FEATURE: Angel - The Ring
Previously on Angel: Angel's activities in Los Angeles have attracted the attention of a bunch of evil lawyers, Wolfram & Hart, running up against them a few times since he moved in.
A beaten man, Darin MacNamara wanders into the office during a standard Wesley-Cordelia bicker and asks Angel for his help solving the disappearance of his brother, Jack, who was captured by a group of demons. During his investigation, Angel discovers an underground demonic gladiator-type deal going down, not realising that Darin and Jack laid a trap for him until it's too late. He becomes one of the fighters, leaving it to Cordelia and Wesley to find out what's happened to their boss.
After last week's dull, paternal affair, The Ring offers us a tale of something considerably more entertaining, continuing with the darker, demonic underbelly of LA with the added bonus of gladitorial combat and an attempt at a Spartacus-style uprising. It's a simple story idea, but a solid one for a filler episode that mixes in the action thrills with the comedic skills of the main cast. It also presents Angel with the central 'kill or be killed' dilemma, something which goes against everything he's been fighting for since getting his soul back.
Taking Angel out of the picture and trapping him within the cages means that the bulk of the episode's investigating is done by Cordy and Wes, which is every bit as hilarious as it sounds. Watching them try and maintain their cover as undercover cops ("something's going down tonight... something with the man!") is brilliant, but it also shows how well they're starting to work as a team. Although it'll be a while before we see full action Wesley, we get a glimpse here that he's not as bumbling as the impression he tends to give, something that he uses to his advantage at various points.
Boreanaz is a lot of fun here too, given a chance to do both the heroism bit and the comedy bit, particularly in his early scenes in the cages with his more laconic counterpart. And to be more laconic than Angel is quite something. It's another step further away from the rather two-dimensional persona that Buffy Angel was characterised by, moving him into scenarios in which he has to do more than simply look concerned. He also gets to do a lot of action scenes, get his ass kicked and brood about in his vest a lot. So that's nice.
We've known for a while how powerful Wolfram & Hart are, but the episode starts to peel back a little more of their veil through the presence of Lilah and her attempt to free Angel from the fights to get him onside. Their tricksy relationship with him, something that continues right through to the end of the series, is starting to build too. Here, they try the softly-softly approach, but it won't be long before they're back trying to kill him again.
The Ring may be a filler episode, but it's a good one and it keeps the show carving out its own identity, even if it still doesn't quite know what it wants to be just yet. The beginning's a bit noiry, the middle goes a bit comedic and the end gets all Gladiator, but it's entertaining throughout.
Quote of the Week:
Cordelia: Someone ought to create an intra-demon dating base. You know like... archfriend.org, where the lonely and the slimy connect [or Tinder, as it's now known]
Let's Get Trivial: When Wesley asks Cordelia if the 'Demons Demons Demons' has the Vigories of Oden Tal, he's referring to the patriarchal bad guys from She.
LA Who's Who: This episode marks the first appearance of Lilah Morgan, who goes on to be increasingly influential throughout the series.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, The Prodigal, here.