Derek’s Review – 3.21 “Benediction”
This is probably the most traditional penultimate season episode of Angel. It’s primary function is to set up the finale and start to wrap the season. In all of this “Benediction” is reasonably successful. All likability problems with Connor aside, the cliffhanger does a very good job of making me want to see the next episode. There is also some geniue emotional response caused by Angel thinking everything will be alright only for hope to be snatched away. This obviously isn’t the first that Angel has given hope that Angel and Connor will be together, only to snatch away but it’s still effective.
The reason it works so well here is because of Holtz. As I found him all season, I find Holtz infinitely fascinating. The performance and the writing is so good that it just manages to override the horrible old man, just barely but still overrides. Holtz manipulations work so well because of the kernel of truth in all of them. I believe he loves Connor. I believe he thinks Connor would be better with Angel. Everything and everyone comes secondary for Holtz and his revenge. This single-mindness could make him a very shallow character but it doesn’t at all. Holtz is self-aware enough that he always feels real. He knows he is pursuing vengeance not justice and he damned himself in the process. He just doesn’t care anymore.
It was a successful episode for “good” men doing bad things. Wesley was equally interesting to me. It’s a redux of his scene with Lilah in the last episode but that story is progressing. It’s moving slowly which is what you’d hope and expect but you can see the seeds of seduction are taking root. Wesley tells Lilah everything she needs to know by showing up. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t want Justine killed, he still is interested enough to hear what Lilah has to say. This isn’t the actions of a man who is truly disgusted with Wolfram and Hart or Lilah’s offer.
I officially can’t stand Justine. There was a glimmer of hope for her when Holtz left but she plummeted right back into hellish pit of non-existent character now that he is or was back. Justine is not a person, she’s not a character. She’s a thing Holtz and the show uses to advance the plot and I’m sick of it. I’m tired of seeing her. I’m over being asked to care about her emotions or motivations. Just go away.
I feel numb towards Connor as well. It is hate or dislike yet, but I’m struggling to care. There is such a disconnection between the cute baby of a couple weeks away and this angry teenager. This of course the point, there is meant to be an element of loss. Still I can’t connect to Connor on emotional level. His story is sad but it’s only tragic on paper. The idea of what happened to him is heart-breaking but I don’t feel it because I don’t know him. This could change in time but a lot of these last few episodes have relied on immediately connecting with Connor and I don’t. Angel hasn’t given me a reason to because the fact that he is Angel’s son.
Glowly Cordelia taking away Connor is so strange to me and not just because of the aforementioned shiny Cordy. I just don’t understand the purpose behind it. Why introduce Connor with this complicated, dark backstory if you’re going to make Cordelia zap away his pain? It might serve to make Connor more likable sure, but it’s also a very flippant attitude. It just isolates me from Connor even more because I don’t know what I’m supposed to think of him. Should I be sympathetic to his struggles in Quoroth? Do those even matter now? Who is this guy besides a pawn in a game between Holtz and Angel?
I didn’t actually remember what Holtz’s true plan was until the episode was almost over. So on rewatch, watching Angel and Holtz come to “agreement” about Connor was extra tense and heart-breaking. They both do a great job in the scene and there are moments where Holtz comes off as completely sincere. When you watch it back knowing that Holtz is getting ready to blame his death on Angel it becomes so much more dark and engrossing.
If the last episode didn’t exist, I’d be more favorable to this one. As it stands now there is too much set-up and its set-up that doesn’t really go anywhere. I could be wrong but the only pertinent information for the finale is Holtz being killed and Connor thinking Angel is behind it. A lot of “Benediction” is stall tactics and spinning wheels. We get even more scenes with Groo realizing Cordelia doesn’t love him and more scenes of Connor being aggressive. It’s just too much of the same thing which only worked OK the first time around.
56 out of 100