Derek’s Review – 2.21 “Through the Looking Glass”

The Good:

This is the episode I hoped (and honestly expected) of the Pylea arc. In my memory the trip to Pylea is characterized by amusing moments. This was certainly a funny episode, one of the funniest episodes yet. On Numfar’s dances of joy and honor alone, it’s a terrifically funny episode.  Cordelia’s attraction to Groo, Gunn’s reactions, the rest of Lorne’s family and the meta-humor sprinkled throughout. It all leads to some great humor. There’s also some really drama that sneaks unexpectedly and effectively. So while I enjoy the majority of this episode and could talk about any of the events, I just want to focus on one. Mostly because it is my favorite part of the episode and it contains all the elements that make this a success.

Fred was introduced in “Belonging” and appeared in “Over the Rainbow” but this the first episode we get to know her. Joss Whedon didn’t invent balance comedy and drama, but he his shows have a very specific brand. The jokes can be so witty and hilarious but there is also a real tragedy to them. Fred is a perfect example. She has suffered through five hellish years in the strange dimension and it has clearly messed with her mind. That’s a horrifying story but Fred may actually be the funniest part of the episode.

“Through The Looking Glass” manages to make Fred funny without her every being the subject of the joke. She responds to things differently because of her trauma and there’s humor to be mined from that. The text always keeps us present of the horror she has been through without overwhelming. Fred’s fractured headspace is just as real as Angel encountering the true demon inside him or Cordelia regaining her confidence. Fred’s humorous dialogue is just as funny as Numfar dancing or Cordelia slapstick-y attraction to Groo.  This delicate balance and co-existence is so hard to pull off and “Through the Looking Glass” does it brilliantly.

The Bad:

Unfortunately I have some problems with this episode. The cold open and first scene are rather clunky. Cordelia’s enjoyment about being the princess is fun and in character. When she teases the guys with decapitation it’s really not and completely cheap comedy. Still since the awkwardness is isolated to the beginning it’s easy to forget and ignore.

I said in my review in “Over the Rainbow” I’d have liked it if Gunn stayed in LA. The character could’ve grown on his own by fighting off Wolfram and Hart while the rest of Angel Investigations was in Pylea. I didn’t remember what Gunn did in Pylea and it turns out that’s because he does nothing. Gunn’s reactions are often tremendously funny but he can’t be only a reactionary character. They only seem to use Gunn to react incredulously to all the ridiculous stuff around him. It works but the character deserves better. He needs to start making his own actions and stop reacting to others. J. August
Richards can certainly do it, he just needs the writing to support him.

The Unknown:

I highly doubt Lorne was killed off-screen. I will admit if you’re going to kill a character off-screen, Lorne would be at that level. He’s endearing enough that it’ll be shocking. We are just getting to know him though, so we don’t need to see his death scene. Still I doubt it he’s actually dead and that has nothing to do with this being a rewatch. I didn’t think he was dead the first. It’s a good cliffhanger, but I’m not buying it.

Favorite Moment:

The wordless scene where Angel reacts to seeing his true demon and Fred unsuccessful attempt to comfort him was stellar. I don’t think the metaphor on display is going to win any points for subtly. It does connect perfectly to Angel’s search for his identity this season and it’s another great performance. On Fred’s side, not only do I love the visual of her bloodied hand trying to comfort him. It demonstrates pretty perfectly how damaged her years of slavery has made her.

Bottom Line:

This is the episode that “Over the Rainbow” wanted to be and it wasn’t successful. “Through the Looking Glass” dethrones season one’s “Sense and Sensitivity” as the funniest episode for me. It always can be deep tragic when it is required. It’s not one of the best episodes but it’s among the most enjoyable.

76 out of 100

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