December talking meme: 12/14

Dec 17, 2013 20:19

Why AtS S4 is the best, for inspectorlemon

IT REALLY IS, RIGHT? It’s one of my favorite seasons on either show to rewatch. I love that upon posting this meme I got almost 20 great prompts and 4 of them were about mid-series AtS. YOU ALL KNOW ME WELL, lol.

I’ve talked a lot about how my enjoyment of AtS is…a composite thing, rather than a holistic thing? It has a lot of characters and elements that I really love, even though the whole picture is often frustrating for me. S4 has all of those elements except Darla (at most, only an arguable and insufficient amount of Darla), and so I guess it has the highest enjoyment quotient for me. Huge operatic horror, lots of focus on social structures within LA rather than just isolating AI in one way or another, a very cool character arc for Wes, FAITH, lots of Angelus - totally AtS greatest hits.

S3 had a lot of people trying to be something they weren’t - Cordelia lightening and lightening her hair, and dressing Groo as Angel. S4 is the “careful what you wish for” season, where everyone gets strongarmed into being something they aren’t. Jasmine-washed shiny happies at the end aside, we have Cordelia being consumed by Jasmine, Connor’s forced transition into Connor O’Reilly, Angel becoming Angelus (Angelus is a part of Angel, but only a part of him, not his whole self), W&H becoming zombies, the team becoming their teen selves (again, part of themselves, not all of themselves): a surprise come-as-you-aren’t party.

Part of the brilliance of S4 is the pacing. Starting with Supersymmetry and running right up through Shiny Happy People, most (all?) episodes pick up right where the last one left off and happen over the course of a few hours to a couple of days. I have only really started enjoying television since a couple of years after AtS went off the air (I mean, I caught stuff here and there when I was younger, but I didn’t, like, fannishly focus on anything) and so I take a lot of stuff about dramatic, serialized television for granted. But actually…this is kind of a cool use of format that I’m not sure AtS had much to model itself after on this? It’s happened a lot since then - obviously 24 had this as its schtick, and TVD has managed to make two years and change show-time last five seasons - but this must’ve been a really cool experiment in playing television like one of those old-school novels that was published in weekly papers.

Having the story arc compressed so tightly led to some really great character work. Because people aren’t just ourselves one or two hours a week and then have a few days or weeks to uncoil and get some distance from whatever happened. The way shit just keeps happening for our plucky little band, the way their nerves fray and their decisions get more and more erratic, it puts them under a magnifying glass and fries them like ants in the sun, like real people under very real stress.

Also, and maybe because the Jasmine arc was the first time I was exposed to something fandom shuns and abhors as a “retcon,” I legitimately don’t understand what people’s problem with retcons is? Anything can be done well or done badly, but I think it’s totally cool and valuable to find something that makes us reassess the past in a whole new light, and if we feel unsettled by what we thought we knew - usually, especially, whatever normative value we were assigning to things having been as we thought they were - THAT IS REALLY COOL, that is what we should *want* to be able to do in fiction and in life, is to take in new information and use it to alter our points of view. The Jasmine retcon was awesome because it hammered home just how big the forces around them that could jerk them around and ruin (or even END) their lives were.

(It’s in or around my most recent watch of these episodes that I figured out what, exactly, it is about Boreanez’s acting at that point in his career that can sometimes feel questionable: his timing. Not like, comedic timing or dialogue pacing, because I think he was very capable of inhabiting Angel and drawing on the people around him enough to do a good job with that. But if the most important thing about a line is choosing the right moment to say it, he would frequently blow it. (Like, when they’re fighting the Beast and trying to keep it from getting the ball.

ANGEL: Don’t let it…
EXPLOSION: *eventually happens*)

And that might not always be a big deal - I haven’t noticed it on Bones, though that might be a function of needing that skill less often for a different genre show or of Booth being much less of an overall task than Angel, or just of him improving at something after fifteen years of doing it - but it’s a jarring problem when every episode involved the combination of Mutant Enemy dialogue and big action scenes. Isolating that has let me be even more appreciative of what I think made him so very good at the (to me) more crucial aspects of the role: I think he has a lot of raw power as a nonverbal actor, he has great physicality, and he loved letting Angel(us) be a raging dickbag. IMO that’s the stuff that really makes Angel work, so I don’t have complaints about him on a technical level.)
This entry was originally posted at Leave a comment here, or there using OpenID.


Previous post Next post