Whoa! This has been a real season of ups and downs. On one hand there have been some incredible moments worthy of the best of the Jossverse. On the other hand there have been some major What the hell? moments that have made me wonder if Joss is even still involved here! Season four's Cringe-worthy moments have included: the sex between Connor and Cordy (holy...); the idea of Angel and Angelus being two completely different entities with different memories and experiences (Hello!? Gregory Benford moment there!); and the idea that Cordelia is now, in effect, Angel's one true love (man... he was damned confused on Buffy seasons one through three, no?).
But this season has had its share of good moments too, notably the death of Skip, and the resurgence of Buffy/ Angel Crossovers (at long last)! Maybe this isn't perfect, maybe it doesn't wrap up every loose end this season smeared onto the small screen, but the arrival of Gina Torres' Jasmine was a most welcome and successful turning point in this season. Wow... she was as great an addition to Angel as she was to Cleopatra 2525 and Joss' own Firefly (Fox execs can bite the same ass that I condemn Sci-Fi Channel Execs to bite)!
Jasmine took over the cast (and much of the world) with all the Subtlety of a Candiria concert! She added both beauty and possibly the most eerie fear of the entire season, changing the entire paradigm of the show. This not only kept us all guessing as to who and what she really was, but also made actress Charisma Carpenter's acting job much, much easier! Jasmine's beauty enthralled everyone who saw her and caused them to be mindless, worshipping minions (religious alegory... hope not). The only two things that can get a Jasmine worshipper back to their old selves is the mixing of her enchanted blood with their own or the speaking of her true name. In the last few episodes leading up to the season finale we saw some of the best special effects of the entire Series, as Angel showed all of the minions of Jasmine her true face (and thus her true nature). It was revealed that Connor was never really in her thrall, but believed in her because she was "Better than all the other lies!" In a death duel between Angel and what was left of Jasmine, Connor is summoned to execute his dad in the even nastier streets of Los Angeles. Instead Connor casually murders Jasmine and calmly walks away like Samuel L. Jackson from the '94 Academy Awards (validated but still wanting what's his)! Angel realizes that Connor has nothing left to lose, and might cross the line! On cue Lila shows up (with her head back on) and indicates that evil law firm Wolfram & Hart is not only back, but wants to make them an offer they can't refuse.
This brings us to the season finale. Lila tells Team Angel that as a reward for ending the "World Peace" that Jasmine offered, Angel and friends are to be awarded the LA Branch of W&H to do with as they wish, good, evil... Martha Stewart. Naturally we (and the characters, thankfully) remember that not only was Lila murdered by evil-Cordy, but that the entire law firm was ransacked and destroyed by the Beast as he slouched toward Bethlehem! So how did all this come back? I don't know... neither do they... I felt like I was watching that guy The Punk Magician as Lila essentially winked at us all and screamed "Fuck you! It's Magic!"
There have been ugly rumors floating around like Ebola that Angel might not be renewed for next season due to lower ratings. If this proves out to be true this will have been the Series finale. In a hopeful effort Joss is pitching a new direction for Angel next year, and it looks like we now know (or have an idea) what that new path is. One by one the reluctant cast accepts the invitation to tour the grounds and consider what (if any) use Wolfram & Hart can be to them. Each is paired with a tour guide who will be the most seductive to their charge and the most likely to get each to accept. Naturally, not everything goes quite right, and Wesley decides to kick some ass (boy has that little guy changed).
And along the way there has to be a final battle. Just in case this really is the Series Finale Angel and Connor had to have that one last Darth versus Luke "Daddy why didn't you love me" brawl! The "Something" that Angel was dreading Connor might do, gets done, and it's not pretty! But Angel stops the tragedy before it truly transpires, and is able to prove to Sonny-Boy that his life did and does have a purpose beyond just bringing the "Devourer" into being on Earth! Oh, he does that all right... but I hate saying how!
So it ends up that all the reluctant Angel Investigations employees end up taking over Wolfram & Hart, and they gaze off into a brave new future from their new Home. Ah... but what of Connor? Well, Connor's been Mental Flossed into forgetting Holtz ever existed, that he's the demon lovechild of two Vampires, and that the last two seasons of Angel ever happened. He's now a Suburbanite College-bound High School Senior who has no idea that his real father is spying on him from the window outside.
I loved seeing Lila again, and I have to say that I loved her attitude. Generally she has been bitchy beyond reason, and I always felt that she needed to be confined to a menstrual institution for an indefinite period! Lately she has been rather interesting and nice to see. It's good that resurrected Lila follows that same trend. Also Wesley shows that he truly did love Lila in spite of himself. A further point of interest is the fact that once again Angel is given a reason to Brood. Now that he's rich and powerful I guess he needed one more reason!
All in all this was a very fitting end to the season, and it keeps the good momentum from the last few episodes going. I have to keep my fingers crossed that this isn't the end though! While this is worthy of a Season Finale, it's a little messy for a Series Finale (though not as messy as that of Farscape or Oz)! I'm hoping Joss is successful because this new Paradigm of good guys running an evil empire to promote good has a lot of potential... and a lot of problems! Also, after all these years, I would hate for the evolving saga of Cordelia Chase to end with her in a coma, but receiving good care! Also, while I am glad to see Connor go (shouldn't Darla and Angel's offspring be... I don't know... cooler?), should the show go on I would love to see what happens to Connor. Will images of his real life come up? Will he end up in Los Angeles hoping to find himself? With massive power at his fingertips might Lorne finally open up the Karaoke Bar to end all Karaoke bars? And if so... will he let James Kidd sing there? If it's not renewed by the WB, maybe UPN will ante up and give them a Home! Without Buffy their cadre of good shows is sliding back into the acute angle.
Taken for all with all this was a Four Star episode. The idea that this might be a Series Finale almost pushes it back into the three star realm, but considering all they did a very good job. We all need to hope for a renewal or a pick up by another network. If all these unanswered questions actually get answered then perhaps this episode in retrospect will have earned a fifth star. Good luck, Joss!
Note: According to The WB's Fall Schedule Angel has indeed been renewed for at least one more season! Way to go, Joss! Let's hope it's a great one!