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3x20: "A New World"
Review by Ryan Bovay (Ryan-R.B.)
Posted on August 19, 2007
Writer: Jeffrey Bell | Director: Tim Minear | Air Date: 05/06/2002

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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

"A New World" is an episode disappointingly split between action and character, rather than being an enjoyable blending of the two. The first thing thought that comes to mind when you begin watching it is "ENDLESS POTENTIAL." The uncertainty of Connor's return and the vagueness of his motives are unclear at first, and there is only rough, unrelenting violence in the excellent teaser for this episode. Unfortunately we get about half an episode of that vagueness before anything really interesting begins happening, and when it does it's not quite profound enough to save the overall product. What's left is something that's mostly setup in a season which has had too many damn setup shows already.

The main problem is that there's too much plot and not enough true emotional drive in the story until after Sunny's death. The first two acts consist of running to and from places, with light banter that only hints at the deeper meaning of the episode's subject mixed in. There are a few character moments too (such as Wes and Lilah's excellent scene), but for the most part it is all raw plot drive. Given the poor nature of some of the fight sequences (everything after the teaser and before Sunny's apartment), it adds up to a boring half of an episode. Stories can be imperfect, but they should never be boring. It is the worst sin in writing.

I often found myself wondering exactly what Connor's purpose was, even knowing what I know of the bloody motives we're let in on in "Benediction" [3x21]. Though a curiosity about his true parentage underlined him, Connor ultimately came back to kill Angel on behalf of his 'real' father. Considering his disinterest in other people, the greater context of any situation or understanding anyone's motives but his own (hey, sounds like most teenagers!), the series of events that lead him to Sunny feel ill-conceived. However, there are a few small notes that give us insight into Connor. Though the new world is strange and alien to him, he nimbly tackles it: climbing buses, jumping over bridges and dodging cars.

What throws him for a loop is moral and social complexity. Given what he knows of Angel, he has every reason to hate him from the first moment he sees him. Angel's mercy in the first scene confuses the warrior Connor, who would've seen his enemy dead in the same situation were he on the other side of the stake. Our first sense of the boy is a hunter with a morality to match: save the good, kill the evil, abandon the weak. This is interesting material, but only a sampler. And it's not enough to overcome my feeling that his initial shock at Angel's compassion was not sufficient enough an emotional force to drive him away for half an episode.

But from the start of the third act things improve significantly. In Connor, we get an exact picture of Holtz. But because he is Angel's son, the hunter's morality he follows is like a knife in the gut for our poor protagonist. Like Angel, Connor acts in the interest of his idea of good, but morality isn't so clear-cut in our world. To him Sunny was friendly and generous, so she was good. Tyke, her drug dealer, tried to hurt her and sold her something that killed her (the heroin), so he was bad. On the surface these are fair judgments, but the boy misses out on the deeper implications of moral responsibility.

I don't think anyone will argue that Tyke wasn't but a bastard, but Sunny stole CD's to try and buy heroin from him. When the opportunity was present, she just stole the heroin herself as well as some of his money. She's more the engineer of her death than anyone, which is a fact Connor can't recognize. She hinted at having issues with her parents which may have led her to run away, which again would've been her choice. That doesn't mean everything is her fault mind you, but it means the situation is complicated. No one person is 100% responsible in most muck ups.

But like Tyke's, Angel's hand in any number of terrible things automatically spells complete culpability to Connor's Holtzian mindset, and so he comes to blows with him. The emotionally charged scene where Angel makes a desperate plea from father to son is the episode's bright, shining moment; this is his grown baby boy who's lived and learned, and even though he was raised by his sworn enemy all Angel wants to do is hold him and hear about his life. When Connor so harshly rebukes him, it's painful to watch. What's even better is when Tyke actually tracks them down and puts Angel in a horrible position that is played for surprisingly effective suspense.

Tyke wants to take down Connor for making a trophy out of his ear, Connor wants to kill the hell out of Tyke, and Angel is left in the middle, worried that his son will get hurt or become a killer of human beings in his world. So how do you convince a hunter and a drug dealer that violence is not the answer when reason is not a concept that is practically useful to either of them? The episode's answer is that you can't explain reason to the unreasonable, you have to show them why it's the better choice. Because when Angel saves Connor's life, he makes the morally grey argument so compelling that in "Benediction" [3x21], Connor comes back to him despite his own reservations.

Some other things happen in the episode too, though not many of them are nearly as interesting as the main plot. I continue to care less and less about Cordelia and the Groosalug, though the fact that she seems to have to lie through her teeth even to herself now shows where the relationship is going. She's starting to realize its shallowness compared to the power of her bond with Angel, and though she's kind enough to try and reassure Groo, she's barely selling it to anyone now.

And there is of course no forgetting the powerful scene between Lilah and Wesley, which will precipitate a long line of dirty liaisons between them. Unapologetically biting and intrusive as ever, she makes her own morality play: the completely amoral type. Wes, for his mistakes, has only his dignity left in his mind, and so he sees himself as above being able to work for an organization like Wolfram and Hart. Not that we the audience ever believe he could be led that far astray (at least for now, hehe), but a point she makes sticks in his mind, compounding further what he's learned from his tragedy: he's not the hero, and he may not even be too good for W&H.

I absolutely adored how deliciously Stephanie Romanov played up Lilah's manipulative intent, as well as how she seemed to have a good grip on Wes' basic character; what else to get to an ex-Watcher besides a book? Scenes of this power saved the episode from being a meandering bore like "Quickening" [3x08], but I must re-iterate how my frustration grows with S3 the longer I consider it. It definitely has its many positive qualities, but reviewing the season has made me realize just how uncomfortable the setup/payoff balance is in this 22 episode story. Looking forward we do have the excellent "Benediction" [3x21], but we also have the unfortunate (and designed to do even more setup) finale "Tomorrow" [3x22].

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+Cordy's powers of deus ex machina not working, and then hilariously not working.
+Lilah not caring about whether or not she's invited.
+The delightfully odd Mistress Meerna.
  
-All of the fight-scene CGI was horribly done.
Foreshadowing
  • Connor either runs from Angel or is directly offensive against him. This is telling of their entire relationship-to-be, which will have Connor torn between his life on Earth, his life in Quor'toth, and the moral dichotomy between the 'father' in each dimension.
  • Wesley can't accept that Lilah's right, but he can't quite call her wrong either. This becomes the attitude he holds towards their sexual tryst which begins sometime between S3 and S4. We first see it in "Deep Down" [4x01].
75/100B-
N/A

DEPTH
N/A

EMOTION
N/A

CHARACTER
N/A

PLOT
Quotes
ANGEL:Okay. Look, I'm going underground. Somebody hit the surface streets.
GUNN:We got it man.
GROOSALUG:We will not fail – man.

LILAH:(about Dante's divine comedy) Then you know it's a guided tour of the underworld, the nine levels of hell.
WESLEY:Yes. Descending, concentric rings based on severity of the sin.
LILAH:You know, I always forget - the very bottom of hell, in the ninth circle, the devil is frozen in ice, right? He got three heads, three mouths and those mouths are reserved for the worst sinners. Now, I can't remember - who is in the center mouth? Wh-what was his name? The one person in all of human history deemed the greatest sinner? Who is it?
WESLEY:(after a long silence) Judas Iscariot.
LILAH:Right. The worst spot in hell is reserved for those who betray. (moves towards the door) So don't pretend you're too good to work for us.

TYKE:An entire suit made of Chamois. That's different. 'What are you wearing to the Oscars?' 'My Chamois suit.' – (points to Connor's necklace) What's all this?
CONNOR:Things I killed.
TYKE:Uh, aren't you all scary. Chamois and teeth! (Gives an exaggerated shudder) Wanna know what else is scary? (one of the goons smashes Connor with a crowbar) Me.

ANGEL:You been okay? I mean - what was it like there? - Did you have any friends? - Okay, I mean, not friends. (Sighs) It's not like you were at summer camp. I mean, you were stuck in a - hell dimension. - Connor - I'm so sorry. I tried to get you back. I did. I tried to come after you. I would have done anything. I just... I just... I couldn't find a way in.
CONNOR:I found a way out.
ANGEL:Yeah. - You did. - You sure did. - I should've - I should've tried harder. I - I shouldn't 've quit. But you're back. And-and - and that's what's important, you know? You-you came back to me. I wanna know everything, son. I wanna know everything. Everything about you, you know, what your life's been like? You - must have a million questions.
CONNOR:(coldly) No.

MEERNA:I hope this pentagram wasn't some dark attempt to close the fissure.
GUNN:Ah, no, that was a dark attempt to open one. (Meerna glances at Gunn) Different one. - Long story.


Comments (4)
All Comments | Link1 | buffyholicMar 12, 2008
I have to agree. This episode seems a little messy, not knowing where it stands.
All Comments | Link2 | Nathan.TaurusFeb 4, 2010 @ 8:02pm
The good: The teaser fight scene. Connor cutting off the guys ear. Lilah and Wesley. Connor wanting to kill the bad guys. Mistress Meerna.

The Bad: What is propelling the stakes from Connors wrist shooter. How does it hold more than there is space for. Groos fingures aren't closed around the CGI axe when he throws it.
All Comments | Link3 | SueBDec 31, 2011 @ 2:01pm
I certainly agree the confrontation between Angel and Connor in the hotel room before Tyke shows up was powerful. The "I just... I just... I couldn't find a way in.", "I found a way out." was a heartrending exchange. We know Angel's pain and Connor's simple statement is like a knife in the heart. So too is his insistence on being called Steven, replying "no" when he asked if he had any questions, and the realization that Connor was raised to kill him (Angel). I so wish we had had more of these scenes throughout the Connor arc of S3/S4.

I didn't mind the CGI fighting but the green screen work with the bus really took me out of the story.

I also loved the cutting off the ear scene and Mistress Meerna.

I'm slightly disturbed by the constant throwing around of Connor by Angel. It's such a very physical relationship. Now I think it's on purpose and I think it was the only option Angel had but it really stresses the relationship I think.

Perhaps another moment of foreshadowing:
- Your actions mean more than your words to Connor. Angel said all the right words but it was him taking a bullet for Connor and offering himself up as hostage that really threw Connor for a loop in my opinion.

Little moment I loved:
- After escaping, as Angel is offering to Connor to come back to the hotel, there is a fleeting look on Connor's face like he just picked up on something - something he didn't share with Angel. It wasn't until later that I realized that he smelled or sensed Holtz. I think this is confirmed in two ways:
1) In retrospect, the way Connor approaches Holtz seems like how he would always have approach Holtz at the end of their hide and seek "game" as described in S4. Connor almost acted proud to have found him. Like "ta da!" (as done by a terse raised-in-a-hell-dimension-teen)
2) Holtz made it clear in Benediction that he followed Connor and Connor didn't expect Holtz to come through. He said he intended on going back to Quor'toth after he killed Angel. So it was not a pre-arranged meeting at the end of A New World.
All Comments | Link4 | wytchcroftJun 11, 2012 @ 4:46pm
i ship conner and dawn! loves me some donner / cawny action!

and ok i'm kidding - but i do think both characters and actors are underrated.
This site (incl Mike's Buffy reviews) is a lot fairer on judging the strengths and weaknesses of both and their treatment from various writers - this review being no exception. Kudos.
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