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Thread: Positives And Negatives - Season 2

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    Guise Will be Guise

    Positive: This ep really has a tight but complex theme about how certain masculine presentations are so heady and ingrained that the presentation ends up creating the reality. The Swami spells it out with Angel. Wesley gets the A-plot on the gulf between how he functions as Wesley, Uptight British Dork versus how he functions when he's viewed as Angel, Sexy Dark Avenger. However, Magnus Bryce ties it all together. On first watch, I didn't predict that he was the MOTW even though the clues were all there. He's an incredibly wealthy businessman who trades in magic i.e. altering reality for profit. What's more, his business competitors operate like criminal gangs out to gain a business advantage by murdering his innocent daughter from the start of the ep which gives an indication as to his choice of business. He obtained Wesley's help by holding Cordelia at gun-point. Virginia complained in the middle of the ep that her father is by turns coldly distant but also so possessive that she can't move out or have a job. However, people really respond to the commanding, "cold captain of the industry-type" (Tony Soprano) with an Achilles heel soft spot for his daughter to the point that this soft spot can render such a man trustworthy. Ivanka Trump has been tarnished by becoming a Special Adviser to the President in the last two years but IMO, she played a huge role in getting Trump elected because people are pretty primed to ignore or excuse a man's cruelty or callowness or horrible treatment of other women if he has a good relationship with his daughter.

    Relative perception of the masculine image also creates the reality. Magnus Bryce plays the whole "Tough guy on the outside but teddy bear doting daddy on the inside" role but he's really the most teddy-bear doting daddy on the outside as his feigned act to keep Virginia compliant but he's hard and cold as nails to his daughter on the inside. He keeps playing that role through the end of the ep when he plays fatherly disapproval at Virginia having sex but by then, we all know that it's really just frustration from thwarted greed because Magnus wanted his innocent, virginal Virginia dead five minutes ago while he was powered up from Yeska's mystical power. It ties in with Wesley. Wesley unconvincingly plays the rogue-demon hunter bit at the start of the ep to a prospective client to hammer home a surface perception that Wesley plays a rogue demon hunter badass on the outside to cover up a bumbling effeminate weakling on the inside. However the end of the ep encourages another perception- that Wesley's rogue demon hunter badassedness actually is his authentic core while the silly effeminate weakling is merely a persona brought on by how he's not good at playing the outer persona like say, Angel.

    Negative: I really like this ep even though I agree that Wesley's plot hinges on the dubious contrivance that he'd pass as "Angel" for a whole night...after getting to chase off one set of assassins with mere verbal threats and another set of assassins through a fight scene where there's a convenient spell uttered to weaken his supposed vamp strength so Virginia isn't suspicious that he didn't fight amazingly....after having sex with Virginia. Just from the get-go, I don't think vampires need glasses because their predator senses supernaturally enhanced once they're turned so they can even see in the dark perfectly. Dalton wore glasses- but I read that as an aesthetic choice because his whole profession was being a research nerd and Dalton was going for a specific look. "Angel", per his reputation as a professional fighter, would not wear glasses because he wouldn't need them to see so they're just a hindrance in a fight. It's much more realistic in Doppelgangland when Willow is exposed as an impostor playing Vamp Willow in like, five minutes. The Swami, on the other hand, was a realistic impostor.
    Last edited by Dipstick; 04-01-19 at 04:59 PM.

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    Dipstick that 'My Sexuality' clip is absolutely brilliant, so funny.

    Christmas has passed, I've caught up in the rewatch and I've now remembered I forgot to post on Darla and I've just watched Shroud so....

    Darla

    Positives - It's great getting Darla's history and seeing someone who appears very cynical and lived a troubled life plausibly accounts for her less dramatic shifts between what we see of her souled now against who she was soulless. I love that the show gives character depth which delivers logic as to why individuals respond differently to the same situations when considering their experiences and personalities. It also puts weight to this through understanding more of how Angel responded at first to being souled against Darla's current transition to being a souled human again. Seeing how he struggled with his identity, even trying to return to living with his vampiric family and selectively killing gives depth to his past as well as what Darla is going through and additional factors that can play into who she is now, even without a demon still in her internal mix. All this culminating in her wish to return to what she knew, what she knows more clearly than the uncertainty and insecurity she currently feels by asking Angel to sire her and his refusal and outright statement that it isn't a gift. So excellent and complex.

    Negatives - I'm with Priceless, the whole notion of having forgotten her own name is hard to take, even after 400 years. I know it is there to emphasise how lost she feels, but I find it too contrived and an unnecessary addition.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    It's my favorite episode of Angel. The ways in which it plays with the past and contradicts Fool for Love is sensational. The acting is top-rate, the dialogue is pointed, the direction is smart. From Angel trying in vain to remember the past by drawing Darla over and over again in various configurations to the terrific flashbacks that give more insight into Angel's character than a dozen other episodes to human Darla unable to even remember her name and then begging Angel to sire her, this episode gives again and gives upon repeated viewings. One of Tim Minear's very best episodes.
    Do you really think 400 years is long enough to forget?

    I agree with you all that the mix with FFL and the various flashbacks were fantastic.


    Shroud of Rahmon

    Positives - I'm behind Angel's impatience with Kate. I don't think he should have threatened her over getting between him/Darla, although I understand we're supposed to be seeing the darkness within coming more to the surface, but showing less consideration for her now I think is something that she has earned and so simply knocking the cross out of her hand after she'd broken in to emphasise how easily he could overpower her I think was justified and understandable (although he did take it too far in manhandling her, although that is for plot reasons of course).

    Negatives - This could well be the weakest episode of S2. There are so many plot holes to it that it is hard to know which to pick. The inconsistency in how people were responding to the influence (am I supposed to assume Wes and Cordelia have no real badness within them because that's ridiculous), that the heist gang were affected before it was even released properly but it had been in the museum and caused no issues so far, the ease with which the crate broke, and above all these (and this still isn't an exhaustive list) the idea that Angel's brief moments of lucidity just so happened to come exactly when he needed them most so that he didn't kill Kate and he destroyed the shroud.

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    Darn it, I forgot to keep doing these. Did you stop your rewatch Dipstick? Here's my catch up...


    The Trial

    Positive - I love the twist of the final scene. Angel promises to be there by Darla's side for every moment she has left and this cues Lindsey's entrance and Drusilla appearing to end her life immediately. Dru is at her best in this group of episodes and the way she glides into the room is just such a brilliant moment. Then we have her line of "I could be your mummy" that we saw in the flashback in Darla coming true. So fantastic!

    Negative - The trials frustrate me. The first is tough and I like that his ingenuity and strength see him through. And I can kind of accept that noone else has ever gone past that stage, if they were all human before maybe. But I then want more from the second stage. It's tough. I can see it and how it takes strength of mind, but it's still a bit disappointing. And I like the single-minded determination of the psychological battle of the third and can see the weight of needing to be willing to die for an individual. But all in all it feels really quick and so a bit easy. This dislike actually is solidified by and feeds into my biggest dislike of the next ep too.

    In somewhat of a contrast to Aurora I think the trials Spike goes through come across as far more intense and gruelling, so are more exciting to watch for me. Sure they could have played more openly with the psychology of Buffy in those, but it's in there just through his reasoning for being there, called to mind by the taunts from Lloyd and evidenced in his determination to see it through. But it is also important too that his focus is really on what he wants as there is that selfish drive to become more acceptable to Buffy because of his own wish to be with her rather than anything to do with her wishes. But I still find his trials more gripping. Angel's trials feel too rapidly overcome and won in comparison, even though the psychological elements of it all are more heavily played. A great deal I think is because Spike's benefited by being able to be drawn out over more than one episode as it was an 'also happening' story, so it automatically became more epic.


    Reunion

    Positive - Again Dru is fab. I don't enjoy her character on BtVS as much as how she is used in AtS. Her troubled mind and struggle between what she sees literally and presciently are used so brilliantly in these episodes. Nothing beats the wallop though of Angel repeating that line back at Holland, shutting the doors and locking them in. It doesn't matter that the repeat is predictable, it's fantastic and one of the best moments in the season.

    I have to agree with Pricey that Angel's struggle over dusting Darla that we see him go through is a real highlight too.

    Negative - DB just can't act suffering from physical weakness. He couldn't pull off the return from hell in BtVS S3 with his tremorous breaths and physical shaking, and he doesn't pull off being barely coherent and physically drained here either. How he was overcome by the tasers and held back because he was already weakened as Dru sired Darla last episode was hard to accept when he didn't seem that weakened by the trials (I mean he was able to go postal smashing up the room afterwards). So the level of residual babbling and loss of physical strength that they want me to believe in at the start of the episode now just ends up looking really phoney when it is so poorly portrayed. DB's acting has definitely come on huge amounts since he started on BtVS, but he's still not selling these moments.


    Redefinition

    Positive - The responses of the team to being fired are great. I also really like the way Dru's insight is just spoken freely regardless of audience or situation and exposes how Darla is struggling with what happened to her the same as Angel is. This also links through to Lindsey's constant resentful focus on Angel for pushing the connection between moments/events and how they can greatly affect future choices.

    Negative - The voiceover from Angel to give us his inner thoughts about his struggle and the distance he's built between himself and the team is pretty corny and it really jars against the tone of the scenes between the team. I appreciate it leans into emphasising the difference of their support of each other and resulting determination to fight on against his moody isolation, but the overall contrast just underlines how melodramatic his scenes feel in a way that makes the character look foolish instead of dark and threatening like he ended the last ep.

    Quote Originally Posted by Priceless View Post
    How do Dru and Darla survive when we've seen other vamps turn to dust from one little spark. I also disliked Darla suggesting Angel now had a third persona when it's all the same man.
    Perhaps they checked thoroughly for highly fire retardant materials whilst on their shopping trip. I agree the plot requirement of how long they manage to burn but not dust stands out as hard to believe. I don't think by the way that Darla is saying Angel has now literally gained a third persona. The souled/unsouled versions of him have a strong distinction as well as continuity and I think this just acknowledges that he is not acting one way or the other this time. So he's behaving in a less predictable way for her because he's allowing a mix/blend she doesn't recognise and so finds unsettling.

    Very much agree with Aurora's negatives that Wes/Virginia lack sparks and that Darla's commanding moment at the gang gathering just seems cliché.


    Blood Money

    Positive - I like the continuity of bringing Anne back into it and finding out what she did with her life. That she ended up passionately fighting for disadvantaged kids works well.

    I agree the Wes/Gunn aspects were cute.

    Negative - I think they are wanting to emphasise how shut down Angel is getting in his determined fixation to affect W&H and their plans, but using Anne as he does and putting up humiliating videos of his old team members just serves to make him look childish and petty. Lindsey's shutting off and very cold outlook, which I think is a deliberate compare, often just serves to emphasise Angel looking like he is acting out and being over the top as he makes these grand plans and dramatic gestures. I know it is all building up to him losing control but in this episode the deliberate game playing aspect and the video really just makes it look a bit too silly in a way that actually undermines what he's going through a little for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Priceless View Post
    I really like seeing Anne and it's one of the strengths of the show that they bring back characters. But how did she get that job? Do the authorities not check out the people who work with kids? She seems like a totally different person, and where has her tat gone?
    I don't find it unbelievable that she could have got enough ID to have built up her new life and working with charitable/voluntary organisations has managed to avoid deeper identity checks. I think she just seems an older, grown up version of who she had been, but I can see that it is quite a big jump from where we left her. I have to confess, I didn't remember about the tattoo at all.


    Happy Anniversary

    Positive - This is one of my least favourite eps of the season but I also like the parallels that are brought in for Angel's depression by Gene's loss of a sense of future and wanting to stop time. The disconnection Angel feels and having pushed away the group who are continuing to try to fight without him really is a loss of ability too see and have hope towards the future. Gene's plan is to freeze himself in a moment that he knows is in reality shallow and trap someone he knows doesn't want to be there with him. It's awful and a sick violation. Rather than capturing this perfect moment it is a prison he builds that punishes them both. In pushing the others away Angel has made things worse for all of them. It's not as monstrous as what Gene was doing to be honest, but the disconnection from time, which his connection to the humans he surrounds himself gives, is an interesting tie between the two.

    Negative - If the Lubber demons know the equation and want to wipe out the pestilence of humans off the earth why don't they just do it? If they couldn't build the equipment for whatever reason they could surely have stolen it.
    Last edited by Stoney; 15-02-19 at 02:59 PM.

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    The Thin Dead Line

    Positive - The moment when Kate realises that this could mean her dad has been taken from his grave is excellently portrayed by Elisabeth Röhm. The emotional vulnerability and Angel's quiet understanding and reassurance are great. Being there with her for something so significant that is introduced suddenly in a moment by the circumstances really emphasises how he is keeping himself distanced from human connections, yet by staying involved in these problems that arise they keep pushing against his barriers. It leads well into his need to see Wes at the hospital but inability to step forward later.

    I've got to mention Wes and Gunn's friendship too. I'd forgotten how much I'd enjoyed the camaraderie they had shared in the earlier seasons/pre-Fred.

    Negative - For a group wanting to shut down having drawn attention to themselves, having been seen, the option of arriving en masse in their police cars and physically swarming the building and breaking in is, erm... an interesting one.


    Quote Originally Posted by Priceless View Post
    Is Anne meant to be the pretty blonde replacement for Kate or a mirror of her, the version of herself she wishes she were? There's also something racist-adjacent about the pretty blonde girl (who's about 20 years old with no qualifications) helping to rescue all these black teens, which undermines what the episode is partly trying to do by looking at institutionalised racism . . . but we've still got to have Jackson to even out the blame. I really don't think a lot in this episode could fly today.
    There has always been a very hefty dose of stereotyping around Gunn's background and I don't think this episode is worse for that. I think Anne is supposed to just be someone who's caring attitude breaks down barriers. In that sense she is there to be an extreme contrast to Angel perhaps.

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    Oops, I forgot to do Reprise it seems so I'll do that/Epiphany together...

    Reprise

    Positive - I love how much of an epic quest Angel's attempt to go to the home office was. Finding out about it, the ring to get there, the glove needed to get it. Heck, even getting driven through with the sword (which stops Denver saying things will go better this time). It's so great against the grand gesture that Angel's trying to work towards and so into how thrown he is by the futility of it all.

    It is interesting too when considered against all that is needed in the illusion for him to lose his soul in S4, that still the grand heroic quest is deeply within him as something that he'd want. He might get the epiphany to come but this desire for a greater purpose/destiny is still there and that hubris feeds so well into S5 and the negativity of the kamikaze actions for a 'moment' of glory then too. It's such a great character insight and the fact that it isn't forever eradicated just from one moment of realisation is totally believable.

    Negative - My biggest negative I'm going to use for the next episode because 'more' of it is in that, so I'll choose another now. Although, like Pricey, I also wasn't interested in Wes/Virginia as a couple, I thought the two actors played the break up well and I liked Wes' solitude at the end. There is some real camaraderie between the remaining members of AI but there are still hints that they hold back some and are lonely too that is interesting. Anyway, I'm still going to go with the break up though because as much as I found the reason of their different levels of acceptance of the risk Wes puts himself in by doing what he does an interesting/valid reason, I found it hard to go along with the idea that Virginia felt like that about it suddenly just because of a gunshot wound and considering how they met.


    Epiphany

    Positive - Well I have to list the conversation between Kate and Angel when he says if nothing you do matters then all that matters is what you do and the following comment about the smallest acts of kindness. The scripting in what he says in this scene is one of my favourite pieces of writing across both shows, I adore it.

    But it is predictable to choose that so I'm going to go with Lindsay's own epiphany and blow out. I really like Lindsay's character and the calm emotionless facade he's been presenting goes soaring out the window when faced with Darla's infidelity. His wish to hear everything from both her/Angel is very human and fraught and totally self-destructive. His spiral here works well towards his exit I think and I can only assume he's lucky that Darla is so thrown by everything with Angel that she's numb and doesn't just kill him out of irritation.

    Oh and I just have to give a nod to the moment when Wes and Angel kill the demons in Wes' apartment together. The almost smile they share is delightful and the conversation in the car following is great.

    Ugh, that this is one of my favourite episodes is clear as I've totally cheated and given three!

    Negative - I wish they hadn't tried to fake that Angel was losing his soul. I know this started at the end of Reprise but trying to play the idea of the soul loss being just about sex never worked for me. I can accept Angel trying it in his despair, that's not the issue, the issue is them thinking I'd believe it. The whole exploration of this as Angel's rock bottom was devalued slightly by them trying to play the audience too. I didn't believe it at all the first time I saw it and it annoys me more each rewatch that they dragged through so much of the visual repeats to Surprise as if we would. I mean what was causing the gasping and crawling into the rain once it's confirmed it isn't soul loss? Leg cramp? It's idiotic and makes them look daft and the rest of the scene is then really disjointed from the tone of Angel's actions at the start. One of the most ridiculous fake outs attempted imo.

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    Disharmony

    Positive - I personally like that there's consistently in both shows that there's a limitation on soulless vampires. They just can't be totally reliable as they lack morality and will eventually show that and/or betray for self-interest. So Harmony appears and shows restraint and control when she wants to lean on Cordelia at first (and shows character consistency remains from the original human too). But then she readily switches when her interest is drawn elsewhere and what is offered suits her more. I like how this sits against Angel's recent active choice to make questionable decisions souled because we all can walk dubious paths and get it wrong. But despite him having specifically stated to the gang that he was a vampire when he was stealing the text from them in Epiphany, he knows in himself the difference in capacity for understanding and his regret in the episode for the loss of the friendship with Cordelia as a consequence sits against Harmony's disregard as a pretty casual abandonment. This all works really well alongside the sister episode Forever where Spike is helping Dawn's attempt to resurrect Joyce with limited thought to the consequences too.

    Negative - Although I actually like that they showed that despite how she has matured and changed Cordelia also has evidence of character consistency as I said before. I agree with Pricey that this is a strength of the episode, that she is connected to who she had been as Harmony still is. But I dislike that one of the ways they go about this is to show at the end that she is won over by Angel buying her a boat load of clothes. Not because of what it says about Cordelia, that character element, but the use of it in relation to fixing the issue with Angel. I can understand it as the wish to return to previous times that felt easier maybe and in this way it feels very much again related to Harmony's return and the reminiscing that they enjoyed together at first. But as an approach Angel takes and for it to work I just feel belittles the genuine, fair and reasonable disquiet that was being presented in response to his recent behaviour. This has been a main story element of the season and he has only just returned to the group. It just felt pushed, too soon.
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    There's parts of "Disharmony" that have aged really poorly, IMO. Cordy's panic at Harmony supposedly hitting on her and Cordy being relieved that Harmony is a soulless, murderous vampire as opposed to just a "great big lesbo" is just blatantly homophobic. I also thought that Cordy came across really unpleasantly when she reassures Harmony that "she doesn't care about that" but then gossips behind her back about how freaked out she is and calls her a slur. Even her "- Oh, yeah? Really? - Well, that's great! Good for you" (after Willow obviously comes out to her over the phone) comes across as really fake and condescending and almost as if she's weirded and/or grossed out. Charisma plays it with a nastier edge than I think even the writer originally would've intended.

    I also have problems with her stupid Cordy behaves in regards to Harmony. I don't buy that she'd be so trusting of her or so willing to give her a chance and especially considering that she's now put two-and-two together and realised that Harmony was actually creeping into her room to *kill her*. I mean, regardless of how remorseful Harmony claims to be, that fact alone should prove to Cordy that Harmony is dangerous and untrustworthy. I know that their intention was to show that Angel's behaviour in Season 2 - with a soul - had shaken Cordy's faith in him and she was now having trouble giving much weight to the 'supposed' importance of a soul. But, if anything, I would have thought that Angel's actions in Season 2 would have caused Cordy to just become even more distrustful of vampires, soul or no soul, than ever before. I don't see any logic in it making her decide to give a soulless vampire a chance.

    They did the same thing with her in "Offspring" when she just totally forgets that Darla is a dangerous, murderous vampire (who she even hated and didn't trust when Darla was a human) because Darla is pregnant. She goes completely overboard and, again, pays the price when Darla attacks her. It makes her look moronic and it didn't feel organic to me then, either.

    There are things I really enjoyed about "Disharmony", though. I'll always love a surprise crossover so Willow's cameo (homophobia aside) was great fun. It would have probably been overkill to do that too often but I wished we'd got more of it. I also love the moment Harmony casually tears the paper out of Wesley's book and he shrieks in horror. Alexis Denisof is so funny in that scene and if you look in the background you can actually see David Boreanaz break character and laugh at him which normally would take me out of the moment but it just makes me smile

    I also loved the dynamic between Cordy/Harmony before Cordy learnt that Harmony was a vampire. It felt very realistic to me how neither Cordy or Harmony brought up how Harmony bullied and ostracised Cordy in "The Wish" and instead let bygones be bygones. High School grudges really can fade away like that and especially with people you have a lot of fond childhood memories with as well. And it made a lot of sense given how lonely and naturally nostalgic both characters would be feeling for a time when they were "on top" of the world. At the same time, I loved how insecure Cordy was about her job and even her hair and how Harmony put on a performance about "getting out of a smothering relationship" (when in reality we knew Spike treated her like dirt and dumped her mercilessly) as they sized each other up and compared where they were at. There's always that element of insecurity and competition between classmates you haven't seen in a long time to compare where you're at in life, how successful you both are, and if you did with your life what you intended or expected to do.
    - "The earth is doomed" -


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    Dead End

    Positive - I honestly didn't remember just how much I absolutely love this episode. Goodness knows where I've ranked it if I ever gave an order to the S2 episodes overall at any point, but I adore it. There are just so many aspects that I could pick as my positive from the humour to the main character plots of the ep. I really like how the unpredictability of people against expectations of them sits against Intervention and the consideration given to the weight and cost of a heroic path within both too. I'm really enjoying watching the two shows alongside each other again. And there was Christian Kane's outstanding Caritas performance as a cherry on top too. But I'm going to stop trying to tip my hat to several aspects because I'd look like a nodding dog before I ever got around to choosing my 'single' positive like I'm supposed to. So I'm going to choose a Lindsey related one as he's a character that I really enjoy in the series. I thought CK and DB played against each other really well and was sad to see him leave. So, finally, my positive... I adore the scene in the boardroom and think CK plays the humour along with an unpredictable manic edge absolutely brilliantly. The whole thing from when he stops Lilah's destructive course of action in the face of being the one to be passed over, to venting his anger at the 'gift' of his evil hand and the brutal/cruel way he responds to all those gathered there before he turns and walks out is perfect. I could watch that scene over and over it is so well acted/timed.

    Negative - I honestly struggle to find something I could really class as a negative. Angel's childish response to Lindsey at the end I find a little silly but it fits the at times ridiculous aspect of their rivalry and was almost a last hurrah to that so I can't really not like it. I suppose I can criticise that Bradley Scott, the original owner of the hand, was euthanised so readily. I appreciate he felt suicidal but if he had only had his hand removed then his trauma at that and being kidnapped and trapped as he was hardly had him looking at things with a balanced perspective. I'm not convinced he wasn't saveable really (although I appreciate we were led to see that it was a mercy, but I'm trying to find a negative here!).

    Quote Originally Posted by Priceless View Post
    Negative: Felt like poor Cordy's having women's problems, having feelings and the men in the office just don't know how to handle them. The visions as PMS. They can't even talk to her like she's part of the team, an equal, they behave like she's being over emotional and is somehow separate from them. They actually appear really pathetic. It should be sweet when Angel turns up with the food, but really, it's like buying her clothes last episode, it's separating her, making her different. Cordy is the most important resource they have, but they don't treat her like that, and she doesn't know how important she is.
    Oh it's really interesting that you feel like that about it as that really isn't the impression that I got at all. I think that the others are very worried about her and feel uncertain how to balance their concern for her and what the visions are doing to her against their need for her to function and provide the information. It's a struggle between responding to how important she is to them as a person against how important her role is within the group. They benefit from the vision but the cost of them on Cordelia is steadily becoming more concerning. They want to support her but have little clue how and Angel's response to that to not keep asking her a question she doesn't feel able to address but just present her with an array of options and let her choose what she needs, what is best for her in that moment, I think is really considerate.
    Last edited by Stoney; 20-03-19 at 11:32 PM.

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