Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Angel, "Sense & Sensitivity" Review (1x06)

Brief Synopsis: “Kate is forced to take sensitivity awareness training with her fellow police officers. After Kate begins to act uncharacteristically emotional, Angel suspects that something unusual is happening, before turning overly sensitive himself.” 

"Rm w/a Vu" (1x05) quick link here                                                                                                            "The Bachelor Party" (1x07) quick link here

Three quick notes before we get started...

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?

I can’t decide if this episode is completely lame or if I love it unconditionally. I think it’s both. This episode has two large stories that make up the bulk of this episode. The first of which is Kate’s relationship with her father and how she’s been trying to get his attention, affection, and respect her entire life. The other story is Angel’s relationship with Kate. They’ve quickly become good friends and you can definitely tell that there are more than just friendship feelings emanating from both of them. Of course, this is the Buffyverse so we couldn’t just have the characters talk about their feelings, could we? Oh, no, no, no! That would be too easy! Instead, we have yet another episode that embodies ‘be careful what you wish for’.

I have two major problems with this episode. Firstly, who the Hell is Little Tony?! Why is Kate after him? What did he do? I understand that Little Tony is just a plot device in this episode, but if you want me to be invested in that aspect of  the story, give me something to work with! I can get over that though. There are plenty of Buffyverse episodes where I don’t much care about the villain-of-the-week, but the episodes are saved by a fair amount of character development and significance. The second problem I have with this episode is the awkwardness of how it changes from heartbreakingly depressing to gut-wrenchingly funny. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the funniest episodes of “Angel” without a doubt! However, I feel like starting the humour right after Kate’s emotional speech to her father about her childhood was odd. I wasn’t ready for chuckles so soon after that.  I wanted Kate to get some resolution or response from her father. With the negatives now out in the open, let’s concentrate on the biggest positive: sensitive Angel. I can’t even think about him without grinning.

The episode opens with Kate jump-kicking someone and generally being a badass. I won’t beat around the bush, I adore Kate as a character. I love her as a rough-around-the-edges police officer, I love her awkward feelings for Angel, and I later love her even more when she’s opposing Angel. She’s just such an interesting, complex character. Plus, she’s a headstrong, empowered, tough female character. One of my favourite things about Joss Whedon’s work is that every female character is presented as strong, intelligent, or empowered. Buffy, Cordelia, Willow, Faith, Fred, Zoe, River Tam, Echo...the list goes on forever. It’s so refreshing to see female characters being presented as equal (or above equal sometimes) to the males around them. The damsel-in-distress situation that had been the norm for so long was suddenly thrown on its head and choked out. I kind of love that I was part of the first generation that truly got to appreciate Joss’ work and the difference he made to femininity on television. Even though things still aren’t equal, there are kick-ass females all over television and film these days, but Buffy was one of the very first. 

We first see Angel Investigations fighting a demon in the sewer. Angel quickly kills it, barks orders at Cordelia and Doyle to dispose of the body, before swooping away with his coat billowing behind him. Cordelia is still struggling with being self-centred in this episode. She’s ranting away to Doyle about Angel’s lack of sensitivity, while in the background Doyle is being strangled by a giant tentacle. Oblivious, thy name is Queen C. Cordelia is hurt by Angel’s apparent lack of caring about her wellbeing. She’s giving up a large portion of her social life and her chance at superstardom in order to help Angel and she feels like Angel doesn’t care enough about that. I can see Cordelia’s point here. Especially when you consider that the Cordelia of Sunnydale rarely did anything for anyone unless there was something in it for her. She’s already showing personal growth even before inheriting Doyle’s visions. Cordelia wants Angel to be more careful what you wish for, Cor.

Cordelia: “It’s like you don’t have a pulse.”
Angel: “I don’t.”

Oh, snap.

Angel goes to visit Kate and he watches Kate interact with her father. Kate’s relationship with her father is kinda heartbreaking. I think that Trevor does love his daughter, he just has NO IDEA how to show her that. He treats Kate more like a colleague than a daughter. Kate is stuck in a catch-22 situation. The more her father treats her like a colleague, the more she craves his affection and attention. The more she does this, the more Trevor treats her like a colleague. It’s sad to see Kate trying so hard to get her father’s approval, yet getting no results or praise. Those of you that have read all of my reviews know that I have a turbulent, almost non-existent relationship with my own father. I spent what seemed like my entire teenage and young adult life trying to get his attention and respect, but every time I tried it always ended up being all for naught. In some ways, this has been a blessing. It made me work harder in school, it made me work harder in college, it made me work harder to be a successful wrestler, and carrying that chip on my shoulder certainly kept the fire under my ass lit for a very long time. However, it does make scenes between Kate and her father extremely uncomfortable for me. I have such a huge amount of empathy for Kate that I can’t help but want to punch her father. Angel gets to watch all of this unravel and he tries to help Kate. How did Angel and Kate not become a couple at some point?! They have good chemistry, they have a lot in common, and it would have added another dimension to the destruction of their relationship after Kate discovered that Angel is a vampire. I’ve always wondered if there was a plan in place to make them a couple in the long-run, but when Elizabeth Rohm decided to leave, they had to change their plans? Now I’m going to be stuck with serious thoughts all day...

Even before the sensitivity training kicks in, we get to see Angel being a goofball. I swear, Angel wearing the Hawaiian shirt and hat is one of the most ridiculous, hilarious, amazing things that I’ve seen in my life. It really reinforces just how much Angel has branched out and evolved since moving away from Sunnydale. The Angel of Sunnydale would never wear something so ridiculous and colourful. Angel fighting in these clothes is even funnier. I wonder if this is where the writers got the idea to put Spike in Xander’s Hawaiian-looking shirt later on in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season four?

With Angel’s help, Kate arrests Little Tony and Wolfram & Hart are re-introduced to the audience through Lee Mercer. This is Lee’s first appearance on “Angel”. Even though he’s not around for very long, I find him memorable. It’s a shame that he was killed off later this season, but I won’t hide my exuberance in Lee being killed over Lindsey. Kate is forceful with Little Tony and is sent to sensitivity training. After celebrating their capture, we’re subjected to Trevor’s retirement party, where Kate will be giving a speech...

Angel: “Picture your audience in their underwear.”
Kate: “Way ahead of you *she eyeballs Angel*.”

Kate’s speech to her father is nothing short of tear-inducing. I know the sensitivity spell has kicked in by this point, but it doesn’t negate anything that Kate says. Everything that Kate says is true...which is kind of even more heartbreaking when you think about it. “Do you realise that you’ve never told me that I’m pretty? Not once in my whole life. Well, I can’t anymore, Dad. I can’t campaign for the office of your beloved daughter. You closed your heart after mom left us.” Powerful stuff from Kate. Elizabeth Rohm was sheer perfection in that scene. Kate has become a copy of her father. She’s emotionally closed off and takes her frustrations and rage out on the people around her. She pushes people away and won’t let anyone get close because she’s scared of getting hurt. This is exactly what Trevor did after his wife died. He closed his heart to the world because it was easier than allowing himself to open up and risk getting hurt again.

In comparison, this is a huge part of the reason why Angel is so emotionally closed off too. After his relationship with Buffy fell apart, Angel distanced himself from humans. He doesn’t want to open up because he doesn’t want to be hurt again. In that way he’s a carbon copy of Trevor Lockley, which could help explain why Kate is attracted to Angel. Apparently you’re attracted to people that remind you of your parents...which is highly disturbing if it’s true. It certainly seems true in Kate’s case. Looking like David Boreanaz doesn’t hurt either. It’s not that Angel doesn’t care about Cordelia or Doyle, it’s that he doesn’t want to show that he cares because he doesn’t want to be vulnerable. Throw in a healthy dose of guilt over the horrific sins he committed as Angelus and you can understand why Angel likes to brood and avoid people.

Right after this emotional scene, we’re subjected to the full extent of sensitive Kate. While hilarious, as I mentioned before, its placement doesn’t work. In her sensitive state, Kate gives us a prelude to Cordelia returning Doyle’s feelings for her in a few episodes...

Kate: “Look at Doyle. Really look at him. What do you see?”
Cordelia: “A bad double polyblend?”

Kate then happily threatens to shoot Cordelia or Doyle if they try to stop her from leaving.

You know what’s better than sensitive Kate? Sensitive Angel. OH. MY. GOD. It’s the funniest that Angel has ever been thus far, by some margin. It’s the first time that we’ve ever seen Angel really letting loose and being carefree. I kind of love Angel being carefree. It’s like the burden that he constantly carries around has been lifted. David’s comedic facial expressions in this episode are second to none. The last 10 minutes are one big giggle-fest. Until sensitive Angel, we’ve seen Angel have two emotions: broody and angry. It’s a refreshing change of pace to see Angel acting less wooden (pun-believable!). As time rolls on, Angel starts to become a happy, humourous person far more frequently, but this episode comes at a time before that happens, which makes Angel’s behaviour all the more memorable. Here are some of sensitive Angel’s highlights...

“He offered it to me after I….*looks disgusted with himself*….threatened him with physical violence.”
“You both withdraw when I go vamp, I feel you judge me.”
“You know, Anthony, you could be a rainbow and not a ‘pain-bow’.”

I want Angel to have sensitivity training in every single episode for my own amusement. When you include the “Quote Of The Episode” section, that’s four laugh-out-loud moments in ten minutes. Sweet mama, someone call me an ambulance. I busted my gut.

After all that hilarity, the episode ends on quite a depressing note. After everything that was said, Kate’s father hasn’t heard a damn word of it and just tells Kate off for embarrassing him and tells her to forget about it. Classic Joss Whedon bait-and-switch, right there...ending a comedy-filled episode on a depressing note. Curse you, Whedon!

Some other thoughts on “Sense & Sensitivity”...

We get a rare mention of Cordelia’s parents during this episode. Angel tells Cordelia that her mother called for her. That’s one of the first and last times that Cordelia’s parents are mentioned on “Angel”. I kinda wish that they’d explored Cordelia’s relationship with her parents more. One of the more fascinating things about the characters of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” is dissecting their relationships with their parents, as it allows us to see why they are the way they are. We get to see Angel’s daddy issues, Buffy’s daddy issues, Willow’s parents putting great academic pressure on her, Xander’s alcoholic parents leading him to a life of insecurity, Wesley desperately trying to get his father’s approval, and many more...yet we never get to see this with Cordelia. All we know is that she had a privileged lifestyle until her father was busted for tax fraud and they lost all their money. That’s all we ever learn. What was her relationship with her mother like? What was her relationship with her father like? Were they close? Were her parents too busy working to have time for her? Getting answers to these questions would have been a wonderful addition to Cordelia’s fantastic character arc. It would have added the one missing dimension to her character.
Little Tony: “If I’d have known how badly you wanted me, I might have had you catch me a little sooner.”
Kate: “If I had known how much you’d needed the exercise, I might have let you run a little longer.”

Sassy Kate is excellent.

You would be correct, Kate. Angel does indeed have an old soul.

Quote Of The Episode

Cordelia: “Would you come on?!”

Angel: “What’s the magic word?”

Cordelia: “Ugh!”

Angel: “No, I don’t think ‘ugh!’ is the magic word...if one would call it a word, and even then, certainly not a magic one.”

Cordelia: “We don’t have time for this.”

Angel: “There’s always time to be considerate of others, Cordelia.”

Cordelia: “Oh, please!”

Angel: “See, wasn’t so hard now, was it?”

One of the all-time funniest exchanges between these two characters for me...and they’ve had some amazing ones over the years.

FINAL SCORE: 4/10 (3 of those points are for sensitive Angel alone)

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

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  1. On this episode I think I have to disagree with you (gasp!)...I really don't like it!
    I think it is one of the poorest across Buffy and Angel.
    I don't like the character of Kate anyway, I don't know exactly why but she annoys me so much. Other characters that initially annoyed me in the Buffyverse (such as Riley) I have grown to like but she grates on me constantly. I also don't like her acting. I like the woman who plays Tina in episode 1 and feel she would have been a better Kate.
    I agree there are funny moments, but the plot is flimsy and I don't like how blatant the 'daddy' issues are. Joss is normally much more subtle and this episode just felt so spelled out.

    Lee Mercer is FABULOUS - really cold and creepy - I wish he could have stayed around more.

  2. Great review Shangel! Sensitive Angel and sensitive Kate are indeed hilarious, but other than that, this episode doesn't do much for me. :(

  3. Angel in a hawaiian shirt, the highlights of the episode!

  4. Probably one of my least favorite episodes of Angel ever. I, too, dislike Kate and hardly even noticed when she stopped appearing on the show. I do, however, love sensitive Angel, soooo funny. David Boreanaz's acting is improving with every single episode. Great review, as always, Shane!

  5. I normally have a HUGE embarrassment squick--it makes watching rom-coms hard--but for some reason, Angel just completely eludes it, and I love episodes where he ends up acting like a huge dork. The dorkier the better, in fact. Socially awkward Angel > romantic hero Angel.

  6. I see Kate more as a deliberate counter-balance to all the damsels-in-distress that crop up than as a Buffy substitute, though she's definitely superficially similar (tough, blond woman - also a cop, which was Buffy's predicted occupation in the season 2 career fair).

    Overall, I love this episode. The Angel/Cordelia dynamic really makes this show for me - he needs people willing to make fun of him. And her referring to Angel and Kate as "Mr. and Mrs. Spock" is awesome. Also, Cordy and Doyle are adorable throughout.

  7. Hey - for what it's worth it is often said that Angel has a type - small, blond and loves to fight- like Darla, Buffy, Kate...and umm..Spike.