AngelDo you know this man?
By Keith Topping
Wednesday 19 February 2003, by Webmaster
He has lived a life that’s full. But who, exactly, is The Man in Black? The Vampire with a soul, doomed to walk the Earth for eternity on a ceaseless mission of redemption to help the hopeless? We join Angel Investigations in search for the man behind the myth…
The subject is a fascinating one and tracing him, hidden in the shadows, through the centuries is an exercise in observing both the best and the utterly depraved worst in Humanity. Following Angelus, you will find yourself down in the gutter, wading through filth and slime, both literally and metaphorically. His is a story of tragedy, of sin and unspeakable evil but, ultimately, of hope and of a kind of triumph over adversity. A hard story, full of the most unimaginable torture and pain. But one which has something that approaches a happy ending.
For the moment, at least, because like all stories in which adversity appears to be bested, there is always the possibility of an unexpected, unwanted comeback. Adversity’s like that.
Redemption is the key to unlocking this tale. It is one of the most important elements in storytelling, of course. In hundreds of literary styles from the Greek and Roman myths and the Bible onwards, the quest for divine atonement to cancel out past crimes and unworthy deeds remains a beguiling one. Why? Well, like the man said, "we’ve all got something to atone for". In Angel, the eponymous central character has more unwanted baggage to purge from his past than most. A sinister killer without compassion or feeling ("the meanest Vampire in all the land," according to Doyle’s quasi-fairytale version of Angelus’s origins in City of), he spent over a century engaged in a never-ending catalogue of deranged mayhem and ultra-violence. And he did it all, seemingly, with a song in his heart and a spring in his step.
Angelus killed not through fear, or madness, or the need to survive. He killed people, many people - men, women and children - simply because he enjoyed it. And it was the realization of this fact (via an unusual route, a gypsy curse, admittedly) that allowed him, and continues to allow him, to understand what he has to put right. When Doyle tells Angel that the Ring of Amara is his redemption, in the episode In the Dark, Angel replies "I did a lot of damage in my day." Doyle asks "You don’t get the ring because your period of self-flagellation is over. Think of all the people you could help between nine-and-five."
Angel isn’t satisfied with this. "The whole world is designed for them, so much that they have no idea what goes on around them after dark. They don’t see the weak ones lost in the night, or the things that prey on them. If I join them, maybe I’d stop seeing too…" It is a theme that is repeated again and again throughout both Buffy and Angel.