Derek’s Review – 3.05 “Fredless”

The Good:

I really enjoyed this episode. Angel has really done something fantastic with the Fred, especially with their spotty track record on supporting characters. Angel has always struggled to keep their supporting characters in focus but not the case with Fred. Each episode since her introduction they’ve done little things with her, so everything that happens her has maximum effect and is completely earned.

It also goes a long way in grounding Fred to a more realistic. I’ve never had much of problem with the eccentric nature of her character but this gave it so much more context. Fred showed self-awareness here that doesn’t contradict her behavior in previous episodes but only adds to it. Fred knows she’s not normal and that her experience in Pylea changed her. Fred’s always been a tragic character but adding her awareness to her condition adds a whole another level.

While there are some terrifically moments in this episode, the emotions hit me hard. Fred’s parents while stereotypes do feel like real parents. Their love for their daughter feels so genuine and there is such an immediate sense of history there.

The Bad:

The demon story feels clearly tagged on to the proceedings. Fred needs to be given something to solve and there needs to be something to fight. While I’d prefer an episode that was nothing but Fred coming to grips with her mental state that’s not the type of show that Angel has become. I don’t have a problem with the existence of the demon bugs, I just wish it was better incorporated.

The Unknown:

I typically don’t like misdirection but this did manage to work on both levels. You can read the Burkle’s as nefarious and you can read them as caring parents tired of being pulled around. The one scene it doesn’t work is Lorne’s conversation with Fred. Lorne desperately tries to keep Fred from reconciling with her family and there’s a way to see that as him transferring his own family issues. There’s something going on with Lorne and he’s much less “Host-y” than he was before but I need to see more to make a proper judgement on what happens here.

Favorite Moment:

Fred’s breakdown hits me a visceral way. The line about her parents not being there at night and she was all alone gets me everytime I watch it. It’s just an economical and heartbreaking way to tell use how Fred became the person she is and why she acts the way that she does.

Bottom Line:

If it weren’t for the sloppiness of the bug story, this could easily be one of the best episodes of Angel. It’s still an excellent episode but it doesn’t quite reach the upper echelon of episodes.

85 out of 100

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One response to “Derek’s Review – 3.05 “Fredless””

  1. Comment says :

    Spoilers for later episodes/ Very long comment
    I actually disagree, to me Fred is not a well written or well used character. I think she fits completely into the pixie dream girl trope, and that they never challenge that trope with her. Her combination of traits (genius smart, childish, babbling, socially a little weird) I know of eight other TV-characters that share. We already had Willow who is similar.

    For me they go a bit over the top in her characterization. I think Amy Acker does a wonderful job, and refer to the writing. As time goes she is shown as genius smart in any area, and almost anything she does is written to be done in a cute or babbling way. To me that makes her a clearly written character, I don’t imagine I can meet someone this babbling, this smart etc. I think the writing pushes “like her” too hard. Count how many times during season 3 someone in the show says how cute or adorable she is. Despite being very different people everyone in the show adores her already in Fredless, where they don’t really know her yet, or she has contributed with something that makes the adoration understandable to me. Despite being different all male characters see her as the ideal girlfriend. At season 5 we are told she for all other characters on the show represents the goodness, light and example of what they see as especially precious. Of course there are things we can admire about Fred, but so is it about other characters and they don’t get portrayed as more precious than others. Characters react to Fred as they never have done before with people we were told were important to them. Angel and Spike never reacted this way with Buffy despite she being the person that was part of changing their lives. Angel was supposed to be in love with Cordy and reacts nothing like this to the horrible things that happen to her. When I watch episodes I can see that people behind the show think the character of Fred is especially cute or great. I prefer that you don’t see this through the writing, and prefer that they only characterize characters and not tell me what I should think about their traits.

    To me she is not well used. After her trauma from Pylea she is mostly used as being around and doing something cute, or being the one others are in love with. I seldom see focus on other sides than cute, and she doesn’t to me have much of a storyline. It reminds me of Cordy in season 2, where she was mostly used to be there at Hyperion and react in a typically Cordy way to what Angel does. But Cordy at least alternated between more vain/ selfish and all for helping others. And Cordy had been better used and had development in season 1. When Fred gets focus, I see it as an outside focus on how others see her. I don’t feel I get to know her or what she thinks. Fred is also for my interest limited in that she is flawless. I see her characterized as if all her traits are adorable, and as she never does something wrong. Fred is the heroine in the Jasmine story. I too would give her credit for that. But I want to point out that the writers chose to give this role to her, not to e.g. Gunn. To me this is part of what becomes written too flawless, she is not only the adorable one everyone falls in love with, she is also when needed the heroine. I don’t think Fred is written to have much agency. Fred deals in important episodes, but she usually reacts to situations she is put in. I seldom see her be active in making something happen in her life, like having a goal she tries to reach, making decisions about what AI should do, finding a place to live. I do see changes in Fred, but to me they are negative. I see her portrayed as more perfect dream girl, more especially precious to the group.

    I don’t think the addition of her improves the cast, and I think it hurts Cordy. At the beginning Cordy was shown as the younger, the unfortunate damsel in distress, the one the men care about and central to the group. All those functions and attention quickly go over to Fred. Later Cordy is missing from three important arc episodes, which show how quickly she became more distant. The friendships between Cordy and Wesley, Wesley and Gunn disappears. Cordy and Fred have scenes together, but they don’t build anything here. The sense of family and tight group from the first seasons gets lost for me. The treatment of Fred in parts of season 5 is to me outright offensive towards Charisma Carpenter. We are clearly told that Fred is the center of the group, the irreplaceable, the heart of the show, ignoring the friendships with and care for Cordy the characters showed in the beginning, and how central to the group Cordy was portrayed then. If you add in that one female lead was fired form her job and the other female lead shown as the irreplaceable sunshine of the show.

    I don’t see why her character is needed on the show. We already had Wesley to be the intelligent case solver. Wesley stops having that function in season 3, but at that time they aren’t solving cases anymore. We already had a heart of the show character. Maybe Cordy would be given a story so she stopped having that function anyway, but I think I would prefer that they found a new function for a new character. I feel she is added mostly to let the show have a cute/adored by others character, not because another character is needed for the story.

    On a personal level I dislike when everyone in a show treat a character as more precious than others. I think I prefer if opinions are split (one sees a character as precious because this is the traits he/she values, others see none or another as precious). I also dislike the trope of treating characters as precious because they are cutesy, innocent or have good thoughts. I think I prefer to adore a character who has both flaws and good sides. Or that characters do active actions because of their good thoughts (such as Anne who started a teen shelter ) and we are told to adore them because of what they do.
    I found this page when I tried to read about Angel. After seeing how way both of you state that the writing for Kate and Lindsey don’t work and how well the writers are handling Fred, I wanted to comment to say that I thought the writing for Kate and Lindsey was fine, I do not think the writing for Fred is great, and this is how I interpret it. It is only an opinion, and affected by what types of writing and usages of characters that works for me, what I need to see on screen to think someone is well written etc. It may seem laughable or something to brush of as unserious that I see Fred this way, “there is lot of layers”, “how can you not see the change from traumatized to confident heroine”. But yes, depending on preferences mentioned above, it is possible to interpret it that differently. I’m not the only one who sees Fred like this. To me she becomes too weak a character for a series regular. When Cordy changed and Wesley became an outsider the group around Angel lost its appeal for me.

    Angel watcher

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