Saturday, June 15, 2013

Angel – seasons 1- 5 – review

Director: Various

First Aired: 1999-2004

Contains spoilers

The internet can be a hostile place, mainly down to the fact that people are offered a voice and can use that voice anonymously and without responsibility. I say this because some time ago I developed a case of the trolls (or, more probably, troll in the singular). Hiding behind a mask of anonymity this person attacked me for my reviews of the series Forever Knight (go check the comments, if you like, on season 2 and season 3). Now I will defend this person’s right to disagree with me but the person made some fundamental errors.

Angel, beloved of pin-sized brains?
Firstly he (his gender assumed on the basis of how he addressed me) supposed I was female (calling me a “dumb broad” and a “bitch”), secondly he attacked my spelling (there are going to be both spelling and grammatical errors on the blog but I suspect the troll was American, it wouldn’t be the first time an American commentator has failed to realise that there are internationally two primary forms of English spelling), tied in with this was the troll’s inability to spin a coherent sentence together at times and lastly he told me to “go back to watching Angel for that's all your pin sized brain can grasp”.

hang around, review coming
The last bit was amusing as I had not reviewed the Angel series at that point. I will now and explain to my more coherent readers exactly why it has taken so long. Essentially it is because I prefer to watch and review, rather than think back on a series not watched for years. We had the Angel series on VHS but recently it appeared cheaply as a five season DVD box-set and so it was purchased, duly watched and now is being reviewed.

an Orlock-a-like
Angel (David Boreanaz, Macabre Pair of Shorts), of course, was the titular character of the series and had first appeared as a recurring character in the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel had been the evil vampire Angelus who, having fed upon a gypsy girl, was cursed to have a soul, feels guilt and is trying to make up for his past. He began this by helping Buffy but they fell in love and he experienced a moment of perfect happiness that stripped his soul away again. In the other series he was re-ensouled, killed (by Buffy) and then restored to his undeath existence. His subsequent split from Buffy saw this series begin. Essentially he becomes a champion, helping the helpless.

Gunn and Fred
Other characters from Buffy appear and disappear in guest appearances, but some have a more permanent appearance including Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter, Lost Boys: the Thirst), Wesley (Alexis Denisof) and, having made a cameo in a season 1 episode, a reformed (and also vampire with a soul) Spike (James Marsters, Smallville: Thirst). Other main good-guy characters were half-demon, and conduit to the powers-that-be, Doyle (Glenn Quinn) who was in season 1 only, musical empath Lorne (Andy Hallett), science-nerd and survivor of a Hell dimension Fred (Amy Acker) and street-wise vampire slayer Gunn (J. August Richards).

Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia
Whilst the primary “big bad” changed season on season the constant factor was evil law firm (aren’t they all) Wolfram and Hart, the senior partners of which were demons in another dimension. They were aware of a prophecy that stated the vampire with a soul was a major player in the apocalypse, though whether that was for good and evil was unknown. Of course the appearance of Spike skewed that somewhat. The machinations of Wolfram and Hart on Earth were represented (early on) by two young lawyers, Lindsey (Christian Kane) and Lilah (Stephanie Romanov).

Blood Demon form
The vampire lore had been established in Buffy but we did get visual confirmation (on at least two occasions) that the turning process involved an exchange of blood. The vampires were soulless and incorporated blood demons into their makeup. When Angel travels to the Hell dimension Pylea he finds that the laws of meta-physics have changed. The sun does not cause him to combust but when he “vamps out” he doesn’t just develop a vampire face but turns fully into a blood demon. This then is the vampire’s true form. Angel’s sire Darla (Julie Benz) is returned from the dead and she and Angel conceive a child. This is impossible for two vampires and she has to stake herself to give birth.

James Marsters as Spike
The series started in a way that seemed (on re-watch) rather cheap, in season 1 at least, but the effects did improve. Each season had a moment of meandering from time to time but overall each season became gradually stronger and stronger. On my original viewing the final season felt weaker, mainly because the team took over Wolfram and Hart and the premise felt awkward. Having looked at the season again, I realised that I rather liked what they did with it. Indeed my favourite three moments in the series came from season 1 and season 5 respectively. In season 1 we see (a still evil) Spike watching Angel and his soliloquy (or commentary of Angel’s actions) shows just why Spike was such a popular character in both series.

Puppet Angel
The first season 5 highlight saw Angel cursed and turned into a puppet, complete with removable felt nose. This was a throw-away episode but showcases the comedy that the writers were able to inject into the series (and Buffy). It is also an example of vampiric puppet – a rare occurrence – and this puppet can morph into his vampire face. The second highlight from season 5 involved Numero Cinco (Danny Mora).

Numero Cinco
We had seen the luchador walking the corridors of Wolfram and Hart delivering mail but discover that he was a hero, one of a family of luchadores who fought evil. His brothers were killed by an Aztec demon and he gave up on being a hero but the demon has returned. It was great to see a nod to the Mexican wrestling movie. Of course Angelus had to reappear at some point in the full run of 5 seasons, indeed the threat of Angel losing his soul was a factor throughout the show. In many respects I felt that Angel was much darker than its parent show but perhaps didn’t generate the same level of chemistry between the leads.

It was worth, to me, sitting through the lot again. Some of the series has failed to age that well but, overall, it still has a lot to offer. Of course, according to the troll, that just proves that I have a pin-sized brain but I’m happy whilst he is sad and twisted, so that’s okay. 6.5 out of 10 for the five seasons in total.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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