Mark Watches ‘Angel’: S04E16 – Players

In the sixteenth episode of the fourth season of Angel, Gwen hires Gunn for a job while Lorne finds a way to get his empathic abilities back. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.

I appreciate this episode. It seems oddly timed to have an entire story devoted to Gunn and not the oncoming apocalypse, but I still enjoyed the story being told. I figured that “Players” would only address Cordelia’s big reveal at the end of the last episode, so it took me a while to fully get into this story.

Ultimately, I like that “Players” addresses Gunn’s role at Angel Investigations by taking him out of the group. Gwen takes him along on a job to rescue a kidnapped young girl, and in the process, she helps him realize that he’s far more valuable than he thought he was. I fully support Gwen making random appearances on the show, especially if her stories are this fantastic, too! Plus, y’all know how much I love heist plots, and THAT IS WHAT THIS IS. Well, it’s a fake heist. Wait, no, there is a real heist at the center of this. Bah, okay, YOU GET WHAT I’M SAYING.

Gwen always seems to have an ulterior motive, but I genuinely believed that she needed Gunn’s help to rescue Lisa. As he demonstrates in the first few minutes inside the Morimoto estate, he’s got more than just a well-honed fighting technique in his skill array. (Though I don’t want to ignore that his fight scene in this episode is just sexy. Ugh, when he straightened his tie, it just hurt to watch him.

But that’s the point of “Players.” Even if Gwen only intended to use Gunn as a distraction, he proves to be far more agile than that. Not only does he successfully get past all of the guards after figuring out he’s been conned, but he also managed to get past security with his gift to Morimoto. Essentially, Gunn views himself as a man without any depth. He’s so used to violence and fighting that he ignores all of the other aspects of his personality. I understand why that happens, especially when Angel and the others reinforce this idea. It’s not like Gunn is necessarily unhappy with who he is, but after losing Fred, it seems he feels rather one-dimensional.

What’s even more awesome about “Players” is that the growth here is mutual. As it turns out, Gwen had orchestrated the entire thing to steal a device that might help her control her electrical powers. While Gwen admits that she’ll never be “normal,” it was an attempt for her to experience something we all take for granted: physical touch. Faced with Morimoto’s men, she really was willing to die to take the chance to acquire L.I.S.A. Seriously, okay, I’ve said this so many times, but as someone who grew up radically different from everyone, as a freak, I am VERY, VERY ATTACHED TO STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE WHO SEEK OUT NORMALCY. And this is one of many such stories told in the Buffyverse. That’s probably why season five of Buffy is so special to me. I’m just satisfied that the writers don’t punish Gwen for seeking out a chance to experience something so common. It doesn’t make her less of a person or weak. If anything, the writers have just made her an even stronger (and more interesting) character.

So, as cheesy and sentimental as it is, I kind of teared up when Gunn touched Gwen. Like, for real, this is the very first person who has ever touched Gwen ever. Well, at least the first person who hasn’t immediately been executed. I know that I gay-up everything all of the time, but as someone who craved the touch of another man for years, let me just tell you: having a guy touch me in a way that was intentional and loving meant the world to me. Also, I gave up my virginity like an hour later. I completely understand why Gwen and Gunn had sex, and in this weird, personal way that only I got, this episode felt like a vindication of my choices. Obviously, I am reading something into this that was 100% unintended, but that’s okay! It’s fun to do this kind of stuff, and I know that a lot of you have deeply personal reasons for enjoying whatever it is that you enjoy.

Thankfully, the bulk of “Players” deals with Gunn and Gwen, which distracted me from the never-ending train wreck that was Connor and Cordelia. My god, what the fuck is going on here? I still don’t understand the logistics of this. So, Cordelia is the Beast’s master, she is manipulating Connor by preying on his sense of unwavering loyalty, and she is doing this because… why? WHAT THE FUCK IS SHE GOING TO GIVE BIRTH TO? Why is it able to push against her stomach like that? So I am properly confused about all of this, which of course means I’m going to hate it forever. I mean, the characters in this fictional universe hate Cordelia/Connor. SURELY, THIS IS A SIGN THAT THE WRITERS THINK THIS IS REALLY, REALLY AWFUL, RIGHT?

However, it seems that the entire set-up to have Lorne get his empathic abilities was fake. Maybe? Or, if it wasn’t fake, then Angel was able to correctly translate that section from Lilah’s book. WHAT THE FUCK DOES IT SAY? I need to know now because perhaps then I won’t universally hate this plot line.

Also, for real, if Cordelia had killed Lorne, I probably would have just given up on this show. YOU WOULD HAVE GONE TOO FAR.

Oh god, I have to see the next episode. SHIT JUST GOT SO REAL.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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