FEATURE: Angel - Sense and Sensitivity
Previously on Angel: Angel met Detective Kate Lockley on a routine investigation about a weird chest-sucking demon thing; she naturally assumed he's a serial killer, but hey, he saved her life and now they're pals who help each other out.
Kate's currently trying to track down a mobster wanted for murder, Little Tony Papazian and enlists Angel's help in tracking him down. Thanks to Doyle's networks, Angel gets the job done, leaving Kate to arrest Papazian. She gets a little too aggressive with him during the interview and a lawyer, Mercer, from Wolfram & Hart succeeds in getting the entire precinct to take part in sensitivity training. However, after the training, everyone gets a little too sensitive; Kate breaks down and confesses her daddy issues to her father at his retirement party in front of a bunch of cops, which promptly results in everyone breaking down as a result of their own sensitivity training. Angel and the gang get involved and try to resolve the situation before Little Tony can get to Kate.
There's a fun conceit at the heart of this episode, one which feels a lot like the Buffy episode Band Candy, when Sunnydale's adult population were cursed with returning to their teenage personalities. Here, the sensitivity training and magic talking stick allows the LAPD to get in touch with their inner feelings whilst reducing them to a bunch of emotive wrecks. It never works quite as well as its Buffy counterpart though because apart from Angel and, at a push, Kate, we don't know the personalities involved as well as we did Giles, Joyce or Snyder. The comedy derived from seeing them regress from the people we knew and therefore operated on a much deeper level than anything Sense and Sensitivity can achieve.
It doesn't help that we, as an audience, are still getting to know Kate; we know she's pretty ruthless and efficient at her job. She's one for a dry sense of humour and might be attracted to Angel. What this episode does is allow us to get under her skin whilst the narrative fills in a lot of her background fairly swiftly. Her daddy issues are ridiculously cliched, but the performance of Rohm makes up for it, resisting the easy route of breaking down hysterically at her father and instead opting for a more measured approach that escalates as she revealed how craply he had treated her. The episode's boldest move is to not have this resolved at the end.
It's easy to imagine that in Buffy, a similar situation would have ended with her father attempting a reconciliation at the end, or at least acknowledging his behaviour. For Angel, it's much more fitting to have the ending that is given; he simply shows up to scold her for making a fool of herself, ignoring anything she said and outwardly stating he's going to pretend it never happened. Angel observes this scene from a quiet corner along with the audience and it feels as if we're witnessing a personal snapshot. The moment is a quietly heartbreaking one and affirms that, in Angel's world, some things just aren't meant to be fixed and this is a relationship that won't ever be mended.
I've already spoken about the comedy of the central conceit and how it doesn't land so much for the police characters, but to end on a more positive note, let's talk about how amusing Angel is when he's being all sensitive and cuddly. David Boreanaz lands his lines so brilliantly, especially the moment where he confesses that he feels Cordy and Doyle judge him when he vamps out. Charisma Carpenter is the perfect foil as Cordelia gets more exasperated and less sensitive towards her boss as she goes on. As I said before, it works much better here because we know the characters' personalities so well and the awkward hug that Angel proffers to his colleagues makes the rest of the episode truly worth it. And obviously the Hawaiian shirt, hat and Baltimore accent at the beginning is just brilliant.
I still can't quite decide whether or not I like this episode. Admittedly, a large part of that has to do with it being Kate-centric and the show is still unsure of what to do with her, though the episode works hard to get more of a character background in place, as cliched as that might be. Yet it's probably all worth it for the chance to see Angel go full warm and fuzzy on us.
Quote of the Week:
Angel: You know, Antony, you could be a rainbow and not a [punches Little Tony] "pain" bow.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Rm W/A Vu, here.