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January 10 2006

Angel season 4 DVD review from TWoP's Sars. One of Television Without Pity's co-founders discusses her problems with the season.

"...let me say first that I didn't loathe the fourth season -- far from it. I liked it a great deal; this isn't a bad review. It's a diagnosis of wasted potential."

Well I liked season 4, thought it was a rollercoaster of a ride with some excellent twists and turns. It was like '24' on crack magick.
Well that pretty much summed things up rather nicely.
I got bored reading the article... Sorry. :p
Yeah it wasn't my favorite season of the show that's for sure. Though Wesley with a shotgun and Faith kicking some ass was well worth it.
I get bored with TwoP generally. Too much of what I read there is snark for the sake of snark. If I'm looking for a review that will help me decide if I want to see something, TwoP is useless.
Interesting article, although I'm also a fan of season 4. I would have liked Gwen's character to weave into proceedings a bit more and I'm sure there were behind the scenes difficulties, but I'd argue that the pros really do outweigh the cons.

Theoretically I agree with some of her points - if an actress is meant to be secretly evil then it would make sense to me that you tell her that - but I don't agree that it is necessary to get overly exposition-y on stuff like Lilah's corporeal state.

Still, good article.
I really don't like TWOP, but this review was okay.

And yeah, the season certainly isn't perfect, but I still think it's great.
I don't know - I agree with some of her points about Evil!Cordelia, but a lot of the rest of it rubbed me the wrong way. Particularly the parts about Conner (who, I'll admit, I unrelentingly loved), and the comment about how she can understand what it's like to run a TV show because of her work on TWoP.
Well s4 is my favourite season of Angel so I have to say I don't agree with this review but as we see everytime a favourite season/episode/actor etc. debate starts YMMV.
I didn't care much for the overall story of S4. I think that's because even after seeing it on DVD, I still have a hard time understanding what's going on. But I like the episodes and character interactions. That's the great thing about Buffy, Angel and other character shows. The characters can stand independantly of the plot.
What exactly is this website? I'm trying to find out but my internet connection is conspiring against me.

I think it's certainly an interesting article. Clearly it's someone who likes the show and is articulating their points well without being unreasonably critical.

Personally I really loved season four of Angel and I think it's as strong as any other in many respects. There wasn't really any one thing that didn't work for me.

About Evil Cordy, from what I have heard the writers had decided on that plot from the start of the season, but I don't think Charisma knew right away, so as the article rightly points out, Charisma's performance is quite misleading because she didn't know at the time that her character was being controlled.

But I think that works really well, because when she stabs Lilah and we realise that Cordelia has been behind all the bad stuff, it is so much more surprising, and I think that there were very subtle indications layered into previous episodes which wouldn't have tipped us off then but in retrospect fit together and make sense. I think the character did feel a little "off" during the season which makes sense when we find out what was going on. Jasmine knew exactly what she was doing when she was controlling Cordy so it stands to reason that she didn't make any big mistakes until around "Orpheus", and that her act was very convincing. The real Cordy wasn't so
sickeningly sweet and understanding.

I felt Wesley's isolation was realistic and it didn't feel unusual to me. I liked that there was some conflict between the characters and you could see that there was uneasiness between them, they had to accept help from each other at different times, and then eventually they manage to work it out, but having grown the character by leaps and bounds.

I thought Gina Torres did an excellent job as Jasmine, and I didn't find it at all gimmicky, after all the first time I saw season four I hadn't even seen Firefly, and only knew her from Alias. The whole concept of acting is that the audience can accept actors playing different roles, and that's what a good actor does. If Gina "did a great job with the material" then surely recognising her from Firefly shouldn't have been a problem?

I loved Lilah returning and was hoping we would have seen some of her in season five. I guess if she had stayed we wouldn't have seen Eve at all. I didn't have much of a problem with what she was. After all, we'd seen Holland Manners return in a very similar situation, so it's pretty clear that they are ghosts or something similar. I think it was better not to spout exposition on what she was and get on with the main plot.

Although I do agree that in the later seasons of Buffy and Angel there is a slight lack of mythology, I think. Like whenever a demon appears its species is frequently not even mentioned, whereas in the first five or so seasons of Buffy you could take every episode and they would have managed to build up a nice mythology for the viewer without making it obvious that they were doing so. Like Quellar demons or The Order of Taraka or whatever.

But we have demons appear in episodes like "Help" or "Get It Done" and don't find out very much about them. It's not a major thing but I think it would have been nice to have just as much contribution to the overall Buffyverse mythology.
I actually think she makes some good points, many of which I agree with. The first time I saw S4, when it was airing, I really didn't like it, for many of the reasons she mentions here: I hated what they did with Cordelia, Connor annoyed me, a lot of the plot points didn't seem well-throught through, didn't like the Gunn-Fred arc, hated Jasmine as a character, etc., etc. But I was surprised when I rewatched it on DVD how well it had aged. I still had a lot of the same problems with it (and agree with many of Sars's criticisms here) but for some reason I just enjoyed it a whole lot more. It was as though the sum were greater than the parts.
Still not one of my favorite seasons, but it has some terrific moments.

MissKittysMom, while I agree that often TWoP is snark for the sake of snark (although not as much with the shows the reviewers there love, which happen to be some of my favorites too), this particular review isn't like that. I didn't find it snarky at all - just honest and pretty well-reasoned (though not exactly pithy) criticisms of a show the reviewer ultimately loves.
I thought this was a thoughtful and well put together critique of S4. I don’t agree with every point but then I never expect to totally agree with any person’s opinion (including my own – I am schizophrenic that way). I absolutely loved S4 but the first time I saw it, I suffered a lot of disorientation as I was totally confused as to what was going on (but I really enjoyed that aspect – kind of like a real life experience). The one comment I wish to address is the discounting of Angelus’ Mean Girls act and its effectiveness. In the Buffyverse, when you want to explore a character’s inner feelings you don’t summon the good guys – it is seemingly the evil side (see the Mayor, Spike, Angelus, Darla, even at times Drusilla) that are most sensitive to another characters core psyche. Angelus knew (sensed) exactly what psychological attack to mount in order to do the most damage. The fact that the characters intellectually understood the game does not necessarily mean that the attack will not have the intended effect. It is one thing to understand something from an intellectual standpoint but entirely different to make your emotions respond to what your intellect knows. I think having Angelus wreak havoc emotionally was much, much more effective than having him break some necks. I certainly enjoyed it and it was in keeping with Angelus’ sop from Buffy S2.
I may be biased, myself being a big fan of TwoP, but I thought Sars' review was very well-thought-out, and I agreed with a lot of it. I too was often upset by some of the character turns taken in season four, especially with Cordelia, and with the exception of the dislike of Gina Torres (who I love love love), I can safely say that I feel Sars was right on with her comments.
although not as much with the shows the reviewers there love

OK, I'll give them a reprieve, then. I just hadn't seen anything from them that showed a love for any series or episode.
I just hadn't seen anything from them that showed a love for any series or episode.

Oh yeah, there are quite a few. I occasionally check out the Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls recaps, and both of those are recapped by reviewers who love the shows. Same for early West Wing, and Project Runway, and (I think) Deadwood. I haven't read many of the other show recaps and never saw their Angel ones (though I do know they completely missed the genius that is Firefly).
You know what it is about TWOP. The site can be really clever, if a little snarky for my tastes, but the articles just go on & on. If you can say it in a sentence, then TWOP will take a paragraph... or two.

However, this link is barely a review. It's really just kvetching.

[ edited by Unitas on 2006-01-11 02:48 ]
Well, she liked season 4 more than I did.

I really like the points she made about the need for situations to evolve, both with the season 6 of Buffy example and the "my son" example (loved that). Also that there needs to be an internal logic, which is really the main problem with just about everything Joss has done--really strong on intuition and emotion, weak on intellectual follow-through. I can sympathize but with other people cooperating, one would think that someone else on the team would provide the balance needed. (Obviously, that someone was never Marti.)

I didn't think we needed to know any more about Lilah's "perpetuity clause"...that sort of mystery is appropriate, and creepy.
acp Omar, who recaps Smallville is pretty funny. Plus he loves Michael Ironside. That's cool with me. ;0)

Until recently I never went over to TWOP because of the snippets of vileness that were written there about JM a while back. Not Spike, JM. Uncalled for and just not cool, .
I did agree with quite a few of her commments, but in no way did I find Wesley's Season 4 character arc unsatisfactory; in fact I think it was one of the best character arcs in the Buffyverse.

What I do wish is that Season 4 of Angel focused less on all the big bad horrible stuff happening in the world and more on character relationships- what made the other 4 seasons of Angel so much better. Some might argue that season 4 focused too much on character relationships with the Cordy/Connor/Angel and Wesley/Fred/Gunn romances, but to me these seemed more like shallow, soap-operaish relationships than the more deep, thought-provoking stuff in other seasons of Buffy and Angel. I would have rather the season focused more on the conflict between Connor and Angel without the Cordy love triangle element or the apocalypse storyline. I would have kept the return of Angelus because it could have provided some interesting conflicts for Connor (like whether or not to kill Angelus).

I'm still not sure how pregnant Cordy should have been dealt with, but definitely not the way it was.
Season 4 of Angel is the only set I don't own. I can't stand it.
I actually loved season four. In part, that's because I'm cheap and they had ridiculously impressive production values in comparison to Buffy. While I do agree that the whole Cordy character stuff was a bit off and Connor was annoying (understandable at times, but still stupid), I think they made each individual episode more interesting than most other season-long storyarcs.

If I remember correctly there's a goofy episode, zombie episode, an apocolypse with raining fire, then a bodyguard "protect the plot-device" episode, and they all interconnect while standing on their own as a concept. This is in comparison to Buffy the same year where there were two or three episodes where nothing happened other than attempts to kill an uber-vamp and one of the characters occasionally going crazy.
I agree with some of her thoughts, others I do not. Like Wesley. Wesley is by far my favorite character in all of the Buffyverse. The arc his character goes through is quite amazing. I loved his journey in season 4. The journey I did not like...that of Cordelia. Completely agreed with her on all points. I couldn't be too annoyed with Connor because I felt sympathy for him. Him sleeping with Cordelia? Ewww. The apocolypse stuff...very bad ass in my opinion. Disagree with everything she said about season 6 of Buffy. It was my favorite season, and I heart Marty. I would have liked to see more of Lilah to know exactly what was going on, but like Ilana said...the mystery is appropriate.
I'm agree Harmalicious. I loved both Wesley and Lilah in this season (and I didn't need an explanation for why she was back). I was glad they took Wesley to a dark place (though I agree that the gang was a little slow to recognize all he had done for Angel). I also loved Angelus this season, and episodes like orpheus were among my favorites. So I disagree with Sars on all those points. But her criticisms about Cordy, and Connor, and Jasmine, and the general sense that the writers were just making things up as they went along - all that I'm on board with. The season is my least favorite of Angel, but it still held up better than I expected to rewatching.
Razor, here's a link to Television Without Pity". It's an entertaining site and I visit it often. It's a group that describes several television shows in terms of transcription and they do a pretty good job. 'Course, the person's attitude weighs in on the transcription and that's the fun. Actually, I find their snark and humor quite fitting.

As for AtS season 4, I rather enjoyed most of it. You can tell the writers kinda' shifted gears in the middle of it (much like BtVS' season 7), but overall, I liked it.
Orangewaxliion - That is an excellent point about Angel S4 epiosdes being able to stand individaually on their own concept (zombie episode, bodyguard episode, dream episode) rather than bleeding together like most heavily serialized shows. This is a very rare thing in heavily seriazied television where the norm on a show like 24 is to treat each episode like a chapter in a book rather than a self-contained story. The genius of Lost's structure (which is filled with genius & folly) is the that each episode's flashbacks allow that week's story to feel self-contained even though that show is as heaviy serialized as anything on the air.
Nice article, while I really enjoy the 4th season of Ats, I agree with some of the comments she makes.

Sounds mostly like someone who just wants to hold the ME team to a high standard, nothing wrong with that.

Though ...

Wesley's arc, in my book one of the best things with S4.

Cordelia, could probably have been handled better though I dont know how, I believe that real world pregnancy issues limited the options for the writers.

Connor, not my favourite, I subscribe to the theory that leaving him in the helldimension for good would have improved the following seasons immensely, the Conner smackdown contributes greatly to me voting it best season opener of all the Angel seasons( but there is also Lilah going over/under the bosses head and bucket girl, in all a great episode).

Cordelia & Conner, bleh, there must have been some other way to get Cordelia pregnant, this whole arc left both characters diminished in my eyes, however much people say she is controlled by Jasmine.

Lilah, sometimes not telling is a valid creative choice, leave some surprises and give the fans something to think about.
(works better in fantasy than in sci-fi where the science part can cause trouble)
Seeing Lilah back in the season ender was a breath of fresh air, no more exposition on the why and how was needed.

Btvs S6, "a realistic portrayal of an emotional state is not automatically good television." , agree.

Buffy, Angel, 24, Lost, "when the writers clearly don't have a plan" , Dont agree, clearly some seasons of Buffy and Angel have had more of a plan than others but even when where the plans for 'external' reasons had to be changed, like SG leaving, the Initiative or pregnancy, new directions where put in place and good stories told, Lost equally clearly (YMMV) have no clue.
If 24 have no plans in place when they start writing the season they are the best at hiding it that I've ever seen, cause it really looks like they know where they are heading.
Personally, I really rather liked season four of Angel. But I do tend to agree that the Cordy stuff was kind of a weak link. Love Cordy (and CC) to bits but it seems like it's usually a good idea not to ask her to 'act' too much. Down to the writing as well, of course. The Cordy of this season seems to bear very little relation to the Cordy of previous seasons or of Buffy
Unitas, I actually felt that Angel season four felt less able to stand on their own than any other season. Almost every episode picked up right where the previous one ended and the whole season took place over a few weeks. Every plot was tightly developed with the main plot.

Contrast this with season five where the episodes were more standalone with a single premise where the subplots would be developed around the main plot. In fact the producers were asked by the network to cut down on the serialised nature of the show because it made it harder for new viewers to get into the show, so that's why season five was less serialised.

I think Buffy season seven started off with a more standalone premise but ended up losing that a little. But to be honest there were so many important subplots that I felt they dealt with them successfully without over-serialising everything. As I said before I really enjoyed Angel season four, but I just think it was actually really serialised and as such it is harder to pick out individual episodes and remember what happened in each of them.

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