Derek’s Review – 4.02 “Ground State”

The Good:

Gwen is easily the most successful new (side) character since Lorne. She’s certainly given the biggest introduction in a while. Angel is usually the only character who gets flashbacks and “Ground State” opens on Gwen’s past. More on that in a bit but Gwen makes a strong first impression. “Ground State” as an episode is pretty paint by numbers but the attraction here is Gwen. If she wasn’t a big a character as she is this episode could fall very flat and be very boring. She sparks (pun intended) a lot of life into this episode.

Otherwise Lilah and Wesley’s relationship remains wonderfully twisted and dark. There is a lot of exposition in the first fifteen minutes of “Ground State” but I completely excuse Lilah and Wesley’s exposition filled sex scene. Simply because there is so much going on than a simple exchange of information. There is a constant power struggle between the two. Who is on top (literally and figuratively) is constantly changing and evolving and it is fascinating to watch.

The Bad:

I think Amy Acker does a great job of playing frazzled Fred in “Ground State”. There is something clearly up with Fred from the first scene. My problem with that is the fact that Angel and Gunn seem oblivious to Fred. I’m willing to excuse Angel because while has grown, he is still Angel. Plus, he has tunnel vision finding out where Cordelia is and how to find her. It is utterly bizarre to me that Gunn has no idea that Fred is losing it. I’m fine with the honeymoon phase of their relationship being over but I just don’t buy that Gunn would be this inattentive to Fred’s needs and moods.  It just doesn’t seem to fit with the history of their relationship thus far.

Gwen starting Angel’s heart and the two making out is such bizarre choice to me. I get the logic, Angel gets excited and passionate because of his heart beating again. He gets swept up in the moment. I understand how it happens, I just don’t understand why. Gwen is obviously sexy character; she has a very clear sex-pot image. I don’t think you need hammer that point home by having Angel stick his tongue down her throat. It’s just weird. I suppose it sets up Gwen talking about her own romantic history in the elevator which is a nice moment but it is far from necessary.

The Unknown:

Everything else falls into a meh category. I have no strong feelings negatively or positively about “Ground State”. The Angel Investigations debriefing scene with Fred getting jealous of Angel’s artistic abilities is cute but yet another in a long sequence of exposition. Wesley starting his own demon hunting gang and refusing to rejoin Angel Investigations is intriguing but needs more time before I’m really invested. The same goes for Connor being homeless and sleeping on concrete.

The thing I have the biggest questions about is Lilah (again). I did think it was clever how Angel revealed that he knew Lilah and Wesley were sleeping together. I thought Lilah’s reaction to that news was similarly great. However, I do have a problem with that being the thing that causes Lilah to help Angel. Again, I don’t want to see Wesley become Lilah’s Achilles heel. This is twice in two episodes where she has been disturbed and concerned when someone has brought up Wesley. Now we know from “Deep Down” that Lilah plays the long game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lilah helping Angel in this episode comes back to haunt Angel in another. I don’t want to be anytime the plot needs Lilah to help out, Wesley is brought up and she immediately sways to demands.

As rushed as it was I did think Cordelia being assumed into Heaven at the end of the season 3 was a nice end to her story. Obviously it’s not the end though so I’m not sure what to make of this storyline. I can’t say I’m enjoying it so far but I also can’t say anything has happened. Cordelia’s appearances thus far have been perfunctory and virtually the same. She’s a glowy cloud and she’s not happy. This story needs to go somewhere and soon.

Favorite Moment:

Gwen’s opening flashback looks so different from anything that has been on Angel thus far. It’s so creepy and weird. It is a really jarring opening but it gives you such a good picture of what Gwen’s life is like or must have been like at one point. There is just a constant feeling of uneasiness throughout. I particularly love how it looks like it comes from a different era. I’m not sure how Angel achieved it but Gwen’s flashback does not like it was filmed in the 2002. It looks it comes from the time it takes place the mid-80s. That’s just a really cool touch.

Bottom Line:

“Ground State” is a fine episode. Despite the introduction of Gwen though, I’m not going to remember this episode at all. It’s passable and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just not a great thing either.

64 out of 100

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