20 Things We Love About Angel
Jayne Nelson gives the Buffy spin-off a big hug
Angel was so much more than a spin-off from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It became a phenomenal series in its own right: chock-full of laughs, drama and plot twists so relentlessly twisty it ended up as a completely different show than the one it started out as (something even Buffy didn’t really accomplish).
Angel took a mysterious and moody vampire from Sunnydale and deposited him in Los Angeles to battle his heartbreak, his past and his future, with a group of unusual friends to help him through the dark and into the light – figuratively, anyway. But why was this vampire’s journey so fascinating to watch? Jayne Nelson explores the City of Angel…
1 It Wasn’t Buffy
Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with Angel’s mother show: far from it. And there are certainly enough similarities bewteen the two shows to ensure that you never forget you’re watching another aspect of the Whedonverse unfold. But what made Angel so fascinating was that it had a style and substance of its own. While Buffy The Vampire Slayer was generally light and sunny, focused on life lessons and finding your place in the world before going out into it, Angel preferred to lurk in the shadows, having already seen the world and learnt his life lessons (and boy, were some of them painful). Buffy was about growing up; Angel was about dealing with being an adult.
2 Cordelia Chase
Charisma Carpenter’s self-centred, bitchy fashionista had appeared in three seasons of Buffy, but she never really had the chance to shine until she jumped ship from Sunnydale to Los Angeles. It’s a mark of some seriously fine writing that a character who was a bully blossomed into the Cordelia we all know and love: mouthy, hilarious, kind, caring, intelligent and, most of all, loved. It’s a shame the show dropped the ball with her towards the end, but she did have a wonderful send-off in Angel’s 100th episode, “You’re Welcome”.
He only appeared as a full-time cast member in Angel’s final season but James Marsters’ Spike had made his mark long before that in Los Angeles, stealing every scene in the first season episode “In The Dark”. The contrast between Angel’s moody vampire and Spike’s primal and punkish bad boy was always guaranteed to provide fireworks, and even shoving a soul in Spike for his post-Buffy starring role didn’t diminish the fun both vamps brought to the show. As if that wasn’t enough, the fact that both Angel and Spike were besotted with Buffy provided a frisson of jealousy… Oddly, when Spike joined the show, it felt like he should always have been part of the show.
4 The Shanshu Prophecy
The season one finale, “To Shanshu In LA”, was a watershed moment for Angel. Hitherto the series had focused on Angel making amends for his actions as Angelus and his grief over losing his One True Love, but “To Shanshu In LA” cleverly introduced a new carrot-on-a-stick for our hero. According to a prophecy, Angel had a destiny to fulfil and he’d become human again as a reward for completing it. With this knowledge under his belt, Angel now had a goal to achieve rather than a vague and nebulous mission to make himself feel better.
It must have been a logistical nightmare to team up episodes of Buffy and Angel into special “crossover” events, and the writing teams all but gave up after two seasons and Buffy’s switch from The WB to UPN. However, while not all of them were successful either side – compare Buffy’s lacklustre episode “Pangs” with its Angel-ic partner, the sublime “I Will Remember You” – the two-part treat “Fool For Love” (Buffy) and “Darla” (Angel) can be happily counted as among the finest hours of each show.