"Not Fade Away", Angel's apparent all-time Finale is great mainly because of the fact that in one scant hour (40 something minutes without those pesky commercials) the Puzzle Pieces from not just this season, but many of the previous seasons of Angel and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer come together in Mosaic of humor, horror, drama and action! In that respect it's a great ending to a great run that started in midseason '97 because isn't that what the Jossverse is all about?! It's also not quite perfect and as open ended as a half-a-worm in an Apple Bite. On one hand this does leave the door open for new movies and shows... on the other, it's not quite as final a finale as, say "Chosen" was.
Angel (David Boreanaz in case you live in a cave), true to his word to his friends, divides and attacks each of the Black Thorns with each Team Member taking on one or two of their own, and incurring the wrath of the sundry big bads out there. Along the way we lose a precious member of our family, gain an unlikely ally, lose touch with an old friend forever and kick more ass before 9 am than most kick all day long! Unlike the nostalgic moments of the Buffy finale with the original cast reunited for a great memory (and let's face it... Boreanaz represents the only remaining original cast member, so how could they?) "Not Fade Away" calls for a "Day Off" which gives us much more of a look at the characters we've grown to love. It's true that there are no real revelations about the characters here, but it all goes back to what I was saying about Puzzle Pieces!
And there are also surprises in this day. William the Bloody (bad poet) actually gets applause, Wesley (Alexis Denisof) echoes Connor's desire for a lie better than all the others, and Illyria (Amy Acker) proves to have a little more of Fred in her than previously thought... or she's evolved in six episodes to the point it took Spike (James Marsters) six seasons to get to! Tradition survives too as Gunn (J. August Richards) does what he does best, dusting a few dozen Vampires (no offense, Spike) in true Jossverse Fashion.
Not ever to warrant a Name Change, Whedon and Bell do make this episode all about Angel, and a fitting Angel episode it is! An almost touching Father and Son moment shows Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) to be smarter and better adjusted than ever previously thought. The Shunshu Prophecy is even touched on (before being literally written off) adding questions for the future! Most gratifyingly we're given an incredible moment where Angel's being a Vampire is really proven necessary to this and many other plots. Some episodes avoid the old "Vamp-Out" to the point that you almost forget that Angel is even undead. He's almost a Superhero CEO now, spending about as much time in the Make-up chair this season as I spend reading Lithuanian Historical Fiction Novellas. Here it all plays out (puzzle-pieces, puzzle-pieces) that blood-lust Vamping out is necessary! And let me tell you Kemosabe, that scene where Angel and Marcus Hamilton (Adam Baldwin) go head to head like Goats in a Mountain Dew Commercial is such a keeper that it's almost worth the whole episode. Stake me, but I actually stood up and Cheered twice.
Honorable mention has to go to Lindsay here as the Bad Guy turned... well, neutral as Darth Nader. He and Eve (Sarah Thompson) play well off of each other, but it's his solo turn as a vigilante (for once) that really shows how far he's come from the groomed and Darla-obsessed lawyer/ flunky! Andy Hallett's Gay Green Guy Lorne plays both Back-Up and Chaperone to our unpredictable Southerner, and is it ever gripping when the Pilean Poo hits the Fan!
I admit to being ambivalent about the end of the end. Joss swore that Angel ending in a Cliff-Hanger would be "a crappy thing to do"! Joss, I love you, but hello crap-doer! At first I was pissed as memories of the Farscape and Oz finales flooded my brain like so much wolf, ram and heart puissant blood. On second glance though, I thought... isn't this actually perfect? Angel has always been about the unlikely hero not accepting defeat or the badness in the world. The Fight is the key! And (I trust in Joss) the key to "Angel is the last thing you should see!" I'll never doubt you again!
So how will this go down in the annals of "Final Episode History?" I love the episode, but it doesn't quite hit the Tom Tuttle Top Ten! It's memorable, touching, funny, horrific and dramatic. It also is inspiring to the old cheer-bone, but folks, this isn't going to garner the Water-Cooler talk that, say, M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen would. Taking a step back and appreciating the mosaic though... why should it? One has to be familiar with the show to get any of this episode. The WB cancelled this gem ostensibly to make more room for Reality TV (may it rot on the vine) in an obvious disrespect for a little used term called "Quality"! Therefore, Joss and Company offered up a true episode For the Fans that tied up loose ends and fit the overall tapestry Joss had woven perfectly! If you're not a fan, you won't get it... I am a fan, and I say: "Thanks, Joss!"
I admit it, I'm gushing here at the end of this era, and Sentimental Fool or not, Angel: "Not Fade Away" gets Four and a Half Stars out of Five! Is it a fitting end? That's in the eye of the beholder, but I can say that it fits firmly into the overall Jossverse framework and makes it all better. The puzzle pieces make one hell of a puzzle, and it's a treat to see. Don't believe me? Watch Angel in repeats! Or, just read my "Power Play" review that recaps Season 5! No stone was left unturned, but the audience was still left wanting much, much more! Serenity can't come to theatres soon enough for Granny Macek's Best Boy!
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