Synopsis: Wesley is in town hunting rogue demons and must team up with Angel to save Cordelia from a power-stealing demon.
Review: At first, "Parting Gifts" felt like a boring house cleaning episode. The producers took the daring leap of killing off a main character, but now they have to step back and give us a grieving episode and find a replacement for Doyle's role. No, thank you. Fortunately, the episode does improve. The scene with the oracles in the episode's teaser was pointless--a shameful use of such intriguing characters. Not only was the scene pointless, but it effectively squashes the emotional effect of the previous episode "Hero". The oracles blatantly stated that turning back time would nullify Doyle's atonement which was made clear in "Hero" by Doyle's action and not by boring exposition.
With the introduction of the new-and-improved Wesley, the episode started to shape up to be a nice character episode. Character development has the most bearing in whether or not I like a television series. The great introduction to this character is what helped this episode earn a 6 out of 10 rather than much lower. We first met Wesley during the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since he was a replacement slayer for the recently fired Giles, we automatically harbored resentment against him. It would have been impossible for Wesley to have become a likeable character on Buffy.
The crux of this character is that the new-and-improved Wesley is really neither new nor improved although he desperately wants to be new-and-improved. I laughed out loud when leather-clad Wesley threatened Angel, and Angel simply knocked his crossbow out of his hands. Wesley repeatedly calls himself a "rogue demon hunter. Cordelia asks the all important question, "What is a rogue demon?" Of course, a true "rogue demon hunter" would not call himself "rogue." As much as he wants to be a bad boy, the new Wesley is not that much different from the old Wesley.
In one aspect, the Wesley in Angel stands in sharp contrast to the Wesley in Buffy. Wesley entered Sunnydale sure of himself and his abilities. He enters LA fired from the Council and doubting his ability to be of any worth to anyone. That automatically endears him to us. The audience always cheers for the underdog. Watching Wesley fall to the ground during a crucial fight as he attempts to retrieve a knife he taped to his leg is comical. But there is also much more to his character: his expertise allowed him to translate the words of a dying demon that enabled Angel to save Cordelia. Wesley needs to discover for himself that he has the ability to contribute and be a hero. This leaves room for character growth and development. Wesley needs Angel as much as Angel needs him. Angel needs his expertise. Wesley needs to be needed.
This episode seemed to be missing the series's characteristic dark comedy. Scenes that might have otherwise been funny such as the auction were laced with too much Tim Burtonesque macabre for me. "Parting Gifts" started out as a mundane house cleaning episode, shaped up to be a nice character episode, and surprised me by ending with a compelling plot about a demon harvesting powers and auctioning them off. Although the exact mechanics of the story--the damsel being captured, the bad guys dramatically postponing her death, and finally the damsel being rescued--were as cliché as they come, it still held my interest and kept the episode going.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)