Police zombies on Angel. (Spoilers)

There was something about this week’s Angel that really freaked me out. The title of the episode was “The Thin Dead Line,” and it was about a police precinct where the wacko police captain who used necromancy to revive policemen who had died in the line of duty to create a super-tough army who basically went around harassing and brutalizing well, uh, everybody.

I guess it taps into the whole police-state paranoia thing; if the cops are out to get you, who do you turn to for help? It was troubling a whole different level, though, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Most of the violence in Buffy/Angel is monster-on-monster, or hero-on-monster. Mostly, monster-on-innocent violence occurs offscreen, and you just see the unfortunate get grabbed, or see the blood on the monster’s face or something. In this episode, though, there was a lot of cop-on-innocent violence, and also violence against the cops, who, in the first part of the episode, at least, seem human. The violence was often sudden, unexpected, and graphic. And it involved guns.

This might be the biggest issue. On Buffy and Angel, there are few guns. The justification for this is that guns don’t do squat against vampires (hence lots of stakes and crossbows), and demons typically need to be killed by some sort of magical weapon, like a big enchanted axe or something equally preposterous. In this episode, however, there were three shootings, though guns were strangely absent from the final showdown.

As an Call of Cthulu player will tell you, even if a bullet won’t kill something, it’ll probably slow it down, particularly if you aim at the knees. But guns are almost entirely absent from Buffy and Angel. Is that because in a show glorifying violence, adding firearms would just take it over-the-edge? Would guns make a mockery of the choreographed kickboxing and witty remarks by showing that violence kills people? That you don’t have to be a martial arts master to take a life, just some goon with appropriate hardware? That the race doesn’t go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong?

Well, I guess because guns are cop weapons, they had to use them. The episode left a lot of unanswered questions. Like, fer example, how come just because they were dead, the cops had to be assholes? Just how many cops had died in that precinct in the past few years?
And why were the dead cops so eager to cover their trail? (It’s a TV convention that someone caught in something shady will attempt to coverup by mounting a campaign so noisy and blatant that small third world countries would hear about it. “Hey, let’s invade a teen shelter with about four hundred zombie cops.”).

I think that the “good guys” avoid guns largely because they’re, well, good guys. Sort of like on MacGyver, he’d be in the process of being chased through the woods by hordes of thugs with guns, and would knock them out incrementally with one clever trick after another and would never grab a gun. Cause he was a Good Guy.

It’s sort of a TV convention. You knock down the bad guy. Maybe even knock him unconscious. And then you run away, leaving him his weapon so he can get up and chase you through foggy alleys.

Not to mention the other TV convention in last night’s show – except in the movie Chinatown, no one has ever sucessfully shot at a fleeing vehicle, even, in this case, an ambulance at a distance of about fifteen feet. Pretty tough sheet metal in those babies, I’ll tell you what.

They seemed more like mindless automatons, actually. Whenever they saw someone, they went through the same routine–even while Angle ripped that one to pieces, he was still going through the script.

I don’t think it was just dead cops from that precinct–they went to that big cop graveyard.

Again, I think the cops were just mindlessly following orders from the crazy precinct captain, and, as far as he goes, let’s just say the term “rocket scientist” didn’t spring to mind.

Heh. Good point. After all, they’d already shot Wesley and the EMT to prove that the Danger Is Real!

More likely it would make a mockery of it by making it, y’know, worthless.

‘Hi, I’m the Slayer, I’ve got a black belt!’

‘Hi, I’m the Vampire. I’ve got a gun. Bye.’ Bang, paging new Chosen One.

It’s also a lot less interesting to watch a gun battle than a kick-ass hand-to-claw, foot-to-paw martial-arts duke-em-out.

Guns, in the Buffyverse, are only good for what they did here - putting the hero in immediate danger of imminent death.

(As to the dead cops being assholes - Podkayne pretty much nailed it, far as I’m concerned - the cop who ressurected them was an asshole. They were just mindless masses of flesh.)

“Buffyverse.” I like that. And I think you have a point about vamps and guns.

Yeah, I like ‘Buffyverse’ too…don’t think I can take credit for it, I’m afraid, though I couldn’t tell you for the life of me where I got it.

Also, were a Vampire to shoot someone with a gun, they would be wasting a lot of blood, and possibly contaminating the blood they’re planning on drinking. Of course if they just want to take out the slayer, and already had dinner, then it’d be fine.

Why are the zombie cops such assholes? Because they’re ZOMBIES!

I was more troubled by Det. Kate Lockley’s comment to Angel that even though they were zombies, the crime rate in the precinct had gone way down. Of course, those crime stats ignored the crimes committed by the zombie cops, which would’ve brought the stats back up to normal.

Tengu wrote:

Heh. “Choose this, bitch!” [blam]

The “reason” that vamps don’t use guns (I believe) is that they: are bad planners, don’t like technology, and “think with their teeth,” (direct quote from show.) And a couple of them have used guns. Darla tried to kill Buffy with a pair of guns [episode 1-7, Angel.] Hell, she even aimed at Buffy’s knees. Adam had guns attached to his arms and he shot at Buffy [4-21, Primeval.] Spike went after her with a shotgun [5-7, Fool for Love.] On the good guys side, Kate used her gun to slow down some vamps before she staked them [Angel 1-15, The Prodigal.]

Finagle wrote:

In theory, there are valid character reasons that the Buffy/Angel heroes (and MacGyver, for that matter,) don’t use guns. MacGyver, if I remember correctly, had moral objections to guns. In the Buffyverse: Willow is probably politically opposed to guns too. Buffy doesn’t really need them, and would probably take professional offense if it were suggested that she use them. Giles is from England; guns are not as big a part of the culture there as they are here. And all of them (except Giles of course) were students living at home for the first three years – obtaining and caring for the guns probably would have been more trouble than they were worth, considering their limited utility in the fighting they did. Who would the guns really have hurt?

The situation changed as they got older too. Xander got comfortable with weapons, Riley was in the military, Anya owns a gun now. But the guns would still be more dangerous to the heroes than to the demons. This holds for the Angel crew too. Angel is old-fashioned (yes, I know that they had guns when he was alive. Work with me here,) and doesn’t need to use them, Cordelia (like the other former students) isn’t trained, and Gunn may well not carry one as a political statement (he’s heavily invested in improving his neighborhood, and would probably see carrying a gun as part of the problem.) And in the irony department: Who is the one regular in both series who is trained in guns, owns one, is comfortable with them, and has used them for good? Wesley, the dart-hustler with the super-aim.