AngelEven At End, ’Angel’ Keeps Its Bite Intact
By Manuel Mendoza
Wednesday 19 May 2004, by cally
Even at end, ’Angel’ keeps its bite intact
By MANUEL MENDOZA
The Dallas Morning News
As corporate corruption keeps hitting the headlines, a little cult show on The WB has been using the boardroom to explore the darker side of human nature.
The seesawing battle between our better angels and our animal side - including the question of whether redemption is possible - was the theme of a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spin-off that comes to a cleverly open-ended conclusion tonight.
“It doesn’t have a hero. It doesn’t have a character upon whom you can rest your sympathies in the same way,” “Angel” co-creator Joss Whedon said, explaining the difference between Buffy and her ex-boyfriend, a tortured vampire-with-a-soul who left her for Los Angeles five years ago.
“When it’s about atonement, you have to have somebody who’s got something worth atoning for. And if anyone does, it’s Angel.”
The corporate critique was there from the beginning. On his first case as an undead detective, Angel was up against the bloodsuckers of Wolfram & Hart, representatives of “the powers that be.”
By the end of last season, he had been handed the law firm and its overarching resources, a heady, heavy responsibility for a man who has spent most of his 200-plus years wreaking mayhem.
In the finale, Angel and his sidekicks take on the Circle of the Black Thorn, the biggest of the “big bads” that in every season of “Buffy” and its spin-off served as stand-ins for ultimate evil. For once, though, the apocalyptic battle takes place off-screen. It makes for a smart, almost happy ending, a la “Butch and Sundance.”
Angel and his cohorts - punk vamp Spike (James Marsters, who came over from “Buffy” this season), strongarm-turned-lawyer Gunn (J. August Richards), ancient demon Illyria (Amy Acker, who was sweet scientist Fred until she was possessed by Allyria this season), lounge lizard demon Lorne (Andy Hallett) and Wes (Alexis Denisof, the only other original cast member from “Buffy”) spend a last day doing what they enjoy. Their choices serve as a reminder that humor has been a key component of Whedon’s fantasy world.
Spike’s sequence in a bar is particularly hilarious, and J. August Richards, who plays Gunn, gets off a good line while fighting an evildoing U.S. senator.
Politics, both corporate and electoral, was the main metaphor this season. “Power endures,” Angel told his charges last week, “but for one bright shiny moment we can show them that they don’t own us.”
Such statements lead to questions about whether Whedon was commenting on his relationship with executives at The WB, who sent “Buffy” packing to UPN in 2001 and then failed to renew “Angel” for a sixth season, or Fox, which maimed and then killed his last series, “Firefly.”
“We were feeling the hurt, and it definitely informed what we were doing, but we were hoping not to be too specific about it,” he said.
Still, he called the “Angel” cancellation “a horrible blow.” “I feel it was cut down in its prime.”
But Whedon also expresses relief that he’ll get a breather, sort of. A “Firefly” movie is about to start filming, and he’s talking about reviving the “Buffy” comic book. He also left open the possibility of future TV movies or series set in what has become known as the “Buffy-verse.”
“The fact is they let me put on my weird shows for a total of 12 seasons, and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “There’s definitely some I’d like to take a ball-peen hammer to, but there’s just as many who have been supportive.”
THE BEST FOR LAST
Four reasons this was the best “Angel” season yet
Puppets! In “Smile Time,” Angel turns into a puppet and must endure mocking from the gang while trying to find a way back to his vampy self. Quote to remember from Spike: “You’re a wee little puppet man!”
Wrestlers! In “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco,” a retired Mexican wrestler who works in the law office needs Angel’s help to reunite with his four brothers, who were killed fighting demons.
Cordelia! Cordy shows up one last time to help Angel, and their final goodbye is tender but not cliched.
Spike! Spike materializes in the first episode and immediately begins to annoy Angel. Another quote to remember, when Harmony spies Spike: “Blondie Bear?”
ON THE AIR
Series finale of “Angel”
9 tonight on WQHB-63, cable ch. 4
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