William’s Review – 3.11 “Birthday”

The Good

Not quite The Wish, but this was still great. I really do enjoy alternate reality storylines.

The first part of the episode with Cordelia as a ghost worked. I do like the different reactions from Angel investigations to Cordelia’s coma. Angel’s reactions were typical to his character for the most part aside from two. The “you really piss me off” was an interesting reaction that I kind of liked. Him feeling slightly betrayed by Cordelia hiding the information had some real life parallels to people hiding addictions or debilitating illness’s from their friends and family. Mainly Angel is scared and worried for Cordelia so there is this nice bubbling over of emotions from him. The second scene from Angel I’ll save for the unknown. There is also a nice scene between Wes and Angel at Cordelia’s bedside that was effective by playing up the history between the characters. Fred’s reaction was also nice for being different. Her focusing on what Cordelia was hiding worked and I’m glad they had one character ask the hard questions. Speaking of Fred, Gunn’s cute reaction about Fred worked. Gunn didn’t really react to Cordelia, but I thought his remark about Fred was worth mentioning as they have been doing a good job of showing Gunn and Fred’s interactions with each other.

Once we got to the alternate reality there were a number of things I really enjoyed. I liked the acknowledgement that Cordelia would still end up being a good person if she became famous. It’s subtle but her remark to her assistant about the breast cancer awareness was a nice touch. Love the nods to the shows history and changes with the alternate time line. Wes loses his arm to the demon that he was tracking in the first episode he appeared on in season 1. Also Wes mentions a demon rising in Reseda. And who doesn’t like seeing a bad ass Wes. Yes it looks silly that you can totally tell that his arm is just in that jacket, but still a grizzled burly Wes was still a cool deviation from the character we normally see. Once Cordelia finds Angel in the alternate reality I found the scene very affecting. One I just love how that scene is shot. The use of blue light made it feel other worldly. Two Angel’s performance in that scene is very heartbreaking. His fractured performance while talking about Doyle’s death was emotional. I loved him cowering in the corner and continuing to write 171 on the wall. All of it worked really well that I could see Cordelia being moved to kiss him. Also Wes saying that sometimes Angel sends him out to people he’s already killed was another dark mark for this timeline. It worked at showing where Angel would be without his tie to humanity, Cordelia, and just what kind of effect the visions would have on Angel who already has so much going on with the curse.

The Bad

It does have a bit of a balancing problem. I honestly just really wish we had more time in the alternate reality as a personal preference. It just felt like we spent so little time in the elseworld that we didn’t really get to soak in the full effect of the difference Cordelia had on our group’s life. I think the balancing problem was on display by immediately making Cordelia try and find the vision girl. Not to compare this to the Buffy episode The Wish, but that episode worked so well because we spent so much time in an alternate world. I think if the episode was entirely Cordelia as a ghost or mostly Cordelia in the otherworld it might have been more effective than what we got.

Cordelia coming in on Angel calling her weak right away was an annoying TV contrivance. I get that we need an excuse that Cordelia would chose the selfish world. Not even the threat of death is quite enough, still I hated using that as a tool. It’s SO convenient and felt a little cheap. And just like that she’s gone before Angel explains his reaction.

The threat of Cordelia dying or was dead didn’t hit me hard enough. They’ve done better in previous episodes of making the toll the visions feel like a real threat. This just didn’t quite have the same effect. It might be because it’s on rewatch or maybe it’s just the sight of seeing Cordelia walking around as a ghost. I just never felt like there was a real threat to this character.

So baby Connor just got forgot about entirely. It would have been a nice change for the character if Angel had at least acknowledged that he’s a father. I get that it’s not the focus of the episode, but things should change slightly if there is a baby on the show. Just a little remark from either Angel or honestly any character would have helped.

The Unknown

Angel talking bad about Cordelia was interesting if nothing else. Still I’m unsure why Angel chose to do this. I get he’s desperate and it reflects really well when you think that he’s just describing himself. Basically everything he describes is who he ends up becoming in the alternate reality.

There seems to be something going on with Skip. When he shows the previous girl who got the visions before, he tells her to go away at one point and his demeanor really changes then. Also, later when Skip shows up at the end and is pretty angry at Cordelia. So it’s hard to say what he really wants. And he is certainly not squeaky clean for supposed to be a “good guy.”

So did they really go and save that girl from the first vision? Skip called it writing over history, but I don’t know if that was enough to ignore that once you change history it would be reasonable to assume the girl doesn’t need to be saved again. Unless…

Was it all just a test? A lot of the reactions from Skip and the way Cordelia immediately tries to go back to our world seem to point that this wasn’t ever a real change. If it was a test why wasn’t there at least a remark from Skip about it being one? What is to gain by making Cordelia part demon?

Favorite Moment

“Just Demonize me already” was my favorite moment in the episode. Besides being a great Cordelia line, it was such a self-sacrificing moment. It was a great way to show how great and heroic Cordelia truly is. It shows off what we love about Cordelia. I love that we can have a character on equal footing with Angel that is still such a champion, but in her own way.

Bottom Line

It did have a balancing problem, I wished we had more time in the else world to really make that last moment as emotionally effecting as possible. But I do love getting else world stories and I liked all of the nods to the shows history and just getting a Cordy centric episode in general was just great.

Score: 67 out of 100

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