I thought I would hate this show. It revolved around Angel, one of the trinity of characters I hated from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, the vampire with a soul who helped the helpless as a means of redeeming himself for his crimes as a (formerly) soulless killer vampire. He teamed up with Cordelia, my favorite character from Buffy, the self-absorbed cheerleader, and, after a snafu with a junky actor, Wesley, the effete scholar of arcane lore who made a brief yet delightful showing on Buffy. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Angel is a spin off from Buffy and occasionally the two had characters and plots that intersected. Eventually, Angel is joined by other characters whose staying powers vary. Most notably are Charles Gunn, Angel’s token black friend who’s a tough guy from the street and eventually becomes largely useless, Lorne, the lounge singing Rick Blaine of LA, and Winifred AKA Fred, the brilliant and introverted physicist.
My original disgust with the show was due to Angel taking my beloved Cordelia and Wesley away from Buffy, and plopping them into a generic “cop drama”. However, the show did have some clever writing and developed some gripping action/adventure plots. It was much darker than Buffy and the plots involved more shades of grey. For a while, I enjoyed the show more than I did its parent. Who wouldn’t love a sword and sorcery show of righting wrongs with the hilarious antics of wimpy Wesley, condescending Cordelia, and angsty Angel—especially when forced to dance and sing!
All good things do end and the show doomed itself by taking away the quirks that made the characters come alive. By the third season, everyone was a hardcore champion. Sure they made mistakes and had flaws, but watching a show where everyone is self-sacrificing, tough as nails, and ingenious (if not brilliant) becomes dull. Like Buffy, they also became trapped with the need to “one up” themselves every season with more and more apocalyptic scenarios, until season four called for the resent button (you’ll understand what I mean after it happens) and a final, fifth season—which had incredible potential and some fabulously written episodes—that was unnecessarily a mess.
I had never seen an episode of Angel on television, not when it originally aired nor in syndication, yet, despite my problems with the series, borrowing the DVD collections via interlibrary loan, gave life to many lonely, boring nights this summer. I’m certainly glad I watched it.
Be sure to check out my posts on Buffy and other Joss Whedon works.