William’s Review – 3.01 “Heartthrob”

The Good

I thought this episode did feel like they had taken a break(in a good way). I was excited to get back to watching Angel and they really sold the sense that three months had passed. Even though we got a bunch of exposition from our gang I thought the writing felt witty and fresh. There is a tonal energy that just made this episode fun to watch. Coupled with the fact that this had to deal with Buffy’s death I thought led to an interesting dynamic.

Really this is an Angel-centric  episode. I loved how they progressed with reflecting on where Angel is at now and where he was. They did this a number of ways. First I thought the use of flashbacks was very effective. Showing the devil may care attitude from Angelus worked at showing stark contrast with Angel now. I also thought the inclusion of James made for an evil reflection of the love torn Angel we may have seen from say season 2 of Buffy. Give all these different perspectives clashing against this Angel that seems “okay” worked in developing the character. It played on your expectations on how Angel might react and was honestly pretty surprising.  It also led to a wonderful moment at the end of the episode where we’ve seen how much Angel has matured (see favorite moment)

Cordelia was fantastic as always. I’m glad we reestablished that the visions where taking a toll. They had a bathroom scene with her talking to Dennis which I thought was actually handled pretty tastefully and seeing that cabinet full of medications is not a good sign for Cordelia. I also like that Cordelia in this episode immediately knew something was off about Angel even when the rest of the gang lets it go. She tries to be supportive while still feeling like Cordelia. She’s blunt, she’s brash, but she’s also very caring. I thought Cordelia was also very funny in the episode. “Look how this necklace brings out my breasts!” Or “Invincible you say?” where just very funny moments in the episode.

Seeing Fred was excellent again. I love how her story interacts with Angel’s. It was nice seeing the Angel that helps people really show up. He handles Fred gingerly, but not in a degrading way. He does come in as this shinnying white night with his big smile and bright blue shirt. It was a little off putting in contrast to us dealing with Buffy’s death, but it was nice seeing Angel helping people again. Fred seems to have unhealthily clinged on to Angel and her using the walls of the room she’s stayed in is a clear sign of how little she’s recovered from Pylea. Getting the exposition from the rest of the gang really helped sum up where her character is at. Gunn recognizing the strength within her to survive that place and Cordelia seeing her trade one cave for another. Also Angel yelling at her to get back to her room was another funny moment.

I thought James as a villain worked pretty well. He may have been a little one note as just the love obsessed vampire, but I loved how he worked in contrast to Angel. Also I’m just a fan of anytime they deal with Angel’s past. I also thought they did a great job of making him a viable threat. He’s more formidable than your everyday vampire and the unkillable aspect added for an interesting wrinkle with both Angel and Cordelia on the run. Also points for calling back to the Ring of Amarh.

Other little moments I enjoyed were getting a musical number from Lorne in Caritas and the opening of “I should have gone to Vegas.” There were numerous moments like these that just added both being entertaining and setting up this world and this show.

And boy oh boy was that cliffhanger something. Well its always great to see Julie Benz, but this had a serious sense of foreboding and loved the implication of things to come.

The Bad

Nothing bad as such…

The Unknown

Well Darla’s pregnant…

Favorite Moment

Cordelia’s speech to Angel at the end of the episode was by far the best moment. I love that these two have grown so close that Cordelia can have this very insightful moment where she “doesn’t think, she just knows.”  It was a very sweet scene that paid a lot of respect to the memory of Buffy. Really I think they line that just really hit me emotionally was Cordelia saying “that’s not betraying her, that’s honoring her.” It was this wonderful moment that really built Angel up. I also like how Angel had this very simple reaction of “you think?” It seemed like a wonderful moment between friends. It was a scene that showed a lot of maturity and growth from both these characters that they could have this heart to heart.

Bottom Line

I was very impressed with this as the start of the season. I thought it felt very natural and fluid to help new viewers. It paid respect to the memory of Buffy. We got to see a real connection in the Angel and Cordelia relationship. And that cliffhanger was just really shocking and intriguing to set up a dramatic opening to our season.

71 out of 100

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