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"Angel" Tv Series - Season 2 DVD - Futoncritic.com Review

Brian Ford Sullivan

Wednesday 8 October 2003, by Webmaster

Historically, the second season of "Angel" arrived at an interesting time for the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" franchise. While the show’s producers didn’t know it at the time, year two of "Angel" would be the last one in which the spin-off would be paired with its parent series. Come the following year, "Buffy" would exit the WB for UPN leaving "Angel" standing on its own. In retrospect then "Angel’s" second season had to establish itself on its own, separate from "Buffy’s" apron strings. Thankfully, the "Angel" team did just that and delivered one of the franchise’s best seasons to date at the same time.

If anything, the second season of "Angel" helped establish the series as more of an ensemble drama as several new characters were introduced and additional dimensions were placed on existing ones. More importantly however, the series expanded upon its core concept of redemption. "Angel" closed its first season with the revelation that our vampire hero (played by David Boreanaz), would eventually be rewarded with humanity after all his years spent atoning for his sins. Such news weighed heavily on the events of the show’s sophomore year, as the resurrection of his sire (Julie Benz) by the nefarious Wolfram & Hart law firm would force Angel to confront his past and wrestle with his place in the world. Along the way, the series would slowly switch from a traditional case-of-the-week drama to a more arc driven soap opera.

The DVD set for the season includes all 22 episodes of the show’s second season spread across six discs. In an interesting change of pace, all the episodes are presented in 16 :9 anamorphic widescreen although the series itself didn’t begin broadcasting in said format until its third season. Nevertheless, it’s quite a treat to see these episodes in the more cinematic perspective. "Angel" has always been more movie-esque than its "Buffy" counterpart so it’s nice to see all of the director’s vision onscreen. Each episode is also presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround, which provides a pretty solid ambiance for the show’s more vibrato theme and music.

Extras are surprisingly thin on the set. Despite being one of "Angel’s" most interesting seasons, we only get two commenatry tracks, neither of which feature the show’s creators Joss Whedon or David Greenwalt. Disc 1 sees writer/producer Tim Minear chatting about the 1950s noir-ish "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been ?" while disc 6 has director Fred Keller speaking about the Pylea-arc opener "Over the Rainbow." Minear’s track is by far more interesting for fans of the series as he provides the context for many of the decisions made during the show’s second season. Keller’s on the other hand is a more straight production diary of the episode featured.

Interestingly enough I found Keller’s commentary to be the more compelling of the two as it’s obvious he doesn’t have a hand in the day-to-day operations of the show like Minear. He literally shows what it’s like to walk into a mythology-driven show like "Angel" and have to break down the characters, their motivations and the actions in a few weeks time. Keller has quite and few other great series under his belt ("24," "Boomtown," "Robbery Homicide Division" to name a few) and it’s always nice for us regular "Angel" viewers to get the perspective of an outsider.

Rounding out the extras on the set are four featurettes : "Making Up the Monsters" (5 minutes), Inside the Agency (15 minutes), "Season 2 Overview" (14 minutes) and "Stunts" (5 minutes). Each provides a mix of interviews and on-location footage on each topic. Also included are an Art Gallery section and scripts for two episodes, "Darla" and "Disharmony."

Overall, this is an automatic buy for fans of the "Buffy"-verse. And while the extras are somewhat lacking, they do provide a relatively satisfying addendum to the season.