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"Angel" Tv Series - Fraggmented.blogspot.com Review

Thursday 21 August 2008, by Webmaster

Storytelling Engines: Angel (or "You Knew The Job Was Dangerous When You Took It")

At some point during Season Two of ’Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, it became obvious to the show’s producers that they had a spin-off on their hands. Angel, Buffy’s boyfriend on the show, was also a fairly complex protagonist in his own right, with a story that could easily become its own series. The idea of a (say it with me now) "vampire with a soul", fighting for his own personal redemption by doing good deeds...it’s clever, it’s got roots in popular culture (’Forever Knight’ and ’Dark Shadows’, for example) and it didn’t hurt that David Boreanaz has some serious screen presence.

But if there’s one thing that the eighty-three columns in this series has taught us, it’s that a good protagonist is only the starting point for an ongoing series. Angel needed a setting, a modus operandi, a supporting cast, and some good antagonists...and they needed to give him all that without seriously disrupting the parent series. So what did they have for him? Cordelia, Buffy’s sidekick’s ex-girlfriend (who serves as comic relief and a damsel in distress, early on), and Whistler, a minor character introduced as Angel’s old mentor. Then they found out that they didn’t actually have Whistler after all.

As a result, the first season of ’Angel’ does feel like a succession of false starts. Doyle is introduced as a Whistler-surrogate, then killed off (possibly due to problems with Glenn Quinn, the actor who portrayed him, although details are murky.) Cordelia then becomes the Doyle-surrogate, and Wesley, who was the Giles-surrogate for a while on ’Buffy’, becomes the Cordelia-surrogate. (It’s a running trend on both series that they introduce characters to act as the helpless victim who needs rescuing every week...then slowly make them more powerful and competent as they grow progressively fonder of the character, and introduce a new character to take their role of potential victim. So Giles is replaced by Wesley, Willow is replaced by Dawn, Cordelia is replaced by Wesley on ’Angel’, and Wesley is, in turn, replaced by Fred. But I’m getting ahead of myself.) About the only thing that really seems to work right off the bat is Angel’s nemesis, a law firm with a never-ending supply of evil called ’Wolfram and Hart’. This is a stroke of casual brilliance—by making the enemy a faceless corporation, they can establish individual villains, then dispose of them once they’re no longer useful, all without getting rid of the central antagonist.

Other supporting characters show up as Season One progresses, but some find places on the series while others don’t. Kate Lockley, a cop who discovers Angel’s vampiric nature, never seems to really gel as a romantic interest and fades away, while Gunn, a street-smart vampire hunter, fits in quite well as a competent sidekick. By Season Two (and the arrival of fan-favorite Lorne, a demon with a nightclub and a karaoke obsession), you can see that the pieces are beginning to fall into place. More importantly, by Season Two, the writers seem to understand exactly what they’re writing about, and what the concept of "fighting for his own personal redemption" means, and Season Two’s storyarc is arguably the series’ finest hour. (Well, it’s more than an hour, but you know what I mean.)

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