Derek’s Review – 4.14 “Release”

The Good:

The effect of having Faith in the entire episode is simultaneous by the opening. It’s so refreshing to have a character on Angel this season or is a tough spot but it is refusing to wallow. Or at the very least they are continuing to do something while they wallow. Faith’s feelings of inadequacy in this episode might rely a lot on being familiar with her journey on Buffy but it’s hard to separate me from that. In any case, the moments when the Faith storyline works the best in “Release” is her moments with Wesley. The audience only needs to look so far as Faith’s first crossover to understand why that dynamic is now fascinating.

Contrasting Faith and Wesley in “Salvage” and “Release” is a world of difference from them in “Five by Five” and “Sanctuary”. In fact looking back you can see that the birth of “dark” Wesley started when Faith nearly tortured him to death. Faith, inadvertently, made Wesley into the type of Watcher that she would listen to and respect.

The best part of the whole dynamic is how their philosophies have switched. Wesley is intense enough that Faith will listen to him but Faith no longer believes the same as Wesley. Wesley keeps talking about how Faith needs to unleash the monster and to take down Angelus. Faith continually keeps refusing both out of fear of tapping into that part of herself again and not wanting to hurt Angel. Most importantly everything that is going on with Faith is communicated almost solely through Eliza Dushku’s acting which is just fantastic.

The Bad:

It’s good getting to know that Cordelia is evil. It makes the seduction of Connor a bit easier to swallow. It is still really icky but at least Angel is definitely agreeing that it is gross now. By making Evil Cordelia a secret from everyone else though, Angel still feels like it is holding back. I understand the reasoning but it’s still a frustrating story. When Charisma Carpenter is allowed to play evil, it feels like the story is going somewhere. For the most part though she having to hide in the guise of the fake, nice, normal (BORING) Cordelia.

The Unknown:

I’ve made my feelings known about how Fred and Gunn broke up. I still don’t really like it. I will say though that I thought their kiss and mutual realization that they can’t get back together was a fantastic moment from both actors. The love triangle remains foolish but that tragic kiss was just perfection.

“Release” has an end more than most episode of Angel lately. It’s a cliffhanger to be sure, but if you want to read it as an ending you can. Faith loses her fight with Angelus and he turns her into a vampire. This is what the cliffhanger suggests is going to happen which is precisely why no one thinks it is going to happen. I’m not going to harp on more about Angel season 4 insistence that every episode needs to be a chapter in a book. I will also admit that Angelus biting Faith is effective but it is also very manipulative and cheap.

Favorite Moment:

Eliza Dushku’s acting in the opening scene is extraordinary. I’ll be the first to admit that she only really plays Faith in all her roles but she is good at it. We rarely see on Angel someone who is as physically damaged as Faith is in the beginning of the episode. When the lead character is a healing vampire, we don’t really ever get the impact and consequences of a fight. Faith taking off her clothes to shower is never sexualized and is just a really sad look at how many injuries she is hiding underneath her clothes. The best moment of the scene arrives when Faith submits to her grief and feelings of weakness, only to be outraged by the impotence and smash Wesley (beautiful) tile walls. It is such a sympathetic moment that immediately connects the audience with her character.

Bottom Line:

Despite the fact that “Release” ends on a huge cliffhanger and less happens in this episode than the previous one, I like it so much more. It really is just because Faith is in from the beginning and has the most complete arc but that’s obviously not a bad thing. Faith hasn’t quite saved season 4 for me but she’s getting close.

77 out of 100

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