Friday, 7 March 2014

Angel, "Rm w/a Vu" Review (1x05)

Brief Synopsis: “When Cordelia decides that she can no longer stand her cockroach-infested apartment, Doyle offers to help her find a new place. He makes good on his promise and finds Cordelia her perfect apartment. There’s just one’s haunted.”

"I Fall To Pieces" (1x04) quick link here                                                                                                     "Sense & Sensitivity" (1x06) quick link here

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1) This review will almost definitely contain spoilers for episodes after this one.
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With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

“Rm w/a Vu” is my favourite episode of “Angel” thus far into the reviews. “City Of” was a very good episode that set the scene of the show, while the three subsequent episodes have been plot-heavy. This episode is not only plot heavy, but it’s packed with emotional continuity and character development for Cordelia on top of a fairly decent story-of-the-week to begin with. It’s already been established after “In The Dark” that Angel is all about redemption. He wants to earn and fight for redemption after all the horrific actions that he committed as Angelus (and a few as Angel). The next few episodes are about showing us that Cordelia and Doyle are also fighting for redemption. Doyle’s motives become clearer and clearer after “The Bachelor Party” and “Hero”. It’s Cordelia’s turn in “Rm w/a Vu”. Like “In The Dark” and certain parts of “I Fall To Pieces”, you need to have seen “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” to truly appreciate this episode. If you’re not familiar with Cordelia’s backstory, you can’t appreciate what a huge moment the ending of this episode is for her character. We’ve spent three years with Cordelia in Sunnydale. She’s always been headstrong, popular, opinionated, and shallow (let’s face it). 

Angel explains all of this to Doyle in order to give the viewers who haven’t watched “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” a picture of what Cordelia was like before she moved to Los Angeles and became poor. How did Angel know so much about the Cordettes? I’m suddenly getting mental images of Angel and Buffy cuddled up in Angel’s mansion while Buffy complains to Angel about Cordelia and the Cordettes being mean to her. I want this scene and I want it now! Speaking of Angel, I love the parallel that Angel and Cordelia both grew up with servants. They both very much went from riches to rags. When you think about it, the two characters have a lot in common after they both moved to Los Angeles.

Since daddy lost all his money and Cordelia moved to Los Angeles, her life has fallen apart. For the first time in her life Cordelia has to experience what it’s like to be poor. I come from a poor family myself. When I was growing up times were hard. Sometimes we couldn’t afford heating in the winter and a lot of times we walked everywhere we went because we couldn’t afford a car. For this reason I have an unhealthy amount of empathy for Cordelia in this episode. She’s lost everything that created her identity while she was at school. Cordelia moved to Los Angeles for fame and the riches that she’d become so accustomed to during her childhood and teenage years. Thus far it hasn’t met Cordelia expectations in the least. She’s living in a cockroach-infested motel room, she has very few friends, and she can barely afford food. All of this needs to happen in order for Cordelia to start developing as a person! If you see Cordelia in “Angel” season three, then go back and watch Cordelia in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, the personality is almost unrecognisable. She is a completely different person. Even though Cordelia doesn’t truly start to become empathetic and a hero in her own right until after she receives the visions from Doyle, I don’t think her character transformation would have been possible at all if she hadn’t been subjected to suffering and poverty for the first time in her life. Cordelia has been thrust into the real world. Suddenly she sees a whole new darker side to life that she was unaware of before. I’m not talking about monsters and demons. She knew about them from living on the Hellmouth. I’m talking about being so hungry that you could eat your own arm. I’m talking about feeling so alone that you talk to the cockroaches infesting your motel room. Cordelia is being broken down in order to be rebuilt as a stronger, better person. She hits breaking point in this episode and runs to Angel for help. Literally.

Cordy shows up at Angel’s apartment with suitcases of her possessions and invites herself into his house. While I think that this scene was partly an excuse to have David Boreanaz topless again, I do love how oblivious Cordelia is to Angel being wet and naked. She couldn’t care less. I don’t think she even noticed! She’s so wrapped up in herself and her problems that she doesn’t even notice the “salty goodness” in front of her. I love you, Cordy. Never change.

Angel is clearly out of practise living with someone. He gets really mad at Cordelia for getting peanut butter all over the bed sheets and for leaving a wet towel on his leather chair. I love grumpy Angel too. Grumpy Angel beats broody Angel. Hyper Angel beats both of them. It’s basic mathematics. The Angel of Sunnydale didn’t do a great deal except brood and offer Buffy advice. Here he is getting grouchy with Cordelia over very trivial everyday things. Cordelia and Doyle are humanising to speak. I also get a huge kick out of Doyle’s reaction when he thinks that Angel and Cordelia have slept together the previous night...“No, handsome vampire brooding-guy has to swoop in! All sensitive mouth and overhanging forehead. *Angel checks his forehead to confirm whether or not it overhangs*”. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. Seeing a 246-year-old vampire having self-esteem issues about his forehead overhanging is more than I can bear.

I like the inclusion of Cordelia’s Sunnydale High diploma in this episode. It’s burned and damaged from the explosion of the high school during Buffy season three’s “Graduation Day Part Two”. The continuity is great. I was wondering what happened to the diplomas! Giles saved Buffy’s from the wreckage, but what happened to the rest of them was never referenced. It also shows just how much Cordelia loved her high school years. Most people hate high school. It’s like Hell on Earth. Cordelia loved it because she was the most popular girl in the school. Every male wanted to date her and every female wanted to be her. Cordelia is constantly reminded of not only how popular and rich she was, but also of the type of person she was at high school.  This becomes much more important as the episode rolls along.

After one day living with Cordelia, Angel convinces Doyle to take Cordelia apartment shopping. I have never lived in Los Angeles or had to go apartment shopping in such an extreme way, so I don’t know how accurate that scene is. If it is accurate, it’s bloody terrifying! The public urination is terrifying, the chanting is terrifying, the fat creepy man hitting on Cordelia is terrifying...are there no normal people in Los Angeles?! Eventually, Cordelia stumbles into a gorgeous apartment that I would happily live in myself.

Cordelia: “And part of it being perfect is there being one tiny flaw for me to fix.”
Doyle: “That must be why you find me so fascinating.”

Smooth, my man.

There’s only one problem with Cordelia’s new’s haunted by Beth Grant. Beth Grant is basically flawless in every role I’ve ever seen her in and this is no exception. She plays the vindictive, obsessive, ruthless Mrs. Maude Pearson to perfection. The ghost of Maude appearing in the mirror behind Cordelia was a jumpy moment. I will admit that I jumped like a...I can’t think of a good metaphor right now. Picture something jumping suddenly. That was me. That’s what I get for watching this episode in the dark at 11-years-old, I suppose. Maude wants Cordelia out of her apartment and writes ‘die’ on the wall...

Cordelia: “Maybe it’s not done yet. Maybe it’s ‘diet’. That’s friendly…a little judgmental, sure.”

Cordelia opens up to Angel about why she’s so desperate to keep that apartment. Cordelia is feeling guilty for being such a bitch to people during her time at Sunnydale High. It was a huge moment for Cordelia to not only realise this, but to also open up to Angel about it. Cordelia is seeking redemption for being such a bad person at times. If she could live in that apartment it would be validation for her that she couldn’t have been that bad. Cordelia craves and needs the apartment for that reason. She wants to be in control of something in her life again. She can’t control her acting career, but she is in control of getting rid of this ghost and living where she wants to live. Similarly, Mrs. Pearson is all about control. She wanted to control Dennis’ choice of romantic partner. Dennis going against her wishes had catastrophic consequences for him.

Mrs. Pearson can mimic Angel’s voice. That’s almost as creepy as the fact that jewellery box type music plays whenever she’s on screen. Ugh. Mrs. Pearson (using Angel’s voice) gets Cordelia back into the apartment and convinces Cordelia to hang herself. It’s quite the rarity to see Cordelia so scared. Cordelia was terrified. Absolutely terrified and crying! I can’t recall that ever happening before (or after) this episode! Mrs. Pearson is able to break Cordelia so easily because she’s playing on Cordelia’s fears. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this episode aired very soon after Buffy’s “Fear Itself”. Mrs. Pearson confirms Cordy’s fears for her. She calls Cordelia weak, alone, forgotten, and failing. 

Then, she makes a mistake. She calls Cordelia a bitch. This triggers Cordelia to find her inner strength and stand up for herself again. The confident, self-assured, powerful Cordelia of Sunnydale is back, baby! She unleashes a verbal tongue-bashing to Maude and then literally sasses her into submission. Don’t mess with Queen C. I love this moment. It’s so empowering and exciting! Cordelia regains her power after so many months of misery and poverty.

To me, the most haunting, twisted, creepy, disturbing part of this episode isn’t the ghost. It’s the flashback. Maude killed her son because he had his own opinions on where he wanted his life to go. She killed her son because she could no longer control him. Not only did she kill him, but she let him die in one of the most horrific ways possible. He died slowly of dehydration and starvation. All because he was in love and was going to run away with someone his mother didn’t deem worthy. What a sick, twisted, vile mother! I’m glad she died of a heart attack and I’m glad that Phantom Dennis was able to exact revenge on the ghost form of his mother. Mrs. Pearson was more evil than 99% of the villains in the Buffyverse. She had a soul when she did this. She had a conscience. The only silver lining to this horrific act is that it brings Phantom Dennis into “Angel”. I adore Phantom Dennis. His and Cordelia’s relationship over the next three years is beautiful...if not a little odd (there was one time when a loofah was involved).

In addition to all of this Cordelia drama and excitement, a secondary plot is in place. We get to see Doyle’s gambling debt firsthand. I did question during this episode why Doyle’s behaviour is so self-destructive (drinking, gambling, etc.). After we’ve seen “Hero”, it becomes apparent why Doyle is so self-destructive. He hates himself for turning his back on his people and finding them slaughtered by The Scourge. I’m really impressed with how fleshed out Doyle’s character is in just nine episodes on the show. He has two episodes dedicated to him and he takes up a lot of time in this episode too. Little did we know, Joss was building Doyle up so much so that it would hurt much more when he was killed off...CURSE YOU, WHEDON! I would have loved for Doyle to stay around a little longer so that he could meet dorky Wesley. The scenes between those two characters would have been absolute gold

Angel tricks Doyle into thinking that a demon is looking for him upstairs. This is to confirm Angel’s suspicions that Doyle is in trouble. A big, scary-looking demon called Griff is after Doyle because Doyle owes some people a lot of money through gambling. Angel takes a backseat to Cordelia and Doyle in this episode, which is a nice change of pace. He does continue helping the helpless. It just happens that the helpless in this episode are his friends, Doyle and Cordelia.

Angel and Griff manage to have an entire conversation and come to an agreement without one of them ending up dead. Sweet mama, growth! That’s progress, folks! Violence isn’t always the answer, kiddies!

Doyle’s story and Cordelia’s story in this episode weave perfectly into one another. Doyle helps find Cordelia an apartment in exchange for Angel helping Doyle with his gambling debt problems. Of course, it all goes awry and the demons arrive at Cordelia’s apartment looking for money and vengeance. Mrs. Pearson kills the demons, Phantom Dennis kills Mrs. Pearson, and everyone can go home happy with their lives not being in mortal peril...until next week, of course.

Angel: “Sooner or later, I’m going to need to hear it.”
Doyle: “Hear what?”
Angel: “The story of your life.”
Doyle: “And quite a tale it is too.”

I’m extremely saddened that we never get to really hear this tale. We find out that Doyle was married and he used to be a teacher. We find out that Doyle turned his back on his demon side, which resulted in The Scourge killing a large number of his race...but that’s about it. I would have loved more of Doyle’s backstory! What made him turn to alcohol and gambling? Was it the pain of turning his back on his people, like I assume? Was it losing his wife, Harry? Was it finding out that he’s part demon in the first place? Was it because of the visions? What happened to Doyle after he left Ireland before he met Angel? SO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS!

Some other thoughts on “Rm w/a Vu”...

I bet Angel was “Queen of the Winter Ball”.
The actor who plays the demon Griff (Markus Redmond), goes on to play Cribb in “Angel” season one’s “The Ring”.
That Patrick Swayze joke (“Why is Patrick Swayze never dead when you need him?”) is a little less funny 14 years later, as he is actually dead.
This was the first episode where it became apparent to me that Angel and Kate have great chemistry together. While I feel that they work better as enemies than friends a lot of the time, I would have liked to see them date at some point. They’re both so similar! Daddy issues, rough around the edges, detectives...
Doyle: “Angel Investigations, we hope you’re helpless.” Ha!

Quote Of The Episode

Cordelia: “I’m not a snivelly, whiny little cry-Buffy. I’m the nastiest girl in Sunnydale history. I take crap from no-one.”

Maude: “You’re going to make yourself a noose and put it around your neck…”

Cordelia: “Back off, poly-grip! You think you’re bad, all mean and haunty? Picking on poor, pathetic Cordy. Well get ready to haul your wrinkly, translucent ass out of this place, ‘cause lady, the bitch is back.”

What a great moment for Cordelia. This might be my favourite Cordelia speech ever. It encompasses everything positive about her character. Plus Cordelia literally made a ghost disappear through rage and being sassy. That’s always a good day.


What are your thoughts on "Rm w/a Vu"? Did you enjoy this episode? Dislike it? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  1. I love phantom Dennis, he is such a cool room mate, but fuck! his death is one of the most disturbing in the Buffyverse.

  2. Love this review and love the episode! Well done Shangel! This is definitely my favourite episodes thus far into the reviews too!
    Dennis' death is definitely one of the most disturbing ones in the whole Buffyverse...

  3. I CANNOT BELIEVE MY EYEEEEEEEEESSSS!!!! I left a comment here yesterday evening and it's not hereeeeeee :'((((((( whyyyyyyyyy??????

    Anyways, I just agreed about the disturbing death and talking about the Cordy's character development, and I also mentioned that I was not really sure if Dennis mom was just trying to teach his son a twisted and sadistic lesson by doing that and wanted to get him out 'later' and she got the heart attack before she could do it... or if she was just a sadistic and twisted bitch, full stop. About Cordy, I agree with you about her poverty time, cause as you said, I don't think she would have empathized with the Angel investigation hopeless clients had she not lived that way. I think it's the second time i felt really sorry for her ( the first time was in Lovers Walk )

    And as always I thanked you for the review and told you it was great!!

  4. Phantom Dennis honestly is one of my favorite. . .characters? contrivances? I LOVE HIM. Just wait.

  5. I've always thought Cordy had a great more depth than they let show and it was clear after a run of SERIOUSLY BAD luck that she felt she was being punished for being a meanie. I kind like that she could see herself honestly that way -- because Cordy WAS a meanie.

  6. That is Phantom Dennis in the opening credits. He lasts all 5 seasons in the opening credits. Go...go check...I'm serious. Just figured this out and am proud.