In The Dark
I Fall To Pieces
Rm W/A Vu
Sense and Sensitivity
The Bachelor Party
I Will Remember You
I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Five by Five
To Shanshu In L.A.
When it was announced at the end of season 3 of Buffy that Angel would be hosting his owns stand-alone show, it certainly raised some concerns among die-hard fans whether this would be able to match up to the excellent work done on Buffy. Following the success of the female vampire hunter was always going to be a difficult feat for this spin-off featuring Angel (David Boreanaz), the tormented vampire with a soul, as its lead protagonist. Angel’s darker, grittier depiction of a demon-infested world and refreshing locale change to Los Angeles gives a much needed fresh perspective and tone to the series, helping to solidify itself as a worthy show to watch in its own right. The compelling, maturely written world is suitably dark without ever feeling contrived and when familiar faces from Buffy do make an appearance, including Buffy herself, it only further emphasises the serious work put into making this a successful series in its own right. Although the opening is a little slow to get going and there’s a fair amount of filler episodes throughout, for the most part Angel’s first season is a successful one and bodes well for the future of this ambitious series.
At 22 episodes there is inevitably some filler here and the over-arching plot does take a while to get going but the opening quarter of the series is predominantly used to set the tone and mood of the show whilst introducing the regular main-stay characters. Irish demon Doyle (Glenn Quinn) joins Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Angel as they set up their own law firm to tackle the rising demon threat in L.A. As the episodes progress, more characters join them including Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) and Gunn (J. August Richards) whilst rival corporate firm Wolfram And Hart become a constant thorn in Angel’s side, even going so far as hiring vampire hunter Faith (Eliza Dushku), who featured heavily in Buffy’s third season, to try and take him out. The darker tone Angel adopts allows for much more adult themes to be explored and ideas around isolation, loneliness and alienation in an ever changing world is really nicely implemented throughout the episodes. Monster of the week episodes feature very heavily this season which does stifle some of the overarching plot development but the stand-alones are certainly intriguing, pulling out all the stops to make this a show worth investing in.
Toward the end of the season, Angel really comes into its own, delivering an impressive finale and teasing an explosive second season to come. The juxtaposing force of Wolfram & Hart’s unlimited funds and power with Angel’s struggling, sparcely resourced firm cleverly pins Angel as the underdog despite his power and vampirish strength. There’s no denying Angel still exists within the Buffy universe and the cleverly timed quips and bursts of humour come at the perfect moments highlighting the excellent work done by the scriptwriters here.
The characters are all well written too and toward the end of the season in particular, the core group begin to gel together to form a formidable, memorable team. The inclusion of flashbacks to Angel’s days as Angelus help make him an empathetic protagonist and continue the work done to depict him as an internally conflicted vampire, alienated in the world of L.A. Cordelia is the surprise package here though and after her questionable tenure in Buffy, really comes into her own as she plays a much more prominent supporting role alongside Angel.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer will always be the definite show that’s remembered as the cult phenomenon, sparking an age of strong females depicted on television but in terms of writing and tone, Angel’s first season is arguably better than Buffy’s, holding some great promise for the future longevity of this show. The character development is impressively drawn out and some of the stand alone episodes are certainly endearing but ultimately Angel’s darker, more mature tone is what sets this apart and makes it worth investing in. Whether Angel has the potential to out-perform Buffy in the long run is anyone’s guess but based on this first season alone, the future certainly looks promising for this successful vampire spin-off.
Verdict - 8/10