Derek’s Review – 3.04 “Carpe Noctem”
Like most things with the character, they handled the Fred storyline very well. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how they have dealt with her crush on Angel and this was no exception. The crush made perfect sense for why it happened and it was never treated as a joke. The crush was always discussed as something sad and dangerous for Fred’s mental development. Of course Angel can’t deal with it because despite his 250 years, he has the emotional maturity of a sexually repressed teenager, so all of that worked well.
Unfortunately this episode is not about Fred or her crush. It’s the only real consequence of the episode but “Carpe Noctem” is all about the wacky hijinks of Angel swapping bodies with a geriatric. The idea of body swapping is interesting but it is highly disturbing. The thought of another person walking around in someone else’s flesh is about fifty different levels of creepy. It’s inherent to the concept, it’s uncomfortable. So making it a comedy episode is a flawed concept. There’s such a thing of uncomfortable humor and shows like The Office have used to great effect but that doesn’t happen in “Carpe Noctem”. Marcus walking around in Angel’s body is never really treated like horrifying. It’s supposed to be amusing that this old man is predatory and excited. We’re supposed to laugh at the difference between Angel and Marcus and I’m not.
The biggest sin, is the character’s response to Marcus!Angel where no one but Wesley seems to notice anything. They share nothing in common and Marcus is terrible at trying to be like Angel. The members of Angel Investigations give Marcus!Angel weird looks a couple times but shrug it off. After everything that happened last year, no member of Angel Investigations should act nonchalantly to Angel having a personality change.
Once before Angel tried to bring up Angelus in a comedy episode and it failed in “Forever”. Cordelia has the most ridiculous response to Angelus possibly being back on the show that I’ve ever seen. She just shrugs her shoulders and says they’re all thinking it. It’s as if Cordelia thinks Angelus is the same thing as Angel wearing a terrible aftershave that they all hate. It’s the most passive and lazy reaction to your best friend turning into a psychotic murderer. “Carpe Noctem” would be more tolerable if Angel Investigations responded to Marcus!Angel in more realistic and in-characters way but they don’t. Their characters are sacrificed at the altar of creating “humorous” situations.
There’s the lingering question of what effect Buffy’s resurrection should have on Angel. For me it should be almost negligible, I love Buffy Summers but her presence on the show ended a long time ago. When Angel told her she didn’t belong here, the character has been completely divorced from the action. I’m fine with acknowledging she’s coming back but I don’t need to see her next episode.
I really enjoy Cordelia and Fred in the opening moments. They are talking about skinny fashion models which is something that girls really do but in a complete Fred and Cordelia way. I especially enjoyed Fred having one of her patented outbursts and Cordelia smiling with Fred this time rather than at her. It was nice subtle moment of showing the two’s growing friendship.
I obviously don’t enjoy this episode but I don’t hate it either. Hatred implies some kind of investment in the story and from the very beginning “Carpe Noctem” disengaged me. It’s a pretty easy episode to just write off and I feel nothing but indifference for it.
48 out of 100