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Discussion of 1.01 "City Of..." - Aired 10/5/99 (WB-US)

Mr Trick

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[QUOTE="Out for a walk, post: 1348114, member: 14348"]I agree it is a very solid pilot. I am currently in my annual rewatch. I am doing it different this year and watching Buffy and Angel in order. So, I watched BTVS season 4 Episode 1 first, then this one...etc. Let’s see how this goes.


I think it was a clever way for Doyle to do the introduction to Angel’s backstory to the audience. (Which I wonder how many people actually never watched BTVS before Angel...probably very few).[/QUOTE]

Which do you prefer this or Welcome to the Hellmouth? Its pretty close I think.
 
FaithLehane16
FaithLehane16
I prefer Welcome to the Hellmouth.

Out for a walk

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[QUOTE="Out for a walk, post: 1348114, member: 14348"]I agree it is a very solid pilot. I am currently in my annual rewatch. I am doing it different this year and watching Buffy and Angel in order. So, I watched BTVS season 4 Episode 1 first, then this one...etc. Let’s see how this goes.


I think it was a clever way for Doyle to do the introduction to Angel’s backstory to the audience. (Which I wonder how many people actually never watched BTVS before Angel...probably very few).
Which do you prefer this or Welcome to the Hellmouth? Its pretty close I think.[/QUOTE]


I think that I would choose BTVS, just because it is such a classic. But this pilot does a great job of establishing that it is a "different" show from BTVS.
 
Mr Trick
Mr Trick
Me too.

FaithLehane16

"Tact is not saying true stuff. I'll pass."
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Seeing Cordy living in that poor looking apartment makes me wish that Xander offered her to stay at his parents' place.
 

Mr Trick

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This is a solid pilot. The weakest part of it is Tina and her plot. I think they could have just went with Cordy as the damsel since we already know and am invested in her. I guess they didn't because it was part of the calling card of Angel the show to have a victim in the first episode.

The other thing which stands out is Doyle explaining the history of Angel? That felt like a pilot thing which was done in case someone watching had never seen Buffy. I'm pretty sure most people watching knew Angel's backstory. It just stood out.

By the way the vamp in the alley at the start is Sawyer from Lost :D
 
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Sweet Dreamer

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Still In my rewatch/first watch of the show. I finally decided to go back to the beginning and put aside my preconceptions about season 1.
Though I've only seen few episodes from this season, i always kept the impression that it was the most poorly written, that's why i went for a non chronological rewatch.

This pilot is for me a weak episode. But to be honest, i've seen so many perfect pilots, my references have set a standard which is too high and made it impossible for ATS to compete. So i don't hold it against the showrunners, the writers or the cast and crew. They certainly tried their best.

That being said, its still true that if i was just a casual viewer, surprisingly for a pilot, it had a little to offer to get me interested enough to come back the week after. This episode can pretty much be summarized as a light and superficial effort. An average plot just little better than a filler episode, with not enough tension to support the attention, an anti climatic villain, and which rested essentially on the charisma and look of the male lead.

My biggest concern is how the pilot said not much about the identity of the show. The 1st episode used to be back in the days a summary of the "bible" of the show: everything that the audience needed to know about the concept and where it could lead. BTVS pilot did a better job at having the show pretty much all contained in its pilot.
In City of we got that Angel is the focus but we don't know why.
A fresh start should mean a completely new presentation of Angel to an audience who potentially had never watched BTVS.
Instead we got a short oral account by Doyle (who is himself a mystery for Angel as much as for the viewers) of Angel's history in Sunnydale, two old flashbacks of Angelus from BTVS, and that's all.

I get that the writer tried to keep it simple, but they were there too literal with this idea. I felt the audience deserved a stronger foundation for the main themes that will dominate Angel's character development in the future : the contradictions and obstacles of his quest for redemption notably why he's suffering for the past crimes of his alter ego Angelus, his loneliness and difficulty to connect to people that are clearly not an affectation, his permanent depression that leads him to wear black, to refuse to go out and stay in the dark even at home, the layers and nuances between his two sides Angel/Angelus, how does he resist his bloodlust etc..

Same can be said about Doyle and Cordelia. They were scarcely defined.
Cordelia wasn't a favourite of mine on BTVS but she was an intriguing character. Her bluntness never bothered me, i found it quiet refreshing but what attracted me to her was that she had a high potential to be more, that she never really got to develop her sensibility. Her emotional growing was simply limited by the large cast ensemble.
Which why i don't get why she barely appeared in the pilot though she's supposed to be the woman lead.
Tina is obviously a minor character and yet she had more scenes, dialogues and development than her. I see it as a disrespectful move. For me, the producers and writers didn't trust Charisma Carpenter to take the lead, weren't convinced by her acting. They are using her (which explains a lot about the futur of her character).
There was little to save here. Making her poor was a good idea, it fits the concept of characters living between two worlds, in her case between two social classes which can help her to connect to people from different backgrounds. But beyond that the writers really didn't try hard to write a better case for her. Making Cordelia realized that Winters was a vampire considering what she lived in Sunnydale was really the minimal aknowledgement of her intelligence and past. And she joined the agency way too fast at the end without either being allowed to give much thought on why she would want to be a part of a fight so dangerous when she hardly can take care of herself (and eat enough).

Though Doyle had a very limited screentime too, he dropped the important infos then disappeared to reappear only at the end to save the day with Angel, he still made a better impression. At least there's a feeling that the writers had an interest and few ideas to develop this character further and that they are keeping it for later. Like the fact they put a lot of emphasize on his connection/bond with Angel. Also, it's the actor's charisma essentially but what i saw from him made him a largely cooler and more endearing character than Wesley and i understand better know why the fans were still mourning his departure years after.

One last negative point : I'm also not a fan of how the show uses at times meta comments on its characters like the agent offering to represent Angel because he's such an handsome man that he could be an actor.They sort of playing it for the comedy but it just gets me out of the show. In later episodes, it happened too to Cordelia who was described as a bad actress who had a hard time to remember her lines, which considering the behind scene drama felt quite cruel.

So what's left to enjoy?
  • The visual identity of the show was quite well established: the light, cinematography, there was few fun (though it failed) experimentations on the vampire make up, the fashion styles of the characters, the sets (essentially Angel's place) and few props like Angel's car really stand out.
  • David Boreanaz has finally the place and time to express himself and Angel can finally stole the show as the writers were tempted to let him do in BTVS but were forced to resist for obvious reasons. He's so charismatic and fascinating that his presence alone creates an atmosphere.
  • Wolfram & Hart is already there and their potential as an evil law firm is big though Lindsey was just a footnote in the pilot. In a rewatch, it's just so thrilling to see where the corporation started knowing where it will end in season 5.
  • The twists were good: Tina's fate was completely unexpected. I loved the idea that the writers built something with her and conclude it in the same episode. I wish they had done it more often during the show since they wrote so many stand alone episodes and the main theme was supposed to be the importance of the helpless. But the most spectacular part was the final fight : while i forgot almost everything about the show since i watched it decades ago, the scene in the conference room stayed stuck in my head until today.
  • Cordelia's lines. Always on point, just like her fashion style.
As a regular viewer of BTVS, it was not the solid starting point that i was in right to expect from the same writers but there was enough charm and investment from the show's team to keep hope that it could get way better. No need to add that the show proved largely its quality during its 5 years run.
 

Myheadsgonenumb

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I really don't think they were making the digs at Charisma that you think they are. Tina is developed the way she is so that her death has the impact it does and her death is necessary to set the tone of the show. They can't use Cordelia in this role because Cordelia can't die, they need a disposable female - make us care for her - kill her off. But that only leaves a certain amount of time for Cordelia. Not that she isn't given a lot to do, we meet her at a party where she informs us everything is great ... then we have that quiet, sad moment of her reality, her leaning on self help manuals to get her through and her working out that Russell is a vampire. And then she is the one who officially sets up the business. She gets comedy, pathos and action in the time she is on screen. She has an important role in the episode, but can only be the second damsel because it is so important to the show that the very first damsel be killed. No slights intended on Charisma's abilities - either here or when they are joking about Cordelia being bad actress. David Greenwalt lobbied hard to have Cordy on the show and brought her across because he thought she was important. Charisma was treated badly in season 4, once both David and Tim had left, but that drama has got nothing to do with her use in this episode or throughout season 1.

I like this episode, it's a solid pilot (though I'll always enjoy any episode with Doyle in it) it does a good job of setting the tone and establishing Angel as more than Buffy's boyfriend. It includes hints of things yet to be developed which will be so important to the ongoing mythology of the series - the visions, the PTB and The Senior Partners are all included. According to the director's commentary, they weren't really sure if the idea of Wolfram and Hart would take off or work or what they were planning to do with them - but obviously it stuck around and so having these shady references to the senior partners makes it look like the writers knew what they were doing all along. We establish Angel's mission, Doyle's crush and Cordelia's money obsession and get an idea of the core three. it's very different to Buffy's core three who are firm friends almost immediately - but then it's a different tone of the show. They are three people drifting in a big city clinging to each other to stay afloat, rather than wholesome besties, but it gives them such room for growth and development as a family (and this is continued throughout the whole series, all the people who join the team are desperate in their own way when they join and find family and meaning in the mission).

When asked what his favourite episode of Angel to film was, once the show was over, David Boreanaz said - straight away - the pilot. By the time the show finishes it is such a different place to where it started, but this is where it does all start and what is planted here is meaningful right the way up to Not Fade Away, which makes City Of pretty special as 42 minutes of television goes.
 

Sweet Dreamer

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Interesting discussion. We don't agree but It's a good opportunity to talk about the show from different perspectives.

Thanks for sharing the dvd commentary. ;)
What was said about Wolfram and Hart is small but i'll take anything. For people who didn't know where they were heading with this continuous subplot, the writers managed to stay remarkably consistent through the complete run of the show.
I always wanted to know more about the process of fleshing out something as vague, large and and multiple as this kind of evil. I love the fact that the firm is made of so many people and looked so different with each incarnation. Also the idea of evil law actions is so relatable from a real life point of view (i was a lawyer a long time ago and my work caused me a lot of ethical problems, so i left).
I really enjoyed reading the part about the dynamic of the AI team as drifters looking for a place where to belong. I agree that it was well executed. It made their interactions a lot more mature, complex and compelling to see them slowly grow into something closer, more intimate and yet still fractured and precarious. They totally acted like a chosen blended family, although a dysfunctional one which explains why they tried so hard later to keep Wesley a part of it despite everything that went wrong with him.

I'm not surprised that David Boreanaz liked the pilot better. Doing this rewatch out order made realize how much season 1 can carry a major feeling of nostalgia. It was on small scale but everything seemed possible : exciting, new and fresh. The fragility, doubts and closeness between the initial characters, the fact they were embarked together on the same journey facing unknown threats that could come from anywhere, were more tangible.

I don't think the writers were taking a dig at Charisma.
It can be hard to accept but the fact that Charisma was used is not incompatible with the fact that the writers, cast and crew enjoyed working with her and appreciated what she brought to the show. The producers had no problem to admire that she found a way to make Cordelia hers (she got perfectly her character in term of physical language and personality) and that she earned the fans support, while still deciding at one point that as showrunners they didn't want more of her.
I think they reached this conclusion that they didn't have more stories to tell about her because they had a limited view of Charisma. They underestimated her and her acting ability.
It started on BTVS where she was compared to younger actresses (and had difficult times on set), and it was transferred on ATS on a more or less conscious level. She was stuck with this image even when she became a lead.
The first clues that Cordelia wasn't indispensable in the writers minds (which is different from being important) are in the pilot : she couldn't get more than 15 minutes of screen time, her scenes in this episode could be easily cut without altering the plot, she has the same attitude between the start and the end of the episode (her potential was never enlightened).
In my opinion, that's why they never bothered to write for her a bigger arc and simply choose to let her play herself (the young hot and really pretty girl who wants badly to be an actress but can't succeed on her own) with few improvements (like when they toned down the most offensive parts of her personality and added more empathy). I think the behind the scene drama that happened in season 4 has his roots in their perception.
I'm convinced It was not related to Charisma's pregnancy - a myth that she refuted herself - but to the idea that Cordelia being more than she was during season 1 and 2 would simply not work on ATS and can only lead the character to its end. The evidence for me is in the fact that Cordelia got her biggest development/twists in season 3 before season 4 put her on hold. What happened to her in season 4 didn't serve the character or its development. She was used as a plot device, sometimes as deus ex machina, nullifying all her previous agency and choices.

For me, the writers were unfair because of the way they picked the actresses to who they gave challenging work, making their choices based on how they (mostly thirty/forty years old white men) judged them.
Julie Benz/Darla got fantastic arcs, the most powerful stories of all the women characters of ATS, be it in flashbacks or during the present days.
Stephanie Romanov/Lilah got a constant quality writing, allowing her to play a large range of emotions and situations.
Julia Lee/Anne had a limited screentime but the most/best was made of it with her spectacular character development. They worshipped Amy Acker/Fred, so much they actually made it something literal but not before solidifying her persona through different stages and experiences and not until she was fully balanced/wholesome.
However, like Charisma Carpenter, Elizabeth Rohm despite the hype on Kate's introduction failed to deliver what they expected from her (acting ability, chemistry with David, fans support) and so Kate was sidelined in season 2 (she lost the place of love interest).

I rewatched this episode and there's few additional things i noticed:
  • Cordelia could totally have taken Tina's place. Their destinies were interchangeable and i don't mean it in a negative way this time more like a statement that Cordelia wouldn't have survived long without Angel. She was meant to die, which gave her line about working for the agency only temporarily a deeper meaning. Meeting Angel delayed her fate but didn't change it. It makes me wonder what could have been her path if she had stayed on BTVS.
  • Is it the fear of dying that pushed her to join the agency? Did she feel that after everything she saw and knew that it was more safe to stay around Angel rather than to pretend that "his" world didn't exist? Because i still have a hard time to believe that she couldn't find an another work to pay the bills like Tina did. She was presented as an overachiever on BTVS, she was far more competent than she appeared to be on ATS.
  • I don't like the scene where she basically asked Angel to hire her. I felt it was unnecessary humiliating for her. She had to make puppy eyes and accept that Angel got power over her only because she was starving. i hate the most the dialogues. He didn't care about what she could add to the team and didn't even hide it. She tried to tell him that she could be helpful with maintenance and administrative tasks, even Doyle tried to enhance the fact that she could help them connect to the human helpless people of L.A, that she could have an humanizing influence on the team too, but Angel reduced Doyle's perceptive observations to a pretext to keep her around because she was hot. It wasn't true of course. Doyle watched her with attention and noticed her vulnerability under her looks and attitude. The only argument that Angel approved - to justify the place he was making for her - was that she needed his help, which made it more about him (and his savior complex).
  • I wonder if a love triangle was in the cards with Doyle/Cordelia/Angel. The way Angel, after hiring Cordelia, walked past Doyle and came leaning on the wall in front of Doyle while never taking his eyes off Cordelia (who was off screen) while discussing her hotness, conveyed in my view a real sexual attraction for her (which might have influenced more or less consciously his decision to hire her) and a feeling of competition with Doyle. I wonder how he would have reacted if Doyle stayed and his relationship with Cordelia had taken a romantic turn as it was strongly teased. Angel was quite protective, bordering on intrusive and possessive when Cordelia tried to date few hot rich guys. But things would have been on another scale of awkward and tension with Doyle being his friend and the three of them working so closely together.
 
Myheadsgonenumb
Myheadsgonenumb
Charisma never refuted that what happened to her is season 4 was about her pregnancy, in fact she has said outright that it was. She refuted that she kept her pregnancy a secret and that the secrecy was why the producers were angry with her.

Myheadsgonenumb

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Cordelia could totally have taken Tina's place. Their destinies were interchangeable and i don't mean it in a negative way this time more like a statement that Cordelia wouldn't have survived long without Angel. She was meant to die, which gave her line about working for the agency only temporarily a deeper meaning. Meeting Angel delayed her fate but didn't change it. It makes me wonder what could have been her path if she had stayed on BTVS.
Yes she could have been Tina, but literally any woman who wasn't Buffy could have been Tina. Russell is preying on women, who cannot physically fight back against someone so much stronger than them. Any woman moving within the circles he hunts in is at risk from him. The reason Cordelia isn't Tina though is because Tina needed to die and they didn't want to kill off Cordelia. And Tina has to have the screen time she has because we the audience need to care about her and find her death truly shocking ... but giving her screen time means taking it from other people - it has nothing to do with Charisma's acting abilities or the producers' perception of them which is what was said here:
Tina is obviously a minor character and yet she had more scenes, dialogues and development than her. I see it as a disrespectful move. For me, the producers and writers didn't trust Charisma Carpenter to take the lead, weren't convinced by her acting.
  • I don't like the scene where she basically asked Angel to hire her. I felt it was unnecessary humiliating for her. She had to make puppy eyes and accept that Angel got power over her only because she was starving. i hate the most the dialogues. He didn't care about what she could add to the team and didn't even hide it. She tried to tell him that she could be helpful with maintenance and administrative tasks, even Doyle tried to enhance the fact that she could help them connect to the human helpless people of L.A, that she could have an humanizing influence on the team too, but Angel reduced Doyle's perceptive observations to a pretext to keep her around because she was hot. It wasn't true of course. Doyle watched her with attention and noticed her vulnerability under her looks and attitude. The only argument that Angel approved - to justify the place he was making for her - was that she needed his help, which made it more about him (and his savior complex)
With a flip of perspective though it comes something completely different. Cordelia is the ultimate survivor - she is determined, decisive and when it comes down to it - not too proud to do whatever it takes. She wouldn't have survived long without Angel in the sense that the story requires her to come into the orbit of a vampire, meaning she meets up with Angel and joins the crew, but actually: she has survived these three months in a dangerous city and (Russell aside) there is no reason she wouldn't have continued to survive any more than any other young girl in the city. The idea that she was a dead woman walking is ludicrous, why on earth would she be any less able to survive than any other person on the planet? She's competent, clever, able and willing to work hard. She was in bad patch, she would have found something (I actually don't understand why she isn't working in a clothes shop, which she did back in Sunnydale so has experience and her career day test allotted her the role of personal shopper ... she isn't doing this literally for the story, obviously - if she were real - this is exactly what she would be doing whilst awaiting her big break) what she finds is Angel. If he hadn't happened along - it would have been something else (she would have gone to work in a clothes shop).

Angel - for all he is the hero - is actually very passive in this episode. He has done nothing much for the past three months, Doyle turns up and gives him the mission and he just ... goes along with it. But he doesn't have much of a plan. Cordelia, on the other hand, hears about the mission and within minutes has worked out exactly how it can benefit her - and strong arms her way into the middle of it. And Angel just ... goes along with it. Other people are making the big decisions for him. Stopping to check that Angel is onboard is a moment of humanity, to soothe the obnoxiousness of her walking in and basically taking over and reminding us that, as strong willed as she is, she isn't completely self centred any more (plus it hides how passive and impotent Angel is being, not great looks on a leading man). But she is still the ideas person, she is the one who will keep them afloat and do all the business side of running a business. That is an important role in and of itself and one Angel has no interest in doing or even any realisation it needs to be done. Without her, Angel and Doyle would be running around town doing their best Batman and Robin impression. He isn't a private investigator until she makes him one.

I certainly don't think there were any immediate plans for a love triangle, though if a show goes on for long enough these sorts of things are inevitable ... Cordy and Angel end up in a love triangle with both Groo and Connor, after all. But in the very first episode, following his phone call to Buffy, they were not thinking of putting anything there, certainly not with a former scooby. They are simply establishing the crush Doyle has because - in order the be respectful to the memory of the Bangel relationship - Angel can't be the romantic lead on this show, certainly not in the beginning. So Doyle is having to step up to the plate there (which is clearly why they don't bring back Whistler. Max Perlich has said he was never asked and he would have done it, but the myth he was unavailable persists.They swapped him out for a far more handsome man, because no one wants to watch Whistler hit on Cordy).
 
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