The Return of Spike! I was sure that was an impossibility! Look, I have faith! Angel was renewed against all odds, so I guess anything's possible. "Conviction" was a great episode that simultaneously proved that Joss was back, that Angel was back, and that everyone involved could kick major ass (and in Gunn's case, without once resorting to violence... a first for him)! As much as "Conviction" (the most powerful thing in the world) was a sequel to last season's finale "Home", this season's second episode, "Just Rewards" is a sequel to Buffy's Finale, "Chosen!"
Brief Recap for you... Angel and his Investigations squad had saved the world, and as a reward got to head up the incredibly evil law firm of Wolfram and Hart, or at least their L.A. branch. Angel's new found connections allowed him to procure a certain mystical amulet that Spike used to save the day (unless you were a Sunnydale Land Owner... DAMN) at the cost of his un-life. So last episode, Angel routinely opens a package in his office and gets the aforementioned amulet back, which is good, but also gets the aforementioned Spike back... which is bad. Well... bad for Angel, good for us... especially if you're a single woman or a gay man! I'm neither, but I'm still impressed! (One perplexing thing is that the events of this episode reportedly take place only 19 days after the events of "Chosen"... but David Boreanaz' hair is significantly longer than it was... so... I guess 19 days make a big difference in the hairline of Captain Forehead!) Anyway, Spike can't be touched or touch anything else, and is essentially a ghost between L.A. and "The Abyss" (redundant?)! So now he can walk through walls (though floors, chairs and stairs somehow remain solid to him... hmmm), but can't touch anything or anyone. You feel for him! Really! Like that time he kept trying to eat Willow, but couldn't! Poor Blondie-Bear!
But I digress. Taken as an episode in and of itself, it's pretty cool to see a bickering team of Spike and Angel facing off with a grave-robbing master of the dead. As for the potential of the show, I can't say for certain. For one thing, it could be great having Spike teaming up with Angel, and it could spice it all up like the cupboard of Justin Wilson, but, hey, it might also serve to undermine the real star of the show like Worf joining the cast of Deep Space Nine! On the bright side, it's great to see the way the old gang are still trying to figure out how they're going to act destroying the law firm while running it, and the whole addition of Spike adds a new wrinkle. It's a great wrinkle because, as stated in "Chosen" the Amulet was originally meant for Angel himself. Having Spike around enriches the mystery instead of distracting from it. On the less bright side, James Marsters (all forty-one years of him) is pretty much the cult TV version of an Alpha Male. There's really no outshining or upstaging him. During an insult fight between Angel and Spike in Fred's lab, it was clear that Spike was the king of the mountain, making me wonder if a name change might just be in order.
Ah, screw it! The bottom line is, everyone knows that Marsters' Spike is good for Ratings, and for all intents and purposes this probably looks like a cash in! It works though, and doesn't come off cheap. Hell, it almost works too well! Long timer David Fury & The Tick's Ben Edlund really know how to write for these guys... not just to make a great episode, but to construct some excellent dialogue between these two guys with over a century of history together. Like I said... it works! One question for you... why does Londoner "William the Bloody" still have his accent, but Angel (or should I say, "Liam"), Ireland's son sound like he's from L.A.?
Interesting ploy Joss and the gang thunk up this time around. Essentially they recognized they're taking up the torch of two shows, so they actually have two Season Premiers! You get sensitive Spike, and you get Nasty, Villainous Spike, and we avoid "Old Friend of ZAN-DerrZ here" Spike! Not to mention you get Angel in his purest and best form! It's a good episode, equal to "Conviction" in its Three and a Half Stars! So far they're off to a great start... let's just hope that they can keep it all up, without becoming top-heavy with the Ensouled Vampire personalities! I will trust in Joss, for I know that Joss is with me! Man, a nerd am I!