Reflecting on Whedon: Angel

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After discovering Buffy the Vampire Slayer and devouring all seven seasons on Netflix, I set my sights on the spinoff starring David Boreanz, Angel. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Angel wasn’t exactly my favorite character in the Buffyverse, but I had faith that Joss would deliver something good nonetheless.

I was right. Angel was a good show. After watching all five seasons, I think I have decided that I liked Buffy slightly better, but it’s really a pretty tough call. Buffy probably had better characters and better humor, but Angel was no slouch either.

As is typical with Whedon’s shows, the episodes tended to vary wildly–sometimes they were funny, sometimes thought-provoking, and sometimes depressing. Not all of the episodes were amazing, but most were good or better.

Spoilers ahead!

Favorite Season: Season 4

This is an insanely difficult choice for me. I like season 4 for a lot of reasons, but it wasn’t perfect. I really liked the story, because it had great villains and a lot of plot elements were tied together nicely. It also had a great cast of characters. The cast was really sparse early in the show, but it eventually expanded and each new character gave the show more depth and variety.

But there were some things I didn’t like, namely Conner. He was just such a terribly written character. Whenever the writers needed a scapegoat, it was Conner. And he was so damn annoying; the teenage angst was more than I could bear.

Least Favorite Season: Season 5

Let’s face it, season 5 came on the heals of one epic season that just could not be topped. Season 5 floundered with filler episodes and, in the end, didn’t get around to addressing the bigger picture until the last minute. The concept didn’t work from the start and the episodes just weren’t the same quality I had come to expect.

Perhaps the thing that annoyed me the most was that Fred was killed. It was a stupid stunt and it was petty. What made it worse was that we were reminded every following episode with the presence of Illyria. It didn’t improve the show at all, in fact I think it was only worse after that point.

Favorite Episode: Smile Time

Yes, there were great episodes in each season no doubt, but there were none so amazingly hilarious as “Smile Time.” The one bright spot in season 5 was the ridiculous episode where Angel is turned into a puppet.

Least Favorite Episode: Lullaby

This is the episode where Conner was born. By this time, I couldn’t have been more sick of Darla. She was way overused and I grew very tired of her character. I never cared for the concept of her being pregnant and watching an entire episode of her whining and moaning through labor didn’t win her any points in my book.

Runner up: “The Girl in Question.”

There were three episodes left in the entire series and the writers had the audacity to show a filler episode where Angel and Spike travel to Rome and bicker over Buffy. They didn’t even cast Sarah Michelle Gellar in the episode. It was just dumb.

Favorite Character: Fred

I think it was the smile that sold me. Fred was exactly what the show needed after a couple of pretty bleak early seasons. I also really liked Wesley and Gunn. Their chemistry, especially in season 2, was a surprise and I thought it worked really well. Cordelia also ended up being a much better character than I ever would have guessed.

Least Favorite Character: Conner

Considering how much I have already ranted about him, I’ll move on.

Favorite Villain: Jasmine

Angel never really had the same caliber of villains that Buffy had, but Jasmine was pretty solid. If nothing else, I respect the casting choice.

Least Favorite Villain: Darla

She was only a semi, partial villain, but I simply grew tired of her.

I’m a little disappointed that this post seems to have turned out a bit on the negative side, but when you really love something, the parts that you don’t love can really stand out. I think that is what happened here.

If you didn’t see it previously, I also reflected on Buffy back in December. I think I’ll tackle Dollhouse next and save the best (Firefly) for last!

Reflecting on the Work of Joss Whedon

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I’m currently watching the fifth and final season of Angel, and when I finish watching the series, I will have watched all of Whedon’s television series in full. Now, with just seven episodes left, I’ve been thinking back to how I first ventured into the vast and beautiful universe of Joss Whedon, lovingly dubbed the Whedonverse by his countless legions of fans.

It was back in college–2005–when I first discovered Whedon’s work. I was in my senior year and I saw a trailer on TV for Serenity. I thought it looked terrible, so terrible in fact that I later checked rottentomatoes.com just to see how bad everyone else thought it was. What I found blew me away. The reviews were incredibly positive, one even going so far as to compare it to The Empire Strikes Back, my favorite movie.

Needless to say, I grabbed a friend and went straight to the movie theater and, yeah, it was awesome. When I learned that it was based on a TV show, It was really excited, because that meant I got to see more of the stellar crew of the Serenity.

A short time later, I acquired the series on DVD and burned through Firefly it no time. Then I took a break from Whedon. At some point I discovered that the creator of both Firefly and Serenity was also responsible for Buffy and Angel, but I didn’t feel compelled to dive into those series. Buffy was a show that the “weird” kids in high school watched and I had no love for vampires. (Later, I would see the err of my ways.)

Then three years later, in 2008, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog came around and was a web sensation, going viral instantly. I watched it. It was amusing, but I wasn’t blown away. (Later, however, I wound find myself playing the audio regularly at work.)

So when I heard about Dollhouse, Whedon’s latest creation, a short time later, I was intrigued. The concept sounded pretty cool and I had loved Firefly and Serenity so much that I thought it would be worth checking out. I’m so glad that I did. No, Dollhouse, won’t go down as my favorite piece of the Whedonverse, but after watching the first season (which wasn’t even half as good as the second), I was intrigued enough by Whedon’s work to snag the first disc of season one of Buffy with my newly acquired Neflix account.

The rest is pretty much history. Since then, I’ve watched all seven seasons of Buffy and moved onto Angel. I’ve also watched all of Dollhouse and the second season, largely thanks to Whedon alum, Summer Glau, was fantastic.

Now, Dollhouse is over and I’m almost done with Angel. When I finish the series, I suspect it will only leave me looking for more. What am I going to do? Whedon’s work has pretty much been a staple in my life for like the last two years. The incredible writing, the drama, the humor, and, yeah, the action…I’m going to miss it.

Perhaps I’ll jump into the graphic novels. I think Buffy, Angel, and Firefly have all spurred graphic novels written by Joss and some of his family members. I’ve heard some of them are quite good in fact. I’ve never been a huge comic guy, but I might just have to make an exception.

Another thing that will keep me occupied for a little while is Supernatural. This show is fantastic and reminds me a lot of Whedon’s work. It has great dramatic themes and just the right amount of wit. Unfortunately, I’m pretty far along and it won’t keep me occupied for long.

Perhaps there is no substitute. Perhaps the only thing I can do is rewatch my favorite episodes of those amazing shows (like I’m doing with Firefly now). Whatever I do, I’m really glad that I made the journey through the Whedonverse. It was far more powerful, wonderful, and humorous than I ever would have guessed. Whedon’s work spoke to me in ways that no other show ever has.

Thank you Joss for making my life a little shinier. My hat’s off to you.

Mutant Enemy

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So the other day I was at work and I was listening to music on my iPod. I had just added a few albums that I hadn’t heard in awhile and found myself listening to Yes’ Close to the Edge album, which is a progressive rock masterpiece of epic proportions. (Whoah, just geeked out a little hard on that…but really it is good stuff if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Anyways, I was listening to “And You and I” and caught the phrase “mutant enemy” and thought to myself, “Wait, isn’t that the name of Joss Whedon’s production company?” You know, the guy responsible for all of those awesome tv shows like Buffy, Angel, and Firefly? Why yes, if fact it is.

So after referring to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia entry,┬áit turns out that Joss was or is a big Yes fan himself and took the name from that very song. I thought that it was pretty cool that I actually made the connection, that is until I realized how many times I’ve heard the song and totally missed it.

Here’s the verse where it’s used:

Said preacher nailed upon the colored door of time
Insane teacher be there reminded of the rhyme
There’ll be no mutant enemy we shall certify
Political ends, as sad remains, will die
Reach out as forward tastes begin to enter you

Wow, those are some pretty weird lyrics and I’m not even going to try to figure out what they mean at this time of night, but that’s Yes for you.

Well, that’s it for today. Grrr. Arrrgh.