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From Ohio.com


A brighter ’Angel’ this season

By R.D. Heldenfels

Monday 9 February 2004, by Webmaster

Posted on Wed, Feb. 04, 2004

A brighter `Angel’ this season
Livelier times — if you can say that about often-grisly supernatural drama
By R.D. Heldenfels

It’s been a good season for Angel, the supernatural drama airing at 9 tonight on The WB.

The series has found a very effective mix of grisly horror, oddball humor and intriguing characters, as well as a departure from the gloom of the last season.

``We were in that very, very dark space last year,’’ series mastermind Joss Whedon said of the season that included the near-destruction of the world and a heart-wrenching conflict between vampire-with-a-soul Angel (David Boreanaz) and his son.

The end of the season found Angel making a deal with Wolfram & Hart, an evil law firm, to take over its Los Angeles operation. In exchange, his son received a happy life — and no memory of his past pain. So this season has focused on how Angel and his associates can do good while overseeing a company that is fundamentally bad. And that has led to new roles for Gunn (J. August Richards), Lorne (Andy Hallett), Fred (Amy Acker) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof).

But Angel’s challenges do not end there. Spike (James Marsters), a vampire with a soul who has a long history with Angel, joined Angel this season after the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — from which Spike and Angel had spun.

Their bantering relationship offers one of the show’s easy sources of humor. (Another source: The demonic and hilarious Harmony, played by Mercedes McNab.) It is also a reminder of the tangled connections between Spike and Angel (both of whom loved Buffy) and the two shows.

Those connections were evident in last week’s show, and in tonight’s. Last week, viewers learned both that Buffy (who was mentioned but not seen) is part of a group overseeing the new vampire slayers formed in the Buffy finale — and that she no longer trusts Angel because of his ties to Wolfram & Hart.

Tonight, a big loose end is tied up when Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) finally comes out of a coma to help Angel fight a very powerful foe — and to find his way back to his heroic self.

It’s a good episode, though a touch short of great, especially when it has to figure out what to do with Cordelia at the end, since Carpenter is no longer a regular part of the show. (She does try to be memorable, though, and her shirts seem more than ready to go all Janet Jackson.)

But there are flashes of humor, a vivid opening reminder of the terrors of unchecked evil and some good action sequences. While there are brief explanations of previous events to catch up new viewers, this one will best reward Angel loyalists who will know right away all the old story turns.

``I loved last year’s show very much,’’ Whedon said at an Angel press conference a while back. ``But everything was just very sort of Gothic, and it weighs on you.... There’s sort of a lighter spirit this year.’’

Asked if he thought the show could keep going beyond this season — its fifth — Whedon said, ``This has been a strong year for us. The response has been strong, the (ratings demographics) have been strong. We all feel really good.... I don’t think we’ll ever run out of stories to tell about these people....

``Any good show is ultimately about people, and people are endlessly fascinating,’’ Whedon said. ``So it feels to me like the new energy (of the current season) could propel us into more seasons. And I very much hope it does.’’

Of course, that may not be Whedon’s call. Boreanaz’s contract runs out at the end of this season, so a new one will have to be worked out if The WB wants to keep the show. And The WB is already talking about another vampire series for next season — a revival of Dark Shadows to be made by producer John Wells (ER, The West Wing).

At the press conference, Whedon at first claimed surprise to hear of the Wells project — surprise that seemed less and less convincing the longer it went on. Still, he said, ``I’m the 97th guy to use the vampire metaphor to tell stories. I have no problem with there being a 98th.’’

Jordan Levin, one of the top executives at The WB, said he did not see a problem in having Dark Shadows and Angel on the network.

``One is an action-adventure franchise,’’ he said, referring to Angel, ``and one is a very Gothic soap franchise.I don’t think the shows will be competing against one another.’’

Angel ``has been performing well, and creatively we’re very happy,’’ Levin said.