Angel: Sense and Sensitivity

angelThis show is suffering from some of the same pitfalls that Buffy suffered from at the start.  There’s a cheesiness to it that is sometimes rather hard to stomach.  Sense and Sensitivity deals with sensitivity training gone awry.  It gets a bit over the top when a precinct full of police officers all start sharing their feelings and Kate, the bad-ass cop, unleashes all her raw emotions before getting everyone fired up.  It’s almost pantomime, and sort of embarrassing to watch. Was it really meant to be a mockery of expressing ones feelings?  Ultimately, being clear in communication is a good thing and I personally like the idea of people saying what they think, even if that’s not always pleasant.  It offers people a  chance to be genuine.   So is the message a good one?  I’m not so sure because I really felt the message of the episode gets muddled between the value of being sensitive, and the negative of being too sensitive.  An awkward balance.

I’m also not sure how I feel about the fact that Angel succumbs to the power of the staff.  I really expected him to remain unaffected, but instead he becomes all cozy, which really cost him the win.  Writer Tim Minear doesn’t actually show Kate getting gunned down, but if we are practical, the mob hitmen would not have stood around waiting for their comeuppance.  Watch the Sopranos if you need a refresher on mob life.  Or the Godfather.  The point is, these guys were Dollar Tree mobsters and hardly believable and their inability to shoot a room full of cops didn’t seem like a believable thing.  (Sure, I’m watching a show about vampires, so how much believability do I need in my TV, right?)  Now, having said all that, there was a certain joy in seeing Angel up against the mob.  Seeing Bobby Bacala (Steve Schirripa) in another Soprano’s-like story was loads of fun.  I was bummed that his appearance is so short lived.  Also, seeing Angel dressed like a wacky sight-seer was even more fun.  I don’t know that I buy that Angel keeps those garments in his car, but hey, it made for a great scene!

I’ll go a step farther: it’s the game of spot the pop culture reference that wins this otherwise difficult-to-watch episode from total failure.  Cordelia’s comment of disgust and surprise that “Jar Jar is getting his own talk show” had me hysterical.  I love these little games when watching this series, offering the audience a chance for interactivity seeing if they get the references.  And let’s be honest, there’s a universal hatred of Jar Jar Binks that knows no bounds.  I also loved the Trek reference that “Mr. and Mrs. Spock need to mind meld now.”  This puts the series in our universe, and I enjoy that.  Heck, even Flash Gordon gets the planetary name check with “the planet Mongo”.

For my money, this was little more than a “getting to know Kate” episode, but it’s not a good story.  What happens to the guy with the stick?  We see Angel beating him up but Angel comes back affected with sensitivity and we don’t know what happened to the villain.  Kate seems to want to be like her dad, but he comes off as a real jackass.  On the plus side, he’s not written out which gives me hope that we’re not done with this story arc yet and if Whedon has anything to do with it, I suspect that will get resolved at some point.  At least I hope so.  It’s already pretty clear that there’s an overarching theme with the law firm, so there’s still much to unpack.

The thing the sensitivity training did that I respected from a writing perspective was it gave Cordelia a chance to see the flip side of being too polite.  Again, as I said above, I’m not sure it’s a good message, but I felt the writer played a bit of seesaw with the sentiment about it.  Obviously, being polite is a good thing, but is this a question of too much of a good thing being the problem?  I think so, but that hardly makes for compelling viewing.

I would not rank this as a particularly good episode, but considering the quality of the parent series and the overall likeability of this cast, it’s hardly going to put me off viewing more.   ML

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