The hit supernatural drama represents some of the great qualities that make Joss Whedon one of the best creative minds in genre fiction today
Angel is, of course, the popular American television series, a spin-off from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003). Both series had a strong cult following. The series was created by Buffy’s creator, Joss Whedon, in collaboration with David Greenwalt. It aired on The WB from October 5, 1999, to May 19, 2004, consisting of five seasons and 110 episodes. Like Buffy, it was produced by Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy.
The show details the ongoing trials of Angel, a vampire whose human soul was restored to him by gypsies as a punishment for the murder of one of their own. After more than a century of murder and the torture of innocents, Angel’s restored soul torments him with guilt and remorse. During the first four seasons of the show, he works as a private detective in Los Angeles, California, where he and a variety of associates work to “help the helpless”, restoring the faith and saving the souls of those who have lost their way. Typically, this involves doing battle with evil demons or humans allied to them, primarily related to Wolfram & Hart, a law firm supported by occult practices which are an extension of otherworldly demonic forces. He must also battle his own demonic nature.
With hit tv series like Buffy, Firefly (2002), and Marvels Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 – present) to his credit, Whedon and his production company Mutant Enemy need no introduction. Whedon is a giant in the business of genre entertainment, and deservedly so.
Whedon’s work has the unique quality of an approach towards using characters that convert what would otherwise be worn out cliches into something special. In Angel, for example, he takes the overdone vampire riff and makes it into something special by tapping into the hero archetype and thus making it unlike any other vampire series have ever done before it, or since.
His work also has an approach that bounces the elements of drama and humor in juxtaposition with each other, a quality that can be found in most of his work. By bouncing these on-the-surface opposite approaches to his material it manages to emphasize and amplify the effects of each and makes the material more effective and engaging giving it qualities more lifelike and organic.
I just rewatched the fifth and final season of the series and it still holds up well. The show is also culturally interesting because of the time in which it took place. Straddling both the 20th and 21st centuries as it did, it summons up the zeitgeist of both in its compass.
One of the qualities I most enjoyed about revisiting the show was I had forgotten how amusing it is, this is humor born of wit, and the badinage of its memorable characters. In case you have forgotten, the series core characters in its fifth season are:
Angel (David Boreanaz): an Irish vampire who is over 200 years old. Angel was known as Angelus during his rampages across Europe but was cursed with a soul, which gave him a conscience and guilt for centuries of murder and torture. He left Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the end of Season 3 to move to Los Angeles in search of redemption.
Charles Gunn (J. August Richards): a young demon hunter who must initially adjust to working with and for a vampire.
Winifred “Fred” Burkle (Amy Acker): a young Texan physicist whose social skills have become stunted after five years’ captivity; she later grows to become more outspoken.
Spike (James Marsters): an old vampire ally/foe of Angel’s who also starred in Buffy. In this series, Spike reluctantly fights beside Angel as their rivalry continues – now tinged with Spike existing as another vampire with a soul, and by the romantic feelings that both of them have for Buffy Summers. Spike is one of my favorite characters from the series. He is genuinely hilarious. Outspoken and abrasive, he is old school punk in style and a true rebel without a clue.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof): joins the team under the brave guise of “rogue demon hunter”, acting as comic relief and initially not well-accepted. Over time, Wesley shows bravery and strength, as well as some cold-blooded killing cruelty, like his colleague Rupert Giles, and grows into a leader. Wesley turns out to be the truly tragic character in the show’s narrative.
Lorne (Andy Hallett): joins the team during Season 4. An outgoing, pacifistic demon, Lorne’s role is predominantly to support the team. he becomes increasing involved in the narrative’s situations as the final season develops.
The bottom line is Angel is an excellent, entertaining and engaging series that has held up well over the years, and season five is still a whole lot of fun, and what a finale. Nothing short of excellent, making it close to perfect for a binge watch the next time you’re looking for something worthwhile to put in your queue.