Review by Ryan Bovay
Posted by Ryan-R.B. on May 7, 2007Writer: Scott Murphy
Director: Bill Norton
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.
I love this show dearly. I truly do. Since I began writing these reviews I’ve discovered depths to this amazing program most will never even be aware of to appreciate and I owe my desire to professionally write to Joss Whedon and his emissaries of awesomeness throughout the 'verse: Buffy, Angel and Firefly, the last of which I saw first; it was the show that gave me faith in TV’s potential to be an art form. So as I begin my review of “Provider” I find myself pained to have to write what I’m about to, what I couldn’t even write for the thematically top-heavy and plot-choppy "She" [1x13]: I hated this episode. I hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated it. Oh, good God did I frakking hate it.
And having to review it only made me hate it more. At best, “Provider” is shallow, bearable pop entertainment, and trying to analyze it further is like pulling screws out of your ear by going through the other side of your skull. This is a painful statement to make about any episode of my beloved show, but here it applies. Because even when Angel is mediocre ( "Over the Rainbow" [2x20]) or bad ("She" [1x13]), it is rarely inept like the worst episodes of Buffy often were. Even the cheesy, poorly-plotted "Dad" [3x10] and the talky, disingenuous "Quickening" [3x08] had worthy themes and social considerations that make AtS the quality program that it is. Even when it lacks visceral power, it’s never dumb.
Except today. This episode’s worst attribute is that it’s just stupid, even to the point of being insulting. The theme is this: money is not everything. No, there is nothing more to the theme than that. When we could’ve, with the same type of plot, explored the idea of duty versus love, the ends vs the means and the power of the abstract over the practical, the episode aims as low as possible; evidently, so it can hit us in the balls. The message here is that friends and family are more important than money, and that providing for a family is more than simply paying bills. But even going into that much detail is doing the theme a favour.
The writers have gone to great lengths since "Epiphany" [2x16] reunited the Gang to show what a family they are, most especially now with Connor in the mix (and Cordy taking the role of de facto mother for him).
So the message of this episode is not only bluntly simple, it is mindless repetition by this point in the season. And that both the A and B plots have uninteresting character developments, little lasting impact, stupid (although well-done, makeup wise) monsters and are extensions of a theme that is painfully inept makes the episode a dry, worthless experience. What often aids AtS and BtVS in overcoming the common perception of them being lame monster shows are their ideas and compelling characters, and there are neither of those things in this episode; Angel seems terribly shallow and downright goofy in his out-of-character quest to make money for the baby. At least in "Dad" [3x10] the out of character actions were part of a (however lame) ruse.
If anyone were to see this episode without context they’d never watch the show again, and I couldn’t honestly blame them. Writer Scott Murphy does at least sprinkle a few funny lines of dialogue in where he can, and I did enjoy the scene with Holtz and Justine. It’s very telling of what their entire dynamic will be: Justine needs Holtz’ companionship; a substitute for the family she’s lost. Holtz only needs her skills, and is willing to sacrifice any part of her to accomplish what he needs to. Here, he tells her to start building an army of soldiers just like her: people who have lost those close to them to vampires.
This aside, there is nothing redeeming about this installment of S3 as a piece of the season or of the series. The quicker we move on the better.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
QuotesANGEL:There, beautiful. We're online. We got flyers, we got yellow pages. Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to a new area of Angel Investigations. All we have to do now is wait - for that phone to start ringing and the money to start rolling in. (To Baby) Because someone's got to clothe and feed and educate this little guy, yeah? (Connor yawns) Yep - all we have to do is wait. - Just a matter of time. (Connor fusses) Don't you worry, this town is full of people who have problems.
:(A man is running, looks back over his shoulder at some looming shadows following him and runs right into a pile of trashcans. As he picks himself back up, he sees one of Angel's new flyers. He goes to a phone and dials the number.)
GUY:(picking up the phone on the other end) Fabrizio’s pizza.
FRED:(back at Angel Investigations) Is this the right phone number?
HARLAN:You have much experience dealing with vampires?
HARLAN:Yeah, well, not like these. They're not out for blood. They want money.
HARLAN:Yeah. I know. Whoever heard of a vampire out to make a buck, right?
ANGEL:(to Lorne) You'll have to go with her to translate. Tell 'em it won't be cheap. They're getting two of our top employees. That's salary, per diem, overtime...
LORNE:Okay, okay. (talks to the demons) They apologize for their paltry offering and hope you'll accept (the Nahdrah opens the case revealing bundles of cash) Fifty thousand dollars!?!
FRED:(after killing the Nahdrah’s leader) Well, I guess you cut off the snake's head….
WESLEY:(the Nadrah’s click furiously and start forward) You piss all the other snakes off.
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