StephenT (stormwreath) wrote,

(Review) Angel & Faith 1.02: Live Through This - Part 2

Angel & Faith 1.02 is a solid story with good characterisation - I especially like Faith's internal dialogue - and a welcome flashback with Giles. The plot wasn't earth-shaking - the main twist has been guessed already by lots of people, but there were a few interesting extra details. It looks like Christos plans to lay out his cards on the table straight up instead of holding back secrets like Joss did in Season 8. Still, that still leaves the question of how the characters react to what's going on as the focus of interest, instead of trying to work out what the big mystery is: so it's all good.

We open with a street fight; Nadira's gang of Slayers versus a group of vampires and at least one demon. I was amused by one vampire who's climbed up a lamppost to get away, and was clinging to the top as a Slayer with a stake climbs up after him. One vamp runs off with a briefcase, and Nadira chases after him - to Faith's despair, as she fruitlessly warns Nadira to "Wait for backup!" If Buffy had been there, you can imagine her rolling her eyes at this point and saying, "Now you know how I used to feel about you"... but this is New Mature and Sensible Faith. Kinda.
The vampire turns out to be carrying an Uzi 9mm under his coat - he does know guns are illegal in Britain, right? But he's evil so doubtlessly doesn't care. He gives a Mr Trick-style speech about how vampires have to move with the times, and mocks Nadira's "cute little mediaeval weapons" - then gets his head cut off with a broadsword from behind. We don't quite see who was holding it - neither does Nadira - but he's wearing a long trenchcoat, so take a guess.
The vampire mocks Nadira by talking about "semiauto" as he fires his submachine gun. He is, however, clearly firing it on full auto, if the stream of half-a-dozen cartridge cases flying out of it as it goes "Brrttt" is anything to go by. Except maybe he's got it on single shot but is pulling the trigger ten times a second thanks to vampire speed. Hmmm.
Despite being taken completely by surprise, Nadira only suffers a slight flesh wound to her right leg before dodging behind a car. That's an interesting data point in the old, "Who would win, a vampire with a machine gun or a Slayer?" argument. She also seems completely unbothered by her injury later in the scene: but, again, Slayers heal fast.
Faith soliloquises about Nadira being "all rage, no brains", but has the self-awareness to recognise something of herself in there - and we learn that Nadira called for help for this fight, and Faith went so she doesn't have to deal yet with the revelation that ended the previous issue, about Angel's plan.
The scene ends with a minor mystery that will be solved in the very same issue. The demon was selling something to the vampire who tried to run off - and the 'something' turns out to be a vial of glowing green gunk that smells like rancid milk. Whatever could it be?
Nadira references Rick James, an American R&B singer who was fairly famous (in America) long before Nadira was even born. That's quite impressive pop culture knowledge she has there *eyeroll*. She also states that she wants to know who's running around London with a broadsword, and Faith gets all avoidy.
Next scene, Faith is telling Angel off for his stupidity in coming near Nadira, who wants to kill him. This is only cover for her anger at his plan to resurrect Giles, which she thinks is crazy and wrong.
First we deal with the "You can't come back from a natural death, only a mystical one" issue, which lots of fans have already raised - it's nice to see the writers hitting it head-on. I've suggested myself that the restriction might only apply to the particular spell Willow used in Season 6, rather than being a universal rule. The canon explanation turns out to be similar to that, but with a twist. There are lots of ways to resurrect a body, apparently, but getting the soul back is harder. (Which implies that what Dawn did in 'Forever' was reanimate Joyce's corpse, but without its soul. Probably just as well she undid the spell.)
When people die natural deaths, we're told, their soul "moves on out of reach" - which is probably the closest we'll get to a Buffyverse description of the afterlife. But "if magic's involved" it establishes a "spiritual connection" to the soul - allowing you to draw it back into this world. And Angel has concluded that because Giles was a warlock and a Watcher, "immersed in magic", that will be enough to bring his soul back.
Interestingly, this explanation would mean that Willow actually could have resurrected Tara after all, since she was a witch and just as immersed in magic as Giles, if not more. Whoops. Of course, it may turn out that Angel is mistaken in his belief, and simply being a magic-user isn't enough to make your death "mystical". Or the god who told Willow she couldn't bring back Tara was lying. Or maybe Willow in S6 just wasn't strong enough to bring back Tara, but it wasn't actually impossible. After all, in 'Goddesses and Monsters' a more powerful Willow *was* offered the chance to bring Tara back, but being older and wiser too she made the choice to leave her to her rest.
The question of whether Giles would actually want to be drawn back from wherever he currently is is not addressed here. Faith never spoke to Buffy in Season 6; we know Angel did but not what they discussed. Faith does, however, have an extremely negative reaction to the whole idea of tinkering with Giles's soul - and even worse to the idea of digging up his body. Which, at least Angel remembered that detail, unlike the Scoobies! The artwork of Faith's expressions was excellent.
Angel tries to persuade Faith to help him, or at least give him a chance to prove his plan will work. Faith isn't buying it - but on the other hand, we learn that she believes that it's only this idea of Angel's - and not her own good influence - that is keeping him going. Nice - well, 'nice' in the continuity sense anyway - to learn that Faith's low self esteem issues are still in play. If she tries to stop him, which every instinct is telling her to do, he might crash and burn. Her conscience won't let her do that. So, she agrees.
The (pointed) banter between them afterwards was a good sign; I don't want their interaction to be all doom and gloom and seriousness. And Faith is still shamelessly upfront about sexuality ("Wipe that grin off your face. It's not like I'm gonna bone you.") which to me felt a little awkward, but not out of character.
So they go to a demonic fight club, and here we get mentioned a detail of the new magicless world which I found interesting. We know from the TV series that vampires were generally considered the lowest of the low in the demon world. But now magic has ended, a lot of the most powerful demons - those who relied on spellcasting - are suddenly powerless. Vampires, who combine brute force and speed with human-level intelligence, have lost none of their abilities and so are now much higher in the hierarchy. It's not mentioned specifically, but the comment that vampires are now "celebrities" may also refer to the Season 8 plotline about them becoming public knowledge.
This scene, with Angel using his underworld contacts to find and threaten an informer, felt very much like the 'Angel' TV series to me, more than the rest of the comic so far. There was a meta-joke about Twilight and "the bird who writes the Goth romances" - presumably Stephenie Meyer - suing Angel.
The reference to Friendster was interesting too - this was an online social network founded in 2002 and reaching its peak in 2008, before losing over 90% of its membership in 2009-10 as Facebook took over its market. That would date the comic pretty precisely, if we hadn't been told by Scott Allie long ago to ignore pop-culture references in the 'Buffy' comics because, as a deliberate choice of style, the writers have decided to use current-day pop culture instead of going back to see what was fashionable in 2006 or whenever these stories are "really" supposed to be happening.
American writers seem very fond of the word "bint" when writing for British characters. In my experience it's really not that common a term, at least not in mainstream society. It started out as military slang, so maybe soldiers still use it a lot, I wouldn't know.
Angel's plan was kind of ridiculous, but amusing. As was Faith's description of it. I did like her referencing Angel's "Catholic guilt" - fans often talk about it, but now it's referred to in canon. And the following comment did add some much-needed emotional depth to the issue:
"You warned me what can happen when you get off on violence. I'm more worried what happens when you don't feel a damn thing."
Angel doesn't reply. This is definitely going to be a big theme of the season: it echoes what was said last issue and, from Faith's perspective, in S8.
And here's the big reveal...(dum dum dum)... the demons are trading Mohra demon blood, which can regenerate anything! Gasp! It's not like 99% of fandom already guessed that one. :) We get a reference to what happened to Angel in 'I Will Remember You', and even a one-panel flashback of him kissing Buffy.
I did like Faith's reaction to this, and the fourth-wall-breaking joke. Early on, when she first sees what Mohra blood can do and is stunned to realise that such things are even possible, she exclaims in shock, "Did I miss an episode?" Soon after, as Angel tells her he once became human, she extends the metaphor to, "I missed a whole damn season." Well, yes you did, Faith. It was season 1 of 'Angel'/Season 4 of 'Buffy', when you were in a coma. :-) 
So Angel is planning to use Mohra blood to bring Giles's body back to life, and says that getting his soul back too is "a whole other thing, but one step at a time". Faith's expression is a picture (well, yeah, this being a comic of course it is, but you know what I mean). She helps him because she thinks she must for his sake, but she's convinced it's all going to go up in flames.
Speaking of, the fight scene that follows is another nice scene reminiscent of the TV series. I liked that Angel has background knowledge of demons and the best way to fight them, while Faith is just tough and resourceful - and good at improvising. Also, she carries a cigarette lighter (so still smokes) and was "banned from chem lab" for arson - something she has in common with Buffy after all! ♥  Though apparently that means she did go to high school for a while at least...
The sepia-toned flashback to Giles and Faith talking in his home - the one Faith now owns - was definitely welcome. I hope we're going to see more appearances from him throughout the season. I also much appreciated that they talked about Professor Worth, the vulcanologist - I'm sure there's another fourth-wall-breaking comment there when Faith says that "you and everyone else" always forgets about him, and only remembers her killing of the Deputy Mayor. Reading between the lines, it seems that Faith was asking Giles if it was possible to resurrect him, or else for her to travel back in time to stop herself from killing him in the first place. (Is that a 'Tru Calling' reference?) The comparison to what Angel's thinking now is obvious, of course.
Another pointed detail - Faith knows that Professor Worth's daughter still visits the Sunnydale crater to drop flowers in. How? Because her conscience forced her to find out, I imagine. And a minor point of reference - Faith says that she's now no longer wanted by the police at all, thanks to Giles's (or rather the Council's, I assume) influence, rather than being a fugitive under a false name.
Giles mentions that others live with the same guilt, of having killed innocent people, and he's holding a book with the Symbol of Eyghon on the cover - so he's thinking about the events of his youth rather than, say, the more recent killing of Ben. He also states his philosophy of life, which sounds pretty editorial and Jossian in tone to me: punishing yourself for your past mistakes is just useless wallowing in self-pity, but real atonement means "to counter the evil we've done with a lifetime of good".
The ironic thing here is that Angel himself has expressed the exact same philosophy at times - the famous "if nothing we do matters" speech - but the trouble is that Angel has such moments of Existential clarity only rarely. At other times he lets himself get seduced by the idea that he can win salvation in a single stroke by some big dramatic action to solve all the world's problems at once.
Faith's final soliloquy had a slight air of, "Here's where we explain about Angel for new or casual readers" - which actually, come to think of it, isn't such a crazy idea after all even if the whole "vampire with a soul" thing is old hat for established fans. She comments that with all the good he's done, he's already "made up for what he did to Giles before he even did it" - which is a nice call-back to Faith's similar attitude back in Season 3 and 'Consequences'. Of course it's not a moral position that everyone agrees with. She also tells us that originally, she was just hoping to keep Angel out of trouble until he realised his quest to resurrect Giles was doomed to fail - but now she thinks he's never going to give it up. So all she can do now is find a way to make him stop feeling so guilty about his crimes. How? That could get interesting...
Faith says that Angel has "saved the world five or six times". I'm trying to think when that would be... Whereas Buffy specialised in preventing the apocalypse at least once per year, Angel's battles tended to be much more small-scale and personal. Saving individual lives, not the entire world. Defeating Jasmine is the only solid example I can think of offhand, though I'll admit to not being as familiar with AtS as I am with BtVS so I may have missed a few. Defeating the Black Thorn might also count, but that's controversial.
And finally Cyril, we get a page of our Big Bads for the season, Pearl and Nash. Nasty as ever; their childhood hobby was apparently pulling the arms off the small boys who pulled the wings off flies. And they're after Mohra blood too. Whether that's because they know Angel wants some and they're going to set a trap for him, or they have a separate plan of their own that needs it, remains to be seen.
On the letters page Scott gives an attempt to explain the whole Twilight-Angel-possession-influence business which I'm quite sure will satisfy nobody whose ideas are already set. C'est la vie. When you admit in writing that something is "muddy, mystical stuff that is not easily or thoroughly explainable", you're just asking for trouble from the section of the fanbase who demands that everything in a story must be precise and detailed and black-and-white...
Tags: angel, angel&faith, angel&faith review, buffy, meta, review
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