11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Not Fade Away,
This review is from: Angel - Season 5 [DVD] (DVD)Angel's last season is an entertaining yet flawed collection of episodes -this can be largely attributed to the WB network's demands to make more standalone episodes of Angel in order to increase the number of casual viewers. Apparently there were not enough people willing to sit down and loyally follow a TV show from week to week. In making this decision the network seemed to ignore the success of such shows as Lost and 24 which prove continuity is key amongst fans of cult television, not one-shot efforts which tend to please casual viewers only.
As a result of these requirements we get plenty of mediocre episodes in the first two thirds of the season (Hell Bound, Damage) and even a couple of plain bad ones (The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco, Why We Fight) as the show attempts to diversify into a CSI mentality where every tale is told in the space of forty minutes. The series is still by and large entertaining but from Angel we've come to expect the exceptional, not just the watchable or even the very good (Destiny).
Thankfully there is golden wheat amongst the relative chaff and this comes in the form of the hilarious Life of the Party which sees the former staff of Angel Investigations on top comic form. The great Wesley-spotlighting Lineage also gives us more insight into the harsh complex relationship between the ex-watcher and his father and the inventive David Boreanaz-directed Soul Purpose sees an unconscious Angel feverishly dreaming that he no longer has an important place in the world. The epic You're Welcome sees Angel fighting against an on-form Lindsay (Christian Kane - is he ever not on form?) to save himself and recognise with Cordelia's help that he is still worth saving.
With just 8 of 22 episodes remaining of the series, A Hole in the World kickstarts a delicious rebellion against the WB which takes the series back into continuity overdrive where it belongs and my, oh my, don't we notice the difference. The Whedon-penned and directed A Hole in the World, a beautiful yet upsetting episode brings us the rise of the wicked (and wicked cool) goddess Illyria. The classic action-packed Shells makes you delighted the blue Smurfette isn't going anywhere. Origin sees Connor's welcome return as a confident more well-rounded character than that seen in the third and fourth season and more than I expected I was sad to see him leave at the end. Time Bomb sees another brilliant starring role for everyone's favourite s & m-themed deity Illyria written by the equally brilliant Ben Edlund.
Only the abysmal De Knight/Goddard collaboration, The Girl in Question shows the writers on bad form in this final third of the season. De Knight's work is frequently exemplary and the viewer is left wondering whether someone drugged his coffee that day to make him produce this disappointing (to say the least) Buffy-starring Sarah Michelle Gellar-free episode. In my opinion they should have ditched this script altogether (unless it could be rewritten and actually feature SMG), with the exception of some beautiful scenes between Illyria and her tragic lover, and begun the focus on The Circle of the Black Thorn an episode early.
Because when it begins you will be very, very glad. Power Play and Not Fade Away are two of the best episodes in the show's entire history and you will find it much easier to forgive the season's slow start when you see that it culminates with sheer excellence, the like of which almost never seen. Not Fade Away is everything one could hope for of a season finale, except of course for the absence of a "To be Continued" message at the end thanks to the US WB network's cancellation of the show. Each one of the main characters spends his day in Angel's words as if it's to be their last "because it probably will be", which leads to some touching scenes including Spike reciting poetry in a biker's bar and a haunted Wesley suffering from the latest catastrophe to further wound his once blissfully naive personality.
Then we are treated to a Godfather-esque climax where each of the characters are entrusted to kill at least one key member of the Black Thorn and like Buffy's last battle before it not everybody makes it out alive. As the surviving characters of Team Angel prepare to fight against the worst hoardes the Senior Partners of Wolfram and Hart can throw at them one cannot help but be inspired. Our heroes know that they will probably die but that really isn't the point. We learn that the point is to go on fighting and improve the world as much as we can before we meet our fates. Since Angel has left our television screens there truly is a hole in the world. "Live fast, die never."