Having returned to the land of Buffy, I was really looking forward to sticking with the Slayer but heard that the best way to watch this series was to alternate between Buffy and Angel. I was a bit bummed to have to put the other on hold, but In the Dark starts off so well that I didn’t look back. The episode opens with Angel saving a young lady from an abusive boyfriend after which we see Spike overhead watching the encounter. James Marsters wins the entire episode in that opening sequence as he supplies the voice-over for the dialogue going on below. I forgot just how funny this series could be. I was hooked from the start, because I wanted bad-boyfriend to get what was coming to him, but I was utterly delighted with the comedy.
I’m not sure the cast comes close to that of Buffy, but seeing Oz visit was a nice, and unexpected, touch. Who doesn’t like Seth Green? I find Charisma Carpenter remarkably attractive, but her character is almost too cliché with her dippy lines. I felt like I was supposed to laugh at her dopiness more than I did, although I did love her line about Doyle who will “celebrate the opening of a mailbox with a drink down at the pub!” Doyle is a good character but I don’t know how much I buy his spikey character sniffing out a ring. Spike is actually loads of fun to listen to and I think he summed Angel up well, saying he has a “real addiction to the brooding part of life.” What I don’t think aged well is Angel himself, particularly as he does some random tai chi as if he’s not a several hundred year old vampire and is instead studying under Mr. Miyagi! Stake on, stake off… The show still suffers a bit from those bad edits that plagued its parent series from time to time too. In one scene, Angel’s torturer is prepping his next cruelty and the camera shows him in front of Angel, but when Angel tries to pick up the broken piece of wood, the torturer is behind him. Next scene, he’s back where he was, in front of Angel. And then there’s the logic of it all.
Ok so the episode focuses on the Ring of Amara which gives a vampire the ability to walk in the sunlight and never die. Spike wants it and will torture Angel to get it. There’s a lot of angst about it because Buffy sent it to Angel, but Angel won’t put it on. Now, I haven’t been jilted by a 19 year old beauty in almost as much time as Angel has been alive, but I don’t think that would be enough to make me stop putting on the ring that would give me the ability to survive nearly anything, including sunlight. (I’m a ginger; I meant that literally. Sunlight burns me almost as fast as it does the average vampire!) So rather than allow Spike to beat him up, why not put the ring on and be done with it. Debate the value while you wear it if you need to. Even if I am willing to explain that away with “emotions are unpredictable things”, what about the chain? Spike has a henchman who lassos Angel by the throat who promptly falls onto his back – the exact wrong way to expect him to have fallen. He then struggles to breath, but I am reasonably certain it was this series that said vampires don’t need air. (Please share in the comments if I’m mixing two different shows!) And after Oz drives his van down the boardwalk and hits a man, does he just drive off and no one stands in his way?? I guess the police here are as absent as the ones in Sunnydale. (I should reserve this comment because that was explained in Buffy, but come one… LA too??)
On the other hand, I love when expectation is shattered like ancient artefacts under a brick and there were three times that happened in just this one episode. I didn’t see it coming when the torturer got the ring or for that matter how he felt about children. That was creepy and, like Karate Vampire Kid, I don’t know how well that aged. The second shock was when Angel was about to stake the torturer, Spike stops him. Everything about that scene was perfectly setup to drive the point home, literally, but it was taken by Spike’s surprise arrival. And lastly, I didn’t expect Angel to crush the ring. It might make complete sense, but I still didn’t see it coming and I love when I can be surprised by a show. This series, like its parent, is reminding me what it’s like to be surprised by television. Angel might be an old vampire, but he can still pull a few new tricks out of his oversized coat. ML
Cliche characters for TV and films may persist somehow in this generation. Certainly when comedy relief is involved. In regard to the thrills of being surprised by a good TV show, such characters like Cordelia may have the potential to grow out of it. The Ark’s Alicia is a nice reminder of that. Thank you, ML, for your review.
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