Belly of the Beast Review: Ground State

beast916 Ė October 15, 2002

Because of popular demand (a few people who said I might as well try to be funny, because my level of insight blew), I am going to bring the synopsis back. Please let me know how you feel about this, as I will decide after this week whether or not to continue it. And remember how I sacrifice for you, since I am taping both <I>Boomtown</I> and <I>The Sopranos</I> so I can get this review to you. Monetary donations will be accepted.

Synopsis

The scene opens up in Gills Rock, Wisconsin, in October of 1985. Or at least thatís what the script on the screen reads. But I know a scene from <I>The Omen</I> when I see it. Boy, is Damien gonna be pissed at this. Also, the name of the school is "Thorpeís Academy". Ha. The camera reveals a little red Stay-Puft Marshmallow Girl. Itís a good thing itís October. Her Stepford parents step up behind her and are greeted by Mrs. Blaylock. Apparently the Stepford parents bought their daughter Gwenís way into the academy. They definitely didnít do it for love since they canít come back until June. Of course, I would have really appreciated it if my parents could have gotten me into a school like that. But thatís just me. Mrs. Blaylock takes Gwen away with a warning to stay away from other children. Well, jeez, why couldnít her parents just home school? Gwen tries to grab Mrs. Blaylockís hand, and gets a lecture on personal space and bad touches.

Gwen is sitting against a tree and eating lunch when she is approached by a boy, who asks if she is a freak. Ah, the innocence of youth. In my school she would have been assured she was a freak while she did a spin cycle in the toilet. He says she doesnít look like a freak. Put this boy in the U.N. The boy offers her a toy and says she can hold onto it if she wants. I am so glad they had his hand in camera level. She reaches for the toy and shocks the heck out of Junior. Whatís worse, the toy is toast.

Fred and Angel are at Cordeliaís apartment, trying to find something. I guess it tells us something Angel didnít take her and Gunnís word about anything. Fred had gone overboard on cleaning the apartment, because the landlord was going to show it. Fred is a bit obsessive-compulsive, do you think? I like that in a woman. She says they paid the first monthís rent, but they ran out of money. I have no idea why. Angel asks if Phantom Dennis knows anything. Fred says he is just ticked they havenít brought Cordy back yet. I would have liked to see that. "Are you pissed, Dennis? Make the chair move once for yes, twice for no." Fred leaves the room, and Angel follows, wanting to verify they already tried Lorne. They did. Twice. But heís too busy at the Crazy Horse Saloon. I wonder if Frankie is still there. Gunn is doing something with the television, and it ends up shocking him, sparks flying. Foreshadowing, senor? We donít have no foreshadowing. By the way, Gunn, OSHA is going to be all over your ass. Fred shows Angel some personal stuff that was on the table the night Cordy let her love take her higher. Apparently, personal stuff means nothing to Gunn and Fred. That might explain their treatment of Wes. Gunn and Fred explain they went to the cops, who had nothing more than a suggestion to file a missing personís report. Um, Kate? Anybody? She has to have connections, even if sheís not on the force. Everybody reminisces about why Angel wasnít at the cliff that night. Fred gripes about Angelís snot of a son. Gunn says sheís still a little bitter. Bitter and obsessive-compulsive? Move aside, Gunn. The girl is mine, and I donít think Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney can stop me. While Fred is complaining and packing books, Dennis puts book back on the shelf. Maybe he can help me alphabetize my books. Fred gets angry and tells Dennis Cordelia isnít coming back. Both Gunn and Angel get their "whatchoo talking about, girl" looks on their faces, and Fred backpedals. She talks about expecting things to be where you left them when you come back. This from the girl who spent five years in a cave.

Now we see Wes in the middle of a fight, calling out orders to Extra 1, Extra 2, and Extra 3. It seems the demon they are fighting is a lumpy Skip with a rocket pack. An axe gets knocked loose and ends up under Angelís foot. I hope he plans on cleaning that. He asks Wes if he needs help at the exact moment Wes cleaves the demon in half, kind of like that one friend you have who asks if you need help moving when youíre carrying the last box in. Wes picks up a motel key and deduces somebody is being kept in a motel. That Wes, heís some genius. He sends his lackeys on with orders, so I am guessing we now know why AI isnít doing such good business. Angel tries to get a conversation going, but Wes counters with the silent look. If we could get these two in a room, Angel with the brooding and Wes with the silent lookÖwell, that would be a really boring show. Angel says they are okay now, but Wes still doesnít say anything (Alexis, make sure they never pay you by the word). Wes opens a briefcase and hands a file to Angel, saying this is what Angel came to him for. Oh, burn. The file is about Cordy. Wes says he doesnít think she is dead, but she is no longer in this dimension, either. There is a being named Dinza who might be able to help them, but none living can approach her. Mom? Wes located the lair, and tells Angel Dinza can tell Angel how to find Cordy. Wes cautions Angel that Dinza isnít remotely trustworthy. Well, pot, howís kettle? Angel asks if heís supposed to present a gift, a sacrifice, or an unholy fruit basket to appease Dinza. Dude, all fruit baskets are unholy.

Angel crawls down into a tunnel. Yay! I missed tunnel crawling. UmÖscratch that. How can there be not one light out in that tunnel? Angel says knock, knock, the door was open, and so of course the entrance disappears. Wacky demons! This demon is very lonely, as she seems to want to play tag with Angel. Angel doesnít play well with others, so he gets all gripey. He finally sees the demon, who doesnít appear to look much worse than most blind dates. It appears there are voices whispering in the room, but I realized I was still wearing my headphones. Everybody, go buy <I>Republican Senator Chants</I>. It rocks! Dinza already knows about Angel and brags she knows where many lost things are. Angel is so worried about Cordy, he decides to give his inner wiseass some long-neglected practice. I turn up my chants, and Dinza says they tell her to never let him out. "But who listens to the dead?" Lady, do you even watch this show? Dinza rises and tells him about the Axis, complete with dramatic pointing. The Axis will help him find Cordy. Didnít Wes tell you Dinza would try to deceive you? Címon, man, youíre too old to be played like this. Dinza says she would like to keep him, but he has so much more to lose. Geez, Cordy, Wes, and Connor are gone, and so is his business. Are they gonna grab the pigís blood out of his fridge?

Hey, itís Angela Chaseís dad! Shouldnít he be helping Brian figure out the philosophical ramifications of wallpapering as dating? He looks at his watch, then looks up to see a sizzling hot chick in Faithís clothing coming towards him. She sits down, and he reminds her he told her to wear discreet clothing. Shut up, pal. This is a new century, and women can wear whatever the hell they wantÖespecially if itís that! They haggle over the Axis, so apparently Angel isnít the only one looking for it. Iím just guessing, but I think there may be a conflict of interest here. She orders a drink with a Faith-like intonation to her voice. Donít let her near the mayorís aide! They argue back and forth about market value and commission, and I wake up to find the cat sleeping on my neck. She pulls a file towards her and goes over the contentsóthe chick, not my cat. My paint dries. I just went out and bought some. He mentions her name, and what do you know, sheís the same Gwen from the teaser. She leans over so he and we can look down her shirt. Her drink is delivered, and she stands up, showing us she has his watch in her hand. She lets electricity flow through her hand to ruin the watch. She says itís now surrealism. Hmm . . . just looks like a watch to me. But Iím not really into art. She takes the little umbrella out of her drink and leaves. Sheís spunky!

Close up of Cordy staring right at us in her glowiness. I just want to mention Charisma Carpenter and Vincent Kartheiser should feel a little ashamed about accepting full pay for this episode. Not that I wouldnít do the same. Our view shoots down into Los Angeles, then into the Hyperion, where Fred is waiting for her cue from the director. She talks about a drawing of the Axis she has created. I wonít tell you what I think it looks like, because you will only think Iím a bad, bad man. Angel shows how much he values her time and ego by giving Gunn a much better drawing of the same thing Fred was talking about. Gee, I wonder why Angel keeps ending up alone. Fred looks like she wants to use the tazer on Poppa, too. She turns the page to another drawing, which has a little yellow ghost, saying "boo". Sheís so cute. Fred explains the Axis is being held in Chandlerís auction house. So he lied to Monica about going to Tulsa! She goes over all the security features. Angel explains he beat the building plans out of a snitch. Well, arenít we playing a little fast and loose with this whole champion concept now? Gunn makes an e-bay comment. I groan and cry. Fred says she is working on a plan, but the only one she has right now involves her going to prison and being somebodyís bitch. I would buy that. I mean, that would suck! Angel assures us he is good at thisóheís done it beforeÖtwice. Gunn reminds him one of those times was with the Shroud of Rahmon. And the confidence building seminar just isnít paying off. Fred takes the building plans and let the others know she is going to try and whip up a plan. Gunn and Angel, being from the school of dumb-planning, donít understand. They talk about how Fred has stepped up while Angel has been gone. He says it reminds him of Cordy. Huh? I donít think Cordy went to any planning school, dumb or not.

Gunn and Angel go over what they might need for the break-in, while we can see somebody is way ahead of them. Since that doesnít limit it to a lot of people, Iíll tell you itís Gwen. Who looks even hotter in the Official Breaking-In Uniform. She does something to her computer screen to make it turn into a mirror, so she can apply lipstick. Also part of the OBIU.

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And now for our nookie portion of the show, I present Wes and Lilah. He pushes her up against a wall and starts kissing her neck. She talks about her new promotion, but he doesnít care. Just like any other relationship. She pushes him down on a table. She unbuttons his shirt while letting him know she now knows about Justine. He doesnít care that she knows. She doesnít appear particularly bothered he was lying to her; in fact, she seems a little impressed and turned on. I never meet the right women. He says he had to rescue Angel to fight people like her. See, if youíre just honest in your relationship, you will go far. Lilah muses now that Connor has been kicked out, he might need a big sister type or a Mrs. Robinson. Wes thinks Simon was much better without Garfunkel, so rolls over on top of her. He says he doesnít want to hear her evil plans. She counters he just likes knowing she has them. He tells her to shut up. She says make me. His head disappears from the screen as he travels down her body. Well, it seems in the Denisof/Hannigan household they are more than willing to do it once more, with feeling. And, guys? Remember to attend to your womanís needs.

Gwen climbs onto a rooftop while a monkey bangs a stick on steel on the soundtrack. She uses her electric fingers to short circuit cameras and open a door and grill a mighty fine steak. Angel, Fred, and Gunn climb up also, and Gunn gets to play the Xander role here. Angel canít quite figure out the wire box, so he just yanks out all the wires. Thereís planning for you. Fred uses a gadget to open the door.

Fred goes over the plans with Gunn and Angel. They listen to her, and then head in the wrong direction. Fredís ego is now the size of Gachnar. A camera comes back on, and we can see Fred in somebodyís eye. No, the image of Fred. Although, if she were as big as her ego it would work. Turns out itís Gwen, who quotes ME quote #324; "Thatís not good".

Fred goes into the computer room, hoping out loud her cell mates will be nice. Are those mainframes? Gunn sneaks up behind a guard and tells him to look out. When the guard turns around, Gunn slugs him. Well, I guess we all understand now why Fred is the one doing the planning. Angel goes to the room where the Axis is stored and uses an aerosol can to spray over the lasers. It must be a pretty powerful one, since it highlights every laser beam in the room. Suddenly a gate comes down. Angel tries to lift it, but apparently heís still too waterlogged. Gwen appears from the ceiling. Sheís got her Peter Parker on and lets Angel know she put the gate down for a reason.

Fred sees the system is malfunctioning and realizes something is afoot. She claps Watson on the back and they go off in search of Moriarity. Gunn brings his guard to the guard disposal room and sees somebody hasnít been recycling.

Gwen and Angel perform Witty Banter 101 until she decides to raise the laser beams. Angel asks how she did that. She tells him. Angel makes sure to not ask again. Angel asks what she is. "Iím a freak". Okay, soooomebodyís got issues. She uses her electricity to get past the fingerprint scan. He tries to suggest she steal something else while he again attempts in vain to lift the gate. Yeah, still not getting the champion code. Gunn shows up and lets us know what he thinks about feminism when heís all agog a woman took out the guards. Gwen comes out with the Axis and says goodbye to Angel. He pleas with her to not take the Axis. Lame Slinky joke. Then she notices Gunn. She says, "hey, there, Denzel." I donít know about you, but I donít think Gunn looks anything like 2002 Tennessee Country Music Alliance Male Vocalist of the Year Denzel Crabtree. But thatís just me. Gwen mocks Angel, which always gets points in my book, but then she seems to fall for the love card. Lights start to go off, giving Angel the superstrength to finally lift the gate he was not able to before. Gunn crawls under the gate. Somebody take his Dumb Planning book away. Fred shows up. Gunn grabs Gwenís legs, and she gives him the shock of his life. Ha ha ha. Okay, Iím sorry. Iím performing self-flagellation right now. Gun falls to the floor, and Angel takes his pulse and pronounces him dead. Dude, this doesnít look good.

Fred runs up to Gunn, and Angel looks back at Gwen. He doesnít say, "What did you do", but you know he wants to. She flashes back to when she fried little Junior. She knocks Angel out of the way with electricity and kicks Fred. Jeez, you could have just pushed her. Sheís just a wee thing. Gwen uses her electric juices to get Gunnís pumper pumping, then Angel pulls her off Gunn. She gives him that kick that is supposed to look impressive, but just seems kinda stupid. Yeah, that one. Fred says they need to bring Gunn to a hospital, and Gwen escapes.

Connor is walking the sad walk of all those who have no home. He realizes he soon will have to sell his body on the street, so he hopes Daddy will forgive him soon. Lilah is watching him with binoculars. Suddenly, Angel appears beside him. Iím with Xander. Put a bell on that guy. They use the more advanced book of Witty Banter. She questions his parenting techniques. Donít we all? He lets her know he is there to see her, not Connor. He wants information about who hired Gwen. At least bring a gift, Angel. Lilah feels she has to explain the concept of evilness to Angel, who, of all people, should understand. He tells her he will let her get away with being so close to his son, just this once. Well, wouldnít have to worry about that if you could just set some house rules, Dad. Lilah wonders why a champion seems so far from the moral high ground. Angel wonders why Lilah and Wes have each othersí smells on. Now, now. Itís not nice to sniff your friendsÖor enemies.

Gunn is looking at his heart chart. Dying makes Gunnís humor lame. At least, I hope itís the dying that does that. Fred pressures him about taking his pill. Maybe Fred should take one. She wants to know what it is like to die. Gunn says he doesnít remember anything. Gunn is a big ole liar. Fred wonders what would happen if he had died and Gwen hadnít brought him back to life. Gunn says Fred would have given him CPR or Angel would have done a Flash Gordon. Angel would have had cheesy Queen music in the background? Fred starts to freak out, saying she is sick of running everything. And yetÖsheís still not sympathetic to Wes. Pot and kettle have moved to different countries. Also, Amy Acker is as cute as can be, but somebody feed her. Hell, she could have slipped through the gate bars if she wanted to. Fred shares she would have been all alone, and the light bulb finally goes on over Gunnís head.

Gwen walks up to an elevator in her Faith suit. Luckily for her, it has a mirror. And lucky for us, so we can be reminded vampires canít be seen in mirrors, as Angel appears behind her. She attacks him. He says he doesnít want to hurt her. She retorts that is what they all say. Oh, good, more issues. Fight, fight, fight. Sheís doing pretty good against a "champion". She wonders why he isnít toast. Not too quick, is she? She tosses him into the elevator and straddles him, pulling his shirt open. She places her hands on his chest and gives him a jolt. And the Grinchís small heart grew three sizes that day. Angel is so thrilled he plants one on Gwen. Hey, personal space! She returns the kiss. Okay, we get it, no woman can resist Angel, even though if thereís one being who shouldnít even be thinking about relationships, itís Dead Boy.

Kissing. Still kissing. All right. Go in Wesís closet. Another gate closes. Oh, sure, now you stop kissing. This is what teenage lust leads to. Gwen finally realizes Angelís heart doesnít normally beat, and Angel suddenly realizes he was doing all this for Cordy. Mr. Chase shows up and tells Angela she canít date Jordan anymore. And if anybody didnít realize it by now, Angel lets us know itís a double cross. Mr. Chase is very serious about professionalism and feels Gwen wasnít up to standards in this area. I have to agree with him. You should make out with your enemies <I>after</I> your task is completed. Has Wesley taught you nothing? Oh, but Mr. Chase made the mistake of calling her a freak. Donít hit the loony button, Mr. Chase. He had the elevator reconstructed so it would interfere with Gwenís electrical power. Of course, if he were this much into planning, shouldnít he have done the research to pick somebody more suited to his needs? Angel realizes they are going to be gassed. Mr. Chase estimates the time of death, but, ha ha, his watch isnít working. What a joker. The elevator closes and Angel pushes Gwen down. She doesnít really appreciate that and calls him a lunkhead. To some people this is a sign of boiling romantic emotions, but I must reiterate it is not truly so until you are called an ass clown.

Mr. Chase is on the phone, and I assume we are supposed to think it is with Lilah, but he is only talking to his wife, who doesnít like Angelaís friend, Rayanne. Angel punches through the utility box and grabs Gwenís hand to ground the charge. They get out and beat up the lackeys. Angel, who doesnít worry about suffocating a friend or beating up snitches or threatening lawyers, gets all wiggy because Gwen wants to hurt the man who tried to kill her. Gwen says she has been struck by lightening 14 times. Do not go golfing with her. But, hey, itís golfÖso, yeah, go golfing with her. Angel shows his growing people skills by mocking her deep-seated childhood issues. Angel is the lost Crane sibling. He punches Mr. Chase to show how mature adults handle situations. Gwen leaves the Axis with him.

Fred and Gunn are being nosy outside an office door. Angel comes out in silence. It seems Angel has seen where Cordy is, and realizes she is a higher being, and good for her, and la la la. By the way, Fred looks very cute in this scene. Angel gives up his Cordy dream very easily. Apparently all he thought about while in the water is Cordelia. Iím sure Connor would be thrilled to hear that. Fred now looks like she is falling asleep. I know I sometimes feel that way when Angel talks, but sheís getting paid to listen.

Cordy disagrees with Angelís assessment, and wants to get out of there.

Review

Iím in a bit of a bind here. I feel two ways about this episode. Heck, in this episode I feel two ways about characters. Itís very strange. Itís like eating a rich slice of cheesecake while sitting next to a pile of horse dung, and not the kind Colonel Potter thought was a tiptoe through the tulips.

First of all, I donít get science. I donít like science. So I accept that Gwen can do all kinds of funky things with electricity. Iím sure many of them were major cheats, but I just let that go, because thatís the kind of guy I am. So one of the things that is likely to bother many of you, especially those in the medical or science world, was one of the areas of least concern for me. Just accept that I nodded my head and said, "yeah, I guess that can work", and send letters to your congressmen about the horrible scientific knowledge of Americans.

The script was written by Mere Smith, who is a cheesecake/horse dung kind of writer most of the time. I see this in "Fredless", which is an episode I enjoy while still seeing many flaws in it, and "Birthday", which I donít enjoy, never did, and wrongfully blame the writer for starting us on the Cordelia Nights of Lights. However, Mere also wrote "Loyalty", which is one of my favorite episodes, for all the Wes scenes and the talking hamburger. What? I thought it was great.

A lot of my problems involved Gwen. Alexa Davalos appears to be a decent actress and is definitely a major league hottie; however she is very little more than a copy of Rogue and Storm from <I>The X-Men</I> with a Faith attitude and outfit. Her deep-seated issues contributed little to the episode unless she is going to be a future player. That is possible, but I do know she was one of the stars of a Fox pilot which may end up being a mid-season replacement. Also, some of the lines Gwen has to say were rust-crusted clichés. I know I am a bit of a loner on this one, but the character of Gwen did very little for me. Until I see her come back, all I can see her as is another plot device and another reminder to us how irresistible Angel is supposed to be.

Which brings me to another problem. Angel is a vampire cursed with a soul. If he attains perfect happiness, he will lose that soul. This does not make for good relationships. Either he is playing with danger in his pursuit of Cordelia/Buffy/Gwen/whomever . . . or he has to put up with, "oh, sure, you attained perfect happiness with Buffy, but you wonít with me." While Buffy and Angelís relationship served a plot purpose to <I>Buffy the Vampire Slayer</I> I havenít seen his relationships serve any such purpose on his own show (Iím not really counting what he and Darla had as a relationship). And also, Iím sick of hearing him referred to as a champion. And, just let me warn you, this is where many of you Angel fans might want to stop reading.

Angel is not a champion. He might have been in the past, but when he talked to Connor last episode about it, he was just being a hypocritical parent. Maybe there is something going on with Angel we donít know about yet, but in this episode alone he ignores Fred (not a big crime, I admit), attempts to manipulate both Wes and Lilah (Wes was on the money when he called Angel on what he was really there for), reiterates his abandonment of Connor, beats up a snitch (off-screenóbut he said he did; did Merl teach Angel nothing?), leaves Gunn very soon after his death and resurrection, kisses another woman when he is supposedly in love with Cordy (not blaming him there), and abandons the thought of retrieving Cordy rather quickly when he finds out she is in a higher planeóeven though he has recently seen prophecies be altered and was told by Wes Dinza was a deceiver. In a way, I am appreciating Angel, because the entire show seems to be muddying the line between good and bad, black and white, and I think I could put up with it if they would just stop continually calling him a champion. However, I have to give credit to David Boreanaz. Once one of the worst actors in the Buffyverse, he was able to stand toe-to-toe with Alexis Denisof and even carry some of the lame dialogue between Gwen and him.

Wes was only in two scenes, but they were doozies. At least now we know how Wes is supporting himself and maybe why Angel Investigations is going under. In that short scene with Angel, Wes proved he is all about business now, despite whatever emotions may be hiding behind his eyes. The people who worked for him <I>worked</I> for him; they were not his friends, and he probably would not even have a qualm sacrificing them in a strategic situation. The scene between Angel and Wes shows, I believe, the two of them are beyond forgiveness now. Not that it canít be granted, but that it is a priority for neither man. Wes and Angel have moved on with their missions, although it isnít quite clear what the mission is for either man. Wesís scene with Lilah shows a man attracted to the dark side while still disturbed by it. Strangely, the relationship might be one of the healthiest on either show. They are very truthful with each other (or almostóeven within truth there are lies), especially when they let each other know they will have no problem lying. Wes seems bored with the knowledge Lilah was promoted, but incensed that she might try to lure Connor. Whatever is going on with Wes, itís not simple jealousy, and itís not the simple want to do the right thing . . . or the wrong thing. Whatever it is, itís intriguing.

Fred and Gunn did not bother me as much this week, mainly because they werenít overly functioning as an ampersand. The moment I think Gunn is fading into the background, becoming a secondary, sidekick character, we get his reaction when Fred asks him what it was like to die. Great reaction shot by J. August Richards, and I hope it leads to something for Gunn. Fred is breaking under the pressure of trying to run everything. Many might quibble with Fred being the one making plans, but Gunn and Angel have proven in the past itís not their area of expertise. While I think Amy Acker has carried her scenes very well, I must admit to being a little sidetracked by her appearance. I realize she might be one of those people who can eat and eat without gaining weight, but the way she is dressed makes her almost look like a stick figure. If I were in the wardrobe department I would be thinking of different shirts than those strappy little ones.

I also wonder about Lilah. That she sleeps with Wes doesnít bother me so much. He is on the outs from his friends, so she really isnít sleeping with the enemy. That she gave into helping Angel so quickly did bother me. All I can think is she has an ulterior motive to help him. The woman who got herself promoted last week shouldnít have that much problem with a guy who got outsmarted by a 16-year-old with a tazer gun.

As a filler episode this was, well, okay. If I hadnít been bothered by some of the lame dialogue and my issues with Angel, I might have enjoyed it more. I do like the tone it seems to be setting for later in the season. Wes is somewhere in the middle, Angel is showing cracks in his good guy costume, Fred is cracking under pressure, Gunn is hiding something, Lilah is evil but willing to tryst with somebody who may harm her, and Connor and Cordy have been abandoned. I am assuming the Gwen character is a one-shot deal. If she is not, she needs to develop her own personality and not borrow from other characters.

Thoughts to Ponder

-- Next weekís episode: gee, why do I think Angel and company are going to cheat to get out of paying a debt?

-- Again, Charisma Carpenter and Vincent Kartheiser need to spread their wealth around, because they didnít really earn it this episode.

-- What is it with parents?

-- Was anybody else waiting for Brian Krakow to be in the show?


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