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Angel Season 5 Rewatch - #21 Power Play

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  • Angel Season 5 Rewatch - #21 Power Play

    Greeting rewatchers! I hope you enjoyed viewing our twenty-first episode, the stunning 'Power Play'

    A prompt to get us started:
    • What are your general impressions of this episode?
    • What did you like/dislike about it?
    • What did they get right and what could have been done better?

    Not a lot of individual points to make on this episode, as it is a build up to it's explosive ending:
    • The tension in this episode is palpable. I actually feel a little anxiety watching it build to that final, iconic scene.
    • Lindsey wanting to join the Black Thorn was clever. It also explains what he was trying to achieve with killing Angel; the Senior Partners want Angel alive, so Lindsey distracts them with Spike so he can kill Angel and get into the Circle. I love it.
    • I love that it's a vision that sets Angel in motion, just like it used to. They tied Cordelia in, one last time, beautifully.
    • I love that Angel used Drogyn and Fred’s death to fuel his introduction to the Circle. Brilliant writing.
    • Angel’s plan is reactive, for sure, but you don’t discover the power elite of the Apocalypse and do nothing about it. Yes, taking out the Circle won’t achieve ultimate peace on Earth, but I don’t believe no one would be there to pick up where Angel left off. It's also not what AtS has ever been about; it’s always been about the struggle against relentless evil and the sacrifices made to combat that, and that’s what this plan is in spades. It remains, to me, the best set up for a series finale I’ve ever seen.
    ​Only one left
    Last edited by Involvere; 29-10-22, 07:17 AM.
    "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." ~ Anais Nin

  • #2
    Originally posted by Involvere View Post
    Angel’s plan is reactive, for sure, but you don’t discover the power elite of the Apocalypse and do nothing about it. Yes, taking out the Circle won’t achieve ultimate peace on Earth, but I don’t believe no one would be there to pick up where Angel left off[. It's also not what AtS has ever been about; it’s always been about the struggle against relentless evil and the sacrifices made to combat that, and that’s what this plan is in spades.
    This is exactly why I love PP and NFA as a series finale. Yes the execution is lacking here and there, mostly due a lack of time caused by the late cancellation. The story is a bit rushed and unpolished. But the writers ask us interesting questions and do that while telling an engaging story.

    Ats has been a sandbox for the writers to tell the stories and explore ideas they deemed unfit for BtVS because the latter is about a girl beating the system while Ats is wondering if there is something like a hero and something like winning because the system is simply too big. It's wonderful to see writers tell two different kind of stories and answer the same question in different ways. But it also asks the audience to make the switch as well. BtVS is about cheating the trolley dilemma while Ats is about choosing the least horrible option in a dilemma IMO.*

    Power Play and Not Fade Away are made in a hurry. It misses some proper build up. There are plotholes which you can exploit in order to cheat the dilemma. Or the audience can expect a BtVS-esque way out of the dilemma. But I think this is the switch we're expected to make. The writers are not telling a story about cheating the system this time. BtVS is that story already. Angel needs to pick between the option not to act upon the knowledge he has despite having a chance to slow down and expose W&H and the option to act but get dirty hands in the process. That is the dilemma the writers want us to think about. They make it clear they are with Angel, but they create space to disagree. It remains a dilemma.

    *) It's not intentional but in philosophy it's a known phenomenon that when children are asked to think about a moral dilemma the boys are seriously pondering about what is the best decision while girls try to find third options, trying to cheat themselves out of the dilemma. So it's funny Ats is about the former and BtVS about the latter.

    Power Play is not a fantastic episode. It's groundwork for the real finale. But it does it's job well.


    • #3
      I really enjoyed the episode. I agree it feels rushed and like it was thrown together quickly. However, I think PP and NFA were a great way to end things.

      "I like who I am when I'm with him. I like who we are together."


      • #4
        What are your general impressions of this episode? What did you like/dislike about it? What did they get right and what could have been done better?
        How I view the ending of this season in terms of like/dislike very much depends on how I view the mindset of the characters. If I’m supposed to be behind the decisions, then I have issues with where this season ends and rewatching the first of these last two episodes hasn’t changed the feeling of disappointment and frustration at Angel. For me, he has still lost the path and badly so.

        I do like that he wanted to use what happened to Fred, to give the tragedy of her death meaning, but the fact that he used and killed Drogyn says everything about how badly he’s gone in a direction he shouldn’t have to me. That it is all for one moment that he himself believes will be transitory makes it quite awful. And pretty insulting to Drogyn who is acknowledged repeatedly as a champion for good. What they have planned for the candidate the senator wants them to set up as a paedophile too is shameful. We’ve gone from the smallest acts mattering to wanting to make big dramatic gestures, regardless of the costs. And there’s that element of power vacuums that was raised in the last episode. They have a tendency to just be quickly filled again, which seems to be pretty much acknowledged here. This simply doesn’t feel like a worthwhile goal.

        The repeat back to Lindsey’s comment that heroes don’t accept the way the world is reminds me of Angel himself saying to Connor, “We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be.” But just like then, I feel that he fails to follow through on the point. His view has been warped by the perspective from where they are this season right from the start and he’s finishing with that same break from what the mission should be and a distorted, corrupted, goal leading his choices. Showing the senior partners that they don’t control them is how things should be. Definitely. They should be defiant and not in there running the business as they have been for the majority of the season. It’s right that that should stop. But that doesn’t mean that a kamikaze plan which requires evil choices to enact it is the way to show how things can be.

        I actually think the reveal of the dream kiss is pretty weak. I generally am not much of a fan of learning something has happened off screen a good deal earlier that is a hugely significant element of how things wrap up. While I can see that perhaps Cordelia did pass on a single vision of the Circle to Angel to help him, I find it hard to believe that he is doing what he should be doing with it. First, he sees the circle, then fire and a demon’s face, then Drogyn tied and being beaten, a woman with a slashed face, dead people (lawyers? surrounded by paperwork), blood sprayed, himself jumping through the fire as he does when he goes to kill Drogyn. I think the visions generally were warnings of how things would go, what would happen if they don’t stop it, and it looks like Angel is greatly acting portions of it out rather than preventing what he was shown.

        We’re required to just believe that he somehow knew what the Circle would expect of him in order for him to know he could use Fred’s death. This secret society they had never heard of before. Then there are the assertions that he’s been behaving out of character lately which don’t feel very supported. He’s been fairly consistent through the season and it wasn’t until he decided to let the Fell Brethren take the child that he seemed to suddenly be ignoring the small things and acting notably differently. Plus, it’s also hard to believe that Angel has been working on this all this time and taking it so seriously. The whole intensity and seriousness of what he’s risking of himself and his whole team is incredibly undermined by the farcical tone that was the previous episode too.

        At the beginning he talks to Nina about having spent years fighting to get somewhere and accomplish something and now he feels close to it. That really isn’t what his mission and goals have been all along. I just really feel like he’s abandoning what he’s been fighting for. I think AtS had always been about struggling with the darker sides within yourself and trying to deal with the fact that the fight is continuous. There aren’t necessarily big wins, a final victory and a prize. You just have to keep fighting. I agree there is a sense of the sacrifices too, in order to keep fighting, and accepting that evil will always be there regardless is tough. He knows he can’t just kill off the senior partners and the badness in people keeps them tied to the world. But what he is doing now is like he’s trying to pretend you can have a moment of glory and that getting satisfaction from lashing out even while saying it is pretty pointless and might get them all killed, is a good choice. It feels more like weariness of the fight and a loss of hope to me.

        So, no, it doesn’t work for me as a positive ending. I see the members of the team all worn down, depressed by their circumstances and their perspectives badly affected, not feeling sure where they should go. Of course, they are still trying to fight, I’m not saying that they have been corrupted to the point of not wanting to try to go up against the evil they are finding out about. But Angel is fighting evil by doing evil here. The cost for the gain doesn’t add up for me and they just seem to feel their choices are limited to the one scenario presented by Angel. So I don’t think it comes across as a dilemma about the least horrible option when the choices that Angel is making seem far from the least horrible option.

        Although Angel does outright give the group the choice to be involved, the cynical side of me can’t help but feel that the time pressure benefits him. He’s set this in motion already and there is little time to discuss it or think it over, just his assertion he can’t do it without them. No pressure then. And as we’ll come to see, he isn’t being totally honest about it all either. I do like how they worked in the way Angel had clearly planned to have this discussion with his team eventually. I don’t know how he concealed that he was casting the spell in the first place though, or if he was just hoping that he wasn’t being watched at that precise moment. Likewise, for when they come out of the glamour and they have all seemingly moved, but it somehow doesn’t matter. But regardless of those questions, the overall idea of the glamour of them continuing to argue while really they are talking about it (another surface appearance that hides what is really concealed within), is just neat.

        I know it isn’t the way many fans view the plan, but it does work with seeing some ongoing despondency and distance from the needs of the helpless driving their choices. If I try to view it as a positive choice, I just hit a brick wall. But, if I don’t see it that way and instead do see it more as a continuation from where the season started, it works better for me and it means I can find more to like about where the season is ending. Even if it is bleak as hell. It works well into AtF when viewed like that too. I do think we see the group has fairly solid belief in Angel still, through how they are so disbelieving of what they are hearing about him at first, but they have still gotten themselves in this sense of being trapped where they are and needing to make something of it rather than just leaving.

        It's hardest to see why Spike would be going along with it and I think feeling like he can't just return to Buffy is key. And he is struggling to work out how to be a hero but his willingness to go all in on the fight is what he knows and what he's falling back to again. The willingness to sacrifice himself and him feeling there's worth in that. Plus there's also that element of the possible Shanshu as Involvere mentioned. Wes' depression makes his agreement very easy to understand and Gunn clearly feels like he should be paying for the choices he made. Lorne has felt lost for quite some time, so it isn't hard to see that their loss of direction can be affecting them. I’m going to be very interested to see if the final episode has me still leaning to this point of view or not.

        I’m not sure really what I think of the Nina elements of the episode. I like that there’s more moving away from behaving like it is just having sex that could give Angel the needed sense of peace and happiness that breaks the curse. But it feels like a little of an odd inclusion as we’ve not seen them continue to meet and what he says to her about what he’s doing and then in sending her away, don’t feel like he’s keeping up the ruse fully. It’s a bit forced in maybe, just to get some insight into the sense he’s unsettled by what is happening, while keeping those moments away from the team.

        To focus on a few more positives, I do think they keep your attention well and the pace of the episode is good. You know something must be going on and the build-up from the conversations had with Angel and the team meeting together to discuss what is happening works well.

        I really like them pulling Lindsey back in and trying to get information out of him to work out what is happening. That made a lot of sense, and I just love seeing more of CK. I had forgotten about Lindsey’s sights being on the Circle too. I can see that him reaching for something bigger than Angel’s role through the act of killing him allows more potential gain for taking on the risk of defying the senior partners (it was made clear to him a long time ago that he was expendable compared to Angel). But he was also fearful of them finding him. So it is a bit confusing why he would think this was the way of gaining their attention, making for a big display of his intelligence and potential through all of his manipulations and planning, but through also killing Angel. It could always have simply resulted in him being killed for succeeding.

        Hamilton is also an interesting element in this episode. He’s shown repeatedly to be defiant around the team and pushy with Angel about what is expected of him. The ways in which he is very different to Eve makes it plausibly easier to start to go under the radar though, when you are seemingly meeting the expectations of someone who is so assured of their own position like he is. His easy defeat of Illyria on one hand felt quite disappointing after seeing how formidable she was and he seems to mostly beat her through hard successive punches. But she had been partially depowered and the ease did make it then a dramatic display of his strength.

        I enjoyed seeing Spike’s interactions with Illyria and the tension there is now between her and Wes. I really like the moment when Spike points out to her that she obviously does want Wes’ attention. Spike’s goading her combined with offering some advice and seeing if she’ll get on board with helping take out the demon, I think was a good inclusion. With his point about the impact of her looking like Fred too, it again works into AtF and their dynamic there really well. Plus, how quickly she deals with the Boretz compared to Spike’s initial attempts adds weight to the significance of how readily Hamliton beats her later and how dangerous he is.

        And, as a really silly extra ‘like’, but a big one , Crash Bandicoot is one of my all-time favourite games. It being on one of my favourite shows and the implication that Spike plays it too… well, that just makes me happy.