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3x03: "That Old Gang of Mine"
Review by Ryan Bovay (Ryan-R.B.)
Posted on March 8, 2007
Writer: Tim Minear | Director: Fred Keller | Air Date: 10/08/2001

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Spoiler Warning!
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.
Review

"That Old Gang of Mine" is a frustratingly underrated episode. Many fans of AtS are often angered by the idiocy of some of the characters in the central plot and project their frustrations upon the episode. Those who hold intelligent grievances against it aside, people who label this episode idiotic because of idiotic actions fail to miss the point. In fact, I find this to be one of my favourite little episodes of the series; a well-constructed, intelligent piece of character work that results in scenes of aching tension and strong drama. Sure, Gio is a moronic man of men to hate, but that's the point. And that he and Rondell actually have some good points to make is to the episode's credit.

It's primarily a Gunn episode, and addresses the long overdue issue of where he belongs and how he relates to the demon world, specifically to Angel. As a man who's fought a sustained war in poor neighbourhoods against vampires for much of his life, he's always been justifiably wary about working with Angel. As I've mentioned before, he's always been less trusting and less amicable towards Angel than anyone. He's had trouble seeing him as anything but a vampire and no matter what good Angel did, he was nothing but a set of teeth waiting to slip onto someone's neck. When Angel came back from his dark streak in "Epiphany" [2x16], Gunn was the hardest on him of anyone.

It was most hypocritical considering Gunn had abandoned his neighbourhood gang in the exact same way Angel had abandoned his friends, but the thought didn't even enter the man-of-action's mind; he was a vampire who had acted according to that design, and deserved what he got for it. Pylea began to bridge the gap between them as he saw Angel fight and conquer his darker impulses, but the issue of Gunn's trust in remained unfinished business. Not unlike his issues of belonging, a conflict which he faced in a more literal manner than anyone during the group's Pylean holiday; as a soldier who acts with no foresight, Gunn found himself torn between Angel Investigations and his old neighbourhood throughout S2.

His mindset is understandable given his history of fighting a 'war' (where quick action saves your life and over-thinking kills you), but it's one that now has to change. Gunn loves both his old and new crews. Cordy and Wes have both saved his life ("First Impressions" [2x03] and "The Thin Dead Line" [2x14]) and his old gang have been comrades in arms for years, so in the first act Gunn finds himself torn yet again. But where late last season he was leaning towards Angel Investigations, some moral questions make him start teetering back the other way. He begins to think and to question the purpose and the worth of the work he's doing. With the luxury of continued survival, he's becoming more cerebral.

It's not the most intelligent one can ask, but the question begs consideration especially for a man in Gunn's situation. More importantly, he's stopping to ask it. Merl and some of the other demons slaughtered by Gio and Rondell's crew were harmless, but not all of them were. The episode is clear in condemning random killing but is not so quick to let us off the hook about the truly evil demons. Even for the sake of peace and sanctuary there are some that one cannot justify tolerating, and as much as you may personally like Lorne, the specifics of his clientele's personal lives are stomach churning; one demon admits to eating babies. The act of letting such a creature live knowing what it does can be considered accessory to murder.

And from this consideration on the episode gets smarter: it draws a subtle metaphor to the issues of race and culture in our modern society. Now, the idea of racism has very little meaning in a biological sense simply because all humans are the same species. "Racism" as we understand it may involve certain physical characteristics (notably skin colour), but more often than not has to do with culture. People who hold prejudicial opinions about black people usually refer to the 'gansta' culture of greed, murder, irresponsibility and poor lingual habits. More truthfully, we deal in ethnocentrism. The physical characteristic may trigger an individual's reaction to the perceived cultural stereotype, whether or not the individual discriminated against fits the bill.

But it is the perceived culture - the set of behaviours, beliefs and languages - that feeds the 'racism' that causes that reaction in the first place. With this definition in mind, consider what the episode offers. If you consider demons a biological race the way humans are, then you can break them down as cultures rather than sub-species just as you can with people. Not many would argue that a skin colour defines a sub-species of humanity, even if there are notable physical differences. Assume that for demons, and you can roll with the episodes' punches. It's true that some of these demons have evil practices, even if they themselves don't consider them evil. But is slaughtering them so clean cut?

Consider that many human cultures have similarly barbaric practices (honour killings, religious vengeance, blood owed) and you enter complex territory. Truly these are horrible practices and on an individual level must be prevented. But does it give you the right to attempt to exterminate that entire culture? That type of demon? Don't be too quick to answer. Trying to fix or eliminate cultures, however horrible they are, has disastrous consequences for anyone involved, and eventually you find yourself unable to make distinctions and fighting everything from all sides. Like Rondell and Gio's new crew. Their intentions are noble, but in attempting to destroy certain demonic 'cultures' they lost themselves and began targeting all demons.

Having lost so many friends on the frontlines in the fight no doubt adds to this. While some, if not many, of these demons deserve to be destroyed, the point to which the crusade has gone could be considered akin to targeting ethnically Arabic people for the actions of certain isolated fundamentalist cultures who have committed terrorist acts in recent years all over the world. And when 'noble' actions extend to hurting the good or the innocent, one has to take a stand, because that noble crusade has lost its way. When Rondell and Gio's spree targets Lorne and Angel, Gunn knows he finally has to take a stand, and he finds out where he belongs as well.

The stress of continuing to fight the sustained war against demons has clearly given way to outright anger among the old gang, which has allowed them to become blindly 'ethnocentric' in how they target demons. It's something we've seen again and again in modern times; Japanese-Canadians were interned after Pearl Harbour and Arabs have faced discrimination in North America and overseas (in how foreign policy has been handled by the US) since 9/11. No doubt the death of George in "Belonging" [2x19] weighs as heavy on Rondell's conscience as it does Gunn's, and it was probably what led him to go down the path he did. But what makes Gunn different is that he works for a truly heroic vampire.

Angel defies all the stereotypes of the perceived 'culture' of vampires (in that metaphorical sense), so when the decision comes down to the old gang or him, Gunn finally chooses Team Angel. Even if he still can't let some of his own ire go because of what Angel is and how he perceives what vampires are, Angel is clearly the right choice, especially now that he's seen what fighting the 'war' has done to his old crew. This decision is a huge step forward for Gunn's character, and at last ends the arc that left his character progression hanging incomplete at the end of S2. From here he can and does move on and by the end of the season is as tight with Angel as he is now with Wesley.

But Angel does leave him with a warning: "You'll prove that I can trust you when day comes that you have to kill me - and you do." For what he's learned here, Gunn will always have to remember what Angel can be, something he and the gang have to deal with in S4 with Angelus.

Looking back over what I've written here it's clear that there's a lot going on. Like all Tim Minear episodes, ideas are mixed with character developments for an excellent cocktail. While some of the execution is admittedly blunt and the tension generated by the 'box' situation in Caritas a little overwrought, the show more than makes up for it with is profound statements and long-term importance. There were also a lot of little things I enjoyed; Fred finally getting out of the Hotel and picking the most ironic karaoke song possible, and Wesley showing his protective instincts and also his leadership skills. Angel showed a bit of growth here too in his understanding and forgiveness of Gunn and, to a lesser extent, his apology to Merl.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+Angel's apology scene to Merl playing like reparations to an exploited semi-girlfriend/boy-toy.
+Fred chatting with plants.
+The contrast of snarky Cordelia to the fairy tale-like furies.
+Gio bringing up the Alanna situation from "War Zone" [1x20]. Seeing Gunn behave now is very telling about how far he's come since then.
+Gio's funny demise. WHOA DID YOU SEE THAT DEMON?!
Foreshadowing
  • Gunn's development here finally solidifies him as a member of the Angel Investigations crew. In the wake of Wesley's demise later this season this new closeness with Angel puts him into a position of co-leadership and trust that becomes important in S4.
95/100A
N/A

DEPTH
N/A

EMOTION
N/A

CHARACTER
N/A

PLOT
Quotes
ANGEL:I told you this was a waste of time.
MERL:Real friends don't need notes.
ANGEL:(annoyed) We're not friends Merl! We barely even know each other.
MERL:Not like you made the effort either, is it?!

ANGEL:You know, ask yourself this

ANGEL:(hands her a note) Here, I want you to go to this address.
CORDELIA:What is it?
ANGEL:Transunding furies.
CORDELIA:Gesundheit.

GIO:So who does (Gunn) go after? Who does he draw down on? The baby-killing monster? No, me, that's who. What does that tell you?
GUNN:Tells me there's a whole lot of monsters in this room to choose from.
GIO:Yeah? Maybe you one of em.

GIO:(helping Fred point a crossbow at Angel) Alright, now you wanna get it in the heart or it's no good.
FRED:(points it at Gio) Although I thought I might just shoot you in the throat instead. Now, if I pierce one of your carotid arteries, considering the temperature in here, 'cause I think somebody shot the thermostat, the blood loss is gonna be heavy. And there's a chance I'll puncture a vocal cord and you won't even be able to scream. Butt you'll want to when the blood loss to your brain results in a cerebral vascular event. - That's a stroke. I wasn't trying to sound snooty.

GUNN:Doesn't mean I meant any of it.
ANGEL:No, you meant all of it, but that's okay.
GUNN:I can't help the way I feel, man. That's just the way it is. Doesn't mean I don't wanna work with you. Doesn't even mean that I don't like you. Maybe some day, I don't know.
ANGEL:I don't know either. But I got time.


Comments (37)
All Comments | Link1 | DingdongalisticMar 9, 2007
Great Review, Ryan. I've also always felt this to be very underrated. It's probably my favourite episode until the main arc kicks in.

I found your insights into the various complexities of the moral dilemmas in this episode fascinating. It's amazing how for what seems to by quite straightforward dilemmas at fist glance, actually turn out to be very complex and deep ones.

I also feel that the acting is amazing here. I'm not sure, do to the odd way the episode is paced and some of the unusual contrasts whether I would have been as fully convinced by the episode if it weren't for this, but everyone is great here. The performances really sell quite complicated scenes which really challenge the viewer. Like the scene with Fred and the crossbow, where it's really highlighted how hard she's finding this to understand and grasp.

And the scene where it reveals what appears to be a powerful disgusting demon to one eating junk food gave me one of the biggest laughs of the series. Made it more sad when he was killed.

BTW, Ryan, what song was it Fred had chosen? Because I've forgotton.

All Comments | Link2 | fryrishMar 11, 2007
This episode isn't really a favourite of mine, and while it's poor reputation is defintaley unfair I don't find anything particularly new of amazing here either. Yes, it has good development for Gunn, and a couple of other nice touches but it doesn't quite come together for me. Either way, I appreciated your analysis of the show's morality.

Dingdong, the song Fred sings is "Crazy" by Patsy Cline.
All Comments | Link3 | DingdongalisticMar 13, 2007
Cheers, Fryrish. Yeah, Ryan, it's definitely ironic.
All Comments | Link4 | buffyholicMar 4, 2008
You did a great review, Ryan. A lot of issues that you tackled and that I didn´t even noticed, like talking about "racism" against a culture and in here, it´s against demons. It´s hard to believe that this is underrated because this is just wonderful.

btw, I´m sorry Merl was killed. I liked him.
All Comments | Link5 | JoSep 21, 2008
I liked this episode a lot, my favourite parts being when Fred sings 'crazy' and also when Angel tells Merl to take a free shot at him in the beginning, I lol at that scene.



I'm a bit curious on Gio's history. When he sang at the club and then Lorne found out some of his history, I thought that was really interesting and surprised there was no mention of it in this review. Regardless another good review
All Comments | Link6 | RosieAug 4, 2009
Could someone please explain to me why Wesley had the right to threaten Charles with job termination? Since when?



Wesley, Cordelia and Charles were equal partners in the new Angel Investigations. Cordelia and Charles had agreed that Wes would act as lead investigator for cases that dealt with the supernatural. Yet, Wesley not only had the nerve to treat Charles as some employee, NO ONE bothered to point out the error of this attitude.



Does Charles' race make it easy for people to easily accept the idea of Wesley having the right to threaten Charles in that manner?
All Comments | Link7 | Blue Light JAug 5, 2009
Rosie, I don't think race had ANYTHING to do with that statement. Wesley is the leader now, which has been stated several times. While they started the new agency together, Wes is selected as the "boss." He tells his father this on the phone, and we see it in the way he begins to take charge, AND in the fact that he gets the office. If Charles brought danger to the group, Wesley would be the one to deal with it (at least from an employment standpoint).



Also, I liked the moment when Gunn sees Fred singing and gives a little smile. Nice foreshadowing, as they'll be getting down before too too long.
All Comments | Link8 | Nathan.TaurusJan 30, 2010 @ 8:11pm
This episode made me think a bit about Lorne. He has a no violence policy and the demons inside act civilized towards each other because they have to, but they clearly don't hate each other or want to kill each other.
Lorne allows vampires and other evil creatures to have fun inside his haven of peace, does that make him somewhat evil that he serves these beings knowing who they are and what they do?

We all assume that the demon who eats babies eats human babies, but that is never stated. What if he ate other babies of his own demon tribe (for lack of a better word)would that be the same as human babies? Even if they would be evil?

Fred singing :) She is so cute this season.
All Comments | Link9 | Lunatic on a pogostick.Jul 19, 2010 @ 10:54pm
I really enjoyed this episode because i thought it was a smart exploration of how people can have ingrained preconceptions of race despite knowing that its most likely incorrect,but just cant help but feel that way because maybe thats how they were taught or from simple fear of what they dont know or understand from limited interaction with people of a certain race or religion.

Badass episode.
All Comments | Link10 | debisibNov 26, 2010 @ 12:49pm
I gotta say... the one part of this episode that really makes me feel for Angel is this exchange...

Darla: MY god, what we did to him... (referring to Holtz)
Angel: I know.

Watching Angel... his eyes... his reaction. You can tell that this is the first and only time he has the chance to feel what he's been feeling, ever since he got a soul, with someone else. His case is special, but in this situation, for 5 minutes, he has Darla to relate to... to know what he's been going through, and to know that she feels just as much pain as him. He never gets this opportunity again. Well, technically, Spike got his soul back, but they never really got close enough that they could share feelings. Even though Spike is my favorite character in the Buffyverse, he definitely never had those true feelings of misery and remorse that Angel has throughout the series. Angel actualy even refers to that in season 5.
All Comments | Link11 | WvethMar 24, 2011 @ 3:22pm
Gunn's job was threatened because he freaking stole evidence and withheld information vital to the case. If anything, Wes was being merciful by not firing him then and there.
All Comments | Link12 | KeatonSep 30, 2011 @ 10:16am
This is a frustratingly underrated episode?
Quite the opposite, severely overrated imo. ;)

But I don't like most of Ryans reviews anyway and even don't really like the whole series Angel up to this episode. I mean, the last couple of episodes of S02 made up for a lot of the crap that I had to endure before and I adore Fred. Finally a character that is funny AND interesting.
Oh how I miss those good old Buffy times. ;(
Angel is like Buffy but without the humor and without the awareness that the whole story is silly as hell. Nearly no tongue in cheek, which is just plain awful and leads to a lot of uninvolving and meaningless "drama" in a still very clichéd world that isn't worth to waste further thoughts about good, evil or anything happening in it. Wolfram & Hart, the lawyers of evil? Really? Seriously? That's the big bad? And those guys aren't even portrayed as campy and fun as Glory or the Trio in Buffy? Why not, they are sillier than them! Why does this goddamn show take itself so damn serious? Where is the wit, where the knowledge that deep inside all that is very dumb and hilarious? What a huge misinterpretation, to believe a fantasy world as clichéd and silly as Buffys would give room for some kind of serious approach!

And about this episode:
Clever written or morally interesting? Really? Since when is a gang of xenophobic shitheads, who are as clichéd as these clowns, morally and psychologically interesting?
"He is a vampire!"
"But he has a soul!"
"... But but but he is a vampire!"
Plz could anybody just bite his head off?!
...
Thank you!

Man, that was so incredibly bad!

Plz ignore this fanboy bs here, here a better review of this desaster:
http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/angel/that_old_gang_of_mine.php?page=1
All Comments | Link13 | KeatonSep 30, 2011 @ 10:32am
I know, I kinda overused the word clichéd. ^^

But it's true! Buffy was like the Simpsons (just better), clichés everywhere, just to make fun of them in the same time.
Angel inherited all of them, just pretends that deep inside of all that nonsense (Good demons and bad demons hanging out together in bars? Inside everybody behaves, outside, another patron might just bite your head off? Sure, whatever. ^^) there are morals, ohter meaningful stuff, interesting psychology and whatnot. Sry, but I couldn't find any of that, just a lot of pretense.
All Comments | Link14 | KeatonOct 6, 2011 @ 3:40pm
Ok, guess I owe you guys that much:
Sry, Ryan, I guess you won't read this but still:
Your reviews are no fanboy bullshit and I don't know what got into me there.
I really dislike many of them though as I already pointed out. But thank you anyway for offering your thoughts and giving us something to think and discuss about. ;)
All Comments | Link15 | RosieNov 4, 2011 @ 12:00pm
["Rosie, I don't think race had ANYTHING to do with that statement. Wesley is the leader now, which has been stated several times. While they started the new agency together, Wes is selected as the "boss." He tells his father this on the phone, and we see it in the way he begins to take charge, AND in the fact that he gets the office. If Charles brought danger to the group, Wesley would be the one to deal with it (at least from an employment standpoint)."]


At this point in the series, Charles Gunn WAS NOT an employee of Angel Investigations. He was one of three partners - which included Wes and Cordelia. Remember? All Wes had to do was tell Charles that he and Cordelia would cut him out of the partnership if he had repeated his mistakes of this episode.

The only times when Wes was "the boss" when they were actually investigating a case. Other than that, he HAD NO RIGHT to threaten Charles with job termination. He had every right to demand that Charles end his partnership with the firm. Wes was the "boss" my ass.
All Comments | Link16 | RosieNov 4, 2011 @ 12:03pm
["Gunn's job was threatened because he freaking stole evidence and withheld information vital to the case. If anything, Wes was being merciful by not firing him then and there."]


Hey Wveth! Have you considered the fact that Wes had no right to fire Charles, since the latter was one of the partners of the new Angel Investigations since mid-to-late Season 2?
All Comments | Link17 | AlexNov 7, 2011 @ 1:45am
Rosie, you're talking about whether Wesley had the right to fire Gunn, which is debatable of course, but I still don't see what that has to do with race! How does Gunn's race come into it at all? I'm not saying you're wrong, just that I don't understand where you're coming from. Could you elaborate, please?

I always see it as Wesley simply being disappointed that Gunn would keep secrets from them. That's all. If Gunn had told the rest of AI what was happening sooner, then perhaps they could have prevented the situation going as far as it did with the siege at Caritas. I think Wesley completely has the right to tell Gunn that he can't continue to work with them if he does something like that again.

So where's the 'race' part of all that?
All Comments | Link18 | JohnApr 2, 2012 @ 10:07pm
I just can't agree with this review. I get that the writers wanted to develop Gunn and make him a committed part of the AI crew, but the plot just doesn't make sense. Gunn's old crew wantonly killing demons for no reason? Where the hell did that come from? They always acted like a military unit before. Here, they just got turned into an ultra-violent, poorly thought out gang of street thugs--just awful. Sorry, but that sacrifices a significant part of what the show has already told us just to aid in Gunn's character development. Also, Khalil Kain who plays Gio has to be the worst actor to ever appear in the Buffyverse.
All Comments | Link19 | XavierMay 22, 2012 @ 12:17pm
I just have to point something out: Cordelia's character growth. When Cordy and Fred are outside talking, I felt like the old Cordy would have totally gone all 'mean girls' on Fred, especially here:

Fred smiling: "No one would even bother to look at me twice with you around!"

Cordy: "Exactly. - Ah. No. - Now, that's just not true! People *will* notice you!"

But instead, Cordelia shows that she has the capacity to care for other people, to be nice. She has truly outgrown her high school self, a huge accomplishment for her character. Little things like this make me see how Cordelia has come a long way. It's hard to believe that the 'S1 Buffy' Cordelia is even capable of change. Cordelia really is one of my favorite characters. :]

[Aw @ Fred!]
All Comments | Link20 | ArachneaApr 7, 2013 @ 11:46pm
The scene before the credit was fun, but it also made me cringe: you call that an apology Ryan? What Angel did to Merl demanded a sincere apology; even if Merl was a demon, Angel used him, beat him and never paid him. That would have been a start to atone for his (soulful) darker time. It's something that always baffled me: Angel feels the need to atone for his soulless past, but doesn't seem to care about his tainted soulful one, which should be more prominent.

I'm not so sure that Gunn made the right choice by choosing to remain with Angel. He was the leader of his old gang and he could have chosen to lead them again on the right path: defend their territory, kill the dangerous demons but leave alone the harmless ones.

To answer some of the comments: as for the gang forgetting the mission (protecting their territory), it seems obvious that after George's death and Gunn's absence, Gio's arrival triggered the change. Gio has clearly suffered a great loss and is bent on a fun/revenge adventure. The gang doesn't know a lot about demons, they're not thinkers, so every demon is fair game.
All Comments | Link21 | BirthJun 27, 2013 @ 8:12am
Great episode. Great character development. Great message. Excellent review and analysis. With that, a little on why it might be underrated to some unlike myself:

The Buffyverse never really touched upon street gangs and the thought process behind them. This episode sheds light on, while possibly exaggerating somewhat in areas, exactly how many of these people think. In my experience, the average Buffy/Angel fan is not empathetic towards the types of behavior they (at least some) tend to exhibit and therefore cannot enjoy an episode that focuses primarily on such a subject. Nothing wrong with it, but it is a perspective some may not be privy to.

(keep in mind this is NOT all gangs): most individuals who join gangs join them out of a need for safety in dangerous neighborhoods. In order to feel safe, you need to have some form of comradery and trust. This trust often goes very deep, to the point outsiders (no matter who) are almost always seen as threats. It could be another gang, the authorities, powerful political figures, or simply your neighbor because he isn't a part of your group. The assumption is this: if you're not with us, not like us, then you are an enemy. If you come at us, we'll go at you and possibly anyone like you. Sweeping generalizations are not uncommon.

Gio and the others have EVERY reason to believe every demon is a monster. It's all they've known growing up: seeing their families and comrades in arms picked off by vampires and possibly others. To think several individuals who have lost so much, who feel justified by their shared pain and thought processes, would not generalize them is somewhat naive. The established characters in Gunn's gang only defended their territory yes, but at a certain point the fight gets tiresome. It doesn't mean they didn't think demons were all bad. They just had priorities, priorities that were skewed by recent losses, Gio, and Gunn's perceived abandonment of them. Emotional ties run deep in gangs to the point you need to blame someone, something, or some group for what took place.
All Comments | Link22 | KyleMar 11, 2014 @ 3:53pm
My problem with this episode is the climaxing scene. It’s just too preachy. There is no subtlety whatsoever. Sure, it’s insightful, but it’s as though the writers try to shove the episode’s theme and character insights down your throat. This is an overall problem I have with this entire show. Don’t get me wrong, this show is brilliant (though no where near the brilliance of Buffy, imo), but sometimes it tries too hard to make itself insightful (this is a far bigger problem in Star Trek Deep Space Nine though).
All Comments | Link23 | VarleyMar 17, 2014 @ 10:48am
Replying to Kyle (#22)
I don't think this episode TRIES to do anything, I just don't find it as great as some people do.
All Comments | Link24 | CynicismFollowsApr 4, 2014 @ 11:08pm
Uh, I've got to say it's disappointing to see that no one here has pointed out the extreme hypocrisy of this episode. Okay, they're going to a Very Special Episode about racism and racial profiling. And 'cause this is the Buffyverse it's all going to be metaphor!demon racism. And out of a cast of 5 it's the one black guy who is on the fence about demon discrimination. And all his black friends are super racist. And all his white friends show him (in different ways) how it's better not to be racist.

Sure. That reflects reality well.

(Note: I am aware that Charisma Carpenter is Latina/has Latino heritage, but I've always seen the character as Cordelia as coded white, so.)
All Comments | Link25 | KyleApr 5, 2014 @ 7:46am
I would be interested to see if your opinion would change if Gunn and his gang friends were white. I think you’re seeing hypocrisy in the form of racism where there really isn’t any. Don’t get me wrong, this episode has its flaws, but I certainly don’t see racism as one of them.
All Comments | Link26 | JahnAug 4, 2014 @ 9:14pm
I think it's actually brilliant that they cast it as such, since it shows that hatred and bigotry is a "human" trait and not the property of any one race. It would have been very contrived if the gang had been white, not to mention bigoted toward whites, especially since thus far in the series the gang has been portrayed as majorly black in structure.

But, like Kyle said, certain people just can't help seeing racism and bigotry where there is none, thanks to modern opportunistic politics and culture.
All Comments | Link27 | Freudian Vampire Aug 5, 2014 @ 1:15am
I'm going to quote a forum-member (Boscalyn) here:


See, it's a clever subversion of the standard "racism is bad" plot because the white people are the noble heroes extolling the virtues of tolerance of minorities, and the black people are the vicious racists who talk in street slang.

Wait no, that sounds wrong. It's a clever subversion of the standard "racism is bad" plot because the stand-ins for the people of color in this scenario are visibly uglier than everyone else, but that doesn't mean they deserve to die. Well, some of them do, but not the ones who have properly assimilated into polite society.

Um... wait, no that sounds bad too. It's a subversion of the standard "racism is bad" plot because the black people who beat up the demons are bad because that's bad, but when white people waterboard the demons that's totally okay.

........um, how about this: It subverts the standard "racism is bad" plot by being exorbitantly racist?
All Comments | Link28 | YEupFeb 19, 2015 @ 9:30am
Well considering Gunn has known Angel the least amount of time and has probably been on the defensive on the front lines against almost exclusively aggressive demons I think he's the character that makes the most sense to do this with, especially because he is the human with built in contacts in the area. Wes and Cordelia don't seem to have all that many connections in LA.

The only other groups I can think of off the top of my head it may make sense to have this conversation with besides Gunn and his old crew which has been touched upon already in her personal arc would be related to Kate and the police or maybe further delve into Wes and some old crotchety watcher guys which have already been touched upon in nearly every episode dedicated to them.

Overall though I think Gunn and his connections are the best fit though as learning to trust Angel has been an important part of Gunn's transition into the group. Gunn is currently at a point where I think on an intellectual level he understands that there are ranges of demon morality, he still has a visceral negative response to them that are demonstrated in his sometimes harsh or quick judgments of Angel. This theoretically could have been a great way to push Gunn's arc forward and incorporate this theme they seemed to want to touch on.

My issue with the episode beside some really bad acting is the over-reliance on exposition and the ham-fisted delivery of the message. I think some of these flaws make some of the abrasive personalities of Gio and others harder to tolerate as it sucks a lot of the fun out of the episode. I have no issues having hard to watch people in episodes, the problem is if the story isn't done well it's harder to tolerate and kind of amplifies those types of things.
All Comments | Link29 | PathbeyondthedarkFeb 19, 2015 @ 12:39pm
Replying to Jahn (#26)
It is brilliant, and a heck of a risk. But if there's something I admire more then consistent characterization, it's taking risks in fiction. Utilizing predominently African American characters and casting them as a symbol for "racism" is not only risky, it's practically asking for repercussion. Yet like you say, racism is a "human" thing that is not tied down to any one race. Double standards are just one thing I hate about the media and people's perceptions in general. Double standards shouldn't exist, especially in fiction.

So I applaud this effort to take something that's highly frowned upon and (perhaps) make a statement on the hypocrisies of double standards. It's not done with malice or anything against the African American community, but just a risky twist and a stance taken against double standards, much like how the character of Buffy is a symbol for the double standards imposed upon women.
All Comments | Link30 | FlyingPenguinApr 10, 2015 @ 10:04pm
I'm deeply conflicted about this episode. While I appreciate that it may have been an attempt at a clever take on themes of prejudice, I also think that there's a lot of validity to the points raised by Boscalyn (by way of Freudian Vampire). In essence, the episode ends up portraying a black street gang as a bunch of thugs who have misguidedly allowed their anger to impel them to embrace violence for violence's sake--an awfully "convenient" framing from the perspective of the dominant (white) culture, and hardly one that subverts racism.

Plus, there are other issues. In terms of Gunn's characterization, the episode ends up somehow feeling both overdue and out of nowhere at the same time. On one hand, I'd been waiting for a long time for Gunn's initial deep wariness of vampires and demons to start coming up in more serious ways--but he's barely batted an eye at hanging out in Caritas & stuff. Then very suddenly, in this episode, he's all sullen and withdrawn, not answering pages and kicking up a fuss about investigating demon deaths. It didn't feel like a very smooth character progression to me...
All Comments | Link31 | PathbeyondthedarkApr 10, 2015 @ 11:24pm
I'm really not seeing how it doesn't subvert racism. You have a predominantly Black gang, with Hispanics and Whites mixed in as well by the way, that is discriminating against another race. If it were simply saying that "thugs" are violent for violence sake, then how do you explain Gunn in this episode? How do you explain past episodes where the Gunn run gang wasn't anything like that? How about the episodes that reveal he and his gang had been helping out others in the community, like Anne for instance?

These acts of violence were isolated, and the situation escalated for two reasons: 1) The new guy stirring up tension 2) Gunn being absent and his gang feeling betrayed. They are given real reasons for their actions.

I'm not sure you understand what feels like to be betrayed (or feel like you've been betrayed). It can be maddening, confusing, and it can skew your view on things, I know from experience. This is especially true if he/she is seemingly betraying you for the perceived enemy. Believing them to generalize demons after having been prey to them their whole lives and your leader vanishing for weeks at a time to be with one is not difficult in the least.

So from a plot standpoint, it makes perfect sense. And there was plenty of substance prior to this that lead up to it, like Gunn choosing to leave his gang after a tough loss of a dear friend and join up with Angel to go to Pylea in the previous season.

So saying all of it is "convenient" really isn't true and there is nothing but solid evidence pointing to the opposite. So this leads me to believe it's not only to close that chapter in Gunn's life, but also brings that subversion as its core theme while doing it. It's truly a great episode in my mind, and I can't view it as anything else because I'm not understanding why the "showing thugs being thugs" interpretation is being made.
All Comments | Link32 | FlyingPenguinApr 11, 2015 @ 9:41am
I think that what you're talking about is absolutely the intent of the episode--and I appreciate that. It's just that I also think the execution was problematic, and communicated some messages that the writers would probably prefer not to have communicated. I mean, it would be easy to come away from viewing this episode thinking "Yes, black street kids, I know you've had it rough, but you really need to suck it up and not lash out in anger-fueled violence against those you perceive, in an overgeneralized way, as your oppressors"--and that uncomfortably echoes a narrative often put forth by white people who are impatient with black anger, defensive about accusations of racism and white privilege, and tend (even if only unconsciously) to view black people as threatening and/or thuggish.
All Comments | Link33 | BoscalynApr 11, 2015 @ 11:01am
I mean, vampires/demons/etc as metaphor for real-life minority group is a pretty common trope in fantasy, and that's what the article is getting at here. The problem is that if we view the Buffyverse through this lens... well...

At this point in the Buffyverse (6x04), the title character has killed 116 vampires and 52 demons. And that's just onscreen. If killing demons is a hate crime, what does that say about our protagonist?

Now, Mutant Enemy's smarter than that, so they try to make a distinction between the indiscriminate demon murder here and the more calculated demon hunting that our protags do:

- QUOTE -
WESLEY: From everything I can determine, this victim was fully assimilated. No history of violence, no threat to anyone.

So... if we're using the demons = ethnic minority metaphor... the takeaway is that it's not okay to kill people of color, but only if they've sufficiently assimilated into mainstream (white) society.

That's not okay!!!!
All Comments | Link34 | PathbeyondthedarkApr 11, 2015 @ 5:29pm
Replying to Boscalyn (#33)
You're digging too deep for something that just isn't there. How does "fully assimilated" allude to anything race related? It refers to anyone and anything that isn't threatening humanity. It shouldn't be read into more then that. That's reaching extremely far with that interpretation.

As Mike has even said and I agree with, a series should be valued on its own merits. At this point the series has separated itself from the parent series, so looking at Buffy or BtVS as a whole is irrelevant. Angel, however, the titular character of this series, helps the helpless. We have numerous examples of the "titular" character helping demons, even those that are normally harmful. Look back at season 1 for several of those, including "The Ring". It isn't as simple as "you're not a member of white society, so you must be punished." There are multiple examples that make your interpretation highly unlikely.

I'm just not seeing how you can interpret it that way considering everything that's occurred on "Angel" up till this point. Again, BtVS is irrelevant. If we looked at BtVS every time to determine the validity of "Angel" then Angel would fall to pieces. It's its own entity and should be treated as such.
All Comments | Link35 | BoscalynApr 11, 2015 @ 6:02pm
You understand what assimilation is, right? Because it... kind of does allude to race relations. I'd be surprised if it referred to anything else, given that this episode is an extended metaphor for race relations.

Alright, so calling up the home series isn't acceptable by Season 3 of Angel because it's developed its own identity by this point? That's fine. Explain why Angel torturing Merl on and off for the past two years is hilarious while Gio & co. killing Merl constitutes a hate crime.
All Comments | Link36 | PathbeyondthedarkApr 11, 2015 @ 6:18pm
Replying to Boscalyn (#35)
It was never acceptable imo. That's one of the major issues I have with how everyone treats this series. They treat it like a disappointing step-child rather then it's own man.

You still haven't addressed my examples that point to a much more complex and murkier criterion for how Angel and co. go about choosing who to help. That's the exact case in this episode.

The type of community Gunn's gangs live in is widespread in the U.S. It's a part of our society, and assimilating would include them.

Even if nothing else, I'm going to cite 3 years of development over an isolated oversight in dialog choice. At worst, that's all I see it as. After all, we overlook a lot in BtVS that is inconsistent if we must bring that into this. We overlook the magic=drug metaphor, for example, as soon as it's abandoned because we feel it was shoehorned to begin with. We also overlook the highly inconsistent lore and mythology for the sake of character development and thematic value.
All Comments | Link37 | PathbeyondthedarkApr 11, 2015 @ 6:36pm
As far as Merl, did you watch the episode? They basically said it wasn't okay and that what Angel was doing was not only wrong, but hypocritical. If you want to look deeper, then you could say the writers were rectifying their mistake as well. So either way you look at it, the episode makes it clear that Angel's actions were not tolerable.
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