So, fair warning, I ramble with my own idiosyncratic play-by-play here. I admit it, I am completely, deeply, even fruitily lame. I'm sure you'll quickly be rolling your eyes, so you may want to read other people's more incisive and pertinent reviews instead. With, you know, actual facts about the episode.
So the opening, you've got that typical ME double-bluff or something, with Spike tailing Wes through the halls of W&H and into that cool research library with the wall-to-wall shelves, Wes aware of him but pretending not to be. And then Wes takes the book off the shelf and turns with it in his hands and we pan over his shoulder to the Greek-looking marble statue and get that brilliant effect where Spike steps out of it, incorporeal body perfectly aligned to the statue's for a moment, and we wonder how long he's been standing there. And then Wes feigns a heart-attack type shock with a fey little gesture, when in fact he's completely unsurprised. Heh.
I liked seeing where Wes works at last--he's got the snazzy front office for show but he obviously spends most of his time holed up in research mode, and his desk down there looks much more well-used, with all the piles of books and antique knick-knacks and stuff. The room reminded me of a cross between a men's club library and the old Sunnydale High stacks. I like the suggestion, with the two offices--and showing us Wes walking from one to the other--that Wes has two faces, a public and a private, one where he's minimalist and professional as hell, and another realm where he's just as controlled and competent but far more comfortable among his personal clutter. You have to wonder what that bodes though, in terms of symbolism. Does he feel like he's two different people? Is the mindwipe beginning to foster hairline cracks in his personality, a kind of schizophrenic cognitive dissonance?
Cool seeing him interact, if only briefly, with his "minions," his library-type clerks.
Nice chit-chat, and god, Wes looks fucking amazing. They're dressing him in those warm autumnal tones again and he's got the stubble and dear god, I wanted to chew him into little bits and play with him like a kitty-kat playing with string. AD and JM sizzle off each other, but then of course they could both get chemistry off of a blank piece of paper so no surprise.
Creepy fall to the basement, finger chopping--I think they used apple slicing as a sound effect or something, and it was a horrible sound. I think I am going to have nightmares for weeks, with how the ghoul got all up in Spike's face and you could just see the similarities of feature despite the stitched eyes and skin; couldn't tell if it was JM behind the mask at first, but it didn't matter because when they switched views and he (now the stand-in, of course) began ripping away the stitches and the flaps of flesh and uncovered Spike's face, mouth sewn up, eyes terrified, I freaked.
The plot moved forward with the whole Fred-Wes exposition, blah blah blah. And she's all, "I have all these important projects." But Wes comes back, plays on her innate sympathy: "Please, Fred. I know you have other important projects, but I need you to prioritize this." She was helpful, though--squeaky even. Must have been all those tempting promises of extra budgeting for hi-tech lab equipment, needed to help Spike but with so many other useful applications.
A relief not to see any of that annoyingly overcooked UST from the past few seasons.
Incredibly tense confrontation between Angel and Wes in Angel's office. Holy shit. I liked how Wes just sat in the visitor's chair with his fingers laced until Angel got up and started pacing, all restless and put off his game.
Wes: We took over this law firm because "...we thought we could make a difference, Angel. Spike died saving the world. He's qualified for the ranks of champion now. We'd be overlooking a valuable asset if we let him slip from our grasp."
Angel: yadda yadda, grumble, there'll be other champions, we don't need him.
Wes: "What's really bothering you? Is it so painful to have a reflection of yourself?"
Angel, intense: "Maybe it is. Maybe I don't want to have to see his face every day, Wes, like some hangdog reminder of what I helped make and--" Breaks off.
Wes: "And of what you were? Or are?"
DB was on high-octane actor crack tonight, every thought passing across his face; you didn't *need* to have it said; you could see him remembering Connor through the entire scene. It's eating away at him, and it limns and shadows everything he says and does, a distractive and engimatic subtext that Wes may be beginning to notice--or will begin to soon.
And that last line: "Some people...can't be saved." While he's standing there holding the ceremonial dagger in his hands and turning it over.
Nice atmosphere shots, very Sixth Sense, brilliant Spike-Angel dialogue, funny as shit, and slashy vibes up the wazoo. "Hellfire Club." Heh.
And JM was *on*, all the way through, and was looking seriously fucked up when the ghosts began circling around the others, streaking and splashing their bodies with blood that only he could see, cutting chunks out of their own flesh--nice "Seven" homage--writing on the walls, dragging themselves along the carpet. Jesus.
The interlude with Wes and Gunn and Fred was a nice, lighter touch that didn't break the tone much, and Gunn looked daaaaangerous in that black-on-black ensemble--black suit, tie, shirt, very Grosse Point Blank, shades of corporate headhunter or who knows what else.
More creeptastic basement scenes, and then sweet fucking Jesus, the knocking behind the wall like the tell-tale heart wrapped up with the cask of Amontillado and Spike digging it apart with his bare hands, and Lilah behind it, chained up, bloodied and desperate with the bruised scrape on her forehead where she's been banging, choking and not able to speak, trying to telegraph a message with her eyes, but he doesn't know her and he can't help her, he's trying to tear down the wall but it knits itself up again and she's gone.
Poignant scene with Spike and Wes, Wes not able to hear or see him, and then that one ghostly touch that makes it through.
Kick-ass stuff with the psychic. She was awesome. "Should we hold hands?" -- "Only if you're lonely." Hee. "Sweet funky."
All good, all fucked, and more terrible because we couldn't see anything of what happened to her except through the others' eyes and the blood spattering and Fred screaming and the guys yelling and unable to do anything and Gunn saying, "Oh Jesus, she's turning inside out!" Fuck.
And then a different kind of jagged tension with the shower scene, and dear mother of god, that has to be the closest thing to explicitly homoerotic text I've seen in canon in years. I'm just going to...go to the melty broken place. No need for words, yes? Okay, thank you.
The Reaper was far more horrible than anything I expected and the torture scenes aren't really something I want to linger on describing. I think we've all read those fan-fiction stories with the vivisection (is it vivisection when you do it on undead people?) and flaying and stuff, usually Initiative-type stories, so I guess the ME staff are surfing the darkfic sites again. But Spike in pieces put me in pieces and I wasn't sure how they'd come back from that, so thank god it was all a manipulation of reality. Nice use of faux flashbacks mixed with real ones--Buffy, Xander, Willow, Dru, all the horrible things he's done, the sharp cuts from shot to shot of punches and screams and weeping tears, and that stunning shot of Spike from "The Gift" that morphs into Spike kneeling and weeping on the floor of the W&H basement.
Nice to see Wes exercising competence in book stuff for the first time in what feels like a while--we've been getting such beauty shots of him with the guns and I never mind that, but this was cool too, and he and Gunn had such great rapport as they combined their complementary skills toward research, then segued smoothly into a kind of syngergistic threeway with Fred as they figure out how to build the machine needed to corporealize Spike. It was pretty freaking amazing, since we haven't seen those three really riffing off each other since--actually I can't remember the last time I saw them riffing off each other, so it was strange and cool with undertones of eerie dissonance, because we know that there used to be all that triangulated jealousy and tension among them. And that shot of Angel turning away from the window--no reflection, but with them reflected in the background--and just watching and listening, odd man out and looking deep beige. I'm not sure what he was thinking there, other than feeling his own disconnection from his team, but you could read in all kinds of backstory emotion, like how he's ambivalent about the new reality he's created and maybe expected to feel more in synch with it, but he's the off note and he can't get in step with the others.
More torture, and then Spike kicking ass--brilliant. Sad, angsty ending with Spike giving up his physical form to save Wes before he's choked to death by the asshole Reaper. Oh, and we finally got confirmation--scar! Big fucking scar. Wonder how he explains that to himself when he shaves. That's got to be dealt with soon now that they've shown it, like in next week's episode.
Sweet ending, and nice, Spike picking up the paperweight that Wes had been handling earlier, Wes taking it with that *SMILE*. Guhhhhhhhh.
Ending scene. Me. Nightmares.
And no Eve! Always a relief.
Wow. Quite an ep, huh?
*elaborate eye roll at self*
Sigh. Off to bed.
[Yes. Yes, this was a fake episode review. Thanks for asking!]
[** Anna was being sarcastic about the scariness factor as there was an absolute lack of scariness and she apologizes if that wasn't obvious and also about referring to herself in third-person again. Bad dog.]