It’s not all about fighting and gadgets and such. It’s about reaching out to people, showing them that there’s love and hope still left in this world…. It’s about letting them into your heart. It’s not just saving lives, it’s saving souls. –Doyle in City Of
Even after enjoying Buffy for a while, I still wasn’t convinced that I should watch Angel. I mean, spin-offs are never as good as their predecessors. I mean, think about it. Even the greatest of spin-offs (The Jeffersons; Maude; Rhoda; Benson; the CSIs; the Law & Orders) aren’t usually placed at the same quality categories as their original counterparts. Off the top of my head, the only franchise with any spin-offs that could be considered by anybody to be at or above the same value level would be Star Trek (and I almost forgot Frasier, though, unlike Cheers, it fell off in its final few seasons). Then of course you have tragically misguided ones like AfterMASH. The more I investigated into Angel, however, the more it seemed like I should take the leap and start it. You see, Angel the character had always intrigued me, even to the point where he was, at some points, my favorite parts of episodes.
Angel is, as I’ve already said, very much like Buffy. It’s a comedy-drama that finds a way to brilliantly mix the two through brilliant deliveries of a peanut gallery comments during dramatic scenes that never undermine the scenes’ dramatic quality but successfully relieve some of the tension created therein. There are also a reasonably large number of crossover characters from Buffy to Angel. In fact, exactly half (5 of 10) of the characters who star in the five seasons of Angel were present in some capacity in Buffy. As Greenwalt said, “There’s no denying that Angel grew out of Buffy.” Despite that fact, Angel has a decidedly darker feel. It’s far more action-oriented and, as such, is more suited to male tastes. Whereas Buffy was about growing up, tackling difficult issues related to adolescence, growing up, etc., Angel is a grittier, urban show emphasizing the emotional issues that come from isolation as seen through Angel’s soul-related predicament. Redemption is also a huge deal for Angel as he seeks, not necessarily to atone for, but to repay society for his past sins.
Set in L.A., the show makes a lot out of its location. Many of the people Angel ends up helping are the numerous lost souls, the hopeless that inhabit LA. Angel, along with the help of his friends, forms Angel Investigations, a supernatural detective agency, the main goal of which states, “We help the hopeless.” Just like Buffy, there are season-long overarching storylines that dominate a handful of episodes every season, but the rest of the season’s episodes are mostly monsters-of-the-week. The season story arcs, in a fashion similar to Buffy, often revolve around an apocalypse of some type. And just like with Buffy, Whedon and his core writing staff did a brilliant job of poking fun at both itself and at the world around it and switching up the shows narrative direction at just the right time just before things would have begun stagnating.
Enough discussion of the show as a whole, so let’s get into discussions of the seasons. I think I’ll try to fit the five seasons into two articles, one for seasons 1-2 and one for seasons 3-5. Just as with Buffy, I’ve tried to keep as many plot details secret as best I can, but some of them just have to be revealed at some point.