AngelThis Town Ain’t Big Enough...
By Keith Topping
Monday 8 September 2003, by Webmaster
As Buffy ends, attention switches to its spin-off series, Angel. But how will the radical changes at the end of Season Four affect our heroes? And what about the new arrival?
The Story so far : Los Angeles, a city of angels and demons.
Into this ghetto of metaphorical scorpions and vipers comes Angel, a vampire cursed with a soul - cursed with the knowledge of his crimes against humanity.
Given the chance, by The Powers That Be, to atone for his sins, Angel begins an agency - its aim : to help the hopeless. To achieve this, he gathers around him a team of crack specialists; there’s Cordelia Chase, former Sunnydale prom queen and failed actress, who provides Angel with his vital link to both Humanity and The Powers. There’s ex-Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, a loyal and brilliant rogue demon hunter. There’s Charles Gunn, a brave fearless vampire killer. There’s Fred Burkle, a genius physicist who was once abandoned in a Medieval universe by a man she trusted. There’s Lorne, a karaoke-singing empathy demon with a weakness for cocktails and showbiz. And there’s Angel’s son, Connor, a feral teenage warrior, born of the union of two vampires, and raised to hate his father in a Hell dimension. The Angel Investigations team must do their work whilst fighting to overcome some demons of their own, searching for a path of redemption in the lonely city. And they have to achieve this whilst also keeping one eye trained on the sinister machinations of the evil law firm, Wofram & Hart. Then, having fought off the apocalyptic schemes of The Beast and its Godlike master, Jasmine, the gang discover that there is a price to pay for ending world peace.
The Best TV in Years
Angel’s been a bit good recently. If, as is likely, you’re one of the people not watching it, then that’s something you really need to remedy. The final episode of Season Four, Home, was a fabulous end to what had been, quite simply, one of the best seasons of popular television in years. A six-month critical summation of the many strengths that this cleverly multifaceted series has as its disposal. Dramatic, funny and cynical, the episode and, indeed, the season, reminded us that Angel is a show about choices and hope - just as its parent show, Buffy, always was.
For a while, however, as Season Four careered towards its dramatic conclusion, it appeared as though this may have been our final glimpse of the activities of Angel Investigations. The perilous nature of US network television is such that even if a show is regarded critically, if the ratings aren’t up to scratch then the series ain’t gonna last.
Following several months of speculation, however, the revamp proposed by the production team in Home paid off and the series was picked up in May by The WB for a fifth year. So, the future’s bright, as the crew’s skills combine to produce an underrated, under-appreciated, overlooked gem. Next year, if there’s any justice, Angel will finally get the wider recognition it deserves.
Season Five will be something of a homecoming for Joss Whedon, who is believed to be working close to full-time on Angel next year. However, the really big news surrounding next season came with the confirmation, in May, that James Marsters would be joining the regular cast, reprising his popular Buffy role as Spike, the (other) vampire with a soul. ’We think Spike could add something to the show,’ writer/producer Tim Minear noted. ’He’s great character and a great actor.’ Given Spike and Angel’s complex past - a touchy master/pupil relationship, tinged with mutual mistrusts, enlivened by both having, at one time or another, shared the bed of Buffy Summers - sparks are, somewhat inevitably, bound to fly. Rumours concerning what Spike is actually returning as - ghost, human or vampire - have done little to quell the anticipation of fans for a whole year of watching James Marsters and David Boreanaz acting together.
Biggest Challenge ?
What we do know about Season Five is that the Angel Investigations team is now running the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart. In this regard they will face their biggest challenge to date as they battle to maintain their integrity whilst being offered temptations of almost Biblical proportions. Whatever it was that happened to Gunn in The White Room in the final episode of last season will, no doubt, have a significant impact on his character’s development. Similarly, Wesley’s motivation in getting into Wolfram & Hart in the first place - to save the soul of his former lover., Lilah - has seemingly failed.
Likely, the forthcoming season will see the return of several old foes to haunt the heroes. One definite such return will be that of Vincent Kartheiser, who has been contracted for a t least one episode, suggesting that Connor’s story, seemingly wrapped up for good in Home, is actually far from over.
Another will be the welcome reappearance of Mercedes McNab as Harmony Kendall, the wilfully narcissistic vampires whose past relationship with Spike is sure to cause a few complications to an already complicated backstory. Perhaps we’ll be seeing some other old faces too : Angel’s former nemesis Lindsey McDonald, Wesley’s would-be assassin Justine Cooper and Spike’s sire, Drusilla, are all rumoured to be potential visitors to Wolfram & Hart’s plush Wilshire Boulevard offices. There will be a new character for the team to interact with, Eve, a Wolfram & Hart liaison whose agenda may not be all that it, initially, seems.
However, as several new doors open, another important one closes. The news that Charisma Carpenter would not be returning as a regular for season five was greeted with disappointment and surprise by many fans.
’We felt like we had taken that story about as far as it could go,’ Whedon said, adding that the Angel/Cordelia romance had ’not been popular with fans’, a claim that has been disputed by many within the Angel fan-community. Additionally, it does seem rather strange for Whedon to suggest that this move was designed to appease fans when, just a year earlier, he had told many of those same fans, outraged at the death of Tara in Buffy, that it was his job to give them what they needed, not what they wanted. ’I’m hoping that we’ll get Charisma to do some episodes sometime during the year,’ continued Joss.
Asked if the parting had been on good terms, Whedon’s reply was enigmatic : ’That’s between us and not stuff that I would talk about in an interview.’
Running Angel’s fifth season will be former X-Files writer Jeff Bell, who made such a good job of the previous year, and in such difficult circumstances. Tim Minear’s involvement in the show is likely to diminish as his work of Fox’s mid-season series, Wonderfalls, increases. Having, in effect, provided the pilot for the future of Angel with Home, Minear feels that the new direction will ’allow Angel to break out of its cannibalising soap-opera-ness. It’s not feeding on itself any more.’ Series co-creator David Greenwalt, who will continue to act as a consulting producer, believes that Angel could ultimately match Buffy’s record and run for seven years. But, he notes, the new set-up will enable the characters to face new dilemmas and, perhaps inevitably, new temptations. ’Obviously (Wolfram & Hart) will wish to corrupt our people and some of them will be quite happy to be corrupted,’ Greenwalt noted. ’Gunn is going to be the coolest. Lorne is in heaven because he gets to talk to Michael Jackson. Meanwhile they can use Wolfram & Hart to help people.’
Greenwalt also says that he hopes Sarah Michelle Gellar may find the time in her rapidly expanding movie career to make an appearance on Angel. ’I’d bet you’ll see her,’ he noted. ’David’s done a lot for her. When we launched the show, she showed up on the set in downtown LA in the middle of the night with a cake. She’s quite capable of the big, lovely gesture.’
Summing up Angel’s new direction, Greenwalt notes that it will be an inventive mixture of elements from several stylistically fascinating non-genre shows like The West Wing and LA Law. ’It’s not going to be dreary and dark. It’s like a brand new show.’
Angel, like Buffy before it, seemingly knows the value of creating characters with whom the audience can empathise and identify. What the future has in store for them, we’ll find out soon!