"Entropy"/"A New World" S2002 / E18 & 20
- B Community Grade
Maybe it’s because I’ve been Buffyless for the past two weeks, but “Entropy” felt like an old-school episode to me, with nearly every character represented and some good interplay between them. Even better, it featured some inspired cross-cutting between the various stories as they gradually converged.
“Entropy” opens with The Trio riding on their supercool, stake-equipped ATVs, chasing vampires so that they can retrieve a disk they need to complete one more big job, which Jonathan hopes will net them enough cash to retire from their life of crime—a hope that makes Andrew and Warren skeptical about Jonathan’s ultimate reliability. The Trio has another problem in the making though, in that Buffy has discovered one of their hidden cameras, embedded in a gnome statue in her yard, and has put Willow to work tracing both where the camera’s signal leads and what other cameras are on The Trio’s network.
The Trio aren’t the only ones feelin’ voyeuristic. Early on, while Xander is drinking and listening to sad mid-tempo pop-rock—or as I call it, “Whedon music”—Anya is watching him. Finally she goes inside. When Xander asks how’s she’s been, she says, “Ducky. You?” And he says, “Un.” Then Anya—having been re-vengeance-demoned—makes a series of horrific wishes for Xander, none of which come true because of a quirky rule that prevents vengeance demons from working on their own behalf.
Anya tries to get one of her ladyfriends to wish Xander ill, but they all know firsthand how bad he feels, and since they’ve all made plenty of mistakes of their own of late, they’re in a sympathetic place. So where can Anya turn? Perhaps to Spike, who earlier in the episode is flustered by Buffy’s unwillingness to sleep with him, even though she claims not to care anymore what her friends think. Spike and Anya drink together and commiserate over how awful the Scoobies are. (“I hate us,” Anya concurs.) And right around the time Spike says, “We should’ve been dead hundreds of years ago, and we’re the only ones who are really alive,” the inevitable happens: the clothes get shed and the bodies come together, with the writhing and the smooching and the hey-hey-hey.
It’s here where the cleverness of the episode’s cross-cutting structure comes into play. As Spike and Anya get closer and closer, Willow is also getting closer to pinpointing the last of The Trio’s cameras, which, naturally, is in The Magic Box, and which, naturally, comes on-line right as Spike and Anya start hooking up. A horrified Buffy and Xander watch the action over Willow’s shoulder, and then Xander storms down to The Magic Box with an axe in his hand. Buffy stops him from killing Spike, and in the ensuing melee, Xander lets Anya know (without saying it in so many words) how betrayed he feels that yet another girl he loved has fallen into bed with a vampire. Then, to make matters worse, Spike tells Xander that he’s been having sex with Buffy, too. And so Xander is duly punished.
Like I said, I liked the way that “Entropy” makes use of the cast, who get to interact at length like people who really know each other, not like the angry, self-absorbed strangers that they’ve been for most of this season. Yet “Entropy” is very much a season six episode, too, and in a way conveys the theme of this season as effectively as some of the more overtly miserable S6ers. A couple of episodes ago, the Anya/Xander wedding was ruined, not by a demon, but by Xander’s fear. And now, in an episode where Anya tries her hardest to curse Xander with her magic, she succeeds in tormenting him the old-fashioned, human way.
“A New World”
I’m journeying through Vincent Kartheiser’s career in the opposite direction from most of you, so while I know that Teen Connor is a controversial figure in Angeldom—and that some people found Kartheiser’s performance on the show so off-key that couldn’t have imagined he’d ever be considered a good actor—it’s hard for me not to see Connor through the filter of Mad Men’s Pete Campbell. Thus far, that’s making the character more poignant. Because, see, like Pete, Connor is a little boy at heart, trying to act like a grown-up. And like Pete, Connor seems to think “adulthood” is being about getting your way all the time (and suffering some serious cognitive dissonance when you don’t).
“A New World” is in some ways a transitional episode, setting up the last two episodes of the season by establishing who the major players and problems will be. The biggest player: Connor, who arrives from the hell dimension of Quor’Toth expecting to make short work of his evil poppa. Instead, he’s outmatched by Angel and his cohorts, and flees into the Los Angeles streets, where he befriends a heroin addict and ultimately discovers—when Angel comes to his rescue—that his father may not be as bad a guy as he’s been led to believe. But that doesn’t stop Connor from leaving Angel at the end of the episode and returning to his lifelong guardian, Holtz (who’ll surely be one of the other big players in what’s to come over the next two weeks). Meanwhile, in the episode’s subplots, Wes gets a job offer and life-assessment from Lilah, while Groo grapples with his dawning awareness that Cordelia is not wholly his.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about those subplots, since we obviously haven’t seen the last of either. I did like Groo exhibiting a little sarcasm as he deadpans, “Yes, we must always consider Angel. Angel is our leader. We must obey his wishes.” And I loved the way Lilah urged Wesley to see reconsider who he is now, comparing him to Judas in Dante’s Inferno—the worst sinner imaginable, who betrayed his friends. Does Wes reject this version of himself, or does he embrace it? To be continued.
Mainly though, I thought “A New World” did a fine job of establishing Connor, beginning with a genuinely thrilling opening fight sequence, shot in super slow-mo, with occasional commentary from Connor himself. (“Interesting,” he says, after Angel survives his first attack.) It’s clear that while Holtz has trained Connor to be a hunter/warrior—and to hate Angel—he really hasn’t prepared the kid for what Angel’s really like in the here and now, nor has he prepared Connor for life in our dimension. It’s probably telling that Connor gravitates to squalor, which is undoubtedly more like Quor’Toth. (“Los Angeles as Hell” is a concept Angel has explored before, after all.) And though this show’s version of “street” is always going to be more Jason Takes Manhattan than Dark Days, I liked the moment when Connor’s new addict friend Sunny ashamedly tells him that the spoon he’s holding is for “medicine,” not food. It adds to the kid’s growing moral confusion. Connor insists that anyone who’s evil “should be killed,” and demands that Angel show his vampire face because, “It’s who you are.” But when Sunny overdoses, that’s as much on her as it is on her dealer; and though Angel’s a demon, he fights against the bad guys side-by-side with his son. Nothing’s as cut-and-dried as it should be. So now what does Connor do?
In this episode, as previously noted, he finds an older-looking Holtz waiting for him after he declines Angel’s offer to stay at the hotel. Then “A New World” ends, the exact same way that “The Price” did, with Connor, saying, “Hi, dad.” But a lot has happened to this all-too-young man between the salutations.
- There’s a major subplot in “Entropy” that I didn’t cover above, involving Willow and Tara reuniting. A lot of sweet stuff in that thread, including the way Willow has become the pursuer instead of the pursued, inverting the way their relationship began. I also liked Willow catching Tara up on all the demons she’s missed, and the two of them deciding to skip the slow process of reconnection in favor of getting it on.
- Andrew’s worried because Jonathan’s got that same look on his face that “he had that time I highlighted in his Babylon 5 novels.”
- Buffy is offended by Anya’s suggestion that she’s had a lot of bum guys in her life. “Guys? There’s only been four. Uh, three! Only three guys! Barely plural.”
- Some rare location shooting in the scene where Dawn shows Buffy all the shops where she stole stuff. Unlike Angel, Buffy rarely crosses over to “the real world,” so seeing the names of real stores was a little jarring. But I did enjoy the natural light, which we don’t see enough on this night-friendly show.
- I loved the last scene between Spike and Anya, as he starts to say, “I wish…” at last, and she cuts him off. Nice piece of writing there.
- Oh, there’s one other major subplot in “A New World” too, having to do with Lorne’s efforts to find someone to close the dimensional rift through which Connor emerged. First he plans to bring in a demon who’s “all hands… like, fifty of them,” adding, “Anyone fluent in sign language?” Instead he has to settle for the annoyingly dimension-jumping Mistress Meerna—“a very difficult woman to find”—who puts on her safety goggles, then sews up what she describes as “a tear in reality.”
- Speaking of dimensional rifts, will we ever see what life was like for Connor as a boy in the hell dimension? That’s a flashback I’d be very interested in, though I imagine it might be expensive to shoot.
- I found it amusing that Angel could get the Matrix-y special effects in the opening fight sequence to look so good, but couldn’t make the effect of Connor riding on the top of a city bus look anything but fakey. (That said, it’s always nice to see some real footage of downtown L.A.)
- Connor flees into the sun, preventing Angel from following, setting up a nice exchange later when Gunn calls in to give Angel a status update on his Connor-tracking and closes with, “Anything else we can do for you?” Angel: “Yeah… make the sun go down.”
- Connor demands that Angel call him “Steven,” which is apparently the name that Holtz calls him. “Good name,” Angel allows. “Not Irish, but….”
- Groo, trying to sound as cool as Gunn: “We will not fail… man.”