Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Angel, "The Bachelor Party" Review (1x07)

Brief Synopsis: “As Doyle and Cordelia grow closer, Doyle’s estranged wife, Harry, shows up at Angel Investigations requesting a divorce so that she can marry her new love. After the shock wears off, Doyle agrees to the divorce and also accepts an invitation to attend the bachelor party of the groom to be. However, the new groom is a demon with some very strange customs regarding the ex-husband. One of which is eating the brain of the former husband...”

"Sense & Sensitivity" (1x06) quick link here                                                                                       "I Will Remember You" (1x08) quick link here

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With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

Can you sense a pattern with “Angel” season one thus far?

Sadly, “The Bachelor Party” breaks this trend by bringing “Angel” its second below-average episode in a row. This is very quickly counteracted by two of the strongest episodes that “Angel” ever produces, “I Will Remember You” and “Hero”. “Angel” will soon reach the stage that “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season two did, where the writers crack the formula so that every episode has something decent to offer. If you check all of my “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” ‘final scores’ (http://shangelsreviews.blogspot.co.uk/p/final-scores.html), you will notice that there has rarely been a poor episode since just after the second half of season two. This is because even when an episode has a mediocre plot, it is still at least ‘average’ because every episode is filled with some form of character development or importance. Very few episodes are throwaway from season three of the show onwards. In the case of “Angel”, they crack this formula even faster (probably because of all the experience they gained from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and the fact that the two lead characters were already established before “Angel” started). At this point, they still hadn’t quite figured it out yet. While “The Bachelor Party” is fantastic at exploring Doyle’s background and showing why he is the way he is, everything else in this episode is underwhelming to say the least.

“The Bachelor Party” can be summed up in one word: Doyle. It’s all about Doyle. Doyle and Cordelia sparkage, Doyle’s ex-wife showing up in Los Angeles, Doyle’s life before joining Angel in “City Of”, Doyle’s ex-wife’s new fiancé, Doyle nearly getting his brain eaten...it’s Doylefest ’99. In hindsight, this episode is depressing. I feel like the vast majority of it is to make us more invested in Doyle before he’s killed off in “Hero”. They’re giving us all this wonderful backstory and empathy for Doyle (which was the only part of Doyle’s brilliant character that was missing at this point) just so his death will hurt us more...bastards! “The Bachelor Party” is basically a three act piece. Act I would be Cordelia’s date and realising that she might have feelings for Doyle. Act II is the arrival of Harry and the exploration of their relationship and Doyle’s backstory. Act III is the bachelor party itself. Act III is where the episode falls apart for me. The episode starts strongly (granted it takes a while to get going) with all the Doyle-Harry backstory, but the last act falls short. Doyle is trapped in an absurd contraption, his brain is never close to being eaten, Angel swoops in and saves the day, everything gets resolved in a few minutes, and then the episode ends. It never felt like anybody was in peril. 

The episode opens with a fabulously dressed Cordelia heading out for a date with a wealthy, handsome young gentleman called Pearce. It’s apparent at the beginning of this episode that Cordelia is still rather shallow. Who can blame her for that though? Up until just before a year ago, Cordelia had spent her entire life getting whatever she wanted. She lived in a large house, she had servants, the finest clothes money could buy, and had known nothing but the finer things in life. Then her daddy loses everything, she moves to Los Angeles with hopes of superstardom, and ends up living in complete poverty. What Pearce represents to Cordelia is her chance to regain her privileged lifestyle. Before she gets the opportunity to go out for a meal with Pearce, however, Pearce is subjected to an interrogation from Angel and Doyle. I cannot contain my excitement over that scene. Doyle and Angel come across as two grumpy parents that are looking after their teenage daughter. Doyle is obviously doing this because he’s jealous that Cordelia is going on a date with someone other than him. Angel’s motives seem to be tied up more in friendship. Considering that Angel didn’t like Cordelia very much during their time in Sunnydale, they’ve bonded very quickly since “City Of”, which is wonderful to see. Another hilarious thing to consider in hindsight is that both of the ‘grumpy parents’ end up dating or kissing Cordelia down the line, which makes my ‘grumpy parents’ analogy rather disturbing. Angel Investigations are not the Targaryens. Also, Angel choosing to interrogate Pearce shows Cordelia that he does care about her, which she was doubting at the beginning of the last episode, “Sense & Sensitivity”. Angel’s not the type of guy to openly pronounce his affections yet; he chooses to display that he cares in other ways. To quote Xander, “it’s more a verbal non-verbal”.

While Cordelia is out on her date, Doyle stumbles across a picture of Buffy.

Doyle: “How does she feel about men with an Irish accent?”

As Angel is Irish, pretty good actually. I know he doesn’t have his terribly unconvincing Irish accent when he comes to Sunnydale, but he’s Irish nonetheless.

How Cordelia manages to survive her date with Pearce without falling asleep is beyond me. He may be the most sinfully boring character that we’ve been exposed to thus far. The interesting part about this is that Cordelia is bored. Cordelia no longer seems to care about money and pretentiousness. Her new addiction is fighting the forces of darkness and helping the helpless. When you consider Cordelia’s entire journey thus far, this revelation is startling. Soon after the meal we discover that in addition to being a boring douchebag, Pearce is also a coward. When a vampire attacks Cordelia and Pearce, he flees and leaves Cordelia in dire jeopardy...until Doyle swoops in and saves the day! Doyle finally got his heroic moment! Cordelia explains to Angel the next morning that she’s grateful that Doyle saved her. This is a huge moment for her character! Cordelia is attracted to the exciting, heroic type over the wealthy, good-looking type! It’s not until after Doyle dies and Cordelia inherits the visions that she truly starts to blossom, but the first eight episodes of this season certainly setup her change perfectly. Watching Cordelia grow as a person makes Angel smile. This is so abnormal that my first thought was wondering whether or not he had chronic gas. Understandably, Cordelia is reluctant to enter a relationship with Doyle. She’s already dated the witty, awkward, anti-hero type before when she dated Xander and it ended with her getting her heartbroken. She’s not sure if she’s willing to risk that again.

Ultimately, Cordelia decides to give it a go with Doyle and talk to him about how she’s feeling. In typical Whedonverse fashion, this conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Doyle’s ex-wife, Harry, who refers to Doyle as “Francis”.

Cordelia: “Who’s Francis?!

Yep. That was my reaction too. I was flabbergasted to learn that Doyle was previously married and used to be a school teacher! I mean, I was sure he’d been in relationships before, but it was surprising to discover that he was happy in a committed relationship with a steady job. Doyle doesn’t seem like that type of person at all. My favourite part of this episode is that we get to see why Doyle doesn’t seem like that type of person. We get to see why Doyle has no friends and is addicted to a life of gambling and drinking. It all starts when Doyle explains to Angel that he doesn’t like to fight in his demon form, even though he’s a stronger fighter that way. I’m sure that Doyle previously turning his back on his demon kin and them eventually being slaughtered at the hands of The Scourge plays a part, but I think it goes much deeper than that. Doyle refuses to accept his demon side at all. He hates it and he wants nothing to do with it. His lack of acceptance of his demon side is the reason why Harry and himself fell apart and it’s the reason why Doyle feels like he will never have a chance with a woman like Cordelia. It’s clear from the moment that Harry enters the room that her appearance has shaken Doyle. Glenn Quinn’s eyes and facial expressions during that scene tell you more than dialogue ever could. It’s like seeing a ghost for him. So much so that he refuses an alcohol drink after her arrival! Something is clearly wrong here.

Harry represents everything that Doyle has oppressed and ran away from since he was 21-years-old. That’s why his usual quick-witted and carefree self goes out the window as soon as she arrives. Having Harry not only accept Doyle’s demon side, but actively encourage him to explore and appreciate it makes this backstory all the more interesting. Their marriage fell apart because Doyle couldn’t accept his demon side, not because Harry couldn’t...oh the complexity! It’s yet another example of the Buffyverse turning the usual story on its head. After discovering his demon side, Doyle became a nightmare to be around...quick to temper, often annoyed, and outright refusing to acknowledge his heritage or what he is.

Doyle: “Harry didn’t leave because of the demon in me, she left because of me.”

How heartbreaking is that line? Dem feels. It reminds me so much of what Angel says to Buffy in “Amends”. Angel tells Buffy that it’s not the demon inside of him that needs killing, it’s the man. It highlights just how similar these two characters are. Both are Irish, both walk in two worlds but belong to neither, and both are trying to make amends for the stupid decisions and terrible acts they committed earlier in their lives. The only difference is that they both go about this in very different ways. Angel chooses to brood in the darkness to ease his pain whereas Doyle chooses the more self-destructive path of gambling and alcohol. I think this difference is because Angel hates the demon side of himself primarily, where as Doyle hates all of himself. He can’t stand to look at himself in the mirror. Also, there are many similarities between Doyle/Harry and Angel/Buffy. Both were young love couples that tore apart the people within the relationships. Doyle mentions that when you’re young, you don’t just say ‘thank you’ and leave, you tear each other apart until one of you can’t take it anymore. At times, that would describe Buffy and Angel just as much as it would Harry and Doyle. I also enjoy that there is no ‘bad guy’ in Harry and Doyle’s breakup. Doyle was understandably going through a rough time and the relationship fell apart. It’s that simple.

Carlos Jacott being back in the Whedonverse was also a treat. Previously, Carlos played Ken in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season three’s “Anne”, as well as later going on to appear in the pilot episode of “Firefly”, “Serenity”. He’s one of only six actors (as far as I’m aware) that appear in all three shows. Interestingly, in all three shows he plays a character that appears friendly and charming, yet turns out to be someone completely different to what we thought. He’s not a villain in this episode, but he does try to eat Doyle’s brain! Soon after he first appears, we discover that there is more to Richard than meets the eye. Angel saves Harry from a demon-Richard, only to find out that Harry already knows that Richard is a demon. Not only that, but she accepts that Richard is a demon and loves him anyway. It’s this realisation that prompts Doyle to sign the divorce papers. He finally knows once and for all that Harry wasn’t pitying him with her talk of accepting his demon side. She genuinely meant it. It’s a big realisation for Doyle and one that helps him start to accept his demon side. Did a former couple in the Buffyverse just have a mature conversation with adult results? What kind of bizarro world am I living in right now?!  I almost hate myself for mentioning this, but if Harry hadn’t returned and helped Doyle here, would Doyle have had the selflessness to save a boatful of his demon kin in “Hero”? Perhaps not.

Richard and his family represent yet another example of the differences between “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”. His family are a genuinely loving group. They aren’t ‘evil’ per se. They have some, erm, questionable family traditions, such as eating the brain of the previous husband, but does that make them evil? Welcome to the world of the grey-area demon. The primarily black and white world of Sunnydale has been replaced with the techni-colour world of Oz. Yes, in my analogy, Angel is Dorothy. I guess that would make Doyle the Scarecrow and Cordelia the...I was going to say Tin Man, but if you’ve seen her lose her temper, it might be more apt to call her the Wicked Witch of the West....where was I?

Ah, yes, Richard eating Doyle’s brain. The contraption that they use to hold Doyle in place while attempting to cut his head open and eat his brain with a shrimp fork(!!!) is absolutely ridiculous. It’s one of those situations where it’s so stupid that you can’t help but love it. Also, I defy you to watch Doyle mumble “my head’s going numb...” without laughing your mouth dry. Glenn’s delivery of that line is too much to handle. Seriously, if you don’t remember it, the first thing I want you to do after finishing this review is to go and watch it. Trust me, you won’t be sorry! Doyle sounds so confused! Angel and Cordelia save the day, Harry discovers what Richard was going to do, and everything gets resolved very quickly. Not before these two nuggets, though...

Cordelia: “You shouldn’t be trying to eat my friend’s brains. You ugly, horrible demon people…*she then clobbers demon-Doyle with a serving tray*
Richard’s Cousin: “Who wants a wife whose knees only bend the one way?” – umm, me?

The episode closes with Doyle having a vision of Buffy in danger. This leads us into our second crossover story of the season. Everybody ready for some hilarity in the next “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” episode and some tears in the next “Angel” episode?

Quote Of The Episode

Cordelia: “Hi Doyle, are you going to become loser, pining-guy, like, full- time now? Because you know, we already have one of those around the office.”

Angel: “Hey!”

Doyle: “Hey!”

Cordelia: “He can get away with it, he’s tall and look at the way clothes hang on him! But you…”

Angel: “Okay, I think you’ve cheered us up enough…”

If I was going to rate this episode taking into account my personal interests, I would probably give this episode a 5/10. I love Doyle, I love backstory, and I laughed a lot during the final stretch of this episode (albeit some of the laughter was at the absurdity of the episode). However, when you look at this episode objectively, it leaves a lot to be desired. A lame plot outside of Doyle’s past means that this episode is one of the weakest of the season and the worst episode thus far into my reviews of “Angel”.


What are your thoughts on "The Bachelor Party"? Did you enjoy this episode? Dislike it? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  1. I refuse to accept this score :( I know the plot is lame but...it's Doyle-centric episode. I'm sorry I' m a sucker for Doyle. It's nice to have a little Doyle's background before he dies in 2 episodes. Looking forward to your review of I Will Remember You :)

  2. Wow! i cannot forget my bachelor party which i celebrated at best bachelorette party nyc venue. Every of my friend enjoyed to the fullest and we will remember the day forever in life.

  3. They tried to eat his brain? RUDE.
    So his wife didn't leave him because of his demon side, which means she left him because of his human side. Ouch, baby. Very ouch.

  4. I LOVE that Doyle's first name is Francis. It's perfect for him.