Derek’s Review – 3.18 “Double or Nothing”

The Good:

This is such a hard episode for me to quantify. On one hand the sense of loss and destruction following the last few episode is terribly emotive, much more than last episode. When this episode focuses on Angel, Wesley or Cordelia coming to terms with Connor’s abduction it is just really stellar television. Unfortunately though “Double or Nothing” is ostensibly Gunn’s episode and Gunn is the least interesting part of his own episode.

I enjoy how the Gunn story relates to Angel’s loss. When Angel learns that Gunn is in trouble and jumps into action because he won’t lose another member of his family, it tugs at all my heartstrings.  Similarly I’m drawn in when Gunn is interacting with Cordelia. Cordelia’s return has a two-fold benefit, one is the obvious Cordelia’s back. The other is it underlines how different the group is with just one member missing. The dynamic is so noticeably different with Cordelia around and I love that she immediately picks up on Gunn’s troubles when he mopes into the Hyperion. It’s something that no one was able to do with Wesley when he was in the midst of his paranoia. The change that happens with Cordelia’s return goes a long way of demonstrating how the group needs all of their friends to properly function. So a potential loss of Gunn feels very more desperate now that Wesley has been excommunicated.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the Wesley scenes because they are very painful but there is no denying their effectiveness. Though it’s obviously because of his neck wound, I love that Wesley is completely silent in all his scene. Alexis Denisof’ dark-eyed depression and dejection does a wonderful job of making his character sympathetic again. Not to mention it is the most interesting and dark storyline I’ve seen a network drama for one of its main “comic” characters do in a while and this aired in the early 2000’s.

The Bad:

So I guess its official, Angel has no stories for Gunn, or at the very least no new stories. Every time Gunn has an episode it all goes back to his backstory and it’s not like it’s a particularly good or unique backstory. All of Gunn’s story revolve on the man he used to be and it’s incredibly frustrating because all the episodes imply that we’ve seen Gunn grow. He’s not the same guy he was in “War Zone” but that’s because of a prolonged storyline where he changed, Gunn just stopped being that character because it didn’t suit J. August Richards of Angel’s writing style. There were definitely episodes that showed Gunn forming a deeper attachment to the members of Angel Investigations. In that area, Angel has always had a sturdy hand on the rudder but Gunn never learned some behavior or realized the error of his old life. The only time Gunn’s past is mentioned is in character-centric episode where he tells people he’s not THAT person anymore.

Furthermore what is so horrendous about the man Gunn “used” to be? He was a protector and leader of a community. If anything he is something to be emulated and admired but there this constant scorn that Gunn has for his past life and I’m not sure what that comes from or why it even existed. I suppose it has to do with his death wish that was discussed in “War Zone” and his sister telling him he took too many risks. This is even more obscure part of Gunn’s character though and has been shown in literally no episode but his first one.

Lastly the scene where Gunn breaks up with Fred is just nauseatingly bad. Both actors do a really nice job with the material but the material is garbage. Not only is it terribly cliché that Gunn breaks up with Fred for her own protection by saying the most heinous things possible but it makes no sense. Gunn is so warm with Fred and then he turns on a dime and Fred takes the verbal beating she receives at face value. It’s true that immediately following that scene Fred goes to Angel Investigations and tells everyone that something is off with Gunn but in that actual scene she seems to believe everything he says and just stands there crying as he berates her. It’s disgustingly manipulative and makes no sense for Fred’s character.  This is not the same character who went to Wesley’s hospital bed and told him he is to blame for all the terrible things that have happened to him and it was meaningless. It’s not as if she’s ever been shown to be deeply insecure about her body, appearance or her relationship with Gunn and Angel wants us to believe these two are in love she shouldn’t give up on him so easily. She should be fighting with him, demanding to know the truth no matter how vicious he gets in that scene. Instead there is this very weakly written scene that exists for the sake of shocking act break.

The Unknown:

I actually legitimately love Groo in this episode and his comedic reactions do a lot to balance out the dreariness of literally everything else. Still I would like there to be a serious conversation of his relationship with Cordelia. She spends the entire episode watching over Angel which she should but it’s obvious that she shares a deeper connection to Angel than Groo. I don’t question the fact that Cordelia is attracted to Groo or has affection for him but there seems to be a very quick expiration date on their relationship. Cordelia acts as if Gunn and Fred are the only couple in love in the Hyperion and that seems odd considering she just spent a week vacation cumshukking with Groo.

Favorite Moment:

Despite the rant this episode caused in me, I did have several moments that I really enjoyed. The first time we see Angel in the episode really got to me. I think it was incredibly smart for Angel to tell Cordelia what happened to Connor off-screen. If that scene was shown the whole episode would have to be about Cordelia coming to terms with the new status quo. Here we get all of the pain in one scene just by her face and her telling Angel “She’s sorry.” We jump right to the recovery and that really is the most important part. There can only be so much wallowing in Connor’s disappearance.

Bottom Line:

Again this is a really hard one for me to score. I really do love what is probably the majority of this episode but I absolutely hate the Gunn stuff and this is a Gunn episode. It’s not a terrible episode for Gunn because it doesn’t damage his character in any way it is just an incredibly boring story and just underlines a series-long problem with the character. Angel doesn’t seem recognize what they have in Gunn and the potential they could so easily mine and that just makes me sad.

58 out of 100

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