I’m going to keep my Buffy thoughts brief this week, because I want to keep something in the tank for next week, when I bid farewell to seven seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. And anyway, “Touched” struck me as very much a placeholder episode of Buffy, marking time before the (presumably) big doings of “End Of Days” and “Chosen.” Most of the action was saved for the very beginning and the very end—and okay, some in the middle too, though that was a very different kind of action.
I do like the way “Touched” begins, with the immediate aftermath of the Buffy expulsion, and how it has affected the power dynamic inside the Summers house. Credited writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner and director David Solomon set this scene up well, pinging between all the different Scoobies and Potentials trying to make their voices heard. The chaos is almost punitive: These folks wanted Buffy out so that they could make their own decisions, but doesn’t there have to be some kind of hierarchy? And if so, what should it be? (Note that Kennedy, one of the loudest voices advocating for Buffy’s ouster, is one of the first to suggest that seniority should matter. Opportunistic much?)
Honestly, I could’ve watched these short-sighted yahoos sit in a stew of their own making for the whole hour. Instead, we really only get one more delicious moment of comeuppance, when Spike returns with important information for Buffy and then Willow and company have to justify why she’s not there. Spike lays into Giles pretty good, and I wish Giles had gotten more of a chance to explain himself, since he hasn’t been very Giles-y since Buffy gave him the kiss-off a few episodes back. Instead, Faith steps in and she and Spike have a mini-brawl, in what seemed to me like an unnecessary attempt to shoehorn a little violence into the middle of an otherwise talky episode.
Faith steps up earlier in “Touched” too, wresting control of the fractured team and coming up with a plan to kidnap a Bringer and pump it for information on The First and Caleb. The Bringer they nab uses Andrew as its conduit for communication, and the beast is so dismissive of the idea that this motley bunch can stop the coming apocalypse that Giles flies into a rage and slashes the its throat. So much for bold leadership and fresh ideas.
With the grand assembly stuck for what to do next, its individual factions pair off. And while they’re paired off, they, y’know… do it. Sex, I mean. Faith has a soft moment with Wood (though one romantic night doesn’t keep Faith from hushing Wood callously at a team meeting the next day). Willow and Kennedy spoon a little, and then go further, despite Willow worrying that she’ll lose control. Xander and Anya, left to themselves, do what comes naturally. The First, watching all this from afar, tells Caleb that she envies these humans’ abilities to feel, but Caleb dismisses that idea, calling them “animals.”
As for Buffy and Spike—no strangers to impulsive, animalistic humping—they share an actual moment of tenderness, with Spike comforting Buffy by telling her that he loves her for who she is, not for what she represents, which prompts her to ask him to sleep next to her and hold her. It’s a sweet scene, but if I’m being honest, it’s coming a little late in the game for me. I was an early supporter of the Buffy/Spike pairing, then hated the way it took such a sour turn. I can buy Spike’s speech, but after everything that happened last season, it’s been harder to buy Buffy’s loyalty towards him. I feel like the Buffy team just over-thought that whole storyline, worrying too much about the “How could The Slayer love a soulless killer?” angle.
On the other hand, I wish the Buffy writers had thought more about the logistics of the two big intercut action scenes that end “Touched.” One of them is just fine, with Buffy going after Caleb and discovering the object he was protecting: what looks to be a kickass axe. But in the other, Faith leads the potentials down into an underground lair filled with weaponry, where they’re all ambushed by Bringers, in a fight sequence that’s dimly lit and hard to follow. Ah well. At least the Faith sequence has an exciting ending, as Kennedy discovers a bomb that’s set to blow in eight seconds. Seven. Six. Five….
See you next week.
I suppose it’s only fitting that a season as up and down and all over the map as Angel’s fourth would end with a beginning. It’s been a wild ride, this season, beginning with Angel underwater and Cordelia in the clouds, and Wes operating as a rogue demon-fighter while indulging in some kinky sex with Lilah. We’ve seen Fred and Gunn kill a man (and subsequently grow apart), Cordelia return to Earth and get possessed by a deity, and Connor pout his way through multiple adventures. It’s been a good season overall, just ragged at times. No matter how much Skip may have tried to fit everything into one picture, this year of Angel never really felt like one cohesive story.
And so: a reboot. And an exciting one at that. Lilah, who reappeared at the end of the last episode, explains that yes, she’s still dead, but that being dead doesn’t mean she’s not still employed by Wolfram & Hart, and W&H now has an offer for the team at Angel Investigations. “The offer of a lifetime!” Lilah says dramatically (and then, after an awkward pause, adds, “Just not, y’know, mine.”) After a comically long silence, we find out what Lilah told our heroes while we were watching the opening credits and the first commercial break: that W&H was so impressed with how Angel got rid of Jasmine and ended world peace that they now want him to take over their evil law firm. “But we ain’t lawyers,” Gunn protests. “Or evil… currently,” Fred adds.
They reject the offer initially, but the thought of having a state-of-the-art facility and organization to help them hunt demons gets them all into the W&H limo so that Lilah can show them “around the chocolate factory.” And it’s that “let me show you some cool things” aspect of “Home” that makes this episode so enjoyable. It was fun to see Angel walk into a lobby teeming with professionally attired men and women and hear them say, “Good morning, Mr. Angel.” It was just as fun to see the various members of Angel Investigations split off with their designated tour guides. Gunn gets the attractive Lacey, and worries that she’s going to take him to the security division—“Bet I’d look real smart in one of them blazers,” he grumbles—but instead she says he’s due for “something bigger,” and takes him to a mysterious room where he’s greeted by a black panther. Meanwhile, Preston shows Lorne the list of clients in the entertainment division (which provokes an enthusiastic little Paul Lynde take from our green-skinned pal), and the geeky Knox shows Fred the tricked-out science division.
The other two members of the team are a harder sell. Wesley meets a former Watcher named Rutherford Sirk and gets taken to his magic library, where rare books appear on blank pages. But Wes knocks Sirk out and sneaks off to see if he can burn Lilah’s contract and free her from bondage to Wolfram & Hart. Alas, the burning has no effect, though Lilah appreciates the effort. Eventually, Wes begins to take Sirk’s comment to heart, that these are “complicated times” and that “lines become blurry,” and joins his colleagues in wanting to join the W&H family.
By then though, Angel’s already made the decision for them, because that’s what he does. Early on, he warned that if they even stepped into the limo that they’d be corrupted “before the ride’s even over.” And he makes a big show of rejecting Lilah’s offer of 12 cars and a window that will allow him to stand in the sun without frying. (It’s also 30 percent more energy efficient.) But as Lilah pointed out regarding the whole Jasmine affair, Angel was responsible—partly—for killing a being who ended the suffering of millions at the price of a few dozen human lives a day. Angel makes well-intentioned-but-foolish deals all the time. And so she offers him another one of those deals: join Wolfram & Hart, and they’ll help him find Connor and Cordelia. Sold!
Of course, W&H already knows where Connor and Cordy are. He has her tied up and rigged with explosives along with a bunch of other hostages in a sporting-goods store, where he’s flipping out because nobody in this world respects their families (or something). Honestly, the Connor material on this episode was a drag compared to what was going on back at the chocolate factory. But it was a necessary drag, and it played out in a satisfactory fashion. Angel appears to prove his love for Connor by killing him, but the “death” is just metaphorical. In actuality, part of the deal with W&H is that Cordelia gets whisked away to medical facility until her coma ends, and Connor’s entire reality changes. Now the boy is living with a nice family in the mountains, and getting ready to go to college, and nobody in the world save for Angel knows that anything was ever any different.
So you see? You can start over. What all this will mean for next year, I have absolutely no idea. But I’m eager to find out. This will either completely change what Angel is, or it’ll be a momentary detour until we get back to the Hyperion and the lonely quest of a band of outsiders. I’m good either way, but I can’t deny the innate appeal of something shiny and new.
- I should mention that an old friend appears (sort of) in “Touched,” when The First tries to turn Faith against Buffy by talking to her in the guise of The Mayor. What I found most interesting about that scene is that The First/Mayor says a little more about the nature of its incarnation, insisting that while, yes, it’s ultimately The First, it also really is The Mayor. If that’s so, that makes The First’s occasional donning of the Buffy form much more fascinating. So The First is Buffy, but the version of Buffy that died? Huh. I hope this is leading somewhere for the finale, and isn’t just fleeting metaphysical hoo-hah.
- The comedy team of Andrew and Spike doesn’t last too long. At the start of “Touched,” when they’re stuck together in a monastery waiting for sundown, Spike wants nothing to do with Andrew’s time-passing games. (“I spy… ” “Tapestry.”)
- Because of the darkness that The First has brought upon Sunnydale—and because it’s more convenient for the writers—Spike no longer needs an invite to enter a house.
- Wes isn’t offended when Gunn describes his life as “sticking pins in maps and blowing dust off your books.” (“They are rather dusty,” he admits.)
- Knox boasts that he “can make practically anything out of… a fully equipped, multi-million dollar lab.”
- Knox also says that he’s “strictly R&D, although, occasionally, some D&D… dungeons and… we actually have a dungeon… I can show it to you later.”
- Lilah mentions that Wes cut her head off, and coldly says to him, “I never felt a thing.” “I’m sure that’s true,” he replies even more frostily.
- That said, you’ll want to be careful when grabbing and yanking at Lilah. That head’s not on all that tight.
- Kind of an impressive overhead shot of Angel’s limo winding through the countryside on the way to see Connor. I wonder if that was stock?
- Possible crossover note: Lilah gives Angel a little amulet thingy to take to Buffy. Why do I get the feeling that I’ll be seeing Angel again very soon?
- Next week: A farewell to Buffy.