Belly of the Beast Review: Deep Down
beast916 – October 7, 2002
Author’s Note: The week after I wrote this review, I was persuaded to return to my former reviewing method. There may be a chance in the future that I will modify this review to bring it in accord with the other ones. Until that time, I will leave it as is.
Those of you who remember my Belly of the Beast reviews from last season (or the last four episodes of last season) will notice a difference in the format. Those of you who do not remember my reviews likely think I’m a real pretentious ass if I think you’re supposed to remember them. You’re right. Because of real-life situations (I was able to purchase a real life in addition to a soul, and those bitching Ginsu knives. . .but only the knives have a warranty), I have decided to discontinue the smartass synopsis. Trying to write funny is hard work and not always successful, as I am sure some people who spend a lot of time doing on a certain web site I will not name would tell you, once they are out of a job and looking for work. I didn’t always attain the level of humor I wanted, and I no longer have the time to do so, since the synopsis took most of my time. I only hope you find the remainder humorous, thought-provoking, or downright disturbing. Any of those will work for me.
After the disappointing sigh of "Tomorrow" I figured this episode would either be a clunker or a redeeming success. Before he left to work on a series that will be cancelled by ABC in March, David Greenwalt would likely have penned this script. Greenwalt has penned some good scripts, but he has also dropped some stinkers on us, and as I said in the review of "Tomorrow", he is best when he collaborates with another person. Luckily for us, Steven DeKnight was picked to write the first script. Mr. DeKnight wrote 5 episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", including the controversial "Dead Things" and the oh-damn-kitten-attack "Seeing Red". He did a fine job on those, but he proves out of the blocks he is better suited to darker hue of "Angel" (despite the Season 6 overcast, Buffy is generally more kind-hearted fare). Of the four season-opening episodes of "Angel", this is my favorite, although I have a certain bias I will get into later. I don’t know when DeKnight will again write a script, but he is for the moment delaying my cries to the heavens over the loss of Tim (who we may get back soon, if Fox continues their effort to become the next ABC).
The episode did a fine job of closing some plotlines (is there anybody out there upset we lost Linwood?), while setting up more to go the rest of the season. Things I thought disastrous in the season 3 finale were not fixed, but at least hinted at going in a better direction.
I don’t know if it is the Mr. Greenwalt’s departure or simply the new writer’s skew on things, but I really liked the characterization. Nobody in the episode was really wrong, and nobody was really right, either. Of course, there are varying degrees (I assume it’s wrong to chop off your boss’s head, but hey, who hasn’t wanted to?), but I like the way it is presented in the first episode. I can only hope it continues this way. I have seen more than my share of the fight of good versus evil, and I appreciate Mutant Enemy mucking up the waters a little. Wesley is ostracized from his friends ("the good guys") and sleeps with the enemy, but he is the one to save the hero, who proceeds to kick his son out on the street (I’m not saying the action was unjustified—but it’s not the action of the typical good guy, and I am glad they are presenting it this way, because I for one never saw Angel as a good guy—not a bad guy, really, but his ego always got in the way for me).
This was Wesley’s show, no doubt. Others played an important part, but Wesley is what made the boat sail, so to speak. Wesley Wyndham-Price is the most fully developed character on television today, a good man who tried to do the right thing and failed. He seeks comfort in the arms of the enemy, both enjoying her and realizing, while she may not mean to harm him, she does work for those who do. The fact he didn’t share any of his information with her indicates he still understands what the right thing is (although his entire attitude is he will do the right thing when he wants to, how he wants to, and damn anybody else). However, keeping Justine locked in the closet displays a darkness none of us likely thought we would never see in him. That he locked her in the closet with only a bucket (and how did she fill the bucket with her hands tied, anyway?) doesn’t disturb me. Considering what she did to him, I think he let her off easy (I am more an "eye for an eye" guy than a "there are laws for this" one). That he did to her what his own father did to him is what bothers me. He reached back for his most painful memories and applied them to her.
The Wesley we see nowadays is a contradiction of words and action. He constantly says how little he cares (and does not dispute it when Fred says the same thing), but his actions belie him. Feeding Angel told us more about Wesley than all the words he said. Of course, now that he has somewhat paid his debt to Angel, we can only watch and see where he is pulled now. The other members of Angel Investigations seem to be in no mood to forgive, despite of the depths Wesley had Justine go to rescue Angel. I can only hope Fred and Gunn realize what he means by "I’m fresh out".
Alexis Denisof displays an acting range that would seem more at home on "Buffy" than "Angel" (while "Angel" has always been enjoyable, I don’t think comparing the overall acting talents of both shows would make "Angel" look good—a comparison of writing might, but the acting is secondary on this show). Watching him on the boat as Justine harassed him was a marvel. The man can act more with just his eyes than anybody else on the show can with their entire bodies. I found myself wishing he had stuck around Sunnydale a little longer if only so I could see him in "Hush".
I’ve never really been a fan of Angel or the acting abilities of the actor who played him. That being sad, while Mr. Denisof is the MVP of the team, David Boreanaz wins most improved. I may never want to see him in Hamlet, but he has made the character his own, and actually made me care about him (those of you who know me know how unbelievable that statement is). As long as we no longer have to see him with any infants I think Mr. Boreanaz will continue to impress (I have no problem with Goofy Angel, but please keep baby-talk Angel to yourself). He has shown great chemistry with Alexis Denisof (notice all they communicated without words) and Vincent Kartheiser, and his speech (a speech, by the way, I never thought he would have been capable of carrying) ranked up there with all the best Mutant Enemy monologues. I am not necessarily thrilled with his parenting skills (what is he going to do when there isn’t a wall to throw Connor into?), but I can at least understand it. I know many people wanted him to do worse to Connor, but my feeling is if he did so, then he truly wouldn’t be "a thing worth saving". We can all agree what Connor did was wrong (well, most of us can—the sociopaths in the back of the room thought it rocked), but he did so with a flawed reasoning. If Angel were to harm him or kill him, then what is proven, except maybe a circle really has no end?
Here I am in the minority again. I like Connor. I do. Connor the super-strong freak from another planet, who is able to quickly pick up the nuances of a Gameboy. Having lost one father and sent another one on a three-month vacation to the Amazing Underwater World, he reached out to the closest semblance of a family he could find: Gunn and Fred. I think he is genuinely hurt when Fred attacks him.
He can also fight like the dickens, although I have to question the ability of Angel to stop him after spending so long being underwater.
Again, he has amazing chemistry with Angel, and I do hope whatever they do the rest of the season, they don’t keep the two of them apart. I am still awaiting a Wesley/Connor confrontation, but I think the Powers that Be (Joss and company) are drawing us out on that one.
Lilah, Lilah, Lilah…will you marry me? Okay, sure, she’s evil. . .we can work that out. Two years ago I bemoaned we were stuck with Lilah and lost Lindsey. Stupid me. While I still miss Lindsey, I have come to appreciate the mystery that is Lilah.
(Speaking of mystery, my one gripe about the directing of this show—the camera should have had a wider lens in her scene with Wesley. And that irritating camera circle around Buffy and Principal Wood should have been saved for this episode when she got out of bed. Okay, chauvinist pig comment over.)
I know this probably says something very sad about my idea of romance, but the Wes/Lilah tryst? Relationship? Whatever—is the most interesting one I have seen on "Angel" or "Buffy". The two of them don’t trust each other (although, I think at the moment she might trust him more than the other way around—once she finds out about Angel, I am sure that will change). However, I think there is some genuine affection between them. How tight that bond is will definitely be put to the test, especially since Lilah got herself promoted. And, yeah, evil, I know, but if that’s the price of getting rid of Linwood, I’m all for it. I almost wish she had gotten rid of the Wooden Boy, too, but I think I like the thought of him being her lackey.Cordy
Not around that much, but at least we got the sense the Cordy of old might be returning.
Fred and Gunn
I wish I could separate these two (lord, do I), but they pretty much come together. I like Gunn. I like Fred. I just do not, at all, like Gunn-and-Fred. They just don’t work for me as a couple, making one and one equal something less than two. At least Fred was interesting in this episode, with her banter with Gunn and her interaction with Connor.
And Fred with Wesley? Bitch. Okay, let me watch it again. Hmm…bitch. Okay, that’s not nice, and it has been obvious she doesn’t handle betrayal well. But she seems a bit schizophrenic about wanting to call Wesley, and then insulting him when he was there (did nobody see the dressing on his arm?).
Gunn…did nothing for me. Except prove he shouldn’t have children.
I believe Justine is the best indication we are moving far away from the black and white world. Imprisoned by Wesley for (?) months, and when she has the opportunity to get away from him, she doesn’t. It seemed like bad writing to me at first, but then I remembered this is the same woman who let Holtz stick a screwdriver through her hand. She believes she still needs to be punished. And something definitely holds her to Wesley. I’m not sure what it is: fear; guilt; something. Look at the look on her face when Angel’s hand goes around Wesley’s throat. Was it fear? Was she worried about Wesley?
I think perhaps Lauren Holloman may have spent some time in Alexis Denisof’s closet, because her acting ability improved mightily over the summer. Last time I saw her she just irritated me. This time, I saw her pretty much the same way I saw others—just another cog stuck in the machinery, confused how she got there and confused how to get out.
What’s it mean, Jellybean?
Here’s where my bias shows. It’s all about Wesley. True, the show is about Angel, but I think where goes Wesley goes the show. He has been the catalyst for the show since midseason last year, and I don’t see it changing. He is stuck somewhere between AI and Wolfram & Hart. The man is gonna be in a tug-of-war, as long as there is somebody around to grab the rope.
The show has been about family, and now the family is truly fractured. Wes is out. Cordy is missing. Angel’s son has been banished. Lilah may be trying to recruit Wes for her own family. Or maybe she is trying to make an emotional attachment she can’t within the walls of W&H. It’s going to be an interesting year.
This should be easy:
--All of Wes’s scenes
--"Word". "Can I say ‘dog’"
--Lilah going to the head of the class
-- Connor and Angel confrontation
--if Angel can tell Wes had sex with a bleached blond, will he be able to tell he had sex with Lilah?
--Shouldn’t Angel market hair gel that can last that long under water?
--Anybody remember the Wesley from the season 3 of "Buffy"? Anybody?
--Do you think Alexis Denisof will get tired of the scar make-up?
I will try to get these reviews out either Sunday night after the episode or Monday. The format might change every once in a while. Because I no longer am doing the synopsis, I might approach this differently. I appreciate any suggestions.