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From eclipsemagazine.com


Angel Seasons 2 &3 DVD Review

By S_Wiebe

Wednesday 19 May 2004, by cally

TV on DVD: Angel, Seasons 2 & 3

Posted by S_Wiebe on 2004/5/19 1:07:17

Playboy Magazine is celebrating the end of “Angel’s” five-year run with a pictorial featuring Charisma Carpenter. I thought a look at two of the show’s most popular seasons on DVD might be a better idea.

After a tumultuous first season, in which the core characters of “Angel” were just forming a kind of surrogate when Doyle died to prevent a kind of demonic genocide, and Wesley Wyndham-Price arrived on the scene; it makes sense that the second and third seasons of the series should be so focused on the idea of family.

Season Two opens with Angel making a mistake and killing a demon who is actually guardian of a pregnant woman and progresses through the acquisition of a new base of operations and the permanent addition of a new team member [Gunn], to a three-episode journey to another dimension.

Along the way, Wesley progresses from buffoon to extreme competence; Cordelia adjusts to her visions [even as they cause her more pain]; Gunn discovers a bond with Wesley; and Winifred “Fred” Burkle first appears on the scene. We also get to learn more and more about Angel’s past indiscretions as Angelus, and Darla returns to plague him again.

Not only do we watch the new group of Angel’s friends begin to form a surrogate family, we also get to see the complicated intricacies of Angelus’ family - Darla siring Angelus; Angelus siring Drusilla; Drusilla siring Spike; Darla’s return in human form and, ultimately, Dru’s re-siring Darla - in effect mothering her grandmother. In this instance, “Angel” out-soaps the classic soap operas. It’s weird, but all in a day’s work on this unusual series.

When the season ends with Darla’s failure to turn Angel back into Angelus, it is just the beginning of the twists and turns that await in Season Three, and once again, family plays a huge part. Watching the second season’s episodes on DVD, in close order, it becomes apparent that the planning of the season is pretty thorough - everything hangs together well, though there are places where it appears that the creative team also allows for fortuitous happenstance - the best of all possible worlds.

The bonus features on the Season Two set are a bit on the spare side, when compared with the “Buffy” DVD releases, but we get is pretty choice. Besides commentary tracks on “Are You Now, Or Have Your Ever Been...?” [Writer, Tim Minear] and “Over The Rainbow” [director, Fred Keller], there are also: two original scripts [“Darla” and “Disharmony”], a Season Two Overview and a look at the stunts of “Angel”.

Tim Minear’s commentary for “Are You Now...?” is a bit on the wandering side, but contains a number of points of interest: he points out where he’s quoted other movies and TV programs; describes how the episode’s mood and period-shifting were established; informs us that the ep ran nine minutes long, while pointing out where there were cuts [and, some instances, what they were]; and displays a nicely self-deprecating sense of humor that enlivens the process.

In the commentary for “Over The Rainbow”, director Fred Keller addresses the challenges of setting up a multi-episode arc that involves a whole new world in a different dimension; gives examples of how he and the rest of the creative team dealt with unusual situations as they arose; and his explanation of why a tree sometimes has to be in a shot, is wonderful.

The Season Two Overview features clips of a number of “Angel’s” cast and crew discussing how Angel’s past was integrated into the season; the familial intricacies in Angelus’ family [as mention above]; the growth, or lack of growth in various relationships on the show [Angel/Kate, Angel/Gunn, Gunn/Wes, and so on], and the conflicts that arise.

“Stunts” takes a look at how the stunt co-coordinator, Michael Vendrell, works - and shows how the various cast members tackle most of their own stunt work - stunt people being brought in for only the most dangerous stunt work. We also gain insights into the way that Angel’s fight scenes reflect his moods: happy, sad, angry, brooding...

In Season Three, we get to see a new character try to fit into the “Angel” family, as Fred tries to get used to being back in her home world. The first time she ventures out into the world, with her friends, she winds up covered with demon guts - life in the Angelverse is not easy. We also get to see Gunn figure out just what Angel’s mission is, and where he stands on the subject - at the expense of “That Old Gang Of Mine”.

As Tim Minear puts it, in the Season Three Overview”, “It began with a lot of promise for all the characters, and then we just stepped on everybody’s heart and completely broke them.” In Angel’s case, the breaking involves the discovery that Darla is pregnant with his child, and the arrival of Holtz, a demon-hunter whose family he destroyed centuries ago. In Wesley’s case, it involves losing the fight for Fred’s affections to Gunn, and then discovering a prophecy regarding Angel and his son.

Cordelia has to deal with increasing pain from her visions; psychic attacks that suggest The Powers That Be no longer love her, and her increasing fondness for Angel. For Fred, the biggest issue is overcoming the slight madness she succumbed to in Pylea, and realizing that Angel is not her true love - while becoming aware of both Wes and Gunn as their affection for her grows.

The family aspect of the season is in the forefront from the second that we learn Darla is pregnant. We get to watch Angel’s new family grow; we see the end of Holtz’s family; we witness Darla’s discovery of love and her sacrifice to allow her son to live; we see Wes disrupt Angel’s family - both real and surrogate; and we get to experience various betrayals on various familial levels.

Among the bonus features, standouts include “Darla: Deliver Us From Evil”, in which Julie Benz and various members of the cast and crew discuss Darla’s past and her motivations in the season; a deleted scene from “Birthday”, a four-minute clip from “Cordy” the sitcom from Cordelia’s life if she’d never met Angel - with commentary by Tim Minear and Mere Smith; and a terrific gag reel.

There are three episodes with commentary tracks: “Billy”, with commentary from Tim Minear and Jeffrey Bell; “Lullaby” [Tim Minear and Mere Smith]; and Waiting In The Wings [Joss Whedon].

Minear and Bell manage to spend half their time on “Billy’s” commentary, kidding, and being self-deprecating, but the specific commentary they provide deals with the perceptions of the ep, and it’s love-it-or-hate-it effect on the show’s fans; point out the beginning of the Dark Wesley arc; give some interesting backstory on Billy’s family; and point out two scenes that were written by Joss Whedon [and the reason for one of them].

On the commentary for “Lullaby”, Minear and Smith get into the episode’s Christian imagery [intended and not]; the origin of the whole baby arc; and information on the more technical aspects of the episode. As with the Minear/Bell commentary for “Billy”, there is an easy banter that develops here and makes the whole process feel like a living-room discussion.

The big highlight, though, is Joss Whedon’s commentary on “Waiting In The Wings”. Besides the usual adroit discussion of much of the technical aspect of the episode, Whedon also gives us information pertaining to the casting of Summer Glau as the prima ballerina; her ability to perform a huge amount of dialogue despite no previous experience [and how she came to be cast for “Firefly”]; how to make a balky episode work [“cut out the part that you love the most”]; how he writes and shoots long [and why]; and he was able to make the ep work through editing.

He even provides a deleted scene [the aforementioned scene he loved, but which did not fit in the ep], complete with commentary. The scene, which features Fred dancing and Wes playing the fool, is priceless on it’s own, but it’s easy to see why it didn’t work in the ep - despite it being the idea that spawned the ep to begin with.

Many fans consider Seasons Two and Three of “Angel” to be the best of the series. With brilliant episodes like “Are You Now...?”, “Redefinition”, “Epiphany” and the “Pylea Trilogy”, Season Two certainly was an impressive arc. Season Three, with eps like “That Vision Thing”, “Billy”, “”Lullaby”, “Birthday”, “”Waiting In The Wings”, “Loyalty” and “The Price”, can also be considered to be excellent.

Grade: Season Two - A-

Grade: Season Two Bonus Features: B

Grade: Season Three: A

Grade: Season Two Bonus Features: B+

Final Grade: Angel - Season Two on DVD - B+

Final Grade: Angel - Season Three on DVD - A-