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?