I was not wowed by this episode, yet I did not find it the 'worst episode ever' (hey, I lived through season 4, nothing can compare to that ;).
I guess I shall review in part by addressing many of the criticisms I've read regarding the episode. To begin with the beginning...I actually liked the opening scene. I'm in the minority but the Wes and Fred ship (Wed? Hee.) does not fill me with horror. I actually found his jealousy cute. Sorry folks.
I also wasn't bothered by tha accusations being leveled at Gunn and I've criticized ME and their portrayal of black characters in the past. If anything they are at fault for is not developing the character more, sooner. When they decided to go with the present storyline it forced them to make a radical makeover of Gunn. With all the hired help at Amgel's disposal, would Gunn's muscle have been of any benefit to the gang?
I'm not agreeing with the suspicions raised, but Gunn's change is the most radical and obvious. Coupled with the fact the gang doesn't want to admit to what changes have or may yet happen to them, it makes a certain sense they'd turn on Gunn.
Ah, Spike, where to begin? How about the craptacular writing? Please, no more bloody's. And I can only assume James gave as good as he got because he gave one of his worst performances ever. What was with his accent? Someone mentioned on LJ today (Jidabug?) that it was as if he was performing a caraciture of Spike. I think that sums it up well.
As for his drifting in and out of scenes (all of which he could have easily been absent from) I will admit the effects were cool. Walking through W&H nearly transparent and non-responsive was mighty creepy. Though, I do feel he may have been playing at Fred's sympathies. After all, his hearing is fine, he must have heard her calling out to him. And funny how 'solid' he becomes as soon as she agrees to working on his problem.
I've seen a lot of complaints that Spike seems out of character; that he has regressed to the Spike of old. I have to admit that it's true to a certain extent. But, it also makes sense that he would. When's the last time he was this pissed off and scared? Having something forced upon him and having no control over his destiny? The chip. So, if he's a bit remeniscent of Season 4 Spike, I'm not shocked.
He has no friends, no family, no one immediately concerned for his welfare. He believes he's heading to Hell even though he regained his soul and sacrificed himself for humankind. And he's dealing with Angel who he loathes and who would just as soon see him slip into nothingness. I can understand why he'd slip into selfishness again. If he doesn't look out for himself, who will?
And about the soul....when Angel mentions how it and the accompanying guilt didn't seem to bother him, Spike replies with "It's been nothing but a pain in my...". I didn't take this as regret - wishing he hadn't sought to regain it. I just think he was being honest. Getting his soul back was a pain in the ass. He suffered a great deal because of it and who wants to suffer? He also feels, at that moment, that no one gives a rats ass what happens to him. What was all the sacrifice for then?
As for Nina, I'm in the minority, but I like her. When she said "See you in a month" I actually hoped it would happen. Granted, I don't think we will see her every four eps or so, but she did seem mighty interested in Angel. I wouldn't rule out a return appearance.
And while I'm sure I'm forgetting much I wanted to say, one final thought before heading to bed....did anyone else think about Buffy when Fred told Spike, "Spike, really, not helping"? The line and the way she said it (even her body language) reminded me of Buffy. It just seemed to reinforce to me that Spike is drawn to the same type of woman - strong and able to tell him off. ;) Not that I got any sort of shippy vibe. I definitely see a strong friendship forming, but nothing more. Maybe along the lines of season 1 & 2 Angel and Cordy. I'd like that.