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From Cult Times Magazine Special Edition #28


Angel Article - Cult Times Magazine Special Edition #28

By Grant Kempster

Wednesday 17 December 2003

So Angel Investigations has done the unthinkable and taken over the Wolfram & Hart offices. But will the team be able to cope with evil bosses, even more evil clients and the return of a very familiar face ?

Some say a change is as good as a rest, and as there’s no rest for the wicked - or the pleasant - in the demon-filled world of Angel, a change is exactly what this Buffy spin-off gets.

Following the odd events at the close of last year - with Connor relocated, leaving Angel as the only one who recalls his existence - the Angel Investigations crew find themselves taking up residence at the LA offices of Wolfram Hart. As if this wasn’t change enough, a new regular (in Spike) and the absence of a former one (in the conveniently comatose Cordelia) also marks a shift in the feel of the show, enhanced further by the writers and producers’ attempts to construct more individual episodes that don’t necessarily rely on lengthy story arcs. In short, this is the biggest shift the series has had since mid-way through the show’s first season, bringing in a different feel and approach to a perhaps well-worn format.

While the move to Wolfram & Hart may have appeared to be a strange and unwelcome one, it is entirely possible that it was a stroke of genius. Over the last few years the path of true friendship between the ensemble cast has never truly runs smooth - in sharp contrast to the Scoobies over on Buffy - and now, with the added element of the evil multi-dimensional law firm’s facilities and employees there to lead our heroes astray, the wedge between the gang’s loyalties is getting larger and larger with each episode that passes. In turn, the show is getting more and more interesting.

The other major influence on the series this year is Spike’s arrival as a semi-ghost. It is an element which could so easily have come across as contrived - after all, he was arguably Buffy’s biggest asset towards the end and his inclusion is nothing short of a down-payment on success. Having two vampires with souls has, thus far, presented us with nothing but entertainment, even more so due to Spike’s incorporeal status, in turn creating a fresh and welcome element to both the show and the chemistry between the main players thanks to his always enjoyable wisecracks and his innate ability to stir things up.

But it’s not all fun and games at the all-new Angel show. One of the most controversial alterations to the show’s format is an attempt to help Angel reach a wider audience. It’s a wise choice for the network, as fans of Buffy that previously found Angel a little too visceral are more likely to migrate and give the show a second chance, especially with old favourite Spike lurking in the hallways. Consequently a perceptible change in direction is also felt in the way some of the episodes are produced, most noticeably in the season’s third episode Unleashed. After a happily-ever-after(ish) ending, the series appears to turn into Dawson’s Creek as out-of-place teen soft rock invades the senses (perhaps that appearance in Dido’s White Flag video has taken its toll on David Boreanaz). It is a shift so out of place that it can’t help but cause concern.

That aside, as the show heads towards its landmark 100th episode (which will feature the return of Cordelia), it’s shaping up to be a year which will be nothing if not interesting. While plot arcs may no longer be the order of the day, there is enough intrigue and some exciting turnabouts coming in the first quarter of the season that will no doubt have explosive ramifications later on, and the change in attitude towards the series is sure to mean that you’ll never know quite what to expect next.