REVIEW: WHISPER (2007)

CAST

Josh Holloway (Lost)
Michael Rooker (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break)
Blake Woodruff (Cheaper By The Dozen)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Joel Edgerton (The Gift)
Rekha Sharma (V)

912ovz0yzl-_sl1500_After being released from prison, convicted felon Max Truemont (played by Josh Holloway) and his fiancée Roxanne (played by Sarah Wayne Callies), wish to have a fresh start by running a small diner of their own. However, the bank refuses to loan US$ 50,000.00 to them to open the business, and without alternatives, Max accepts the invitation of his former partner Sydney and his associate Vince to participate in the kidnapping of the eight-year-old David, the son of a wealthy woman in New England, under the command of a mysterious mastermind behind the kidnapping.32ef91aa32efAfter the successful abduction of the eight-year-old boy, David (played by Blake Woodruff), the group awaits ransom instructions in a secluded hideout. However, as they begin to become suspicious of each other, Max realizes the boy is not as innocent as he seemed. The boy commands various characters in the movie to kill each other. As the film evolves we learn that the mastermind is none other than the boy’s own mother who it turns out had adopted him. She tells Max that the kidnapped boy is a demon. He can suggest or “whisper” ideas to weak minded individuals. She pleads with Max to kill the boy on her behalf. On Max’s refusal, she kills herself with her own hand gun. In the end, Max kills David, but with the loss of his fiancee Roxanne, who’s killed accidentally by Max himself.a4f298880de7d0f5731f2f6b5aeWhisper is a slick, better than I had expected, horror flick. The cinematography is beautiful and the direction fluid and sure. The acting is good with a standout, scene stealing, turn by Joel Edgerton, someone I had never heard of before, but whose films I will now seek out. There are lots of wolves with glowing eyes, the usual “jump out at you” scenes,”and a really creepy child actor, and even with an overlong screenplay, somehow the whole project comes together nicely.A decent popcorn type movie.

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REVIEW: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 1-4

CAST
Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky)
Jon Voight (Pearl Harbor)
Emmanuelle Beart (8 Women)
Henry Czerny (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Jean Reno (Leon)
Ving Rhames (Julia X)
Kristin Scott Thomas (The Golden Compass)
Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement)
Emilio Estevez (Rated X)
Several years after the events of the series, Jim Phelps and his team, the Impossible Missions Force, are assigned to retrieve the IMF non-official cover list from the American embassy in Prague. Their mission fails: Phelps is shot point blank, his wife Claire dies in a car bombing, and the rest of the team except agent Ethan Hunt are eliminated by an unknown assassin. Meeting later with IMF director Eugene Kittridge, Hunt learns the job was a setup designed to lure out a mole within IMF, whom IMF believes to be in contact with an arms dealer known as “Max” as part of “Job 314.” As Hunt is the only member left, Kittridge suspects him of being the mole, and Hunt flees.
Returning to the Prague safe house, Hunt realizes “Job 314” refers to Bible verse Job 3:14, with “Job” as the mole’s code name. Claire arrives at the safe house, explaining she escaped the bomb after Phelps aborted the mission. Hunt arranges a meeting with Max, where he warns her that the list she possesses has a tracking device that will lure the CIA there, and promises to deliver the real list for $10 million and the identity of Job. Hunt, Max, and her agents escape just as a CIA team arrives.
Hunt recruits two disavowed IMF agents: computer expert Luther Stickell and pilot Franz Krieger. They infiltrate CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, steal the real list, and flee to London. Kittridge detects the theft and has Hunt’s mother and uncle falsely arrested for drug trafficking; he provides wide media coverage of it, forcing Hunt to call Kittridge. Hunt times the call to allow the CIA to trace him to London before hanging up, but when he is done, Hunt is surprised to find Phelps nearby. Phelps recounts how he survived the shooting, naming Kittridge as the mole who set them up in Prague. Though he verbally agrees, Hunt realizes Phelps is the mole and Max’s “Job”. Hunt also suspects Krieger as the assassin of the other IMF members on the Prague job, but remains unsure whether Claire was involved. Hunt arranges with Max to exchange the list aboard the TGV high-speed train to Paris the next day.
On the train, Hunt remotely directs Max to the list. Max verifies the list and gives Hunt the keycode to a briefcase containing his payment along with Job in the baggage car. Ethan calls Claire and tells her to meet him there. Meanwhile, Stickell uses a jamming device to prevent Max from uploading the data to her servers. When Claire reaches the baggage car, she finds Phelps, and tells him Ethan will arrive shortly. She questions whether killing Ethan is a good idea, since they’ll need a fall guy for the money. To Claire’s surprise, Phelps reveals himself to be Ethan in disguise, exposing her as a co-conspirator. Moments later, the real Phelps arrives and takes the money at gunpoint. Hunt dons a pair of video glasses that relays Phelps’ existence to Kittridge, proving Hunt innocent of being Job and the mole.
With his cover blown, Phelps tries to kill Ethan but Claire intervenes and Phelps kills her for sleeping with Hunt in London. He then tries to escape with the money by climbing to the roof of the train, where Krieger is waiting with a helicopter with a tether. Hunt and Phelps fight atop the speeding train. At one point, Hunt connects the tether to the train itself, forcing Krieger to pilot the helicopter into Channel Tunnel after the train. Hunt places a piece of explosive chewing gum — a relic of the Prague mission — on the outside of Krieger’s helicopter windshield, killing Phelps and Krieger. Aboard the train, Kittridge arrests Max and recovers the list before it can be sent. Afterward, Kittridge reinstates Hunt and Stickell as IMF agents, but Hunt resigns. As he flies home, a flight attendant approaches him and asks, through a coded phrase, if he is ready to take on a new mission.
Fabulous cast, especailly strong support from Henry Czerny, Jean Reno and Jon Voight, and a great plot which alas was too complex for some but which weaves a web of deceit and intrigue as it unravels.
CAST
Tom Cruise (Rain Man)
Dougray Scott (Enigma)
Thandie Newton (Crash)
Ving Rhames (Entrapment)
Richard Roxburgh (Van Helsing)
Brendan Gleeson (Troy)
Rade Serbedzija (Stigmata)
William Mapother (Swordfish)
Dominic Purcell (The Flash 2014)
Ethan Hunt, while vacationing, is alerted by the IMF that someone has used his identity to assist Russian bio-chemical expert Dr. Vladimir Nekhorvich of Biocyte Pharmaceuticals to enter the United States, only to kill him in a subsequent plane crash. Nekhorvich, an old friend of Ethan, had forewarned the IMF of his arrival, planning to deliver a new bioweapon, Chimera, and its cure, Bellerophon, both of which he was forced to develop by Biocyte, into the IMF’s hands. With his death, IMF is worried that the virus is out in the open, believing that rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose is responsible. IMF assigns Ethan to recover it. Ethan is told that he can use two members of his team to help him, but the third person to help him must be Nyah Nordoff-Hall, a professional thief presently operating in Seville, Spain, as she will be able to get close to Ambrose, being an ex-girlfriend.
After recruiting Nyah, Ethan meets his team, computer expert Luther Stickell and pilot Billy Baird, in Sydney, Australia, where Biocyte laboratories are located along with Ambrose’s headquarters. As Ethan and the others stake out Biocyte, Nyah gets close to Ambrose and begins to work him for information related to the Chimera virus. At a horse racing event, Ambrose quietly meets with Biocyte’s CEO, John C. McCloy, and shows him a video of the Chimera virus affecting one of Nekhorvich’s colleagues, taken from Biocyte, so he can blackmail McCloy into cooperating with them. Nyah is able to pocket the video footage long enough to transfer it to Ethan and his team, who learn that the Chimera virus has a 20-hour dormant period before it causes death through mass destruction of the victim’s red blood cells. Bellerophon can save the victim only if used within that 20-hour window.
The IMF team kidnaps McCloy and learns that Nekhorvich had actually injected himself with Chimera, the only way he could smuggle the virus from Biocyte, and had all the known samples of Bellerophon, now presently in Ambrose’s hands. Ambrose had forced McCloy to sell him the virus for £37,000,000 in exchange for the samples of Bellerophon. Ethan’s team plans to break into Biocyte and destroy the virus. Ambrose, posing as Ethan, tricks Nyah into revealing Ethan’s plan. Ambrose secures Nyah and prepares to raid Biocyte himself to secure the virus. Ethan is able to destroy all but one sample of the virus before Ambrose interrupts him, and a firefight ensues. Ethan learns that Ambrose is holding Nyah and stops firing, during which Ambrose orders Nyah to retrieve the last sample. When she does so, she injects herself with it, thus preventing Ambrose from simply killing her to get it. As Ambrose takes Nyah and Ethan escapes from the laboratory in the ensuing gun battle between Ambrose’s men and Biocyte security, Ethan starts a 20-hour countdown before the virus takes over Nyah’s body.
Ambrose opts to let Nyah wander the streets of Sydney in a daze, intending to trigger a Chimera pandemic in Australia, and orders McCloy to effectively hand over enough control of Biocyte to make him the majority shareholder; Ambrose’s plan is now to make a fortune when prices of Biocyte’s stock skyrocket due to demand for Bellerophon. Ethan’s team is able to locate and infiltrate the meeting, stealing the samples of Bellerophon while taking out many of Ambrose’s men. Luther and Billy locate Nyah, who has wandered to a cliff side, intent on killing herself to prevent Chimera from spreading. As the two IMF agents bring Nyah to Ethan, he and Ambrose engage in a fist fight. With little time left on the 20-hour countdown, Ethan finally gains the upper hand over Ambrose and kills him, and Luther injects Nyah with Bellerophon. IMF clears Nyah’s criminal record, and Ethan continues his vacation with her in Sydney.
If you like Mission Impossible then you’ll not be disappointed with this action packed film and if you have the others in this series then you’ll appreciate the efforts put in to improve plots, characters and special effects but each one for their time and budget stand on their own.
CAST
Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Red Dragon)
Ving Rhames (Dark Blue)
Billy Crudup (Watchmen)
Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Dracula)
Keri Russell (Dawn of The Planet of the Apes)
Maggie Q (Divergent)
Simon Pegg (Shaun of The Dead)
Eddie Marsan (Hancock)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal)
Carla Gallo (Bones)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Ethan Hunt has retired from field work for the IMF and instead trains new recruits while settling down with his fiancée, Julia Meade, a nurse who is unaware of Ethan’s true job. Ethan is approached by fellow IMF agent John Musgrave about a mission to rescue one of Ethan’s protégés, Lindsey Farris, who was captured while investigating arms dealer Owen Davian. Musgrave has already prepared a team for Ethan: Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Zhen Lei, and his old partner Luther Stickell.
The team rescues Lindsey and collects two damaged laptop computers. As they flee via helicopter, Ethan discovers an explosive pellet implanted in Lindsey’s head. Before he can disable it, it goes off and kills her. Back in the U.S., Ethan and Musgrave are reprimanded by IMF Director Theodore Brassel. Ethan learns that Lindsey mailed him a postcard before her capture and discovers a magnetic microdot under the stamp.
IMF technician Benji Dunn recovers enough data from the laptops to determine Davian will be in Vatican City to obtain a mysterious object called the “Rabbit’s Foot”. Ethan plans a mission to capture Davian without seeking official approval. Before leaving, he and Julia have an impromptu wedding at the hospital’s chapel. The team successfully infiltrates Vatican City and captures Davian.
On the flight back to the U.S., Davian threatens to kill Ethan and his loved ones. Ethan then threatens to drop Davian out of the plane, during which Davian overhears Luther calling Ethan by his first name. After landing, Ethan learns that the microdot contains a video of Lindsey warning that she believes Brassel is working with Davian. The convoy taking Davian across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel is suddenly attacked, and Davian escapes. Fearing for Julia’s safety, Ethan races to the hospital, only to find she has already been taken. Davian gives Ethan 48 hours to recover the Rabbit’s Foot in exchange for Julia’s life, but Ethan is soon captured by the IMF.
Musgrave takes part in Ethan’s interrogation but discreetly mouths that the Rabbit’s Foot is located in Shanghai, China, and provides Ethan with the means to escape. Ethan and his team raid the building where the Rabbit’s Foot is secured, and inform Davian that they have the Rabbit’s Foot. Ethan, delivering the Rabbit’s Foot alone, is forced to take a tranquilizer. As he comes to, he realizes a micro-explosive is implanted in his head. The restrained Ethan sees Davian apparently holding Julia at gunpoint (the full scene opens the movie). Despite Ethan asserting that he brought the real Rabbit’s Foot, Davian shoots Julia and leaves.
Musgrave arrives and explains that the woman killed by Davian was not Julia, but Davian’s head of security in a mask, executed for failing to protect Davian in Vatican City. The Julia-mask was used to force Ethan to confirm the authenticity of the Rabbit’s Foot. The real Julia is alive and held as Davian’s hostage. Musgrave reveals himself as the mole, having arranged for Davian to acquire the Rabbit’s Foot to sell to a terrorist group so the IMF would have reason to launch a preemptive strike. Musgrave asks Ethan about the microdot Lindsey sent, wanting to know if Lindsay had compromised him. To convince Ethan to cooperate, Musgrave dials his phone for Ethan to hear Julia’s voice to confirm she is alive. Ethan bites on Musgrave’s hand and knocks him unconscious, freeing himself, and uses Musgrave’s phone (with Benji’s help) to track down the location of Musgrave’s last call. Ethan finds Davian and pushes him into the path of a truck, but not before Davian triggers the countdown of the micro-explosive. Freeing Julia, Ethan instructs her to electrocute him in order to deactivate the explosive, and then revive him. He also instructs her in using a gun for her protection. While reviving Ethan, Julia fatally shoots Musgrave. She successfully revives Ethan, and he explains his true IMF career to her.
Back in the U.S., Brassel congratulates Ethan Hunt as he leaves for his honeymoon with Julia. Ethan is unsure if he will return to the IMF. Brassel promises that he will tell Ethan what the Rabbit’s Foot is if Ethan will promise to return. Ethan smiles and walks off with Julia.
Tom Cruise on top form, great stunts, edge of seat movie well paced and kept my interest throughout can recommend highly.
CAST
Tom Cruise (Legend)
Paula Patton (Deja Vu)
Simon Pegg (Star Trek)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Léa Seydoux (Spectre)
Ving Rhames (Julia X)
Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins)
Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Michael Nyqvist (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Josh Holloway (Lost)
In Budapest to intercept a courier working for an individual code-named “Cobalt”, IMF agent Trevor Hanaway is killed by assassin Sabine Moreau. Hanaway’s team leader, Jane Carter, and newly promoted field agent Benji Dunn extract Ethan Hunt and his source, Bogdan, from a Moscow prison. Ethan is recruited to lead Jane and Benji to infiltrate secret Moscow Kremlin archives and locate files identifying Cobalt. During the mission, someone broadcasts across the IMF frequency, alerting the Russians to Ethan’s team. Although Benji and Jane escape, a bomb destroys the Kremlin and SVR agent Anatoly Sidorov arrests Ethan, suspecting him as a key player in the attack.
The IMF Secretary extracts Ethan from Moscow and informs him that the Russians have called the attack an undeclared act of war, forcing the U.S. President to initiate “Ghost Protocol”, a black operation contingency that disavows the IMF. Ethan and his team are to take the blame for the attack, but will be allowed to escape from government custody in order to track down Cobalt. Before Ethan can escape, the Secretary is killed by Russian security forces led by Sidorov, leaving Hunt and intelligence analyst William Brandt to find their own way out. Brandt identifies Cobalt as Kurt Hendricks, a Swedish-born Russian nuclear strategist[8] who plans to start a nuclear war. Hendricks bombed the Kremlin in order to acquire a Russian nuclear launch-control device; however, he now needs the activation codes from the Budapest courier in order to launch nuclear missiles at the United States.
The exchange between Moreau and Hendricks’ right-hand man, Wistrom, is due to take place in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. There, Ethan’s team separately convince Moreau and Wistrom that they have made the exchange with one another. However, Moreau identifies Brandt as an agent. While Ethan chases Wistrom—only to realize that he is actually Hendricks in disguise, allowing him to escape with the codes—Jane detains Moreau. Moreau attempts to kill Benji, and Jane kicks her out a window to her death. Brandt accuses Jane of compromising the mission for revenge against Moreau, but Ethan accuses Brandt of keeping secrets from them, as he has demonstrated skills decidedly atypical of a mere analyst. While Ethan seeks more information from Bogdan, Brandt confides to Benji and Jane that he was assigned as a security detail to Ethan and his wife Julia while they were on vacation in Croatia. While Brandt was on patrol, Julia was killed by a Serbian hit squad, prompting Ethan to pursue and kill them before he was caught by the Russians and sent to prison.
Bogdan and his arms-dealer cousin inform Ethan that Hendricks will be in Mumbai to facilitate the sale of a defunct Soviet military satellite to Indian telecommunications entrepreneur Brij Nath. The satellite could then be used to transmit the launch codes for nuclear-tipped missiles. While Brandt and Benji infiltrate the server room to deactivate the satellite, Carter gets Nath to reveal the satellite override code. But Hendricks has anticipated Ethan’s plan and infects Nath’s servers with a virus before sending a signal from a television broadcasting tower to a Russian Delta III-class nuclear submarine in the Pacific to fire at San Francisco. Ethan pursues Hendricks and the launch device while the other team-members attempt to bring the broadcast station back online. Ethan and Hendricks fight over the launch-control device before Hendricks jumps to his death with it to ensure success. Benji kills Wistrom, allowing Brandt to restore power to the station and enabling Ethan to deactivate the missile, while the fatally wounded Hendricks witnesses the failure of his plan as he dies. Sidorov happens upon the scene in time to see what Ethan has done and realizes that the IMF is innocent of bombing the Kremlin.
The team reconvenes weeks later in Seattle with Ethan meeting up with Luther Stickell and accepting a new mission. Brandt refuses at first and confesses to Ethan about being assigned to protect Julia and failing. However, once Ethan reveals that both Julia’s death and the murder of Serbians were actually faked in order to infiltrate the Moscow prison while protecting Julia, a relieved Brandt accepts the mission. Julia, alive, smiles at Ethan from far away.
Brad bird delivered in this thrilling breathtaking and heart pounding instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise.

REVIEW: LOST – SEASON 1-6

Image result for lost tv logo

MAIN CAST

Matthew Fox (Alex Cross)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man)
Naveen Andrews (Planet Terror)
Jorge Garcia (Alcatraz)
Emilie de Ravin (Roswell)
Maggie Grace (The Fog)
Josh Holloway (Colony)
Yunjin Kim (Shiri)
Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent)
Dominic Monaghan (Flashforward)
Harold Perrineau (Constantine)
Malcolm David Kelley (Saving Grace)
Ian Sommerhalder (The Vampire Diaries)
Terry O’Quinn (Alias)
Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and The Furious)
Cynthia Watros (Finding Carter)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad)
Elizabeth Mitchell (V)
Henry Ian Cusick (24)
Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld)
Kiele Sanchez (30 Days of Night: Dark Days)
Jeremy Davies (Hannibal)
Michael Emerson (Saw)
Rebecca Mader (Iron Man 3)
Ken Leung (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Zuleikha Robinson (Homeland)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Fredric Lehne (Zero Dark Thirty)
L. Scott Caldwell (The Net)
Kimberley Joseph (Xena)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Billy Ray Gallion (Castle)
John Terry (Zodiac)
Veronica Hamel (The Last Leprchaun)
Neil Hopkins (The Net 2.0)
Michael Deluise (Wayne’s World)
Kristin Richardson (Rock Star)
William Mapother (Powers)
Mira Furlan (Babylon 5)
Andrea Gabriel (2 Broke Girls)
Nick Jameson (24)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Charles Mesure (V)
Tamara Taylor (Bones)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kevin Tighe (K-9)
Zack Ward  (Postal)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Daniel Roebuck (Final Destination)
Beth Broderick (Sabrina: TTW)
Anson Mount (CDollhouse)
Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13)
Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules)
Sam Anderson (Angel)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Brett Cullen (Injustice)
Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall)
Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead)
Lindsey Ginter (Hercules: TLJ)
Francois Chau (Stargate SG.1)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Blood Diamond)
M.C. Gainey (Django Unchained)
Kim Dickens (Hallow Man)
Kevin Dunn (Samantha Who?)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw 3D)
Evan Handler (Californication)
Gabrielle Fitzpatrick (MMPR: The Movie)
Michael Bowen (KIller x)
April Grace (A.I)
Alan Dale (Ugly Betty)
Paula Malcolmson (Caprica)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Fionnula Flanagan (The Others)
Diana Scarwid (Wonderfalls)
Cheech Marin (Machete)
Sung Hi Lee (Nurse Betty)
Shaun Toub (Iron Man)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Patrick J. Adams (Legends of Tomorrow)
Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars)
Sonya Walger (Flashforward)
Marsha Thomason (White Collar)
Carrie Preston (True Blood)
Tracy Middendorf(Scream: The Series)
Lance Reddick (Fringe)
Fisher Stevens (Hackers)
Thekla Reuten (Highlander 5)
Anthony Azizi (Eagle Eye)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Andrea Roth (Ringer)
Grant Bowler (Ugly Betty)
George Cheung (Dark Angel)
Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins)
Faran Tahir (Supergirl)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Raymond J. Barry (Cold Case)
Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle)
Reiko Aylesworth (24)
Eric Lange (Cult)
Alice Evans (The Originals)
Mark Pellegrino (Chuck)
Titus Welliver (Agents of SHIELD)
Brad William Henke (Fury)
Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Heroes)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
William Atherton (Ghostbusters)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (Halloween: H20)

Lost Season 1 succeeds first and foremost in character development. Lost is about relationships and before we can understand the dynamic behind the various relationships that develop over the course of a season, we need to understand what motivates these characters. This shows approach of having an individual episode focus on a single character through flashback, while formulaic, is a brilliant decision.

Episodes like “The Moth” (Charlie), “Confidence Man” (Sawyer) and “Walkabout” give us a wealth of information about the people we are being introduced to. These episodes and others are entertaining, exciting and contain pivotal character moments that are still important to the story even in season four and undoubtedly beyond. As I’ve said, this is the foundation for the whole universe that we are being presented and the team behind Lost nailed it right from the “Pilot”.

With character being such an important focus of the first season, the major story and mysteries surrounding the island are deliberately underdeveloped. After the survivors’ first night and their encounter with the monster we know this island is anything but normal, but we are only given glimpses from that point on. Over the course of the season we discover that there are other people on the island but beyond that we really don’t learn anything. The truth is that if the writers had tried to develop the story at the same pace as the characters it would have all been too much, too soon and the whole world they are trying to build would have come tumbling down like a deck of cards. Saying that the story is underdeveloped may sound like a complaint but I feel that it was the best decision. We are given a thin vertical slice of what is to come in later seasons and that is all we really need.

Of course, there are a plethora of individual character stories that thrive over the course of the season. Jin and Sun’s tumultuous relationship and betrayal, Charlie’s battle with drug addiction, Claire copping with being a parent and the love triangle between Kate, Jack and Sawyer are just a small few of the intriguing storylines that take place. All of these work to strengthen our understanding of the survivors and

Definitely of note is the story of John Locke and his relationship with the island. It’s a fascinating story to watch unfold over the course of the season and Locke’s journey is very different from the rest of the survivors. He starts perceiving the island as a living entity and develops an understanding of it that everyone else fails to understand and they fear him for it. I wouldn’t call him the villain of the show — for the first season I would say “the unknown” is the nemesis — but Locke definitely has his own agenda. Terry O’Quinn does an exceptional job of portraying Locke’s development over the course of the season. He brilliantly presents a troubled and destroyed man who has experienced a profound miracle and is now trying to make sense of what has happened to him.

As long time fans have come to expect, Michael Giacchino’s score adds an extra amount of depth to the season. He stands out as one of the premiere composers on television and Lost would simply not be the same without him. Most of Lost’s twists and turns may not have the same impact the second time around but that doesn’t mean that their importance isn’t appreciated. This show’s opening season set the foundation for things to come over the course of the series.

Attempting to build on the strength of Season One, Lost Season Two introduces several new characters and a new mysterious group to keep viewers enthralled. The introduction of the tail section characters does serve a purpose early in the season as it reinforces the Others as formidable villains. While the survivors on the beach have had it relatively easy, the tailies experience 48 days of hell in which their numbers shrink to a handful. Beyond that, Libby slides into a cute love story with Hurley while Ana Lucia stands around and takes up space until she is shot to death by Michael. Neither contributes a substantial amount to the season or the series besides being canon fodder for Michael.

As for Mr. Eko, he does have a couple of good flashback episodes but it also feels like the writers are never quite sure what to do with him. At some points he’s a passive observer to events unfolding and the later he actively gets involved in the pressing of the button. Those last few episodes in which he finds himself destined to push the button almost seem as if the were a scramble to give the character something substantial to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Eko but I feel as if his character was completely mismanaged from the outside.

Only Bernard, who really doesn’t do much himself, feels like a relevant addition from the tail section as he ties up the loose end regarding Rose’s husband. Their reunion alone makes his introduction worth the effort. The best new addition to the Lost cast is the person we see the least throughout the season – Desmond David Hume. His appearance in the first couple of episodes of the season were used solely to introduce the concept of the button but his flashback and story in the two hour finale presented an intriguing new character. He’s a hopeless romantic on a quest to regain his honor and reunite with his true love. Desmond’s story is leaps and bounds more exciting than the rest of the new cast.

Locke’s journey this season doesn’t really start to get interesting until the introduction of Henry Gale. For the first half of the season we get to see Locke at his most confident. He’s finally opened his hatch and discovered a bevy of new treasures inside to support his claims that the island and his connection to it are part of some much larger destiny. However, Gale’s arrival brings with it seeds of doubt as John’s world begins to fall apart. This culminates in the discovery of the Pearl Station and Locke’s complete loss of faith in the button and the island. It’s a good journey that has a great conclusion in the finale.

I really enjoyed Sawyer’s return to form midway through this season. Sure it didn’t make much sense for Sawyer to turn the entire camp against him in “The Long Con” but it was one of my favorite story lines of the season. His return to a nastier, less fan-friendly Sawyer was short lived however as he fairly quickly crept back into the good graces of the rest of the group.

Michael’s battle to get Walt back from the Others had him depart midway through the season but his return in the final few episodes of the season were thoroughly entertaining. His murder of Ana Lucia and Libby gave way to an interesting game of deception as Michael is forced to convince the survivors that Henry was behind their deaths. His absolutely disgust in himself for taking a life mixed with the continued desperation he has to reunite with his son makes for some of the best character moments of the entire season. Harold Parrineau does a fantastic job of portraying Michael’s spastic range of emotions in those final few episodes.

The real gem of this season and my favorite story arc is the introduction of Michael Emerson as Henry Gale. He spends most of his time confined in the Swan Station but that doesn’t stop him from being a formidable foe for the survivors of Flight 815. With the survivors fractured and keeping secrets from one another, Henry frequently manages to turn one survivor against the other. He’s favorite prey is John Locke who we already know is quite susceptible to snide comments and underhanded suggestions. Henry turns Locke inside out and uses him against Jack causing the group of survivors to lose focus. Its brilliant to watch unfold and Emerson brings a lot of weight to the role.

This season is easily broken down into two separate parts; the first six episodes that aired before an eight week hiatus and then the rest of the season. Even though the first six are considered part of the third season, they feel much more like a prologue. Very little time is spent with the survivors on the beach and the main focus of the story is Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer’s (Josh Holloway) imprisonment by the Others. T

The second half of the season also featured some of the show’s best episodes to date. Including the brilliantly told “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, which is an interesting twist on Lost’s  flashback scenario. Other episodes like “The Man from Tallahassee” and “The Brig” answered long asked questions while “The Man Behind the Curtain” and “One of Us” gave us a much needed back-story on both Ben (Michael Emerson) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell).

Really, the only weak point of the final sixteen-episode run would be “Stranger in a Strange Land”, an episode that primarily focused on the origins and meaning of Jack’s tattoo. We still don’t really understand the significance and we’re not too sure if the writers do either as they never bring up the subject again for the rest of the season. Even “Expos¿”, an episode that featured fan-hated Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro), told an interesting “Twilight Zone” style story and we couldn’t be happier with the conclusion.

If you were to suggest that the theme for season one was man vs. the unknown and that season two’s was man vs. machine  it would be fair to suggest that the theme for season three is man vs. man, as the main crux of the season deals with the survivors of Flight 815 dealing with the Others. There is a constant power struggle between the two groups and the narrative frequently shifts back and forth from the Others camp to the survivor’s beach. Intertwined throughout, are personal struggles for several of the characters in both camps and we realize as the story pushes forward that even though they are enemies, their survival appears to be dependant on each other.

At the core of this struggle is Benjamin Linus, and it would be a sin not to mention Michael Emerson’s fantastic performance as the enigmatic leader of the Others. He never once falters in portraying a creepy and unnerving nemesis for the survivors of Flight 815 and in particular, John Locke. Terry O’Quinn puts in an equally inspired performance and every time these two appeared on screen together, you knew something special was about to happen. Everything culminates in what can be described as one of the best season finales in recent memory. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof deliver a brilliantly told story that is full of emotion, suspense and action.

After a stunning conclusion to the show’s third season, the bar was raised and much was expected of the fourth season of Lost. With the final three seasons reduced to sixteen episodes each and a clear finish line. The creative team could now focus on telling their story without having to worry about how many episodes they had left to work with. Season four is the first to benefit and delivers a faster paced and leaner story that expands the Lost universe in some unexpected ways and delves into the mystery that was introduced at the end of last season.The “flash-forward” at the end of last season introduced an exciting new way in which Lost stories could be told. The use of these flash-forwards continues through the fourth season, revealing that even more Oceanic survivors made it off the island and also introduces an intriguing conspiracy of silence regarding those who weren’t so lucky. This storyline is the backbone of the fourth season as we discovered who was fortunate enough to escape the island and who was left behind. This is arguably the series’ best story arc since the mystery surrounding the hatch and is a well-developed, tightly paced narrative that actually has a satisfying conclusion at the end of the season.

The benefit of a shortened schedule is apparent and this season has far less “filler” than previous outings. Less episodes means that every minute of screen time becomes that much more precious and the outcome is a season that doesn’t have what we’d consider a bad episode in the bunch. Even this season’s Kate-centric episode is decent when compared to previous years’ outings. There are plenty of episodes that you will want to revisit here, including the pivotal “The Constant” that is a game-changer when it comes to the series’ mythology. It also features Henry Ian Cusick’s best performance as Desmond to date and one of the more memorable Michael Giacchino scores. The rest of the season is filled to the brim with moments that will have any Lost fan riveted.


Acting wise, all the great performances that you have come to expect from the series’ regulars are present. Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn continue to put in stellar performances as Ben Linus and John Locke respectively. As has been stated many times throughout the last couple of seasons, these two have some phenomenal chemistry on screen and they spend a great deal of time verbally sparring with each other this season. The newcomers to the show are no slouches either. Veteran actor Jeff Fahey is memorable as helicopter pilot Frank Lapidus. Ken Leung has already become a series favorite as the sharp-tongued Miles Straume and while some fans have had a negative reaction towards Rebecca Mader’s Charlotte Lewis, it is hard to deny that she puts in a respectable performance here.

Jeremy Davies deserves special recognition for his portrayal of physicist – Daniel Faraday. Simply put, Davies’ is awesome as the polite and awkward scientist whose unique viewpoint of the island’s core mysteries is a benefit to the series. If given more screen time he would have probably stolen the show and he stands alongside Ben Linus and Desmond Hume as yet another exceptional new addition to the series.

With the introduction of new characters and the already expanded Lost cast, some regulars take a step back and are not featured as prominently as you would expect. Most notable are series heavyweights Jack and Kate, who are present and accounted for, but see their roles slightly reduced as other characters are brought to the forefront. As the cast and story expand, it has obviously become a necessity to focus on a wider range of characters. The series’ writers are equal to the task and do a good job of handling a large cast without forgetting anyone in the mix.

Last season, Lost successfully made the transition into the realm of science fiction with classic episodes like “The Constant” and of course, making the island literally disappear in “There’s no Place Like Home.” Season 5 dives head first into weighty science fiction concepts with time travel playing a major role in the narrative for the entire year. There are inherent risks with introducing time travel into a story that is already as complex as the one Lost has become over the past few years. For the most part, the writers do a good job of keeping the time travel aspect of the story from becoming too complicated, but there is no dispute that it is the driving force of the season’s narrative.

The first half of the season is comprised of two very distinct storylines. One of those being Jack Shephard’s desperate attempt to reunite the Oceanic Six in order to return to the island and the other being the journey of those left behind as they find themselves inexplicably traveling through time. The Oceanic Six storyline is definitely the weaker of the two. The story of the Six, hours before they return to the island was weakened by a slow start with the somewhat Hurley-centric “The Lie.” This is an episode that featured a little too much of Hugo Reyes’ wacky exploits as he transports an unconscious Sayid around Los Angeles. The rest of the Oceanic Six story is essentially a waiting game as we watch the pieces fall into place so that these characters can return to where we really want them to be – on the island. In fact, their return to the island in “316” feels rushed, almost as if the writers realized that the best place for these characters is back on the island.

The aptly named “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” is the best episode that takes place almost entirely off the island. The story chronicles John Locke’s attempt to convince the Oceanic Six that they need to return to the island in order to save those left behind. It’s a tragic story for John Locke who has spent the last four seasons in the belief that the survivors of Flight 815 are tied by a single destiny but only in death does he finally make people believe. It’s a well-scripted story and wonderfully acted by Terry O’Quinn who does a great job of portraying an interesting transition for Locke on screen.

Locke isn’t the only one who goes through a transition this season as Benjamin Linus is forced into a situation that is quite surprising for the character. Without delving into too much detail, the dynamic between Locke and Ben changes quite a bit but the great chemistry between O’Quinn and Michael Emerson is still as exceptional as it has always been. Linus fans should not be disappointed by some of the great developments for the character this season.

On the island, Sawyer and the rest of the survivors left behind are forced to cope with the fact that they are constantly flashing through time, either to the past or the future. The approach taken here is straightforward and clearly laid out in the first episode of the season; you cannot change events in the past – whatever happened, happened and couldn’t of happened any other way. Faraday acts as the mouth piece for much of the technobabble in the early part of the season with Sawyer playing the part of the ‘everyman’ who constantly questions why things are happening the way they are. This allows the writers an opportunity to ease the audience into this shift of events without making things too complex to follow. There is plenty of exposition, but with Sawyer’s classic charm to offset Faraday’s jargon, it makes it a lot easier to swallow.

Time travel is utilized to its fullest here to reveal some of the island’s back-story over the last 50 years. Sawyer and co. pay a visit to the Others of the 1950s and are introduced to past leaders of the mysterious group. We also see some much-needed loose ends tied up as we finally learn more about Rousseau and her research team and we also discover why Richard Alpert visited a young Locke just one season ago. As secrets are revealed and key puzzle pieces are slid into place it’s surprising to see just how well everything fits together. Some of this is certainly due to the asset of knowing how many episodes you have left to tell your story in, but I’m hard pressed to find many plot holes in any of the explanations given. Cuse and Lindelof deserve credit for maintaining a watertight narrative throughout most of the season.

Season 6 of Lost is quite possibly the most scrutinized season of television in history. With both longtime fans of the series and curious outsiders wondering if this season would deliver both on answers and a satisfying conclusion, series show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse had an incredible task on their hands. With an edge-of-your-seat conclusion to Season 5, the small band of survivors we’ve grown to love set out on their final journey against a villainous shape shifter on an island of mystery.

In Season 4, “The Constant” established Lost as a science fiction series when it introduced time travel into the equation. From that point forward, until the conclusion of Season 5, the series maintained and expanded on that concept by sending the survivors hurtling through time until they eventually landed in 1974 (or 1977, for those on Ajira 316). Season 6 drops the time travel story completely and introduces a different sci-fi concept: alternate realities. It appears that the detonation of Jughead in “The Incident” created a parallel universe in which events played out slightly different and Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed.Much like flash-backs and flash-forwards, we experience this parallel universe through a series of “centric” flash-sideways featuring the lives of these characters as if the crash had never happened. This gives Lindelof and Cuse a unique opportunity to reexamine the lives of these characters from a completely different perspective. The flash-sideways giving us incredibly important character moments and an intriguing new story that’s both surprising and engaging. With each “centric” flash-sideways story, parallels are drawn to the character’s plight while they are on the island. This relationship between timelines establishes a key connection between both storylines that give the flash-sideways an importance outside of simply being a different perspective on how things could have ultimately played out.

Connections between the two universes are explored more thoroughly as the series progresses and we do ultimately get a resolution to the flash-sideways storyline. How satisfying that resolution is will ultimately be based on a number of factors that stem from your own expectations. In other words, it’s a polarizing conclusion to a very unique story and you’re probably either going to love it or hate it. I loved the way the flash-sideways story ended because it satisfied the need for closure.

“Happily Ever After” stands out as the episode that had the most impact on both universes. Living, breathing Desmond David Hume (Henry Ian Cusick) has his consciousness transported into what we now know to be the afterlife and acts as the genesis for everything that happens in the “flash-sideways” realm after his departure. Desmond is also the catalyst for most events that occur leading up to and including the finale. He’s seen as nothing more than a tool by those around him; a means to an end. However, Desmond is infused with his own sense of purpose. With the events he experienced in the other universe infecting his mind, Desmond sets out to free those remaining on the island from their pain and suffering and take them to a better place. It’s funny how both Desmonds are essentially driven by the same goal, with only one succeeding. But Desmond’s error on the island gives Jack and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) the window they need to stop the Man in Black.untitledTerry O’Quinn, who spent most of the past five seasons playing John Locke, slips into his new role as the embodiment of dark temptation with ease. We actually saw him as the Man in Black last season, but even O’Quinn didn’t realize that he was technically playing a different character until close to the finale. Here he’s allowed to truly enjoy portraying a villain and it’s obvious he’s having a hell of a lot of fun in the role.The Man in Black tests the survivors like never before. Offering them freedom, survival and even  answers to some of the island’s more pressing mysteries. The way that the survivors respond to this temptation ultimately defines who they truly are, even if it takes them some time to make the right decision. Again, just like the flash-sideways, this gives us yet another fascinating new perspective on these characters. We see them at both their weakest and their strongest this season.Season 6 does a good job of explaining some mysteries while others are left up to the viewer to dissect for years to come. Lost: Season 6 is a strong conclusion to what has been an extraordinary series. All the elements that made the past five seasons so great are here, with the added bonus of this being the final season and the stakes being raised for all the characters. Whether or not the answers provided are satisfying or cover enough ground will vary drastically for different viewers, but ultimately, Lost: Season 6 delivers closure on a story that has captivated us for so long.

REVIEW: ANGEL – SEASON 1-5

 

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MAIN CAST

David Boreanaz (Bones)
Charisma Carpenter (Scream Queens)
Glenn Quinn (R.S.V.P)
Alxis Denisof (Dollhouse)
J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)
Andy Hallett (Chance)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Mercedes McNab (The Addams Family)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Christian Kane (Just Married)
Josh Holloway (Lost)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Ringer)
Michael Mantell (The Ides of March)
Elisabeth Rohm (Joy)
Obi Ndefo (Stargate SG.1)
Johnny Messner (Anacondas)
Jennifer Tung (Masked Rider)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Andy Umberger (Deja Vu)
Tushka Bergen (Mad Max 3)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Bai Ling (The Crow)
Jesse James (Blow)
J. Kenneth Campbell (Mars Attacks)
Henri Lubatti True Blood)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
John Mahon (Zodiac)
Kristin Dattilo (Intolerable Cruelty)
Carlos Jacott (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Jeremy Renner (Avengers Assemble)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Stephanie Romanov (Thirtten Days)
Tamara Gorski (Man With The Screaming Brain)
Julie Benz (Punisher: Warzone)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Sam Anderson (Lost)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Justina Machado (Final Destination 2)
Matthew James (American Crime)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Tony Amendola (Stargate SG.1)
David Herman (Futurama)
Edwin Hodge (The Purge)
Daisy McCrackin (Halloween 8)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Brigid Brannagh (Army Wives)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Jim Piddock (The Prestige)
Julia Lee (A Man Apart)
Gerry Becker(Spider-Man)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
Brody Hutzler (Days of Our Lives)
Persia White (The Vampire Diaries)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)
Mark Lutz (Bitch Slap)
Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Frank Salsedo (Power Rangers Zeo)
David Denman (Outcast)
Justin Shilton (Little Miss Sunshine)
Rance Howard (Chinatown)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Jack Conley (Payback)
Jim Ortlieb (Roswell)
Laurel Holloman (Boogie Nights)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Sunny Mabrey (Snakes On A Plane)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
John Rubinstein (Red Dragon)
Alexa Davalos (Clash of The Titans)
Kay Panabaker (No Ordinary Family)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Adrienne Wilkinson (Xena)
Gina Torres (Hannibal)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Sarah Thompson (Cruel Intentions 2)
Jonathan M. Woodard (Firefly)
T.J. Thyne (Bones)
John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Simon Templeman (Black Road)
Roy Dotrice (Beauty and the Beast)
Brendan Hines (Lie to Me)
Tom Lenk (Argo)
Navi Rawat (Feast)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Alec Newman (Dune)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Jaime Bergman (Soulkeeper)
Stacey Travis (Easy A)
Dennis Christopher (Django Uncahined)

When Joss Whedon pitched Angel: the Series, he described it as a detective-style film-noir-themed take on the supernatural, much in the same way Buffy was pitched as a look from the viewpoint of the Horror genre. Buffy’s style took some time to get right, but the aesthetics of this show in its first year are well thought out and crafted; darkness and emotive shadow creep over, tense musical swells linger, and the picture is shot in a large resolution to provide just a bit of grain. I’d be damned if it didn’t seem intentional. Joss also said that where Buffy looked, metaphorically, at the hell of High School, Angel’s show would look at life past it in your early adulthood and the life and relationship issues of that unique, big city world. This metaphor is dominant in the first season, and is one of the main themes.

Angel, as a series, is always and will always be about redemption, but the themes of its respective seasons are about the different facets to it. Exploring what it is, losing the chance at it or the responsibility one pledges to it is all covered over the duration of the show. With season one, it was most direct: How do you get it? At the start of the season we see Angel arrive in LA, see him save lives, but we also watch him slip deeply into apathy about his goal. To understand the importance and worth of a human and life and soul, Angel learns in “City of” (1×01) that one must have a human connection; friends and allies that make his life worth living so his mission can be worth fighting for, and most importantly so that he doesn’t become detached from (and even dangerous to) those he hopes to save.

The season, as I mentioned, does lack a cohesive arc, but it also has a tremendous amount of hugely entertaining and well-written standalones. Many of them focus on Angel’s mission: “helping the helpless.” Angel makes it his goal to not only save lives, but save souls and make life worth living for others, and as a result of this his connections are solidified as he carries this out. He and his group slowly form into a legitimate investigation team which takes cases and makes money off of them, and many of the seasons situations out of which the characters are developed are a result of these cases. Cordelia, who in “Rm w a Vu” (1×05) is still defining herself by her possessions, searches for a place to live. Instead what she finds is a stronger sense of self, and in that a connection to the world of humans rather the one of plastic. Doyle and Wesley both find their own connections, as well. Episodes such as these are the season’s order, in every one of which something new happens that alters the main or supporting characters, or teaches the audience something about them.

This is, in my opinion, what sets shows like Buffy and Angel apart: relevance. More than any other show, each episode contains progressive, ongoing development that charts development in a very realistic way. On a more specific level, this particular season has an extremely strong episode to episode consistency, with each individual showing striking its own tone and exploring the main theme in different ways. A few larger, more exciting events may have helped, but at the same time I appreciate this season for what it is and how it does something a bit different from most other seasons of Buffy or Angel. There’s a lot more to talk about, including the metaphorical basis’ used and what we’re being fed through them, as well as the general ups and downs. The strongest suit this season has is its extremely fluid use of theme. Though the ponderings on connection, redemption and starting a new life are not as intricately detailed, subtle or socially penetrating as the themes of any other season, the careful and consistent way they’re used to develop characters and give the stories real world relevance is masterful. Angel made it his mission to save souls, and we were shown him connecting with people by helping them, failing to help them, or losing them altogether. All the supporting characters followed, gaining their own redemption through helping Angel and the helpless.

With the exception of Wesley being overly bumbling at times, nothing felt out of character this season, and that’s extremely impressive considering the length of a season. Doyle’s sacrifice in “Hero” (1×09), Angel’s re-ignited belief in himself in “To Shanshu in LA” [1×22] or Kate’s decision to see Angel kiss daylight in “Sanctuary” [1×19] were all thematically conclusive, resonant and well built up to.

The preceding season was,strong and coherent. While looking at the tribulations of life after High School in the big city, it managed to do so in a way that developed the characters within another major theme: Connection; Human emotions and growth that make us a part of the world, make us human. By the end of the season, Angel had been given a purpose, both short and long term, and a mission to fight for: Fighting in the final battles and surviving to be made a breathing human being again. Season Two, with a much broader theme, builds logically on that, and asks our vampire hero just what it means to really be human. Much of the season’s development is split in that way, with Angel increasingly being led off into his own world, with his friends developing entirely in a place away from him.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777While he and the fate that ties him to Darla explore the complexities of human existence, Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn become forced to suffer through and succeed in it on their own. Though not as characterized by pain and hopelessness as much as S3 post “Sleep Tight” [3×16] through to the end of the series is, there’s much darkness and suffering abound, especially for Angel. His epic trials and will for revenge separate him harshly from humanity, only for him to realize that his worst actions are indeed wholly human, and that this is what humanity really can be. Season Two has such interesting ideas in spades, and its theme looks at all the best (“Untouched” [2×04], “Guise Will Be Guise” [2×06], “Epiphany” [2×16]) and worst (“Reunion” [2×10], “Reprise” [2×15]) sides of our existence: forgiveness, self-control, image, obsession, revenge, victory, belonging and the very nature of evil itself. By the time the season closes, Angel’s re-examined entirely what his mission is and how he’s to fight it, and goes from a champion vampire-with-a-soul to simply a genuinely good human being who helps people.fake-dwarvesWith the exception of the brilliant period piece Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?, and a few rare others, the season doesn’t have quite as much use for pure standalones. Its arc employs its best metaphors and situations in the interest of exploring all sides of the characters’ journey, and as such, the season gives the impression that more happens this year than last because of the depth of each phase of the arc: the four episode standalone period, the first part of the Darla arc (“Dear Boy” [2×05] to “Reunion” [2×10]), the second part of the Darla arc (“Redefinition” [2×11] to “Epiphany” [2×16]), another couple of standalones (“Disharmony” [2×17] and “Dead End” [2×18]) and the Pylea arc (“Belonging” [2×19] to “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb” [2×22]).

This is likely why the season finds such a strong and undivided following. While some dispute the worth of the standalones or the Pylea arc, others like them, and everyone loves the story arc; there’s something for everyone. The best aspect of this year of the character’s journey in L.A. is how broad and all encompassing the season is. With the exception of Season Five, I find this to be the best season of the show. It has a few great metaphors, an engaging, unpredictable story arc, fun standalones, important character development, strong drama, and some of the most intelligent moral and social considerations I’ve ever seen on a TV show or in a movie.

Like at the start of Season Two, the writers seemed to have a clear direction in mind at the start of Season Three, and they wisely picked up the story at the logical introductory point: With Angel having conquered his innermost doubts about his own humanity. He begins to live a truly human life. He’s accepted his role in the world as a good person rather than a champion, and recognizes the world as a wide-open, random place with no greater destiny or order about it. It’s the kind of world where even the smallest acts of kindness mean everything, because they mean someone is able to shrug off the horrible burdens of life long enough to make another life better.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777It opens with a six episode prelude looking at various facets of the responsibilities and obligations of normal human life, and then really begins with “Offspring” [3×07] when Darla returns to L.A. in a very, very pregnant state. Like “Dear Boy” [2×05] was for S2, this is where the beginning of S3 truly lies. With Darla’s death and the birth of baby Connor (“Lullaby” [3×09]) as the emotional forces driving the season, the writers used the question of responsibility and all the ideas that fall under it (justice, deserving, chaos and guilt) to create some truly, gut-wrenchingly impossible situations for our characters to face. If I have to commend this year for one thing alone, it’s the painstaking drama that the writers plunge the characters into throughout the main arc and in the mini-arcs that follow. Although there’s not nearly as much thematic depth as S2 or as much consistency as S1, the tragedies and difficult moral situations our beloved Angel Investigations team members are forced to face moved me deeper than a lot of other episodes in the series.

Aesthetically, S3 also has a much more sprawling scope than the previous two seasons. While the first six episodes were essentially standalones, everything that followed “Offspring” [3×07] was in some way tied to the main plot arc of the show, even when some of its key players disappeared following the epic tragedy of “Sleep Tight” [3×16]. Just when it seemed the story was about to move in another Pylea-like offshoot after the main storyline concluded, Connor and Holtz returned and the plot kept on chugging. This led to some problems, of course, as all season-long arcs eventually do. Tension sometimes tried to take the place of real content and it often showed. It also led to there being an uncomfortable setup/payoff ratio on the episode list. But on the plus side, S3 (and S4, which moves even further in this direction) had a feeling of epic scope that no other seasons manage, so to even think of the better aspects that lie within strikes me. Such a sprawl is one of the reasons many people love S3 even if they haven’t looked very deeply at it.Image result for angel forgiving“Forgiving” [3×17] was another gem, as it looked at the human need to assume we live in an ordered world where someone is responsible for everything that happens. But it’s never that easy, and watching Angel struggle with that was fascinating. The final three episodes (“A New World” [3×20], “Benediction” [3×21], “Tomorrow” [3×22]) made up another interesting stretch where we saw how our characters could be motivated by pain, hatred or love and the effects of all those things.

Having already been on the air for three years, Angel had more then enough time to establish its theme, characters, and relationships. It was in its fourth year that it would bring all of these elements to the forefront and then mix them up in a season that would come to be known for its complex twists and turns.The season begins with our title character trapped at the bottom of the ocean – put there by his son – with the rest of his gang broken up. From this grim beginning, things only get darker – literally. Enter the Beast, a rock-encrusted devil whose arrival is heralded by a rain of fire and promptly blocks out the sun over L.A. All signs are pointing to the apocalypse, and it’s up to Angel and the rest of his demon-fighting crew to put a stop to it. From a storytelling point of view things just keep getting worse and worse and it’s a credit to the writers that they somehow manage to end it all on a positive note.Since Season 2 Angel has been a very arc-heavy show, but in its fourth year it would approach almost 24 levels of continuity and follow-through. In addition to being very cool to watch, the interlinked episodes add up to a season that is one big experience unto itself. It’s as if the entire season is one episode with many chapters.This year we get to watch everything get shaken up. Wedges are slowly driven between certain relationships while jealousy quickly divides others. The great thing about it is that you get to see what has caused all of these problems. Despite their best efforts to hold together, these characters have no choice but to push each other apart. It makes for gripping television.Visually and stylistically the show is very well put together. The directing efforts of Joss Whedon (who is always excellent), Tim Minear (who has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the series), and even Sean Astin (yes that Sean Astin) give the show a very polished and theatrical feel. The producers repeatedly stated that they were going for an ‘operatic’ feel to the season and they pulled it off very well. The use of darkness and shadow deserves special mention as does the great use of wide shots and the directors’ ability to fill each frame with as much information as possible. Wesley goes from bumbling dork to dark James Bond. Cool! While the twists and turns are great, the really cool thing to the season is the multiple layers that you’ll find within. Just when you think you know who the real ‘big bad’ is or in which direction the show is going, the rug is pulled out from under your feet. The entire season keeps you guessing from start to finish. Of course, our heroes win in the end — but everyone is left wondering if they did the right thing. And that’s what sets the show apart: It’s action with substance.

Nobody, not the producers, not the actors, and certainly not the fans could have predicted where this show would go. Where it could go. After all, this is an hour-long fantasy about a guy who spends so much time sitting in the shadows and brooding so much he would give Batman a run for his money. Or utility belt, as the case may be. So why is it that after five years and over a hundred episodes this show was still one of the freshest on TV? Simple: this is a story about something. What started off as just a Buffy spin-off has ended up as a massive epic that challenges, if not surpasses, its parent show. Unfortunately, the WB didn’t think so. After giving the producers a hard time and insisting on several changes, the network decided to bring the show back for a fifth, and what would be its final year.

 

So, in previous seasons we’ve had operatic apocalypses, quests for meaning, and our hero even went evil for a while. There’s only one place left to go. Into the belly of the beast, into hell itself: a law firm. Based on the out-of-left-field plot twist that was thrown at Angel and the gang in previous season’s finale, the team is now in charge of wolfram and hart the evil law firm that they’ve spent the entire series battling. The trick then becomes changing the system from the inside, all the while making sure that it doesn’t change them.


Unfortunately when the network decided to renew the show for a fifth year, there were conditions. First and foremost, it had to be more stand-alone. No more back-to-back cliffhangers. Next, the budget was cut. And finally, to sweeten the deal, the producers decided to bring over Spike – who was barbequed in the Buffy finale – in the hopes that his fans would follow. Luckily the introduction of Spike worked out well. He added a nice flavor to the show and helped flesh out Angel’s character in a way that nobody else could have. The punky vampire brought out the worst in our hero, which ended up resulting in some great comedy. Even if this Spike was different from whom he became on Buffy, he made for a nice addition.

The most unwelcome change was the standalone mandate. Yes, it can work, but it’s just not as good. The greatest strength of this show has always been its own history and tying the hands of the writers was a mistake. It resulted in a bump in the show’s overall flow. Even though it seems rushed, things tie up nicely and the finale certainly puts the “grand” in grandiose; now there’s a balls-to-the wall showstopper for you. Most people will agree that the show finished with perfect thematic closure. These characters fight an impossible fight knowing they’ll probably lose, but that’s not the point. They fight, not to win, but because that’s who they are. They don’t give up. No matter what.