Below is a look into (5.02) “Just Rewards”, a Season Five episode from ”ANGEL”:
”ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (5.02) "Just Rewards"
Co-written by David Fury and Ben Edlund and directed by James A. Contner, the Season Five episode, (5.02) “Just Rewards”, was an immediate follow-up to the conclusion of the season premiere, (5.01) “Conviction”. The latter ended with Angel receiving a mysterious package that contained the amulet he had given to Buffy Summers in the ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” finale, (7.22) “Chosen”. When the amulet activated, it released Spike’s non-corporeal body.
At the beginning of ”Just Rewards”, Spike explains that he was killed in Sunnydale during the final battle featured in ”Chosen”, while wearing the amulet. He also explains that the amulet he wore brought his non-corporeal spirit to Wolfram & Hart. When Angel learns that a necromancer named Hainsley is buying corpses from Wolfram & Hart to reanimate with demonic essences, he decides to pay him a visit to tell him that they will no longer supply him with bodies. Spike decides to tag along and is offered a body by Hainsley.
First of all, I have to say that the interaction between Angel and Spike were dead on. When the episode had first aired, someone stated that Spike's character seemed to have regressed. Of course, you have to understand from his point of view that a) he is dealing with Angel; b) his death did not go off as expected, hence his anger and frustration at The Powers to Be; c) despite his "regression" and dislike of Angel, he helped his grandsire overcome the necromancer anyway. James Marsters' performance was fantastic, although there were moments when he seemed to overdo it a little. However, his last scene with Amy Ackers was superb, as he effectively brought out Spike's pathos and fear of being permanently stuck in a hell dimension. I am not surprised that a Spike/Fred romance never materialized. They never really struck me as a couple with a potential for romance. However, I was not surprised that they became close friends.
David Boreneanz also gave a great performance. It seemed as if working with Marsters has brought out the best in him. I had no idea that Angel had so many issues regarding Spike. I guess it would have been a lot easier for him to believe that the Bleached Wonder had not changed. It is interesting that he had failed to inform the Angel Investigations team about Spike and Buffy's relationship, Spike's soul and the fact that the latter had saved the world. Resentment perhaps? It seemed as if both Angel and Spike had major issues that need to be resolved between them around that time. And the first issue they both had to get over their “rivalry” over Buffy, just as Drusilla had been an issue in the past.
I had also heard people complain that Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Fred Burkle and Lorne were not seen that much in this episode. I believe they were right. With the exception of the establishment of Spike’s friendship with Fred, she – along with Wes and Lorne – barely made an impact in this episode. However, Charles Gunn did not suffer from a lack of scenes. In fact, I suspect that he was slowly assuming Wes' role as Angel's "Prime Minister" around this time.
As for Harmony, she did not bother me one bit. I have always enjoyed Mercedes McNab’s portrayal of Harmony. Quite frankly, she has always been a lot of fun to watch. And I really enjoyed her jealous reaction to the news about Spike's relationship with Buffy. Poor Harmony. Even after shooting Spike in the back with an arrow and declaring her emotional independence in the ”BUFFY” episode, (5.14) “Crush”, she remained infatuated with him. Victor Raider-Wexler (from AMC-TV’s ”THE LOT”) gave a deliciously creepy performance as the necromancer, Magnus Hainsley. The character seemed to be a powerful magic practioner. I wonder how he would have done against Willow? I also wonder how many of his previous clients continued to walk the streets of Los Angeles.
All in all, ”Just Rewards” was an entertaining episode. It reminded me of how much I had enjoyed that early period of Season Five.