brutality is acceptable in any situation but this episode approached the topic with a certain degree of grace. Angel hasn’t always had success (okay none) with tackling real world inner city issues. Typically those stories have been filled with clichéd and tropes rather than real characters. Despite the inherent silliness of the zombie cops, I don’t think that was the case. Using Gunn, Anne, Anne’s Orphans (too much work to name them) Jackson and even Kate the episode was able to explore the heaviness of the topic in natural ways through character action.

Another positive of this episode was it finally focused on the trio of Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn. They were finally the A plot and the episode told a full story for once involving these three. It wasn’t the Wesley show, all of them contributed to the episode. Gunn the most and Cordelia the least but they were all involved. The show should’ve still showed us them growing into this well-oiled machine. Wesley and Gunn are the best of friends in this episode, out of seemingly nowhere, but the chemistry works.

The Bad:

While I think the episode explores the reactions to the police brutality quite well, we are never given an adequate reason why the police captain went to such extreme lengths. I mean it’s quite clear he is a psychotic person and deeply unhinged but there is no method to it. He’s absolutely ridiculous. The closest we get to an explanation is Kate saying that the rape and murder rate was incredibly high before the zombie cops were unleashed. In Kate’s mind this seems to justify it but I think that really just highlights how mentally unstable she is as a person. I don’t care how high the murder and rape was nothing justifies using the corpses of police officers as police brutality puppets.

The Unknown:

Speaking of Kate, I did enjoy her in this episode. Well, I suppose that is a bit strong. I didn’t actively dislike her and that’s a plus to many recent appearances. I want to like Kate and I still see the character she could have been but I’m not sure she fits on the show anymore. Angel was definitely aiming for noir aesthetic in its early episode and Angel having a police contact fit with that. Now Kate feels pretty useless.

Favorite Moment:

They haven’t really developed Cordelia out of Angel’s shadow yet. Her two best moments in this episode (they also happen to be the two best moments period) both involve Angel. There is a real power in her turning him away at the end. Yet a moment hit me more than that. When Anne mentions Angel, you can see Cordelia’s hunger for information about him. A hunger that quickly leads to disappointment when Anne says Angel hasn’t changed.  The end gives me hope Cordelia will be given something to do, since it signifies her moving on from Angel, but the first is an emotional gut punch.

Bottom Line:

“The Thin Dead Line” proves what I have been saying for a while in Angel there are no stupid ideas. I won’t say this was Masterpiece Theatre. There are a few misses, everyone not named Anne in the supporting cast is a less than stellar actor to put it kindly. The antagonists are needlessly and senselessly cruel. This is still a solid case of the week episode.

63 out of 100

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