William’s Review – 4.02 “Ground State”

The Good

I liked getting introduced to Gwen. The opening was something very different for Angel and gave me an X-files intro vibe. The opening was great at establishing a sense of a history for why Gwen would end up becoming who she was. I think it was pretty evident that the writers put more effort in the creation of this character. The dialogue for the character was quick and snarky which I thought tied into her character pretty well. Mostly I think Gwen definitely left an impression which I appreciated. It felt like a different kind of Angel episode. It was also the most superhero feeling the show has ever gotten. Gwen had an interesting power set. I liked her explaining it a bit during the heist. I’m also a fan of characters that have powers that are also a curse. Rogue and Cyclops from the X-men come to mind. It makes for setting up an interesting character psyche. While her ending monologue about being a freak was a little on the nose I still liked it a lot. Having Angel there to relate was also pretty nice. I appreciated his “boo hoo” comment.

Not saying much, but I think this is the best heist the show has done. Angel references two, but I swear there have been more. Does the charity heist with Lindsay count? Meh I digress. It was interestingly shot. I like comparing Gwen to our gang and just how inept our group is compared to a pro. It established Gwen’s skill pretty well and I liked all the moving parts going on. The sight of Gunn collapsing on the floor was very striking and creepy. It was kind of ruined by Angel saying “he’s dead” just before the commercial break.

Angel’s speech about seeing Cordelia was sweet. The way he described her basically being in heaven and the way the group rallied around each other worked really well. I really like the shot of Fred on that love seat type furniture. They’ll end up using that in the opening credits in the future.

The Bad

Not a fan of the Gwen and Angel kiss. One I think Angel getting his heart restarted by an electric shock makes little sense. Yeah, yeah, it’s a show about a vampire with a soul, but still this really bugged me. It was mainly an excuse to get Gwen to make out with Angel. Which we get it, Gwen is sexy. Why do you need her to make out with Angel? I couldn’t really tell what they were trying to establish with that scene? Is Gwen supposed to be the Catwoman to Angel’s Batman? Mostly I just think they had the scene just to be titillating.

The Unknown

So it goes without saying there is a definite male gaze going on in this episode. Gwen is definitely sexualized in the episode. I guess the more reason I didn’t mind this is that it tied into her background. I think without the flashback episode and the ending monologue I probably would have had a much bigger problem with it. As it was the story of telling a character that has been without human contact and been told how to act and dress her whole life suddenly owning herself I can kind of get around. Of course that can just be the justification of having her dress up in red leather with mid drift showing. So clearly you can take it either way.

This is the second episode in a row to end with floating head Cordelia. It felt pretty lazy to repeat this, but I guess the fact that she wants to get out of there is an interesting wrinkle. If this continues though I think I’ll start having a problem with it.

Can I find out more about Gwen’s butler? Very strange inclusion.

Favorite Moment

Fred’s breakdown I thought was the emotional scene in the episode. I like them exploring Fred a bit more and having there be consequences for the group being fractured between seasons was nice. Also, just a great bit of acting from Amy Acker. I also enjoy making the Gunn and Fred relationship feel real by not always being nauseatingly perfect. Show them have real concerns or fights.

Bottom Line

I thought this was one of the better standalone episodes we’ve got in a while. I thought the inclusion of Gwen was nice. She definitely made for a more interesting side character than we usually get. Also I’m a sucker for basically any superhero storylines.

Score: 69 out of 100

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