In the fourteenth episode of the fifth season of Angel, I did not know that my life was missing “Smile Time,” and now I know that I have been missing “Smile Time” from my life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
There was a time in my existence where I was not aware of “Smile Time.” I have rectified this. The angels have sung down from Heaven, and this shall now be marked as a holy day.
Okay, I’m being ridiculous, but I’m certain that this episode deserves that sort of absurdity. Angel just did an episode about evil, demonic puppets THAT TURN ANGEL INTO A PUPPET. Angel is a puppet for like forty minutes, and he has a little jacket, and his puppet was designed with a permanent scowl in it, and I imagine that for everyone involved, this was the best episode of Angel to create because LOOK AT HIS LITTLE PUPPET OH MY GOD!!!!
I’m surprised it took so long for puppets to show up in a Whedon show, considering that Joss’s dad is Tom Whedon. I grew up watching shows like Sesame Street and Ghostwriter, and you can bet your ass that by the time I became obsessed with The Muppet Show, I managed to watch Hey, Cinderella! as well. My god, Sesame Street and the Muppets are formative to who I am! I learned from both shows, developed a lot of my appreciation of comic timing from the Muppets, and fully believed that one day, I’d turn into Statler or Waldorf. RIGHT??? They’re so perfect!
“Smile Time” clearly plays off of this, especially since the saccharine nature of edu-tainment style puppets is purposely twisted when we learn that demons in the form of puppets are sucking the lives out of children who watch their show. These puppets swear. And Angel is one of those puppets for a while, and he can turn into a vampire.
Thankfully, this isn’t the only thing that “Smile Time” has going for it. Don’t get me wrong. It is a goddamn treat to watch Angel as a puppet. At one point during the video for this episode, you’ll see that I wonder aloud how the fuck the cast isn’t breaking out into laughter every second the Angel puppet is onscreen, and then they all immediately start laughing. THE PUPPET LOOKS SO ANGRY! And then he fights with Spike, and he gets (sort of) eaten at one point, and then there is puppet-on-puppet violence, and y’all… I don’t want to discount that. This is a deliciously weird and hilarious episode of Angel, perhaps the funniest episode of the whole series.
But “Smile Time” isn’t a one-trick pony, and ultimately, that’s why I liked it so much. We’ve got the story of Gunn’s rapid deterioration of the implant the Senior Partners gave him. While it would have been pleasing to get an entire episode out of this, I’m glad to see this addressed. What does this mean for Gunn’s identity? Does he depend on this knowledge to move beyond what he once was? It seems he does, especially since his appearance just before the fight at the Smile Time studio basically confirms that he got a permanent upgrade. I dunno, it kind of makes me sad? I liked Gunn in both forms, and it’s scary to think of the implications of what he chose. At the same time, he’s sick of being stuck doing one job, so I totally understand why he would do this. Ugh, PLEASE DON’T LET THIS BACKFIRE.
Then we’ve got Angel’s adorable (and quite awkward) wooing of Nina. It was nice to see her back on the show again, and it complimented this episode’s theme of people being unable to connect romantically because of their inability to see one another for what they are. So it’s interesting that it took Angel becoming a puppet for him to finally drop his guard around Nina. It’s in that form that he finally has the guts to be honest about his insecurities around women. I believe that Angel hit rock bottom in terms of embarrassment, so he figured he had nothing to lose. Honestly, right before Nina nearly eats the Angel puppet, I was surprised by how touching this episode got. For a premise so silly, “Smile Time” didn’t lack in some fantastic character growth.
Of course, a lot of that hinges on the fact that FRED AND WESLEY HAVE FINALLY DECIDED TO GET TOGETHER. Oh god, I was so worried that Wesley’s constant state of ignorance regarding all of the signs Fred gave him was going to be played as a farce. I didn’t want that, especially since that joke can only go so far. Thankfully, there is FULL ON KISSING, and this is wonderful! I pondered what this might mean for Gunn, but he appears to have gotten over Fred. I did like Gunn/Fred as a couple, but since “Supersymmetry,” it was clear that the two couldn’t ever reconcile their differences. They were best as friends. This paves the way for Fred/Wesley, and I am ALL ABOUT THIS. Ugh, Wesley, you have a chance to be happy. Well… I guess that’s weird to say, because does Dark Wesley even exist anymore? Did he ever go through that period without Connor? The show hasn’t made that clear. Well, at least to me, it happened, so I’m sticking with it.
FRED/WESLEY PARTY IN THE COMMENTS. GO.
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