What a game-changing hour.
I want to love Angel as much as Buffy and it’s certainly earned my trust and respect with several epic episodes, but the writers haven’t done Cordelia Chase any justice since the pilot. Charisma Carpenter is an incredibly talented actress, so it’s a shame if this show doesn’t really appreciate that.
Birthday is Cordelia-centric, so naturally I knew I was going to love it. Add to that the fact that it explores an alternate reality and I’m sold. I’ve always been fascinated by time travel and stories about alternate worlds ever since I was a kid. The idea that a character can go back in time and get everything he/she ever wanted and still not be satisfied with the kind of life they’re living is old and unoriginal now, and yet I was still riveted by Cordelia Chase, the star of her own show (appropriately titled Cordy! – yes with an exclamation mark). Her encounter with a one-armed Wesley, the stranger fan Gunn and isolated Angel were all extremely fun to watch, especially as it leads to the Cordelia/Angel kiss that eventually helps her realize she needs her visions back.
What’s upsetting is just how overstuffed this episode with. Instead of splitting it into a multi-episode arc, the writers cram so much plot into 40 minutes that it becomes all a little jarring to watch, ripping this hour of its true potential. We don’t spend more than two fascinating minutes with Cordy the superstar actress before she has an epiphany about the hotel, and when that happens it’s all extremely predictable: she finds the room, the writing on the wall and the address of the weekly villain’s next victim. It baffles me, really, why we couldn’t see this spread out over a few hours because there’s a ton of material here to work with.
And then there’s that ending. Unlike many other shows that have done the alternate-reality episode (I’m looking at you, The Flash and Grey’s Anatomy), Birthday actually provides a risky, game-changing twist at the end: in order to go back to her previous life, Cordelia had to become part demon, and that’s where this episode brings us to an astounding character point as Cordelia says “demonize me already”. I’m so excited to see where this goes next, and I’ll be ready to hate on this show and its writers if they mess this up.
– Loved the shoutout to Doyle. This has to be the first time we’ve ever seen him since his death in early season one.
– How awesome was that Wonder Woman cake?! Very fitting, too.
– Even before the show got to the alternate reality part, I was enjoying Ghost Cordelia. Very reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, one of the most traumatizing books I’ve ever read (and no, the movie was not as good).
– The “Cordelia is dying” storyline is horrible and extremely rushed. I don’t ever want to hear about it again.
– Skip is one of this show’s most amusing demons, I must admit. Can we make him a regular please?
– The Cordy! opening theme song is a thing of beauty. I’m going to watch it on repeat now.
– That scene between Cordelia and her assistant Nev proves to me that Carpenter needs to star in her own sitcom ASAP.
– The Hyperion Hotel looked absolutely stunning, Why can’t Angel Investigations have nice things too?
– Wow, they even used the same Hyperion bellhop from season two’s Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?.
– Very touching moment at the end with Angel hugging Cordelia. I’m honestly rooting for these two now.
– I’m very disappointed we don’t get to find out what Angel got Cordelia for her birthday.
– The final shot is brilliant with the gang astounded as Cordelia floats in mid-air while casually and very calmly has another vision. Hey, it beats having a tail or horns.
Skip: Is this you? Most people go astral, their spiritual shapes tend to be an idealized version of themselves. You know, straighten the nose, lose the gray, sort of a self-esteem kind of thing. You’re pretty confident, aren’t you?
Cordelia: This is a mall.
Skip: We just figured you’d be more comfortable here.
Skip: Actually, this is more a construct of a mall. You know, like in the Matrix.
Cordelia: You’ve seen the Matrix?
Skip: Oh, I love that flick. When Trinity is all ‘dodge this’ and the agent just crumples to the–(Cordelia sighs) and I’m not really instilling any awe anymore, am I?
Tammy: Look, you want my advice, you listen to our man Skip here. He won’t steer you wrong, this one.
Skip: Aw, get out of here. (turns serious) Really, get out. I’ve got work.
Cordelia: I want something. Hypo-something. Hypothermia?
Nev: (into phone) Josh, let’s get a large tub of ice water to Miss Chase’s dressing room, pronto.
Cordelia: No, that’s not it.
Nev: (into phone) Canceling ice water.
Nev: Josh, make it an oxygen tent.
Cordelia: No, that’s not it either.
Nev: Canceling tent.
Skip: We’ve been over this. I respect what you’re trying to do. It’s noble and heroic, and all that other Russell Crowe ‘Gladiator’ crap.
Cordelia: You’ve seen–?
Skip: Didn’t love it.
Cordelia: Demonize me already.